5 Tips to Help with Financial Planning
Financial planning means putting your incomes and expenses on a scale to achieve monetary equilibrium or upward mobility on your income levels. Your plan should capture how your current and future risks are covered to protect you from economic uncertainties and losses. Planning helps you to sustain yourself and your family, and so it should be taken as a priority and not a choice. Another aspect of your plan that you should prioritize is your goals either in short, medium and long term and their budgetary requirements.
1. Understand Your Money Mindset
The first tip to having a productive financial plan is to understand your money mindset. If what matters most to you is the present then you fall in the survivor’s list. Survivors also include people who tend to have the urge to satisfy their current desires such as a pricey pair of shoes or a sumptuous snack with little or no thought of the financial implications of their decisions on tomorrow.
Achievers are action oriented and are classified as precious. They have investments, shares and bank deposits. Even if they lose their jobs, they still have something they can bounce back on. However, these actions do not portray financial stability because such people lack intention.
The wealthy people are the strategists. They are long term viewers. All their actions fulfill a purpose, and they seek development in all aspects of their life. They don’t just pump in money in endless investments but instead have fewer investments that are sustainable and profitable but take time to actualize.
Once you understand which money mindset best describes you, you will be able to draft a financial plan that works for you and your needs.
2. Formulate a Financial Plan
No engineer is complete without his measuring tape just as no electrician is complete without his tester. When you draft your plan on paper, you bring your ideas and thoughts to life. A blueprint of your plan enables you to have a reference for your progress. Start by stating your short, middle and long-term goals and then align them with their expenditure and projected profits. You also need to put into consideration your assets and liabilities and how you can maximize and minimize them respectively to achieve your goals.
Implement your plan and then conduct a monitoring and evaluation exercise as per the set timelines and make adjustments where necessary.
The golden rule here is to avoid spending before you have dealt with small/personal debts and bills. Saving does not require you to be earning a lump sum salary. Starting small especially when you are young with minimal responsibilities helps you have enough for investments in the future. Analyze your spending and cut on expenses that are not necessary. It is also advisable to plan for your retirement, even though you might not think about it when you’re young. The earlier you start saving, the more financially stable you will be once you’ve stopped working.
4. Invest in Yourself
The most valuable investment you can make is in yourself. It does not necessarily mean to completely lose you in a classroom trying to amass a good number of degrees. It captures your entire being. Learn to exercise more, travel to different places in the world or your country or attend inspiring and informative talks. When your life gets sucked into these various facets, you get exposed to a lot of things that will eventually guide you in making your financial plan. It is also crucial to build your career and increase your earning potential.
5. Seek Financial Advice
Once you have managed to grow your savings, it is advisable to seek advice from a financial planner to assist you to make sensible investment choices. A wise financial adviser will help you identify the risks involved in potential investments, and provide viable options for maximum returns while helping you achieve your financial goals in the shortest time possible. A financial adviser can also come in handy by helping you prepare a budget. You don’t have to seek financial advice from a financial planner only. You can also talk to a relative or a mentor who is good with money.
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6 steps to create your company’s financial plan
A financial plan is different from your financial statements.
Instead of looking at what’s already happened, you make projections for the coming months, forecasting income and outlays. Your projections will act as an early warning system, helping you to plan for cash flow dips, identify financing needs and pinpoint the best timing for projects.
It also gives you a tool for monitoring your finances, allowing you to gauge your progress and quickly head off trouble. Here are six steps to create your financial plan.
1. Review your strategic plan
Financial planning should start with your company’s strategic plan . You should think about what you want to accomplish at the start of a new year and ask yourself a series of questions:
- Do I need to expand?
- Do I need more equipment?
- Do I need to hire more staff?
- Do I need other new resources?
- How will my plan affect my cash flow?
- Will I need financing? If yes, how much?
Then, determine the financial impact in the next 12 months, including spending on major projects.
2. Develop financial projections
Create monthly financial projections by recording your anticipated income based on sales forecasts and anticipated expenses for labour, supplies , overhead, etc.. (Businesses with very tight cash flow may want to make weekly projections.) Now, plug in the costs for the projects you identified in the previous step.
For this job, you can use simple spreadsheet software or tools available in your accounting software . Don’t assume sales will convert to cash right away. Enter them as cash only when you expect to get paid based on prior experience.
Also prepare a projected income (profit and loss) statement and a balance sheet projection. It can be useful to include various scenarios—most likely, optimistic and pessimistic—for your projections to help you to anticipate the impacts of each one.
It may be a good idea to seek advice from your accountant when developing your financial projections. Be sure to go over the plan together, as it is you, and not your accountant, who will be seeking financing and who will be explaining the plan to your banker and investor.
3. Arrange financing
Use your financial projections to determine your financing needs. Approach your financial partners ahead of time to discuss your options. Well-prepared projections will help reassure bankers that your financial management is solid.
4. Plan for contingencies
What would you do if your finances suddenly deteriorated? It’s a good idea to have emergency sources of money before you need them. Possibilities include maintaining a cash reserve or keeping lots of room on your line of credit.
Through the year, compare actual results with your projections to see if you’re on target or need to adjust. Monitoring helps you spot financial problems before they get out of hand.
6. Get help
If you lack expertise, consider hiring an expert to help you put together your financial plan.
Download our free financial plan template to start building your financial plan now.
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4 Steps to Creating a Financial Plan for Your Small Business
When it comes to long-term business success, preparation is the name of the game. And the key to that preparation is a solid financial plan. It helps you pitch investors, anticipate growth and weather cash flow shortages. To get started, you need to learn some of the key elements to financial planning.
