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Cash to Cash Cycle: How to Calculate and Improve it?

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Managing your cash conversion cycle is a continuous process. It requires consistent monitoring and adjustment to maintain optimal performance. But with dedication and the right approach, you can turn it into a strategic advantage for your business!

Today, I will tell you everything I know about the cash-to-cash cycle, how to improve it, and how it can boost your business. Let’s go!

Introduction to the Cash Conversion Cycle and Cash-to-Cash Cycle

The Cash Conversion Cycle (CCC), also known as the Cash to Cash Cycle, is an important financial metric for businesses. It offers deep insight into a company’s operations’ efficiency and overall liquidity position. In essence, the CCC tracks how long a firm can convert its investments in inventory and other resources into cash flows from sales.

It refers to the time period that stretches from when a business pays cash to its suppliers for inventory until it collects cash from its customers. In other words, it measures how long a company’s cash is tied up in the production and sales process before it gets converted back into cash again.

A shorter cycle is generally better for a net operating cycle because a company’s cash is tied up for less time, indicating greater operational efficiency and liquidity.

What does the Cash Conversion Cycle Measure?

Basically, the Cash Conversion Cycle (CCC) measures the efficiency and effectiveness of a company’s management of its working capital. It specifically evaluates how a company manages its three most important operational components: inventory, accounts receivable, and accounts payable.

Cash to cash cycle

By analyzing the cycle, businesses can determine :

  1. how effectively they are turning their inventory into sales 💰

  2. how quickly they collect cash from their customers 💵

  3. how well they manage their payments to suppliers 💶

➡️A shorter cash conversion cycle means a business is quickly converting its investment in inventory back into cash, which is beneficial for liquidity and overall operational efficiency ✅.

➡️A longer cash-to-cash cycle might signal potential issues with inventory management, sales collection, or payment scheduling ❌.

Calculating the Cash Conversion Cycle

Let’s dive into its different components to understand the cash conversion cycle. The cycle is made of three key elements:

  1. Days Inventory Outstanding (DIO)

  2. Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)

  3. Days Payables Outstanding (DPO).

Each component reflects a different aspect of a company’s operations and cash management.

Understanding the components:

Days Inventory Outstanding (DIO)

Days Inventory Outstanding (DIO) refers to the average number of days that a company holds its inventory before selling it. It is a measure of the efficiency of a company’s inventory management. A lower DIO is generally better, as it indicates that the company is able to sell its inventory quickly. The formula for Days Inventory Outstanding (DIO) is:

🧮 DIO = (Average Inventory / Cost of Goods Sold) x 365

Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)

Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) indicates the average number of days a company takes to collect cash from its credit sales (accounts receivable). A lower DSO is preferable as it indicates a quicker collection of cash collections from receivables, improving cash flow. The formula for Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) is:

🧮 DSO = (Accounts Receivable / Total Credit Sales) x 365

Days Payable Outstanding (DPO)

Days Payable Outstanding (DPO) measures the average number of days that a company takes to pay its suppliers. While a higher DPO may help preserve cash (since the company takes longer to pay its bills), it could strain relationships with suppliers if it’s excessively long. The formula for Days Payable Outstanding (DPO) is:

🧮 DPO = (Accounts Payable / Cost of Goods Sold) x 365

The Cash Conversion Cycle Formula

➡️ After calculating the DIO, DSO, and DPO, you can calculate the cash conversion cycle with the following cash conversion cycle formula:

🧮 Cash Conversion Cycle = DIO + DSO – DPO

This cash conversion cycle formula gives you the number of days it takes for a company to turn its inventory purchases into cash returns. A shorter cash conversion cycle indicates a more efficient business operation, while a longer cycle may point to issues with inventory management, payment collection, policies, or payment terms.

Example of How to Use the Cash Conversion Cycle

Let’s imagine a hypothetical Tech company:

  • It has an average inventory of $1 million

  • Cost of goods sold (COGS) of $3.65 million

  • Average accounts receivable amount of $800,000

  • Total credit sales of $3.65 million

  • Accounts payable of $900,000

➡️ We can calculate its DIO, DSO, and DPO as follows:

DIO = (Average Inventory / COGS) x 365 = (1,000,000 / 3,650,000) x 365 = 100 days

DSO = (Accounts Receivable / Total Credit Sales) x 365 = (800,000 / 3,650,000) x 365 = 80 days

DPO = (Accounts Payable / COGS) x 365 = (900,000 / 3,650,000) x 365 = 90 days

➡️ Now, we can calculate the cash conversion cycle:

CCC = DIO + DSO – DPO = 100 + 80 – 90 = 90 days

So, on average, this Tech company takes 90 days to convert its inventory investments into cash flows from sales.

