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What is a Cash Flow Statement and How Can It Be Used to Analyze a Company?

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Although cash flow analysis may seem like a metric used only by large corporate finance departments, it is helpful for companies of all sizes. You can make it as easy or complex as you like. This article delves into the importance of cash flow analysis, its place in financial reporting, and how forecasting can help you plan for your company's financial future.

What is a Cash Flow Statement?

Cash flow refers to the money that comes into and goes out of your company over a given time frame, such as a quarter or a fiscal year. Remember that this is distinct from your company's profit, even though both are critical indicators of financial health.

Timing of cash flow amounts transferred in and out and forecasts of future cash flow are all aspects of cash analysis. One of the primary goals of financial reporting is to help readers comprehend cash flow.

Experts from reputed management consulting services explain that cash flow statements are generally used with profit and loss account and the balance sheet. This combined information allows a business to evaluate its liquidity and adaptability. A rise in liquid assets indicates that a company has the resources to meet its current obligations, pay its debts, make necessary investments, and set aside money for use in case of emergency.

Importance of Cash Flow Statement: Perspectives from Management Consulting Services

A comprehensive and accurate cash flow statement helps you gauge the financial well-being of your business through analysis. It details the origins of your financial resources, be they loans, sales, or investors. Additionally, it highlights the areas of your life where you can cut back on spending.

When a company is just starting out, it is acceptable to have a negative operating cash flow because investors and lenders will accept this risk. A company, however, must be profitable to be considered a "going concern," so it can't afford negative cash flow for a long period of time.

Cash flow forecasting is another tool businesses can use to foresee potential cash flow issues. You can better manage the timing of cash inflows and outflows with the help of a cash flow forecast.

A Guide to Cash Flow Projection 

A cash flow forecast is helpful in managing liquidity because it provides insight into your company's future cash needs. A cash flow projection can help you plan for your financial future by showing you where your cash reserves will be on specific dates. If you know when you'll need cash and when you'll have extra, you can better plan your finances. With an initial balance in mind, a cash flow forecast can follow the money coming in and going out of the business until the forecasted date.

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Types of Cash Flow Statements 

Along with the balance sheet and the income statement, the cash flow statement is one of the three primary financial statements (also known as the income statement).

Since the profit and loss statement includes non-cash transactions and accruals, a cash flow statement is necessary for analysing your company's cash flow. The purpose of the cash flow statement is to detail the monetary transactions that have occurred during the specified time frame.

Because it details cash inflows and outflows, the cash flow statement paints a picture of how well your company handles its financial liquidity. Where you spend money provides essential context that isn't available in other financial information.

In business, there are three distinct streams of cash flow:

  • Operating cash flow
  • Investing cash flow
  • Financing cash flow (this is the order they appear on the statement).

An operating cash flow refers to the cash inflows and outflows related to a company's business activities.

Investing cash flow is the money that comes in as a result of your company's capital expenditures and is used to fuel the company's growth. All tangible and intangible investments, like patents, and the proceeds from their sale, fall under this category. A negative cash flow from investing activities may be a good sign of financial health if used to fund long-term growth initiatives like R&D.

Financing cash flow reveals how investors financed the business, whether by the owner(s), investors, or creditors. Bank loans, mortgage payments, and other forms of borrowed capital can all be considered receipts for a business. Shareholder dividends are a form of cash payment.

An Illustration of Cash Flow

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For her new online business, Scentsational Gifts, which will sell handmade goods, Sarah makes a fundamental cash flow forecast for the first six months of business. In the cash inflows section, she details the initial cash investment she will make and the monthly sales she anticipates making.

She estimates monthly outgoings like materials and marketing costs for paid advertising alongside the initial investment in equipment she will need to get the business up and running. As can be seen from the net cash flow, there is a negligible cash inflow each month, except in March, when a one-time expense causes a cash outflow of $2,800. She estimates that by the end of June, after factoring in monthly inflows and outflows, the cash balance will be $9,200.

Also Read: Importance of Management Consulting Services for Business

Management Consulting Services to Provide Techniques for Analysing Cash Flows

The bottom line number on a cash flow statement will tell you the net cash movement for the period under review. If it's up, that means cash on hand grew during that time; if it's down, that means outflows exceed inflows.

Example: Alphabet Inc, Google's parent company, reported a $5.2 billion negative net cash flow for the twelve months ending in December 2021. There was a positive cash flow of $91.7 billion from the company's operations but negative cash flows of $35.5 billion from investing activities and $61.4 billion from financing activities.

The three sections above can be used as a jumping-off point for further investigation into the sources and destinations of cash inflows and outflows. You can learn a lot about your strengths and weaknesses by comparing data over time and across different statements.

You may have a cash flow problem in some aspect of your business that you can begin to investigate if your operating cash flow is negative. Maintaining a positive cash flow from operations is critical to ensuring your business's continued viability and expansion.

Concluding Thoughts

Making sound business choices requires access to relevant data. Every choice, from whether to pursue past-due debtors to whether to expand operations, is influenced by cash flow. Given their importance to the success of your business, cash flow statements and projections are an absolute must. So, hiring business consulting services in the UAE such as Fortius can really help you streamline operations. Give them a call right away!