According to Investopedia, cash flow is the net amount of cash and cash-equivalents moving into and out of a business. Positive cash flow indicates that a company's liquid assets are increasing, enabling it to settle debts, reinvest in its business, return money to shareholders, pay expenses and provide a buffer against future financial challenges. Negative cash flow indicates that a company's liquid assets are decreasing. Net cash flow is distinguished from net income, which includes accounts receivable and other items for which payment has not actually been received. Cash flow is used to assess the quality of a company's income, that is, how liquid it is, which can indicate whether the company is positioned to remain solvent.
Small businesses and big businesses alike need a good stream of cash flow for a variety of reasons. Any number of emergencies may arise that can stress the financial resources of your business. Equipment can break, vehicles may need emergency repairs, key personnel may leave and temps have to be brought in, or you may just run out of inventory and need to re-stock. Without enough cash flow on hand at all times, your business is at risk.
So, what can a business do to make sure there is adequate cash flow? Take a look at the following tips and see what you can do today to integrate them into your business.
- Keep good books. Many small business owners let their bookkeeping fall to the wayside because they’re so busy operating their business. Small business owners wear many hats, so it's understandable to be busy, however if the books aren’t organized, troubling times lie ahead.
- Don’t delay or put off taxes. Every quarter look at your earnings and expenditures and estimate withholding taxes, land taxes, and other liabilities. Also look at what you bought over the previous quarter that could be a write off for your filing. Work with your accountant and tax professional to make sure you aren’t taking too much money out of your revenue.
- Make a budget for your monthly expenditures. Look at the past 6 months and see what you spent monthly for business costs. Include your office supplies, employee costs, utilities, and material. What you’re looking for is any “leaks” where small amounts of money are being spent but not recorded. This usually occurs when money is taken out of cash to pay for supplies that ran out employee costs that were ignored in the past. They are small sums of money bit they can add up. Stopping these leaks can keep cash in your account ready for unexpected costs.
- Start an emergency fund for your business. No matter how small amount you can add to it, put it in. Then consistently add to the account as you move along throughout the year. Even when things are tight for a month don’t neglect putting a little money into this fund. It’ll help tremendously when an emergency occurs.
- Always know what the bottom line is for your business. This may seem self-evident but there are plenty of small business owners who have no idea how their business is doing on a daily, or even weekly business. Don’t guess, it's important to have a hard number in your head for the worth of your business. Also, keep track of seasonal changes to the bottom line; if you produce a product or service that is more seasonal. The idea is to gauge those times when you’ll have plenty of cash in the bank for a solid cash flow. Just remember, being busy doesn’t equal money in the bank. It’s only after clients have paid you that you can count on the cash.
- Cash flow forecasting. With a cash flow forecast, you’ll be able to see which months you can expect to see a cash deficit, and which months you can expect a surplus. You’ll also be able to get a pretty good idea of how much cash your business is going to require over the next year or so to survive. You can gain a lot of insight into your business by comparing actual figures to what you forecasted. If there are discrepancies between the two numbers, dig further to see what might be happening.
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