Why Create a 13-Week Cash Flow Forecast?

Written by Keegan Chamberlin
March 9, 2022

As our digital world has continued to evolve, the fundamental requirements of today’s treasury operations have remained consistent: knowing today’s cash position–and forecasting tomorrow’s as accurately as possible.

While this is still a core requirement, many treasuries remain hindered due to the manual workflows required to build out essential cash management reports and forecasts that are necessary to keep a pulse on cash flow.

The 13-week cash flow forecast is one of the most critical operational reports when it comes to running your business because you never want to run out of cash. And while that sounds simple, it’s consistently one of the reasons why most businesses fail within the first five years.

Your company’s 13-week cash flow forecast ensures that you have enough cash on hand to cover operational expenses and to help you prepare for any unexpected scenarios that come your way.

4 Benefits of a 13-Week Cash Flow Forecast

1. Ensure Your Business Is Adequately Capitalized 

The goal of managing a direct cash flow forecast is to ensure your business has the cash it needs to cover expenses for specific periods. 13-weeks is usually the standard as businesses want confidence in where their cash is utilized across the entire business. This allows your organization to quickly pivot and make more informed strategic decisions when new opportunities or threats arrive.

Knowing how much cash you need to meet your short-term obligations, such as payroll, payables, and tax obligations, just to name a few, helps you be proactive with securing the right financing options to meet your business’s cash flow needs.

Instead of being reactive and receiving high-interest, prime loans, you can be more proactive with your bank partners to receive term loans with lower interest rates.

2. Identify and Plan for Cash Shortages

Seasonality is something every business faces to varying degrees. With seasonality, cash gaps can become more apparent. Instead of facing these gaps as they arise, a 13-week cash flow forecast helps you spot them before they have any effect on the business, empowering you to make informed, strategic decisions on how to deal with this shortage before it hits.

These potential decisions may come in the form of holding out on acquiring specific equipment before cash clears, providing discounts to encourage clients to pay early, or obtaining short-term financing from your bank partners. 

Understanding your business’s seasonality alongside your typical level of cash reserves ensures that your organization can avoid catastrophic cash shortages and meet your working capital needs throughout the year.

3. Properly Allocate Cash Surplus 

In some cases, you may find your treasury in the position of having a cash surplus. Perhaps all your clients have paid their invoices on time, your organization obtained a tax break that you weren’t expecting, or actual sales from the previous quarter exceeded projections.

It is not always to your advantage to keep large cash reserves in low-earning accounts. Understanding when your organization may have a cash surplus through forecasting helps you make the best investment decisions possible and provides an opportunity to let your capital grow on its own, thus doing the work for you.

4. Plan for Different Scenarios

Geopolitical threats, navigating a changing economy, emerging growth opportunities, and the consideration of entering new market segments all bring unexpected changes in cash flow. 

Utilizing scenario planning within your cash forecasts can help your organization identify potential unforeseen circumstances in cash management plans that can be implemented quickly as these situations may arise.

Where to Begin with Building Your 13-Week Cash Flow Forecast

Treasuries that can analyze, report on, and forecast cash faster and more accurately than their competitors can better find growth opportunities hidden in their bank data and enjoy a lower cost of capital.

Treasuries like yours can accomplish this by digitizing operations with best practices for reporting and forecasting natively built into workflows and operations.

It’s critical to be mindful of the following when building out your 13-week cash flow forecast:

Define Your Strategic Objectives 

Of course, the purpose of your 13-week cash flow forecast is to help your organization better understand what cash you are going to have at specific points throughout a certain period. Still, your forecast objectives may depend on your organization’s size, level of cash reserves, and your company’s strategic objectives.

It’s critical to deeply understand your business’s short-term and long-term strategic objectives to tailor your forecast in accordance. 

Having a deeper understanding of your organization’s strategic objectives is going to help you paint a picture of what your forecast requirements should be, as the market is always changing. There are always one-off events that could occur throughout quarters such as acquisitions, share repurchases, or other events that can cause large fluctuations to cash outflows.

Communicate with key stakeholders to understand when these unforeseen events could occur, so you can build your forecast to be agile and can accommodate these changes when necessary.

Avoid Creating Forecasts from Scratch Through Cash Automation

Managing a regularly updated forecast can be incredibly difficult when you have to manually log into multiple bank portals and consolidate and normalize the bank before any meaningful analysis can occur. Modern advancements in open banking APIs have enabled treasuries to establish a Multi-Bank Data Lake™ within modern cash management platforms in order to achieve global cash visibility across all bank accounts.

Trovata unifies all balances and transactions across all your global bank accounts through our automated cash management platform, effectively establishing a single source of truth for all cash data.

With an automated stream of bank data at your fingertips, you can empower your treasury team to automate tedious, manual workflows and prioritize strategic analysis.

In our next article, How to Build a 13-Week Cash Forecast, we’ll walk you through the steps to generate a robust forecast.

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