Three Basic Financial Documents Your Business Can’t Ignore


Managing your business’ finances doesn’t mean drowning in spreadsheets.

Making the time to manage your finances is a part of what it takes to run a profitable business. At a minimum, there are three basic financial documents that you can’t ignore -your balance sheet, profit and loss statement and cash flow statement. By keeping these three statements up-to-date and within reach, you’ll always have a strong sense of the financial health of your business.

•Balance Sheet

Your balance sheet is a snapshot of your business’ financials at any given moment and shows you if you’re in the red or the black. This financial statement lists your business’ assets, liabilities and equity. These elements together give you your company’s net worth.

•Profit and Loss Statement

Your profit and loss statement, or P&L, is your income statement. A P&L summarizes your business’ revenues and expenses during a period of time –usually by fiscal quarter and year. This is the financial statement you’ll use to understand how your revenues and costs impact your profitability.

•Cash Flow Statement

Your cash flow statement shows your sources of incoming and outgoing cash over a period of time. Cash flow documents are helpful when assessing performance trends and other aspects of your business that wouldn’t be as evident if you were evaluating your business only on the basis of the balance sheet or P&L.

Running a business without regularly reviewing these three financial statements is the equivalent of driving a car blindfolded. Together, these documents give you the state of your business’ financial health. Without that information, you have no basis for making fact-based strategic decisions for your business.

“If you review your company balance sheet, you can learn how much cash you have on hand, how much you owe, and how much equity you have in the business. Your annual profit and loss statement will tell you if you have made a profit and how much. It will also assist you in preparing your income tax return,” explains Curtis. “Good financial statements are essential if you need additional funding for your business. Any lender will require these documents before providing additional funds.”

Setting up and maintaining your business’ balance sheet, P&L and cash flow statements is easier with the help of someone well-versed in business finance, like a SCORE mentor. A SCORE mentor will help you set up and manage these three critical financial documents so you have a clear understanding of the financial state of your business at any time. Contact a SCORE mentor today.

Yusef Muhammad
Southwest Regional Vice President, SCORE

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 11 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 10,000 volunteer business mentors in over 250 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE

Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.