4 Steps to Creating a Financial Plan for Your Small Business

Rami Ali

When it comes to long-term business success, preparation is the name of the game. And the key to that preparation is a solid financial plan. It helps you pitch investors, anticipate growth and weather cash flow shortages. To get started, you need to learn some of the key elements to financial planning.

What is a Financial Plan?

A financial plan helps determine if an idea is sustainable, and then keeps you on track to financial health as your business matures. It’s an integral part to an overall business plan and is made up of three financial statements—cash flow statement, income statement and balance sheet. In your plan, each of these will include a brief explanation or analysis.

Key Takeaways

  • A financial plan helps you know where your business stands and lets you make better informed decisions about resource allocation.
  • A financial plan has three major components: a cash flow projection , income statement and balance sheet.
  • Your financial plan answers essential questions to set and track progress toward goals.
  • Using financial management software gives you the tools to make strategic decisions efficiently.

Why is a Financial Plan Important to Your Small Business?

A well-put-together financial plan can help you achieve greater confidence in your business while generating a better understanding of how to allocate resources. It shows your business is committed to spending wisely and its ability to meet financial obligations. A financial plan helps you determine if choices will impact revenue and which occasions call for dipping into reserve funds.

It’s also an important tool when asking investors to consider your business. Your financial plan shows how your organization manages expenses and generates revenue. It shows where your business stands and how much it needs from sales and investors to meet important financial benchmarks.

Components of a Small Business Financial Plan

Whether you’re modifying your plan or starting from scratch, a financial plan should include:

Income statement: This shows how your business experienced profit or loss over a specific period—usually over three months. Also known as a profit-and-loss statement (P&L) or pro forma income statement, it lists the following:

  • Cost of sale or cost of goods (how much does it costs to produce your goods or services?)
  • Operating expenses like rent and utilities
  • Revenue streams, usually in the form of sales
  • Amount of total net profit or loss, also known as a gross margin

Balance sheet: Rather than looking backward or peering into the future, the balance sheet helps you see where you stand right now. What do you own and what do you owe? To figure it out, you’ll need to consider the following:

  • Assets: How much cash, goods and resources do you have available?
  • Liabilities: What do you owe to suppliers, personnel, landlords, creditors, etc.?

Shareholder equity (the amount of money generated by your business): Use this formula to calculate it:

Shareholder Equity = Assets – Liability

Now that you have these three items, you’re ready to create your balance sheet. And just as the name implies, when complete, you’ll want this to balance out to zero. On one side, list your assets, such as cash on hand. And on the other side list your liabilities and equity (or how much money is generated by the business). The balance sheet is used along the other financial statements in order to calculate business financial ratios, discussed further below.

Balance Sheet

Why have a balance sheet? It can provide insight into your business and show important measures like how much cash you have, what your obligations are and what kind of profit you’re making all at a glance.

Personnel plan: You need the right people to meet goals and retain a healthy cash flow. A personnel plan looks at existing positions and helps you see when it’s time to bring on more team members, and whether they should be full-time, part-time, or work on a contractual basis. It looks at compensations levels, including benefits, and forecasts those costs. By looking at growth and costs you can see if the potential benefits that come with a new employee justify the expense.

Business ratios: Sometimes you need to look at more than just the big picture. You need to drill down to specific aspects of your business and keep an eye on how individual areas are doing. Business ratios are a way to see things like your net profit margin, return on equity, accounts payable turnover, assets to sales, working capital and total debt to total assets. Numbers used to calculate these ratios come from your P&L statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement and are often used to help request funding from a bank or investors.

Sales forecast: How much will you sell in a specific period? A sales forecast needs to be an ongoing part of any planning process since it helps predict cash flow and the organization’s overall health. A forecast needs to be consistent with the sales number within your P&L statement. Organizing and segmenting your sales forecast will depend on how thoroughly you want to track sales and the business you have. For example, if you own a hotel and giftshop, you may want to track separately sales from guests staying the night and sales from the shop.

Cash flow projection: Perhaps one of the most critical aspects of your financial plan is your cash flow statement . Your business runs on cash. Understanding how much cash is coming in and when to expect it shows the difference between your profit and cash position. It should display how much cash you have now, where it’s going, where it will come from and a schedule for each activity.

Income projections: How much money will your company make in a given period, usually a year. Take that and then subtract the anticipated expenses and you’ll have the income projections . In some cases, these are rolled into profit and loss statements.

Assets and liabilities: Both of these elements are part of your balance sheet. Assets are what your company owns, including current and long-term assets. Current assets can be converted into cash within a year. Think of things such as stocks, inventory and accounts receivable. Long-term assets are tangible or fixed assets designed for long-term use like furniture, fixtures, buildings, machinery and vehicles.

Liabilities are business obligations that are divided into current and long-term categories. Examples of current liabilities in a financial plan are accrued payroll, taxes payable, short-term loans and other obligations due within a year. Long-term liabilities include shareholder loans or bank debt that matures more than a year later.

Break-even analysis: Your break-even point—how much you need to sell to cover all your expenses—will guide your sales revenue and volume goals. Start by calculating your contribution margin by subtracting the costs of a good or service from the amount you pay. In the case of a bicycle store, the sale price of a new bike minus what you paid for it and the salary of your bike salesperson, your rent, etc. By understanding your fixed costs, you can then begin to understand how much you’ll need to markup goods and services and what sales and revenue goals to set in order to stay afloat or turn a profit.

Video: How to Build a Financial Plan

Create a strategic plan: Starting with a strategic plan helps you think about what you want your company to accomplish. Before looking at the numbers, think about what you’ll need to achieve these goals. Will you need to buy more equipment or hire more staff? Is there a chance of new goals affecting your cash flow? What other resources will you need?

Determine the impact on your company’s finances and create a list of existing expenses and assets to help with your next steps.

Create financial projections: This should be based on anticipated expenses and sales forecasts . Look at your goals and plug in the costs needed to achieve them. Include different scenarios. Create a range that is optimistic, pessimistic and most likely to happen, so you can anticipate the impact each one will have. If you’re working with an accountant, go over the plan together to understand how to explain it when seeking funding from investors and lenders.

Plan for contingencies: Look at your cash flow statement and assets, and create a plan for when there’s no money coming in or your business has taken an unexpected turn. Consider having cash reserves or a substantial line of credit if you need cash fast. You may also need to plot ways to sell off assets to help break even.

Monitor and compare goals: Look at the actual results in your cash flow statement, income projections and even business ratios as necessary throughout the year to see if you need to modify your plan or if you’re right on target. Regularly checking in helps you spot potential problems before they get worse.

Three Questions Your Financial Plan Should Answer

Once you’ve created your plan, you should have answers to the following questions:

  • How will your business make money?
  • What does your business need to get off of the ground?
  • What is the operating budget ?

Financial plans that can’t answer these questions need more tweaking. Otherwise, you risk starting a new venture without a clear path and leave behind valuable insight.

