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How To Create Financial Projections for Your Business
Learn how to anticipate your business’s financial performance
- Understanding Financial Projections & Forecasting
Why Forecasting Is Critical for Your Business
Key financial statements for forecasting, how to create your financial projections, frequently asked questions (faqs).
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Just like a weather forecast lets you know that wearing closed-toe shoes will be important for that afternoon downpour later, a good financial forecast allows you to better anticipate financial highs and lows for your business.
Neglecting to compile financial projections for your business may signal to investors that you’re unprepared for the future, which may cause you to lose out on funding opportunities.
Read on to learn more about financial projections, how to compile and use them in a business plan, and why they can be crucial for every business owner.
- Financial forecasting is a projection of your business's future revenues and expenses based on comparative data analysis, industry research, and more.
- Financial projections are a valuable tool for entrepreneurs as they offer insight into a business's ability to generate profit, increase cash flow, and repay debts, which can be attractive to investors.
- Some of the key components to include in a financial projection include a sales projection, break-even analysis, and pro forma balance sheet and income statement.
- A financial projection can not only attract investors, but helps business owners anticipate fixed costs, find a break-even point, and prepare for the unexpected.
Understanding Financial Projections and Forecasting
Financial forecasting is an educated estimate of future revenues and expenses that involves comparative analysis to get a snapshot of what could happen in your business’s future.
This process helps in making predictions about future business performance based on current financial information, industry trends, and economic conditions. Financial forecasting also helps businesses make decisions about investments, financing sources, inventory management, cost control strategies, and even whether to move into another market.
Developing both short- and mid-term projections is usually necessary to help you determine immediate production and personnel needs as well as future resource requirements for raw materials, equipment, and machinery.
Financial projections are a valuable tool for entrepreneurs as they offer insight into a business's ability to generate profit, increase cash flow, and repay debts. They can also be used to make informed decisions about the business’s plans. Creating an accurate, adaptive financial projection for your business offers many benefits, including:
- Attracting investors and convincing them to fund your business
- Anticipating problems before they arise
- Visualizing your small-business objectives and budgets
- Demonstrating how you will repay small-business loans
- Planning for more significant business expenses
- Showing business growth potential
- Helping with proper pricing and production planning
Financial forecasting is essentially predicting the revenue and expenses for a business venture. Whether your business is new or established, forecasting can play a vital role in helping you plan for the future and budget your funds.
Creating financial projections may be a necessary exercise for many businesses, particularly those that do not have sufficient cash flow or need to rely on customer credit to maintain operations. Compiling financial information, knowing your market, and understanding what your potential investors are looking for can enable you to make intelligent decisions about your assets and resources.
The income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flow are three key financial reports needed for forecasting that can also provide analysts with crucial information about a business's financial health. Here is a closer look at each.
An income statement, also known as a profit and loss statement or P&L, is a financial document that provides an overview of an organization's revenues, expenses, and net income.
The balance sheet is a snapshot of the business's assets and liabilities at a certain point in time. Sometimes referred to as the “financial portrait” of a business, the balance sheet provides an overview of how much money the business has, what it owes, and its net worth.
The assets side of the balance sheet includes what the business owns as well as future ownership items. The other side of the sheet includes liabilities and equity, which represent what it owes or what others owe to the business.
A balance sheet that shows hypothetical calculations and future financial projections is also referred to as a “pro forma” balance sheet.
Cash Flow Statement
A cash flow statement monitors the business’s inflows and outflows—both cash and non-cash. Cash flow is the business’s projected earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization ( EBITDA ) minus capital investments.
Here's how to compile your financial projections and fit the results into the three above statements.
A financial projections spreadsheet for your business should include these metrics and figures:
- Sales forecast
- Balance sheet
- Operating expenses
- Payroll expenses (if applicable)
- Amortization and depreciation
- Cash flow statement
- Income statement
- Cost of goods sold (COGS)
- Break-even analysis
Here are key steps to account for creating your financial projections.
The first step for a financial forecast starts with projecting your business’s sales, which are typically derived from past revenue as well as industry research. These projections allow businesses to understand what their risks are and how much they will need in terms of staffing, resources, and funding.
Sales forecasts also enable businesses to decide on important levels such as product variety, price points, and inventory capacity.
Income Statement Calculations
A projected income statement shows how much you expect in revenue and profit—as well as your estimated expenses and losses—over a specific time in the future. Like a standard income statement, elements on a projection include revenue, COGS, and expenses that you’ll calculate to determine figures such as the business’s gross profit margin and net income.
If you’re developing a hypothetical, or pro forma, income statement, you can use historical data from previous years’ income statements. You can also do a comparative analysis of two different income statement periods to come up with your figures.
