Understanding Balance Sheets for Small Business Owners

If you’re a small business owner, you know that managing your finances is critical to your success. One essential tool for understanding your financial health is your balance sheet. A balance sheet provides a snapshot of your company’s financial position at a specific point in time by showing your assets (how much you own), your liabilities (how much you owe), and equity (how much in capital has been contributed into your business since inception, and how much profits you’ve made since inception, less any cash you’ve taken out of your business).

Understanding how to read and interpret a balance sheet is essential for small business owners who want to make informed financial decisions. By analyzing your balance sheet regularly, you can assess your business’s performance, identify areas for improvement, and make informed decisions about future investments and growth strategies.

In this article, we will break down the components of a balance sheet and provide you with the knowledge you need to understand and analyze your financial position. We’ll also discuss how to use this information to make strategic decisions that will help you achieve your business goals. So let’s get started and dive into the world of balance sheets!


What is a balance sheet?

A balance sheet is a financial statement that provides a snapshot of your business’s financial health at a specific point in time. It shows the company’s assets, liabilities, and equity, and provides a clear picture of your business’s financial position. A balance sheet is an essential tool for small business owners to use when making financial decisions, as it helps them understand their company’s financial strengths and weaknesses.


Why is the balance sheet crucial?

Understanding and regularly analyzing your balance sheet is essential for you for several reasons:

  • Financial Health: A balance sheet provides a snapshot of your company’s financial position at a specific point in time. It shows how much your business owns (assets), how much it owes (liabilities), and how much equity you have in your business. By analyzing this information, you can assess your business’s financial health and identify areas that need improvement.
  • Decision-making: The information provided in a balance sheet can be used to make informed decisions about the future of your business. For example, if you have more liabilities than assets, you may need to reduce expenses, increase revenue, or seek financing to improve your financial position.
  • Planning: A balance sheet can be used to plan for future growth and expansion. By analyzing your assets and liabilities, you can identify areas where you need to invest in growing your business.
  • Investor Relations: Investors, lenders, and other stakeholders often rely on a company’s balance sheet to assess its financial health and make investment decisions. A strong balance sheet can help attract investors and secure financing.

In short, understanding and regularly analyzing your balance sheet is critical for you to make informed decisions, plan for the future, and maintain a healthy financial position.


How is it different from other financial statements

The balance sheet is one of the three main financial statements used in accounting, alongside the income statement and cash flow statement. While all three statements provide important information about a company’s financial performance, they serve different purposes and present different types of information.

Here’s how the balance sheet differs from the other two financial statements:




  • provides a snapshot of where you stand with cash, how you’ve performed over time (your retained earnings), and how you funded your business (debt and equity).
  • a.k.a. Statement of Financial Position
  • shows your business’s revenues and expenses during a specific period, usually a month or a year
  • a.k.a. Statement of Financial Performance
  • shows where the cash went and where you obtained the cash from (source of cash); cash movements will be related to either operating, investing, or financing activities.

In summary, the balance sheet differs from the income statement, which shows your business’s profitability over a period, and the cash flow statement, which shows its cash inflows and outflows over a period, in that it is showing the net worth of your business at a point in time, how much you own, owe, and the difference between the two. All three financial statements provide essential information that helps investors and analysts evaluate your business’s financial performance and position.


What are common categories of assets and liabilities on the balance sheet

It’s worth noting that different companies may have different categories of assets and liabilities, depending on their business operations and industry. However, these are some common categories that you might find on a balance sheet.


  • Current Assets: These are short-term assets that can be liquidated within 12 months.
    • EXAMPLES: cash in the bank, accounts receivable, short-term investments
    • How would you know the value of your current assets?
      • Check your account balances (i.e., cash in the bank)
      • Check your Accounts Receivable template to check the total money your customers/clients owe to you.
      • Check your bank for the value of your short-term investments (i.e., cash deposit)
      • If you have inventories, determine how many of your inventories will sell out quickly or within 12 months. This will form part of your current inventory account. The remaining inventories will be considered non-current.
  • Non-Current Assets: These are long-term assets whose value is not easily converted to cash or not expected to become cash within the year.
    • EXAMPLES: intellectual properties, land, property, plant, & equipment, furniture & fixtures, long-term investments


  • Current Liabilities: These are short-term obligations, which are expected to be settled within 12 months.
    • EXAMPLES: accounts payable, salaries & wages payable, short-term notes payable, other short-term debts
  • Non-Current Liabilities: These are long-term obligations that are not due within one year.
    • EXAMPLES: capital lease, bonds payable, long-term notes payable, mortgage payable


Important Notes in your Balance Sheet: 

What is your working capital?

Working capital is a financial metric that measures your business’s ability to meet your short-term financial obligations. It is calculated as the difference between your business’s current assets and current liabilities.

Working capital = Current Assets – Current Liabilities

A positive working capital indicates that your business has enough current assets to cover your current liabilities, which means you can pay your short-term debts on time. A negative working capital indicates that your business does not have enough current assets to cover your current liabilities, which means you may face difficulties in paying your short-term debts on time.

Working capital is an important financial metric for small businesses because it indicates a company’s liquidity and ability to fund its day-to-day operations. Companies with strong working capital are better equipped to handle unexpected expenses, manage cash flow, and take advantage of growth opportunities.

Where do investors show up on the balance sheet?

Investors typically show up on the balance sheet under the equity section, which represents the ownership interest in the company.

The other amount you see in the equity section is:

  • The amount of money that you have contributed to your business
  • The amount of money your investors or shareholders have invested in the business
  • The profits that your business has earned and retained over time

Investors are an important source of capital for small businesses, and the balance sheet provides a snapshot of the financial health of the company that investors can use to make informed decisions about whether to invest in the company. Comparatively speaking, a business with a high equity balance is generally seen as more financially stable and less risky than a business with a high debt balance. (If you are actively in the process of going through a potential merger & acquisition or capital raising, read here to know how to best prepare for financial due diligence. To ask for support, reach out to a financial expert now!)


What are common mistakes to avoid when creating the balance sheet

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when creating a balance sheet:

  • Failing to reconcile accounts: It’s essential to ensure that the balance sheet accurately reflects the company’s financial position. To do this, it’s important to reconcile accounts, such as bank statements and accounts receivable, to ensure that the numbers match.
  • Misclassifying assets or liabilities: Incorrectly categorizing assets or liabilities can lead to an inaccurate balance sheet. For example, classifying long-term debt as a current liability can make the company appear more financially stable than it actually is.
  • Omitting important information: A balance sheet should include all relevant information about a company’s assets, liabilities, and equity. Omitting important information, such as accounts receivable (cash you’re waiting on) or accounts payable (Cash you owe for expenses), can distort your financial picture.
  • Failing to update the balance sheet regularly: A balance sheet should be updated regularly to reflect changes in the company’s financial position. Failing to update the balance sheet can result in outdated information that does not accurately reflect your company’s financial health.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can create an accurate and useful balance sheet that provides insights into the financial health of your business.

Understanding the balance sheet’s components and avoiding common mistakes can help you create an accurate and useful financial statement that provides insight into your company’s financial health. The big win? You can make informed decisions that can help your business succeed in the long run!

If you want a small business financial coach and expert to help you in ensuring that your financial data is accurately presented and analyzed for investors and internal decision-makers alike, click here to be one of our VIPs now!