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What is net cash flow?
The net cash flow of an organization represents the sum over a period of time of the total cash received (inflow) from sales and loans less the total amount of money spent (outflow) by the company over the same period. It is an important measure of a company’s ability to survive and grow.
There are two main measures of a business’s ability to survive: profitability and cash flow. Although they seem to be the same thing, they are different. A business can be profitable and yet not have enough cash to survive.
Conversely, a business with a strong positive net cash flow will survive even if it is not making a profit.
While the two measures have similarities, a business’ profitability takes into account intangible expenses such as goodwill, provisions for depreciation and expenses such as capital expenditures. These all affect profitability.
On the other hand, cash flow represents the net inflow of money after tax less the net outflow. Cash comes from one of three sources: sales, loans and cash injections. To qualify, the money actually must be paid to the company, so for example, an unpaid invoice is excluded from cash flow.
Cash outflow represents the money paid out over the same period, and likewise, does not include liabilities that have not been met. Net cash flow is the sum of these two amounts and it must be positive or else the business eventually will run out of money.
The balance sheet, which shows the overall financial picture of a company, is used to reconcile the net cash flow with the profit and loss statement.
Net cash flow example
Richard and his partner run a business manufacturing agricultural equipment. The business is expanding quickly and is very profitable but, because the lead time between purchasing raw materials and being paid is long, they are always short on cash to meet day-to-day running expenses.
Richard and his partner speak to their bank manager. The manager shows them that the amount of cash invested in the business is too low to meet their cash flow needs and suggests a business loan to increase their net cash flow and help them get over their growing pains.
Is your business cash flow suffering because you are expanding? Use Bankrate’s business loan calculator to see how a loan can improve your net cash flow.