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Creating a Financial Plan for Startups: The Ultimate Guide
The top reason startups fail is because they run out of money, according to a 2020 survey by Wilbur Labs . And one of the main reasons they run out of money is because their financial planning consists of rosy projections of the best-case scenario, based on bad data — or no financial planning at all.
Creating a financial plan is essential to a startup’s success. For one thing, most investors need to see a startup’s financial plan before they even consider funding it. More importantly, a financial plan allows you to quantify your business assumptions, define specific benchmarks, plan for worst- and best-case scenarios, and measure your company’s success (even before you start making a profit).
The bottom line is: if you have expenses, you should have a financial plan. But you don’t need an accounting degree (or even an accountant) to get started.
What is startup financial planning?
Your startup’s financial plan is the roadmap that lays out the path for your company’s future financial success. In it, you make predictions and plans based on historical performance and industry research. Start with your company’s current financial situation, add in future goals and predictions, and strategize how to get there. Financial plans include details about:
- Fixed/variable expenses
- Gross/operating margins
- Profit potential and durability
- Break-even point
- Cash balance
- Cash flow changes
Don’t have all that information close at hand? That’s okay. The first financial plan you create may not be very detailed. You’ll keep building and tweaking it as your company iterates.
A financial plan is NOT the same as a business plan
A business plan is written in paragraphs. A financial plan is (traditionally) a giant Excel spreadsheet. It’s synonymous with Pro Forma financial, which is the finance industry term for three detailed reports: cash flow statement, profit and loss (P&L) , and balance sheet . Financial planning is part of the due diligence process , which you’ll need to provide to investors prior to signing a Series A term sheet.
Financial planning is made up of several smaller activities:
These activities include:
- Creating a hiring plan
- Making projections about sales, expenses, cash flow, income statement, and balance sheet
- Analyzing projections
- Producing profit and loss statements
- Financial projections and modeling
- Analyzing internal controls
- Creating annual growth strategies
Before you start: collect data and tools
You can’t create a financial plan in a vacuum. First, you’ll need to assemble some critical things:
Before you can accurately create a financial plan, identify and assemble all your existing financial data. What financial accounts (bank accounts, credit cards) are you using for your business income and expenses? Where/how are you doing your bookkeeping (e.g., QuickBooks, Xero, NetSuite), and is that information up to date?
You’ll need to import the above information into your financial plan. Updates can be done manually with a spreadsheet or automatically using software (more on that below). Generally, it’s better if updates can be automated so you know you’re looking at the latest data and can be more nimble with decision-making.
Now you need to decide what tools you’ll use to create a financial plan. Options include a spreadsheet, dedicated software, or outsourcing to a CPA.
If you opt for a spreadsheet, you can download an Excel or Google Sheet template from an online resource, or you can create it yourself. If you create it yourself, a finance analyst, HR manager, or office manager can maintain it, and then later, a CFO can run point on the whole process.
The problem with a spreadsheet is that it’s often too fragile for everyone to use collaboratively — it’s not automatically version controlled, and it’s too manual. That’s why you might choose software like Pry, Finmark, Brixx, or Causal. Obviously, we think Pry is the best choice for financial planning. But whatever you choose, the main reason to use software is it will scale as you grow.
Finally, you can hire a CPA to build a financial plan for you. This option can afford you some peace of mind. However, it costs a lot more than a DIY spreadsheet or software approach. Additionally, you’ll understand your business better if you create your financial plan internally.
Steps to create a financial plan
Startup financial planning can seem daunting at first, especially if you’re an early-stage founder and this is your first time. We’ll break it down below.
1. Visualize the end result
At the beginning of the financial planning process, you should sketch out long-term strategies and goals. If you’re pursuing a financing round, ask your investors about what metrics matter the most to them. That way you can bring those details to the forefront instead of burying them in a series of complex tabs.
A good starting point is to determine your company’s KPIs. What are the things you want to track and forecast? Remember that different metrics are important to different business models . For example, SaaS companies should include metrics like MRR (monthly recurring revenue) , as well as bank balance and budget vs. actuals.
Thinking back to your best lever of growth, what will be your key milestones? This could include acquiring a certain number of customers, raising a round of fundraising, or making an acquisition.
This sounds like, “To reach X, we need to hit A, B, C, and D milestones. Here’s how we think we’ll get from A to B, then B to C, then C to D.” – Underscore VC
2. Pick the right template or software
It’s hard to create a generic template for all sorts of businesses, so find a template that matches your business model. Sometimes you can access these templates for free, like the one in this LinkedIn thread . Or you can download a template in exchange for your contact info, like this one for SaaS startups.
Of course, you can also choose software that creates this template for you instead of trying to retrofit some random online spreadsheet template. At Pry, we can customize reports and dashboards to your specific business model for $500 with our custom onboarding.
3. Import existing data
Now you’ll need to import your existing information from different financial accounts like QuickBooks or Xero (depending on which you use), bank account(s), and/or credit card(s). This is sometimes referred to as the “ Chart of Accounts .” Your bank data could be a statement, or it could just be today’s balance. Ideally, you should pull as much as possible, so you have the clearest, most detailed picture.
