1. Business Plan: Introduction
  2. Business Plan: Do You Need One?
  3. Business Plan: Describing Your Business
  4. Business Plan: Composing Your Executive Summary
  5. Business Plan: Analyzing Your Industry
  6. Business Plan: Marketing And Sales
  7. Business Plan: Your Organizational And Operating Plan
  8. Business Plan: Your Financial Plan
  9. Business Plan: Presenting Your Plan
  10. Business Plan: Conclusion

By Amy Fontinelle

The financial part of a business plan includes various financial statements that show where your company currently stands and where it expects to be in the near future. This information helps you determine how much financing your business needs and helps outsiders determine whether lending you money or investing in your business is a wise use of their funds.

Lenders and investors will expect that you have invested your own money in the firm to demonstrate that you are committed to your idea and confident that your business will succeed. The amount of your own money you will need to have invested in the business compared to the amount you want to finance varies, but it usually ranges from 20% to 50%.

You must also determine what type of financing would be most suitable for your business. Banks offer several types of loans to businesses that do not present too much risk. Do you need a short-term working capital loan to increase your inventory? Do you want a transaction loan, where you receive all the money at once, or a line of credit, where you draw on funds as you need them? Do you need an intermediate-term loan to purchase larger assets such as real estate or equipment? Would you prefer revolving credit, which has a longer time frame than a line of credit and allows you to re-borrow funds that you have previously paid back? Or are you a high-risk business that needs to jump through the extra hoops required to secure a government-backed Small Business Administration loan? (See Expanding Your Small Business with an SBA Loan.)

Structuring Your Financial Plan

Begin your financial plan with information on where your firm stands financially at the end of the most recent quarter what its financial situation has looked like historically. Then lay out your goals with financial projections for the next three to five years, depending on what lenders or investors have asked for. These are called "pro forma" statements, and they are based on your assumptions about how your business will perform. Your one-year projections should be broken down by month, while your more distant projections can be broken down by year.

If your business plan is for the expansion of an existing business, your statements will be based on your business's existing financial data. If your business is new, your statements will be speculative, but you can make them realistic by basing them on the published financial statements of existing businesses similar to yours. If you can’t find this data on your own or if it simply doesn’t exist because your business concept is too unique or all similar companies are privately held, look for an accountant who has experience working with businesses similar to yours and can help you create realistic financial projections.

Three Key Financial Statements

Your financial plan should include three key financial statements: the income statement, the balance sheet and the cash flow statement. Let's look at what each statement is and why you need it.

  1. Income Statement/Profit and Loss Statement
    The income statement, also called the profit and loss statement or P&L, summarizes your company's revenue and expenses. Revenues are your company's sales and/or other sources of income (for example, a cleaning business earns revenues from the hourly or per-room or per-home fee that it charges its clients; a grocery store earns revenue from the foods and other products and services it sells. Expenses include items such as the cost of goods sold (the money you spend buying produce, meat and dairy from local farmers, for example) payroll for employees, payroll, sales and income taxes, business insurance and loan interest. The bottom line of the income statement shows the company's net income, or its revenue minus expenses. Lenders and investors want to know what kind of numbers your company is working with and whether your company is profitable or expects to be soon. (To learn more, read Understanding The Income Statement.)
  2. Balance Sheet
    The balance sheet shows your company's assets and liabilities. It's called a balance sheet because the assets must perfectly balance the liabilities. Within each category are numerous subcategories. For example, your assets will include cash, accounts receivable, inventory and equipment. Your liabilities will include accounts payable, wages and salaries, taxes, rent and utilities, and loan balances. The balance sheet is important because it shows the company's financial position at a specific point in time, and it compares what you own to what you owe. (For more information, see Reading The Balance Sheet.)
  3. Cash Flow Statement/Cash Budget
    The cash flow statement shows the sums you expect to be coming into and going out of your business in a given time frame. Topics you'll need to examine to predict cash flow include sales forecasts, cash receipts vs. credit receipts and the time frame for collecting accounts receivable. How much will these expenses be, and how often will you need to pay them? Will you have trade credit, and how long will you have to pay your suppliers? Cash flow statements not only show potential investors that you know what you're doing, they also help you to make sure your business model is financially viable and to establish goals that you want to achieve. (For more on this subject, check out What Is A Cash Flow Statement? and The Essentials Of Cash Flow.)