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Using spreadsheets can get the job done when you’re just getting started. However, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially if you’re collaborating with others in your organization.

Financial management software is worth the expense because it offers automated capabilities such as analysis, reporting and forecasting. Plus, using cloud-based financial planning tools like NetSuite can help you automatically consolidate data and improve efficiency. Everyone across your organization can access and analyze up-to-date information, which leads to better informed decisions.

Whether you’re looking to secure outside funding or just monitor your business growth, understanding and creating a financial plan is crucial. Once you have an overview of your business’ finances, you can make strategic decisions to ensure its longevity.

Financial Management

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Small Business Financial Management: Tips, Importance and Challenges

It is remarkably difficult to start a small business. Only about half stay open for five years, and only a third make it to the 10-year mark. That’s why it’s vital to make every effort to succeed. And one of the most fundamental skills and tools for any small business owner is sound financial management.

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Simple Business Plan Template for Startups, Small Businesses & Entrepreneurs

Financial plan, what is a financial plan.

A business’ financial plan is the part of your business plan that details how your company will achieve its financial goals. It includes information on your company’s projected income, expenses, and cash flow in the form of a 5-Year Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow Statement. The plan should also detail how much funding your company needs and the key uses of these funds.

The financial plan is an important part of the business plan, as it provides a framework for making financial decisions. It can be used to track progress and make adjustments as needed.

Why Your Financial Plan is Important

The financial section of your business plan details the financial implications of running your company. It is important for the following two reasons:

Making Informed Decisions

A financial plan provides a framework for making decisions about how to use your money. It can help you determine whether or not you can afford to make a major purchase, such as a new piece of equipment.

It can also help you decide how much money to reinvest in your business, and how much to save for paying taxes.

A financial plan is like a roadmap for your business. It can help you track your progress and make adjustments as needed. The plan can also help you identify potential problems before they arise.

For example, if your sales are below your projections, you may need to adjust your budget accordingly.

Your financial plan helps you understand how much outside funding is required, when your levels of cash might fall low, and what sales and other goals you need to hit to become financially viable.

Securing Funding

This section of your plan is absolutely critical if you are trying to secure funding. Your financial plan should include information on your revenue, expenses, and cash flow.

This information will help potential investors or lenders understand your business’s financial situation and decide whether or not to provide funding.

Include a detailed description of how you plan to use the funds you are requesting. For example, what are the key uses of the funds (e.g., purchasing equipment, paying staff, etc.) and what are the future timings of these financial outlays.

The financial information in your business plan should be realistic and accurate. Do not overstate your projected revenues or underestimate your expenses. This can lead to problems down the road.

Potential investors and lenders will be very interested in your future projections since it indicates whether you will be able to repay your loans and/or provide a nice return on investment (ROI) upon exit.

Financial Plan Template: 4 Components to Include in Your Financial Plan

The financial section of a business plan should have the following four sub-sections:

Revenue Model

Here you will detail how your company generates revenues. Oftentimes this is very straightforward, for instance, if you sell products. Other times, your answer might be more complex, such as if you’re selling subscriptions (particularly at different price/service levels) or if you are selling multiple products and services.

Financial Overview & Highlights

In developing your financial plan, you need to create full financial forecasts including the following financial statements.

5-Year Income Statement / Profit and Loss Statement

An income statement, also known as a profit and loss statement (P&L), shows how much revenue your business has generated over a specific period of time, and how much of that revenue has turned into profits. The statement includes your company’s revenues and expenses for a given time period, such as a month, quarter, or year. It can also show your company’s net income, which is the amount of money your company has made after all expenses have been paid.

5-Year Balance Sheet

A balance sheet shows a company’s financial position at a specific point in time. The balance sheet lists a company’s assets (what it owns), its liabilities (what it owes), and its equity (the difference between its assets and its liabilities).

The balance sheet is important because it shows a company’s financial health at a specific point in time. A strong balance sheet indicates that a company has the resources it needs to grow and expand. A weak balance sheet, on the other hand, may indicate that a company is struggling to pay its bills and may be at risk of bankruptcy.

5-Year Cash Flow Statement

A cash flow statement shows how much cash a company has on hand, as well as how much cash it is generating (or losing) over a specific period of time. The statement includes both operating and non-operating activities, such as revenue from sales, expenses, investing activities, and financing activities.

While your full financial projections will go in your Appendix, highlights of your financial projections will go in the Financial Plan section.

These highlights include your Total Revenue, Direct Expenses, Gross Profit, Other Expenses, EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization), and Net Income projections. Also include key assumptions used in creating these future projections such as revenue and cost growth rates.

Funding Requirements/Use of Funds

In this section, you will detail how much outside funding you require, if any, and the core uses of these funds.

For example, detail how much of the funding you need for:

  • Product Development
  • Product Manufacturing
  • Rent or Office/Building Build-Out

Exit Strategy

If you are seeking equity capital, you need to explain your “exit strategy” here or how investors will “cash out” from their investment.

To add credibility to your exit strategy, conduct market research. Specifically, find other companies in your market who have exited in the past few years. Mention how they exited and the amounts of the exit (e.g., XYZ Corp. bought ABC Corp. for $Y).  

Business Plan Financial Plan FAQs

What is a financial plan template.

A financial plan template is a pre-formatted spreadsheet that you can use to create your own financial plan. The financial plan template includes formulas that will automatically calculate your revenue, expenses, and cash flow projections.

How Can I Download a Financial Plan Template?

Download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template which includes a complete financial plan template and more to help you write a solid business plan in hours.

How Do You Make Realistic Assumptions in Your Business Plan?

When forecasting your company’s future, you need to make realistic assumptions. Conduct market research and speak with industry experts to get a better idea of the key trends affecting your business and realistic growth rates.

You should also use historical data to help inform your projections. For example, if you are launching a new product, use past sales data to estimate how many units you might sell in Year 1, Year 2, etc.

Learn more about how to make the appropriate financial assumptions for your business plan.

How Do You Make the Proper Financial Projections for Your Business Plan?

Your business plan’s financial projections should be based on your business model and your market research. The goal is to make as realistic and achievable projections as possible.

To create a good financial projection, you need to understand your revenue model and your target market. Once you have this information, you can develop assumptions around revenue growth, cost of goods sold, margins, expenses, and other key metrics.

Once you have your assumptions set, you can plug them into a financial model to generate your projections.

Learn more about how to make the proper financial projections for your business plan.

What Financials Should Be Included in a Business Plan?

There are a few key financials that should be included in a traditional business plan format. These include the Income Statement, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statement.

Income Statements, also called Profit and Loss Statements, will show your company’s expected income and expense projections over a specific period of time (usually 1 year, 3 years, or 5 years). Balance Sheets will show your company’s assets, liabilities, and equity at a specific point in time. Cash Flow Statements will show how much cash your company has generated and used over a specific period of time.

