Income Statement: An Overview

Income Statement

A business owner’s income statement is a key part of their financial story. You might be tempted to leave as much of your accounting work up to your bookkeeper, sure. But your income statement — which you also might know as your Profit & Loss, P&L, or earnings statement — is something you should know how to read (and produce) own your own.

A P&L gives small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) the crucial understanding of the actual net profit of their business. In other words, it’s the only way you can actually figure out if your company is making money — and whether you might want to adjust your cash flow management processes to get yourself to profitability.

The basics of an income statement

With accounting, it’s tempting to stuff your fingers in your ears and leave everything to your certified professional accountant (CPA). At PayPie, we’re fundamental believers that it’s really important to know what’s going on in your books so you don’t have to smile and nod as if you understood your own business’s financials.

In the simplest sense, an income statement measures your income and expenses over a period of time. (Hence why it’s also called a Profit & Loss — these terms are interchangeable with “income statement” from here on out.) You’ll quite obviously want to keep P&Ls for your fiscal year, but most SMEs also keep these for quarters to spot helpful cash flow patterns (we’ll talk about this more in a bit, hang tight). Sometimes, producing them monthly can even help more.

Whether or not you’re tracking these numbers formally, you’re likely keeping tabs on this info in some sense or another. Otherwise, you’d have no idea what’s exactly going on in your business. But the point of an income statement is to get stuff organized in one place for you to be able to make informed decisions and help anyone else who’s evaluating your financials (like a business lender or the IRS, for instance) get a quick sense of the financial health of your company.

If you’re using small business accounting software, like QuickBooks Online, you can create an income statement within the application. At PayPie, our cash flow forecasting and risk assessment tool uses your income statement as a primary source for analysis and insights.

Profit & Loss

What an income statement shows

When someone’s on a diet, they’re supposed to log calories in and calories out. It makes sense why a dietitian would recommend a food and exercise journal — if you’re trying to get a sense of whether or not you’re on the right path to losing weight, you have to understand whether you’re eating more or burning more. Your net calories will tell you.

In a way, your statement of income is like your business’s diet plan. You have to figure out if you’re spending or earning more, and your net profit will reveal that. Spend more than you earn and you’re in the red; flip that, and you’re in the black.

The numbers on your P&L will allow you to get a sense of the answers to these questions:

  1. Is my business generating a profit?
  2. Am I spending more than I’m earning?
  3. When am I spending the most, and when are my costs lowest?
  4. Am I paying too much to produce my product?
  5. Do I have money to invest back into my business?

And, the more granular your records, the better able you’ll be to identify trends.

Your income statement, cash flow statement and balance sheet are three of your main financial reports. Read how they all come together. 

What you’ll need to read an income statement

There are a few essential elements of a Profit & Loss. You’ll need to understand the fundamental differences among them all to not only put one together but to also read one, too.

The first two are the most important of all:

  • Revenue: What your business takes in. This combines any revenue stream, whether it’s from a retail storefront, e-commerce, wholesale business, passive investments — you name it. Put that here.
  • Expenses: What your business spends. This includes both the fixed and variable costs for making your company run on a daily basis. Think salary, overhead, redesigning your company website, software.

Then, you’ll also want to know:

  • COGS: Cost of goods sold. This means taking into account the component parts of what it takes to make whatever it is you sell. So, even if the candles in your shop sell for $18, you need to think about the expenses to get the goods ready for sale, like the jars, wicks, wax, and labels. This is most important for product businesses, less so for service businesses who may not have a COGS.
  • Profit: Your total expenses minus your total revenue. Although this seems straightforward, this doesn’t tell the whole story.
  • Gross Profit: Your total profit minus COGS. You end up paying your business’s operating expenses from your gross profit, so this number is arguably the most important of all to understand from your income statement.

You might also hear the abbreviation EBIDTA, which means earnings before interest, depreciation, taxes, and amortization.” Don’t worry about that too much unless you’re dealing with investors or you’re a very high-grossing business (in which case, your accountant will help you out). But, basically, this number provides a very clear picture of how your business is doing without these other factors. A look at the cold, hard financials of your business beyond cash flow, since it looks at non-cash items, too.

Your income statement will include some other terms, too, but these are the ones you’ll need to grasp in order to use a P&L effectively to make decisions for your business.

