Cash Flow: Importance for Businesses, Portfolio Companies

Why might a good company fail? It’s often as simple as running out of cash.

That’s why it’s so important that business leaders not only understand what cash flow is but also keep a close eye on it.

BluWave CEO and founder Sean Mooney touched on this topic with Gabe Mesanza, partner at Huron Capital, on the Karma School of Business podcast.

Let’s take a closer look at what Mooney and Mesanza had to say about the importance of cash flow, and how private equity firms think about this crucial metric as it relates to their portfolio companies.

A calculator and a stack of coins in a bluish tinted photo. In the background there are accounting papers with numbers on them. In the foreground there's a bar chart with a line graph.

READ MORE: Why Hire an Interim CFO?

What is Cash Flow?

Cash flow is the net amount of cash coming into and going out of a business. It has a substantial impact on liquidity.

Without enough cash on hand, a company won’t be able to pay its expenses, ultimately forcing it to shut down.

A Fundamental Beacon for Businesses

When times get tough – especially because of the economy – many businesses act more conservatively. Private equity firms, however, often take advantage of these challenging situations by boosting value creation.

Mesanza said that starts with focusing on fundamentals.

“The basic is focus on cash. Just understand your cash position because that is really the lifeblood of the company,” he said. “If you’re struggling with cash, then you really can’t think about much else, very honestly. That is all-consuming, and it leads you to short-term decisions that are often counter to the long-term goals of the company. That to me is first, second, third. In a crisis, focus on cash.”

READ MORE: Interim CFO for a Financial Crisis

Why Cash Flow is Overlooked and Misunderstood

When a business is performing well, executives are even less likely to focus on cash flow. This, Mesanza said, is a mistake.

“We’ve seen a couple of examples of that here recently. Having worked for large companies, even sometimes we ran into really good executives that ran business units and you ask the question of cash, they never even thought about it,” he shared. “Cash was just something that was there and it was swept at the end of the day. When you needed to do a project, you went and asked for the money and it showed up. The idea of cash is not something that is natural for a lot of people, and it’s surprising the number of people who mistake EBITDA for cash.”

Cash Flow Forecasting and Management

Mooney, who had about 20 years of private equity experience before starting BluWave, said that neglecting cash flow can be a fatal mistake.

“I learned very early on good companies don’t necessarily go out of business because they’re good or bad, they go out of business because they run out of cash,” he said.

READ MORE: Sales Process Workflow: Stages, Examples for Businesses

Instead, he suggested, business leaders should forecast cash flow on a 13-week basis – equivalent to a quarter – week-to-week and monitor progress. Mesanza agreed with this approach.

“One of the first things we do is a 13-week cash flow. It’s interesting for founders, a lot of their personal finances are intertwined with the company, a lot of their personal expenses flow through the company, whether it’s a car or whatever the case is,” Mesanza said. “The moment that you start adding debt to a company and you have quarterly debt payments that you have to make, boy, that really becomes some different level of conversation.”

How Private Equity Looks at Cash Flow

Private equity firms perform substantial due diligence before acquiring a new business. When they do move forward with a purchase, it’s because they see significant growth potential.

READ MORE: What Makes a Commercial Due Diligence Firm ‘Specialized’?

“The change to being owned by private equity is that we really only want to put in equity or cash into a company to grow it, to build it, to buy other things,” Mesanza said. “We don’t want to put cash in to run the operations.”

These aren’t just lessons for PE firms and their portcos, though. Any business can reap the benefits of healthy accounting practices coupled with a growth mindset.

The Business Builders’ Network is full of third-party service providers who have helped businesses across various industries accelerate their value creation.

Contact the BluWave research and operations team to set up your initial scoping call. They’ll match you with an exact-fit resource from the invite-only network within a single business day.

Fractional CFOs: What They Do, Why You Might Need an Interim CFO Instead

The chief financial officer is crucial role. But not all businesses can afford – or are ready – for one.

One alternative to committing to a full-time (and expensive) C-suite financial executive is a fractional CFO.