What is a Financial Plan?
A financial plan helps determine if an idea is sustainable, and then keeps you on track to financial health as your business matures. It’s an integral part to an overall business plan and is made up of three financial statements—cash flow statement, income statement and balance sheet. In your plan, each of these will include a brief explanation or analysis.
- A financial plan helps you know where your business stands and lets you make better informed decisions about resource allocation.
- A financial plan has three major components: a cash flow projection , income statement and balance sheet.
- Your financial plan answers essential questions to set and track progress toward goals.
- Using financial management software gives you the tools to make strategic decisions efficiently.
Why is a Financial Plan Important to Your Small Business?
A well-put-together financial plan can help you achieve greater confidence in your business while generating a better understanding of how to allocate resources. It shows your business is committed to spending wisely and its ability to meet financial obligations. A financial plan helps you determine if choices will impact revenue and which occasions call for dipping into reserve funds.
It’s also an important tool when asking investors to consider your business. Your financial plan shows how your organization manages expenses and generates revenue. It shows where your business stands and how much it needs from sales and investors to meet important financial benchmarks.
Components of a Small Business Financial Plan
Whether you’re modifying your plan or starting from scratch, a financial plan should include:
Income statement: This shows how your business experienced profit or loss over a specific period—usually over three months. Also known as a profit-and-loss statement (P&L) or pro forma income statement, it lists the following:
- Cost of sale or cost of goods (how much does it costs to produce your goods or services?)
- Operating expenses like rent and utilities
- Revenue streams, usually in the form of sales
- Amount of total net profit or loss, also known as a gross margin
Balance sheet: Rather than looking backward or peering into the future, the balance sheet helps you see where you stand right now. What do you own and what do you owe? To figure it out, you’ll need to consider the following:
- Assets: How much cash, goods and resources do you have available?
- Liabilities: What do you owe to suppliers, personnel, landlords, creditors, etc.?
Shareholder equity (the amount of money generated by your business): Use this formula to calculate it:
Shareholder Equity = Assets – Liability
Now that you have these three items, you’re ready to create your balance sheet. And just as the name implies, when complete, you’ll want this to balance out to zero. On one side, list your assets, such as cash on hand. And on the other side list your liabilities and equity (or how much money is generated by the business). The balance sheet is used along the other financial statements in order to calculate business financial ratios, discussed further below.
Why have a balance sheet? It can provide insight into your business and show important measures like how much cash you have, what your obligations are and what kind of profit you’re making all at a glance.
Personnel plan: You need the right people to meet goals and retain a healthy cash flow. A personnel plan looks at existing positions and helps you see when it’s time to bring on more team members, and whether they should be full-time, part-time, or work on a contractual basis. It looks at compensations levels, including benefits, and forecasts those costs. By looking at growth and costs you can see if the potential benefits that come with a new employee justify the expense.
Business ratios: Sometimes you need to look at more than just the big picture. You need to drill down to specific aspects of your business and keep an eye on how individual areas are doing. Business ratios are a way to see things like your net profit margin, return on equity, accounts payable turnover, assets to sales, working capital and total debt to total assets. Numbers used to calculate these ratios come from your P&L statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement and are often used to help request funding from a bank or investors.
Sales forecast: How much will you sell in a specific period? A sales forecast needs to be an ongoing part of any planning process since it helps predict cash flow and the organization’s overall health. A forecast needs to be consistent with the sales number within your P&L statement. Organizing and segmenting your sales forecast will depend on how thoroughly you want to track sales and the business you have. For example, if you own a hotel and giftshop, you may want to track separately sales from guests staying the night and sales from the shop.
Cash flow projection: Perhaps one of the most critical aspects of your financial plan is your cash flow statement . Your business runs on cash. Understanding how much cash is coming in and when to expect it shows the difference between your profit and cash position. It should display how much cash you have now, where it’s going, where it will come from and a schedule for each activity.
Income projections: How much money will your company make in a given period, usually a year. Take that and then subtract the anticipated expenses and you’ll have the income projections . In some cases, these are rolled into profit and loss statements.
Assets and liabilities: Both of these elements are part of your balance sheet. Assets are what your company owns, including current and long-term assets. Current assets can be converted into cash within a year. Think of things such as stocks, inventory and accounts receivable. Long-term assets are tangible or fixed assets designed for long-term use like furniture, fixtures, buildings, machinery and vehicles.
Liabilities are business obligations that are divided into current and long-term categories. Examples of current liabilities in a financial plan are accrued payroll, taxes payable, short-term loans and other obligations due within a year. Long-term liabilities include shareholder loans or bank debt that matures more than a year later.
Break-even analysis: Your break-even point—how much you need to sell to cover all your expenses—will guide your sales revenue and volume goals. Start by calculating your contribution margin by subtracting the costs of a good or service from the amount you pay. In the case of a bicycle store, the sale price of a new bike minus what you paid for it and the salary of your bike salesperson, your rent, etc. By understanding your fixed costs, you can then begin to understand how much you’ll need to markup goods and services and what sales and revenue goals to set in order to stay afloat or turn a profit.
Create a strategic plan: Starting with a strategic plan helps you think about what you want your company to accomplish. Before looking at the numbers, think about what you’ll need to achieve these goals. Will you need to buy more equipment or hire more staff? Is there a chance of new goals affecting your cash flow? What other resources will you need?
Determine the impact on your company’s finances and create a list of existing expenses and assets to help with your next steps.
