Changing economic conditions are the greatest stimulus to urgently determining the best course of future action. To identify the most crucial matters to address, you must first know how to read and understand your business financial statements.
Assets & Liabilities
The collection of reports comprising business financial statements provides a complete picture of the cash flow and overall condition of your enterprise. Most importantly, the balance sheet is a reporting of business assets and liabilities, with the difference between these two factors being the equity you’ve built over time in your business.
Too many business owners only examine the income statement for revenue and profit. Those factors transform into a deeper meaning by scrutinizing key elements on the balance sheet. A major detail to easily spot as a red flag is higher liabilities than assets. This means your business owes more than it owns. Even if this troubling condition does not exist, you want to evaluate if your business is headed in that direction. This is simply accomplished by comparing over time the ratio of debt to equity. A rise in this metric signals potential problems ahead.
A corollary issue uncovered by the balance sheet is the expansion of accounts receivable or inventory relative to sales. Having too much in uncollected accounts receivable can mean insufficient cash for timely payment of billed expenses. Although possessing enough inventory is important, having too much wastefully ties up your cash. Trends for accounts receivable and inventory can also be assessed by ratios. These determine the number of days you have on hand of accounts receivable and inventory based on recent sales. Since these calculations demand a little experience in analysis, your accountant can help with the math. All you need for this exercise is accurate up-to-date bookkeeping.
Revenue & Expenses
The income statement is the familiar report of revenue and business expenses. Many small operations keep their books on a cash basis, meaning the income statement reports revenue when received and expenses when paid. If your enterprise is accrual-based, it records revenue when customers are invoiced and expenses when bills are received. An accrual-basis operation will, therefore, also need a cash flow statement.
Declining revenue is obviously bad. But a temporary period of falling sales can be survived with some expense reductions or borrowing money. Look for unnecessary expenditures that can be reduced or eliminated. Your business may be stuck with large costs for space and personnel, but other categories are ripe for cutting back. Lower spending for multiple small categories can add up to substantial improvement in cash flow.
Deciding whether taking on more debt is sound brings you back to the balance sheet. If your business has plenty of equity, having more liabilities will not harm the operation’s financial strength. The other consideration with borrowing is assuring sufficient cash flow for loan repayment. Finding your cash flow number, which is not necessarily the business profit, permits you to calculate the sufficiency of incoming funds to cover the sum of all loan payments. That’s another simple ratio but also a factor to consider with input from your accountant.