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  • Writer's pictureBrian R. Schobel, CPA

Cash Flow vs. Profit: Decoding the Difference


Profit and cash flow are foundational business concepts, yet they’re not synonymous. Here's a quick guide to differentiating and understanding their critical roles in business finance:


1. The Basics:


Profit: The net amount remaining after deducting all costs and expenses from revenue. It's the gauge of whether a business is making more than it’s spending.

Cash Flow: The total amount of cash or its equivalents moving into and out of a business. A positive figure indicates increasing liquid assets, allowing a company to cover expenses, reinvest, or return money to stakeholders.


2. Key Differences:


Receivables: Profits can be recorded when a product is sold on credit, but the cash might be received much later. So, while the books show profit, the bank might not reflect the same.


Initial Costs: Startups might face large initial costs, creating negative cash flow. However, their long-term model may be set up for profitability.


Non-Cash Expenses: Some expenses like depreciation don't involve actual cash transactions but are deducted from revenue to calculate profit.


3. Why Both Matter:


Business Lifeline: Cash flow is essential for daily operations. Even a profitable business can flounder if it can't cover immediate bills or payroll.


Growth Decisions: A firm might reinvest profits, incurring more expenses and affecting its cash flow.


Financing: When seeking loans or investors, both profit and cash flow are scrutinized for assessing business health.


In Summary: While profit measures operational success, cash flow is a business's operational pulse. Both are vital for a comprehensive view of financial health. Ensuring a balance between them is key to business longevity and success.


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