Who looks at your income statement

Some or all of the following parties will or should review your P&L statement:

  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You might need to prepare your Profit & Loss for any number of reasons. In the most basic sense, the IRS will generally need to take a peek at your income statement — along with your balance sheet and cash flow statement — in order to verify your business’s financials. If for no other reason, that should give you a big incentive to keep this important document clean and up to date. Also, your business income taxes are based on your profit each year.
  • Small business lenders. In many scenarios, lenders require you to submit your income statement with your application for business financing. That especially goes with term loans where lenders will be taking a hard look at whether or not you can handle your repayment.
  • Investors. Unsurprisingly, if you’re courting investors — or vice versa — submitting a Profit & Loss in due diligence will be a must. In order for lenders to get a true understanding of your financial picture, they’ll take a hard look at your books. This is where EBITDA on your statement of income will be important, as well as your cash flow forecasts. Detailed records are essential here.
  • Buyers or clients. If you’re planning on selling your business — or even doing business with new clients — you should prepare to have your P&L ready to show. The income statement gives partners a sense that you’re solvent.
  • You. (No exceptions on this one.)As a savvy business owner, the more time you spend in the weeds understanding where you’re spending and where you’re earning, the more intelligently you can make decisions. The more helpful you find your P&Ls, the more you might find you want to keep more frequent records.

Your income statement should inform financial decisions

Your Profit & Loss is meant to give you a great sense of the current sense of your business financials. Beyond seeing the now, though, smart business owners will make decisions based on the numbers.

Read More: How to Read a Cash Flow Statement & The Difference Between Profit and Cash Flow 

The relationship between cash flow and your P&L

First, your income statement will part the clouds about your net profit. Should you be looking into different manufacturers or suppliers to lower your cost of goods and spending less? Should you be shifting a portion of your production to a different season to even out your cash flow?

Toward that end, you’ll also be able to spot important seasonal fluctuations in your finances. Even if you’re not making tweaks to your cash flow management processes based on this info, it’s essential that you know the trends.

Tools, like cash flow forecasting (see image below), also help you better understand how your business both earns and spends throughout the course of a month, quarter, and year. These kinds of insights and analysis are powerful. You’ll really know when your business will be flush with liquidity, and when you need to save up. Signing up is easy, and PayPie integrates directly with QuickBooks Online. (More integrations are on their way.)

PayPie Cash Flow Forecast Example

This article is informational only. It does not replace the expertise that comes from working with an accountant, bookkeeper or financial professional.

Images via Pexels and Shutterstock. 

Reporting, Cash Flow and Your Business’ Financial Health

business owner reviewing financial statements on a computer

While you know that financial health of your business is important, it’s actually a pretty difficult topic to discuss. Business financial health involves all sorts of accounting and financial terms, which don’t always roll off the tips of everyone’s tongues. But, more than that, most business simply have no idea where to start.

Rather than waiting until you have a cash flow crisis, using insights and analysis can help you better understand the financial health of your business.

What is business financial health and how do you measure it? 

Like 64.4% of businesses, you use accounting software to help track financial health by systematically recording your income and expenses and other crucial data. In turn, this information becomes the foundation for key financial statements, like your balance sheet, profit and loss statement and cash flow statement.

Learn how to read a cash flow statement and what cash flow forecasting can tell you about your business’ financial health. 

Why should you routinely review your business’ financial statements?

According to Mike Kappel, CEO of Patriot Software, the best way to measure success and overall financial health is to look at your financial statements.

“Measuring business performance means checking out the money flow (cash flow) of your business. If you want to see how profitable your business is, check out the financial statements.”

The challenge with financial statements and financial health

While most business owners recognize the significance of reviewing their financials, business coach Adam Sonnhalter notes that he and his business partner have seen:

“Grown, husky men cry when we ask them to tell us what they see on their financial statements and tell us what the numbers mean.”

The difference between financial statements and financial reports

In truth, the terms are often used interchangeably. However, in the world of business accounting and determining financial health, there are inferred differences.

  • Financial statements are often considered internal documents intended for stakeholders within the business itself.
  • Building upon, summarizing and visualizing the data from within the business statements, a financial report (business assessment) is most often used to quantify or substantiate the business’ performers to external stakeholders, like lenders.

Financial assessments and analysis, like cash flow forecasting, bridge the gap between having the numbers in hand and actually having a handle on what they really mean. When financial insights are presented in a clear, concise report, it’s easier for business owners to see what these numbers are telling them about the financial health of their company.