The information you should import can be broken down as follows:
- Assets (e.g., checking, savings, amounts owed to the company from customers, inventory, prepaid expenses)
- Liabilities (e.g., line of credit, credit card payable, the amount owed to vendors, payroll taxes payable)
- Equity (assets minus liabilities)
- Income (e.g., product sales, interest)
- Expenses (e.g., cost of goods sold, marketing, travel, rent, office supplies)
If your financial plan is a spreadsheet, you’ll need to manually export your existing data and then import it into your spreadsheet. This process looks slightly different for each different financial account. QuickBooks and Xero both outline how to do this on their websites.
If you’re using a financial planning tool like Pry, you can connect these accounts so they sync automatically via an API integration .
4. Project expenses
Once you have an accurate picture of current accounts, you should start projecting future expenses. These can be broken into two broad categories: direct expenses (aka, costs of sales) and indirect expenses (aka, selling, general, and administrative expenses). Direct expenses include any raw materials, production equipment depreciation, hosting fees, etc. Everything else (other than product costs and capital purchases) is considered an indirect expense.
Salaries and benefits (an indirect expense) are usually the biggest expense at this point, so we recommend starting with this one. You should add existing employees and forecast future hires to predict the additional cost of roles and salaries over time. Be sure to include benefits and payroll taxes. Also, don’t project people out by dollars spent on them — do it by name/role/salary, then convert salary into a monthly cost. For example, 4 Software Engineers, $100k each, Start Dates: July 2021, September 2021, November 2021, January 2022 .
Build a headcount plan by role for the pro forma period by month. This approach creates a hiring plan based on revenue timing to properly support the business. It also allows for quick adjustments when modeling revenue changes. – Tiffany Hovland, CPA, Journal of Accountancy
- Legal and professional services (e.g., the costs of incorporating a new business, like business license fees)
- IT (e.g., data storage, software, data security)
- Office rent
- Office supplies
As you make projections about future expenses, remember to focus on high-level estimates based on industry standards, location, and company size.A lot of things can change, and you shouldn’t waste time perfecting predictions — they may not come true, anyway.
5. Project revenue
Now you’ll describe how your company will produce income. If your company is pre-revenue, you can start with industry standards. Realistic revenue projections are important to investors, and they influence all other assumptions about profit and loss (P&L) . If revenue projections are drastically wrong, you may over- or understaff your company or make big purchases you can’t afford.
To make accurate projections, define the revenue levers, drivers, and assumptions. Revenue levers could be products and/or services, software maintenance agreements, or channel partner sales. You also need to identify which activities increase or decrease revenue, as well as pricing and activity assumptions.
One important revenue projection for SaaS businesses is MRR. Here’s an example of this type of revenue projection:
- Revenue lever: monthly subscription revenue
- Revenue driver: marketing spend and conversion rates
- Revenue assumptions: $200 subscription price, 100 initial customers, 25 new signups per month, two churned customers per month
To project MRR using software like Pry, use this formula: MRR = total customers * average subscription price.
6. Build a report
After you have collected all your current financial information and built out some projections, it’s time to present it in an easily digestible format to drive decision-making. A dashboard is a visual way to summarize and report on the data. It makes it easy for business owners, board members, and investors to look at and know the status of the company.
Now that the estimates are complete, it is time to transform the work into a collection of facts that potential investors and business owners can use to drive decisions. The initial information and discussions should focus on high-level assumptions and give confidence that the business can scale and grow as the example outlines. – Tiffany Hovland, CPA, Journal of Accountancy
If you’re using Excel for your financial plan, you can build these reports as pivot tables. Or, if you find pivot tables too cumbersome, you can create a dashboard easily using software. Here’s what Pry’s dashboard looks like:
7. Test assumptions
The final step of financial planning is often called a what-if analysis or sensitivity analysis. Now that you’ve built some assumptions about the future, try playing with some different ones — some aggressive and some conservative. Change some inputs and review the reports in different scenarios. This will help you see how the assumptions relate and ensure that the end model makes sense.
Another way to test your assumptions is to compare your company’s metrics to those of other companies. Larger companies might check the SEC’s website for public competitors or companies in a similar space with similar net revenue. If you can’t find a good comparison, though, you can check with investors to see which assumptions you should tweak. Then revise accordingly.
We picked a list of IPO comparables—enterprise-class SaaS companies that had gone public. We look at up to three years of their financial data, and based on our growth rate, revenue, and expenses as a percentage of revenue, we compare ourselves against their metrics. These comparables are a way to validate our progress against our three-year plan. – Jason Purcell, CEO of Salsify
Now it’s your turn (we can help)
The bottom line is that if your startup has expenses, you should also have a financial plan. And now that you know how to create one, it’s time to get started.If the prospect of making pivot tables in Excel intimidates you, try creating a financial plan with an out-of-box tool like Pry. It does everything the expensive firms do but without the hefty price tag.
View Pry’s pricing ->
Revenue forecasting for founders: how to make projections early.
Revenue forecasting is looking at existing data and predicting how much money your company will bring in from sales in future months, quarters, or years. Even early-stage startups need to track these metrics because accurate and realistic revenue forecasts are the only way you can avoid a big cash flow shortage and complete company meltdown.
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How to Write a Financial Section for Your Startup Business Plan 2022?
If you are a first-time entrepreneur, such questions might give you a tough time, and why not, finance is inarguably the most important financial section of a business plan .
No matter what your vision is, how impeccable your marketing strategies are, and what you aim to conquer with your product, in the end, everything boils down to how much your idea can make (earn) at the end of the day.
