Statement of Cash Flows

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 18th, 2012

Economics 101

No Business will be able to Repay any Loan unless their Business Operations can Generate Cash

In business cash is king.  As it is in life.  We need cash to buy food to survive.  Just as a business needs cash to pay its bills to survive.  Cash is so important to a business that there is a special financial statement to summarize cash flows in a business.  It looks something like this.

The above are made up numbers that could be similar to any statement of cash flows.  It shows the three sources of cash for a business.  Operating activities.  Investing activities.  And financing activities.  Every last dollar a business has came from one of these three sources.  And we can determine the health of the business just by seeing where its cash came from.

Not all business owners use a statement of cash flows.  Most small business owners probably don’t.  Having some other method to see where their cash is coming from.  And going to.  But if they plan on borrowing money from a bank they’re going to need one.  As bankers want to see a business’ ability to generate cash from their business operations.  For no business will be able to repay any loan unless their business operations can generate cash.

An Increase in Accounts Receivable indicates a Business’ Customers are Paying them Slower

A business generates cash from operating activities.  Which comes from sales.  Of course business have to spend a lot of money to create those sales.  So the net cash generated is basically net income with a few adjustments.  In accrual accounting we expense a portion of what we spent on an asset as a depreciation expense each accounting period.  Because although we pay for an asset in one year we may use that asset for the next 5 years.  Or more.   So we expense a portion of that asset each accounting period.  But we don’t have to write a check to pay for depreciation.  It is a non-cash transaction.  So to adjust net income to show net cash generated we have to add back this depreciation expense.

An increase in accounts payable indicates a business is paying their bills slower.  And when you pay your bills slower you free up cash for other things.  Becoming a source of cash.  With each payroll a business has to withhold taxes from their employees’ paychecks.    Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, the employee’s federal and state withholding taxes.  With each payroll these liabilities accrue and are payable to the various government agencies.  You  can free up some cash by paying these taxes late.  But it is not recommended.  For the penalties for doing so can be severe.

An increase in accounts receivable indicates their customers are paying them slower.  An increase in inventory indicates they’re buying more into inventory than they’re selling from inventory.  Prepayments will conserve cash in the future by paying for things now.  But they will leave you with less cash now.  A decrease in accrued liabilities indicates they’re catching up on paying some of their accrued expenses.  Like those payroll taxes.  (In the ideal world if you add up the increase and decrease in accrued liabilities they should net out. Indicating you’re paying your accrued expenses on time.  In this example the business has a balance of $3,000 they’re paying late.)  Increases in all of these items consume cash, leaving the business with less cash for other things.

When the Owner has to put in More of their Own Cash into the Business Things are not going Well

Cash flows from investing activities can include financial investments a business buys and sells with the excess cash they have.  In this example the only investment activities is the buying and selling of some plant assets.  Perhaps selling some old equipment that is costly to maintain and replacing it with new equipment.  Even replacing a vital piece of production equipment that breaks down.  Putting a business out of business.  Thus requiring a cash purchase to replace it as quickly as possible.  Short-term borrowing may be advances on their credit line while the settlement on short-term debt may be the repaying of some of those advances.  Proceeds from long-term debt may be a new bank loan.  While payments to settle long-term debt may be repaying a previous loan.  Finally, paid-in capital is money from the business owner.  Such as cashing in a 401(k) or getting a second mortgage on their house so they can put it into their business to make up for a cash shortage.

So what does all of this mean?  Is this business doing well?  Or are they having problems?  Well, the good news is that they are meeting their cash needs.  The bad news is that it’s not because of their operating activities.  They’re meeting their cash needs by paying their vendors slower.  In fact, if they didn’t they may have had a net loss of cash for the year.  Which means had they not paid their bills late they may have gone bankrupt.  And their cash problems are evident elsewhere.   For not only are they paying their vendors slower their customers are paying them slower.  Making them wait longer to get the cash from their sales.  And with more money going into inventory than coming out of inventory it indicates that sales are down.  Leaving them with less revenue to convert into cash.  And what’s particularly troubling is that increase in accrued liabilities.  Which could mean they’re paying their payroll taxes slower.  Accessing their credit line also indicates a cash problem.  Also, having to borrow $50,000 to help repay a $100,000 loan coming due is another sign of cash problems.  Finally, when the owner has to put in more of their own cash into the business things are not going well.

These are things a business owner has to deal with.  And things a loan officer will note when reviewing the statement of cash flows.  Some people may think a net increase in cash of $18,000 is a good thing.  But it’s not that good.  Considering they had to get that cash by paying their vendors slower, paying the government slower, borrowing money as well as investing more of their personal savings into the business.  Worse, despite having all of these cash problems the government is taxing away of lot of their cash.  Because their net income passing through to their personal income tax return is $235,000.  Putting them in the top 5% of income earners.  And into the crosshairs of those looking to raise tax rates on those who can afford to pay a little more.  To make sure they pay their ‘fair’ share.

