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Harv Bus Rev. 2001 May;79(5):135-4, 166.

How fast can your company afford to grow?

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Anderson School at UCLA, USA.


Everyone knows that starting a business requires cash, and growing a business requires even more. But few people understand that a profitable company that tries to grow too fast can run out of cash even if its products are great successes. So a big challenge for managers of any growing concern is to strike the proper balance between consuming cash and generating it. Authors Neil Churchill and John Mullins offer a framework to help identify and manage the level of growth that a company's cash flow can support. They present a formula to calculate an organization's self-financeable growth (SFG) rate, taking into account three critical factors: a company's operating cash cycle--the amount of time the company's money is tied up in inventory and other current assets before customers pay for goods and services; the amount of cash needed to finance each dollar of sales; and the amount of cash generated by each dollar of sales. The authors offer a detailed hypothetical example that carefully considers these three factors; they then illustrate how a company can influence its SFG rate by carefully managing some combination of those factors--that is, some mix of speeding cash flow, reducing costs, and raising prices. They expand on the original example by showing how to include income taxes and depreciation; plan for asset replacement; and identify which one of multiple product lines holds the greatest growth potential. The authors also discuss how various kinds of businesses--manufacturing firms, importers, and service companies--differ greatly in their abilities to finance growth from internally generated funds.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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