Create financial projections: This should be based on anticipated expenses and sales forecasts . Look at your goals and plug in the costs needed to achieve them. Include different scenarios. Create a range that is optimistic, pessimistic and most likely to happen, so you can anticipate the impact each one will have. If you’re working with an accountant, go over the plan together to understand how to explain it when seeking funding from investors and lenders.
Plan for contingencies: Look at your cash flow statement and assets, and create a plan for when there’s no money coming in or your business has taken an unexpected turn. Consider having cash reserves or a substantial line of credit if you need cash fast. You may also need to plot ways to sell off assets to help break even.
Monitor and compare goals: Look at the actual results in your cash flow statement, income projections and even business ratios as necessary throughout the year to see if you need to modify your plan or if you’re right on target. Regularly checking in helps you spot potential problems before they get worse.
Three Questions Your Financial Plan Should Answer
Once you’ve created your plan, you should have answers to the following questions:
- How will your business make money?
- What does your business need to get off of the ground?
- What is the operating budget ?
Financial plans that can’t answer these questions need more tweaking. Otherwise, you risk starting a new venture without a clear path and leave behind valuable insight.
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Whether you’re looking to secure outside funding or just monitor your business growth, understanding and creating a financial plan is crucial. Once you have an overview of your business’ finances, you can make strategic decisions to ensure its longevity.
Small Business Financial Management: Tips, Importance and Challenges
It is remarkably difficult to start a small business. Only about half stay open for five years, and only a third make it to the 10-year mark. That’s why it’s vital to make every effort to succeed. And one of the most fundamental skills and tools for any small business owner is sound financial management.
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How to Write a Financial Plan for Your Small Business — 2022 Guide
Building a financial plan can be the most intimidating part of writing your business plan . It’s also one of the most vital. Businesses that have a full financial plan in place more prepared to pitch to investors, receive funding, and achieve long-term success.
Thankfully, you don’t need an accounting degree to successfully put one together. All you need to know is the key elements and what goes into them. Read on for the six components that need to go into your financial plan and successfully launch your business.
What is a financial plan?
A financial plan is simply an overview of your current business financials and projections for growth. Think of any documents that represent your current monetary situation as a snapshot of the health of your business and the projections being your future expectations.
Why is a financial plan important for your business?
As said before, the financial plan is a snapshot of the current state of your business. The projections, inform your short and long-term financial goals and gives you a starting point for developing a strategy.
It helps you, as a business owner, set realistic expectations regarding the success of your business. You’re less likely to be surprised by your current financial state and more prepared to manage a crisis or incredible growth, simply because you know your financials inside and out.
And aside from helping you better manage your business, a thorough financial plan also makes you more attractive to investors. It makes you less of a risk and shows that you have a firm plan and track record in place to grow your business.
Components of a successful financial plan
All business plans, whether you’re just starting a business or building an expansion plan for an existing business, should include the following:
- Profit and loss statement
- Cash flow statement
- Balance sheet
- Sales forecast
- Personnel plan
- Business ratios and break-even analysis
Even if you’re in the very beginning stages, these financial statements can still work for you.
How to write a financial plan for your small business
The good news is that they don’t have to be difficult to create or hard to understand. With just a few educated guesses about how much you might sell and what your expenses will be, you’ll be well on your way to creating a complete financial plan.
1. Profit and loss statement
This is a financial statement that goes by a few different names—profit and loss statement, income statement, pro forma income statement, P&L (short for “profit and loss”)— and is essentially an explanation of how your business made a profit (or incur a loss) over a certain period of time.
It’s a table that lists all of your revenue streams and all of your expenses—typically over a three-month period—and lists at the very bottom the total amount of net profit or loss.
There are different formats for profit and loss statements, depending on the type of business you’re in and the structure of your business (nonprofit, LLC, C-Corp, etc.).
What to include in your profit and loss statement
- Your revenue (also called sales)
- Your “cost of sale” or “cost of goods sold” (COGS)—keep in mind, some types of companies, such as a services firm, may not have COGS
- Your gross margin, which is your revenue less your COGS
These three components (revenue, COGS, and gross margin) are the backbone of your business model — i.e., how you make money.
You’ll also list your operating expenses, which are the expenses associated with running your business that isn’t directly associated with making a sale. They’re the fixed expenses that don’t fluctuate depending on the strength or weakness of your revenue in a given month—think rent, utilities, and insurance.
How to find operating income
To find your operating income with the P&L statement you’ll take the gross margin less your operating expenses:
Gross Margin – Operating Expenses = Operating Income
Depending on how you classify some of your expenses, your operating income will typically be equivalent to your “earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization” (EBITDA). This is basically, how much money you made in profit before you take your accounting and tax obligations into consideration. It may also be called your “profit before interest and taxes,” gross profit, and “contribution to overhead”—many names, but they all refer to the same number.
How to find net income
Your so-called “bottom line”—officially, your net income, which is found at the very end (or, bottom line) of your profit and loss statement—is your EBITDA less the “ITDA.” Just subtract your expenses for interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization from your EBITDA, and you have your net income:
Operating Income – Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization Expenses = Net Income
For further reading on profit and loss statements (a.k.a., income statements), including an example of what a profit and loss statement actually looks like, check out “ How to Read and Analyze an Income Statement.” And if you want to start building your own, download our free Profit and Loss Statement Template .
2. Cash flow statement
Your cash flow statement is just as important as your profit and loss statement. Businesses run on cash —there are no two ways around it. A cash flow statement is an explanation of how much cash your business brought in, how much cash it paid out, and what its ending cash balance was, typically per-month.
