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9 reasons why your cash flow forecast is never accurate

20/09/2016 / Comments 0

Cash flow forecasting

When done right, cash flow forecasting is an excellent tool for helping businesses to monitor their cash flow effectively and put plans in place to cover any unexpected cash flow gaps.

However, many businesses struggle with this important task and often find themselves with a shortage of working capital when they need it most.

So, here are nine reasons why your cash flow might not be meeting your expectations, plus tips on how to be more accurate in the future.

1. You don’t include everything

Your cash flow forecast needs to be as comprehensive as possible. But, with so many incomings and outgoings to consider, many businesses understandably let some slip under the radar. For example, whilst large expenses often make it onto the list, small expenses are often forgotten about. A few pounds here and there don’t seem life-changing but these small expenses quickly add up to become a large figure. Likewise, a single late payment might not seem like much but when you have more than one it could leave you short if you encounter a difficult period.

2. You forget about payment terms

Sending an invoice or purchasing goods doesn’t always correlate with the exact time the money enters or leaves your bank account. But, many businesses ignore these timings, making their forecasts inaccurate. For example, if you issue an invoice in August with 60-day terms the payment won’t enter your account until October or later. And, purchasing goods on credit means that the financial impact will not be immediate. So, to get the best possible idea of your cash flow, factor in these timings to all of your forecasts.

3. Your predictions are unrealistic

Cash flow forecasting is essentially a guessing game, which is why many businesses find it challenging. But the key to success is being realistic with your estimations. Whilst it’s tempting to over or under-estimate to meet your goals, this could leave you in a difficult situation. So, be realistic and give your business the best possible chance of success.

4. You only forecast for one situation

With so many variables to consider and a level of uncertainty to factor in there is always going to be some variation between your forecast and actual cash flow. But, by forecasting for multiple scenarios you can be prepared whatever the outcome. To do this, take an educated guess at a base scenario and then create additional forecasts for 10% higher sales and 10% lower. This allows you to see the best and worst outcomes for any given period so that your business can be prepared.

5. You ignore variable costs

There are certain business expenses such as utility bills that will vary throughout the year. Ignoring these seasonal fluctuations could distort your estimations and leave you in a difficult position when payments need to be made. So, be sure to include these variations so that you are prepared for all circumstances.

6. You never update your forecast

To be as accurate as possible your financial forecasting needs to be updated every time something changes that will impact your cash flow. For example, two situations that will significantly affect your cash flow forecast include late payments and increased sales. So, if an invoice has exceeded terms or a new product is performing better than expected, update your forecast to reflect this.

7. You look too far into the future

The further into the future you forecast the less realistic your predictions will be. This is largely because it’s impossible to predict what impact economic changes will have on your business when you can’t know what’s coming. So, it’s often best practice for your forecast to cover the next year and any longer is probably unnecessary. But, remember, all businesses are different so find a time period that works for you.

8. You never compare your estimations with the reality

One of the easiest ways to spot why your cash flow never meets your expectations is to compare the forecast alongside the reality. By doing this direct comparison you can highlight where your forecasting is going wrong and why.

9. You don’t take the steps to make improvements

It’s great if you’ve reviewed your cash flow forecast and found areas that can be improved in the future. But, if you don’t take the steps to make these improvements it’s a pointless exercise. Learn from your experiences and your cash flow forecasting will benefit greatly.

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