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Financial Reporting

Understanding The Income Statement

The income statement, or profit and loss statement as it is also known, reports the earnings of a company and all expenses that have been incurred to generate that income.

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The income statement is a simple and straightforward report on a business’s cash generating ability. It’s a scorecard on the financial performance of your business that reflects when sales are made and expenses are incurred. It draws information from the various financial models such as revenue, expenses, capital (in the form of depreciation) and cost of goods.

By combining these elements, the income statement illustrates just how much your company makes or loses during the year by subtracting cost of goods and expenses from revenue to arrive at a net result, which is either a profit or a loss. It differs from a cash flow statement because the income statement doesn’t show when revenue is collected or when expenses are paid. It does, however, show the projected profitability of the business over the time frame covered by the plan.

For a business plan, the income statement should be generated on a monthly basis during the first year, quarterly for the second and annually for the third. Your income statement lists your financial projections in the following manner:

  • Income includes all the income generated by the business.
  • Cost of goods includes all the costs related to the sale of products in inventory.
  • Gross profit margin is the difference between revenue and cost of goods. Gross profit margin can be expressed in rands, as a percentage, or both. As a percentage, the GP margin is always stated as a percentage of revenue.
  • Operating expenses include all overhead and labour expenses associated with the operations of the business.
  • Total expenses are the sum of cost of goods and operating expenses.
  • Net profit is the difference between gross profit margin and total expenses. The net income depicts the business’s debt and capital capabilities.
  • Depreciation reflects the decrease in value of capital assets used to generate income. It is also used as the basis for a tax deduction and an indicator of the flow of money into new capital.
  • Earnings before interest and taxes shows the capacity of a business to repay its obligations.
  • Interest includes all interest payable for debts, both short-term and long-term.
  • Taxes includes all taxes on the business.
  • Net profit after taxes shows the company’s real bottom line.

The Right Income Statement for your Type of Business

Although the basics of an income statement are the same from business to business, there are notable differences between services, merchandisers and manufacturers when it comes to the accounting of inventory. For service businesses, inventory includes supplies or spare parts – nothing for manufacture or resale.

Retailers and wholesalers, on the other hand, account for their resale inventory under cost of goods sold, also known as cost of sales. This refers to the total price paid for the products sold during the income statement’s accounting period. Freight and delivery charges are customarily included in this figure.

Accountants segregate costs of goods on an operating statement because it provides a measure of gross profit margin when compared with sales, an important yardstick for measuring the firm’s profitability. For a retailer or wholesaler, cost of goods sold is equal to total inventory at the beginning of the accounting period plus any merchandise purchased, including freight costs, minus the inventory present at the end of the accounting period. This is your total cost of goods sold.

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Small Business Has A Critical Role To Play In The Economy – But Entrepreneurs Need Better Financial Skills

While government is stepping up to support small business more than ever before, the sector will not thrive unless entrepreneurs are also equipped with the financial tools to optimise their organisations – UCT Associate Professor Mark Graham.

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The role of small business in promoting growth and development has shot to the top of the agenda this year with both President Ramaphosa in his inaugural SONA and Minister Malusi Gigaba in his budget speech highlighting the critical role of this sector of the economy.

Globally, SMMEs are recognised as one of the key drivers of economic growth and job creation – and it is clear that the small business sector has led the world out of several global recessions – but in South Africa, the sector is under-performing.

Entrepreneurs need help to become sustainable

Recent data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shows that South African entrepreneurship lags behind that in similar economies. And for every 1.5 people who were engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activity in SA in 2016, one was exiting a business.

According to Mark Graham Associate Professor in Accounting at the University of Cape Town, typical reasons for business failure include: insufficient start-up funding, incorrect pricing for products or services, growing too quickly or prematurely, and inadequate cash flow.

Related: How to Improve Your Company’s Financial Management

“We need entrepreneurs to run their businesses successfully so that they can be sustainable,” he says. “Most of these issues can be addressed through a proper understanding of financial and accounting principles and concepts to help entrepreneurs run their businesses better.”

