Jeroen Biesbroek

What are the costly cash flow errors that lead to startup failure?


Starting a business is a risky endeavor, and statistics show that many entrepreneurs fail in their first few years. According to a study by CB Insights, 82% of startups fail due to cash flow problems. In this article, we will explore common cash flow mistakes made by startups and provide advice on how to avoid them.

Common Cash Flow Mistakes Made by Startups

Failure to forecast cash flow accurately

Many startups fail to accurately predict their cash inflows and outflows, leading to cash shortages and financial difficulties. It’s important to develop a detailed cash flow forecast that takes into account all sources of revenue and expenses.

Overestimating revenue and underestimating expenses

Startups often have ambitious revenue projections and underestimate the costs involved in running the business. This can lead to cash flow problems and financial distress.

Overreliance on one customer or client

Relying too heavily on one customer or client can be risky for startups, as losing that client can have a significant impact on cash flow. It’s important to diversify the customer base to spread the risk.

Poor inventory management

Inadequate inventory management can lead to overstocking, tying up cash, or stockouts, which can lead to lost sales and revenue.

Delayed invoicing and collection

Late invoicing and slow payment collection can cause cash flow problems and put pressure on the business. It’s essential to invoice promptly and follow up on collections to ensure timely payment.

Inadequate financial record keeping

Poor financial record keeping can make it difficult to track cash flow and financial performance, which can lead to poor decision-making and financial distress.

Consequences of Cash Flow Mismanagement

Mismanaging cash flow can have serious consequences for startups, including:

1. Inability to pay bills and meet financial obligations: This can damage relationships with suppliers and lenders, making it difficult to secure future credit and funding.

2. Damage to credit score and reputation: Late payments and financial distress can harm the business’s credit score and reputation, making it difficult to attract new customers and investors.

3. Loss of potential investors and funding opportunities: Investors are less likely to invest in a business with poor cash flow management, and cash flow problems can limit funding opportunities.

4. Missed growth opportunities: Cash flow problems can prevent a startup from investing in growth opportunities, such as expanding the product line or entering new markets.

5. Possible bankruptcy and business failure: In extreme cases, cash flow mismanagement can lead to bankruptcy and business failure.

How to Avoid Cash Flow Mistakes

To avoid cash flow mistakes, startups should:

1. Develop a detailed cash flow forecast: A detailed cash flow forecast will help startups plan their cash inflows and outflows, making it easier to manage cash flow.

2. Monitor cash flow regularly and adjust forecasts as needed: Startups should monitor cash flow regularly and adjust their forecasts as needed to ensure they have enough cash to cover expenses.

3. Diversify customer base to avoid overreliance on one client: Startups should aim to diversify their customer base to reduce the risk of relying too heavily on one client.

4. Implement efficient inventory management practices: Startups should adopt efficient inventory management practices to ensure they have the right amount of stock on hand to meet customer demand without tying up too much cash.

5. Invoice promptly and follow up on collections: Startups should invoice promptly and follow up on collections to ensure timely payment and prevent cash flow problems.

6. Maintain accurate financial records and seek professional financial advice when needed: Startups should keep accurate financial records and seek professional financial advice when needed to help them manage their cash flow effectively.


Managing cash flow is a critical component of running a successful startup. By avoiding common cash flow mistakes, startups can improve their chances of success and avoid financial distress. Startups should develop a detailed cash flow forecast, monitor cash flow regularly, diversify their customer base, implement efficient inventory management practices, invoice promptly, maintain accurate financial records, and seek professional financial advice when needed. By following these best practices, startups can better manage their cash flow and increase their chances of success.In addition to these practices, startups should also be proactive in identifying potential cash flow issues and taking steps to address them before they become major problems. This may involve seeking additional funding, reducing expenses, or exploring new revenue streams.It’s important to remember that managing cash flow is an ongoing process that requires careful planning, monitoring, and adjustment. By staying vigilant and taking steps to avoid common cash flow mistakes, startups can improve their financial health and increase their chances of long-term success.In conclusion, cash flow mismanagement is one of the leading causes of startup failure, but it’s a problem that can be avoided. By understanding common cash flow mistakes and taking steps to manage cash flow effectively, startups can reduce their risk of financial distress and increase their chances of success.

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Joep van Gelder
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