Surviving a Recession

Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity, but cash is king for your business

What to look out for

  • Red Having to pay the bills before your invoices are settled creates a cash need
  • Amber Retained profits do tend to turn to cash – but it can take time
  • Green Lenders can help you bridge that gap between profit and cash

The phrase cash is king rings true for many businesses who enjoy growing sales but watch their cash flow get worse. Find out why.

What does ‘cash is king’ mean for my business?

The phrase covers a number of scenarios but the one you are interested in is income of a business, the whole quote being: “Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity but cash is king [or reality]”

Why is business turnover just vanity?

Businesses can often chase turnover on the basis that the more business that they do, then the “better” the business performance will be, or at least appear to be.  However, to decide whether the increase in turnover is worthwhile, you need to consider how this increase is achieved. Did you have to reduce the sale price, or increase costs at all?  If so, consider the impact on your net profit and whether there has been a net benefit to the increase in sales.

Give me an example of a business chasing turnover

If you are currently selling 10,000 units with a £5 margin but could increase sales to 15,000 by reducing margin to £3, then your gross profit has fallen from £50,000 to £45,000.  You may have increased your sales by 50% but this has damaged your profit. If your margin was cut to £4, then the gross profit is now £60,000 but, for example, did you need to take on a new part-time employee to achieve these sales?  So long as this cost was less than £10,000 then you are ok, but if higher you are in deficit.

Profit, cash and the impact on your cash flow

It’s probably easiest to look at profit and cash together and - if you don’t mind a few more numbers - to illustrate with another example.

Let’s say that you sold services of £100,000 which cost you £75,000 to provide, a nice straightforward profit of £25,000.

However, you won’t be paid the £100,000 for 30 days but need to pay out the £75,000 cost immediately - you now have a cash shortfall of £75,000 even though you have made a profit of £25,000, a situation that many will be all too familiar with.

What happens if my sales continue to grow?

Well the good news is that if your sales remain static, the situation doesn’t get worse because next month you will receive the original £100,000 income at the same time that you need to pay out the next £75,000 for this month’s costs.

At the end of month 2 therefore, you have made

£200,000 sales, for which you have received £100,000 cash, another £100,000 to come in 30 days, and paid out £150,000 costs. So profit of £50,000 and negative cash flow reduced from £75,000 to £50,000.

If on the other hand, your sales continue to grow each month, then it is possible that your cash flow continues to get worse.

How can I overcome the cash shortfall in my business?

Essentially you need to make sure that you have enough liquidity to cover the situation, either cash or the ability to draw on some sort of facility to pay the bills. Invoice Finance could work really well here. Effectively an Invoice Finance company lends you the outstanding value of a large part of your invoices (typically 80%) when you issue them. You receive the balance when the invoice is finally paid and the lender is repaid from the invoice payment, plus interest.  One way of accessing Invoice Finance companies is via our platform.

Alternatively, you could always negotiate quicker payment from your customers and / or later payment to your suppliers but never lose sight of the need for cash. If you’re purchasing a vehicle for your business, it’s not always the best option to pay cash just because you currently have it available. It might be worth considering Asset Finance to help make that purchase and keeping some of that cash for the sort of situation described here.

And that’s why cash is more important than profit?

In the short term, arguably so.  You will always need the ability to pay your bills as they fall due because that’s the reality of day-to-day trading.

Useful links

Business loans: How to bring cash into your business

Business funding: How to decide on the right type of finance

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