“The biggest role of a fractional CFO is going to be high-level overview. The business is typically not going to be big enough to really justify a full-time CFO,” BluWave Head of Finance Justin Scott says. “But you do need somebody to validate the financial statements and make sure that your cash flow’s in line. Things that the controller or even a super-controller may miss.”

Let’s look at this part-time position in more detail, and explore whether a full-time temporary CFO – an interim – makes more sense.

Serious young economist in eyeglasses and formalwear looking through financial papers by workplace

What is a Fractional CFO?

A fractional CFO provides high-level financial oversight for businesses that might not be able to justify a full-time CFO.

“The biggest role of a fractional CFO is going to be a high-level overview. You just need that extra set of eyes,” Scott says. “It’s more of a validation role.”

The “fractional” part of the title indicates that the person in this role is working a “fraction” of what would normally be a full work week. In fact, it’s not unusual for someone to serve as a fractional CFO for three or more businesses simultaneously.

A fractional CFO is a great option to help secure funding, and then establish the ongoing reporting process and line of communication with the funding source.

“If you use a fractional CFO because you want to establish a line of credit, that line of credit is going to have regular monthly reporting that has to be provided and you may not want your controller working on it,” Scott says.

While there are other use cases, these are among the more common ones.

How Many Hours Does a Fractional CFO Work?

This will vary, but again, by definition the role is a fraction of full-time.

That could mean as little as 5 hours per month, or as much 10-plus hours per week, which is why people in this role often support multiple businesses at once.

There are, of course, both positives and negatives to having someone work for such a limited amount of time.

Benefits and Drawbacks


1. Cost-Effective

Hiring a fractional CFO is more budget-friendly than bringing on a full-time executive.

Instead of paying a salary plus benefits, you can budget for a set amount of hours each week or month.

Even someone who charges $250 per hour, for example, would only cost $2,500 in a 10-hour month – far below the cost of a full-time chief financial officer.

“I think the larger use case is they just don’t have a need for a full-time one,” Scott says. “They probably have a controller or a super-controller in place that gets them almost everything that they need, and they just want an extra set of eyes for peace of mind. The expense is definitely going to be your primary driver.”

2. Flexibility

A fractional CFO is usually brought in as a specialist in one particular area of the finance function. In fact, CEOs could leverage multiple fractional CFOs at the same time, each focusing on different areas.

Since a part-time hire works so few hours per company, they typically have more flexibility, too.

3. Expertise on Demand

For specific tasks in advanced functionalities, a fractional CFO can be invaluable.

One person can be brought in, laser-focused on a project, and only cost the company the amount of time needed to complete it.

4. Mentoring and Coaching

Whether the person running a company’s finances full-time is an ambitious controller or a green CFO, bringing in a fractional CFO to cover their weaknesses can benefit both the company as well as the permanent hire.

The fractional CFO can not only ensure that the full-time person’s blind spots aren’t a liability, but they can train them along the way so that they’re able to do it on their own in the future.


1. Limited Business Insight

Since a fractional CFO is not fully engaged, they might lack a deep understanding of the company’s needs.

“I use myself as the example here. There’s a lot of things that I catch or help plan for because I’m intimately involved in every step of the business,” Scott says. “If I didn’t understand the complexities of what BluWave does, it would be very easy to give a vanilla, out-of-the-box opinion on something and then it blow up in our face.”

2. Less Commitment

Fractional CFOs might not feel as invested in the team and organization they’re supporting if they’re only involved a few hours a week.

“There’s no long-term commitment,” Scott says.

This means that if things start to go south, they’re not going to feel the pain as much and therefore might not be as motivated as someone whose career is on the line.

3. Lack of Focus

As mentioned, fractional CFOs are likely to be working for multiple companies at the same time.

Depending on the urgency of projects from one situation to the next, the fractional CFO may not be as locked in on your company’s needs as they would be otherwise, despite their best efforts.

