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Jan 17, 2024 · 4 min read

The importance of cash flow projections for SMEs

Uncover the vital role of cash flow projections in SMEs together with Enty.
Learn how to avoid pitfalls, make informed decisions, and as a result — secure a resilient financial future.

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Insights to prosperity: understanding the significance of cash flow projections in SMEs

Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business, and for small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs), it is particularly crucial. Without proper management, even a profitable venture can face insolvency. Many market players have learned the hard way that being profitable on paper does not guarantee positive cash flow. In fact, the timing of cash inflows and outflows can make all the difference between success and failure. So what's the catch?

Understanding cash flow and profitability

While profitability refers to the excess of revenue over expenses, cash flow focuses on the timing of cash inflows and outflows. A business can show profits within its financial statements but still struggle with cash flow if the cash coming in does not exceed the cash going out. This is a common scenario for businesses that provide goods or services on credit and have a delay in receiving payments.
For example, consider a service company that invoices its customers at the end of each month but only receives payment after 30 days. The company may recognize the revenue in the same month but will not have the cash in hand until the following month. During this time, the company still needs to cover its expenses, such as salaries and rent, which can lead to a negative cash flow.

The risks of poor cash flow management

Poor cash flow management can have serious consequences for SMEs. According to Jessie Hagen of US Bank, 82% of business failures can be attributed to poor cash flow management. It is crucial for business owners to have a clear understanding of their cash flow and to regularly forecast and monitor it to avoid a cash flow crisis.
Without proper cash flow management, businesses may struggle to pay suppliers and employees, leading to strained relationships and potential disruptions in operations. Lack of cash flow can also prevent businesses from making the necessary investments to compete in the market and may force them to rely on expensive borrowing options.

The benefits of cash flow projections

Cash flow projections play a vital role in managing and mitigating cash flow issues. By forecasting future cash flows, businesses can identify potential shortfalls in cash balances and take proactive measures to address them. This allows business owners to make informed decisions regarding spending, financing, and investment.
Cash flow projections are particularly important during times of uncertainty or when significant changes occur in the business environment. For example, during a recession or downturn in trading conditions, businesses may need to forecast suppressed sales and adjust their cash flow accordingly. Similarly, if a business loses a major customer account, cash flow projections can help assess the impact and plan for necessary adjustments.

Creating accurate cash flow projections

To create accurate cash flow projections, businesses need to follow a systematic approach. Here are six steps to help businesses develop accurate cash flow projections:

Step 1: Be honest and realistic

When creating cash flow projections, it is crucial to be honest and realistic. Inflating numbers or making overly optimistic assumptions can lead to inaccurate projections. Businesses should base their projections on reliable data and take into account potential risks and uncertainties.

Step 2: Set the structure and timeframe

Determine the timeframe for the cash flow projections, whether it's monthly, quarterly, or annually. Consider the level of detail required and the specific needs of the business. It may be helpful to start with a shorter timeframe, such as six months, to gain a better understanding of the business's cash flow patterns.

Step 3: Forecast revenue and costs

Estimate the expected revenue and costs for each period in the cash flow projection. Consider factors such as sales volume, pricing, payment terms, and potential changes in market conditions. It is crucial to be conservative in revenue projections to avoid overestimating cash inflows.

Step 4: Account for timing differences

Account for timing differences between cash inflows and outflows. For example, if the business invoices customers but receives payments with a delay, adjust the cash flow projection accordingly. Similarly, consider the timing of expenses, such as salaries, rent, and supplier payments.

Step 5: Monitor and adjust regularly

Regularly monitor and update the cash flow projections as new information becomes available. Compare the actual cash flow with the projected figures and make necessary adjustments to improve accuracy. By continuously monitoring cash flow, businesses can identify potential issues early on and take corrective actions.

Step 6: Seek expert advice

Consider seeking expert advice from financial professionals or consultants who specialize in cash flow management. They can provide valuable insights, review the projections, and offer recommendations for improving cash flow management. Alternatively you can always ask us for help - it’s easy and quick with Enty!

Final thoughts

Cash flow projections are essential for the survival and success of SMEs. By accurately forecasting cash inflows and outflows, businesses can identify potential cash flow issues in advance and take proactive measures to address them. Regular monitoring and adjustment of cash flow projections allow businesses to make informed decisions, manage risks, and ensure a healthy cash position. With proper cash flow management, SMEs can navigate uncertainties, seize opportunities, and achieve long-term financial stability.
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