Hence, it is critical to justify your business with good figures. Fill in accurate numbers in the business plan and elaborate them in a way that genuinely makes your business sound like a profitable venture to investors.
In fact, you’ll find many investors taking a quick peek at the numbers even before the executive summary .
Cash flow statement, balance sheet, how to make financial assumptions.
Basically, the financial section will demonstrate whether or not your business idea is viable, and whether or not your plan will have the capability to attract any investment in your business idea. Here is a startup financial plan example of Airbnb’s Financial Traction.
In this article, we’ll outline the fundamentals of a startup financial plan that will provide a clear picture of your company’s current value, as well as the ability of your idea to earn a profit in the future. This information is very important to business plan readers.
How to Write the Financial Section of a Business Plan?
The financial section in a business plan is divided into three segments – income statement , cash flow projection, and the balance sheet , along with a brief analysis of these three statements. These three important statements are the bird’s view of the financial stats of your organization.
Apart from this, investors may also ask about break-even analysis to understand when your startup taking off the profits.
1. Income Statement
An example of an income statement report for your startup business plan is as below:
Also known as the profit and loss (P&L) statement , it elaborates the profit or loss the business is expected to generate over a given period of time.
In a nutshell, the Income Statement shows your expenses , revenues , and profits for a particular period. Basically, it is a snapshot of your business that shows the feasibility of the business idea.
The Income statement can be generated keeping into consideration three scenarios: worst , expected , and best .
Established businesses should produce Income Statements annually. However, startups and small businesses should provide monthly reports while writing a business plan.
2. Cash Flow Statement
An example of a cash flow statement is as shown below:
This section provides details on the cash position of the business and its ability to meet monetary commitments on a timely basis.
A startup business should show monthly projections for the first year of business. It also shows quarterly information for the next two years.
When writing a business plan, you need to show Cash Flow Projections for each month over a period of one year as part of the Financial Plan of your startup. The Cash Flow Projections consists of three parts:
- Cash Revenue Projection – Here you have to enter the estimated or expected sales figures for each month.
- Cash Disbursements – This will take into account various expenses across categories. List out expenditures that you expect to pay in cash for each month over a period of one year.
- Reconciliation of Cash Revenues to Cash Disbursements – Reconciliation here signifies adding the current month’s revenues and subtracting the current month’s disbursements. The result is then adjusted to the cash flow balance that is carried over to the next month.
3. Balance Sheet
An example of a balance sheet statement is as follow :
A balance sheet is a snapshot of what you’re worth. A balance sheet adds up everything your business owns, subtracts all debts, and the difference that you get shows the net worth of the business, also referred to as equity. This statement consists of three parts: assets , liabilities , and the balance calculated by the difference between the first two. The final numbers on this sheet reflect the business owner’s equity or value.
The term “balance” we are using for this sheet because it is representing the balance between Assets and Total Liabilities & Equity.
The purpose of the balance sheet:
- It indicates the capital need of the business
- It helps to identify the allocation of resources
- It calculates the requirement of seed money you put up, and
- How much finance is required?
The investor wants to see your balance sheet to understand the condition of your business on a given date, which is usually the end of the fiscal year .
While writing a business plan for a new venture, you will have to work on creating projections for Balance sheets. These will serve as benchmarks to compare against actual results at the end of the fiscal year. Hence, it is important to look ahead to see how your balance sheet will appear given your marketing, sales, and inventory forecast. These three components of the business can have a major impact on your projections.
How Would You Make Assumptions While Projecting Your Financials?
Remember, while writing a business plan, you’re not providing actual data, but an educated guess. The financial forecast means the predictions about the financial stats of the future .
As advised in the reference article, always use What-if scenarios while projecting your financials. This will increase transparency and help the investor to understand the best , expected, and worst sides of the startup. Because the future is unpredictable, it’s advised that you create several versions of your forecast.
It is a forecast and thus, it is highly recommended to go with simple math. No one expects you to understand everything. It is a prediction about the future and hence, financial predictions are not 100% accurate in predicting the future performance of your business.
Do not clutter the financial section by including every small detail. It distracts readers from focusing on core digits, There is lots of space available in the appendix of your business plan . attach other detailed statements there in the appendix.
If you are using your business plan to get a loan, then it is highly recommended to include your business’s financial history as part of the financial section.
To auto-assemble all of the above-given calculations in the financial section of a business plan , you’d need business planning software to make sure that you get this right on the first attempt itself.
Online Financial Planning Software is designed to help you create projections in the financial section. You can use it to highlight the viability of your business idea. Understanding the financials, and if possible, mastering them can help you attract investment.
Learn more about how to calculate financial projections for your business plan
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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 Create a Financial Plan For Small Businesses and Startups
In this Article
So, you have a great business idea and are ready to start. Congrats! But before you start making decisions or spending money, creating a financial plan is crucial.
Financial planning may seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be. And it's definitely worth the effort. A good financial plan will help you make intelligent decisions about allocating resources and managing your money.
Not quite sure where to start? Don't fret. We're giving you the 411 on creating a financial plan for your small business or startup.
Let's get started.
What is a financial plan?
Before we learn how to create a financial plan, let's first define what a financial plan is. A financial plan is a roadmap that outlines your business's financial goals and how you intend to achieve them. For example, your financial goals might include earning revenue, achieving profitability, or growing your business at a specific rate.
