Profit (or loss) also known as net income (or net loss) are commonly referred to as the bottom line of a company because this figure sits at the bottom of the Profit and Loss statement. Net profit occurs when there is a surplus (or positive amount leftover) after all the expenses of running the business have been deducted from the revenue billed to customers. A loss (or negative profit) can of course incur if expenses are greater than revenue.
Cash flow is another beast entirely.
Positive cash flow occurs when the net amount of cash that flows in and out of a business during a period of time is greater than zero. In a nutshell, it means that the bank account of the business went up during the period because the company’s liquid assets are increasing. And for those of you following along with the Penny and Ernest metaphor, it means that the amount Ernest collected and put into the bank account, exceeded the amount that Penny spent.
- It is possible for a company to have positive cash flow while reporting a loss on the Profit and Loss
- If a company has positive cash flow it means that it’s liquid assets increased over that period of time
- It is entirely possible for a company to post a loss on its Profit and Loss but still have positive cash flow because it received enough cash from borrowing and investing activities to offset the loss for accounting purposes
Net profit or loss from the Profit and Loss statement is merely the starting point for calculating cash flow. Most businesses use something called “accrual accounting”, which means that profit includes revenue and expenses that may be collected or spent at some future point in time and some non-cash amounts. And if these items haven’t (or won’t) hit the bank account, they aren’t relevant to cash flow.
Since the Profit and Loss contains stuff that hasn’t happened yet (or is not relevant to cash), we cannot rely on it solely to make good decisions for the business. We must remove or adjust everything that hasn’t happened yet or is not relevant to cash, in order to get back to a number that represents pure cash flow. Said another way, we are looking to isolate the amount that Penny and Ernest have each run during the period.
To do this in practice, we need to look at the inter-relationship between the Profit & Loss statement and the Balance Sheet. This holistic perspective will give us a true picture of cash flow.
For example, if we were to start from a position where the expenses of a business exceeded revenue (i.e. a net loss or negative income), the most likely result would also be negative cash flow. It is always more difficult to achieve positive cash flow when the business starts from the position of operating at a loss.
However, it is entirely possible to start with a net loss and simultaneously achieve net positive cash flow, but the following scenarios (which are not an exhaustive list) would have to happen in order for that to be feasible:
- The company could receive an influx of cash from either borrowings (i.e. bank debt) or the injection of further equity via investors.
- If the company has a net loss and also a large amount of depreciation expense recorded, the add-back of the depreciation expense (which is a non-cash item since no money leaves the business when depreciation is deducted for tax purposes) could push the company into positive cash flow territory.
- The sale of an asset, or just the reduction in total fixed assets over the period due to depreciation, could also kick up enough cash to help the company record positive cash flow under certain scenarios.
- The collection of receivables (or other money owed) that were posted in a prior accounting period but were collected and put into the bank in the current period is another simple way to push a company into a cash flow positive zone.
- Expenses are recorded on the Profit and Loss when they are incurred, not when they are paid. If a company posts a net loss due to a large amount of accrued expenses (where they were deducted in computing the loss but are not due to be paid until a subsequent financial period), it is entirely possible that the adjustment for these expenses might enable a company to maintain positive net cash flow, despite recording a net loss for tax purposes.
11 Feb 2015
If you’ve ever watched reality TV (and don’t say you haven’t because we all know it’s too easy to get sucked in by the drama and controversy), you may have noticed a specific formula…
First you find a cause – dating, small business, cooking or home improvement. Next, you add a few unassuming characters – some very relatable but also few who are downright crazy, nasty or delusional. And last but not least, you add just enough controversy, intrigue, shock and cutting remarks to keep the masses coming back for more each night.
In the end, are any of these contestants (or their small businesses in the case of Shark Tank) really any better off? Probably not, but what you have done is create some compelling TV and sold a bucket load of ads to big brands like iSelect, Swisee, Safeway, NAB and Mitre 10.
The other night, I watched Channel Ten’s latest reality TV import, Shark Tank. The premise is pretty straightforward.
A few naive and nervous and numerically challenged small business owners lined up to pitch to a panel of cool, critical and cashed-up potential investors.
Some ideas got funded for relatively small amounts. Most ideas (and their creators) got ripped to shreds by the panel.
So, the show is essentially Survivor, The Apprentice and The Bachelor all rolled into one with Australian small business contestants, and a catchy brand that has the ominous word “shark” in it.
How could that possibly fail?
As I watched, I wondered, ‘Are any of these small businesses likely to breakeven or become profitable and cash flow positive?’
And, perhaps not suprisingly, the answer is “not likely”.
Why is that? Because some of the ideas were pretty interesting. The cricket cooler, the motorized skate board and the hamdog may actually have global potential, but to be viable in the long term, the owners really need to do their homework first and know their numbers.
Case in point – not one of the small business owners who pitched had done market research with their product (or prototype) and could quantify the size of their market. Without that vital information, how can they possibly estimate topline revenue, market penetration or the value of their business with any precision or clarity?