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Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 26th, 2012

Economics 101

Someone’s Account Payable is Someone’s Account Receivable

Cash is king in small business.  Because without it you can’t make payroll or pay your payroll taxes.  As important as cash is, though, many business will never grow until they start offering credit.  Trade credit.  Selling things on account.  Because for those doing repeat business it is just too much of a pain to write a check for every purchase.  And it’s just dangerous carrying around that kind of cash.  So businesses offer credit to established customers.  Those with good credit.  And good reputations.

Customers open an account.  When they make a purchase they get an invoice generally payable in 30 days.  Or some number of days around that.  At the end of the month they will receive a statement from their vendor showing all of their open invoices.  Which they will compare with their accounting records.  By running their accounts payable report.  And they will compare the invoices they show outstanding with those on their vendor’s statement.   They will resolve any differences.  And then write a check for their outstanding invoices.

On the other end of the sale there is an account receivable.  For someone’s account payable is someone’s account receivable.  A sale that doesn’t bring cash into the business.  But a promise to pay cash within a short amount of time.  So a business can greatly increase sales by offering trade credit.  By being a mini-banker.  Their sales revenue will grow.  As will their net profit.  But not necessarily their cash in the bank.  For it will look good on paper.  But until they convert those accounts receivable into cash it will only be on paper.  And money on paper is just not as good as money in the bank.

When Invoices are Unpaid for 90 Days or More there’s a Good Chance they will Never be Paid

There is a certain euphoria small business owners feel when they see their sales grow.  Things are moving in the right direction.  All their hard work is paying off.  Finally.  Some even fantasize about spending some of that money.  Such as going out to lunch on Friday instead of brown-bagging it every day of the week.  Then some anxiety starts growing.  And it comes from their accounts receivables report.  When they see that 30 days after those sales come and go.  And a lot of those open invoices remain on the report.

The accounts receivable report small business owners review is called an aging report.  Because it shows what invoices are current, which are 30 days old, which are 60 days old and which are 90 days or more old.  And when invoices are unpaid for 90 days or more there’s a good chance they will never be paid.  In fact, once they pass 30 days the chances that their customers won’t pay them grow greater.  And this is the source of a small business owner’s anxiety.  When he or she sees those invoices move from 30 days to 60 days to 90 days.

Why do some customers pay slower than others?  Because they, too, have accounts receivable moving from 30 days to 60 days to 90 days.  And if they’re not collecting their money in a timely manner then can’t pay their bills in a timely manner.  When the economy slows down you will see a lot of businesses start to pay their bills slower.  And as they pay their bills slower businesses collect their money slower.  Which forces them to pay their bills slower.  Or, worse, borrow money to pay their bills until their customers pay theirs.

To encourage their Customers to Pay their Bills Timely many Businesses will offer Early Payment Discounts

Sales are great.  Everything that’s good follows from sales.  Sales are the first step in creating cash.  And cash is king.  But between cash and sales are accounts receivable.  Which can make or break any small business.  For you can’t often grow sales without extending credit.  But if you extend too much credit and/or your customers don’t pay their bills a business owner can lose everything he or she worked for.  Because when it comes down to it, sales are great but cash is king.

To encourage their customers to pay their bills timely many businesses will offer early payment discounts.  If the customer pays their invoice within 10 days, say, they will get a 2% discount on that invoice.  So if they have a $1000 invoice they only have to pay $980.  As an owner will trade $20 in profits to speed up their cash collections.  And if you look at some numbers you can see why.  If they have $150,000 in new sales in one month that 2% discount will cost them $3,000 in profits.  Now compare that to the cost of borrowing cash from an 11% credit line to replace the cash they can’t collect from their customers.  If they have receivables of $150,000 at 30 days, $300,000 at 60 days and $49,950 at 90+ days the interest cost to borrow money to replace these funds can add up to $3,322.46.

So an early payment discount can equal a business’ borrowing costs.  Making it a wash.  While offering a huge benefit.  Allowing a business to pay their bills.  Like payroll.  Payroll taxes.  And their vendors.  For in difficult economic times all businesses have cash problems.  And will do almost anything to improve their cash position.  And when it comes to paying their bills and they can’t pay them all guess which ones they’re going to pay first?  Those that help their cash position.  That is, those invoices that offer an early payment discount.  Because sales are great.  But cash is king.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #43: “If business ain’t selling, business ain’t hiring.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 7th, 2010

The Greediest People are in Government

A lot of people don’t understand business.  No big surprise considering that most people get their education from the public school system.

Our teachers ingrain it into us from the earliest days of our schooling.  Business is bad.  And they’d be even worse.  If it wasn’t for government.

Business is all about profits.  Not people.  Business is greedy.  Government takes more of our money than business does but government is never greedy.  Just business.  Funny how that works.  The lesson we learn?  If you’re really greedy and want a lot of money, be in government.