Anticipate Fixed Costs
Fixed business costs are expenses that do not change based on the number of products sold. The best way to anticipate fixed business costs is to research your industry and prepare a budget using actual numbers from competitors in the industry. Anticipating fixed costs ensures your business doesn’t overpay for its needs and balances out its variable costs. A few examples of fixed business costs include:
- Rent or mortgage payments
- Operating expenses (also called selling, general and administrative expenses or SG&A)
- Utility bills
- Insurance premiums
Unfortunately, it might not be possible to predict accurately how much your fixed costs will change in a year due to variables such as inflation, property, and interest rates. It’s best to slightly overestimate fixed costs just in case you need to account for these potential fluctuations.
Find Your Break-Even Point
The break-even point (BEP) is the number at which a business has the same expenses as its revenue. In other words, it occurs when your operations generate enough revenue to cover all of your business’s costs and expenses. The BEP will differ depending on the type of business, market conditions, and other factors.
To find this number, you need to determine two things: your fixed costs and variable costs. Once you have these figures, you can find your BEP using this formula:
Break-even point = fixed expenses ➗ 1 – (variable expenses ➗ sales)
The BEP is an essential consideration for any projection because it is the point at which total revenue from a project equals total cost. This makes it the point of either profit or loss.
Plan for the Unexpected
It is necessary to have the proper financial safeguards in place to prepare for any unanticipated costs. A sudden vehicle repair, a leaky roof, or broken equipment can quickly derail your budget if you aren't prepared. Cash management is a financial management plan that ensures a business has enough cash on hand to maintain operations and meet short-term obligations.
To maintain cash reserves, you can apply for overdraft protection or an overdraft line of credit. Overdraft protection can be set up by a bank or credit card business and provides short-term loans if the account balance falls below zero. On the other hand, a line of credit is an agreement with a lending institution in which they provide you with an unsecured loan at any time until your balance reaches zero again.
How do you make financial projections for startups?
Financial projections for startups can be hard to complete. Historical financial data may not be available. Find someone with financial projections experience to give insight on risks and outcomes.
Consider business forecasting, too, which incorporates assumptions about the exponential growth of your business.
Startups can also benefit from using EBITDA to get a better look at potential cash flow.
What are the benefits associated with forecasting business finances?
Forecasting can be beneficial for businesses in many ways, including:
- Providing better understanding of your business cash flow
- Easing the process of planning and budgeting for the future based on income
- Improving decision-making
- Providing valuable insight into what's in their future
- Making decisions on how to best allocate resources for success
How many years should your financial forecast be?
Your financial forecast should either be projected over a specific time period or projected into perpetuity. There are various methods for determining how long a financial forecasting projection should go out, but many businesses use one to five years as a standard timeframe.
U.S. Small Business Administration. " Market Research and Competitive Analysis ."
Score. " Financial Projections Template ."
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Financial projections use existing or estimated financial data to forecast your business’s future income and expenses. They often include different scenarios to see how changes to one aspect of your finances (such as higher sales or lower operating expenses) might affect your profitability.
If you need to create financial projections for a startup or existing business, this free, downloadable template includes all the necessary tools.
What Are Financial Projections Used for?
Financial projections are an essential business planning tool for several reasons.
- If you’re starting a business, financial projections help you plan your startup budget, assess when you expect the business to become profitable, and set benchmarks for achieving financial goals.
- If you’re already in business, creating financial projections each year can help you set goals and stay on track.
- When seeking outside financing, startups and existing businesses need financial projections to convince lenders and investors of the business’s growth potential.
What’s Included in Financial Projections?
This financial projections template pulls together several different financial documents, including:
- Startup expenses
- Payroll costs
- Sales forecast
- Operating expenses for the first 3 years of business
- Cash flow statements for the first 3 years of business
- Income statements for the first 3 years of business
- Balance sheet
- Break-even analysis
- Financial ratios
- Cost of goods sold (COGS), and
- Amortization and depreciation for your business.
You can use this template to create the documents from scratch or pull in information from those you’ve already made. The template also includes diagnostic tools to test the numbers in your financial projections and ensure they are within reasonable ranges.
These areas are closely related, so as you work on your financial projections, you’ll find that changes to one element affect the others. You may want to include a best-case and worst-case scenario for all possibilities. Make sure you know the assumptions behind your financial projections and can explain them to others.
Startup business owners often wonder how to create financial projections for a business that doesn’t exist yet. Financial forecasts are continually educated guesses. To make yours as accurate as possible, do your homework and get help. Use the information you unearthed in researching your business plans, such as statistics from industry associations, data from government sources, and financials from similar businesses. An accountant with experience in your industry can help fine-tune your financial projections. So can business advisors such as SCORE mentors.
