I understand the fundamental meaning of cash flow. Being a middle-aged college student means, simply, that there ain’t no cash coming in, and there is a lot of cash flowing out. What I have not really understood until recently is the financial concept of cash flow. Not to worry, though; Dr. Evans is making damn sure every student in her class has a very clear understanding of the cash flow principles in our corporate finance textbook (you remember, the book I bought online and had shipped from India).
What a surprise then, after slogging through the text, working the examples, studying the powerpoint, and using the online study aids, that the final words of the introductory chapter on cash flow should be a poem. Not a literary milepost, for sure, but a tale to remind the budding business-people that the subject does carry some weight in their futures.
Quoth the Banker, "Watch Cash Flow"
Once upon a midnight dreary as I pondered weak and weary
Over many a quaint and curious volume of accounting lore,
Seeking gimmicks (without scruple) to squeeze through
Some new tax loophole,
Suddenly I heard a knock upon my door,
Only this, and nothing more.
Then I felt a queasy tingling and I heard the cash a-jingling
As a fearsome banker entered whom I’d often seen before.
His face was money-green and in his eyes there could be seen
Dollar-signs that seemed to glitter as he reckoned up the score.
“Cash flow,” the banker said, and nothing more.
I had always thought it fine to show a jet black bottom line.
But the banker sounded a resounding, “No.
Your receivables are high, mounting upward toward the sky;
Write-offs loom. What matters is cash flow.”
He repeated, “Watch cash flow.”
Then I tried to tell the story of our lovely inventory
Which, though large, is full of most delightful stuff.
But the banker saw its growth, and with a might oath
He waved his arms and shouted, “Stop! Enough!
Pay the interest, and don’t give me any guff!”
Next I looked for noncash items which could add ad infinitum
To replace the ever-outward flow of cash,
But to keep my statement black I’d held depreciation back,
And my banker said that I’d done something rash.
He quivered, and his teeth began to gnash.
When I asked him for a loan, he responded, with a groan,
That the interest rate would be just prime plus eight,
And to guarantee my purity he’d insist on some security—
All my assets plus the scalp upon my pate.
Only this, a standard rate.
Though my bottom line is black, I am flat upon my back,
My cash flows out and customers pay slow.
The growth of my receivables is almost unbelievable:
The result is certain—unremitting woe!
And I hear the banker utter an ominous low mutter,
“Watch cash flow.”
Herbert S. Bailey, Jr.
Come on, admit it. It’s kinda cute.