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Your monthly financial statements tell you a story….in the language of numbers…

Every business has three main financial statements:

  1. The Balance Sheet
  2. The Income Statement
  3. The Statement of Cash Flows

The Balance is the main statement. What? Not the Income Statement?

Yes, it is true that most businesspeople will focus most of their attention on the Income Statement.

They do this because the Income Statement shows the results of activities over a period of time – a month, a quarter, a year.

The Balance Sheet has all the information to determine the heath of a business at a specific point in time.

Did you know that the Income Statement and Statement of Cash Flows are each derived from the Balance Sheet?

The Balance Sheet is the fulcrum of the three statements.

The Big Picture

The story that your financial statements are telling you starts with the big picture.

Let us break it down…

Your Balance Sheet has three main sections:

  1. Assets
  2. Liabilities
  3. Equity

Assets are what you own.

These can be further segregated into Current Assets, Fixed Assets, and Investments and Intangible Assets.

Liabilities are what you owe.

They can be segregated into Current Liabilities (due within one year), and long-term liabilities.

The difference between your assets (what you own) and your liabilities (what you owe) is your equity.

A simple way to envision this – imagine all you own is a house. You paid $300,000. This is your asset, what you own. You have a mortgage of $210,000. This is your liability, what you owe.

Your equity is simply the difference between the two, or $90,000 in this example.

You sell your house for $300,000 and pay off your mortgage of $210,000 and you pocket $90,000.


Your Income Statement is made up of two main sections – revenue (the inflows into your business), and expenses (the outflows from your business).

The difference between the two is your Net Profit.


So, now we have a Big Picture emerging – by knowing these five main sections of these two financial statements.

By looking at the Balance Sheet, we can determine what we own (assets), what we owe (liabilities), and the difference between the two (equity).

In examining the Income Statement, we can see what revenues flowed into our business, and what expenses flowed out of our business, and lastly how much profit we made.

That is the Big Picture…

Now let us get more detailed…and talk about ratios…

Ratio Analysis Deepens the Story

By looking at ratios in your business, we can start to interpret the “story of your business.”

Ratios come from the main sections of your financial statements. They tell us specific details about your business that we cannot glean from just looking at the five main sections…

By understanding exactly what they mean we can determine the overall health of our business.

From there we can make decisions to improve it.

What are the main ratios we should be looking at for most businesses?

Liquidity Ratios

Liquidity Ratios provide an early warning for a business unable to meet its current liabilities when they come due.

A current liability is defined as something due within one year. These include things like wages payable, accounts payable, taxes payable, and loan payments.

A current liability is paid with a current asset. Current assets are either cash in the bank or things that will convert to cash quickly. For example, accounts receivable collected and inventory when sold.

The current ratio is simply your current assets divided by your current liabilities.

One rule of thumb is that a current ratio of 2:1 or greater is extremely healthy.

A 2:1 current ratio means that for every $1 in current liabilities you have $2 in current assets to pay them. It means you are liquid.

Another way to think about it is that by being liquid you have enough current assets to pay your current liabilities as they become due.

By having $2 for every $1 in current liabilities means you are well covered.

Now let us look at…

Profitability Ratios

Three important profitability ratios are:

  1. Gross profit margin
  2. Net profit margin
  3. Return on equity.
Gross Profit Margin

Gross profit margin is the amount of profit left over after deducting your direct costs of producing or purchasing your goods and services.

Gross profit is needed to pay for your operating overhead. It needs to be high enough to cover all your overhead plus a profit.

Every industry will have a different gross profit margin percentage that will be normal in that industry.

Things that can lower your gross profit margin to a dangerous level include:

  • Sales discounting
  • Inefficient production costs
  • Venders for your purchases that are charging too much.
  • Venders delivering goods with poor quality.

Every business must measure their Gross Profit Margin by product line. In this way, you can monitor which product lines are most profitable in terms of both sales volume and the gross margin percentage.

Things that can increase your Gross Profit Margin include:

  1. Price increases especially when there is no loss in sales volume.
  2. Outsourcing manufacturing especially to a low-cost jurisdiction.
  3. Eliminating quality issues in either production in house or from your venders.

Next, we will look at…

Net Profit Margin

Every business needs to have overhead to run. These are indirect costs that are usually fixed in nature.

Some examples of overhead include:

  1. Management salaries.
  2. Rent.
  3. Insurance.
  4. Office Supplies.

Your Gross Profit must be enough to cover all of these fixed overhead expenses plus your profit.

Ways to increase your net profit include:

  1. Turn fixed expenses (as much as possible) into variable expenses.
  2. Find venders who will give you the same result for less money.
  3. Outsource as much as you are able to low-cost jurisdictions.

One of the things that happens to all businesses over time is that the fixed costs creep upward. And they also can be sticky.

By “sticky” I mean when businesses enter into longer term contracts that bind them to certain requirements that may no longer be needed.

What can happen is that you incur a fixed cost that you needed in the past, and now no longer do.

By not frequently examining your vendor relationships and agreements you may find you have fixed costs that are no longer even being used.

These can include things as expensive as office leases (more people are now working from home for instance) or software subscriptions for former employees that were not cancelled.

Now we will examine…

Return on Equity

Return on equity is expressed as a percentage of how much the business is earning in relation to its owners’ equity.

It is calculated by dividing the Net Profit by the Shareholders Equity and then multiplying this by 100 to represent it as a percentage.

A higher percentage is of course better, and a measurement of the reward being earned for the shareholders’ investment risk.

In Summary

Looking only at the larger numbers in the five main areas of your financial statements – Assets, Liabilities, Equity, Revenues, and Expenses – can be difficult to see patterns.

By expressing them as ratios, often a percentage, and understanding what they mean you can start to guide your business better.

A great accountant is someone who will interpret the numbers for you. He or she is like your co-pilot and they can help you see things that are otherwise incomprehensible.

Next week I will talk about Activity Ratios and Leverage Ratios.

Thanks for reading….