4. Risk of Losing Them

Some finance experts are content to keep their hands in multiple pots. Others, however, would be happy to jump to a full-time position if the right opportunity presented itself.

Instead of receiving notice about their departure weeks in advance, they may leave you high and dry for a business that’s willing to pay them more.

“That can almost be even bigger risk because fractional CFO by nature already has less understanding of your business, and now they also have less commitment,” Scott says.

Perhaps your business can’t justify a permanent CFO – or you’re going through a leadership transition or preparing for sale – but you still need the full-time commitment of a finance executive.

An interim chief financial officer, then, may be the perfect solution to strike that balance.

Fractional CFO vs. Interim CFO

An interim CFO includes all the pros of a fractional CFO, but practically none of the cons.

That’s not to say that there aren’t also drawbacks of an interim vs. a permanent CFO, but they tend to be a much more impactful solution than someone who only engages with your business for a few hours per month.

An interim CFO is typically more engaged, provides a deeper understanding and is committed full-time.

This deeper involvement brings with it process improvements, better cash flow management and strategic partnership benefits to CEOs, Scott says.

“The interim CFO is going to be more of a strategic partner.”

Why You Might Hire an Interim CFO Instead

Scott says portfolio companies and private and public companies that are ready to add a full-time CFO for the first time are well-positioned to seek an interim.

Here are some reasons why:

1. Commitment

Interim CFOs offer a higher level of dedication compared to their fractional counterparts.

“Now all of a sudden, this is their game. It’s their full-time focus, so they’re going to be digging through everything,” Scott says. “You’re going to get process improvements. You’re going to get better cash flow. You’re going to get all of the things that a full-time CFO brings to the table.”

2. Strategic Partnership

CEOs can expect more from an interim CFO than a fractional solution.

“They’re more engaged with business,” Scott says. “They have a deeper understanding of the business. They’re just going to get more out of the relationship.”

READ MORE: Interim CFO for a Financial Crisis

3. Cost-Effective in the Long Run

While the initial cost might be higher, the benefit an interim CFO brings in terms of expertise and commitment can significantly outweigh the expenses.

“The interim CFO is going to be more of a value-add,” Scott says.

Their billable hours can also be capped, and they typically don’t take benefits like health or 401ks.

Whether you seek a fractional, interim or full-time CFO, the Business Builders’ Network is loaded with private equity-grade options for all company types and industries.

The resources BluWave provides have been vetted by multiple PE firms before joining its invite-only network. It’s no surprise, then, that interim CFOs are consistently among the most requested connections we make.

When you’re ready to meet your next chief financial officer, our research and operations team will provide a short list of industry-specific candidates within a single business day. Set up a scoping call to get started today.

“It’s a big step to go from a fractional CFO to a full-time role,” Scott says, “but the benefits are undeniable.”

Financial Integration Support for Chemical Manufacturer

Service Area: Financial Operations

Client Type: Lower-Middle Market Private Equity Firm for Portfolio Company

Service Provider Type: Financial Integration Consultant

Industry: Chemical Manufacturing

The Need
Financial Integration for Add-On Acquisitions

A chemical manufacturer operating in the specialty treatment chemicals industry sought assistance with financial integration for their add-on acquisitions. With a focus on bridging the gap in financial onboarding and consolidating reporting packages, the client needed a specialized team to provide hands-on support and help streamline their financial processes.

The Challenge
Improving Financial Systems and Reporting

The client faced challenges in their financial systems and reporting due to the use of QuickBooks and the need for scalable solutions. With add-on acquisitions and plans for growth, they required an evaluation of their current systems and the implementation of appropriate ERP and CRM systems, along with adequate security, governance and controls.

How BluWave Helped
Connecting for Accelerated Growth

BluWave connected the client with a specialized financial integration consultant that provided on-the-ground support in putting together reporting packages, consolidating financials and assisting with financial onboarding. This person was able to hit the ground running and better prepare the portco for its rollup strategy.

