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Why a business can be profitable and not have enough cash

Why A Business Can Be Profitable And Not Have Enough Cash - Business Cash Drivers

The experience for many business owners is that it is possible to be profitable but not have enough cash.

Logic says that if you were making a profit, you should have enough cash to pay your bills. However, this is not always the case!

How can a business be profitable and not have enough cash?

The starting point to understand why a business can be profitable but not have enough cash is to recognise there is a difference between profit and cash.

As the economist Alfred Rappaport said many years ago:

Cash is a fact; profit is an opinion!

Profit is determined at a particular point in time and after accounting treatment. As such, it may have little relevance to the funds a business has in its bank account to pay the bills on a day-to-day basis.

Cash on the other hand is a reality. You either have it, or you don’t!

The Cash Bucket – Sources and Uses of Cash

A helpful way to understand why a business can be profitable and not have enough cash, is to use a “Cash Bucket” metaphor.

Your bank balance (reality) is the level to which the bucket is full, or otherwise.

Each change of the cash drivers outlined below will either be:

  • Putting more cash into the bucket (source of cash)
  • Taking cash out of the bucket (use of cash)

How these drivers are managed, will determine the cash you have available to run your business on a day-to-day basis.

Download Free PDF - Business Cash Drivers

Sales – A Source and Use of Cash

For example, an increase in sales may be a source of cash, but it can also use cash.

Typically, most businesses need to spend cash before they generate sales. This “sunk cost” takes cash out of your “cash bucket”.

The lag between when a sale occurs and the sunk cost of achieving it can lead to the use of cash.

This is the reason why that when a business experiences a growth surge, it can be profitable, but not have enough cash.

Gross Margin - A Source and Use of Cash

An increase in Gross Margin (sales less cost of goods sold as a percentage of sales) can be a source of cash.

An improved Gross Margin may be achieved through increased pricing, better buying or less cost of manufacture, etc.

Conversely, if the Cost of Goods Sold increases, it will reduce the Gross Margin and take money out of the “cash bucket” (use cash).

Trade Debtors - A Source and Use of Cash

If customers are given time to pay via trade terms, this is a use of cash.

(Providing time to pay doesn’t take cash out of the “cash bucket,” but the need to fund the business until payment is received from the customer does)

When the monies are received from the customer, this is a source of cash.

Money tied up in outstanding debtors is a very common reason a business can be profitable and not have enough cash.

Trade Creditors - A Source and Use of Cash

On the flip side, if suppliers to a business provide terms to pay, this can be a source of cash.

But when we pay the creditor, that is the use of cash.

(Again, like debtors, creditors don’t provide actual cash, but they allow a business to avoid using their own cash resources for a period of time)

Stock - A Source and Use of Cash

Stock is another example, if we increase our stockholding, that is a use the cash however, if we sell the stock, that is a source of cash.

Over investment in stock is another common reason a business can be profitable and not have enough cash.

Assets - A Source and Use of Cash

Similarly, investing in some form of asset (say new equipment) is a use of cash.

If an asset is sold, that is a source of cash.

Borrowings - A Source and Use of Cash

Property Development Finance - Know Where Your Stand

Increasing borrowings, or an overdraft, is a source of cash, whereas repayments are use of cash.

Whilst borrowings can be a source of cash, if they are incorrectly structured, they can drain cash.

Summary

Whilst making a profit is critical, cash remains the lifeblood of every business.

Understanding the cash drivers of your business and how they impact your bank account leads to improved decision-making and through this eliminates a lot of pressure and stress.

If you would like to learn more, or you are finding that your current finance structure is causing issues within your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Sharon Piening - The 500 Group

Sharon Piening

Sharon Piening - The 500 Group

Sharon Piening

Highly experienced Equipment and Motor Vehicle Finance Specialist. I love working with my clients and helping them navigate the complex world of equipment and motor vehicle finance.

Sharon Piening is a credit representative (474698) of BLSSA Pty Ltd ACN 117 651 760 (Australian Credit Licence 391237)

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