Growthink's Ultimate Business Plan Template includes a complete financial plan template to easily create these financial statements and more so you can write a great business plan in hours.


  • Business Plan Template Home
  • 1. Executive Summary
  • 2. Company Overview
  • 3. Industry Analysis
  • 4. Customer Analysis
  • 5. Competitive Analysis
  • 6. Marketing Plan
  • 7. Operations Plan
  • 8. Management Team
  • 9. Financial Plan
  • 10. Appendix
  • Business Plan Summary

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What to include if you plan to pursue funding, financial ratios and metrics, financial plan templates and tools.

Vector of two lines moving to the right and upward. Represents building financial statements and forecasts as part of your financial plan.

How to Write a Small Business Financial Plan

Creating a financial plan is often the most intimidating part of writing a business plan. It’s also one of the most vital. Businesses with well-structured and accurate financial statements in place are more prepared to pitch to investors, receive funding, and achieve long-term success.

Thankfully, you don’t need an accounting degree to successfully put your budget and forecasts together. Here is everything you need to include in your financial plan along with optional performance metrics, specifics for funding, and free templates.

A sound financial plan is made up of six key components that help you easily track and forecast your business financials. They include your:

Sales forecast

What do you expect to sell in a given period? Segment and organize your sales projections with a personalized sales forecast based on your business type.

Subscription sales forecast

While not too different from traditional sales forecasts—there are a few specific terms and calculations you’ll need to know when forecasting sales for a subscription-based business.

Expense budget

Create, review, and revise your expense budget to keep your business on track and more easily predict future expenses.

How to forecast personnel costs

How much do your current, and future, employees’ pay, taxes, and benefits cost your business? Find out by forecasting your personnel costs.

Profit and loss forecast

Track how you make money and how much you spend by listing all of your revenue streams and expenses in your profit and loss statement.

Cash flow forecast

Manage and create projections for the inflow and outflow of cash by building a cash flow statement and forecast.

Balance sheet

Need a snapshot of your business’s financial position? Keep an eye on your assets, liabilities, and equity within the balance sheet.

Do you plan to pursue any form of funding or financing? If the answer is yes, then there are a few additional pieces of information that you’ll need to include as part of your financial plan.

Highlight any risks and assumptions

Every entrepreneur takes risks with the biggest being assumptions and guesses about the future. Just be sure to track and address these unknowns in your plan early on.

Plan your exit strategy

Investors will want to know your long-term plans as a business owner. While you don’t need to have all the details, it’s worth taking the time to think through how you eventually plan to leave your business.

With all of your financial statements and forecasts in place, you have all the numbers needed to calculate insightful financial ratios. While these metrics are entirely optional to include in your plan, having them easily accessible can be valuable for tracking your performance and overall financial situation.

Common business ratios

Unsure of which business ratios you should be using? Check out this list of key financial ratios that bankers, financial analysts, and investors will want to see.

Break-even analysis

Do you want to know when you’ll become profitable? Find out how much you need to sell to offset your production costs by conducting a break-even analysis.

How to calculate ROI

How much could a business decision be worth? Evaluate the efficiency or profitability by calculating the potential return on investment (ROI).

Download and use these free financial templates and calculators to easily create your own financial plan.

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Financial plan FAQ

What is a financial plan?

A financial plan is simply an overview of your current business financials and projections for growth. Think of any documents that represent your current monetary situation as a snapshot of the health of your business and the projections being your future expectations.

Why is a financial plan important for your business?

The financial plan informs your short and long-term financial goals and gives you a starting point for developing a strategy.

It helps you, as a business owner, set realistic expectations regarding the success of your business. You’re less likely to be surprised by your current financial state and more prepared to manage a crisis or incredible growth, simply because you know your financials inside and out.

And aside from helping you better manage your business, a thorough financial plan also makes you more attractive to investors. It makes you less of a risk and shows that you have a firm plan and track record in place to grow your business.

What is in a financial plan?

A solid financial plan includes six key components, which are your:

– Sales forecast – Expense budget – Personnel statement – Profit and loss statement – Cash flow forecast – Balance sheet

As part of your business’s financial planning process, you may also include specific financial ratios and metrics that help you track overall business health.

What is the most important part of a financial plan?

Your sales forecast, expense budget, and cash flow forecast are the most important parts of your financial plan. These three documents will help you understand how much you’re spending, know how solvent your business is, and start setting goals for the future.

The remaining financial documents are still necessary for creating a full financial plan. They provide additional information that can help you make more informed decisions when reviewing your budget and forecasts.

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what is a financial plan for a business plan

Financial Plans: Meaning, Purpose, and Key Components

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What Is a Financial Plan?

Understanding a financial plan.

  • When to Create It
  • How to Create It
  • Financial Plan FAQs

The Bottom Line

Liz Manning has researched, written, and edited trading, investing, and personal finance content for years, following her time working in institutional sales, commercial banking, retail investing, hedging strategies, futures, and day trading. 

what is a financial plan for a business plan

Gordon Scott has been an active investor and technical analyst or 20+ years. He is a Chartered Market Technician (CMT).

what is a financial plan for a business plan

Ariel Courage is an experienced editor, researcher, and former fact-checker. She has performed editing and fact-checking work for several leading finance publications, including The Motley Fool and Passport to Wall Street.

what is a financial plan for a business plan

A financial plan is a document that details a person’s current financial circumstances and their short- and long-term monetary goals. It includes strategies to achieve those goals.

A financial plan can help you to establish and plan for fundamental needs, such as managing life's risks (e.g., those involving health or disability), income and spending, and debt reduction.

It can provide financial guidance so that you're prepared to meet your obligations and objectives. It can also help you track your progress throughout the years toward financial well-being.

Financial planning involves a thorough evaluation of one’s money situation (income, spending, debt, and saving) and expectations for the future. It can be created independently or with the help of a certified financial planner .

Key Takeaways

  • A financial plan documents an individual’s short- and long-term financial goals and includes a strategy to achieve them.
  • The plan should be comprehensive and highly customized.
  • It should reflect an individual’s personal and family financial needs, investment risk tolerance, and plan for saving and investing.
  • Planning in finance starts with a calculation of one’s current net worth and cash flow.
  • A solid financial plan provides guidance over time and serves as a way to track progress toward your goals.

The Fundamentals of Financial Plans

Whether you’re going it alone or with a financial planner, the first step in creating a financial plan is to understand how important it can be to your financial future. It can provide the guidance that assures your financial success.

Start your planning effort by gathering information from your various financial accounts into a document or spreadsheet.

Then make some basic calculations that establish where you stand financially.

You may complete the following steps as an individual or a couple:

Calculate Net Worth

To calculate your current net worth , subtract the total for your liabilities from the total for your assets. Begin by listing and adding up all of the following:

  • Your assets : An asset is property of value that you own. Assets may include a home, a car, cash in the bank, money invested in a 401(k) plan , and other investments accounts.
  • Your liabilities : A liability is something you owe. Liabilities may include outstanding bills, credit card debt, student debt, a mortgage, and a car loan.