Without a thorough understanding of how much cash you have, where your cash is coming from, where it’s going, and on what schedule, you’re going to have a hard time running a healthy business . And without the cash flow statement, which lays that information out neatly for lenders and investors, you’re not going to be able to raise funds.
The cash flow statement helps you understand the difference between what your profit and loss statement reports as income—your profit—and what your actual cash position is.
It is possible to be extremely profitable and still not have enough cash to pay your expenses and keep your business afloat. It is also possible to be unprofitable but still have enough cash on hand to keep the doors open for several months and buy yourself time to turn things around —that’s why this financial statement is so important to understand.
Cash versus accrual accounting
There are two methods of accounting—the cash method and the accrual method.
The accrual method means that you account for your sales and expenses at the same time—if you got a big preorder for a new product, for example, you’d wait to account for all of your preorder sales revenue until you’d actually started manufacturing and delivering the product. Matching revenue with the related expenses is what’s referred to as “the matching principle,” and is the basis of accrual accounting.
The cash method means that you just account for your sales and expenses as they happen, without worrying about matching up the expenses that are related to a particular sale or vice versa.
If you use the cash method, your cash flow statement isn’t going to be very different from what you see in your profit and loss statement. That might seem like it makes things simpler, but I actually advise against it.
I think that the accrual method of accounting gives you the best sense of how your business operates and that you should consider switching to it if you aren’t using it already.
Why you should use accrual accounting for cash flow
For the best sense of how your business operates, you should consider switching to accrual accounting if you aren’t using it already.
Here’s why: Let’s say you operate a summer camp business. You might receive payment from a camper in March, several months before camp actually starts in July—using the accrual method, you wouldn’t recognize the revenue until you’ve performed the service, so both the revenue and the expenses for the camp would be accounted for in the month of July.
With the cash method, you would have recognized the revenue back in March, but all of the expenses in July, which would have made it look like you were profitable in all of the months leading up to the camp, but unprofitable during the month that camp actually took place.
Cash accounting can get a little unwieldy when it comes time to evaluate how profitable an event or product was, and can make it harder to really understand the ins and outs of your business operations. For the best look at how your business works, accrual accounting is the way to go.
3. Balance sheet
Your balance sheet is a snapshot of your business’s financial position—at a particular moment in time, how are you doing? How much cash do you have in the bank, how much do your customers owe you, and how much do you owe your vendors?
What to include in your balance sheet
- Assets: Your accounts receivable, money in the bank, inventory, etc.
- Liabilities: Your accounts payable, credit card balances, loan repayments, etc.
- Equity: For most small businesses, this is just the owner’s equity, but it could include investors’ shares, retained earnings, stock proceeds, etc.
It’s called a balance sheet because it’s an equation that needs to balance out:
Assets = Liabilities + Equity
The total of your liabilities plus your total equity always equals the total of your assets.
At the end of the accounting year, your total profit or loss adds to or subtracts from your retained earnings (a component of your equity). That makes your retained earnings your business’s cumulative profit and loss since the business’s inception.
However, if you are a sole proprietor or other pass-through tax entity, “retained earnings” doesn’t really apply to you—your retained earnings will always equal zero, as all profits and losses are passed through to the owners and not rolled over or retained like they are in a corporation.
If you’d like more help creating your balance sheet, check out our free downloadable Balance Sheet Template .
4. Sales forecast
The sales forecast is exactly what it sounds like: your projections, or forecast, of what you think you will sell in a given period. Your sales forecast is an incredibly important part of your business plan, especially when lenders or investors are involved, and should be an ongoing part of your business planning process.
Your sales forecast should be an ongoing part of your business planning process.
You should create a forecast that is consistent with the sales number you use in your profit and loss statement. In fact, in our business planning software, LivePlan , the sales forecast auto-fills the profit and loss statement.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of sales forecast—every business will have different needs. How you segment and organize your forecast depends on what kind of business you have and how thoroughly you want to track your sales.
Generally, you’ll want to break down your sales forecast into segments that are helpful to you for planning and marketing purposes.
If you own a restaurant, for example, you’ll want to separate your forecasts for dinner and lunch sales. But a gym owner may find it helpful to differentiate between the membership types. If you want to get really specific, you might even break your forecast down by product, with a separate line for every product you sell.
Along with each segment of forecasted sales, you’ll want to include that segment’s “cost of goods sold” (COGS). The difference between your forecasted revenue and your forecasted COGS is your forecasted gross margin.
5. Personnel plan
Think of the personnel plan as a justification of each team member’s necessity to the business.
The overall importance of the personnel plan depends largely on the type of business you have. If you are a sole proprietor with no employees, this might not be that important and could be summarized in a sentence of two. But if you are a larger business with high labor costs, you should spend the time necessary to figure out how your personnel affects your business.
If you opt to create a full personnel plan, it should include a description of each member of your management team, and what they bring to the table in terms of training, expertise, and product or market knowledge. Think of this as a justification of each team member’s necessity to the business, and a justification of their salary (and/or equity share, if applicable). This would fall in the company overview section of your business plan.
You can also choose to use this section to list entire departments if that is a better fit for your business and the intentions you have for your business plan . There’s no rule that says you have to list only individual members of the management team.
This is also where you would list team members or departments that you’ve budgeted for but haven’t hired yet. Describe who your ideal candidate(s) is/re, and justify your budgeted salary range(s).
6. Business ratios and break-even analysis
Business ratios explained.
If you have your profit and loss statement, your cash flow statement, and your balance sheet, you have all the numbers you need to calculate the standard business ratios . These ratios aren’t necessary to include in a business plan—especially for an internal plan—but knowing some key ratios is always a good idea.