A growing understanding of financial principles

Graham, who runs the Finance for Non-Financial Managers programme at the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB), emphasises that finance and accounting terms are really just a language that uses numbers to tell a story about a business.

“If you understand the fundamentals of financial principles you will be able to analyse what is happening in any organisation,” says Graham.

“Concepts like profit and cash flow are basic to business. However, people are often surprised to find that while a business can be extremely profitable, there may be a cash flow problem that will soon bring it to its knees.

Most people don’t know the basics of financial reports, what the right capital structure (i.e. the mix of debt and equity) might be. By getting to grips with concepts like working capital management and cash flow vs profit, business owners and managers can give themselves the best chance of success.”

Financial literacy is key to entrepreneurial success

Jannie Rossouw, head of Sanlam’s Business Market, agrees that financial literacy is key to entrepreneurial success and has argued that it should be integrated into the school curriculum so that future business owners can understand critical concepts like the time value of money.

“It is imperative that SA starts to spend significant time and resources to address the need for access to quality education aimed at those who want to pursue entrepreneurship and business ownership. We shouldn’t only start teaching these skills at the tertiary level,” says Rossouw.

And it is not just entrepreneurs that would benefit from a better grasp of the basics of finances, says Graham. All businesses should invest in developing the financial skills of their people – especially those in managerial roles.

Related: Create Financial Statements… Properly

“It is important for everyone working in business to understand the basic language of business and demystify the jargon – which is one of the things that the course I run at the GSB seeks to do,” he says.

“Feedback from previous course participants shows that people really appreciate being able to see how the numbers are telling a story about the health – or lack thereof – of a business and that this helped them make better business choices.”

Financial tools are needed to optimise businesses

“Sustainable small businesses have big potential to make a significant contribution to the SA economy and put a dent in the unemployment figures. So when Gigaba said that by enabling new businesses with new ideas to emerge and thrive, ‘we are radically transforming patterns of production in the economy’ he is not wrong.

But unless serious steps are also taken to equip owners and managers with the financial tools to optimise their companies, we will find that despite more proactive government policies and funding, the small business sector will still not thrive.”

Related: Want To Know Your Numbers? 3 ACCA Accounting Online Courses Your Can Take For Free

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Financial Reporting

Build A Financial Model

Start-ups often struggle to develop a suitable financial model for their new businesses. Here are some of the most important financial modelling considerations.

Jason Sive

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All budding entrepreneurs spend long hours typing up a well versed strategy document for their new entity, as expected. However, very often there is insufficient time allocated to the crux of the business, the numbers.


Definition: Financial modelling is the process by which a firm constructs a financial representation of some, or all, aspects of its business.


Related: Financial Focus For Your Business In Different Growth Stages

For any new start-up entity the initial necessity for assessing potential returns on new investment or seeking external funding can be a daunting process. Whether you are soliciting funds from an institution, or a high net worth individual investor, the financial projections could make or break your deal.

Although you as the founder are naturally optimistic about the new venture, be mindful that most investors would rather see the worst case scenario. This allows the potential investor/banker to take a realistic view on the maximum potential losses, should the business fold in the first 12 – 24 months. As such, it is recommended to produce a low, middle and high road model, for a three to five year period.

Inputs and outputs

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Most importantly, always keep in mind that your financial model is nothing more than certain inputs producing certain outputs. By designing the model correctly, a user should be able to change certain inputs to assess the impact of these changes on the related outputs (commonly referred to as a ‘what if analysis’ or ‘stress testing’ a model).

By way of a simple example, your sales revenue line for any specific month should be a function of the number of products sold, at a specific sales price.

For ease of use, both you and a potential investor should be able to adjust either of these variables in order to see how resilient the business model is, should your assumptions be incorrect.

