Financial statements can be used as a roadmap on your business journey to economic success. Using numbers as navigation aids can steer you in the right direction and help you avoid costly breakdowns. Most business owners don’t realize that financial statements have a value that goes far beyond their use to prepare tax returns or loan applications.

Review the attached, easy to follow guide to help you better understand financial statements.

Understanding Financial Statements

The primary financial statements are represented in the balance sheet and income statement. Learn more about these statements:


The balance sheet is a snapshot of the company’s financial standing at an instant in time. The balance sheet shows the company’s financial position, what it owns (assets) and what it owes (liabilities and net worth). The “bottom line” of a balance sheet must always balance (i.e. assets = liabilities + net worth). The individual elements of a balance sheet change from day to day and reflect the activities of the company. Analyzing how the balance sheet changes over time will reveal important information about the company’s business trends. In this lesson we’ll discover how you can monitor your ability to collect revenues, how well you manage your inventory, and even assess your ability to satisfy creditors and stockholders. Liabilities and net worth on the balance sheet represent the company’s sources of funds. Liabilities and net worth are composed of creditors and investors who have provided cash or its equivalent to the company in the past. As a source of funds, they enable the company to continue in business or expand operations. If creditors and investors are unhappy and distrustful, the company’s chances of survival are limited. Assets, on the other hand, represent the company’s use of funds. The company uses cash or other funds provided by the creditor/investor to acquire assets. Assets include all the things of value that are owned or due to the business.

Liabilities represent a company’s obligations to creditors while net worth represents the owner’s investment in the company. In reality, both creditors and owners are “investors” in the company with the only difference being the degree of nervousness and the timeframe in which they expect repayment.


As noted previously, anything of value that is owned or due to the business is included under the Asset section of the Balance Sheet. Assets are shown at net book or net realizable value (more on this later), but appreciated values are not generally considered.

Current Assets.

Current assets are those which mature in less than one year. They are the sum of the following categories:

  • Cash
  • Accounts Receivable (A/R)
  • Inventory (Inv)
  • Notes Receivable (N/R)
  • Prepaid Expenses
  • Other Current Assets


Cash is the only game in town. Cash pays bills and obligations. Inventory, receivables, land, building, machinery and equipment do not pay obligations even though they can be sold for cash and then used to pay bills. If cash is inadequate or improperly managed the company may become insolvent and be forced into bankruptcy. Include all checking, money market and short term savings accounts under Cash.

Accounts Receivable (A/R).

Accounts receivable are dollars due from customers. They arise as a result of the process of selling inventory or services on terms that allow delivery prior to the collection of cash. Inventory is sold and shipped, an invoice is sent to the customer, and later cash is collected. The receivable exists for the time period between the selling of the inventory and the receipt of cash Receivables are proportional to sales. As sales rise, the investment you must make in receivables also rises.


Inventory consists of the goods and materials a company purchases to re-sell at a profit. In the process, sales and receivables are generated. The company purchases raw material inventory that is processed (aka work-in-process inventory) to be sold as finished goods inventory. For a company that sells a product, inventory is often the first use of cash. Purchasing inventory to be sold at a profit is the first step in the profit making cycle (operating cycle) as illustrated previously. Selling inventory does not bring cash back into the company — it creates a receivable. Only after a time lag equal to the receivable’s collection period will cash return to the company. Thus, it is very important that the level of inventory be well managed so that the business does not keep too much cash tied up in inventory as this will reduce profits. At the same time, a company must keep sufficient inventory on hand to prevent stockouts (having nothing to sell) because this too will erode profits and may result in the loss of customers.