“My bank says I have $5000, but my Profit and Loss says I made $10,000… huh?!”

Ever asked this question?

With this post, let’s dive into one of the most mis-understood and under-used reports that you have in your accounting software arsenal: Statement of Cash Flows (aka Cash Flow Statement).  This statement will answer the very question may have plagued you for some time now.

In short, this report follows one of the most important things in your business: CASH.  It tracks where the cash came from, and where it went.  The report breaks up your income and spending into three different categories: Operating, Investing, and Financing activities.

Here’s a brief explanation of each:

  1. Operating Activities: this is income and expenses from regular revenue and expenses in your business.  For example, sale of services/products that you provide, and money spent on supplies.
  2. Investing Activities: this is money spent on selling and purchasing assets.  For example, you buy a new computer and sell an old vehicle that the business owns.
  3. Financing Activities: this is money that you or an investor infuses into the business, or money taken out by owners.  For example, you contribute money into the business to cover expenses, or you take money out of the business to pay your self as an owner/shareholder.

Now, let’s show you what a statement looks like.  For this post, we’re using a statement from Xero.  QuickBooks will give you one that looks a little bit different, the differences are minor, and it tells you the same thing.

Xero Cash Summary Demo Company US

Or, here’s a downloadable version of the same report:

Demo Company (US) – Cash Summary

This report answers the question “where did my cash go?”, and will show you where the cash went.  At the very least, this report should help you understand your business activities so that you can make better decisions.  If you need further help making sense of this, or maybe your business has a unique situation, please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us.

So now that you know more about your cash, what are you going to do with it?
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Due to current economic conditions, it’s likely that collecting on your accounts receivables is becoming more and more of a challenge. Strengthening your collection procedures may allow you to improve collection rates and shorten the aging days of your accounts receivables.

The following suggestions will help your business improve its cash flow and tighten up its credit and collections policies. Some of the tips discussed here may not be suitable for every business, but can serve as general guidelines to give your company more financial stability.

Define Your Policy. Define and stick to concrete credit guidelines. Your sales force should not sell to customers who are not credit-worthy, or who have become delinquent. You should also clearly delineate what leeway sales people have to vary from these guidelines in attempting to attract customers.

Tip: You should have a system of controls for checking out a potential customer’s credit, and it should be used before an order is shipped. Further, there should be clear communication between the accounting department and the sales department as to current customers who become delinquent.

Clearly Explain Your Payment Policy. Invoices should contain clear written information about how much time customers have to pay, and what will happen if they exceed those limits.

Tip: Make sure invoices include a telephone number and website address so customers can contact you with billing questions. Also include a pre-addressed envelope.

Tip: The faster invoices are sent, the faster you receive payment. For most businesses, it’s best to send an invoice with a shipment, rather than afterward in a separate mailing.

Follow Through on Your Stated Terms. If your policy stipulates that late payers will go into collection after 60 days, then you must stick to that policy. A member of your staff (but not a salesperson) should call all late payers and politely request payment. Accounts of those who exceed your payment deadlines should be penalized and/or sent into collection, if that is your stated policy.

Train Staff Appropriately. The person you designate to make calls to delinquent customers must be apprised of the seriousness and professionalism required for the task. Here is a suggested routine for calls to delinquent payers:

  • Become familiar with the account’s history and any past and present invoices.
  • Call the customer and ask to speak with whoever has the authority to make the payment.
  • Demand payment in plain, non-apologetic terms.
  • If the customer offers payment, ask for specific dates and terms. If no payment is offered, tell the customer what the consequences will be.
  • Take notes on the conversation.
  • Make a follow-up call if no payment is received and refer to the notes taken as to any promised payments.
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