Determine Cash Flow

Cash flow is the money you take in measured against the money you spend. To create a financial plan, you must know your income as well as how and when your money is spent.

Documenting your personal cash flow will help you determine how much you need every month for necessities, how much is available for saving and investing, and where you can cut back on spending.

One way to get this done is to review your checking account and credit card statements. Collectively, they should provide a fairly complete history of your income and spending in a wide range of spending categories.

For example, document how much you’ve paid during the year for housing expenses like rent or mortgage payments, utilities, and credit card interest.

Other categories include food, household (including clothing), transportation, medical insurance, and non-covered medical expenses. Still others can include your spending on miscellaneous entertainment, dining out, and vacation travel.

Once you add up all these numbers for a year and divide by 12, you’ll know what your monthly cash flow has been (and where you can improve it).

When establishing your cash flow history, don’t overlook cash withdrawals that may have been used on sundries, from take-out, to shampoo, to sodas. ATM withdrawals can also highlight where you might cut unnecessary spending.

Establish Your Goals

A major part of a financial plan is a person’s clearly defined goals . These may include funding a college education for the children, buying a larger home, starting a business, retiring on time, or leaving a legacy.

No one can tell you how to prioritize these goals. However, a professional financial planner should be able to help finalize a detailed savings plan and specific investing that can help you reach them one by one.

The main elements of a financial plan include a retirement strategy, a risk management plan, a long-term investment plan, a tax reduction strategy, and an estate plan.

Benefits of a Financial Plan

  • A financial plan involves a thorough examination of your income and spending.
  • It can improve your understanding of your financial circumstances at all times.
  • It establishes important short- and long-term financial goals.
  • It clarifies the actions required of you to achieve your various financial goals.
  • A financial plan can focus your attention on important immediate steps, such as reducing debt and building your savings for emergencies.
  • It enhances the probability that you'll achieve financial milestones and overall financial success (however you define it).
  • It can guide your efforts over time and provide a means to monitor your progress.
  • It can keep you out of financial trouble and reduce the stress and worry you may have experienced in the past.

Reasons for a Financial Plan

Financial planning is a smart way to keep your financial house in order. It's a money tool for everyone, regardless of age, earnings, net worth, or financial dreams. It offers individuals a way to document their personal goals and corresponding financial goals. It can keep people on track to meet ongoing financial needs and major financial goals.

When to Create a Financial Plan

A financial plan is always an advantage for those who want to make sure that they manage their finances in ways that are best-suited for them. You can create one at any time, whether you've just joined the workforce or have been working for years.

Beyond that, here are some particular instances that call for the creation and use of a financial plan. They can also serve as signals to adjust existing plans.

  • A new job that results in added income, new expenses, or new opportunities
  • An income change that can affect your ability to pay expenses, pay off debt, or save
  • Major life events such as marriage, children, or divorce that can change financial objectives and spending needs
  • Health adversities that result in re-directing income and spending away from existing goals
  • An income windfall, such as an inheritance or insurance payment, that can affect efforts to reach your financial goals (such as providing more money for investing and debt reduction)

How to Create a Financial Plan

Certain steps are needed to create a financial plan. In addition to calculating your net worth, determining your cash flow, and establishing financial goals, as outlined above, here are additional plan elements/steps to include.

Do It Yourself or Get Professional Help

Decide whether you'll create your financial plan on your own or with the help of a licensed financial planner . While you can certainly build a financial plan, a financial pro can help ensure that your plan covers all the essentials.

Build an Emergency Cash Fund

Based on what your cash flow allows, start setting aside enough money in a liquid account to cover all your expenses for at least 6 months (preferably, for twelve) if you find yourself without income due to unexpected events.

Plan to Reduce Debt and Manage Expenses

If you have debt, the faster and more effectively that you can eliminate it, the better for the growth of your savings, your standard of living, and the achievement of specific financial objectives.

Make it a habit to cut expenses whenever possible so that you can add to your savings. In addition, stay on top of expenses that you know you'll have, such as taxes, so you always meet those obligations on time.

Manage Potential Risks

Your financial well-being can be affected when accidents, health problems, or the death of loved ones strike. Plan to put into place the appropriate insurance coverage that will protect your financial security at such times. This coverage can include home, property , health, auto, disability , personal liability , and life insurance.

Plan to Invest

Take part in a retirement plan at work that automatically deducts contributions from your paycheck. And plan to maximize your tax-advantaged investing with a personal IRA if and when your income allows.

Also, consider how you might allocate any other available income to a taxable investment account that can add to your net worth over time. Your plan for investing should take into account your investment risk tolerance and future income needs.

Include a Tax Strategy

Address the goal of reducing your income taxes with tax deductions, tax credits, tax loss harvesting, and any other opportunities that are legally available to taxpayers.

Consider an Estate Plan

It's important to make arrangements for the benefit and protection of your heirs with an estate plan . The details will depend on your stage in life and whether you're married, have children, or have other legacy goals.

Monitor and Adjust Your Financial Plan

Revisit your plan at least yearly (on your own or with a financial professional) and more often if a change in circumstances affects your financial situation. Keep it working efficiently and effectively by adjusting it as needed.

What Is the Purpose of a Financial Plan?

A financial plan should help you make the best use of your money and achieve long-term financial goals, such as sending your children to college, buying a bigger home, leaving a legacy, or enjoying a comfortable retirement.

How Do I Write a Financial Plan?

You can write a financial plan yourself or enlist the help of a professional financial planner. The first step is to calculate your net worth and identify your spending habits. Once this has been documented, you need to consider longer-term objectives and decide on the ways to achieve them.

What Are the Key Components of a Financial Plan?

Financial plans aren't one-size-fits-all, although the good ones tend to focus on the same things. After calculating your net worth and spending habits, you’ll explore your financial goals and ways to achieve them. Usually, this involves some form of budgeting, saving, and investing each month. To ensure that you live comfortably and financially stress-free for the rest of your life, the areas to focus on include an emergency savings plan, a retirement plan, risk management, a long-term investment strategy, and a tax minimization plan.

A financial plan is an essential planning tool for your financial well-being, now and into the future. It involves setting down the current state of your finances, your various financial goals, and methods that can help you achieve them.

It's never too early or late to create a financial plan. And no matter the amount of money that you have, a financial plan can help you to determine the best way to put it to work so that you can meet your financial needs through all of your life stages.

