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Why Small Businesses Are Different If you are a small business owner or entrepreneur then you need to be able to read and understand your balance sheet because first it is through your financial statements and other numerical data that you collect that you really get to know your business. Michael Gerber the best selling author of the E-Myth Revisited says it much better than I ever could as "because without the numbers you can t possibly know where you are let alone where you re going. With the numbers your business will take on a totally new meaning. It will come alive with possibility." The very first step you will ever take down that road to really knowing your business is through examining and understanding your own balance sheet.
This usually presents less of a challenge than the valuation of assets because most long term assets like loans have explicit terms that spell out exactly how much you owe on them at any given moment in time. How Equity Is Valued Depending upon the type on entity (Corporation S-Corp LLC. etc.) that you use the equity portion of the balance sheet can use different terms but really there are two kinds of equity: capital that you put into the company (stock contributed capital etc.) and the earnings of the company (retained earnings). The capital that you contribute is usually pretty straightforward.
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Understanding the different types of financial statements that can be prepared for your business and being fluent with the information each contains helps you better understand your financial position and make more informed decisions about your business. Remember - forewarned is forearmed...and you can t manage until you measure! That being said I have found that a critical measuring tool - the Balance Sheet - is often overlooked by small business owners - likely because they don t understand its importance. Let s see if we can change that... The Balance Sheet is merely a snapshot of your company s financial position as of a given point in time. Today s balance sheet could be different tomorrow - simply by writing out a check or invoicing a client. This financial statement provides the details your assets liabilities and equity - the three components of a business financial accounting - as of a particular date. Although balance sheets may be created as of any date they are typically prepared at the end of an accounting period such as a month quarter or year.