How Do I Read My Company’s Financial Statements?Atlanta CPA Illustrates Difference Between Planning and Historical Accounting

Financial statements are often misused and abused. They are often ornately presented with accountant’s opinions ranging from audits to compilations. Often we even find a statement of cash flows and financial footnotes.

What do these statements tell us? Numbers and data when prettily presented often are an accountant’s representation of the financial status of an entity.

I believe that financial statements without narratives, analysis of trends, and a review of expenditures are nothing more than formal proof that the bank account has been reconciled and that everything balances. Data without thorough critique is useless.

A classic example is Good Times, Inc. (a fictional retail operation) whose accountant formally presented the results of the past month’s operation that indicated that the company just had its best sales month ever. Good Times, Inc. accordingly beefed up its sales force and administrative staff in order to handle the increased volume.

Unfortunately the financial statements alone failed to reflect several other critical areas of financial distress:

  • The line of credit was tapped and no prior efforts had been made with the company’s bank to extend the line.
  • Spending levels were at an all time high and the profit margins were slipping.
  • Trade data suggested that the market’s profitability was moving from retail to wholesale.

Approximately sixty days after the best month ever, the company’s increased spending, the additional personnel and the shift in the marketplace began eroding the company’s profitability picture. As the accountant had solely processed prior data and presented it as current month and year-to-date data, the trends, and changes in the margins and the company’s changing financial situation had been hopelessly lost in the numbers. Now the company was faced with downsizing and refocusing its marketing efforts away from wholesale and towards retail. Good Times, Inc. could have avoided and even planned for the downturn if they had analyzed their trends and compared their results to the available market data.

A company’s focus should always be on the marketplace and what it is doing. It should not get caught up in admiring it’s own historical data. Careful attention should be paid to product lines and profitability and whether trends indicate a rise or fall. Companies should change their focus from historical review to short-term and strategic planning and should concentrate on how to maintain constant step with the marketplace.

Only in this way will Good Times, Inc. not be left behind. The marketplace is always changing and we owe it to our future to be ready to keep pace.

Just as we cannot change the past in life, so it is so in the world of accounting and taxes. By helping you look ahead we assist you in understanding the nuances and variables that are all a critical part of a business’s growth. To get started on a plan which makes sense for your business give us a call today.