  • Financial Plans: Meaning, Purpose, and Key Components 1 of 14
  • How To Conduct a Financial Checkup 2 of 14
  • How to Manage Lifestyle Inflation 3 of 14
  • Your Annual Financial Planning Checklist 4 of 14
  • Financial Planning: Can You Do It Yourself? 5 of 14
  • The Importance of Making an Annual Financial Plan 6 of 14
  • What Is Retirement Planning? Steps, Stages, and What to Consider 7 of 14
  • 10 Steps to Financial Security Before Age 30 8 of 14
  • 10 Steps to Retire as a Millionaire 9 of 14
  • Why Should I Pay Myself First? 10 of 14
  • How Can I Budget for Short-Term Expenses and Long-Term Goals? 11 of 14
  • How To Adjust and Renew Your Portfolio 12 of 14
  • Financial New Year's Resolutions You Can Keep 13 of 14
  • How to Conduct a Financial Intervention 14 of 14


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Financial Planning

Financial planning definition.

Financial planning enables a business to determine how it will afford to achieve its objectives and strategic goals. A business typically sets a vision and objectives, and then immediately creates a financial plan to support those goals. The financial plan describes all of the resources and activities that the company will require—and the expected timeframes—for achieving these objectives.

Financial planning is crucial to organizational success because it compliments the business plan as a whole, confirming that set objectives are financially achievable.

The financial planning process includes multiple tasks, including:

  • Confirming the vision and objectives of the business
  • Assessing the business environment and company priorities
  • Identifying which resources the business needs to achieve its objectives
  • Assigning costs business costs centers included in the plan
  • Quantifying the amount of equipment, labor, materials, and other resources needed
  • Creating and setting a budget
  • Identifying any issues and risks with the budget
  • Establishing the time period of the plan or planning horizon, either short-term (typically 12 months) or long-term (2 to 5 years)
  • Preparing a full financial plan summarizing all key investments, budgets and departmental costs

Generally, the financial partner role includes three areas:

  • Strategic financial management;
  • Determining financial management objectives; and
  • Managing the planning cycle itself.
  • Connecting business partners and teams to financial plan

What Is Financial Planning?

Financial planning is the process of assessing the current financial situation of a business to identify future financial goals and how to achieve them. The financial plan itself is a document that serves as a roadmap for a company’s financial growth. It reflects the current status of the business, what progress they intend to make, and how they intend to make it.

Financial plans include budgets, but the terms are not interchangeable. Budgets are just one piece of a financial business plan, which should also include other important information that contribute to a complete picture of a business’ financial health, such as detailed, itemized breakdowns of company assets; typical expenditures; and forecasts of income, cash flow, and revenue.

Typically, business financial plans also focus on specific growth goals and other long-term objectives, as well as potential obstacles to achieving those objectives. A detailed financial planning checklist can identify overlooked opportunities and highlight possible risks that will affect the growth plan.

The comprehensive financial planning process in business is designed to determine how to most effectively use the company’s financial resources to support the objectives of the organization, both short- and long-range, by accurately forecasting future financial results. Financial planning processes are both analytical and informative, balancing the use of data and metrics to predict the future as well as institutional knowledge in departments and teams.

What is Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A)?

Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) is a group within a company’s finance organization that supports the health of the organization by engaging in several types of activities: budgeting, integrated financial planning, modeling, and forecasting; decision support via reporting on management and performance; and various special projects. FP&A solutions link corporate strategy and execution, enhancing the ability of the finance department to manage performance.

FP&A professionals provide senior management with forecasts of the company’s operating performance and profit and loss for each upcoming quarter and year. These forecasts allow leadership to assess investments and strategic plans for effectiveness and progress. They also enable improved communication between external stakeholders and management.

To map out future goals and plans and evaluate the company’s progress toward achieving its goals, corporate FP&A professionals analyze the company’s operational aspects both quantitatively and qualitatively. FP&A analysts review past company performance, consider business and economic trends, and identify risks and possible obstacles, all to more effectively forecast future financial results for a company.

In contrast to accountants, who are tasked with accurate recordkeeping, consolidations and reporting, financial analysts must analyze and evaluate the totality of a company’s financial activities and map out the financial future of the business. FP&A professionals manage a broad range of financial scenarios and plans, including capital expenditures, expenses, financial statements, income, investments, and taxes.

Budgeting, planning, modeling, and forecasting

The primary responsibility of FP&A is to anchor the company, unite the business and translate plans to actionable & informed results. . So, what is financial planning and analysis, and how does it look in practice?

Senior management creates and drives the strategic plan in a top-down way, setting net income and revenue goals, core strategic initiatives, and other high-level business targets for the company’s next 2 to 10 years. FP&A’s corporate performance management aim is to develop the financial plan needed to achieve the strategic plan created by management.

In the past, financial planning and analysis teams developed annual budgets that remained mostly static and updated annually. However, whether in tandem with a traditional budget or as a replacement altogether, modern FP&A teams are increasingly developing rolling forecasts to cope with stale static budgets. Other important tasks of FP&A teams that are related to the budgeting, planning, and forecasting process include:

  • Creating, maintaining, and updating detailed forecasts and financial models of future business operations
  • Comparing budgets and forecasts to historical results, and conducting variance analysis to illustrate to management how actual performance and the rolling forecast or budget compare, suggesting ways to improve future performance
  • Assessing expansion and growth opportunities based on forecasts and other projections
  • Mapping out capital expenditures and investments, and other growth plans
  • Generating long-term financial forecasts in the three- to five-year range

what is a financial plan for a business plan

Decision support and reporting

FP&A reports variances and forecasts, naturally. However, the team also advises management using that data, offering support on decisions concerning performance improvement, risk minimization, or risk benefit analysis of new opportunities from outside and within the company.

One primary piece of this the FP&A team typically generates is the monthly budget versus actual variance comparison. This report explanations of variances; analysis of historical financials; an updated version of the forecast with opportunities and risks related to the current stage of plan; and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Ideally, this report or analysis offers leadership information sufficient to identify ways to meet specific goals or optimize performance, and answer imminent questions of stakeholders. However, the true goal of the budget vs. actual report should be to inform the business around gaps or opportunities that inform the future.

Other ongoing pieces of the FP&A team’s reporting and decision support role include:

  • Using key financial ratios such as the current ratio, debt to equity ratio, and interest coverage ratio to gauge the overall financial health of the business
  • Identifying which company products, product lines, or services generate the most net profit
  • Determining which products, product lines, or services have the highest and lowest profit margins—separate from total profit
  • Assessing and evaluating each department’s cost-efficiency in light of the percentage of total company financial resources it consumes
  • Collaborating with departments to prepare and consolidate budgets into a single corporate budget
  • Preparing other internal reports in support of decision making for executive leadership

what is a financial plan for a business plan

Special projects

Inevitably, the FP&A team works on special projects, depending on the size and needs of the business. For example:

Capital allocation. How much of the organization’s capital should be spent, and on what? Based on factors such as return on investment (ROI) and comparisons with increased stock dividends, different possible investments, and other ways the business could utilize its cash flow, are the company’s current investments and assets the best use of excess working capital?

Market research. What are the sizes and contours of a given market in which the organization may have a competitive advantage? Who are its laggards and leaders, and what potential opportunities does it hold for the company?

