Cash Flow Management in Business

dollar bills depicting cash flow
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The definition of cash flow management for business can be summarized as the process of monitoring, analyzing, and optimizing the net amount of cash receipts minus cash expenses. Net cash flow is an important measure of financial health for any business. 

Importance of Cash Flow Management

According to a study performed by Jessie Hagen of U.S. Bank, 82 percent of businesses fail because of poor management of cash flow.

If your business constantly spends more than it earns, you have a cash flow problem.

For small businesses, the most important aspect of cash flow management is avoiding extended cash shortages, caused by an overly large gap between cash inflows and outflows. You won't be able to stay in business if you can't pay your bills for an extended period of time.

Examples of Cash Flow Management Problems in Business

Real estate development has always been a highly cyclical industry, and developers are often prone to cash flow problems. Property development requires significant initial capital investment, as well as ongoing cash outflows for operations.

Unless some or all of the development can be sold before construction, developers often run into cash flow problems before the development begins to sell off, particularly if the property market happens to soften during construction. Many property developers have been forced into bankruptcy because of negative cash flow for extended periods of time.

Any business that's undergoing rapid expansion can run into cash flow problems as well. Business expansion generally involves higher labor costs as new employees are hired, higher rent for additional space, higher advertising costs, and more capital investment for new facilities, equipment, and so on.

Having to maintain increased levels of inventory can also eat into excess cash.

Extending credit to other businesses is another common way for businesses to run into cash flow problems. Invoicing is normally done on 30- or 60-day terms, and it isn't unusual for customers to delay payment, which can leave a business in a cash flow crunch. An example of a business with cash flow management problems and a negative cash balance for the year is:

Acme, Inc. – Cash Flow Statement for the Year Ended Dec. 31, 2018

Cash Flow From Operations$
     Receipts 
        Customer Invoices$80,500
        Other$1,500
     Disbursements 
        Employee Salaries-$45,000
        Suppliers-$25,500
        Other-$5,000
Net Cash Flow From Operations$6,500
Cash Flow From Investments 
     Equipment and Software Purchases-$5,500
Net Cash Flow From Investments-$5,500
Cash Flow From Financing 
     Loan Payments-$3,300
     Shareholder Dividends-$5,000
Net Cash Flow From Financing-$8,300
Net Change in Cash Balance-$7,300

Solving Cash Flow Problems

As a business owner, you need to perform a cash flow analysis on a regular basis and use cash flow forecasting so you can take the steps necessary to head off cash flow problems. Many software accounting programs have built-in reporting features that make cash flow analysis easy.

 This is the first step in cash flow management.

The second step of cash flow management is to develop and use strategies that will maintain adequate cash flow for your business. One of the most useful strategies for your small business is to shorten the cash flow conversion period so that your business can bring in money faster. 

If your business is expanding, you may need one or more injections of cash during the growth phase. This can take the form of a business loan from a financial institution known as debt financing or equity financing from investors.

Debt Financing vs. Equity Financing

Debt financing is common for assets, such as equipment, buildings, land, or machinery, when the assets to be purchased are used as security or collateral for the loan. The main advantage of debt financing over equity financing is that the business owner doesn't have to give up partial ownership of the business and thus can retain full control.

For short-term cash flow shortages, many small business owners make use of credit cards or lines of credit.

Equity financing involves raising money from angel investors or venture capitalists. Equity financing is much less risky because money invested doesn't have to be repaid if the business doesn't succeed. However, in exchange for financing, the investor becomes a part owner and, as such, takes a share of the profits and has a say in how the business is run.

Whatever form of financing is required, it's vital to have an updated business plan in place to present to financial institutions or investors. The business plan should demonstrate the need (and effect) of financing for the future of the business.

Sources

Danziger, Pamela N. “6 New Year's Resolutions For The 99% Of The Nation's Small Business Retailers.” Forbes Magazine, 28 Dec. 2017.