Understanding your numbers to improve your results
Understanding your financial reports, or knowing your numbers, is critical to business success. It allows you to make better business decisions, measure the impact of those decisions, take corrective action where necessary and, ultimately, enjoy better results.
By understanding your financial reports, you’ll:
- Know if your business is growing or shrinking
- Discover trends in your business and be able to respond accordingly
- Compare your actual results to your expectations
- Identify areas of strength and weakness in your business
- Understand the value of your business
- Make better decisions
How to maximise results from your reports:
1. Ask yourself, is the data ‘clean’? This means that all transactions have been coded correctly and bank statements have been reconciled. Do you have monthly procedures to ensure your data is clean?
2. Inspect what you expect. You must have goals for your business, or targets you expect to achieve. Inspect your financial reports each month to see if you’re on track to achieve your expected targets.
3. Know which reports to use. Each report tells you a different story. Your Profit and Loss Statement measures your income and expenses; the Balance Sheet measures your assets, liabilities and net worth.
4. Conduct both horizontal and vertical analysis. This means comparing the current period with previous periods (horizontal analysis) and calculating each item as a percentage of a base item (vertical analysis). For example, comparing this year’s Balance Sheet with last year’s and calculating each expense item as a percentage of Sales on your Profit and Loss Statement.
5. Understand the difference between ‘as at’ or ‘for the period ending’. An ‘as at’ report, such as the Balance Sheet, shows the balances at the end of a specific period. A ‘for the period ending’ report, such as the Profit and Loss Statement, shows the results over a period of time.
6. Choose the correct date range. Ensure you correctly specify the start and end dates for the period you want to measure. Choose a month end date, such as 30 June instead of 15 June, to ensure all income and expenses have been coded and reconciled for the period.
By understanding the fundamentals behind your financial reports, you’ll know more about your numbers and be able to use that information to make better decisions. Whether you want to grow your business or increase efficiency to free up your time, we can help you interpret your financial reports and set goals for improvement.
Get in touch for our complimentary Guide to Your Financial Reports to learn more.
Understanding Your Profit and Loss Statement
Your profit and loss statement (P&L) helps you understand your business performance and profitability over time. It’s sometimes called an Income statement and its main purpose is to list income and expenditure.
Whereas a balance sheet is a snapshot in time, the P&L shows transactions over a specific period of time. This can be a month, quarter, financial year or any other period, and it can be a stand-alone report or a comparative period report.
Together with the balance sheet, these two reports provide a comprehensive understanding of the financial position and performance of a business.
The profit and loss statement has two main sections: income and expenses.
These may be further subdivided depending on the complexity of the business and reporting requirements.
- Income or Revenue
Income primarily includes main business activities such as sale of goods or services. Other income such as interest received, capital gains or income from secondary business activities is also reported.
Expenses are usually divided into two sections: direct costs, or cost of goods sold, and expenses. Cost of goods are those that are directly linked to the provision of services or sale of goods. For example, if you buy widgets from a wholesaler and sell them at a marked-up value, the cost of the widgets is a direct cost, not an overhead expense.
Other types of direct costs might be importing and freight costs, contractor costs or certain equipment. Some direct costs are fixed, that is, they are the same from month to month, or they could be a fixed percentage of sales; others vary in value but are still related to the income producing activities.
Overhead expenses are all the other expenses required to run the business, regardless of the level of income: for example, rent, utilities, bank fees, bookkeeping fees, professional development costs, vehicle costs and staff costs. Many of these costs form the basis of working out your break-even point, or how much it costs just to open the doors for business.
There are some expenses which may be reported as a direct cost in one business but an indirect cost in another type of business, for example, merchant fees or contractor costs.
The Bottom Line
Total income minus total expenses results in the net profit (or loss), is often called ‘the bottom line’. Often business owners are just interested in looking at the bottom line, but a true financial picture requires an understanding of several reports and an ability to see the big picture that the reports are illustrating.
The P&L is a vital tool to analyse for trends over time.
- What does your P&L tell you about relationships and ratios between sales and expenses, seasonal changes and annual trends?
- Have all your direct costs been allocated correctly?
- Have you recouped all billable expenses from customers?
Financial statements help you understand the big picture for your business. With deeper understanding of your business operations and performance you can make informed decisions about your business finances.