M&A. Which potential buy-side support, acquisition targets, integration, and divestiture opportunities exist for the company?

Process optimization. How can the company improve problems of process and workflow inefficiency? How can tools and technology in use by the business speak to and work with each other more effectively?

Ultimately, the FP&A team provides upper management with advice and analysis concerning how to best deploy the organization’s financial resources for optimal growth and increased profitability, while avoiding serious financial risk.

What is Corporate Financial Planning and Analysis?

Corporate financial planning is the process of determining what a company’s financial needs and goals for the future are, and how best to achieve them. Corporate financial planning considers the individual circumstances of the company as well as its broader economic context to determine which activities and investments would be most advantageous and appropriate. Generally, because short-term market trends are more predictable, short-term corporate financial planning involves less uncertainty and more readily adaptable financial plans.

Balanced corporate financial planning should elucidate how the company can achieve its goals and priorities while upholding its values. A financial plan for a corporation achieves at least two aims.

First, it forces management to think about the company’s prospects for business success objectively by basing their analysis on company finances. It also gives lenders and investors a good reason to invest into the business performance, by showing the growth and profit projections. Unrealistic or unbalanced financial plans or plans that understate profits tell investors to reconsider their investment or evaluation.

As a basic matter, three financial statements form the core of a corporate financial plan: income statement, statement of cash flow, and balance sheet. These statements clarify how much profit the business earns, and how much cash actually comes in, compared to the income reflected in accounts receivables. They also detail the relationships between corporate liabilities, corporate assets, and owner equity.

What is the Financial Planning Process?

The financial planning process results in the development of a financial plan, a financial forecast, or both. There are several well-understood steps in this process, and they often come out of sequence, depending on the deliverable or project at hand. However, it’s often simplest to think about these as steps in financial planning as financial planning tips, all of which are parts of a larger, flexible financial planning process.

With that in mind, these key components of financial planning for businesses are, in a sense, a set of best practices for your financial planning checklist.

Forecast revenue

Project revenue or sales for the next three years in a spreadsheet, or even better, in Planful. You’ll track numbers at least monthly in year one, and quarterly in years two and three.

Ideally you want to include sections that track unit sales, pricing, units times price to calculate sales, unit costs, and units times unit cost to calculate COGS or cost of goods sold, also called direct costs. Calculate gross margin, which is sales less cost of sales, and it’s a useful number for considering a new line of business or a new product expansion.

what is a financial plan for a business plan

Budget expenses

Here you want to determine the actual cost of making the revenue you have forecasted. Differentiate between fixed costs such as payroll and rent and variable costs such as most promotional and advertising expenses. Lower fixed costs mean less risk; higher fixed costs may signal a need for reduced risk tolerance.

Remember, this is not accountancy, but a forecast, so you will have to estimate things such as taxes and interest. Use run rates or average assumptions whenever possible, and estimate taxes by multiplying estimated profits by estimated tax percentage rate. Then estimate interest by multiplying estimated debts balance by estimated interest rate.

Project cash flow

Project cash flow, or dollars moving in and out of the business, in this statement is based partly on balance sheet items, sales forecasts, and reasonable assumptions.

An existing company should have historical documents to base these forecasts on, such as balance sheets and profit and loss statements from years past. A new business which lacks these historical financial statements can project a cash-flow statement broken down month by month.

Remember to choose a realistic ratio for how many of your invoices will be paid in cash, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days and so on when compiling a cash-flow projection so you are not reliant on collecting 100 percent to pay your expenses. Some financial planning platforms build these formulas to make these projections simpler.

Project income

The income projection is the company’s pro forma profit and loss statement or P&L, which offers detailed business forecasts for the coming three years. To project income, use expense projections, sales forecasts, and cash flow statement numbers. Sales minus cost of sales equals gross margin. Gross margin minus expenses, interest, and taxes equals net profit.

Compile assets and liabilities

To deal with assets and liabilities that project the net worth of your business at the end of the fiscal year but are not in the profit and loss statement you need a projected balance sheet. Some of these, such as startup assets, are obvious and affect just one part of the process. However, others are less apparent.

For example, although the profit and loss reflects interest, it does not reflect repayment of principle. This means that loans and inventory register only as assets, but only up until you pay for them.

Cope with this by compiling a complete list of assets, equipment, real estate, and an estimate month by month of inventory if the business has it, accounts receivable (money owed to the company), and cash the business will have on hand. Then compile a complete list of liabilities and debts, including outstanding loans.

Conduct breakeven analysis

The breakeven point is when the expenses of the business match volumes or revenue. Undertake this analysis using the three-year income projection. Overall revenue will exceed overall expenses, including interest, within this period of time if the business is viable. Potential investors must engage in this critical analysis to ensure they are investing in a healthy business that is fast-growing and maintains reasonable profit.

Put the plan to work

Many companies work hard to create a financial plan for small business, only to ignore it as soon as it has been created. Placing all of the focus on creating the plan is a major error, because it is a powerful management tool. It is a better practice to compare actual numbers in the profit and loss statement with projections in the financial plan once a month, and use that data to revise future projections.

Compare statements over time

Undertake a financial statement analysis to compare specific items and entire financial statements over time—even the statements of the business to those of other companies. Conduct a ratio analysis to determine the prevailing industry ratios for profitability analysis, liquidity analysis, and debt. Measure the business both against its past performance and other similar businesses by comparing these standard ratios. You can also use the business plans from similar companies as financial plan examples.

Pitch with past plans

Include past financial plans as supplementary documentation of the business’s financial history as the organization applies for a loan or works to attract investment.

Use financial planning software

Obviously, this is a tremendous amount of dynamic information and calculation, making financial planning software a good option for many teams assembling a business plan’s financial section. These digital financial planning tools also enable visual financial projections such as bar graphs and pie charts.

what is a financial plan for a business plan

What Should Financial Planning Include?

All business financial plans should include: a profit and loss statement; a cash flow statement; a balance sheet; a sales forecast; a personnel plan; business ratios; and a break-even analysis.

Profit and loss statement

The profit and loss statement is a financial statement that goes by several names, including P&L, income statement, and pro forma income statement. By any name, the profit and loss statement is essentially an explanation of how the business either made a profit or incurred a loss over a specific time period—typically three-months. The table lists all revenue streams and expenses, along with the total net profit or loss.

Depending on the type and structure of the business, there are different formats for profit and loss statements. However, in general, include in the profit and loss statement:

  • Revenue or sales
  • Cost of sale or cost of goods sold (COGS), although services companies may not have COGS
  • Gross margin, which is revenue less COGS

Revenue, COGS, and gross margin are at the heart of how most businesses make money.

The P&L should also include operating expenses, those expenses that are not directly associated with making a sale but that are associated with running the business. These are the fixed costs that fluctuations in business really don’t affect, such as utilities, rent, and insurance.

