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  • Pam Prior

Running On Empty

Whether you’re a start-up entrepreneur or owner of a 9-figure mature businesses, there are circumstances that can cause you to run out of cash.  It just happens. It obviously happens in new businesses because there is no income in the beginning. But it also happens in more mature businesses because of ill-planned growth, leakage, economic changes, and broken reporting systems.

The point is that no matter the size or age of your business, there could be a time when your checking account balance is running at or about zero.

I have dealt with this reality with many clients along the business-maturity spectrum. And the important thing to know is that this reality, in and of itself, is not a crisis!

What IS a crisis, and what BECOMES a crisis, is not being aware of it or knowing how to deal with it.

And those are two things that we need to address:

  1. How to know when your business account is going to be at or near zero

  2. Options for dealing with it when it is at or near zero

This week’s blog covers the first point; and next week’s will address the second.

So, how can you become aware of what your checking account balance is going to be for the next number of weeks or months?

There’s a tool for that! And it’s a very simple tool – with video instructions! Here you go …

A 13-Week Cash Flow Forecast: CLICK TO DOWNLOAD

By using this worksheet, you'll be able to focus on what's important: working with your budget.

At its simplest, this is just a listing of when (and how much) money is going to come into the business; and when (and how much) money is going to leave the business. And it’s much easier to get your hands around those two things than you might think.

I will confess that the Excel spreadsheet may initially LOOK complicated.  But it’s not!  And the video walks you through it – or – even better – walks your bookkeeper through it!


Most small businesses have one business checking account.  Have the bookkeeper look at the last three months of bank statements, and outline each of the different deposits and expenditures that hit your account on a regular basis.  (And because many of us use credit cards, and our income is summarized into large receipts from Stripe or PayPal or Square, there really aren’t all that many transactions to review.)


Let’s start with the fun side: money that comes in.  You know your sales pattern and cash collection patterns, so just ask yourself, “When my cash is going to come in the door?”

As an example, let’s just say you sell a course online, and historically you’ve sold five courses a week for $1,000 each. So, you know you’re probably going to get around $5,000 a week.

If you know you’re going to be on vacation or you’re going to drop your ad spend, or you’re going to raise the price of your course, then you just need to estimate the effect that will have and adjust the $5,000/week accordingly.


For the money going out it’s the same exercise.  Look at each of your expenses over the last three months of bank statements, including each check or ACH that’s left your checking account.  You’ll see routine monthly amounts for Facebook ads spend, your monthly rent, your monthly utilities, your monthly check to the cleaning people, your credit card bills – whatever it is that you’re regularly spending.

Figure out what week of the month you pay each bill, and drop those expenses into the columns in the spreadsheet.


Now put it in the 13-Week Cash Flow Forecast spreadsheet you downloaded above.

It’s really that simple.  Don’t let anyone fool you that forecasts are “complex”.  What you now have is a look at what the expected balance will be in your cash account each week for the next thirteen weeks!  THAT’S a forecast!

So, download the spreadsheet, watch the video, and complete this exercise over the next week.  Give it a try. See what happens.  Have your accountant do it, have your bookkeeper do it, or do it yourself and be amazed at what you learn about your business.

Then we will talk about what to do about it when you see there’s a storm on the horizon.  Don’t be alarmed if you see cash going negative in one of these periods. Next week we will find ways to fix that.

For now, be grateful that you have a line of sight into a coming cloud – rather than being surprised by it!

Author, Virtual CFO, and Finance Coach

"Your First CFO: The Accounting Cure for Small Business Owners" on AMAZON

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