Top 3 Financial Reports for Small Businesses (2023)

Following a recent quarter end, Oracle reported its total quarterly revenues were up 11%year-over-year, with international sales accounting for 60% of its revenue

Every quarter, anyone who’s interested can get a glimpse into the financial health of acompany like Apple because it is publicly traded and required to disclose its financialperformance. It communicates these results in earnings calls and by filing financial reportswith the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Yet financial reporting is a vital exercise for businesses of all sizes.

What Is Financial Reporting?

Financial reports help both internal leaders and external stakeholders understand thefinancial state of the business. Although small, private companies are only required to filereports with the SEC if they have $10 million or more in assets and 500 or moreshareholders, most businesses create these statements, even if they’re only for internalconsumption. Additionally, many small, private businesses will at some point need to providefinancial reports to stakeholders when seeking loans from a bank, investment from a venturecapital firm or equity funding.

Why Is Financial Reporting Important?

In the Federal Reserve Banks Small Business Credit Survey, 43% of the 5,514small businesses surveyed said they had applied for financing in the past 12 months. Theymost commonly used those funds to expand the business, acquire new assets or pursue abusiness opportunity or to pay operatingexpenses. The most common types of external financing small businesses looked towere loans/lines of credit, a credit card, trade credit, leasing or an equity investment. Tosecure that financing, the majority went to a bank, with an online lender being thesecond-most popular option.

To receive any funding, whether from a bank, venture capital investor or another source,stakeholders will need to review financial reports. Small businesses may also need to submitfinancial statements for tax purposes. For instance, C Corporations are required to completea balance sheet as part of their annual federal tax return. The U.S. Small BusinessAdministration (SBA) says the IRS wants to see that the balance sheet included withForm1120aligns with the company's books and records.

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What Is Included in Financial Reporting?

For small businesses, financial reporting always includes the balance sheet, incomestatement (also called the profit and loss statement) and the cash flow statement. Smallbusinesses may also put out an annual report that includes financial statements and moredetailed information about their year, including key business goals and achievements andinformation on leadership.

Video: Financial Reporting Explained

The 3 Most Important Financial Reports for Small Businesses

  1. Balance Sheet

    The SBA says any company applying for an SBA 7(a) loan for more than $350,000 needsto include ainclude a balance sheet. If the company is for sale,investors and potential buyers will also review the balance sheet to evaluate itsfinancial position.

    The balance sheet provides a snapshot of the business’ overall health—put simply,what it owns, what it owes and shareholder equity. Balance sheets should be preparedaccording to the company's defined reporting period (every quarter, for instance).

    Assets are listed first on the balance sheet, followed by liabilities and shareholderequity. The SEC says assets are listed in descending order of how quickly they canbe converted into cash, with accountsreceivable and inventory near the top of the list. Fixed assets, liketrucks, office furniture and other property, would be listed below current assetslike inventory. Liabilities follow the same rule. An example of current liabilitiesis accounts payable. Shareholders’ equity may be listed under liabilities, but it’sa separate category, not a liability.

    Banks and investors may look to a balance sheet to determine a company’s debt ratio.Debt ratio is the total debt divided by total assets, then multiplied by 100. Forinstance, if the business has $100,000 in debt and $500,000 in assets, the debtratio is 20%. The higher that percentage, the more the company is leveraged.

    (Video) 5 Financial Reports for Small Businesses

    Calculating the items listed on the balance sheet can be completed using the sampleform from the SBA below.

    This automated form is made available compliments of CCH Business Owner’sToolkit

    [Your Business Name]
    Balance Sheet
    [Mmmm Dd, 200X]

    Current Assets:
    Accounts Receivable$0
    Less: Reserve for Bad Debts00
    Merchandise Inventory0
    Prepaid Expenses0
    Notes Receivable0
    Total Current Assets$0
    Fixed Assets:
    Less: Accumulated Depreciation00
    Furniture and Fixtures0
    Less: Accumulated Depreciation00
    Less: Accumulated Depreciation00
    Less: Accumulated Depreciation00
    Total Fixed Assets0
    Other Assets:
    Total Other Asset0
    Total Assets$0
    Liabilities and Capital
    Current Liabilities:
    Accounts Payable$0
    Sales Taxes Payable0
    Payroll Taxes Payable0
    Accrued Wages Payable0
    Unearned Revenues0
    Short-Term Notes Payable0
    Short-Term Bank Loan Payable0
    Total Current Liabilities$0
    Long-Term Liabilities:
    Long-Term Notes Payable0
    Mortgage Payable0
    Total Long-Term Liabilities0
    Total Liabilities0
    Owner’s Equity0
    Net Profit0
    Total Capital0
    Total Liabilities and Capital$0
  1. Income Statement (Profit & Loss Statement)

    The income statement provides a detailed breakdown of the company’s revenue, its costof revenue, operating and non-operating expenses and non-operating income to show alender or investor the company’sprofit or loss over a given reporting period.

    (Video) 3 financial reports every business owner should be looking at

    The SEC offers a helpful metaphor for conceptualizing a multi-step incomestatement—think of it as a set of stairs. The business starts at the top with all ofthe money it made over that reporting period and continues to go down the stairs,subtracting costs and expenses until arriving at the bottom line.