Once you complete your financial projections, don’t put them away and forget about them. Compare your projections to your financial statements regularly to see how well your business meets your expectations. If your projections turn out to be too optimistic or too pessimistic, make the necessary adjustments to make them more accurate.
*NOTE: The cells with formulas in this workbook are locked. If changes are needed, the unlock code is "1234." Please use caution when unlocking the spreadsheets. If you want to change a formula, we strongly recommend saving a copy of this spreadsheet under a different name before doing so.
We recommend downloading the Financial Projections Template Guide in English or Espanol .
Do you need help creating your financial projections? Take SCORE’s online course on-demand on financial projections or connect with a SCORE mentor online or in your community today.
Simple Steps for Starting Your Business: Financial Projections In this online module, you'll learn the importance of financial planning, how to build your financial model, how to understand financial statements and more.
Business Planning & Financial Statements Template Gallery Download SCORE’s templates to help you plan for a new business startup or grow your existing business.
Why Projected Financial Statements Are Essential to the Future Success of Startups Financial statements are vital to the success of any company but particularly start-ups. SCORE mentor Sarah Hadjhamou shares why they are a big part of growing your start-up.
Copyright © 2023 SCORE Association, SCORE.org
Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.
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Run » finance, how to create a financial forecast for a startup business plan.
Financial forecasting allows you to measure the progress of your new business by benchmarking performance against anticipated sales and costs.
When starting a new business, a financial forecast is an important tool for recruiting investors as well as for budgeting for your first months of operating. A financial forecast is used to predict the cash flow necessary to operate the company day-to-day and cover financial liabilities.
Many lenders and investors ask for a financial forecast as part of a business plan; however, with no sales under your belt, it can be tricky to estimate how much money you will need to cover your expenses. Here’s how to begin creating a financial forecast for a new business.
[Read more: Startup 2021: Business Plan Financials ]
Start with a sales forecast
A sales forecast attempts to predict what your monthly sales will be for up to 18 months after launching your business. Creating a sales forecast without any past results is a little difficult. In this case, many entrepreneurs make their predictions using industry trends, market analysis demonstrating the population of potential customers and consumer trends. A sales forecast shows investors and lenders that you have a solid understanding of your target market and a clear vision of who will buy your product or service.
A sales forecast typically breaks down monthly sales by unit and price point. Beyond year two of being in business, the sales forecast can be shown quarterly, instead of monthly. Most financial lenders and investors like to see a three-year sales forecast as part of your startup business plan.
Lower fixed costs mean less risk, which might be theoretical in business schools but are very concrete when you have rent and payroll checks to sign.
Tim Berry, president and founder of Palo Alto Software
Create an expenses budget
An expenses budget forecasts how much you anticipate spending during the first years of operating. This includes both your overhead costs and operating expenses — any financial spending that you anticipate during the course of running your business.
Most experts recommend breaking down your expenses forecast by fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs are things such as rent and payroll, while variable costs change depending on demand and sales — advertising and promotional expenses, for instance. Breaking down costs into these two categories can help you better budget and improve your profitability.
"Lower fixed costs mean less risk, which might be theoretical in business schools but are very concrete when you have rent and payroll checks to sign," Tim Berry, president and founder of Palo Alto Software, told Inc . "Most of your variable costs are in those direct costs that belong in your sales forecast, but there are also some variable expenses, like ads and rebates and such."
Project your break-even point
Together, your expenses budget and sales forecast paints a picture of your profitability. Your break-even projection is the date at which you believe your business will become profitable — when more money is earned than spent. Very few businesses are profitable overnight or even in their first year. Most businesses take two to three years to be profitable, but others take far longer: Tesla , for instance, took 18 years to see its first full-year profit.
Lenders and investors will be interested in your break-even point as a projection of when they can begin to recoup their investment. Likewise, your CFO or operations manager can make better decisions after measuring the company’s results against its forecasts.
[Read more: Startup 2021: Writing a Business Plan? Here’s How to Do It, Step by Step ]
Develop a cash flow projection
A cash flow statement (or projection, for a new business) shows the flow of dollars moving in and out of the business. This is based on the sales forecast, your balance sheet and other assumptions you’ve used to create your expenses projection.
“If you are starting a new business and do not have these historical financial statements, you start by projecting a cash-flow statement broken down into 12 months,” wrote Inc . The cash flow statement will include projected cash flows from operating, investing and financing your business activities.
Keep in mind that most business plans involve developing specific financial documents: income statements, pro formas and a balance sheet, for instance. These documents may be required by investors or lenders; financial projections can help inform the development of those statements and guide your business as it grows.
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