Your financial statements should show both a long- and short-term vision for your business. In business plans, three-year and five-year projections are considered long term, and your plan will be expected to cover at least three years. Your projections should be neither overly optimistic best-case scenarios, nor overly cautious worst-case scenarios, but realistic in-between projections that you can support. Don’t commit the common error of making hockey-stick projections that predict sudden, sharp growth – that’s a classic way to look like an amateur. (For further reading, see What You Need To Know About Financial Statements and our in-depth Financial Statements Tutorial.)

Lenders may want your statements presented in a certain way, so ask before you draw them up. A bank, for example, may want to see monthly projections for the first year, quarterly projections for the second year and annual projections for the third year. In addition to financial statements for your company, if you are a new business, you may need to provide personal financial statements for each owner. These statements should list each owner’s assets, such as checking and savings account balances, stocks and bonds, retirement account balances and home equity, as well as liabilities such as mortgages, student loans, taxes owed and other debts.

When you put together your financial statements, make sure there are absolutely no typos or mistakes in your calculations. If you are inexperienced in preparing these statements, hire an accountant to help you. Even if you and all of your business partners know exactly what you are doing, you may still want to hire an unbiased, outside professional to check your work and give you a second opinion on whether your projects are realistic. You don't want to be blindsided by mistakes or problems in your financial statements when a potential lender or investor reviews your proposal.

What You Can Learn from Your Financial Statements

While the financial statements are helpful in and of themselves, the data they contain can also be used to calculate financial ratios such as gross profit margin, return on investment and return on owner's equity. Ratios provide helpful information about a company's liquidity, profitability, debt, operating performance, cash flow and investment valuation. (Learn more about financial ratios in our Financial Ratio Tutorial.)

Additional Financial Information

In addition to financial statements, prospective lenders or investors will also want to see a sales forecast and, if your business will have employees, a personnel plan.

Sales Forecast

The sales forecast is a chart that breaks down how much your business expects to sell in various categories by month (for the next year) and by year (for the following two to four years). For a cleaning service business, the sales forecast might list one-time cleanings, monthly cleaning contracts and annual cleaning contracts and further break those down by houses, condos, apartment units, entire apartment buildings and office buildings. For a grocery store, the sales forecast might list projected sales of fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, seafood, packaged goods and hot prepared meals. If your business sells a product, your sales forecast should include the cost of goods sold.

Personnel Plan

If your business will have employees and not just managers, you will need a personnel plan showing what types of employees you will have (for example, cashiers, butchers, drivers, stockers and cooks along with what they will cost in terms of salary and wages, health insurance, retirement plan contributions, workers compensation insurance, unemployment insurance, and Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Use of Loan or Investment Capital

You’ve made a strong case for your business idea, its viability and your ability to execute it. So how, exactly, do you plan to use any money that lenders or investors offer you? They’ll want to know. If you’re requesting a $100,000 loan, for example, you might break that down into the amount that will go toward equipment such as cash registers, shelving and refrigerated display cases; purchasing inventory; and carrying out your marketing campaign. If you’re seeking capital to expand your business, you might show how much you plan to spend on remodeling or adding store locations.

Proposed Repayment Schedule or Exit Strategy

Potential lenders will want to know how and when you intend to repay the loan or line of credit, so you should put together a proposed repayment schedule and terms. They may not agree with your suggestion, but offering proposed terms shows that you are considering the loan from the lender's perspective. Also describe what collateral is available to secure the loan, such as inventory, accounts receivable, real estate, vehicles or equipment. Be aware that lenders do not count the full value of your collateral, and each lender may count a different percentage.

Potential investors will want to know when their investment will pay off and how much of a return to expect. They will also want to see that you have an exit strategy to cash out on your investment and theirs. Do you plan to sell the business outright to another individual or company? Hold an initial public offering and go public? What will your exit strategy be if the business is failing? At what point have you determined that you will cut your losses and sell or close down, and how will you repay investors if this happens? (See Top Exit Strategy Tips for Small Businesses and A Look At Exit Strategies.)

Remember, no one has to lend you any money or invest in your company, and when they are considering doing so, they will be comparing the risk and return of working with you to the risk and return they could get from lending to or investing in other companies. You have to convince them that your business is the most promising option.


Business Plan: Presenting Your Plan
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