Although in a textbook sense, reports have traditionally been used to provide information to third-parties, the financial analysis and insights within the reports are also highly valuable to the businesses themselves. After all, you can’t make informed decisions if you don’t have the right information in the first place.

PayPie Cash Flow Forecast Example

Putting all the pieces together for better financial health 

In order to get the information you need to measure your company’s financial health, you need to know what you’re looking for, where to find it and what it all means.

The four main indicators of a business’ financial health

In an article written for Investopedia, contributor J.B. Maverick writes that liquidity, solvency, profitability and operating efficiencies are the four main areas that should be examined to determine a business’ overall and long-term financial health.

  • Liquidity — The amount of cash or assets easily convertible into cash that a company has available in order to meet short-term obligations.
  • Solvency — A company’s ability to meet long-term payment responsibilities.
  • Operating efficiency — A measure of how much profit the company makes with each transaction, once the cost of production or providing the services is accounted for.
  • Profitability — Put simply, this is whether or not the company is making money.
Discover which businesses have the best cash flow and why.

Your financial statements — what they are and what they tell you

There are three financial statements that a business should produce and review on a regular basis for the data needed to measure financial health and inform better decision making in relation to your financial health.

A balance sheet (statement of financial worth or statement of net worth) compares a company’s assets to its debts detailing what it owns versus what it owes. Assets are listed in order of liquidity (how quickly they can be converted to cash) while liabilities are listed in the order in which they’ll be paid.

A balance sheet is often described as a “snapshot” of one particular point in time in a company’s financial health. The date at the top of the balance sheet tells you the period of time (year, quarter or month) for which the information applies.

A business’ working capital ratio (assets divided by liabilities) is derived from the information provided in the balance sheet.

balance sheet

While a balance sheet shows how well a business is managing its liabilities, a profit and loss statement (P&L statement, income statement or statement of operations) tracks revenues, costs and expenses over a quarter or fiscal year, providing measures of profitability.

Answering the question, “Is this business profitable?” — a P&L statement starts with top-line revenue items from which the costs of doing business, such as costs of goods and services (COGS), taxes and other operating expenses are deducted. The resulting amount is the famous “bottom line.”

Gross profit margin (gross profit divided by revenues), operating profit margin (operating earnings divided by revenue), net profit margin (net profit divided by revenue) and operating ratio (operating expenses divided by net sales) are generated from a business’ P&L statement.

Learn why you should always keep your business and personal finances separate. 

profit and loss statement

A cash flow statement (statement of cash flow) is the third document in this trifecta. By comparing metrics from a business’ operations, purchasing and borrowing activities (merging the balance sheet and P&L statement) it shows where a company’s money comes from and where it’s going (or has gone).

A company’s cash flow ratio (operational cash flow or free cash flow) represented as the operating cash flow divided by current liabilities is considered a measure of operational efficiency and solvency.

The difference between cash flow and profitability

Cash flow and profit are not the same things, especially in relation to financial health. Unlike a balance sheet or P&L statement which are static — a cash flow statement shows movement by accounting for funds coming in or out of the business as credit, such as paid or unpaid invoices.

It’s entirely possible for a profitable business to have limited cash flow, especially if a business’ inventory, accounts receivable or fixed assets are growing rapidly. Unlike Fortune 500 companies with large cash reserves, independently owned businesses are more likely to reinvest their funds into their business — as a result, they are also more likely to be cash poor.

What financial reporting can tell you about your business’s financial health

A financial report takes the information in a business’ financial statements and translates them into analysis and insights. A cash flow forecast, like the one generated by PayPie, puts your cash flow, debts, assets and other factors related to financial health front and center.

The assessments we generate are a visual way to help you understand the metrics that matter most to your business’ financial health. In your report (pictured earlier in this post), you’ll find charts, graphs and other breakdowns that help give you the big picture of what you need to know in order to make the right decisions for your business.

How does it work? Simply sign up for PayPie, connect your accounting software to use your current financial information and you’re ready to go.* You may also run cash flow forecast as often as you like — free of charge — to help you start building a history of your progress.

Ready to improve your business’ financial health? Then click here and get started now!

*PayPie currently integrates with QuickBooks Online. Additional integrations are coming soon.

This article is intended to be informational only and does not replace the expertise that comes from working with an accountant, bookkeeper or financial professional.

 

Stock photo from Pexels.