Advisor insights from the field

Archive for the ‘Cash Flow’ Category

Forecasting is a Learned Skill

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 by Troy Schrock

Forecasting is a learned skill, and as such, it can be taught and improved over time.  It also will never be perfect.  Yet, I often see CEOs and executives giving the financial staff a terrible time when actual results differ from the forecast.  I have also seen many financial personnel terrified to provide a forecast to the executive team because it is built on assumptions rather than “facts.”  By nature, financial personnel tend to be more averse to making mistakes than others.  They want their numbers to be right, but forecasts are never “right” in precisely matching actual results.  No one can absolutely predict the future.  A forecast can only provide a directional view based on the best knowledge available.

Forecasting is not limited to financial numbers.  Every discipline has some kind of key activity or metric to forecast, so CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, COOs, and any other kind of business leader ought to be able to understand the uncertainty and apprehension involved in forecasting.

You can only become excellent at forecasting by working on it.  Mistakes will be made.  Through practice, you will gain a better understanding of the drivers of the key activities which are drivers for the financial results.  Not only will the accuracy of your forecasts improve over time, but you will also gain a deeper understanding of your business (which is the greatest value of forecasting).

For more insight on financial forecasting, consider reading Before You Hire a CFO

Share/Save

Work Cash Flow in Advance

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 by Troy Schrock

To effectively manage cash flow, you must work it in advance.  It can’t be done strictly as a day-to-day reaction to what has already happened.  Business leaders need to know what is likely to happen before it happens; if not, they may inadvertently steer the organization into financial crisis. 

Because the circumstances inside and outside your organization are dynamic, your process for managing cash must also be dynamic.  Most large organizations know this and have systems in place to stay on top of cash flow, but many small businesses and social sector organizations have not taken the time to do the same.  It’s really quite simple to do, requiring little more than a simple spreadsheet and 1-2 hours of time each week.  With this, you can have a rolling 3-4 week cash flow forecast, which provides the owner and management team with the visibility necessary to make informed decisions.  This forecast should then be worked into a quarterly and annual cash flow forecast.

Cash Flow Management Help for Entrepreneurs

Monday, January 31st, 2011 by Troy Schrock

We recently got a nice plug from The Shoestring MBA regarding our recently launched online course about cash flow management, entitled “Cash Rules for Entrepreneurs.”  With permission from author Bill McGuinness, we adapted some of his material from his book Cash Rules, added some practical tips and tools from our experience as ActionCFO advisors, and put together an online tool that we think will be very useful to business owners and CEOs of small and midsize companies. 

You can access this tool at www.cashrulesforentrepreneurs.com.  For a very reasonable fee, you get lifetime access to an audiovisual presentation, podcast, booklet, and helpful review sheets.  If you’ve been looking for a crash course (or just a quick review) of fundamental financial management concepts for your business, I think you will find great value in this tool.

Please be free with your feedback on it.  As we hear back from people, we can continue to improve the tool in the future.

Cash Flow Management Critical to Surviving Recovery

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 by Jim Walden

I have noticed a recent increase in entrepreneurs with start-up ideas and financers who are willing to support them.  This fits a pattern I have noticed for a long time: when the pain of a recession peaks, new ideas for solving existing consumer and business problems begin to take root.  Although this means new competition for established businesses and products, it’s also an encouraging sign for the future. 

When advising startups, I stress the importance of making sure the new venture is a business and not just an idea or product.   The three elements of a business are often described as the legs of a stool; the business won’t stand without all three being strong.  The business must be able to (1) sell a product/service, (2) produce the product/service, and (3) manage its financial activity.  

It’s the last one on which I would like to focus.  As the business climate improves, smart business leaders will shift their focus from survival to business expansion.  They will see opportunities to increase sales.  What they often don’t see is the impact on cash flow from increased sales and new hiring.  It seems counterintuitive, but cash flow is toughest when sales are rebounding.  Failure to understand this can destroy a business.  If the cash gets spent faster than it’s collected, the business runs out of fuel.   When the fuel runs out, the business sputters and sometimes is forced into bankruptcy.    

If your business has cut back on financial management during the recession, it is critical for you to be focused on financial management as the business begins to grow again.  Don’t let one leg of the stool cause your downfall just when a more forgiving business climate may be approaching.

This Is Your Business Without Cash Flow…

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by Troy Schrock

Cash is the fuel of your business.  Are you managing it well?  If you have trouble watching the video here, see it here (starting at about 2:00).

Nothing New

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 by Troy Schrock

During the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s, my grandpa and his brother built and exited a number of different business ventures.  They began by helping their dad with his cattle business and launched into a full-scale dairy operation.  (I have a photo circa 1930s of a delivery van with “Schrock Dairy” and “Natural Milk & Cream” written in fancy lettering across the sides and back.)  From there, they launched a full-scale apple orchard business.  Then, with the full-gut commitment unique to entrepreneurs, they tore down all of their orchards and started a hybrid seed corn growing business.  They later added a fertilizer (anhydrous ammonia) business with multiple plants and distribution facilities across Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.  This business was eventually sold to Standard Oil of Indiana.  (I guess anhydrous ammonia was the rage those days.)

Today, we are more than a half-century removed from these entrepreneurs, so naturally, we have different business concerns than they did, right?  My dad was recently reading through their correspondence and found two consistent themes:

  1. Get the right people in the right positions.
  2. Cash flow!   Cash, Cash, Cash.  It was never far from their minds.

OK, so maybe business really isn’t much different today!  The key issues facing entrepreneurs 75 years ago are the same for entrepreneurs today, and they will still be the same 75 years from now.

(Real) Renewable Energy for Your Business

Thursday, July 8th, 2010 by Troy Schrock

Renewable energy is the rage these days.  It reminds me of the 1970s energy crisis.  At that time, my parents installed a large solar collector in our side yard which connected to our central air HVAC system.  It operated for many years, but it was eventually scrapped.  My dad tells me it never paid for itself; it was a bad investment (even after the tax credit)!

Unfortunately, many of today’s proposed renewable energy solutions may end up facing the same end as that old solar collector – the scrap yard.  Your business, however, has a legitimate source of renewable energy.  Do you know what that is?

It is cash flow from operations.

Cash flow from operations is simply the cash flow generated by your basic business operations.  This could be from manufacturing and selling a product, delivering a service, or buying products and merchandising them somehow.  If you can do this at a profit, the operating margin provides operating cash flow – a legitimate self-sustaining (renewable) source of cash for your business.