Cash flow is the blood of a business. It is the measure of what cash is coming in and what is leaving. Cash flow is a more accurate measure of whether a company has enough capital to sustain itself. For example, a company can be extremely profitable and still go out of business due to poor cash flow.
In planning a new business, cash flow is still a very important concept to focus on. Different services and habits affect cash flow. For example, a company’s payment terms greatly affect the amount of cash flowing in and out of a business. If it gives terms that are long, the business could have trouble meeting its other financial obligations. If the terms are short, it can give the business terrific cash flow.
The difference in length of terms comes down to the sizes of accounts receivable and inventory. If a business’s accounts receivable is high relative to its revenue, it is a sign of cash flow problems. Furthermore, if a company has a large inventory account, it can also be a sign of poor cash flow. A large inventory could show a purchasing problem that siphons cash faster than it is needed. Either way, if a business has too much tied up in inventory, it causes cash flow problems. The balance sheet and income statement might show a profit, but cash flow shows whether a business can sustain itself.
Cash flow statements are broken down into three areas. The areas are operating activities, investing activities, and financing activities. The idea behind separating these sources of cash is to get a better idea of where the cash is coming from. A detailed cash flow statement shows what amount came from loans, products/services, and investments. This can be very useful to investors and lenders.
Net income is calculated by subtracting total expenses from revenue. This is the ‘profit’ that most people refer to. Within the total expenses to be subtracted from revenue, overhead and cost of goods/services are both included. This means that net income is the measure of whether a company actually made money during a period. Due to accrual accounting, net profit does not automatically mean a business has cash. However, net income is efficient at tracking business done within a period. This makes net income a better estimate of profitability than cash flow.
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