Significance of the Cash Conversion Cycle for a Business

The cash conversion cycle is a key indicator of a company’s operational efficiency and financial health. It shows how quickly a company can convert its inventory into cash. The shorter the low cash conversion cycle is, the more efficiently the company manages its cash flow. Businesses with a short cash conversion cycle have more cash on hand to pay off debts, reinvest in the business, or return money to shareholders.


Understanding the Negative Cash Conversion Cycle

A negative cash conversion cycle occurs when a company receives customer payments before paying its suppliers. In other words, the company effectively uses its suppliers’ money to fund its operations 💰💰.

This can happen in industries where customers pay upfront, or businesses have negotiated longer payment terms with suppliers.


What Does a Negative Cash Conversion Cycle Indicate?

A negative cash conversion cycle indicates excellent operational efficiency and financial management. It means that the company can finance its inventory purchases using the money it receives from its customers, reducing the need for external financing or capital.

However, it comes with added stress! It requires businesses to ensure they can sell their inventory quickly and manage their customer relationships effectively to maintain prompt payments.

Optimizing Business Performance With the Negative Cash Conversion Cycle

If a company can maintain a negative cash conversion cycle over the long term, it can optimize its business performance. The company effectively uses its suppliers’ credit as a short-term, interest-free loan to finance its operations.

It’s a powerful cash flow management tool that can improve liquidity and reduce the need for external financing.

What Is a Good Cash Conversion Cycle?

What constitutes a “good” cash conversion cycle depends on the industry. In general, a shorter cash conversion cycle is preferable. This indicates that the company is efficiently managing its inventory, quickly collecting receivables, and strategically managing its payables.

You should compare your business’s cash conversion cycle with competitors or industry averages to understand your performance in relation to your industry competitors.

The Relationship Between Cash Conversion Cycle and Other Business Metrics

The cash conversion cycle interplays with various other business metrics. It directly affects liquidity and working capital, as a shorter cycle means cash is tied up for less time, improving liquidity. It also impacts profitability since efficient inventory and receivables management reduces costs, and efficient payable management can provide effective short-term financing.

Lastly, the cash conversion cycle can affect a company’s solvency, especially in industries with high operational leverage, where cash flow efficiency is paramount to meeting debt obligations.

How does Inventory Turnover Affect the Cash Conversion Cycle?

We mentioned in a previous article that Inventory turnover measures how frequently a company sells its inventory. Higher inventory turnover often leads to a shorter cash conversion cycle because inventory is sold (and thus turned into receivables or cash) more quickly. Therefore, strategies to increase inventory turnover – such as efficient inventory management or improvements to sales processes – can help reduce the company’s cash conversion cycle.


Strategies to Improve the Cash Conversion Cycle

Improving the cash conversion cycle involves focusing on the three components we mentioned earlier: DIO, DSO, and DPO.

Reassess Customer Credit Criteria

Reassessing the credit terms you extend to your customers can help reduce DSO. By tightening credit terms or providing incentives for early payment, you can collect receivables and generate cash more quickly, which in turn will shorten your cash conversion cycle.

Improving Inventory Management

Effective inventory management can reduce your DIO. This involves ensuring that your company has the right amount of inventory to meet customer demand but not so much that you have excess stock sitting unsold.

Efficient Accounts Receivable Management

Reducing the time it takes to collect customer payments can significantly shorten the cash conversion cycle. This may involve following up on invoices to collect payment more quickly, offering discounts for prompt payment, or implementing better invoicing systems.

Strategic Accounts Payable Management

Extending the time it takes to pay suppliers can increase DPO and thus reduce the cash conversion cycle. However, it’s important to balance this with maintaining good supplier relationships. Taking too long to pay can strain these relationships and potentially interrupt your supply chain.


The Impact of an Optimized Cash Conversion Cycle on Business Performance

An optimized cash conversion cycle can have a profound impact on business performance. It can enhance liquidity by reducing the amount of money tied up in operations and improve profitability by reducing interest expenses and operational costs. This makes more resources available for growth initiatives or to return to shareholders.

In addition, good cash conversion cycles will show investors and other stakeholders that the company is well-managed and capable of effectively navigating the financial aspects of its operations. In the long run, a business that optimizes its cash conversion cycle will likely be more sustainable and competitive 💪.

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