Projecting cash flow for your startup is a key component of successful business management. It's a process of predicting short and long-term financial performance that includes income, expenses, and capital outlays. By understanding how and when money is entering and leaving your business, you'll be better equipped to make decisions that ensure the long-term sustainability of your business.
A. Definition of Projecting Cash Flow
Projecting cash flow means to predict and estimate the financial performance over a certain period of time. It’s a way to ensure that there is enough money available to meet liabilities and pay expenses as they come due.
B. Reasons for Projecting Cash Flow
- To know the amount of liquid cash and cash equivalents the business has.
- To determine if you have enough money to make the necessary investments.
- To create a budget and plan long-term strategies.
- To understand the cash flow situation while applying for business loans.
Analyzing Your Existing Cash Flow
If you plan to form a reliable projection of your startup's cash flow, you must accurately analyze your existing cash flow to gain insight into your expenditures and investments. To get a comprehensive overview, you can filter and study past periods or occurrences and identify any trends or patterns. Here are two key approaches you can take.
A. Analyzing previous performance
You can assess your previous performance by studying your total expenses and income for a given month or any period. This analysis could include calculating your profits, evaluating capital investments, assessing your accounts receivable balance, and analyzing how much money you spent on other expenses such as taxes, rent, and purchases. This process helps you identify areas in which you may be haemorrhaging cash and provides insights into areas where you can reduce costs and increase efficiency.
B. Estimating future costs
Apart from analyzing past events, you can also estimate future costs. This method involves forecasting potential financial changes throughout the next calendar year or operational cycle. You must consider both long-term and short-term investments, changes in the economy, potential issues or risks, and other factors that have a bearing on future cash flow. Your estimate should include each expense — whether they are fixed or variable. This provides a more detailed picture of potential future cash flow.
- Fixed expenses: These include rent, salaries, taxes, insurance, etc.
- Variable expenses: These may include different types of payments, changing trends in customer acquisitions or investments.
Your cash flow projection should include all the income streams for your startup. To help with the estimation process, it may be useful to break the income streams down into categories, such as cash sales, accounts receivable, investments, and other sources.
Estimate Cash Sales
Cash sales represent any income from the direct exchange of goods and services for cash. This could include the sale of products you have manufactured, tangible items like artwork and furniture, or services such as consulting. To estimate cash sales, consider past sales figures and industry trends for the upcoming year. You can also make use of online research tools such as the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to gain a better understanding of current economic trends and consumer spending.
Estimate Accounts Receivable
Accounts receivable is the income received from customers who have received a good or service, but have not yet paid for it. To estimate accounts receivable, consider the payment terms of past sales and the average amount of time it takes customers to pay invoices. You should also factor in any bad debt which may occur due to customer default or non-payment.
Business owners need to consider two broad categories of expenses when projecting cash flow for their startup: fixed costs and variable costs.
Fixed costs are the predictable expenses incurred by a business on a periodic basis. Examples of fixed costs include:
- Lease payments
- Insurance premiums
- Interest payments on business loans
In contrast to fixed costs, variable costs are more unpredictable in nature, varying in line with fluctuations in the level of activity in a business. Examples of variable costs include:
- Purchases of raw materials for production
- Packaging and shipping costs
- Advertising and marketing expenses
- Sales commissions
- Maintenance and repair costs
When starting a business, a cash flow forecast is a vital tool that you will need to use. It’s important to accurately project the cash flow that your business will need, and to use those projections to plan accordingly. To create a successful and accurate cash flow projection, you must first understand how cash flows in and out of a business.
Project Cash Flow Positions
The most important step in accurately projecting cash flow for your business is to create a projection of the cash flow positions. This should include a projection of income and expenditure in both the short-term and long-term. It is also important to consider both fixed and variable costs, as well as potential future revenue projections. These projections should be based on realistic data, such as past sales data and estimates for the future.
Analyzing the Numbers
Once you have projected the cash flow positions, the next step is to analyze the numbers. By analyzing the different figures and making adjustments where necessary, you can better identify where the gaps may be in your cash flow. This will also allow you to identify any areas where you may need to reduce expenditure to remain profitable.
It’s also important to look at the ratio of expenses to income. If you’re spending more than you’re earning, it’s a sign that you’ll eventually run out of money unless corrective steps are taken. Additionally, paying attention to your cash flow over time is important, as it allows you to identify whether the cash flow situation is improving or not.
Finally, it’s important to consider the overall picture when forecasting cash flow. By forecasting on a regular basis, you can identify potential problems early on, giving you the time to make the necessary changes to ensure that your business remains profitable and sustainable for the long-term.
By accurately projecting and analyzing your cash flow, you will be better able to forecast profitability and make the necessary changes to ensure that your business remains in the black.
Prepare For The Unexpected
As a startup business owner, it’s important to understand the value of preparing for the unexpected. Along with creating a plan for variable trends, having access to funding can give you the financial cushion you need when the unexpected happens. Below, you’ll learn more about how to create a plan for variable trends and available forms of funding that can help your startup during times of financial instability.
Create a plan for variable trends
No matter how well you plan, it’s nearly impossible to predict the future of your startup with 100% accuracy. Variables such as the economy, changes in industry standards, regulatory adjustments, and other unexpected factors can need to be taken into consideration. On top of regular cash flow projections, it’s important to create plans for variable trends. This means researching current factors that could affect your projections and exploring various scenarios for what could happen should each variable occur. By doing thorough research and skilling predicting variable trends, you’ll be better prepared for whatever twist comes your way.
When business owners are prepared for the unexpected, they can more easily navigate financial setbacks. Having access to financial sources can provide startup businesses with a cushion until plans and projections can be adjusted. Establishing funding sources such as loans, grants, private investments, or other forms of capital may be necessary to ensure your startup remains financially afloat during and after market changes. Knowing the funding options that are available to you and understanding the requirements and criteria for each is the optimal way to ensure you can access the funds you need when surprises arise.
- Private investments
In conclusion, cash flow projection is essential for startups as it can serve as a useful tool for startups to effectively manage their cash flow. Projecting cash flow can help startups to identify potential cash shortfalls, plan for long-term growth, and make informed long-term decisions. It can also help startups anticipate the need for additional capital, determine the profitability of potential investments, and compare net income to the organization’s cash position.
The benefits of projecting cash flow for startups are clear. Not only can cash flow projections help startups make sound business decisions, but they can also ensure that startups have sufficient cash reserves to maintain operations, manage cash flow efficiently, and make well-informed investments.
Ultimately, cash flow projection is a critical financial tool that startups must employ in order to grow their businesses and take advantage of new opportunities.