Common profitability ratios include:
- Gross margin
- Return on sales
- Return on assets
- Return on investment
Common liquidity ratios include:
- Current ratio
- Working capital
Of these, the most common ratios used by business owners and requested by bankers are probably gross margin, return on investment (ROI), and debt-to-equity.
Break-even analysis explained
Your break-even analysis is a calculation of how much you will need to sell in order to “break-even” i.e. cover all of your expenses.
In determining your break-even point, you’ll need to figure out the contribution margin of what you’re selling. In the case of a restaurant, the contribution margin will be the price of the meal less any associated costs. For example, the customer pays $50 for the meal. The food costs are $10 and the wages paid to prepare and serve the meal are $15. Your contribution margin is $25 ($50 – $10 – $15 = $25).
Using this model you can determine how high your sales revenue needs to be in order for you to break even. If your monthly fixed costs are $5,000 and you average a 50 percent contribution margin (like in our example with the restaurant), you’ll need to have sales of $10,000 in order to break even.
Make financial planning a recurring part of your business
Your financial plan might feel overwhelming when you get started, but the truth is that this section of your business plan is absolutely essential to understand.
Even if you end up outsourcing your bookkeeping and regular financial analysis to an accounting firm, you—the business owner—should be able to read and understand these documents and make decisions based on what you learn from them. Using a business dashboard tool like LivePlan can help simplify this process, so you’re not wading through spreadsheets to input and alter every single detail.
If you create and present financial statements that all work together to tell the story of your business, and if you can answer questions about where your numbers are coming from, your chances of securing funding from investors or lenders are much higher.
Additional small business financial resources
Ready to develop your own financial plan? Check out the following resources for more insights into creating an effective financial plan for your small business.
- Balance Sheet Template [Free Download]
- Profit and Loss Template [Free Download]
- How to Do a Sales Forecast
- How to Build a Profit and Loss Statement (Income Statement)
- How to Forecast Cash Flow
- Building Your Balance Sheet
- The Difference Between Cash and Profits
Trevor is the CFO of Palo Alto Software, where he is responsible for leading the company’s accounting and finance efforts.
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How to write a financial plan for your business
Steer your business on the road to success with a solid financial plan.
A financial plan gives you a snapshot of the overall health of your business. There are 3 key financial statements that make up a business financial plan. Taking the time to prepare these at the start of your business journey can pay off in the long run.
1. Cash flow statement
Sometimes called cash flow projection, this is one of the most important steps in completing your financial plan. It details your incoming and outgoing cash and helps make sure you have enough money to keep your business running.
Try this simple cash flow formula:
- Determine the period you want to focus on (e.g. the next 3 or 6 months)
- Start with your opening cash balance
- Estimate your incoming cash and expenses for the period
- Subtract the estimated expenses from your income and add it to the opening balance
How to use your cash flow statement
You can look at your cash flow statement from previous years to determine if you’ll have enough to cover your costs, like wages and rent, over the specified period. It’s important to allow for glitches like late payments when projecting your cash flow.
2. Income statement
Also known as profit and loss statement (P&L), this shows you a clear view of your income and expenses, and how these change over a period of time.
What to include in your income statement
What goes into an income statement depends on the type of business. You should at least cover these key areas:
- Cost of goods or services
- Total profit or loss (revenue minus cost of goods/services)
- Operating costs (e.g. rent)
- General expenses (e.g. marketing, advertising, depreciation)
- Operating income (total profit minus expenses)
How to use your income statement
Estimate your sales and expenses on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis to see whether you can expect to make a profit or loss for each of these periods. This will help you develop sales targets and find ways to grow your business.
3. Balance sheet
Unlike your cash flow statement which looks at the future, and your income statements which looks at the past, your balance sheet is a financial snapshot of your business in the present.
Try this simple balance sheet formula:
- In one column list all your assets (e.g. cash, inventory, buildings)
- On the other side list your liabilities (e.g. accounts payable and loans)
- Subtract your total liabilities from your total assets to determine your equity
How to use your balance sheet
Your balance sheet can help you evaluate the financial health of your business, show your profit at a glance and work out if you’ll have enough resources to run your day-to-day operations.
Take your business financial plan to the next level
To enhance your business financial plan, consider preparing a break-even analysis. This shows you the number of sales needed to cover costs – anything above this number can be counted as a profit.
The break-even point can be useful for analysing the sales, costs and pricing numbers used in your earlier forecasts and judge whether your business idea is feasible. For example, if your break-even point is years away, you may want to revisit your numbers to see if there are any opportunities to make your business more profitable.
Once it’s ready, treat your business plan as a guide to running your business. Remember that it’s a working document, so if your goals and circumstances change, update the plan. If you need help, an accountant could help assess your prospective financial position and ensure you’ve thought through all potential income and expenses.
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How to Write the Financial Section of a Business Plan
Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.
Taking Stock of Expenses
The income statement, the cash flow projection, the balance sheet.
The financial section of your business plan determines whether or not your business idea is viable and will be the focus of any investors who may be attracted to your business idea. The financial section is composed of four financial statements: the income statement, the cash flow projection, the balance sheet, and the statement of shareholders' equity. It also should include a brief explanation and analysis of these four statements.
Think of your business expenses as two cost categories: your start-up expenses and your operating expenses. All the costs of getting your business up and running should be considered start-up expenses. These may include:
- Business registration fees
- Business licensing and permits
- Starting inventory
- Rent deposits
- Down payments on a property
- Down payments on equipment
- Utility setup fees
Your own list will expand as soon as you start to itemize them.