Related: 3 Ways Emerging Entrepreneurs Run Financially Sound Businesses

Other basic recommendations when building your model:

  • Create an assumption page, clearly defining any assumptions on which the model is built. By linking certain variables to the assumption page the model becomes robust and user-friendly.
  • Be as transparent as possible, showing all formulae that lie behind calculations. This allows the user to easily follow logic through the model.
  • Aim for simplicity and ease of understanding. Over-complicating a financial model with unnecessary worksheets can confuse and overload the reader.
  • When inputting projected overheads, deal with each line item separately, without consolidating. This demonstrates detailed thinking, and allows discussion around each expense if necessary.
  • The model should evolve with the business. You should be looking to check the assumptions made at the inception of the business, with the reality of what is achievable, after having the benefit of hindsight. By tweaking the numbers accordingly, the model becomes a more accurate prediction of the business in the future. This should be an ongoing process.
  • Beware of attempting to use a generic template that may not apply to your business. Trying to customise these generic models could complicate a would-be simple model. Building your own bespoke model from scratch is the cleanest approach, even if assistance is necessary. This forces you to learn the intricacies of your model, which will hopefully stand you in good stead.
  • Many books and websites recommend a myriad of options when it comes to building financial models. As a principle, lean towards the concept of simplicity, provided you are able to integrate your model into regular projected income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statements.

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Financial Reporting

Are You Crunching The Right Numbers?

Measure what matters and you will find hidden money in your business.

Monique Sharland

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Defining true profits

Just because you sell at a profit, is that enough to be profitable? A mistake that many business owners make is that they don’t factor in net profit when calculating selling price.

The natural tendency of business owners is to focus on sales growth rather than net profit. So, what is net profit? Profit is on paper — it is not in the bank. It is the money left over each month after deducting all the cost of sales and expenses it generates and subtract them from all the revenue it creates. Net profit is also calculated after paying a market-related salary to the business owners.

Related: Trends In Investing For Entrepreneurs In South Africa

Identifying the winners

What are your profitable products or services, and which aren’t? Gross margin is the most important component of any business as it enables your business to pay its overheads, pay you and make a net profit to continue to grow and be protected from adverse economic times.

Gross margin is calculated by taking the gross profit, that is, the selling price less the cost of the product or service, expressed as a percentage over sales. Most business owners make the mistake of just measuring gross margins, and if they are being achieved, cannot understand why there is no money in the bank. To find hidden money, gross margins cannot be calculated alone.

Measuring cash flow together with gross margins for each and every product you sell or service you provide will determine which products or services make you money, and which don’t. For example, if product X has a gross margin of 33,3% and takes six months to sell, you have effectively lost your margin as money has been used to finance the product instead of being utilised to purchase more of the same products at a far higher turnaround.

Profitable relationships

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Which customers make you money, and which don’t? You need to know how much of each product or service each customer has purchased from you and the gross margin earned on each of those products or services sold and how much money each one owed your business at any given time.

This analysis will determine the profitability of each customer. If your marketing efforts are directed only at those customers that give you a higher gross margin without also measuring the cash flow of that customer, you’ll be making the unwitting mistake of selling to some of the least profitable customers.

Unlike products and services, customers are people, some very nice, others either hostile or simply undesirable. If you have any hope of building a business that maximises profit, fun, and your free time, you should focus on attracting customers that respect you and your team, who allow you to use your full talents, are respectful of your time and have reasonable expectations and demands of your business.

If a customer does not resonate with you and your business, don’t deal with them, as they will invariably take a chunk of profit from your business, and that’s not a good thing, is it?

Related: Understanding Total Return of Investment

Return on investment

Your business cannot make money for you if your investment in assets increases at a faster rate than your net profit. The two assets we are concerned about are inventory and accounts receivable.

Let’s say your inventory and accounts receivable increases by R58 000 and your net profit was only R35 000 for the same year, you will not see money in your bank. Don’t fall into the trap of increasing net profit and ignoring your business’s overall investment in assets.

By measuring what matters, you’ll be amazed how you can find hidden money lying in your business.

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