Understanding financial statements: A student's guide to  company financial health
Understanding financial statements: A student's guide to company financial health

Understanding financial statements: A student's guide to company financial health

A journey into the financial frontier with Korsi Dzokoto, Managing Director of Waxson Advisors. 


Financial statements are the pulse of any business, providing valuable insights into its financial health, performance, and viability. 

Whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting your journey in the world of business, comprehending key financial statements such as the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement is essential. 

In this article, we will demystify financial statements, explaining their significance and how to interpret them to assess your business's financial well-being.

The balance sheet: Snapshot of financial position

The balance sheet, also known as the statement of financial position, provides a snapshot of your business's financial position at a specific point in time. It consists of three main components:

• Assets: These represent everything your business owns, such as cash, accounts receivable, inventory, equipment, and property. Assets are categorized as current (those expected to be converted to cash within a year) and non-current (long-term assets).

• Liabilities: Liabilities encompass all your business's obligations, including loans, accounts payable, and accrued expenses. Like assets, liabilities are categorized as current (due within a year) and non-current (long-term liabilities).

• Equity: Equity represents the owner's stake in the business, also known as shareholders' equity or owner's equity. It's the residual interest in assets after deducting liabilities.

Interpreting the balance sheet involves assessing your business's liquidity, solvency, and overall financial strength. Here's what to look for:

• Liquidity: Evaluate the ratio of current assets to current liabilities. A higher ratio indicates better liquidity, meaning your business can meet short-term obligations more comfortably.

• Solvency: Consider the proportion of equity to total assets. A higher equity-to-assets ratio reflects a more financially stable business.

The income statement: measure of profitability

The income statement, also referred to as the profit and loss statement, summarizes your business's financial performance over a specific period, typically a month, quarter, or year. It consists of:

• Revenue: The total income generated from sales of goods or services.

• Expenses: All costs incurred to generate revenue, including operating expenses, salaries, and interest on loans.

• Net income (or Loss): The difference between revenue and expenses, indicating whether your business made a profit or incurred a loss during the period.

Interpreting the income statement helps you gauge your business's profitability and operational efficiency. Key metrics to consider include:

• Gross profit margin: Calculated by dividing gross profit (revenue minus cost of goods sold) by revenue. It shows how efficiently your business produces and sells its products or services.

• Operating profit margin: Determined by dividing operating profit (gross profit minus operating expenses) by revenue. It measures your business's profitability after accounting for operating expenses.

• Net profit margin: Obtained by dividing net income by revenue. This metric reveals your business's overall profitability, considering all expenses.


The cash flow statement: Tracking cash movements

The cash flow statement tracks the inflows and outflows of cash over a specific period, categorizing them into three main sections:

• Operating Activities: Cash generated or used by day-to-day operations, including receipts from customers and payments to suppliers and employees.

• Investing Activities: Cash flows related to investments in assets or divestments, such as purchasing or selling equipment or investments.

• Financing activities: Cash flows associated with raising or repaying capital, including taking out or repaying loans and issuing or buying back shares.


Interpreting the cash flow statement is crucial for assessing your business's ability to generate and manage cash. Key insights to gain include:

• Operating cash flow: The cash generated or used by your core operations. A positive operating cash flow indicates that your business can sustain its operations.

• Investing cash flow: Assess the cash flows related to asset investments. A negative cash flow in this section may indicate substantial capital expenditure.

• Financing cash flow: Examine how your business raises or repays capital. Positive financing cash flows may indicate increased borrowing or share issuance.


Putting it all together: Holistic financial analysis

While each financial statement provides unique insights into your business's financial health, it's essential to analyze them collectively to get a holistic view. Here's a step-by-step approach:

•  Start with the balance Sheet: Review your assets, liabilities, and equity to understand your business's financial position.

•  Analyze the income Statement: Assess your revenue, expenses, and net income to determine profitability and operational efficiency.

•  Examine the cash flow Statement: Explore your cash flows from operating, investing, and financing activities to gauge your cash management.

•  Look for trends: Compare financial statements over multiple periods to identify trends and changes in your business's financial performance.

•  Calculate key ratios: Utilize financial ratios such as the current ratio, debt-to-equity ratio, and profit margins to assess your business's financial health.

•  Seek Professional Guidance: If financial analysis feels overwhelming, consider consulting with a financial advisor or accountant to gain deeper insights and guidance.

In conclusion, understanding financial statements is fundamental to making informed decisions about your business. Regularly analysing these statements allows you to assess your business's financial health, identify areas for improvement, and make strategic decisions for growth and sustainability.

By mastering the art of financial statement interpretation, you'll be better equipped to navigate the complex terrain of business finance with confidence and clarity. In our next episode, we will look at Financial Ratios and Performance Analysis.

With over twenty-four years of experience in Banking, Finance, Investment Management, and Regulation, Korsi has consulted for over 100 SMEs, helping them thrive in a competitive market.

Prior to his role at Waxson Advisors, Korsi held positions at the Provident Insurance Company, the Strategic African Securities Financing Group (SAS), Capital Bank, and the Securities and Exchange Commission Ghana (SEC).

Join Korsi as he shares his expertise and insights, empowering you to navigate the business world with confidence.
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