Accrual Accounting and Cashflow

Before the end of World War 1 most managers kept track of cash out and cash in. many senior citizen owner-managers still do today. There is an inherent problem in keeping the records that way, however, if the business offers and receives much credit. Doing business on credit displaces the time of the exchange of cash from the exchange of goods and services. Sometimes very little cash comes in during a particular month and very much cash comes in during other months. The same is true of cash out.

Keeping in track of what you pay or get paid for credit transactions causes the monthly reports describing the operations to fluctuate from month to month even though the goods and services flowing in and out of the business may be very much the same. About 1920 the accounting profession began placing emphasis on the accrual method of accounting to overcome this difficulty.

The accrual method portrays the smoothed-out profit as if all the transactions had been for cash and as if the business had purchased only exactly what was needed to make the sale. It is not an accurate portrayal of everything going on in the business, but it is a good approximation of the net effect of those things that affect profit. The problem is that so much emphasis has been placed on the accrual method income statement and balance sheet that the importance of cash has been regulated to virtual obscurity.

Even this result is satisfactory when the reports are describing large businesses with access to external financing through the stock market, commercial paper, and bank loans at the prime interest rate. But companies that do not have access to these external sources of financing have a different problem. For them, the flow of cash through the business means life or death, whether the accrual based profit is great or terrible. When new or small businesses need cash they must turn to the bank, the banker will look to the personal savings and assets of the owner-manager for collateral.

Accountants have not forgotten nor overlooked the importance of cash. They recognize the need for cash in sufficient quantity to keep the business operating. For their purposes, however, they often infer the cash available to the business from the income statements and describe future cash availability with the balance sheets. They, and others, frequently describe it as: cash flow equals net profit after taxes plus depreciation and other noncash expenses, such as amortization.

This statement is incorrect except under some very stringent preconditions that rarely exist in practice for a small business. This statement is an approximation that is valid for large and stable businesses in which changes from year to year are small and the statements from which the cash flow is inferred are annual reports. For a small and new business looking at monthly financial reports this approximation is inadequate. In a small, growing business the net cash flow to the firm’s bank account does not equal the net profit plus depreciation. Profit is not cash nor is it cash flow.

Although this pronouncement may be unconventional, entrepreneurs are realistic. Successful entrepreneurs ask how it really works and then get on with building their business. In the conventional approach the analysts, having inferred cash flow from profit, depreciation, and amortization, stop there, allowing their readers to assume that the resulting cash is in the bank wiating to be spent.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit, Line of Sight

Creative Management of Product Design

An emerging area of importance is product/process design. In increasingly competitive, sophisticated markets, attractively designed products or processes sell well; shoddily designed products are left alone on the shelves. Excellent product design requires high orders of essence creativity (novel ideas), elaborative creativity (contextually relevant elaborations of ideas that are unique because of the kinds of components utilized and the way they are fitted together), and expressive creativity (unique aesthetic features). There can be following basic steps for coming up with successful and creative product design:

a)    The designing unit should have members with diverse expertise so that their brainstorms can result in unique product design concepts that are also practical.

b)   It is imperative that the design unit has an in-depth understanding of the client and the market, the technologies needed or involved, and the nature of the problem and the constraints that need to be kept in mind.

c)    The design unit must take the trouble to observe people in real-life situations to identify their needs, difficulties, likes, dislikes, etc. Creative design needs creative observation, that is observation that is not only accurate but also multi-angled so as to yield interesting design possibilities. Innovation begins with eyes. The design unit needs to create a ‘bug-list,’ that is, a list of the problems that presently bug the likely users of the future products.

d)   The design unit needs to visualize a new product concepts and the customers who could be captivated by them. This can involve building several physical models and prototypes, simulations on the computer, and creation of videos that portray high the new product may be used by people well before it comes into existence.

e)    The design unit needs to evaluate and refine the prototypes/models through several quick iterations, each one involving changes and improvements. Inputs should be secured not only from members of the design unit, but also from experts, the client, and the potential consumers. Exceptional design seldom come right the first time around. Serially generated improvements based on the reactions and suggestions of the product’s stakeholders can quickly get the design unit to an exceptional design.

f)     Effective implementation that leads to the commercial use of the product. This is often a long and tedious process that creative teams frequently neglect. But the planning of milestones, cost cutting and cost control efforts, packaging and so forth are indispensable if a product design is to taste commercial success.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit, Line of Sight