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Managing your cash flow

17/01/2024

Cash flow is a key aspect of financial management for any business.

Cash is the lifeblood of a business but it’s important not to confuse profit with cash. Generating a profit is obviously important, but being profitable does not mean having available funds to pay your commitments when they come due. A business can fail because of a shortage of cash even while being profitable. If a business runs out of cash and can’t obtain new finance, there is a risk of becoming insolvent. 

Strong cash flow management is vital to your business and the suggestions set out in this guide may help you to improve your financial cash flow position.

What is cash flow? 

Put simply, cash flow is the money coming in and out of your business. If you have more money coming in than out, you have a positive cash flow. If you have more cash going out of your business in terms of debts and expenses than cash coming in from your sales income, that’s often referred to as negative cash flow. 

To achieve positive cash flow or address negative cash flow, it’s important to plan and prepare your financial forecasts. This will help you plan for upcoming expenses and ensure you have strategies in place to pay your debts and expenses when they are due. In periods where negative cash flow is identified, it is imperative that a business can fund this shortfall.

Creating your cash flow forecasts

A cash flow forecast can be one of the most important tools in managing your finances. It tracks all money flowing in and out of your business and can reveal payment cycles or seasonal trends that require additional cash to cover payments.

Taking this to the next level. It is useful to prepare your profit and loss forecasts in conjunction with your cash flow forecasts. Understanding your profit projections including the level of sales required to break even and how and when this converts to cash flow is also important. Your accountant can help you with this.

You may find the following tips useful when completing your forecasts:

  • Take out the guesswork: have the most accurate and up-to-date data as possible. If you simply guess or make up figures, you’ll be setting your business up for an unrealistic outcome.  Detailed and careful research will help you end up with a more accurate financial forecast.
  • Be realistic:as a business owner, it’s only natural you want the best possible financial outcomes for your business. If you’re business is just getting started or is in a period of uncertainty, you could create three different projections – a negative (least favourable) projection, realistic (most likely) projection and an optimistic (best case) projection.
  • Monitoring performance:by comparing your forecasts against your actual financial results, you can continually fine tune your business management and develop strategies to meet any new challenges ahead.

Tips to manage cash coming in

  • Stay on top of your income:collecting funds is all part of owning a business, and it’s important to always know when you can expect payment.
  • Review your pricesit may seem daunting to raise your prices, but it’s something you’ll need to review and consider to address inflationary costs and protect your profit margin. Consider this in line with market competition and your overall value proposition but raising your prices by just a small amount can potentially have a positive effect on your business cash flow as well as profitability.
  • Check your assetshave a look around your business and the equipment you use. Selling unwanted assets can be a good way to improve your cash flow. You could also consider leasing your assets to help spread the cost over a longer period.

Tips to manage cash going out

  • Check your overheads: keep an eye on your expenses.  Regularly analysing your expenses to identify areas where you could reduce or re-negotiate costs or seek alternative providers is good management practice. Consider re-arranging the timing of your expenses or making provision for periodic payments for larger expenses that more closely align to your cash flow requirements.
  • Excess stock:unused or surplus stock is not the best use of your cash which could otherwise be invested in your business. Be aware of products that aren’t selling and think about discounting stock that you’re having trouble selling or consider modifying the quantity and/or timing of your stock purchases to coincide with periods of higher cash flow demand.

Finally, cash flow analysis is important as it helps you understand if your business is able to pay its bills and generate enough cash to continue operating indefinitely. After all, cash is king in business.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to your objectives, financial situation or needs and must not be relied upon as financial product advice. Before you act on this information, you should consider whether it is appropriate for your circumstances. Information in this article is current as at the date of publication. Applications subject to credit approval and fees and charges are payable. Terms and conditions apply and are available on request.

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