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Two Steps to Improve Cash Flow Planning for Construction Companies
January 19th, 2022
Accounting & Outsourced Solutions
Funding new projects and having available cash for daily operations is critical for construction companies in today’s competitive market. The importance of cash flow planning for your construction company to maintain liquidity and meet daily operations and long-term capital needs cannot be understated. Today we focus on how to execute basic cash flow planning and offer a few tips for the experienced cash manager. In general, cash flow planning can be broken down into two steps: the annual cash budget, including the related capital budget, and rolling short-term forecasts.
Annual Cash Budget
The annual cash budget is an in-depth look into where the company plans to go over the upcoming twelve months. This review should be done prior to the upcoming year. It should involve key individuals from various parts of the company including experienced foremen or the individual in charge of workflow. In the construction industry, companies usually will start by building a project-by-project budget for their backlog for an upcoming year. This budget will typically outline the inflows and the outflows of each job in relation to the timeframe that projects are expected to be completed. Upon completion of the project-by-project budget, adjustments should be made for cash outflows that differ from their recognition for financial purposes. These would include union dues, health insurance payments, tax payments, and a litany of other items. Lastly, one should consider significant cash inflows and outflows that fall outside of the operational process, namely financing and capital activity. Financing through a line of credit is a common tactic to smooth cash flow during lean times but should not be relied upon to subsidize operations.
In connection with the annual cash budget should be a capital budget that includes the company’s long-term capital requirements. Capital budgets consist of large capital projects and expenditures planned well in advance and funds set aside for maintenance and planned replacements of equipment and vehicles. These planned replacements are ideally designed to have significant vehicles and equipment on a set retirement and replacement schedule. So machines are always being cycled out as opposed to replacing an entire fleet at the same time. Generally, a capital budget will look ahead three to five years. However, for purposes of the annual cash budget, one would be using the upcoming twelve months of information to feed into the annual cash budget.
Once the annual cash budget is complete and the year is underway, cash forecasts should be prepared on a recurring basis to project highly detailed cash inflows and outflows during the upcoming weeks. Depending on the sophistication of your company, some may even prepare both a weekly forecast that plans every outflow down to the day as well as an eight-week forecast that looks out over the next two months. The eight-week forecast intends to take the annual budget and significantly refine it using the information that has been gathered since. The weekly forecast is designed to ensure that you maintain enough liquid cash to meet all obligations of the upcoming week. While mitigating the opportunity cost of leaving cash in a non-interest-bearing checking account. One particularly challenging aspect of a weekly forecast is to project the date on which a vendor will physically cash a written check and draw down the company’s cash balance. The calculation of average float days by the vendor for commonly used vendors can be particularly useful in this regard.
Proper budgeting followed by accurate planning and forecasting is the key to the management of cash. Seek out the experts, work with an advisor or accountant to create projections, and update them as circumstances change. Maner Costerisan specialized experts provide construction businesses a range of accounting and financial management solutions. From CFO-level to part-time bookkeeping needs, our advisors can eliminate headaches and pain points in the financial sector of the business while supplying critical information on a timely basis to help leaders make decisions.