Your financial plan will also detail how you plan to use your financial resources, such as your revenue, investments, and credit. And it will include information on your expected expenses, such as operating costs, marketing expenses, and payroll.
Why is financial planning important?
It improves strategic thinking on how to use your resources and what results you should expect effectively.
When you create a financial plan, you're forced to think strategically about using your resources best to achieve your desired results. This strategic thinking process will help you make better decisions about where to allocate your resources and what results you can expect.
Let's say you're launching an app that provides instant messaging for business owners and their teams. First, you'll need to consider how much it will cost to develop the app, how you'll generate revenue, what your marketing budget should be, and what your overhead costs will be. Without this, it would be easy to overspend or underestimate expenses and revenues.
It aids in better management of your company
To effectively manage your team, you must clearly understand your financial situation. This way, you can allocate the necessary resources to each department and make informed decisions about where to cut costs.
For example, if you know your marketing budget is limited, you'll be more strategic about allocating resources and better understand your project spend management . You may work with your marketing manager to create a social media posting schedule and an effective social media campaign that doesn't require a lot of money. Or you may decide to invest in SEO , so your website appears higher in search engine results .
The forecast determines your short- and long-term goals
A financial plan can help you set realistic goals for your business. Without a plan, it can be easy to go from brainstorming business ideas to getting caught up in running your new business while losing sight of your long-term goals.
Creating a financial plan will force you to think about where your business will be in the future and what steps you need to take to get there. In addition, this process will help you set realistic goals that you can work towards over time.
For example, let's say your goal is to increase the profits of your business text messaging app business by 30% in the next year. To achieve this goal, you'll need to create a plan outlining how to generate additional revenue and reduce expenses. This may include strategies like increasing prices, launching a new product, or reducing overhead costs.
It serves as a springboard for constructing a plan
Once you've created a financial plan, you can use it as a springboard to develop a plan of action for your business. This action plan will outline the steps you need to take to achieve your financial goals.
Let's say your goal is to attain a certain amount of customer growth in the next year. To achieve this goal, you'll need to create a plan outlining how to acquire new customers and retain existing ones. This may include strategies like improving your marketing efforts , offering discounts or loyalty programs, or providing excellent customer service.
It establishes reasonable expectations for your business
As a business owner, it's easy to become over-optimistic about the potential for your business. However, setting realistic expectations for your company can be difficult without a financial plan.
Creating a financial plan will help you develop more realistic expectations for your business by forcing you to consider the costs and revenues associated with your desired results.
What makes successful financial planning?
Now that you know what a financial plan is, you might be wondering what makes for a successful one. To do this, you must understand the various components of a financial plan.
Profit and loss statement
A profit and loss statement, also called an income statement, shows your business's revenue, expenses, and profits over a period of time. This information is critical for understanding whether your business is profitable and how much cash you have on hand.
A personnel plan outlines the number of employees you need, their roles, and how much you'll pay them. This information is essential for understanding your business's labor costs and ensuring that you have the right people to meet your business goals.
A balance sheet shows your business's assets, liabilities, and equity. This information is essential for understanding your business's financial health and net worth.
Cash flow statement
A cash flow statement shows how much cash your business is bringing in and spending over a period of time. This information is critical for understanding your business's short-term financial health and determining whether you have enough cash on hand to meet your business's needs.
A sales forecast is an estimate of how much revenue your business will generate over a period of time. This information is vital for understanding your business's growth potential and making informed decisions about allocating your resources.
Business ratios and break-even analysis
Business ratios and break-even analysis are tools used to assess your business's financial health and performance. This information is vital for understanding your business's strengths and weaknesses and making informed decisions about improving your business's bottom line.
An exit strategy is a plan for how you will sell or otherwise dispose of your business in the future. This information is essential for ensuring that you maximize your business's value and make informed decisions about its future. Some common exit strategies include selling the company to a third party, passing it down to family members, or taking it public through an initial public offering (IPO).
How to start creating a financial plan for your small business
Make a strategy plan
The first step is to make a strategy plan. This will help you focus on your goals and create a roadmap for how to achieve them. This should include all the financial goals you want to accomplish in the short-term and long-term.
Make financial forecasts
The second step is to create financial forecasts. This will help you anticipate how much money you'll need to achieve your goals and make informed decisions about where to allocate your resources. Financial forecasting can be done using Excel or another software program.
Prepare contingency plans
The third step is to prepare contingency plans. This will help you plan for unexpected events that could impact your small business. Contingency planning should include:
- Identifying risks.
- Estimating the costs of those risks.
- Developing strategies to mitigate them.
Goals should be monitored and compared
The fourth step is to monitor your goals and compare them to actual results. This will help you track your progress and make changes to your plan as needed. Monitoring should be done regularly, such as monthly or quarterly.
Financial Planning Tips for Startups
Starting a business is an exciting time, but it can also be a stressful one. There are so many things to think about and plan for, here are our top tips for financial planning.
Take easy steps
Remember, you don't have to complete your financial plan simultaneously. Instead, you can break it down into smaller, more manageable steps that you can complete over time. For example, you can start by creating a budget and then set up a system for tracking your expenses .
Prepare for a variety of scenarios
It's essential to create a financial plan to help weather any storm. This means preparing for various potential scenarios, both good and bad. For example, you should have a plan for what you'll do if your business experiences unexpected growth or sudden setbacks.