The P&L statement should also include operating income:

  • Gross Margin – Operating Expenses = Operating Income

Typically, operating income is equivalent to EBITDA: earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization—although this depends on how the organization classifies expenses. Another way to think about operating income is the amount in profit before tax and interest but after operational costs.

The net income is the bottom line of the business, found at the end of the profit and loss statement. It represents going back to EBITDA and going a few steps further, subtracting expenses for interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization to find net income:

  • Operating Income – Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization Expenses = Net Income

what is a financial plan for a business plan

Cash flow statement

Just as critical as the P&L, the cash flow statement is typically a per-month explanation of how much cash the business brings in, pays out, and the ending cash balance. This detailed map of how much cash is in play, where it originates and goes to, and the cash flow schedule itself, is essential to any healthy, functional business.

The cash flow statement assists management in understanding the difference between the company’s actual cash position and the reported income on the profit and loss statement. It is just as important to clearly lay this information out for investors and lenders in the cash flow statement to raise funds.

Some businesses might be profitable but still lack the cash to pay expenses and continue to operate. Others might have the cash on hand to stay open even if they are unprofitable—cash flow break-even is vital to future company scale.. Therefore, the cash flow statement is important to understand.

There are two methods of accounting in the cash flow statement—the indirect method and the direct method. Which you select can affect how the cash flow statement and profit and loss statement compare, and accrual accounting might better reflect actual cash flow than cash accounting for many businesses.

Balance sheet

The balance sheet is a picture of the financial position of the business at a specific point in time. It reflects how much cash and equity is on hand, how much is in receivables, and how the business owes vendors and other debtors.

A balance sheet should include:

  • Assets: Cash, inventory, accounts receivable, etc.
  • Liabilities: Debt, loan repayments, accounts payable, etc.
  • Equity: Owners’ equity, investors’ shares, stock proceeds, retained earnings, etc.

Ideally, as the name suggests, the balance sheet items should balance out. Total assets on one side should always equal total liabilities plus total equity.

  • Assets = Liabilities + Equity

Sales forecast

The sales forecast is the FP&A team’s forecast or projections for a set period of what they think will generate revenue. Particularly if a business is seeking investment from investors or lenders, the sales forecast is among the fundamentals of financial planning, and should be part of a dynamic, ongoing process.

The sales or revenue number in the profit and loss statement and the sales forecast should be consistent. In fact, many types of financial planning software automatically connect these projects. Develop, organize, and segment an individualized sales forecast to meet the needs of a specific business.

Personnel plan

The personnel plan identifies the resourced structure and positions needed to run the company operations. How important the personnel plan is depends in large part on the company.

A sole proprietor doesn’t need much of a personnel plan. A large company with high labor costs requires a detailed personnel plan and should invest the necessary time in determining how personnel impacts the business.

A complete personnel plan should describe the expertise, training, and market or product knowledge of each member of the management team. Some businesses might find listing entire departments as a better tactic for the personnel plan.

Business ratios and break-even analysis

To calculate standard business ratios, all that is required are the profit and loss statement, cash flow statement, and balance sheet. Common profitability ratios and liquidity ratios include the gross margin, return on investment (ROI), and debt-to-equity ratios.

The break-even analysis determines how much revenue a business needs to cover all of its expenses, or break even. To assess the break-even point for the business, find the contribution margin—those are the costs necessary to generate revenue.

For management to get an accurate sense of how high revenue must be for the company to stay profitable, they must subtract those contribution margin costs as well as fixed costs from the profit to find that break-even point. For example, most businesses have some labor costs as well as things like insurance and rent—those are fixed costs. Then there might be contribution costs per sale, such as costs per meal prepared in a restaurant or costs per package shipped or outfit sold in a store. A functional business has to cover them all and generate additional profit to break-even.

What are the Steps in Financial Planning?

There are many routes toward creating a solid financial plan. A well-designed financial business plan thoroughly clarifies business goals in financial context and helps a company plan for the future. Although there is no one correct way to engage in financial planning, understanding some basic steps in financial planning can make the process easier.

Review your strategic plan

The strategic plan of the business is usually where comprehensive financial planning services start. If the business lacks such a plan, it’s time to develop one.

As management reviews the plan, they should consider several questions for the coming year:

  • Will we want or need to expand?
  • Will we need to hire talent/staff?
  • Will we need more equipment?
  • What about additional new resources?
  • Are there any other plans that we have in mind this year that will require resources?
  • How will these plans impact cash flow?
  • Will we need financing? If so, how much? Can we revise our plans? Should we?

Fully assess the financial impact of all spending on major projects over the next 12 months.

Develop financial projections

Develop financial projections based on anticipated income and anticipated expenses. Sales forecasts are the basis for anticipated income, while things like costs for supplies, labor, and other overhead form the basis for anticipated expenses. Typically these financial projections will be monthly, but weekly projections may be better for businesses focused on cash optimization.

To make a financial projection, the business will compare project costs from the strategic plan to these anticipated costs and expenses. In other words, the team will look at the costs of doing business as normal plus the costs of adding in the projects, keeping in mind that sales will not always convert to cash immediately.

To create a financial projection, management often also must refer to a projected profit and loss or income statement and a projected balance sheet which it may need to develop in tandem with the financial projection. To assist the team in evaluating the impact of each possible scenario, it can be useful to include various outcomes—optimistic, most likely, and pessimistic—for the projections.

Finance’s advice may be essential to developing financial projections. However, ensure that leadership and anyone who will be seeking financing and explaining the plan to investors and lenders understands the projections and how they fit into the plan.

Arrange financing, plan for growth and contingencies

Determine the financing needs of the business using the financial projections. Well-prepared projections presented to financial stakeholders in advance of deadlines are always more reassuring.

How will the business grow in the coming year? Turn to the FP&A team to make smart investment and growth decisions.

Keep emergency sources of money on hand in case business finances suddenly pivot.. Maintaining credit or a cash reserve are possibilities. Keep laser focus on cash management and optimization.

Financial planning is a dynamic process. Compare projections to actual results throughout the year to see if they are accurate or require adjustments. Monitoring assists businesses in spotting financial problems before they are out of control, and ultimately in identifying smarter growth opportunities.

Consult and use tools

For some businesses, expert help in the form of financial planning services may be necessary to create a financial plan. For many others, the right financial planning software and other financial planning tools are critical to the job.

Why is Financial Planning Important?

A financial business plan has two main purposes. A business needs a financial plan that proves the business will grow, scale, and provide shareholder value over the long term.. Ensuring growth, scale and consistent shareholder value is vital to all stakeholders in the business. . Similarly, the financial plan proves to lenders and banks that the business will be able to repay any loans.

Just as critically, though, a financial forecast benefits leadership. A realistic projection of how the business is likely to perform prepares management and staff. A financial plan is a guide to running a healthy business and should be considered a living document.

