Problem With Days Sales Outstanding Example

See also:
Daily Sales Outstanding Calculation
Operating Cycle Definition
Unlock Cash in Your Business
Turnover in Collections is Destroying Your DSO
Daily Sales Outstanding (DSO)

Dales Sales Outstanding Explanation

Often days sales outstanding (commonly referred to simply as DSO) is used as a measure of the average number of days it takes for a company to collect on its credit sales, using the accounts receivable balance at the end of a period and the amount of credit sales for that period. Days sales outstanding is closely related to accounts receivable turnover, as DSO can also be expressed as the number of days in a period divided by the accounts receivable turnover. The lower the DSO, the shorter the time it takes for a company to collect. Whereas a higher DSO means a longer time period to collect and usually indicates a problem with a company’s collection process and/or credit underwriting.

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How To Use Days Sales Outstanding

Days sales outstanding is a measure which should be monitored often in order to gauge the efficiency and effectiveness of a company’s accounting department. Closely examine the trend in DSO over a period of weeks or months to identify problems. This is especially true before they get out of hand. As a result, comparing the Days Sales Outstanding industry average with that of the company will help to gauge whether or not a company is lagging or surpassing its competitors in its accounting operations. One way to monitor trends in days sales outstanding is through the use of a flash report. For example, a company may also consider implementing a daily cash report to manage its cash on a daily basis, with an eye towards improving its DSO by improving its collections.

It is important to understand the days sales outstanding formula and what assumptions are made in its calculation. The following days sales outstanding example highlights a common problem.

Problem With Days Sales Outstanding Example

Unfortunately, the conventional methodology for calculating days sales outstanding weighs heavily on a company’s average annual sales, or a running 12 month average. Consequently, this approach overlooks the impact seasonality of sales can have on that statistic and can sometimes provide a misleading picture of the status of accounts receivable.

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Let’s assume two situations with the following facts:

Annual sales: $36,000,000 (or $100,000 per day)

Company A

A/R balance at end of current month: $7,000,000

Current Month: $6,000,000
1 Month Ago: $5,000,000
2 Months Ago: $2,000,000

Company B

A/R balance at end of current month: $7,000,000

Current Month: $2,000,000
1 Month Ago: $2,000,000
2 Months Ago: $1,000,000
3 Months Ago: $2,000,000

DSO Calculation

To calculate the traditional DSO for both companies, divide $7,000,000 by the average daily sales for the last 12 months of $100,000. This returns a DSO of 70 days.

However, Company A’s receivables are in much better condition as they only have receivables equal to the last 36 days sales (calculated as (A/R balance/current month’s sales)*# of days in month, or
($7,000,000/$6,000,000)*30 = 35).

Meanwhile, Company B’s receivables represent sales from the past 108 days.

So for Company A, assuming the traditional DSO measure of 70 would overstate the time it would take to collect sales from the last month by two times. Comparatively, Company B would be understated by 38 days.

The Problem With Days Sales Outstanding

Although this example is an exaggeration of extremes, the traditional DSO methodology falls short when you consider seasonality trends. A high DSO usually indicates inefficiencies and problems in a company which are costing a company dearly. It is important not to just mechanically compute financial ratios such as days sales outstanding. But it also important to take a look at the numbers underlying your calculations to ensure that you have an accurate picture of a company’s performance. For more ways to improve your cash flow, download the free 25 Ways to Improve Cash Flow whitepaper.

Problem With Days Sales Outstanding Example

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Problem With Days Sales Outstanding

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4 Responses to Problem With Days Sales Outstanding Example

  1. days sales outstanding December 14, 2016 at 2:50 am #

    Thanks a lot. this is great article on DSO, but i can find other ratio analysis on your blog.

    Salman Qureshi

  2. Ted June 29, 2017 at 2:56 am #

    It’s a good comparison. I also divide DSO per category of customers. Industrial customers are allowed a higher DSO compared with small Customers, and it would be unfair if DSO was weighted equally between them. For small customers which represents lower % of sales DSO has to be made more fair, for example:

    COMPANY 1:
    A/R are 7,000,000 ( 6,200,000 + 800,000)

    Current Month: $1,600,000 + 400,000
    1 Month Ago: $1,600,000 + 400,000
    2 Months Ago: $ 1,000,000 + 0
    3 Months Ago: $2,000,000 + 0
    80% of Sales to Industrial Customers with a DSO of 60 Days
    DSO for Category Industrial has a target of 90 Days and is:
    6.2/1.6*30=116 Days
    DSO for Category Small Customer has a target of 60 Days and is:
    0.8/0.4*30=60 Days

    DSO for Industrial is 116 Days with target of 90 days => BAD
    DSO for Small*C is 60 Days with target of 60 days => GOOD
    Real DSO is 105 Days

    If we weight the DSO, we would have to give a fair comparison, so lets compare them on the basis of the target:
    30 Days would be multiplied by 3 to get to 90 days
    60 would be multiplied by 1.5 to get to 90 days
    The Fair DSO is then:
    [(60*1.5)+(116*1)]/(1.5+1)=(90+116)/2.5=82.4 days

  3. Waqas March 20, 2019 at 2:20 pm #

    I have a question regarding the DSO is that if one of my customer has a DSO of 60 days and in case customer doesn’t have any sale in the next 3 months and it clears all the A/R then the issue i am facing is that customer automatically gets the 0 days DSO which makes this customer in a tier 1 category.

    How can i deal with this issue to remain the customer in the same tier.

  4. Jennifer Brant June 24, 2019 at 11:25 am #

    Regarding the example, company B’s sales for the last 4 months equals $7,000,000 (in total). My company was previously calculating DSO as a formula taking ending A/R (not average) of $7,000,000 and literally calculating how many days sales represented here (say 4 months * 30 = 120). Is there a term for this calculation? Because by definition it does not appear to be DSO.

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