Every new company should launch with a business plan and keep it updated. Generally, such a plan will comprise six sections: executive summary, business description, industry and marketing analysis, management team description, implementation plan, and financials.

Now, ideally, you would comprehensively update each section every year. But if the size, shape and objectives of your company haven’t changed all that much, you may not need to make major revisions to the entire plan. However, at the very least, you should always review and revise your financials.

Explain your route

Lenders, investors and other interested parties understand that descriptions of a business or industry analysis may be subject to interpretation. But financials are a different matter — they need to add up (literally and figuratively) and contain realistic projections in today’s dollars.

For example, suppose a company with $10 million in sales in 2019 expects to double that figure over a three-year period. How will you get from Point A ($10 million in 2019) to Point B ($20 million in 2023)? Many roads may lead to the desired destination; your business plan must explain its route.

Let’s say your management team decides to double sales by hiring four new salespeople and acquiring the assets of a bankrupt competitor. These assumptions will drive the projected income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement referenced in your business plan.

Justify assumptions

When projecting the income statement, you’ll need to make assumptions about variable and fixed costs. Direct materials are generally considered variable. Salaries and rent are usually fixed. But many fixed costs can be variable over the long term. Consider rent: Once a lease expires, you could relocate to a different facility to accommodate changes in size.

Balance sheet items — receivables, inventory, payables and so on — are generally expected to grow in tandem with revenues. The financials in your business plan must accurately and reasonably justify the assumptions you’re making about your minimum cash balance, as well as debt increases or decreases to keep the balance sheet balanced. And these amounts must be current.

From a lending perspective, your bank will be expected to fund any cash shortfalls that take place as the company grows. So, realistic cash flow projections in your business plan are particularly critical. The financials section should outline how much financing you’ll need, how you intend to use those funds and when you expect to repay the loan(s).

Keep it fresh

Your business plan needs to tell an accurate, objective story of your company — where it’s been, where it is right now and where it’s heading. Keep the whole thing as fresh as possible but pay special attention to the numbers. We can help you review your financials, arrive at reasonable assumptions, and express your objectives and projections clearly.

© 2019 Covenant CPA

With millions of dollars at stake, an overextended real estate developer has a lot to lose if lack of funds causes a project to collapse. To attract investment capital, some developers have been known to resort to financial statement fraud. If you’re considering financing a project, you need to know how to spot such deception.

Ample opportunity to cheat

There are many ways to falsify a financial picture. For projects in the planning phase, a company seeking financing may provide overstated appraisals of the completed property. Or it may fail to mention its inability to secure utility access or approval from local authorities to rezone the property’s intended location.

For projects already under construction, the developer may inflate the percentage of development completed or amount of materials already purchased. Or a developer could neglect to report funds received from previous lenders or investors.

Sweat the small stuff

To avoid shady deals, review project proposals carefully. For example:

Look at supporting documents. In their rush to “improve” financials by manipulating income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements, some companies may overlook supporting documents such as project-related budgets and forecasts. Compare these to the company’s primary financial statements and, if you find discrepancies, ask for a detailed explanation.

Scrutinize line items. Certain financial statement line items tend to correspond to each other. For example, labor expense and the accounts payable balance should increase at a rate similar to the percentage of construction completed to date. If line items appear out of sync, ask to see the books of original entry such as the accounts payable aging reports or salary expense reports.

Employ analytical techniques. Common size analysis can help you verify the integrity of specific line items. The process converts each item to a percentage of a base number. For example, to analyze wages and benefits expense, you would divide wages and benefits expense by revenue. Once you’ve converted every line item on the income statement to a percentage of revenue, you can compare the percentages within a reporting period and against prior and subsequent reporting periods.

Professional skepticism

Given the inherent complexity of commercial and residential construction projects, there are plenty of ways for unscrupulous developers to con lenders and investors. Contact us at 205-345-9898. We can help you determine whether a project’s financial statements appear sound.

© 2018 Covenant CPA