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It tells how the business is put together what its principal resources are and where any potential dangers lie. Like any portrait it is incomplete in that it only shows one fleeting moment in time and therefore is most useful in conjunction with the income statement and by comparing several balance sheets over a period of time. Ahh this is where the real story begins to unfold! The clever entrepreneur becomes the Sherlock Holmes of the balance sheet and astutely looks for trends over time and checks ratios and balances to see which direction the company is headed in and to look for any potential to cut costs or perform more efficiently.
So what is the purpose of a balance sheet? First business owners use balance sheets in order to analyze the strength and capabilities of their business. For example is the business ready to expand? Or should the business take immediate steps to strengthen cash reserves? Also balance sheets describe trends especially in the area of accounts receivables and payables. For instance is debt in payables being paid and is debt in receivables being received in a reasonable amount of time. Finally balance sheets are examined by banks investors and vendors to determine the amount of credit they will give the entity.
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With balance sheet data you can evaluate important indicators concerning your business - such as your ability to meet financial obligations (current ratio days cash on hand) and how effectively you use credit to finance your operations (debt ratio debt to equity ratio). Although the balance sheet represents a given moment suspended in time it can be prepared to include information from the previous accounting period for comparative purposes. This will permit you to evaluate how your business is performing over time. Compare the current reporting period with previous ones using a percent change analysis. Do you have more assets? Have you accrued more debt? Invested in equipment and facilities? Are your pressing financial obligations (current liabilities) under control? Is the amount that payers owe you growing? Calculating financial ratios and trends can help you identify potential financial problems that may not be obvious.