The Result
A Solid Foundation for Expansion

Through the assistance of the financial integration consultant, the chemical manufacturer successfully improved their systems and reporting capabilities. This set them up to move into their buy-and-build phase and begin making acquisitions. The financial consultant stayed on for some of the initial acquisitions, buying the company time to select a perfect-fit CFO.

We are grateful to be able to partner with the new team we acquired and look forward to helping them further accelerate growth.

-Portco VP of Operations

How BluWave Enabled Massive Turnaround of Family-Held Business

Service Area: Interim Executives (CFO and COO)

Client Type: Family-Owned Business

Service Provider Type: Specialized Interim Executives

Industry: Industrial Distribution and Services

The Need
Interim CFO, COO Team for Turnaround

A multi-generation family-owned business faced significant challenges due to declining financial performance and market dynamics. The company also suffered a cyberattack that exposed weaknesses in its IT infrastructure. Recognizing the need for help, ownership sought external expertise to guide them through a comprehensive turnaround.

The Challenge
Revitalizing Profitability, Building Value Creation Foundation

The business grappled with challenges related to its profitability and internal capacity. The cyberattack highlighted the urgency of implementing an effective IT infrastructure and strengthening the leadership team. An outside advisory board, hired by the family, immediately recommended that a multifunctional team with interim CFO and COO turnaround skills was crucial. The objective was to streamline operations, reduce costs and create a sustainable foundation for renewed growth in order to rebuild value for the family and company stakeholders. Trusted advisors introduced the family to BluWave.

How BluWave Helped
Proven Executive Duo a Perfect Match

BluWave sprung into action, first taking time to understand the unique situation and the factors needed for success. BluWave then swiftly matched the family business with a highly experienced interim CFO and COO duo from the BluWave Network who understood the complexities of the company’s industrial markets and possessed a background in turnaround and operational performance improvement. Because of the ready-to-go nature of the PE-grade, pre-vetted Business Builders’ Network, BluWave was able to introduce the perfect fit executives to the company’s family ownership within a single business day.

The Result
Accelerated Profitability, High-Valuation Sale

The transformative efforts led by the interim CFO and COO turnaround team resulted in significant improvements in profitability and operational efficiency. The company quickly took action to stabilize and reinvigorate revenue and optimize human capital, which increased EBITDA from approximately breakeven to more than $10 million in less than 18 months. The cultural shift toward performance and accountability empowered the employee base, enabling them to rise to the challenge and drive positive change throughout the organization. The family was then sold the business to a top private equity firm at a nine-figure valuation.

The collaborative partnership between the family, the interim CFO and COO combo and BluWave facilitated a comprehensive turnaround, leading to increased profitability, operational efficiency and a transformed organizational culture. The company continues to thrive under new leadership, supported by the foundation laid during the turnaround engagement. In fact, the current full-time CFO and the former turnaround interim CFO connected by BluWave keep in touch to this day.

There had to be a tremendous amount of change within the leadership team because we were driving a culture of change toward performance and profitability. They were invigorated by the accountability they saw and the opportunity, and they rose to that challenge.

-Turnaround Interim CFO

Accounting Specialist in a Hurry for a PortCo

Service Area: Accounting Services: Commercial Diligence

Client Type: Large Cap PE Firm

Service Provider Type: Accounting Specialist Firm

Industry: Financial Consulting

The Need
Commercial Diligence: Accounting Services

A large-cap private equity firm was exploring an opportunity in the Accounting Services space and needed recommendations for a market study provider and a river guide who were deeply familiar with the industry.

The Challenge
Niche Need on a Timeline

The client required a market study to gain insights into the Accounting Services industry and understand factors such as reputation, decision-making processes and key selection criteria. Additionally, they needed a river guide who could provide expertise in areas like tech enablement, broader strategy and growth companies, without a strong emphasis on CPA background. And they needed it all as soon as possible.

How BluWave Helped
Exact-Fit Accounting Specialist

BluWave promptly presented the client with multiple industry-specific resources within a short timeframe. The client engaged the recommended service provider, an accounting specialist firm, which demonstrated extensive knowledge of the space. The service provider worked closely with the client to define the scope of the project and accommodated all requests.

