What is cash flow management?

Cash flow management helps you identify how much money your business needs to cover debts, like paying employees and suppliers.

Cash flow management (definition)

Businesses manage cash flow to ensure they have enough money to pay expenses, debts, and themselves.

Most businesses experience cash flow shortages at some point, which diminishes their ability to make payments either to their debtors or their owners. Cash flow management can help keep these difficulties to a minimum.

Three ways businesses generate cash

  1. Selling their products and services (cash from operations)
  2. Taking loans or selling shares in the business (cash from finance)
  3. Selling assets (cash from investing)

Cash flow management is the process of ensuring a sufficient and sustainable supply of cash from these sources.

How businesses track cash flow

Businesses use a couple of tools for monitoring their cash flow:

  • Cash flow forecasts, which plot expected income and expenses on a calendar to predict the future availability of cash
  • Cash flow statements, which show how much cash came from operations (sales) versus loans or selling assets

Cash flow management strategies for when money is low

When cash flow presents a risk, businesses can respond by changing how they manage inflows and outflows.

Managing inflows

  • Making inflows smoother and more predictable: Send invoices faster. Give customers less time to pay. Follow up on overdue payments. Offer more convenient payment methods like card payments or direct debit. Put customers on retainers.
  • Increasing inflows: Businesses with persistent cash flow issues may need to explore pricing to ensure their margins are sustainable.
  • Borrowing money: Loans can help businesses keep trading through quiet times. Some seasonal businesses may even have a permanent layer of financing to get through the year.

Managing outflows

  • Making outflows smoother and more predictable: Delay expenditure to coincide with stronger cash flow. Negotiate to pay suppliers via installments rather than in lump sums. Lease rather than buy.
  • Reducing outflows: Businesses may be able to cut back on discretionary spending, shop around for lower cost supplies, or explore bulk-buying deals.

See related terms

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This glossary is for small business owners. The definitions are written with their requirements in mind. More detailed definitions can be found in accounting textbooks or from an accounting professional. Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice.