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Financial Statement Facts for Business Owners
by Daniel Kehrer
March 28, 2024

If you are like most small business owners and entrepreneurs, you probably never had a formal course in business finance. Many small businesses leave accounting and financial matters to a hired accountant, or learn a few basics with software such as QuickBooks.

But there are a few fundamentals that every business owners should know about financial statements in particular.

And those start with understanding three statement flavors:

  1. Balance sheets;
  2. Income statements; and,
  3. Cash flow statements.

Granted – financial statements aren’t as trendy a topic as, say, mobile advertising or social media.

But if you ever need bank financing, angel investors, venture capital or even a loan from friends and family, these are things you should know:

Balance Sheet

This shows what your business owns and what it owes at a fixed point in time, and provides details about your assets, liabilities and owners’ equity. It does not show money that flows in and out during that period (we’ll get to that shortly).

  • Assets are things your business owns that have value and could be sold, including tangible assets such as vehicles, equipment, inventory and cash, plus intellectual assets such as trademarks and patents.
  • Liabilities are amounts your business owes to others, including loans, rent, vendor accounts, payroll and taxes, as well as future obligations to provide goods or services to customers.
  • Owners’ (or shareholders’) equity is your capital or net worth. It’s the amount that would be left if the business sold all assets and paid off all liabilities. This “leftover” money belongs to the owners.

Income Statement

The income statement shows revenues over a specific time period – i.e. a month, quarter or year – and shows what you spent to generate that revenue. The literal “bottom line” of an income statement shows what the business earned or lost over that period.

Think of an income statement as a stairway. You start at the top with total sales, and then go down one step at a time. At each step, you make a deduction for costs or other operating expenses. At the bottom of the stairs, after deducting all of the expenses, you learn how much the business made.  

Cash Flow Statement

This important statement shows inflows and outflows of cash over a fixed period. It’s critical because any business needs cash to cover ongoing costs. While an income statement shows profit or loss, a cash flow statement merely indicates if the business generated cash.

You should also know that a cash flow statement shows changes over time, not absolute dollar amounts at a given point. The bottom line of the cash flow statement shows how much it went up or down for the period.

4 Key Terms and Ratios to Know

Here’s a mini glossary of four key financial statement terms and ratios you’ll also want to know:

  • Operating margin shows percentage of profit for each dollar of sales. It compares operating income to net revenues. Both numbers come from the income statement. To calculate operating margin, divide income from operations (before interest and income tax expenses) by net revenues. Operating margin is usually expressed as a percentage.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio compares total debt to owners’ equity. Both numbers come from your balance sheet. To calculate a debt-to-equity ratio, divide total liabilities by owners’ equity. If a business has a debt-to-equity ratio of 2-to-1, for example, it means that it is taking on debt at twice the rate that its owners are investing in the company.
  • Inventory turnover ratio compares a company’s cost of sales on its income statement with its average inventory balance for the period. To calculate this ratio, divide cost of sales by average inventory for the period. A 2-to-1 ratio means the company’s inventory turned over twice in the reporting period.
  • Working capital is the money leftover if the business paid its current liabilities (debts due within one-year) out of its current assets.
About the author
Daniel Kehrer
Daniel Kehrer, Founder & Managing Director of BizBest Media Corp., is a nationally-known, award-winning expert on small and local business, start-ups, content marketing, entrepreneurship and social media, with an MBA from UCLA/Anderson. 
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