Operating expenses are the costs of keeping your business running . Think of these as your monthly expenses. Your list of operating expenses may include:
- Salaries (including your own)
- Rent or mortgage payments
- Telecommunication expenses
- Raw materials
- Loan payments
- Office supplies
Once you have listed all of your operating expenses, the total will reflect the monthly cost of operating your business. Multiply this number by six, and you have a six-month estimate of your operating expenses. Adding this amount to your total startup expenses list, and you have a ballpark figure for your complete start-up costs.
Now you can begin to put together your financial statements for your business plan starting with the income statement.
The income statement shows your revenues, expenses, and profit for a particular period—a snapshot of your business that shows whether or not your business is profitable. Subtract expenses from your revenue to determine your profit or loss.
While established businesses normally produce an income statement each fiscal quarter or once each fiscal year, for the purposes of the business plan, an income statement should be generated monthly for the first year.
Not all of the categories in this income statement will apply to your business. Eliminate those that do not apply, and add categories where necessary to adapt this template to your business.
If you have a product-based business, the revenue section of the income statement will look different. Revenue will be called sales, and you should account for any inventory.
The cash flow projection shows how cash is expected to flow in and out of your business. It is an important tool for cash flow management because it indicates when your expenditures are too high or if you might need a short-term investment to deal with a cash flow surplus. As part of your business plan, the cash flow projection will show how much capital investment your business idea needs.
For investors, the cash flow projection shows whether your business is a good credit risk and if there is enough cash on hand to make your business a good candidate for a line of credit, a short-term loan , or a longer-term investment. You should include cash flow projections for each month over one year in the financial section of your business plan.
Do not confuse the cash flow projection with the cash flow statement. The cash flow statement shows the flow of cash in and out of your business. In other words, it describes the cash flow that has occurred in the past. The cash flow projection shows the cash that is anticipated to be generated or expended over a chosen period in the future.
There are three parts to the cash flow projection:
- Cash revenues: Enter your estimated sales figures for each month. Only enter the sales that are collectible in cash during each month you are detailing.
- Cash disbursements: Take the various expense categories from your ledger and list the cash expenditures you actually expect to pay for each month.
- Reconciliation of cash revenues to cash disbursements: This section shows an opening balance, which is the carryover from the previous month's operations. The current month's revenues are added to this balance, the current month's disbursements are subtracted, and the adjusted cash flow balance is carried over to the next month.
The balance sheet reports your business's net worth at a particular point in time. It summarizes all the financial data about your business in three categories:
- Assets : Tangible objects of financial value that are owned by the company.
- Liabilities: Debt owed to a creditor of the company.
- Equity: The net difference when the total liabilities are subtracted from the total assets.
The relationship between these elements of financial data is expressed with the equation: Assets = Liabilities + Equity .
For your business plan , you should create a pro forma balance sheet that summarizes the information in the income statement and cash flow projections. A business typically prepares a balance sheet once a year.
Once your balance sheet is complete, write a brief analysis for each of the three financial statements. The analysis should be short with highlights rather than in-depth analysis. The financial statements themselves should be placed in your business plan's appendices.
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How to Create a Financial Business Plan
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Your financial business plan is an essential component of your entire business plan. It is calculated after you have finished conducting market research; described your products, services and marketing strategy; and set your organization's operating principles in place. Any other items that pertain to your business as an expense should be defined before you set out to create your business financial plan. The goal is for you to be able to operate your business on a predefined budget, so there are no hidden or undefined costs that may threaten your business operations over a certain period of time.
Estimate your start-up costs if you are starting a new business. If you are investing in equipment to run the business, the current market value will become a part of your assets listed on your balance sheet. If you own an existing business, start-up costs will not apply; go to the next step.
Figure your balance sheet. If you are starting a new business, project your balances per month, forward to one year. If you own an existing business, gather up your balance sheets for the last three years. Website links to automated templates for the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement are available online.
Figure your income statement, also known as your P & L statement or profit and loss statement. If you are starting a new business, project your income statement forward to one year. If you own an existing business, gather up your business income statements for the last three years.
Figure your cash flow. If you are starting a new business, project your cash flow per month, forward one year. If you own an existing business, gather up your cash flow statements for the last three years.
Include your current personal financial statement if you are applying for a loan. A lender needs to know your personal net worth based on obligations and other personal debt. This is in addition to identifying business obligations for loan considerations.
Include your federal tax return for the previous year if you are applying for a loan. The lender wants to see a true, non-projected income reflecting your personal capability to repay a new loan or actual business sales and profit and loss indicated on your Schedule C form.
Set forth new projections if you own an existing business. Take the monthly average of the last three years of expenses when projecting for your balance sheet, cash flow and income statements. Also take into account the previous year's expenses more than the others, since this year may reflect new expenses based on modifications due to business growth.
- SBA: Business Plan Template: Financial Management
- Keep in mind that a financial business plan for a start-up is based on realistic projections. Conduct adequate industry-based research, and define your business operational costs — month-by-month — to create an accurate estimate. Also, allow for some small percentage of financial flexibility in your financial planning.
Nina Nixon has more than 30 years of professional writing experience. She enjoys writing about business and technology. Her articles have appeared on Chron, eHow Business & Personal Finance, Techwalla, and other digital content publishing websites.
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6 Elements of a Successful Financial Plan for a Small Business
Improve your chances of growth by covering these bases in your plan.
Many small businesses lack a full financial plan, even though evidence shows that it is essential to the long-term success and growth of any business.
