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How to Identify and Avoid Cash Flow Pitfalls | David Beck CPA Skip to main content

Cash Flow Pitfalls, Cash Flow problemsLooking at expenses for one’s business is essential to reduce cash flow issues. For example, it would show if there’s too much money leaving the business or what type of scenario the business might face if there’s an unexpected and large expense that guts the business’ cash position. Tracking expenses on a monthly basis is one way to determine a company’s financial health.  

Estimating sales by starting with last year’s month-by-month figures is one way to start. Looking at credit and cash sales from a business’ monthly income statements provides historical reference. Examining both fixed and variable past expenses, specifically, is a good starting point. However, it’s important when projecting future sales and reasonable increases to remember that the business could be impacted negatively by a new competitor or positively if one goes out of business.

Determining when payment will be received is a good way to project cash flow. If it’s cash, then it’s instant and no further calculation is necessary. However, if payment is conducted by invoices, credit lines, etc., businesses are encouraged to perform the Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) calculation. This calculates, on average, how long customers take to pay outstanding invoices.

DSO = (Monthly accounts receivables/Total sales) x Days in the month

This is a good way to measure how long customers actually take to pay invoices versus what terms are specified in contracts or invoices.

Another consideration is to look at fixed and variable expenses. While fixed expenses are just that, fixed, it’s important to monitor variable expenses because they can fluctuate. One example is inflation, which can increase the cost of input materials, salaries, overhead, etc. Depending on the volume of production or sales, electricity, commission, or similar costs can also vary.

Once this information is gathered, the current month’s projected cash flow can be calculated.

The formula is as follows: (Last month’s cash balance + Current month’s projected receipts) – Projected expenses.

Preventing Bad Debt from Happening Before Collections is Necessary

According to SCORE, there are many things a business can do to reduce the likelihood of customer debt default and increase cash flow. Businesses can check the creditworthiness of both individual and commercial clients before offering credit to determine the likelihood of defaulting. 

Similarly, if Net 30 is the standard timeframe to pay an invoice, offering a 5 percent discount if it’s paid within seven days is one way to encourage prompt payment. Businesses that get a deposit when signing the contract or before beginning work will generate a more consistent cash flow.

Operating Cash Flow Ratio Example

This looks at how easily a company can satisfy current liabilities from its cash flows that are produced from the business operations. If there’s negative cash from operations, a business might be relying too heavily on financing or selling assets to run its operations. If earnings are steady, but cash flow from operations is falling, this is a negative indication of a company’s health. It’s calculated as follows:

(Operating Cash Flow/Current Liabilities) = ($15 billion/$45 billion) = 0.33

Businesses with an operating cash flow ratio greater than 1 have produced more cash in an operating period than is necessary to satisfy current liabilities. Businesses that have a reading less than 1 did not produce enough cash to satisfy current liabilities. However, further investigation is required to ensure that it’s not taking some of its excess cash to reinvest in projects with the potential to create future rewards.

While there’s no way to predict future cash flow trends, making projections can help businesses compare actual results to projects and adjust their plans more efficiently.

Sources

https://www.score.org/resource/article/10-ways-improve-collections-and-cash-flow