Cash flow terminology

Cash flow terminology: Learn the basics

Must-know cash flow terminology to help you stay cash positive.

Cash Flow Terminology

Cash is king, and cash flow — the net money flowing into and out of a business — is your operational lifeblood. When cash is in high supply, you can be riding a wave of exhilaration — making entrepreneurship feel like the golden path. But when cash flow issues arise, it can threaten your entire enterprise.

Sure, you might be able to ‘outwit’ your bank loan challenges, but sometimes borrowing from the bank isn’t always an option. The best way to get ahead of these challenges is to know your options and alternatives to keep cash flow positive.

Here are some cash flow terms to help you stay on top of your terminology.

Break-even point 

The level of sales revenue a business needs to cover all operating expenses, which would put you at a zero profit. (Sales revenue — Cost of sales and other expenses = Zero). Everything beyond the break-even point would be considered a net positive profit level.

Burn rate

This is the rate that a company is losing money, figuratively describing cash as being ‘burned.’ Typically, the burn rate is expressed as a monthly figure, and it can be synonymous with negative cash flow. Investopedia also describes this with a twist in the venture capital world as, “…the rate at which a new company is spending its venture capital to finance overhead before generating positive cash flow from operations.”

Cash Conversion Ratio

This is the amount of time between when your business pays for its inventory, also known as your cost of goods sold, and when it receives payment from its customers.

Cash Flow Budget

The cash flow budget is quite simply a report on your business cash flow, showing how much money is entering and exiting the business. The cash flow budget shows how much cash you’ll have on hand at any given period of time.

Related: Learn 7 things a cash flow budget can teach you.

Cash Flow Statement

Also called a “Statement of Cash Flows,” this is part of your financial statements. Explore the steps to create your cash flow budget here.

Discounted Cash Flow

A method used to value an investment by discounting its future expected cash flows to find their value today, or net present value. The discount rate is chosen to reflect the risk of the investment. Possible discount rates are the weighted average cost of capital or the discount rate from similar projects.

Negative Cash Flow

Your cash flow is considered ‘negative’ when cash spending is more than cash generation over a particular period of time. In this case, the business spends more than it makes. See examples here.

Positive Cash Flow

Conversely, your cash flow is considered ‘positive’ when cash generation is more than cash spending over a particular period of time. This should be your goal.


Learn much more about factoring terminology in the Ultimate Factoring Encyclopedia. This free resource includes every definition you’ll need to know when applying for invoice factoring and securing working capital. Still have questions about cash flow? Connect with us today!

Ultimate Factoring Encyclopedia


About Liquid Capital

At Liquid Capital, we understand what it takes for small, medium, and emerging mid-market businesses to succeed – because we’re business people ourselves. Our company is built on a network of locally owned and operated Principal Offices, so whenever you’re talking to Liquid Capital you’re talking directly to your funding source and a fellow business person.