For example, a study in the New England Journal of Entrepreneurship found that entrepreneurs with a business plan are more successful than those without one. If you’re not sure how to get started, read on to learn the six key elements of a successful small business financial plan.
What is a business financial plan, and why is it important?
A business financial plan is an overview of a business’s financial situation and a forward-looking projection for growth. A business financial plan typically has six parts: sales forecasting, expense outlay, a statement of financial position, a cash flow projection, a break-even analysis and an operations plan.
A good financial plan helps you manage cash flow and accounts for months when revenue might be lower than expected. It also helps you budget for daily and monthly expenses and plan for taxes each year.
Importantly, a financial plan helps you focus on the long-term growth of your business. That way, you don’t get so caught up in the day-to-day activities that you lose sight of your goals. Focusing on the long-term vision helps you prioritize your financial resources.
Financial plans should be created annually at the beginning of the fiscal year as a collaboration of finance, HR, sales and operations leaders.
The 6 components of a successful financial plan for business
1. sales forecasting.
You should have an estimate of your sales revenue for every month, quarter and year. Identifying any patterns in your sales cycles helps you better understand your business, and this knowledge is invaluable as you plan marketing initiatives and growth strategies .
For instance, a seasonal business can aim to improve sales in the off-season to eventually become a year-round venture. Another business might become better prepared by understanding how upticks and downturns in business relate to factors such as the weather or the economy.
Sales forecasting is also the foundation for setting company growth goals. For instance, you could aim to improve your sales by 10 percent over each previous period.
2. Expense outlay
A full expense plan includes regular expenses, expected future expenses and associated expenses. Regular expenses are the current ongoing costs of your business, including operational costs such as rent, utilities and payroll.
Regular expenses relate to standard business activities that occur each year, such as conference attendance, advertising and marketing, and the office holiday party. It’s a good idea to distinguish essential expenses from expenses that can be reduced or eliminated if needed.
Expected future expenses are known future costs, such as tax rate increases, minimum wage increases or maintenance needs. Generally, a part of the budget should also be allocated to unexpected future expenses, such as damage to your business caused by fire, flood or other unexpected disasters. Planning for future expenses ensures your business is financially prepared via budget reduction, increases in sales or financial assistance.
Associated expenses are the estimated costs of various initiatives, such as acquiring and training new hires, opening a new store or expanding delivery to a new territory. An accurate estimate of associated expenses helps you properly manage growth and prevents your business from exceeding your cost capabilities.
As with expected future expenses, understanding how much capital is required to accomplish various growth goals helps you make the right decision about financing options.
3. Statement of financial position (assets and liabilities)
Assets and liabilities are the foundation of your business’s balance sheet and the primary determinants of your business’s net worth. Tracking both allows you to maximize your business’s potential value.
Small businesses frequently undervalue their assets (such as machinery, property or inventory) and fail to properly account for outstanding bills. Your balance sheet offers a more complete view of your business’s health than a profit-and-loss statement or a cash flow report.
A profit-and-loss statement shows how the business performed over a specific time period, while a balance sheet shows the financial position of the business on any given day.
4. Cash flow projection
You should be able to predict your cash flow on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. Projecting cash flow for the full year allows you to get ahead of any financial struggles or challenges.
It can also help you identify a cash flow problem before it hurts your business. You can set the most appropriate payment terms, such as how much you charge upfront or how many days after invoicing you expect payment .
A cash flow projection gives you a clear look at how much money is expected to be left at the end of each month so you can plan a possible expansion or other investments. It also helps you budget, such as by spending less one month for the anticipated cash needs of another month.
5. Break-even analysis
A break-even analysis evaluates fixed costs relative to the profit earned by each additional unit you produce and sell. This analysis is essential to understanding your business’s revenue and potential costs versus profits of expansion or growth of your output.
Having your expenses fully fleshed out, as described above, makes your break-even analysis more accurate and useful. A break-even analysis is also the best way to determine your pricing.
In addition, a break-even analysis can tell you how many units you need to sell at various prices to cover your costs. You should aim to set a price that gives you a comfortable margin over your expenses while allowing your business to remain competitive.
6. Operations plan
To run your business as efficiently as possible, craft a detailed overview of your operational needs. Understanding what roles are required for you to operate your business at various volumes of output, how much output or work each employee can handle, and the costs of each stage of your supply chain will aid you in making informed decisions for your business’s growth and efficiency.
It’s important to tightly control expenses, such as payroll or supply chain costs, relative to growth. An operations plan can also make it easier to determine if there is room to optimize your operations or supply chain via automation, new technology or superior supply chain vendors.
For this reason, it is imperative for a business owner to conduct due diligence and become knowledgeable about merchant services before acquiring an account. Once the owner signs a contract, it cannot be changed, unless the business owner breaks the contract and acquires a new account with a new merchant services provider.
Tips on writing a business financial plan
Business owners should create a financial plan annually to ensure they have a clear and accurate picture of their business’s finances and a realistic view for future growth or expansion. A financial plan helps the business’s leaders make informed decisions about purchases, debt, hiring, expense control and overall operations for the year ahead.
A business financial plan is essential if a business owner is looking to sell their business, attract investors or enter a partnership with another business. Here are some tips for writing a business financial plan.
Review the previous year’s plan.
It’s a good idea to compare the previous year’s plan against actual performance and finances to see how accurate the previous plan and forecast were. That way, you can address any discrepancies or overlooked elements in next year’s plan.
Collaborate with other departments.
