Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

Fundamental Financial Words 0

You don’t have to be an accountant or an MBA to do a business plan, but you will be better off with a basic understanding of some essential financial terms. Otherwise, you’re doomed to either having somebody else develop and explain your numbers, or not having your numbers correct.

It isn’t that hard, and it’s worth knowing.  If you are going to plan your business, you will want to plan your numbers.  So there are some terms to learn.  I’m not going to get into formal business or legal definitions, and I will use examples:

  • Assets: cash, accounts receivable, inventory, land, buildings, vehicles, furniture, and other things the company owns are assets. Assets can usually be sold to somebody else. One definition is anything with monetary value that a business owns.
  • Liabilities: debts, notes payable, accounts payable, amounts of money owed to be paid back.
  • Capital (also called equity):  ownership, stock, investment, retained earnings.  Actually there’s an iron-clad and never-broken rule of accounting: Assets = Liabilities + Capital.  That means you can subtract liabilities from assets to calculate capital.
  • Sales: exchanging goods or services for money. Most people understand sales already. Technically, the sale happens when the goods or services are delivered, whether or not there is immediate payment.
  • Cost of Sales (also called Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), Direct Costs, and Unit Costs): the raw materials and assembly costs, the cost of finished goods that are then resold, the direct cost of delivering the service. This is what the bookstore paid for the book you buy, it’s the gasoline and maintenance costs of a taxi ride, it’s the cost of printing and binding and royalties when a publisher sells a book to a store for resale.
  • Expenses (usually called operating expenses): office rent, administrative and marketing and development payroll, telephone bills, Internet access, all those things a business pays for but doesn’t resell.  Tax and interest are also expenses.
  • Profits (also called Income): Sales less cost of sales less expenses.