The Result
‘Fantastic’ Service Provider

The market study delivered valuable insights into reputation, decision-making processes, and selection criteria within the Accounting Services industry. With the expertise and knowledge of the chosen service provider, the client gained a comprehensive understanding of the industry landscape.

“The service provider is fantastic. They are extremely knowledgeable about the space and were willing and able to answer our questions throughout. Responsive, thoughtful, thorough. I would absolutely work with them again.”

-PE Firm Vice President

Effective B2B Debt Collection Strategies for Improved Cash Flow

Efficient B2B debt collection practices are essential for maintaining a healthy cash flow and ensuring the growth of a business. In today’s competitive market, many organizations offer generous terms on accounts payable to win over customers.

This approach, however, may not always be sustainable, especially given changing trends and future concerns.

Let’s talk about the importance of B2B debt collection strategies and how partnering with a specialized consultant can lead to improved cash flow and business growth.

READ MORE: Why Cash Flow is Vital to Businesses

B2B Collection Challenges

Offering generous terms to customers may seem like a good idea initially, but it can lead to a significant increase in outstanding debts and negatively impact cash flow. As the business landscape evolves, there’s a growing need to develop more effective B2B debt recovery strategies to keep the company financially stable.

Some of the key challenges include:

Lack of Communication

One of the biggest challenges in B2B debt collection is a lack of communication between the business (creditor) and the client (debtor). This can be due to a number of factors, such as the debtor’s unwillingness to cooperate or the creditor’s failure to follow up promptly.

Complex Legal Issues

B2B debt collection can also be complicated by complex legal issues. For example, if the debtor is located in a different state or country, the creditor may need to follow different laws and regulations.

Time-Consuming and Expensive

B2B debt collection can be a time-consuming and expensive process. This is because it often requires multiple phone calls, emails and letters. In some cases, the creditor may also need to hire a collection agency or file a lawsuit.

READ MORE: Why Hire an Interim CFO?

Despite these challenges, there are a number of steps creditors can take to improve their chances of collecting unpaid debts.

Establishing Clear Payment Terms

One of the best ways to prevent B2B debt collection problems is to establish clear payment terms with customers. This should include the due date, any late fees and the process for disputing charges.

Following Up Promptly

If a customer misses a payment, it’s important to follow up promptly. This shows the customer that you’re serious about collecting the debt and that you’re not going to let it go unpaid.

Being Professional and Respectful

It’s important to be professional and respectful when dealing with customers who owe money. This means avoiding threats or harassment.

Using a Collection Agency

If you’ve tried everything else and you’re still not able to collect the debt, you may want to consider hiring a collection agency. They are trained experts who can help you recover your money  more quickly and efficiently.

Benefits of Hiring a B2B Debt Collection Agency

Working with a B2B debt collection agency can provide numerous benefits. These agencies bring expertise in B2B debt recovery, helping your business develop customized strategies and solutions tailored to your unique needs. Additionally, they have access to advanced tools and technology that can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your debt collection efforts.

READ MORE: Interim CFO for a Financial Crisis

Here are some more specifics around why using an agency is a good idea:

Increased Recovery Rates

Debt collection agencies have a proven track record of recovering debts. In fact, studies have shown that businesses that hire a collection agency are more likely to recover their debts than those that try to collect the debts themselves.

Reduced Stress and Workload

By hiring an expert third party, you can free up your time and resources to focus on other aspects of your business.

Improved Cash Flow

When you recover unpaid debts, you can improve your cash flow and avoid financial problems.

Protection from Legal Liability

Debt collection agencies are familiar with the laws and regulations governing debt collection. This means that you can be confident that they will collect your debts in a legal and ethical manner.

Peace of Mind

Knowing that your debts are in the hands of a professional collection agency can give you peace of mind. You can focus on running your business, knowing that your debts are being handled by a qualified and experienced team.