A business owner or other individual charged with creating the business financial plan should collaborate with the finance department, human resources department, sales team , operations leader, and those in charge of machinery, vehicles or other significant business tools.
Each division should provide the necessary data about projections, value and expenses. All of these elements come together to create a comprehensive financial picture of the business.
Use available resources.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) and SCORE, the SBA’s nonprofit partner, are two excellent resources for learning about financial plans. Both can teach you the elements of a comprehensive plan and how best to work with the different departments in your business to collect the necessary information. Many websites, including business.com , and service providers, such as Intuit, offer advice on this matter.
If you have questions or encounter challenges while creating your business financial plan, seek advice from your accountant or other small business owners in your network. Your city or state has a small business office that you can contact for help.
Several small business organizations offer free financial plan templates for small business owners. You can find templates for the financial plan components listed here via SCORE .
Business financial plan templates
Many business organizations offer free information that small business owners can use to create their financial plan. For example, the SBA’s Learning Platform offers a course on how to create a business plan. It also offers worksheets and templates to help you get started. You can seek additional help and more personalized service from your local office.
SCORE is the largest volunteer network of business mentors. It began as a group of retired executives (SCORE stands for “Service Corps of Retired Executives”) but has expanded to include business owners and executives from many industries. Advice is free and available online, and there are SBA district offices in every U.S. state. In addition to participating in group or at-home learning, you can be paired with a mentor for individualized help.
SCORE offers templates and tips for creating a small business financial plan. SCORE is an excellent resource because it addresses different levels of experience and offers individualized help.
Other templates can be found in Microsoft Office’s template library, QuickBooks’ online resources, Shopify’s blog and other places. You can also ask your accountant for guidance, since many accountants provide financial planning services in addition to their usual tax services.
Diana Wertz contributed to the writing and research in this article.
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It's good to know in advance whether your business is going to be profitable. A financial plan can help you make things clearer for yourself. Also when you applying for a loan, your bank or financier will want to see you financial plan.
The financial plan
A financial plan is a useful tool for determining whether your business idea is viable. It will demonstrate the costs and what is needed to finance them. And it is useful for convincing financiers to lend you money, and therefore forms the basis for your financial pitch.
Creating a financial plan does not have to be complicated. Base it on your business plan and keep it simple. Targeted market research and a sound marketing plan should be part of your business plan. These will help you create a solid basis for your figures.
It is important that you work out as much of your financial plan as possible yourself. Discussing it with an expert, such as your accountant, can also help you prepare for the next step – approaching financiers or investors for money.
What should a financial plan include?
A financial plan consists of five budgets that detail the minimum requirements for starting your business, the investments you will need to make and how you plan to finance them. This allows you to determine whether your business idea is viable. What turnover do you expect to generate? And will your business be profitable, or not? It also forces you to examine cash flow and whether you will have enough money each month. Answering all these questions in your business plan is the key to your success.
Your investment budget should include a list of the investments you will need to start your business and those that can wait until a later stage. This is an indicator of the minimum amount of money you will need to get started.
Your financial budget should detail how you intend to finance your investment budget. Options include personal capital (equity capital) or loans, e.g. from a bank (borrowed capital), or even a combination of the two.
Your operating budget should show that your business is profitable. This will allow you to estimate your turnover. You can then analyse the costs to keep your business running. Combining these, you can determine whether you will make a profit or a loss.
Cash flow budget
Income and expenditure can fluctuate greatly over a year. Your cash flow forecast should include all income and expenditure over a given period, e.g. per month or per quarter. This will highlight when you will have surplus cash and when you will need extra funds.
Personal expense budget
One option is to determine how much personal capital you have and then base your financial plan on your personal situation. This involves calculating how much money you will need for you and your family, how much you will have to pay in tax and what your operational costs will be. This allows you to work out your minimum turnover to make ends meet.
SME financing institution Qredits has free tools , including templates for a business plan and financial plan.
What do financiers look for?
Financiers look at both 'hard' and 'soft' factors when they analyse a credit application. Hard factors relate directly to your business and the basis upon which you plan to build it. Soft factors relate to you and your qualities as a business owner.
Prepare a good presentation that demonstrates you've familiarised yourself with the financier's use of language and information requirements. Financiers will examine your application based on the following points:
- Business owner assessment. Who is the credit applicant?
- Business owner's qualities and experience
- Quality of the business plan and its financial basis
- Company history, e.g. turnover, gross profit, cash flow, etc.
- Industry or sector. What trends and developments exist within this sector or industry?
- Type of loan. Loan size and duration
- Purpose. What will the lended money be used for?
- Strict budget and financial obligations. Do you have a clear picture of the revenues required to meet both your financial obligations – business and personal alike?
- Cost structure. Do you have a clear picture of your business's costs?
- Repayment capacity. Will you be able to meet your repayment obligations without jeopardising your business?
- Return potential. Do you have a clear picture for your business's future growth?
- Financial structure
- Personal expenditure
- Market analysis by an independent body
- Market research and industry information
- Security. What security can you offer to ensure that you'll be able to repay your financier?
How to write a financial plan
When using the financial plan to convince investors to finance your company, this is where you make your first impression. Prepare a good presentation that demonstrates you have familiarised yourself with the financier's use of language and information requirements. Start with an intro, use tables and visuals and also think of the graphic design.
- Use your own equity to finance the business as well, if you can, as this will help convince financiers and other parties.
- Negotiate the terms and conditions of your financing package. Repayment terms can be just as important as the financing package itself.
- Improve your chances of success by supporting your application with a pitch.
- Determine what financing options exist.
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