4 key numbers you need to know for effective cash flow planning

Running out of cash is one of the biggest reasons that businesses fail. It’s not surprising really, as forecasting your cash flow can be tricky, not to mention that there are so many variables that determine how much is needed for operations, how much money you have coming in, and how much money you actually have to spend.

While it is difficult, cash flow planning is absolutely essential to the success of a business. It ensures that you have the cash flow you need to not only survive, but thrive, and in any market or economy. As you can imagine, this is the dream for every business – to know that they are okay and that they can make payroll and keep up with the bills.

To be in this position, you need to start cash flow planning or forecasting and here are the main 4 numbers that you need to know.

Don’t confuse cash flow with revenue!

Revenue is only a measurement of a one-way inflow of money whereas cash flow demonstrates all movement of money through your business (e.g. income, outgoings and existing cash in the business). That’s why cash flow forecasting is so essential, as you can use it to track your business’s financial health while also planning for any expected peaks or dips in business in the future.

So many numbers besides revenue indicate profitability, so you need to manage them ALL right before you can be sure that your revenue growth is cause for celebration (not commiseration!).

Turnover (revenue and stock)

Knowing your turnover or gross revenue (e.g. the total amount of money you’ve brought in from sales) is obviously a key number to know, but when it comes to your cash flow forecasting, things like stock turnover are also essential.

Stock turnover is the rate at which you keep and use all of your stock after you have purchased it. You might not think that this number is essential to know, but stock can actually hide a lot of problems and issues within the business that you wouldn’t otherwise see if you weren’t looking.

Imagine you have been buying too much stock. Imagine the money you have available that is just sitting there. By looking at metrics like this while cash flow planning, you can know whether or not you should be buying more or less stock at a time and what effect this will have on your profitability.

Cost of sales

While revenue is an essential number to know, cost of sales is even more critical. Why? Because if making those sales cost you more than the money you brought in from them, you are actually making a loss and are heading for some major cash-flow problems.

Even if your business is growing, this doesn’t mean that you are heading in the right direction, so pay close attention to this number when cash flow planning. What costs are involved in making your sales (e.g. the cost of stock if you sell tangibles or the cost of labour if you sell services etc)?

A small decrease in the cost of sales can have as much impact on gross profit as a large increase in sales, so that is why it is so essential to know this number. If you’re aware of these costs, you can either negotiate with suppliers for better prices or tighten up work processes to reduce labour hours.

Net profit

Net profit is the ultimate measure of a business’s success. It is your bottom line, i.e. everything you’ve made after you have subtracted all direct and fixed costs.

So why is this important for cash flow planning? The net profit margin helps you to see whether you are generating enough profits from your sales and whether operating and overhead costs are being contained. If you’re not doing either, then you should know where and how you need to make adjustments.

If you need help with any of the matters raised in this article please do not hesitate to contact us – call 020 3915 8585 or email us.