Steps to Develop an Effective B2B Debt Collection Strategy

Analyzing Current Collection Efforts (1-2 weeks)

The first step in developing a new B2B debt collection strategy is to thoroughly analyze your current efforts. This analysis should identify areas of improvement and evaluate existing customer payment terms. Understanding where you stand in terms of your current collection practices will provide a solid foundation for developing a more effective approach.

Designing a New Collection Strategy (3-4 weeks)

Once you have a clear understanding of your current collection efforts, it’s time to design a new strategy. This process should include setting clear credit policies and terms, implementing a proactive approach to collections and utilizing technology and automation.

Setting clear credit policies and terms can help prevent potential issues down the line. For example, establishing a standard credit application process and conducting credit checks on potential customers can minimize the risk of late payments and defaults. Additionally, offering early payment incentives and enforcing late payment penalties can encourage customers to pay their invoices on time.

A proactive approach to B2B collections means staying on top of outstanding debts and addressing them before they become problematic. This can involve sending regular payment reminders, maintaining open communication with customers, and monitoring their payment history to identify potential risks.

Utilizing technology and automation in your B2B debt collection efforts can streamline the process and save valuable time and resources. For example, using an invoicing software that automatically sends reminders and tracks payments can help you stay organized and improve your overall collection efforts.

Considering Implementation Support

Implementing a new B2B debt collection strategy may require training and support to ensure a smooth integration with your existing processes. A B2B debt collection agency can help with this, allowing your team adapt to the new strategy and ensure its success.

READ MORE: Hire Expert Pricing Strategy Consultants

Tips for Choosing the Right Agency

Industry Specialization and Experience

When choosing a B2B debt collection agency, look for one that specializes in your industry and has a proven track record of success. This will ensure that they understand the unique challenges you face and can provide tailored solutions to address your specific needs.

Transparent Pricing and Fees

A reputable B2B debt collection agency should be transparent about their pricing and fees. Make sure you understand their fee structure and any additional costs that may be involved before signing a contract.

Proven Track Record and Client Testimonials

Before deciding on a B2B debt collection agency, research their track record and client testimonials. Positive feedback from other businesses in your industry can provide valuable insight into the agency’s effectiveness and reliability.

The invite-only BluWave-grade network of service providers only admits resources that have successfully completed multiple positive projects with positive reviews from PE firms, portfolio companies and private and public companies.

Investing in a robust B2B debt collection strategy is essential for the financial health and growth of your business. BluWave’s dedicated Research and Operations team can help you connect with an expert third-party resource to fine-tune your approach to B2B collections, addressing your unique needs and challenges.

Taking the time to analyze your current efforts, design a new strategy and consider implementation support can set your business on the path to improved cash flow and financial stability. BluWave’s R&O team already knows a tailor B2B debt collection consultant with industry specialization, transparent pricing and a proven track record for your exact situation.

Don’t let uncollected debts hold your business back. Begin your journey towards a more effective B2B debt collection strategy today with the help of BluWave’s expert resources, and experience the difference that a PE-grade approach can make for your business.

Fiber Optics Company Building Out Executive Team for New Division

Service Area: Human Capital: Recruiters

Client Type: Portfolio Company

Service Provider Type: Telecommunications-Focused Recruitment Firm

Industry: Telecommunications: Wireless Internet, Fiber Optics

Recruiters in Telecommunications Industry

The CFO of a telecommunications company that specializes in wireless internet needed help building out its executive team for a new division of its business.

Specialized executive search firm needed

Looking to better serve its customers, the CFO sought an executive search firm that specialized in telecom and fiber. They saw a big growth opportunity in their market and wanted to move fast to build out its leadership team.

How BluWave Helped
The Business Builders’ Network

After a scoping call with our research and operations team, we presented multiple executive search firms that were experienced serving fiber optics companies.

Specialized firm engaged to build out executive team

One of our most-used service providers was selected to kick off the process of building out the executive team. They signed on for a three-month engagement to help the telecommunications company hit the ground running with its new telecom ambitions.