Cash Flows Do Not Reveal Financial Condition

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The cash flows summary for the year (Exhibit A) does not reveal the financial condition of the company. Managers certainly need to know which assets the business owns and the amounts of each asset, including cash, receivables, inventory, and all other assets. Also, they need to know which liabilities the company owes and the amounts of each.

Business managers have the responsibility for keeping the company in a position to pay its liabilities when they come due to keep the business solvent (able to pay its liabilities on time). Furthermore, managers have to know whether assets are too large (or too small) relative to the sales volume of the business. Its lenders and investors want to know the same things about a business.

In brief, both the managers inside the business and lenders and investors outside the business need a summary of a company's financial condition (its assets and liabilities). Of course, they need a profit performance report as well, which summarizes the company's sales revenue and expenses and its profit for the year.

A cash flow summary is very useful. In fact, a slightly different version of Exhibit A is one of the three primary financial statements reported by every business. But in no sense does the cash flows report take the place of the profit performance report and the financial condition report. The next chapter introduces these two financial statements, or "sheets," as some people call them.

A Final Note before Moving on: Over the past century an entire profession has developed based on the preparation and reporting of business financial statements—the accounting profession. In measuring their profit and in reporting their financial affairs, all businesses have to follow established rules and standards, which are called generally accepted accounting principles or GAAP for short. I'll say a lot more about GAAP and the accounting profession in later chapters.

Introducing the Balance Sheet and Income Statement

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