Chris Porter, Director of Product & Solution Marketing, Prophix
Cash flow is an ongoing concern for finance leaders, especially in today’s dynamic business landscape. This is particularly the case in construction, where aspects impacting cash flow are especially complex.
Faced with escalating costs in labor and raw materials, along with high interest rates, contractors and project managers must continuously monitor and manage these changes to ensure their projects remain on budget and are completed successfully. Cash flow management provides construction finance executives with the tools they need to plan and allocate resources, manage working capital, and optimize cash to best support business fluctuations and future growth.
Cash flow planning needs
For most commercial construction jobs, CFOs must work with lenders and sureties. And as readers of this article may know, it’s particularly critical in the construction industry to produce cash flow projections to secure bonding or loans to fund a job.
In addition, finance executives at construction companies need to know if they have the cash on hand to not only bid for projects but also to resource them appropriately, taking into account the labor costs that will be needed and the material costs required. To make sure they are able to handle the work financially after winning a bid, effective cash flow planning and management are crucial in this situation. And, ultimately, the health of a business’s overall cash flow depends upon how well individual projects are managed.
How can technology assist in effectively managing cash flow?
There are cloud-based financial management platforms available that empower construction finance leaders to address these critical aspects of cash flow planning and forecasting. Having this kind of technology will help ensure organizations are not only best positioned to address current challenges but also to maximize the opportunities available to propel their businesses forward.
With the flexibility provided in these kinds of solutions vs. traditional spreadsheets, finance executives can easily collaborate with others in the organization and make adjustments to assumptions (like interest rates) as needed to drive quick decisions. For example, if the cost of materials unexpectedly increases by 10 percent, these types of tools let construction finance leaders quickly incorporate those costs and plan accordingly.
These capabilities also enable businesses to look back on similar projects from the past and the cash required at that time, to then leverage those insights for current planning, taking inflation and other external factors into account that might not have been present in the past. This enables finance leaders to be more efficient in their projections, resourcing and budgeting for more effective cost control and business success.
How can an effective cash flow strategy drive growth?
It’s clear that successful cash flow management is critical for sustaining business. But it’s also essential for driving business growth. Following are 10 ways a solid cash flow strategy can help do that:
1. Capital for investment: Sustaining a solid cash flow provides resources to invest in growth prospects, like expansion, new markets, or acquisitions.
2. Nimble decision-making: Having cash on hand allows organizations to seize opportunities as they present themselves, such as investing in new technology, buying inventory, or responding to market trends.
3. Reduced debt dependence: With a cash flow strategy and a view on the money going in and out, construction companies can reduce their reliance on borrowing and loans. This lessens their interest expenses and risks, and also frees up time for teams to concentrate on growth opportunities.
4. Research and development: A positive cash flow enables organizations to allocate resources to R&D efforts, which foster innovation and new service creation which can give a competitive edge in the market.
5. Marketing and sales: Investing in marketing and sales can result in greater brand recognition, customer acquisition, and revenue growth, all of which fuel the expansion of a company.
6. Staff development: A well-managed cash flow can support efforts like employee training, skills development, and retention programs, leading to a highly skilled workforce that positively affects growth.
7. Working capital management: Cash flow helps optimize working capital, so a construction business knows whether or not it has enough resources to cover day-to-day operational needs.
8. Risk management: A cash flow strategy should include funds for contingencies and economic downturns, so an organization can overcome unforeseen obstacles without jeopardizing its growth objectives.
9. Credibility and scaling: Maintaining a steady, well-managed cash flow demonstrates financial stability and accountability to suppliers, lenders, investors, and other stakeholders, enhancing credibility and opening up new opportunities for partnerships and collaboration.
10. Expansion and scaling: A cash flow strategy is crucial for scaling operations. As a business grows, cash flow requirements increase, too. But effectively managing cash flow means a construction organization can sustain growth without endangering its financial stability.
The benefits to mastering cash flow for construction firms are clear. It comes back to the saying, “cash is king.” When construction businesses strategically look at their cash coming in and going out, they’re
presenting themselves with stability, operational efficiency, and the ability to invest in growth.