As one of the most essential aspects of a business proposal, the financial plan utilizes current financial data to project long-term profits and losses for your company. As a business owner, having a strong financial plan helps you identify potential issues and discrepancies while it’s still early enough to make changes. Having a good financial plan handy also improves your odds of securing funding from banks and other investors by showing you’ve done your due diligence.
Still, first-time entrepreneurs often struggle to create these all-important documents.
Below are five components every financial plan should have, along with suggestions for collecting the necessary data to plan your business’ future.
1. Income Statements
Income statements reveal revenue, expenses and profits over a given period of time. Start by making a list of all the costs and expenses associated with running your business. This may include raw materials, suppliers, employee salaries and rent costs. Then record your revenue, which is the money you receive in exchange for providing goods and services. By subtracting your expenses from total revenue, you can determine whether your company can expect to make a profit or suffer a loss.
This information is crucial not only for planning purposes, but it can also help draw potential investors to your business.
While income statements for existing businesses convey data from the past one or two years, startups must instead forecast this information based on their research. When drafting your company’s first income statements, you may need to project profits and losses using information from similar businesses in the area. The goal is to determine if your company can support itself moving forward and make budgetary changes as needed.
2. Cash Flow
Cash flow projections estimate the amount of money that will be entering and exiting the business on a regular basis. Determining net cash flow requires simply subtracting cash outflow from cash inflow, which reveals only those funds that are actually available at a given time.
Just as with your income statement projections, you’ll have to create a plan of how you expect your cash to flow based on rational observations, predictions and your own research. Again, while it seems frustrating, compiling a schedule of when cash comes in and out can give you (and investors) insight into how much cash you’ll actually have available to operate your business.
By keeping accurate cash flow statements as your business matures, you can identify problem areas before they grow too large to contain. For instance, if your projections suggest you need more immediate cash, you can try strategies to help bring it in, such as turning over inventory more quickly or reducing the length of your billing cycle. However you use it, a cash flow’s primary functions are to assess your company’s financial health and help you make business-development decisions moving forward.
Another thing to keep in mind: When calculating your cash flow projection, you won’t be able to use any revenue amounts from unpaid invoices. The reason? That revenue hasn’t been collected yet and thus isn’t available to go in or out. Yes, you may be able to declare the money from unpaid invoices in your revenue projections, but not as cash on hand.
3. Balance Sheet
A balance sheet provides a snapshot of a company’s assets, liabilities and equity at a given time. As its name implies, a balance is struck between a company’s assets, which equal its liability added to the value of its equity.
First, take time to list all assets, including accounts receivable, savings, inventory and equipment. Next, you should detail all liabilities, such as accounts payable, loan payments and credit card balances. Lastly, you can add up the company’s equity, which may take the form of owner equity, investor shares and earnings from stocks. When you’re finished, check to make sure that the total value of assets equals that of your liabilities plus your equity.
As you may expect, your balance sheet can have a significant effect on your business’ ability to secure the funding it needs to get off the ground. Learn more about how to create a detailed balance sheet to track your startup’s liabilities and equity.
4. Break-Even Analysis
It’s no secret that startups rarely turn a profit at the onset. If and when your business does cross the threshold from red to black, it will have crossed the break-even point. The break-even point occurs when the expenses of running your business equal the revenue from your products and services. To increase your odds of reaching that crucial turning point, take the time to create a break-even analysis as part of your financial plan.
Along with your company’s fixed and variable costs, the document should include projected prices and account for the value of inflation. Not only does a break-even analysis show potential investors that your company has the potential to succeed, but it also enables you to make better decisions regarding resource allocation. If your break-even point is too high, you may want to consider ways to reduce your cost of business. This might include shopping for new suppliers, increasing prices or even temporarily working out of your home.
5. Financing Schedule
Most of us can’t launch a new business entirely on our own. Because loans are an unfortunate fact of life in the startup world, every business plan should include a loan summary and financing schedule. Take note of the types of loans incurred, including interest rates and expected terms as well as securities information. After all, potential lenders want to know that you have a solid plan to pay off existing debts before investing more money in your business venture.
If you’re thinking of starting your own business, then you’ve probably heard the bleak statistics. According to one report, as many as eight in 10 startups fail in the first 18 months. To give your business a fighting chance, you need to have a strong financial plan in place before you launch.