Without cash your business won’t run, your employees become cranky and suppliers stop shipping you, and believe it or not you can run out of cash while your business is very profitable.
That happened to me. When I was in my vending business I had great profits but no cash. I went to a seminar where a couple of very wise people showed me the error of my ways. I learned that profit and loss statements are not nearly as important as cash flow statements when running a small company.
A cash flow statement tells you where the money went. A profit and loss statement says nothing about principal payments you make to the bank. You could have reasonably good profits, but the amount of money you pay your bank every month could be putting you out of business.
Cash flow statements tell you where you spent your money. If you increased inventory you used cash. If you extended more credit to customers you used cash. If you bought lots of capital equipment you used cash. All three of these issues won’t show up on your profit and loss statement.
A cash flow statement can help you focus on creating excess cash. Having profits is important. Profits are one of the things that help create cash. There are other things that can also help you create cash.
If you can pay less for capital equipment you need you are creating cash while spending money. If you can collect receivables from your customers faster you are creating cash. If you use inventory more efficiently you create cash. Concentrating only on your profit and loss statement makes it difficult to focus on cash.
Cash flow statements often provide better KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) than profit and loss statements. I believe developing excess cash is a great KPI. This is an activity that literally every area of your company can get involved in through individual drivers.
I think being able to know what moves the needle on developing excess cash often helps to create value. Knowing what needs to move the needle on profits is only part of the story. Companies that concentrate on creating excess cash often also create better enterprise value than those companies that only concentrate on profits.
Cash flow statements help with financing decisions. Buying capital equipment uses cash. Growing capacity in your company uses cash. Adding inventory uses cash. Adding customers uses cash.
The question when we grow our company isn’t whether we will use cash (we will) it’s how are we going to finance our growth. Sometimes you’ll just use excess cash provided from profits. Sometimes you’ll have to borrow money from the bank. Sometimes you’ll need to raise outside capital.
Understanding where your cash goes and how you will provide more cash when you need it are key parts of running a successful company. Don’t be like me and run out of cash without knowing why. Understanding your cash flow statement will allow you to make better decisions about your business.