The best way to do this is to create a business model canvas. This is a tool that startup founders can use to map their business plans and track progress over time.
Some key things to include in your business model canvas are:
- Your value proposition
- Your target market
- Your key partners and suppliers
- Your revenue streams
- Your milestones
- Your KPIs (key performance indicators)
Ask the most important "What ifs"
This will help you create a plan that is both comprehensive and flexible.
This means that you should ask yourself a variety of "what if" questions, such as:
- What if my revenue decreases?
- What if my expenses increase?
- What if my customers don't buy what I'm selling?
- What if I can't get the funding I need?
- What if my business fails?
Your Expenses Aren't Going to Stay the Same, Prepare
As your small business or startup grows, your expenses will likely change. This could be due to increased inventory costs, more expensive office space, or hiring additional staff. Your financial plan must accommodate these changes. Expense software like QuickBooks can help you track your spending and make necessary adjustments to your budget.
Make a plan for where your money will come from
You can't create a financial plan without knowing where your money will come from. This means looking closely at your expected revenues and identifying potential funding sources, such as loans, investments, or grants.
Take into account all employee costs
Your team is one of your most important assets, and their costs should be included in your financial planning. Some employee costs you'll need to consider are:
- Salaries: This is the most obvious cost, but don't forget to account for things like bonuses and raises.
- Benefits: This can include health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, and other benefits.
- Training: You'll need to invest in training your employees to do their job well.
- Retirement plans: Ensure you're offering a retirement plan to attract and retain top talent.
- Office space: Are your employees working from home, or do you have an office? How much space do you need, and how much will it cost?
- Equipment: Do your employees need laptops, desks, chairs, or other equipment?
You should also put aside money for yourself. After all, you're running a business and deserve compensation for your time and efforts.
Review your financial plan regularly
Your financial needs will change over time, so it's essential to review your financial plan regularly. This will help you ensure that your plan is still relevant and continues to meet your changing needs.
Share your financial plans with others
Don't keep your financial plans to yourself. Instead, make sure to share them with your team, so everyone is on the same page. This will help ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals and that they understand the financial constraints of the business.
Following these tips, you can create a successful financial plan for your small business or startup.
Key Takeaway: Make financial planning a recurring part of your business
So there you have it. Financial planning is critical to running a successful small business or startup. By taking the time to create a financial plan, you can make informed decisions about where to allocate your resources and how to achieve your goals. And by reviewing your financial plan regularly, you can ensure that it continues to meet your changing needs.
Good luck and happy planning!
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform for better call center service level agreement and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Here is her LinkedIn .
Financial Plan for Small Business and Startups: a How-to Guide
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How to make a financial plan for a start-up
Do you want to ensure a sustainable financial future for your new start-up business? If so, it’s important to get to grips with the basics of financial planning and analysis. Find out everything you need to know, including how to make a financial plan for a start-up, right here.
What is financial planning?
Financial planning refers to the process of understanding how your company is going to achieve its strategic goals and financial objectives. This constitutes a broad range of financial activities, including cash flow analysis, the production of financial models and simulations, analysis of internal controls, and creating and implementing annual growth strategies.
Why is financial planning important?
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of start-up financial plans, it’s important to consider why they’re necessary in the first place. Although virtually all companies will do some form of financial modelling, it’s especially important for start-ups, not least because it plays a key role in the financing process. Many financiers and investors will require a financial plan before they’ll consider funding your start-up, so on a purely practical level, a financial plan for a start-up business is important.
You should also consider the fact that it’s a necessary part of building a viable business model. Without a financial plan, you won’t be able to quantify your assumptions about the business. Plus, by building out different scenarios for the business (especially negative scenarios where things don’t go the way you expect), you’ll be much better able to deal with potential issues as they arise. Finally, financial plans can provide your company with benchmarks and targets to achieve, which is an effective way to measure the success of your company, particularly in the early years when you may not be making a profit.
How do I produce a start-up financial plan?
One of the key elements of financial planning is learning how to write a financial plan for a start-up business. When you create the plan, you’ll need to think about a broad range of issues, including your business’s gross/operating margins, profit potential, fixed/variable costs, break-even point, potential changes to cash flow, and profit durability. Some of the activities that you’ll need to undertake when producing a financial plan for a start-up business include:
Balance sheet projections
Income statement projections
Of course, making a financial model requires a significant amount of effort. For a little more insight into generating financial projections for start-up businesses, take a look at our guide to financial projections.
How does financial planning work?
Generally speaking, businesses use financial planning software for start-ups to create a financial plan. For example, accounting software like Xero or QuickBooks can help you produce start-up financial plans, while there are many different financial plans for start-up business templates available online. Simply browse around until you find a template that’s well suited to your business’s needs.
Tips for producing a good financial plan for a start-up business
Now that you a little more about how to make a financial plan for a start-up, let’s take a look at some of the tips and tricks you can utilise to optimise financial planning:
Understand that financial planning is continuous – You can’t simply switch your financial planning activities on and off. Ensure that the financial planning and analysis process is ongoing to give your business the best chance of success.
Never underestimate the importance of cash – When it comes to start-ups, and businesses in general, cash is king. To keep your business in the black, make sure that your cash flow remains healthy with well-founded cash flow projections.
