Friday, July 23, 2010

Five Acronyms Every Small Business Should Know

P&L – Profit and Loss Statement

Your Profit and Loss Statement (or income statement) describes your company's overall performance. The P&L tells how much money you're making in your business and how you're making it. It measures revenues received and costs incurred over a certain period of time. It tells you if you're making money or not, and how much you're making or losing.

Go over each line item, and compare it with the previous month's P&L. If you don't understand what a line item represents, find out. The numbers should make sense to YOU, not to your accountant. And if you haven't already, organize the line items so that similar items are closer together. The default setting in most financial software usually lists the expenses alphabetically. For example, it makes sense to see "Product Packaging Materials" next to "Merchandise Purchased for Resale." Feel free to combine line items to make your P&L more concise, and/or break apart line items to show you more details so you can make some sound business decisions based on what the numbers are telling you.

COGS - Cost of Goods Sold

Also referred to as the "cost of sales," COGS are the direct costs attributable to the production of goods sold. This includes material cost and production (labor) costs but does not include indirect cost like advertising or R&D. COGS will show up on your P&L Statements. Watch the percentages, not the actual dollar amounts from one month to the next. The percentage should stay pretty much the same with regards to revenues.

EBITDA - Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization

This is the most complicated of the acronyms we're discussing today, but essentially EBITDA measures the core income that your company earns before your cover your debt payments and income taxes. It's an indicator of operating performance and profitability, but it's not a good measure of cash because it doesn't include changes in working capital.

EBITDA will be important if you want to sell your business; it allows buyers or investors to evaluate your operating profitability and profit trends without the unique variables that might distract from bottom line performance.

EBITDA is a good way to measure your profitability, but be forewarned: even businesses with a great EBITDA can go out of business due to cash flow. EBITDA leaves out the cash needed to fund working capital and the replacement of old equipment. Profits are great, but if you have no cash, your business will "bleed out" pretty quickly.

BEP – Break-Even Point

This is one of those numbers you want to know by heart and just like it says, this important indicator tells you at what point your business "breaks even." It is the dollar amount of revenues that exactly covers all your operating expenses (variable and fixed costs), with nothing left over for profit. It's an important indicator of risk because it shows you how close your business is to the "no profit" line. For instance, if your business is currently producing revenues at the level of $100,000 per month, and your break-even point is $60,000 per month, you are comfortably above your no profit line. You want your BEP swimming in your head at all times. It's your minimum target for slow months, and it's where emergency on your hands.

CR and QR: Current Ratio and Quick Ratio

Current Ratio = [Current Assets ÷ Current Liabilities]

The current ratio measures your ability to meet short-term obligations by determining if you have enough current assets to cover current liabilities. Ideally, your current ratio should be near 2.00, meaning your current assets are two times, or 200%, of your current liabilities. If your current ratio is below 2.00, your short-term debt-paying ability is reduced. This is an unstable financial position, and you should examine your finances to see where improvements can be made. If your current ratio is above 2.00, you have above average debt-paying ability; however, if it is too high, it may mean that you are not utilizing your assets effectively. If it's below a 1, then you've got an emergency on your hands.

Quick Ratio = [(Current Assets - Inventory) ÷ Current Liabilities]

Like the current ratio, the quick ratio measures short-term debt-paying ability. It is calculated without inventory because inventory is not as easy to turn into cash as your other current assets. Thus, the quick ratio examines assets that can be turned into cash in the least amount of time. Businesses that carry a lot of inventory need this important planning tool. Ideally, your quick ratio should be at 1.00 or higher. If it is lower than 1.00, you may have trouble meeting your current obligations. Below 0.5 is an emergency. Note that if you don't carry inventory, your current ratio and quick ratio will be the same.

This doesn't have to be complicated, or difficult to control

All it really takes is a commitment to two things: (1) understanding the relationship between money and your business activities and (2) creating and implementing—on a regular, ongoing basis—a few straightforward money management tools and strategies. When you understand how money flows in your business and you can control your money systems, you will make informed decisions about prioritization, management and investments.

You don't have to be a finance expert; you just have to understand enough to make the decisions that matter. You begin all of your budgeting and forecasting. At a minimum, your revenues (sales) should be at least as high as your BEP. The goal, of course, is to increase this number over time so that revenues (sales) are above the BEP.

If you don't know what your BEP is, you need to find out now. And how many customers does it take to hit your BEP this month? Per week? Per day? How many leads do you need to get that many customers? Also: if you want to lower the breakeven sales number, reduce your cost of goods sold or your operating expenses.