Your Balance Sheet Levers

by Karen Berman and Joe Knight, with John Case

Most companies use their cash to finance customers’ purchase of products or services. That’s the “accounts receivable” line on the balance sheet—the amount of money customers owe at a given point in time, based on the value of what they have purchased before that date.

The key ratio that measures accounts receivable is days sales outstanding, or DSO—that is, the average number of days it takes to collect on these receivables. The longer a company’s DSO, the more working capital is required to run the business. Customers have more of its cash in the form of products or services not yet paid for, so that cash isn’t available to buy inventory, deliver more services, and so ...

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