Preparing a Cash Flow Forecast - The Three Steps to Take
Good cash flow management is vital for your business. A detailed forecast can help keep your finances in check.
An alarming number of businesses fail due to poor cash flow management, so ensuring this is taken care of it is crucial. And a cash flow forecast is an efficient way to do just that.
Every company that aims to prosper needs regular budgeting. However, there's more to budgeting than just keeping the company afloat.
An accurate forecast will provide reliable predictions that can be used to plan for future funding, acquisitions, and consolidations. It will also present warnings in advance and help the company achieve steady growth.
To reap all of these benefits, the company will have to prepare the cash flow forecast strategically. Here are the three steps to do just that.
Step #1. Decide on the Period the Forecast Will Cover
When preparing a cash flow forecast, the first thing is to determine if the forecast will be annual, quarterly, monthly, or weekly.
Naturally, it's best to plan as far ahead as possible, but short-term forecasting has its merits as well. That’s why most companies have both a short-term and a long-term forecast.
Keep in mind that cash flow forecasts rely heavily on past data, so the predictions will depend on how long a company's been in business.
New companies might find it hard or impossible to create a long-term forecast, but that shouldn't be a problem. Plans can be updated according to changing circumstances, and they should be adjusted once it's possible to get better estimates.
Step #2. Formulate the Underlying Assumptions
Several assumptions drive cash flow forecasts. They concern market trends and the way pricing might change in a given period.
The more accurate your assumptions are, the more reliable your forecast will be.
Experienced companies will be able to form reasonable suppositions from past performance, while relevant publications and customer or supplier feedback will be precious both to established and new businesses.
The most important assumptions that serve as a basis for cash flow forecast are:
Changes in prices, their timing, and volume
Estimated sales growth
Seasonal changes in the market
Increases in Consumer Price Index (CPI)
Internal wage increases
Step #3. Prepare an Estimate for Income and Expenses
This step depends on how long the business has been active.
Existing companies that have been around for some time should first formulate an income estimate based on previous years’ figures. After that, adjustments can be made to compensate for known trends based on periods of typical sales increase or decrease.
As for a new business, it would be wise to start on the other end - estimating the expenses. But in this regard, it's best to err on the side of caution. Figures should always be rounded up and the highest expenses should be considered.
Building generous safety margins into the forecasts could shield a new company from unexpected fluctuations and turmoil.
A Good Plan Makes a Great Business
Working meticulously on a cash flow forecast will bring an immense future payoff.
If you can formulate a plan that meaningfully predicts the cash flow, you'll be able to ensure your company's survival and growth.
Take the time to work out a dependable forecast and set your business on the right path. If you'd like to talk to Finance Box about how we could help you with this, click here or message us on our bubble.