Creativity is key – Although it’s a numbers game, creating a viable financial plan for a start-up business is a creative endeavour. Think creatively about your business and consider alternative sources of financing, as well as different ways to launch the business.
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7 Financial Planning Tips for Startups
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
That old adage really rings true when it comes to financial planning for startups.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a founder is trying to “wing it” with your finances. Taking the time to create a financial plan will:
- Make you think more strategically about growth
- Help you prepare for all the ups and downs of running a startup
- Make it easier to fundraise
- Give you more confidence about the day-to-day decisions you make
Trust us, the value you’ll get from financial planning is well worth the time you put into it. But it’s only as valuable as you make it.
In this guide we’re going to show you how to take your startup’s financial plan from being a boring static document and turn it into your new favorite growth tool.
What is Financial Planning?
A financial plan is like a financial game plan for your startup. It outlines your company’s current financial state, your goals for the future, the actions you’ll take to reach those goals, and how much it’s going to cost.
Financial planning is the process of putting your “game plan” together and documenting it. Using data, you make assumptions about revenue, expenses, and other financial parts of your business to forecast the financial trajectory of your business.
A lot of startups document their plan in a spreadsheet , but we prefer software 😉. We’ll dive into why and how in a little bit.
Why is Financial Planning Important for Startups?
It costs money to grow a business, and most people don’t have unlimited resources. If you don’t plan for how you’re going to grow and how much it’s going to cost, you can easily waste your two most precious resources—time and money.
On top of that, if you plan on pitching investors, they’re going to expect to see a financial plan. They need to know that once they give you hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to grow your startup, you have a plan for exactly how you’re going to use the money.
Essentially, financial planning forces you to think strategically about how to best use your resources and what your expected results are. Throughout the process, you’ll have to answer questions like:
- How much revenue will we generate?
- What will our churn rate look like?
- How many months of runway will we have?
- How much do we have to spend on sales and marketing?
- How many people can we afford to hire?
By answering these types of questions with data and numbers and turning it into a financial plan, you’ll have a clearer picture of what growth looks like, how much it’ll cost, and how to measure success.
If you want to build your financial plan quicker, (and with more accuracy), I highly recommend giving Finmark a try . It’s much easier than using a spreadsheet, especially for founders.
Now that you know what financial planning is and why startups need to do it, let’s take a look at some tips to make sure you’re creating the best financial plan possible.
1. Plan For Multiple Scenarios
In an ideal world, your revenue would always trend upward, unexpected expenses would never pop up, and everything would just fall into place.
But as any founder will tell you, that’s rarely the case.
The thing is, nobody hopes for the worst-case scenario for their business. But if you plan for it in advance, you’ll be better prepared to maneuver through it if it happens.
That’s why we recommend creating downside, upside, and baseline scenarios when you’re doing your financial planning. Each scenario has different assumptions for how your business will grow, so you’re more prepared for whatever happens.
Your baseline plan has the expectation that your business will grow at a steady rate. Your assumptions while building this plan might include:
- Your cash flow won’t drastically change
- You won’t go on a hiring spree,
- Your burn rate will stay relatively consistent
- Your revenue growth will be steady
A baseline financial plan is important because it gives you a benchmark. Since it’s primarily based on how your company has performed historically, it’ll be a good indicator of whether or not you’re trending up or down.
Your upside plan is your best case scenario, where your expectation is to outpace your baseline. Some assumptions you might make are:
- You’ll get new customers at a faster rate each month
- Your average revenue per account (ARPA) will increase
- Your expenses will stay relatively flat while revenue grows
- You’ll decrease your churn rate
Be careful with your upside plan though. If you’re going to make these types of assumptions, they need to be tied to actions.
For instance, you need to have a plan for how you’re going to get more customers, how you’re going to decrease churn, where new revenue will come from, etc.
Just changing your churn rate from 10% to 4% in your financial plan without a strategy for how you’re going to get there isn’t “planning”, it’s guessing.
Your downside plan is going to be the least enjoyable to create, but you’ll thank yourself for doing it. This is the plan with built-in expectations that you’ll see a decline from your baseline plan. It could include assumptions like:
- Your churn rate will stay flat, or increase
- Your ARPA will decrease
- Your burn rate will outpace your revenue growth
- Your gross margin will decrease
- Higher customer acquisition cost (CAC)
- Longer CAC payback
The advice I gave you for your upside plan also applies to your downside plan. Your assumptions need to be tied to an event or action of some kind.
For example, maybe you plan on trying some new customer acquisition channels and you’re unsure of how they’ll perform so you estimate a higher CAC or lower conversions.
Or maybe your revenue growth has been on a slow decline for a few months, so you plan for what happens if that trend continues or speeds up.
What you don’t want to do is make assumptions like “our revenue will decrease 10%” without having any data or reasoning to justify why that would happen.
Essentially, your downside financial plan should have a little bit of skepticism, not pessimism. The difference is skepticism means having some doubt, while pessimism is assuming the worst will happen.
Learn more about how to do scenario analysis here 👇
How to Do Scenario Analysis: Step-By-Step Guide
2. Ask “What if”
Sometimes founders and financial folks tend to look at financial planning as a means to an end. You enter in a few numbers to get a final “report” on where your financial will be in the future.
This usually happens because you’re financial planning for a specific event—fundraising, investor meetings, preparing for the new year, etc.
