what is a balance sheet

A balance sheet is a financial snapshot at a given point in time. It’s what a small business owns and what it owes. It highlights SMB assets, the liabilities, plus the shareholder equity.

It is another leg of the small business financials stool.

What are Balance Sheets in Accounting?

A balance sheet highlights your financial position and, at the same time, your financial health. These financial statements include both long-term and current assets, cash and cash equivalents, accounts receivable, and the like.

The net assets are what’s left when you subtract liabilities. The liabilities and shareholders’ equity work as part of the balance sheet equation that goes like this: Assets = Liabilities+Equity

What is the Purpose of a Balance Sheet?

The balance sheet presents a clear picture of your financial situation. This is second in importance only to the income statement.

Main Components of a Balance Sheet

Breaking this financial statement down into parts makes it easier to understand. Here are the pieces that make balance sheets work.

1. Assets

These are also referred to as resources. When you own an asset, you expect there will be a future benefit. Hence things like accounts receivable get included. They generate cash flow, improve sales or reduce expenses and there are different categories.

  • Current assets – Inventory and prepaid expenses. Things that will be cashed out within a year.
  • Fixed Assets – Like equipment and buildings. Long-term resources.

There are also intangible assets like trademarks and financial assets like stocks and bonds.

2. Liabilities

A company’s liabilities are one of the key takeaways balance sheet supply. These keep a business moving forward. Long-term debt like interest payments is included and long-term liabilities cover items like mortgage payments.

3. Shareholder’s Equity

Some small businesses are publicly traded. They sell shares. This is what’s leftover after total liabilities have been paid.

Balance Sheet Example

Reading about one of these statements is one thing. Seeing an example helps to clarify what’s in print. The one below is from the Harvard Business School online.


The above example will help you highlight any doubtful accounts so you can arrive at reasonable net worth.

Preferred stock can be added, and these shareholders have priority. In the end, using a template like this one will supply a good idea of owners’ equity. Plus a template gives you a good foundation to check YoY trends and other metrics.

How to Create a Balance Sheet

A balance sheet is one of the more important financial statements. Spreadsheets are a common format.

  1. Pick a Reporting Period – Balance sheets for public companies are usually quarterly. Fill these out to report on financial health annually too. A common date for a balance sheet here is December 31.
  2. List The Current Assets – Liquid assets go first such as cash, and company assets like inventory get added also. Don’t forget long-term assets, debt securities, and cash account goes here too.
  3. Make A List of The Liabilities – Add sections for current liabilities and noncurrent liabilities. This part of your statement of financial position needs a total.
  4. Calculate The Equity – The owner’s equity needs to go in here along with the shareholders’ portion too. The total goes on a sample balance sheet.
  5. Add Everything Up – Sort the numbers for liabilities, equity, and assets. Here’s the formula to complete this important financial statement. The sum of the liabilities and shareholder’s equity should equal total assets.

A monthly balance sheet gives an accurate picture of items like shareholder’s equity, current liabilities, and a company’s assets. It combines with other financial statements to list financial obligations in any period.

Analyzing a Balance Sheet

A company’s balance sheet provides numbers on assets, liabilities and how much financial risk you’re facing. It gives business owners a good overview of their operations and some ideas on what needs to be tweaked.

Here are some tips on reading the stats.

Read The Liabilities

This is an important part of the balance sheet. Don’t forget short-term items like accounts payable and long-term aspects like borrowing money on a bank loan.

If your SMB covers these, you need to add pension fund liabilities too, and payments made on other long-term investments. All the debt obligations should be considered.

Know The Assets

The company’s total assets get listed and the inventory the company owns is a current asset. How much cash and equivalents need to be analyzed too. Balancing assets and liabilities means looking at non-current assets too, like patents. Depreciation works on these items to affect net income in the end.

Shareholders Equity

These can be retained earnings at the end of a fiscal year. Everything needs to be organized by how current the numbers are.

Ratio Analysis

Financial strength ratios are the main technique and accounting equation used. These are actually a series of formulas arriving at the debt to equity ratio. And others.

Activity ratios are another common tool. It shows how a small business leverages its assets. Analysts often look at long-term assets and average total assets. Plus how a business manages its short-term receivables. Debt to equity securities is another ratio along with/or debt to assets and asset turnover.

Remember the owner’s equity gets placed at the end of the period.

What are the three main types of financial statements?

The information on the three types of financial statements is critical. It’s a snapshot of an SMB operating activities.

A Cash Flow Statement reports on cash flows, whats’ coming in, and what is going out. Cash flow statements have three sections, financing, investing, and operating.

Wondering what is an income statement?

The Income Statement highlights revenues and expenses. Additional paid-in capital expenses are found here. This statement is a driver of the other two types.

Finally, there’s The Balance Sheet. The book value perspective is found here, that’s basically what the company is worth.

If you’re wondering what is a profit and loss statement, those are records of expenses and revenue.

You can learn more from online experts like the Corporate Finance Institute.

Image: Depositphotos

This article, “What is a Balance Sheet?” was first published on Small Business Trends

Source: Small Business Trends

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