Small Business Glossary

Financial Analysis

Financial Analysis is the process and method for assessing a company's performance and trends using financial statements, ratios and modelling techniques.

Financial analysis, at its core, is a method used by businesses, investors, and regulators to evaluate and understand the financial health and profitability of a company. It involves the use of financial data to assess a company's performance and make recommendations about how it can improve going forward. Financial analysis is a critical aspect of managing a small business, as it can help identify strengths and weaknesses in the business's operations and provide insight into areas of potential growth or risk.

Financial analysis can be conducted in a variety of ways, including through ratio analysis, trend analysis, and financial forecasting. Each of these methods provides a different perspective on the company's financial health, and together they can provide a comprehensive overview of the company's financial situation. In the context of small businesses, financial analysis can be particularly important, as it can provide valuable insights that can help business owners make informed decisions about their business's future.

Understanding Financial Statements

At the heart of financial analysis are the financial statements. These are formal records of the financial activities of a business. They provide a quantitative picture of a company's performance, financial position, and cash flows, serving as a sort of report card for a company's financial health. The three main types of financial statements are the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement.

The balance sheet provides a snapshot of a company's financial position at a specific point in time. It lists all of a company's assets, liabilities, and shareholders' equity. The income statement, on the other hand, shows how much revenue a company earned over a specific period of time, as well as the costs and expenses incurred during that period. The cash flow statement shows the amount of cash and cash equivalents entering and leaving a company, allowing investors to see how the company is running its operations, how it is spending its cash, and where its cash is coming from.

Balance Sheet Analysis

Balance sheet analysis involves examining the assets, liabilities, and equity of a business to gain insight into a company's financial health. The balance sheet is also known as the statement of financial position, as it provides a snapshot of a company's financial position at a specific point in time. It is one of the three main financial statements used by businesses to evaluate their financial health.

Assets are what a company owns and can be divided into current and non-current assets. Current assets are assets that a company expects to convert to cash within one year, while non-current assets are long-term assets that are not expected to be converted to cash within one year. Liabilities, on the other hand, are what a company owes to others. Like assets, liabilities can be divided into current and non-current liabilities, depending on when they need to be paid.

Equity, also known as shareholders' equity, is the amount of money that would be returned to a company's shareholders if all of the assets were liquidated and all of the company's debt was paid off. By analysing the balance sheet, financial analysts can identify trends and make comparisons with competitors, which can provide valuable insights into a company's financial health.

Income Statement Analysis

Income statement analysis involves examining the revenues, costs, expenses, and net income of a business. The income statement is also known as the profit and loss statement, as it shows how much profit or loss was made by the business over a specific period of time.

Revenue refers to the income that a business generates from its normal business operations, while costs and expenses represent the money spent by the business to generate that revenue. The difference between the revenue and the costs and expenses is the net income or net loss of the business.

By analysing the income statement, financial analysts can assess a company's profitability and compare its performance with competitors. This can provide valuable insights into a company's operational efficiency and pricing strategy, as well as its ability to manage costs and expenses.

Ratio Analysis

Ratio analysis is a method of financial analysis that involves comparing different numbers from a company's financial statements to gain insight into its operations, profitability, and financial health. Ratios are used to make comparisons between different aspects of a company's performance or to compare a company's performance to that of other companies within the same industry.

There are many different types of ratios that can be used in financial analysis, but they can generally be grouped into four main categories: liquidity ratios, profitability ratios, efficiency ratios, and solvency ratios. Each of these categories provides a different perspective on a company's financial health and operations.

Liquidity Ratios

Liquidity ratios measure a company's ability to pay off its short-term liabilities as they come due. They are important because they provide information about a company's short-term financial health. If a company has a high liquidity ratio, it indicates that it has enough short-term assets to cover its short-term debt.

Common liquidity ratios include the current ratio, the quick ratio, and the cash ratio. The current ratio is calculated by dividing a company's current assets by its current liabilities. The quick ratio, also known as the acid-test ratio, measures a company's ability to meet its short-term obligations with its most liquid assets. The cash ratio is the most conservative liquidity ratio, as it only considers the most liquid short-term assets: cash and cash equivalents.

Profitability Ratios

Profitability ratios measure a company's ability to generate profits from its operations. They are important because they provide information about a company's bottom line and its efficiency at generating profits.

Common profitability ratios include the gross profit margin, the operating profit margin, and the net profit margin. The gross profit margin is a measure of a company's profitability before operating expenses, interest, and taxes. The operating profit margin considers operating expenses, but does not take into account interest and taxes. The net profit margin is the most comprehensive profitability ratio, as it takes into account all expenses, including operating expenses, interest, and taxes.

Financial Forecasting

Financial forecasting is the process of estimating or predicting the future performance of a company based on current and historical data. It is a common and important part of financial analysis, as it can help guide decision-making processes and mitigate potential risks.

Financial forecasting can be conducted at various levels of detail, depending on the needs of the business. For example, a small business may conduct a simple financial forecast based on its current sales and expenses, while a large corporation may conduct a more complex financial forecast that takes into account a wide range of factors, including market trends, economic conditions, and competitive landscape.

Methods of Financial Forecasting

There are several methods of financial forecasting, including qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative methods are often used when there is not enough historical data available, or when the data is not considered reliable for predicting future trends. These methods rely on expert opinions, industry trends, and market research.

Quantitative methods, on the other hand, are based on historical data and mathematical models. They use statistical techniques to predict future trends. Common quantitative methods include time series analysis, which uses historical data to identify patterns and trends that can be used to forecast future outcomes, and regression analysis, which uses statistical techniques to identify relationships between different variables.

Importance of Financial Forecasting

Financial forecasting is important for several reasons. First, it can help businesses anticipate future expenses and revenues, which can help them plan for the future and manage their resources more effectively. Second, financial forecasting can help businesses identify potential risks and opportunities, which can help them make more informed decisions about their strategies and investments.

Finally, financial forecasting can help businesses communicate their plans and expectations to their stakeholders, including investors, creditors, and employees. This can help build trust and confidence in the business, which can be particularly important for small businesses that are seeking to attract investment or secure financing.


Financial analysis is a critical aspect of managing a small business. It can provide valuable insights into a company's financial health, help identify areas of potential growth or risk, and guide decision-making processes. By understanding and applying the principles of financial analysis, small business owners can improve their financial management skills and increase their chances of business success.

Whether you're a seasoned business owner or just starting out, it's important to regularly conduct financial analysis to keep track of your business's financial health. By doing so, you can make informed decisions that will help your business grow and thrive. Remember, financial analysis is not just about crunching numbers, but about understanding what those numbers mean for your business.

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