And without those last three things, it’s impossible to give a meaningful pitch or ask for the “right amount” of capital. I’m sure you will agree, other than the guy who thought his hairbrained rental resume idea was worth $2.5million, most of the entrepreneurs vastly underestimated the amount of working capital that they needed.
Several contestants floundered when they got asked the big questions about breakeven, margins and cash flow. Yes, the dreaded cash flow question pretty much stumped everyone.
Most were asking for arbitrary sums of money to commercialise their inventions without regard for how much it might really take to get their brand out there and win their first major customers. One pair even thought it was clever to ask the investors to chip in $150,000 so they [the founders] could leave their secure day jobs and start working in the business full time. Crazy right? If you the owner don’t have skin in the game or work in the business full time, chances are you should still be writing your business plan, not pitching it on national TV in front of 5 sharks and a million viewers.
The cricket cooler duo were the most polished in terms of delivery and presentation. They recognized that patents and intellectual property were vital to their valuation and attractiveness to the sharks, but drastically underestimated the value of locking things down in India – the number one cricket market in the world. And the sophisticated sharks knew that Australia is just a mere drop in the bucket, compared to the potential in a market like India.
Unlike the really trashy stuff – Bachelor, Idol, or Real Housewives of Melbourne – the show didn’t make me feel icky or shocked while watching the sharks tear the flesh off the bones and gnaw away at the contestant’s dreams. I sort of expected that would be the main draw card and the whole premise of the show. Why call the show shark tank if you don’t intend to set up a blood bath and feeding frenzy?
But as an entrepreneur, I did feel genuinely remorseful for each of the contestants. The small businesses who got funded gave up decent chunks of equity for relatively small injections of capital – which may or may not be enough to get them to market and earn their first customers. And the ones who didn’t walked away without any constructive advice or tangible instructions on how to go away and get their idea investor-ready.
01 Nov 2013
Like most of you, I get cold calls and e-mails every day. 98% of it is spam – offers for things I have no interest in, or don’t need. Only 2% are even relevant to me or my business and unfortunately, most of those don’t get my attention either (so they inadvertently lose the sale).
Truth be told, I almost never answer or respond and I’m sure you feel the exact same way. It’s not because I have it in for salespeople – although most of us will admit we cringe at the hard sell tactics of the stereotypical salesperson. It’s because the vast majority of salespeople completely blow their initial approach and fail to capture my interest.
Now I appreciate and respect the fact that these people are just trying to do their jobs and make a living. Selling is not a crime. In fact, we are ALL in the business of selling something – a product, a service, an idea, a lifestyle, a belief, or a cause. So, like you, I’m not insensitive to the plight of the honest, hardworking sales professional.
The problem is this – most of their hard work (and yours) often goes to waste when they lose the sale for reasons that are preventable. They end up turning me off their product or whatever it is they’re selling because I am either bored, confused or overwhelmed by the pitch. And this usually shows up in one of three classic responses that I give, which I’m sure you have heard (or given) before. These are telltale cues that they (or you) are about to lose the sale:
- This isn’t a good time for me,
- I need to think about it, or
- Leave it with me and I will go over it later.
Fortunately, the mistakes that produced these 3 classic responses are completely avoidable – mistakes that you don’t have to make (and lose the sale) once you discover how the brain of your prospect hears your message and what you need to do to help him make a decision quickly.
The first and most important step in creating a sales or marketing message that closes more business is to become an expert at capturing attention up-front. If you are successful at quickly and strongly enchanting your prospect within the first 60 seconds, you stand a much greater chance of holding his interest until you can communicate your entire message.
Regardless of the length of your sales presentation or marketing message, you must capture attention and deliver your most powerful points up-front when your audience is most alert and receptive. Never begin by introducing your brand, building your credibility, talking about your competitors, or listing features and benefits. This strategy will put your customers to sleep (cause you to lose the sale) and you risk having to deliver your most important claims and proof when your customers are least likely to remember them.
In order to capture the attention of your audience and hold it, you have to know the one thing that is MOST important to them right now. This is something that you cannot afford to guess or assume. In order to make the greatest impact and charm the old brain of your customer, you need to do your homework up-front. You can’t afford the luxury of pitching five or six features/benefits and hope that one of them will appeal or hit the mark.
By taking the time upfront to help your prospect understand, acknowledge, and quantify his #1 source of pain, he will become clear about the true source and intensity of this problem, and you will reinforce (with his old brain) that it is safe to trust you and your proposed solution. Failing to do so, will inevitably lead to the undesired result of causing you to lose the sale and waste your valuable time and money in the process.
Imagine you’re the CEO of an established private healthcare business when the economy plunges into the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Up to then, your team has delivered extraordinary results; your bottom line is growing steadily each year and your services are recognized as world class by the hospitals, city councils and large public health facilities that refer work to you.
Imagine choosing that time to tell your Board and senior management team that, in essence, you want to walk away from about half of that business and pursue a very narrow niche market.
