Cash Flow Forecasting as a Team Sport
Blaine Bertsch with Dryrun, discusses how businesses and finance pros can work together to give small business the best optics for the least work.
Hi there, this is Blaine Bertsch with Dryrun.
Today I am going to talk a little bit about how small business owners and their financial professionals or pro advisors can work together to do the absolute best job for them in their cash flow forecasting and in their financial forecasts.
A couple things that I’ve noticed talking with customers and customers are small business owners themselves, they are also the finance pros, the bookkeepers and the accountants that are helping these businesses understand where they are headed, what their cash flow looks like and helps them manage their tech stack, manage their accounting systems, sometimes their inventory system, their POS (Point of Sale) system.
Usually all these different systems that are all tied together and Dryrun of course, helping them figure out their cash flow forecasts.
So a couple things that we’ve notice talking with users over and over again is often we have found that they are not using the perfect situation or the perfect scheme for their business to get the most out of their financial forecasts.
With the business owner side, often when they are tracking their cash flow on their own they can tend to lose a bit of focus when other business things sort of get in the way.
When they start to lose a bit of focus, their business is going good, they are paying attention to what they think is the really important stuff and then inevitably what happens is they’ll run into a cash flow issue, a crunch and when a cash flow issue hits there is nothing more important.
Suddenly, all hands on deck, how do we manage this, how do we deal with this? Usually, how do we get out of this? And they find out generally too late. And it’s a real panic situation.
On the other side of the coin with bookkeepers and accountants they often want to provide help with these near term cash flow actuals, the invoices, the bills, the things that are very quantifiable.
But sometimes what they are missing or what they need the business owner to get involved in is the sales pipeline, the revenue forecasts.
The way we say it is if there’s a cash flow crunch now usually we can look back and say there was a sales problem six month ago.
Those highly speculative sales or revenue models are the things that are going to turn into actual cash flow. It’s going to turn into the money that’s coming into your business.
So you need both and we found sometimes the ideal circumstance for the businesses is when they are working together, they are collaborating together (with finance pros).
They have different areas of responsibility when we see it work really well. Usually the bookkeeper or accountant, they will focus very heavily, like 80 percent, 90 percent on the actual cash flow, on the bills that are outstanding, invoices that they are awaiting payment on, they are keeping track of the ongoing budget and making sure that the money that’s coming and going, they are going to have enough to stay in the black and they are going to be successful.
So it’s very much near term, what we like to call actuals. It’s invoices you sent out, it’s those you’ve received and also the ones that you know, you are guarantied to get. You want to sort of forecast that and see what’s coming.
On the other side, we would like the business owner to spend 80 percent of their time focussed more on the longer term sales. You know if they have to make a million dollars this year, they have to do it in 12 month, not 14.
They have to figure out how am I going to get that much business in, how are we going to make sure the cash comes in and it is going to come in and fuel the business and how are we going to grow the business.
That’s much more speculative, you are looking further and further out and the further out, usually the less accurate it is but there is a level of accuracy that’s there and that you need to be concerned about.
So the business owners, they are the ones that know usually what is going on there, whether they are the ones responsible for sales or whether they have a sales person or sales team, they need to figure out how those sales are going to turn into cash. When is that cash going to come into the business.
Most of the time we see when there are businesses that have these big bills, and these big invoices and this really volatile cash flow, that goes hand in hand with a really volatile sales cycle because they need to close a bunch of big deals.
Usually those types of businesses, if their goal is a million dollars this year they are not selling one million one dollar cups of coffee, they have a couple dozen contracts or projects that are going to fuel that business.
So if you lose one or you are missing out on one, you can get into trouble really quick.
You also have to be able to deliver, you have to make sure that you are monitoring your capacity.
That’s another issue that a project based business will have. A bunch of contracts may come in all at one time because you have been really pushing your sales.
Now your staff are doing overtime and you are hiring contractors to try to backfill and make sure you have the capacity and usually when it’s a high time and you are really busy you stop doing sales because you are busy building stuff and you think it’s never going to end.
Inevitably it does stop and pretty soon you don’t have the next job coming in and now you have your staff sitting idle and you have your team sitting idle and that costs you money.
So by the end of the year, even if you have managed to pull in that million dollar budget, you’ve had staff sitting idle for a while, but then you’ve been paying overtime and contractors and it eats up that profit.
So, there are a couple things that the business owner has to really forecast there, make sure they have enough money coming in and make sure that they are smoothing out the jobs, the contracts so that the money sort of flows in on a fairly even, just rolling in at the right time and you are not going to have these highs and lows that can really affect the business.
So when you have a forecast and you have this near term cash flow, what’s going on this week, what’s going on this month and then you have this longer term cash flow as well that’s really like the sales pipeline, the revenue pipeline, that’s where you can really get a good look at what’s happening in your business.
The best case again is if you have somebody that is really monitoring short term cash flow ins and outs, invoices…your financial professionals, your bookkeeper, your accountants are so good at that and they can really help that side.
That’s going to free you up to do a bit more of that speculative sales and revenue forecast because you are likely the one or your sales team is the one that’s on the phone talking to people about those potential jobs…how much they are going to be worth, when they are going to start and the cash is going to roll in for those jobs, usually in multiple phases.
So you can start to see how complex as you land those jobs, how complex until that turns into actual cash flow when you have invoices at different phases and you have materials at different phases and you have your ongoing costs in your business.
It makes it a really tricky puzzle, so knowing what’s happening and predicting what’s going to happen in your business it’s like a light bulb going off, suddenly you have the information you need to make decisions.
You are not missing the opportunity to expand or to get a contract or job because you know you have the cash on hand.
You are not late on following up on invoices that are overdue because you just aren’t paying attention to it. And you are watching those capacity issues and making sure that it kind of smooths out over the year and that you just have that money coming and going.
And of course, I’m talking on kind of a years basis hear but everyone knows that calendar year doesn’t make a difference, as long as you are in business you just have to bring money in, you have to keep cash coming in and you have to keep those jobs coming in.
So I just wanted to talk a little bit about that today that we have so many customers that are all over the world, all sorts of different industry’s some have internal finance staff, some have engaged external finance staff, many of them do all their forecasting on their own.
We just found this really ideal situation that seems to work really well when there is a financial professional working with the business or the business owner and they have their areas of responsibility but they are both also peeking over each other’s shoulders essentially.
The businesses are still keeping a bit of track on the cash flow and how that is looking and the finance pros are also kind of keeping a bit of an eye on the sales pipeline and hopefully flagging something if they see like hey you might have all these jobs landing at once, you know you could run into a bit of a capacity issue.
So that was my little thought for today, my chat for today. Thanks for joining me today, if you have any questions or want me to tackle a different issue on my next live chat, definitely feel free to post them on Facebook here or go to our site dryrun.com we have a little chat bubble there and you can definitely just ask a question on there and we’ll make sure we tackle it next time.