According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 432,834 new business tax identification applications were submitted last month. Despite the rising start-up costs, there are plenty of start-ups still launching. The key to their success might just be a realistic budget. This isn’t just for new businesses but established firms as well. Budgeting can be hard but understanding the fundamental elements can help business owners stay on track financially.
Forecast Your Financial Statements
Many businesses that have been up and running for a while base their budgets on the previous year’s financial results. Of course, start-ups lack historical financial statements, which can make budgeting difficult.
For the first year of operation, however, an entrepreneur can create an annual budget by forecasting the monthly numbers that will likely be reflected in the three basic parts of their financial statements:
1. The income statement. Start your annual budget by estimating how much you expect to sell each month. Then, estimate direct costs (such as materials, labor, sales tax, and shipping) based on that sales volume. Many operating costs (such as rent, salaries, and insurance) will be fixed over the short run.
Once you spread overhead costs over your sales, you might not be able to report a net profit in your first year of operation. Don’t panic! Profitability takes time and hard work. Once you turn a profit, however, remember to save room in your budget for income taxes.
2. The balance sheet. To start generating revenue, you’ll also need equipment and marketing materials — including a website. Other operating assets, such as accounts receivable and inventory, typically move in tandem with revenue. How will you finance these assets? Entrepreneurs may invest personal funds, take out loans or receive money from other investors. These items fall under liabilities and equity on the balance sheet.
3. The statement of cash flows. This report tracks sources and uses of cash from operating, investing, and financing activities. Essentially, it shows how your business will make ends meet each month. In addition to acquiring assets, start-ups need to cover fixed monthly expenses.
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By forecasting these three statements every month for at least a year, you can identify when cash shortfalls, as well as seasonal peaks and troughs, are likely to occur. Naturally, you should expect to adjust the budget occasionally or even frequently to account for miscalculations and macroeconomic forces.
We can help you put together a realistic budget based on industry benchmarks and market research into the likely demand for your products or services. And, again, even if your company has been operating for a while now, you may be able to gain some helpful insights from having an objective professional review your budget.