Government Earmarks and the Airport for Nobody

We deal with business on our own free will.  We choose to buy what they’re selling.  It’s a little different with government.  They take our money.  And if we don’t cough up enough of it, they’ll seize our assets.  Even send us to jail.  A business just won’t do that.  No matter how greedy our teachers tell us they are.

And more times than not, we don’t want what government is selling.  Earmarks.  Such as the John Murtha Airport in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  The ‘airport for nobody’.  An airport nobody needs and few use.  But dump trucks of taxpayer dollars find their way to the John Murtha Airport.  Why?  Because Murtha was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  And that’s what representatives do.  Raise our taxes.  And take our money home to their districts.

Yet business is bad.  And government is good.  Go figure.

Government Spending Disrupts the Free Market

During good economic times, people say business is greedy.  They’re making their employees work overtime instead of hiring more employees.  During bad economic times, people say business is greedy.  They’re causing a recession by not hiring more employees. 

Businesses hire employees.  That’s key.  The more they hire the better the economy will be.  And you just can’t say that about government.  Because when they hire more people, it doesn’t stimulate the economy.  It just increases our taxes.  Leaving us with less money to stimulate the economy with.

Some people will say that government spending does stimulate the economy.  That’s what Keynesians say.  But they’re wrong.  When government spends money, they’re just spending our money.  And when they spend more we spend less.  The spending nets out.  But it disrupts the free market.  Millions of taxpayers will spend less at millions of small businesses.  Who will then sell less.  And hire less.  Maybe even lay off some employees.

We Spend Less when We Earn Less

Are these small business owners greedy?  No more so than you are.  Consider this.  Let’s say you and your spouse both work.  You make a comfortable living.  You can afford to hire a landscaping company to cut your grass.  You can hire a lawn maintenance company to fertilize your grass.  You take your car once a week to where they hand wash it.  You and your spouse sign up for ballroom dance lessons (while a sitter watchers your kids).  Now let’s say one of you gets laid off.  What do you do?

Well, if you’re like most other people, you cut expenses.  You let your landscaping contractor go.  Your lawn maintenance company, too.  You tell the people at the carwash that they can’t wash your car anymore.  You tell your dance instructors that you don’t need them anymore for lessons.  And you let your babysitter go.

Because of you some people have lost their jobs.  Are you greedy?  Or are you just adjusting your expenses to be in line with your sales revenue (i.e., your income)?  When you go from 2 paychecks to 1, you simply can’t afford to spend money like you used to.  And it’s the same for a business.

A Business Spends Less when they Sell Less

In business cash is king.  They use it to pay their employees.  Their employee benefits.  Their suppliers.  The interest on their debt.  Even their taxes.  If a business doesn’t have enough cash to pay these, they may not be a business much longer.  To be successful, then, a business must master their cash flow.

Making this more difficult is the fact that a business has to spend cash often BEFORE they get paid.  They pay employees, employee benefits and taxes often before the customer pays for the product or service of these employees.  Of course, before a customer pays they have to buy what a business is selling first.  If the business is not a ‘cash’ business, this can add even more time between the cash going out and the cash coming in.

So when economic times aren’t good and businesses are not selling, businesses aren’t spending.  They try to get by on less.  They hold onto their cash.  As long as possible.  Because they are uncertain of what the future holds.  But one thing they do know is that the future will take cash. 

Hiring People doesn’t Stimulate anything but Costs

So why doesn’t a business just hire more people during a recession?  Wouldn’t that stimulate the economy by giving people more money to spend?  Well, let’s say a restaurant hires a new cook.  The business pays the cook a wage and a benefit package.  Let’s say it adds another $1,000 per week to the business’ cash flow.  But it’s a recession.  Hiring the new cook doesn’t change the number of people coming into the restaurant to eat.  It just costs the business more.

The new cook will have more money to go out and stimulate the economy with.  But what good does it do for the restaurant owner?  Unless the new cook spends at least $1,000 per week buying meals at the restaurant (which is not likely to happen), the owner loses money by hiring the new cook.  His or her cash flow will only get worse.

This is why businesses don’t hire people during bad economic times.  Because no one is buying what they are selling.  Hiring people will only make a bad situation worse.  It will put a greater financial burden on a business that is already struggling to get by on what little cash they have.   

 Businesses and Taxpayers Stimulate Best

But our public schools still teach us that business is bad.  And government is good.  Even though it is business that creates jobs and hires people.  And it’s government that raises taxes and kills jobs.

To create jobs you need to help business make a profit.  Tax cuts are a good way to start.  With fewer taxes to pay, a business can use that cash elsewhere. With fewer taxes to pay, a taxpayer can spend that money elsewhere.  You let businesses and taxpayers keep more of their money and they will do good things.  This is how you stimulate the economy.  And how you create jobs. 

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