No doubt, you may at this point be imagining yourself out of a job. But hear me out…
As you may have guessed, this story is not a fictional one and the “you” in the story is actually a business coaching client of mine. I’m happy to report that the discussion with the Board went quite well, the business has nearly doubled since that day, and my client is still the CEO.
And along the way we both learned some valuable lessons about how to increase sales and become the dominant player in the marketplace. In fact, there is a big difference between being just a good company and being one that your customers can’t live without.
Solve Your Customer’s #1 Source of Pain
Consumer sentiment and spending have decreased dramatically in the past few years and those changes are being felt across every industry. Everything you thought you knew about your customer and why he/she was buying from you has probably changed. And if you do not take the time now to re-discover your prospect’s main source of pain and the reason why she needs your product or service now, you will never increase sales. In fact, you risk losing more sales and more ground to your competition.
Now some of you may think – but my industry is different
16 Jul 2013
Snagging more customers doesn’t have to be tedious, expensive and stressful. Amen, right? So, let’s break it down. When you’re hungry, which would you prefer: (1) to run to the fridge and grab a tasty snack; or (2) grab your fishing pole, and head out back to catch your next meal?
Obviously, most entrepreneurs would favour the fridge. Why is that? Simply put, it’s all about convenience. In today’s modern world of technology, we all live for “the now.” From our smartphones to our iPads, we can chat, shop, message, and search with ease.
Ultimately, it’s time to give ‘cold calling’ (the messy, expensive and hard way to do business) the boot, and adopt an easier, more cost-effective way of captivating, engaging and attracting more customers and qualified leads online. So, let’s take a quick look at eight simple ways you can find more leads and more customers for your business online:
The creative art of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves integrating keywords and phrases into your webpages, making them easier to locate for your potential clients who are combing the web right now, looking for products/services to cure their #1 source of pain. It is essential to weave keywords into your web content strategically (without overusing or “keyword stuffing”), in order to optimize your search engine hits and traffic. Google is currently making updates (known as Penguin and Panda) to their search algorithms, to ensure that the websites that rank the highest, contain the most relevant and valuable content to readers.
Reaching more customers is the ultimate goal of advertising. You want to get as much bang for your buck as possible, so research and highly targeted pitches are crucial. It is more important to intimately know your consumer base than it is to stress about which channels to market your message through. The worst thing you can do is try to appeal to everyone – for you will effectively reach no one. In fact, 99% of the people who currently see your ads right now, don’t respond. If you want more customers, you must first create a message that captivates and inspires your ideal prospect.
A webinar can be viewed by thousands of potential customers simultaneously from different locations in real-time and it can be recorded and shared/sold at a later date on your website. This is a great low-risk and low-cost way to share valuable information with your prospects and consumers and build your database up very quickly.
Pay Per Click Ads
Pay per click advertisements are a skilful way to snap up more customers as they search Google (and other portals) for solutions to their pressing problems. These advertisements are easy to spot as they often appear in shaded boxes at the top of search engine results or in display ad slots on high traffic sites, portals, forums and blogs. Using pay per click ads allows you to strategically route targeted traffic direct to a landing page that is designed to convert more customers (who find you) to take up your offer. Since you have to pay for each click on your ad, care must be taken to ensure that your landing page converts a large percentage of the traffic. Bear in mind, that statistics show the average eCommerce site converts only 2.2-4.0% of its pay-per-click traffic.
Blogging and Content Marketing
Blogging and content marketing are both great avenues to deliver insightful and up-to-date information to your prospects and targets via the internet. Blogging is the perfect vehicle to keep visitors coming back on a regular basis and it helps boost your search engine rankings – Google and other search engines give preferential treatment to websites that update their content on a regular basis and have strong social following. It also allows you to post valuable content on other sites, social media platforms and customer forums which can help more customers learn about you, make an informed decision and build backlinks that bring even more traffic to your site.
We live in a technologically mobile world, so it’s time to ensure that your company’s website is “mobile-friendly,” too. In the last 2 years there has literally been an explosion of mobile searches and purchases from smartphones and tablets. It is estimated that nearly 35% of all web traffic originates from a mobile device which means it is imperative that you have a user-friendly mobile version of your web content. Not only will you be rewarded with increased website traffic and retention, you will also reap more enquiries and more customers who pay for your solution.
Connecting with prospects and customers through various social media platforms is a skilful way to cultivate interest while also creating an open 2-way channel of communication with existing customers. Choose a social network that best suits your business model. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or Pinterest, posting up-to-date and informative content is sure to boost your brand awareness, feedback, following and…ultimately sales.
Public relations is the ultimately the steering wheel of your informational boat. Your PR department must eloquently regulate the ebb and flow of company content that is passed along to your targeted consumers. It is imperative to keep your public relations positive, current, and professional, utilizing as many different resourceful tools as possible. The likes, shares and comments also allow your posts and website to rank favourably with the major search engines – which is another great reason to start attracting more customers via PR.
Finding more customers online doesn’t have to be messy, expensive or difficult. Take your pick from these eight great methods to create your own practical and powerful strategy to find more customers online and avoid the nasty trap of feeling that you have to cold call to find more customers and sales.