    Multi-step income statements begin with the company’s gross sales for a specificperiod. The next step is to subtract the value of returns, discounts and allowances.This is the company’s net sales. From net sales, deduct the cost of sales or cost ofgoods sold (COGS), which includes all of the costs associated with making ordistributing products, for manufacturers. For wholesalers and retailers, COGS is theprice paid to acquire inventory for resale, including inbound shipping fees. This isthe gross profit, because operating and non-operating expenses haven't been deductedyet.

    Subtract operating expenses from gross profit to get the operating profit. Anyinterest, non-operating income or non-operating expenses are then added orsubtracted from the operating profit to arrive at operating profit before incometax. Once income tax is deducted, the company can see its net profit or loss.

    The SBA offers this useful template for businesses to help them create an incomestatement.

    This automated form is made available compliments of CCH Business Owner’sToolkit

    [Your Company Name]
    Income Statement
    For the Year Ended[Mmmm Dd, 200X]

    (Video) How To Read And Understand Financial Statements As A Small Business

    Gross Sales$0.00
    Less: Sales Returns and Allowances$0.00
    Net Sales$0.00
    Cost of Goods Sold:
    Beginning Inventory$0.00
    Add: Purchases$0.00
    Add: Freight-in$0.00
    Add: Direct Labo$0.00
    Add: Indirect Expenses$0.00
    Less: Ending Inventory$0.00
    Cost of Goods Sold$0.00
    Gross Profit (Loss)$0.00
    Bad Debts$0.00
    Bank Charges$0.00
    Charitable Contributions$0.00
    Contract Labor $0.00
    Credit Card Fees$0.00
    Delivery Expenses$0.00
    Dues and Subscriptions$0.00
    Office Expenses$0.00
    Operating Supplies$0.00
    Payroll Taxes$0.00
    Permits and Licenses$0.00
    Professional Fees$0.00
    Property Taxes$0.00
    Vehicle Expenses$0.00
    Total Expenses$0.00
    Net Operating Income$0.00
    Other Income:
    Gain (Loss) on Sale of Assets$0.00
    Interest Income $0.00
    Total Other Income$0.00
    Net Income (Loss)$0.00

    A less complex business that uses cash basis accountingmay use a single-step income statement. With a single-step statement, gross salesand non-operating income are included at the top to show the company’s totalrevenue. All operating expenses are then subtracted from that total revenue tocalculate the net profit.

  1. Cash Flow Statement

    Cash flow has always been a challenge for small businesses, and the pandemic has onlyexacerbated that problem, as evidenced by the most recent weekly Small Business Pulse Survey by theU.S. Census Bureau. Only 28% reported they had enough cash on hand to operate forthree months, and nearly 50% expected it would take more than six months forbusiness to return to the level it was at a year ago.

    Tracking cash inflows and outflows and comparing those numbers month-over-month andquarter-over-quarter is important to maintain stable cash flow. The cash flowstatement uses the numbers from the income statement and the balance sheet to makethe cash position of the business clear, because it shows changes over time and thenet increase or decrease for that particular accounting period.

    Cash flow statements divide and examine cash flow from three cash buckets—operatingactivities, investing activities andfinancing activities. The SBA also offersa sample cash flow statement template, seen below.

    This automated form is made available compliments of CCH Business Owner’sToolkit

    Cash Flow Budget Worksheet
    Beginning Cash Balance $10 $10$0$0$0
    Cash Inflows (Income):
    Accts. Rec. Collections 0
    Loan Proceeds 0
    Sales & Receipts 0
    Total Cash Inflows $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
    Available Cash Balance $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
    Cash Outflows (Expenses):
    Bank Service Charges0
    Credit Card Fees0
    Health Insurance0
    Inventory Purchases0
    Payroll Taxes0
    Professional Fees0
    Rent or Lease0
    Subscriptions & Dues0
    Taxes & Licenses0
    Utilities & Telephone0
    Subtotal$0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
    Other Cash Out Flows:
    Capital Purchases0
    Loan Principal0
    Owner’s Draw0
    Subtotal$0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
    Total Cash Outflows$0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
    Ending Cash Balance$0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
    (Video) Cashflow Lesson 2: The 5 Most Critical Financial Reports for Small Business Owners Part 1

Use Financial Management Software for Financial Reporting

In preparing for an IPO, one ofthe first steps companies must take is pulling data from their financial software. Companies must providethree years of audited financial data before they go public, and having an accountingsystem that automates many accounting processes and stores all key records in oneplace makes it much easier to provide accurate and timely financial reporting.

Financial reporting also improves financial discipline and ultimately puts small businessesin a better spot. A study by the Federal Reserve Banks of Chicago and San Francisco found a directcorrelation between financial management and the financial health of small businesses. Thestudy showed organizations with better financial planning and management practices hadhigher rates of excellent or above-average financial health and were far more likely to haveannual revenue of at least $1 million.

Robert Half’s 2019 Accounting & Finance Functions report foundthat businesses of every size increased their accounting automation over the last year. Some39% of firms with less than $499 million in revenue use automated software, with invoicing,financial report generation, data collection and document storage and compliance the mostlikely functions automated. And more than half of those surveyed that they use some or onlycloud-based software for accounting and finance, such as ERP.


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