Instead, I want to challenge you to take a new perspective when you’re building your startup’s financial plan. Use it as an opportunity to ask “what if” questions and see how it’ll impact your financial projections.
Remember what I said about tying your assumptions to actions? This is when you can brainstorm on what those actions are.
For example, you might ask:
- What if we try sponsored newsletters?
- What if we hire a new customer support rep?
- What if we increase our pricing by 10%?
- What if we double the amount we spend on Google ads?
- What if we create a new add-on product or service?
Since you’re financial planning, try to make your “what if” questions quantifiable, and ideally something with a monetary value attached to it. That way, you can build it into your financial plan and see how it affects your projections.
3. Your Expenses Won’t Stay Flat
A common mistake founders make with financial planning is assuming expenses will stay flat over time. If your company is growing, more than likely, so will your expenses.
There’s a big misconception that higher expenses are a bad thing. Yes, rising expenses can be bad—if you’re spending money on unnecessary things. But think about some of the most common expenses that come with growth:
- Employees ( 63% of SMBs that predict they’ll grow revenue plan to hire new employees in 2021)
- Space (if you have a physical office)
- Sales and marketing
- Software (new tools, plan upgrades)
Generally, these expenses will all grow as your company gets bigger.
One of the most common examples is with customer support. The more customers you get, the more questions, bugs, and support tickets you’ll have.
So at some point, you’ll need to bring on new support people to handle the volume. Otherwise you risk losing customers (and revenue) because 58% of consumers will switch companies because of poor customer service.
If you’re using Finmark, you can account for these types of changes when you add expenses into your financial plan. Here’s how.
Let’s take rent for example. If your rent is currently $3,000 per month, but you expect that amount to increase 2% annually from rent increases, you can build that into your financial plan with Finmark.
Including these expense increases in your financial plan make your data more accurate, and therefore reliable. Underestimating your expenses can lead you to think you’ll have more cash available than what you’ll actually have.
4. Plan For Where Revenue Will Come From
I touched on this in tip #1, but let’s dive a little deeper.
Revenue is one of the most important metrics you’re going to include in your financial plan so you want to make sure the numbers are as accurate as possible. That starts by being realistic about where your revenue is going to come from.
In most cases, revenue doesn’t just grow automatically. There’s a catalyst to increase it. It could be salespeople, Facebook ads, content, events, or some other action that’s bringing in leads who will ultimately convert into customers. These are all called revenue drivers , because they literally “drive” your revenue.
You don’t necessarily need to completely map out your revenue strategy during financial planning, but you should be able to account for where any planned revenue growth is going to come from.
Here’s an example of how you can do it.
Let’s say we’re a SaaS company and one of our revenue drivers is Google Ads. We run Google Ads to get leads that will convert into customers. So we need to account for the revenue we’re going to get from our ads in our financial plan.
First, we’ll create Google Ads as an expense, and specify how much we plan to spend on the ads. We’ll plan for $1,000 per month.
Now that we know how much we plan to spend, we need to plan for how much revenue we expect to get from that $1,000. So we’ll head into the revenue section of our financial plan and add our Google Ads as a new stream of revenue.
You’ll have to fill in some data points based on your assumptions like your lead conversion rate and cost per lead . I recommend reading this article for some tips on how to make accurate assumptions for those numbers.
Once we add this in, it’ll show in our revenue projections and financial plan.
You can repeat this process for all of your different revenue drivers, including your other marketing channels and your sales team. It’s fun to play around with the numbers and test your assumptions to see what impact they have on your financial plan.
Again, financial planning makes you go beyond just setting arbitrary goals. It makes you think about how you want to achieve your goals, plan what actions you need to take, and how much it’s going to cost.
5. Consider All Employee Costs
Here’s an often overlooked expense you should account for in your financial plan, particularly for newer founders that plan on hiring for the first time—additional employee costs.
Hiring (and retaining) employees includes more than just salaries. Recruiting, onboarding, new equipment, benefits, and taxes are all additional costs that come along with hiring new employees.
According to Glassdoor , the average U.S. company spends about $4,000 just to recruit a new employee. If you hire just 5-10 new employees over the course of a year, that’s an additional $20-$40K you need to account for in your financial plan. And the larger your company, the more employees you’ll typically hire per year.
Here’s a look at some of those “hidden” expenses of recruiting that Glassdoor highlighted.
In Finmark, we make it easy to account for these expenses. You can manually add expenses like background checks and job board listings directly into your plan whenever you hire new employees.
And for things like benefits and taxes, we have a “Load Multiplier” feature that allows you to add on a specific percentage on top of salaries for taxes and benefits. You can add this across all your employees, or do it on an individual basis.
So if we have an employee with an annual salary of $85K, we can add an additional 20% to account for their taxes and benefits.
Then you can see the total breakdown of salary vs benefits and taxes for all your employees.
The more employees you have, the more important it is to account for these extra expenses.
6. Regularly Review Your Financial Plan
Your financial plan isn’t something you should create and leave sitting untouched until a major event like fundraising.
Here’s one way to think about your financial plan. I’m going to throw a football analogy at you, but stick with me!
In football, teams create game plans for each opponent they face. The game plan outlines all the different plays they can use, guidance for what to do in various situations (i.e. when to kick a field goal), strengths and weaknesses of their opponents, and other strategies to increase their chances of winning.
