How to Keep Track of Your Day-to-Day Business Finances so You’re In Control
You might think profit is the most important financial measure in your business, but a healthy cash flow is just as vital. Your business can be extremely profitable, but if the timing of your cash in and cash out goes wrong, you could be left with no money in the bank to pay your creditors, employees or suppliers.
If you manage your cash flow well, you’ll reduce stress and have a financial buffer to deal with the inevitable surprises that arise in business. Read on to learn how to manage your cash in and cash out, and generate a healthy cash flow through your organization.
Cash In, Cash Out and Cash On Hand
Your cash flow is the overall term for how money moves into, through and out of your business. It’s related to the actual money you have right now, rather than how much is promised (through invoices and accounts receivable) or owed (through bills and accounts payable). Because cash flow is so important to your business’ financial health, we’ve covered various aspects of it in-depth:
Your “cash in” represents the revenue and other income flowing into your business right now. Your “cash out” represents the expenses and payments you’re making right now. Your “cash on hand” shows how much money you have available to use in the bank.
Good cash flow management is about maximizing and speeding up your cash in while minimizing and slowing down your cash out to keep a healthy amount of cash on hand.
Profit vs. Cash Flow
The profit and loss statement in your business does not represent your cash flow — it only shows whether you’re profitable over the length of time you’re measuring. Cash flow deals with what is happening right now, and it’s impacted by areas including:
Payment terms on invoices
When you receive money from customers
How much inventory you’re holding
When bills are due
You need to spend as much time tracking and improving cash flow as you do making sure your business turns a profit.
Accounting, Reconciliation and Cash Flow
The easiest way to track your cash flow is by reconciling your cash in and cash out through your accounting system. Although this sounds like a mouthful, it’s relatively simple in practice. Reconciliation simply means importing your bank and other statements into your accounting software, and then tracking where the money has come from and where it’s going.
If you do this on a daily basis, you will always know exactly how much money you have on hand, as well as whether you’re likely to hit a shortfall in your cash flow.
How to Optimize Your Cash Flow
Let’s dig into a few ways to improve your cash flow.
Make Cash Flow Monitoring a Critical Business Task
Tracking cash flow is vital to good business health. If you don’t have time to do it yourself, we recommend hiring someone to reconcile and monitor cash flow and alert you to any issues. Alternatively, you might want to use online accounting software to reconcile your transactions so you can understand your day-to-day cashflow. Xero, Quickbooks and Freshbooks are all good options. Our CFO at Revenued uses Sage Accounting Software and highly recommends it.
Keep Tight Control of Budgeting and Expenses
Your business budget shows the expenses you’re planning on making. As you track cash flow and outgoings, match those costs against the budget. If you’re noticing unusual variations, see what you can do to reduce those costs or re-forecast your budgets.
Build a Cash Buffer in Your Business
The most effective protection against cash flow problems is to have plenty of cash on hand. Look at all the expenses your business makes on a monthly basis, and keep money in the bank to cover those expenses. We recommend retaining around three month’s worth of business expenses as a cash buffer.
Monitor and Control Inventory
Product-driven businesses and retailers often have a lot of their cash flow tied up in inventory. Make sure you manage your inventory properly to minimize lead times with suppliers, understand trends and forecasts and keep appropriate levels of stock.
Collect Receivables Quickly
Your “Accounts Receivables” are the revenues you’re expecting to collect from customers, typically because you’ve invoiced them. Healthy cash flow depends on getting paid quickly; here’s how you can achieve that:
Ask for a partial or down payment on large orders, big pieces of work or long contracts
Incentivize customers to pay early through discounts, coupons or other benefits
Create automatic reminders for people to pay before their invoice is due, and send another one if they don’t pay on time
Review your invoice payment terms and ensure they are aligned with your cash flow needs
Think about applying late payment penalties to unpaid invoices
Change Pricing to Encourage Faster Sales
If you’re in desperate need of money, you can consider changing your pricing for a short-term boost to your sales. Take account of your profit margins so you’re still selling at a profit. Over the longer-term, experiment with pricing to maximize turnover and profitability.
Manage Your Accounts Payable Properly
Your “accounts payable” are the various bills you need to pay. The payment terms will be defined on a case-by-case basis. You can delay bills until they are due and set reminders to pay them. However, make sure you are not late with payments — that can damage your relationships with your suppliers and potentially lower your business credit score.
Use Business Credit Cards to Help Manage Cash Flow
Business credit cards can be extremely useful for extending the time you have to pay bills. Pay them off as soon as possible, though, so you can avoid excess interest charges. We recommend looking at several key areas when choosing a card:
Whether there is an annual fee
What types of cash back, miles, membership or other rewards are available
How high the APR will be
Whether there’s a foreign transaction fee (if you plan to use the card abroad)
How easy account management will be
Get a Merchant Cash Advance for Short-term Financial Management
If you need money now and you have outstanding or regular invoices, a merchant cash advance (MCA) could help. An MCA financial services provider will agree to purchase your business’ account receivables at a discounted rate, essentially “advancing” you your future business revenue. You pay off the MCA with a daily payment withdrawn until the full amount that was agreed upon has been received by the funder. If you need an MCA or want to learn more, we can help.
Good cash flow management will strengthen your business and get you ready for growth. Once you’re tracking cash flow, try out this advice to optimize your cash in, cash out and cash on hand.
Given its importance, identifying and preserving a steady cash flow should already be a priority. If it’s not, there’s no better time to start tracking it as one of your most significant metrics — and the best way to do that is to start with a cash flow statement. Here is a complete breakdown.
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