The difference between cashflow and profit. Cash flow is the net amount of cash and cash equivalents being transferred into and out of a business. Cash received represents inflows, while money spent represents outflows. Profit on the other hand refers to a financial gain, especially the difference between the amount earned and the amount spent in buying, operating, or producing something.
Business wise, understanding the difference between profit and cash flow can make it easier to know whether a profitable company is actually a good investment based on its ability to remain solvent in times of economic crisis. For entrepreneurs and business owners, understanding the relationship between the terms can inform important business decisions, including the best way to pursue growth.
Cash flow can be positive or negative. Positive cash flow indicates that a company has more money moving into it than out of it. Negative cash flow indicates that a company has more money moving out of it than into it.
Cash flow can be broken into three major categories:
- Operating cash flow: This refers to the net cash generated from a company’s normal business operations. In actively growing and expanding companies, positive cash flow is required to maintain business growth.
- Investing cash flow: This refers to the net cash generated from a company’s investment-related activities, such as investments in securities, the purchase of physical assets like equipment or property, or the sale of assets. In healthy companies that are actively investing in their businesses, this number will often be in the negative.
- Financing cash flow: This refers specifically to how cash moves between a company and its investors, owners, or creditors. It’s the net cash generated to finance the company and may include debt, equity, and dividend payments.
Assessing the amounts, timing, and uncertainty of cash flows, along with where they originate and where they go, is one of the most important objectives of financial reporting. It is essential for assessing a company’s liquidity, flexibility, and overall financial performance. Positive cash flow indicates that a company’s liquid assets are increasing, enabling it to cover obligations, reinvest in its business, return money to shareholders, pay expenses, and provide a buffer against future financial challenges.
Profit can be broken down into three categories:
- Gross profit: Gross profit is defined as revenue minus the cost of goods sold. It includes variable costs, which are dependent upon the level of output, such as cost of materials and labor directly associated with producing the product. It doesn’t include other fixed costs, which a company must pay regardless of output, such as rent and the salary of individuals not involved in producing a product.
- Operating profit: Like operating cash flow, operating profit refers only to the net profit that a company generates from its normal business operations. It typically excludes negative cash flows like tax payments or interest payments on debt. Similarly, it excludes positive cash flows from areas outside of the core business. It’s sometimes referred to as earnings before interest and tax (EBIT).
- Net profit: This is the net income after all expenses have been deducted from all revenues. Typically, this includes expenses like tax and interest payments.
Information about a company’s profits is typically communicated in its income statement, also known as a profit and loss statement (P&L). This statement summarizes the cumulative impact of revenue, gains, expenses, and losses over the course of a specified period of time.