The coach reviews their game plan throughout the entire game so they can make adjustments based on how things are going. For example, if the team has a big lead by the third quarter, they might decide to run the ball more even though the original plan was to throw.
You should take the same approach with your financial plan. As we mentioned earlier, growing a startup doesn’t always go as planned. Your financial plan is your playbook that you should refer back to and adjust based on the situation.
Whenever something happens in your business and you think “we didn’t plan for this”, take a look at your financial plan and see what adjustments you need to make in order to deal with the current situation.
The perfect example of this was the pandemic. Nobody had a global economic freeze in their playbook. As a result, a lot of startups saw revenue plummet, certain expenses like rent became obsolete, growth stalled or declined, and nothing went as planned.
If you just left your financial plan alone and tried to make changes on the fly, you’d basically be playing a guessing game. Instead, you should adjust your “game plan” by reviewing and updating your financial plan.
That could mean lowering your projected revenue, cutting and reducing certain expenses, adjusting your hiring plan, or any other changes you need to account for the drastic shift in your business.
You can do this quickly in Finmark by just duplicating your original plan, and making changes to the updated version. That way you still have the original plan and can compare it to the new one when you need to.
Outside of those extreme cases, it’s good to get into the habit of reviewing your financial plan at least monthly.
So many things can change from week to week that require some extra financial planning. For instance, what if your marketing strategy isn’t panning out quite like you planned, so your projected leads and revenue are off. You can adjust your financial plan accordingly.
The bottom line is that plans can (and should) be changed. Financial planning is an active and ongoing process.
7. Share Your Financial Plans
Ask yourself these two questions:
- Is your financial planning process collaborative?
- Who has access to your financial plan?
If you’re a founder and you’re the only person working on your startup’s financial plan, that’s a problem. And if you’re the only person who ever looks at your financial plan, that’s an even bigger problem.
Financial planning for startups isn’t something that should be done in isolation. If you have co-founders, they should be involved. If you have a team, they should be involved.
I’m not saying that everyone needs to be able to edit your plan, but you should at least ask questions and get insights from stakeholders when you’re putting your plan together—particularly as your startup grows.
Finmark is helpful here too. You can easily share your plan with other people and grant them specific levels of access.
Here’s an example of why collaboration is so important for financial planning.
Let’s say you’re building your financial plan, and want to project how much revenue you’ll drive next quarter. You need to know what actions marketing and sales plan to take and what their projections are.
Everything from what marketing campaigns you’ll be running, the expected number of leads they’ll generate, sales rep performance, and other info that’ll help you project how well you’ll perform.
Unless you’re leading marketing and sales, you’ll need to get that insight from your team. Your sales and marketing leaders will be able to give you some additional context around performance as well.
For instance, marketing might let you know that they’re going to be trying some new advertising channels so new leads might be a little less predictable.
Or your sales leader might’ve brought on a new SDR that was able to ramp up quicker than expected, so they’re going to be able to convert more leads.
This level of detail is only possible when you collaborate and get input from your team while you’re financial planning.
The other part of collaboration is sharing and presenting your financial plan. This is actually something we do at Finmark.
About once a month, the founders will review the current financial state of things with the entire company. We go over runway, revenue, customer growth and other parts of the financial plan.
That level of transparency helps everyone get on the same page and sets expectations.
All too often, founders wait until there’s a problem to get transparent about the financial plan. For instance, when they need to cut expenses or reduce headcount. In most cases, the founders know these changes are coming for months, but the rest of the team doesn’t know until it’s too late.
When you routinely review your financial plan with your team, it lets everyone know where things stand and gives them the opportunity to be proactive and course correct if things are trending downward. And when things are going well, it gives everyone a morale boost and motivation to keep growing.
I’ll be honest, it makes it A LOT easier to share your financial plans when you build it in a tool like Finmark rather than a spreadsheet. I’ve seen both, and from an employee’s perspective, looking at the data in charts and graphs is much more engaging and enjoyable than a bunch of cells.
When you’re using spreadsheets for your financial plan, you’ll generally have to take that data and create some sort of slide deck to present because spreadsheets aren’t the best tools for presenting data.
The process of building a deck is time-consuming and you can’t show the level of detail in the same way as you can in a tool like Finmark.
During our financial presentations, we dive into things like average revenue per account, which customer plan levels we projected to get for the month vs. what we actually got, and other details that require filtering data and switching between scenarios.
All of that is nearly impossible to do (smoothly) in a spreadsheet, but it just takes a few clicks in Finmark.
Long story short, collaborate! You’ll have a more accurate financial plan and your team will feel much more involved in the company.
Ready to Start Financial Planning For Your Startup?
We covered a lot in this guide. But our goal isn’t just to give you information—we want to make sure you take action.
Start by signing up for a free trial of Finmark .
Whether you’re starting from scratch or transitioning from a spreadsheet, using a dedicated tool will save you hours of time and make financial planning for your startup easier than ever.
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Historically financial modeling has been hard, complicated, and inaccurate. But financials are the lifeblood of any company. They’re too important to be ignored or outsourced. They should be a core part of every founder’s job. This doesn’t have to be scary. And you don’t have to do it alone. The Finmark Blog is here to educate founders on key financial metrics, startup best practices, and everything else to give you the confidence to drive your business forward.
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