There are several other reasons why financial planning is important to a business:


Be realistic when developing a financial business plan, make sure your forecast or plan mirrors business reality. However, if you can demonstrate that your financial plan is realistic in a step-by-step way, your financial forecast will be credible. For example, if you break down your figures into components or channels to provide more detailed estimates, you may be able to reassure lenders, investors, and leadership more.

Balancing the balance sheet

Balance sheet optimization is one of the powerful benefits of financial planning. Identifying and assessing all business assets and liabilities and planning in advance how and when to pay all taxes, salaries, expenses, overheads, and miscellaneous costs is part of this process. Another strategy is to divide the business into functions or departments and prioritize them to better identify which important and urgent investment areas.

Long-term visibility

Efficient, comprehensive financial planning gives businesses improved long-term visibility into fund allocation. Analysis of how funds are deployed within a business can positively affect productivity and revenue and offer deeper insight into the health of the business. This kind of visibility also empowers more insightful decision making.

Strategic marketing

No business has endless money to burn on marketing, and a well-designed financial plan helps identify which marketing strategies are most productive for that particular business. Business marketing strategies frame tasks for a company, from planning to execution and implementation.

The marketing team may well be experts across the board when it comes to marketing channels and strategies. However, only actions that generate more business in measurable ways should be planned for the company. Ultimately, finance partnership with the business assesses whether the metrics in the reports justify ongoing marketing campaigns, so for every strategy the team formulates for business, they should highlight the ratio of expense and profits.

Monitoring assets (In’s) and liabilities(Out’s)

The financial team protects the stability of the business by routinely monitoring its assets and liabilities and the ratio of liabilities and assets. This ongoing activity provides insight into needed improvements and actionable ways to decrease liabilities and increase assets.

Measuring profit and loss

The finance team compiles financial planning reports to support evaluation of organizational profits and loss. These reports also showcase the net profits and their main causes, assisting management in evaluating which strategies worked best for the business.

what is a financial plan for a business plan

What are Financial Planning Benefits?

It is easier for businesses that focus on financial planning to grow their revenues at a quicker pace than it is for companies that lack an efficient financial planning process. Corporate financial planning offers decision making support in the form of forecasts or budgets. It assists businesses in managing costs and building revenues by highlighting where they should focus resources for optimal effectiveness. Impactful financial management nurtures more growth by freeing up more funds for expanding operations, marketing, and product development.

As a broader matter, strategic business planning develops tasks and determines who will be responsible for delivering those tasks in a timely way, thus determining the company’s direction. Financial planning aligns to the strategic plan which then translates to actionable outcomes and measurable results.

The financial plan projects the revenues the team thinks will result from implementing the strategies and the expenses taking those actions will require. Senior management, operations, and marketing personnel are all deeply involved in strategic financial planning, and finance is focused on developing deep business partnerships, connecting the business and tracking the results. Here are some of the specific benefits of financial planning:

The starting point for the financial plan as a whole is what the company aims to achieve in the coming quarter, year, three years, five years, and longer. This is because it is essential to establish that a real need for the business exists, and this company in particular fills the need—a product/market fit.

Many startups devote several years to establishing that product/market fit as they build out and refine their product. In fact, achieving that kind of fit, with smaller checkpoints along the way, is a good one-to-two year goal. In these early stages, the financial plan can reveal to the team that it doesn’t yet make sense to set massive marketing KPIs or sales targets as the refinement process continues.

Business alignment

The financial plan sets forth clear cash flow expectations. For new businesses, the amount of cash going out is often more than is coming in, but it remains important to determine an acceptable level of expense, and ensure the business stays on track, and the statement helps achieve this. Cash flow management is also an important part of a financial plan, so that even team members who are not seasoned finance experts can efficiently and accurately track cash flow as needed. For all of these reasons, a solid financial plan assists with sensible cash flow management.

Agility, collaborative and actionable budgeting

Closely related to both cost reductions and cash flow management, it is essential to know the best way to spend the funding that is actually available to the business, whether through investments, revenue, or some other source. The business should break down the overall budget for the quarter or year into separate budgets for specific teams such as customer support, marketing, product development, and sales. This way management can ensure each budget accurately reflects the team’s productivity and relative importance.

Budgets also allow each team to build within a known set of limits. Team members can effectively plan campaigns and other tasks because they know what resources are available. Furthermore, it is always simpler to track team or project budgets than to monitor overspending at the company level.

Identify spend reductions

A financial plan enables the FP&A team to identify ways to reduce spend in advance. Building a financial plan includes a careful look back over the speed of current growth and what has already been spent. The goal with this kind of spend control is to detect over-inflated costs and unnecessary spending in the past to eliminate it in future budgets. The result from this kind of periodic review is keeping spending in line with expectations and making better use of resources.

Mitigated risks

The finance team assists the business in avoiding risk and navigating pitfalls when they occur. Many risks, from fraud and other forms of economic crises, are predictable and avoidable.

A strong financial plan should account for some uncertainty, business insurance expenses, and other unexpected expenses, and set aside resources to cope with them. Some teams create several financial forecasts with various business outcomes: one that shows results under conditions with more revenue, and others under conditions with less.

Especially during economically volatile times, prepare for many contingencies in the financial plan, which should clarify how the roadmap for the business will change as growth fluctuates.

Crisis management

During a crisis in any business, the first move is typically to review and re-build strategic plans. Without strategic plans in place, a crisis response is merely improvisational.

As the coronavirus crisis and surrounding financial crisis in 2020 and beyond have revealed, finance teams and leaders must constantly reforecast to deal with adversity. Businesses are developing new financial plans quarterly or even monthly to cope, and nobody truly knows when the crises will end.

The financial-planning team should help get through this particular challenge and other crises by focusing on several steps, all using their ongoing financial planning process. The first step in crisis management is to reassess new business operational baselines. Next, the team should use the plans and feedback to build a reality-based plan they will review many different business scenarios.

The team will next determine the business’s general direction and align on a financial plan that fits with this possibly new direction, in context. Then they will identify the best actions for the company to take, as well as any trigger points that could require further changes. A strong financial planning process, FP&A team, and store of financial statements can all make these crisis management steps much simpler.

Be opportunistic around fundraising

Any prospective bank, lender, or investor needs to see financial planning in the form of a business plan. A financial plan must tell a story to investors, while communicating the trustworthiness of the projections.

Roadmap for growth

A financial plan clarifies both the current financial situation of a business, and helps it project where it intends to be in the future. This may be reflected in various specifics, such as number of employees to hire; markets to penetrate; or new services or products to sell. The financial plan itself augments these goals with specific data, such as a budget for a particular number of new employees, including talent and recruitment costs and other resourcing needs.


Of course transparency in the financial plan is critical for lenders and investors. But it’s just as important for the team and staff. To ensure your team that the business is healthy, following a solid plan towards growth and scale, and in good leadership hands, a transparent financial plan is key.

Does Planful Help With Financial Planning?

Yes. Planful delivers a continuous planning platform elevating the financial conversation, aligning finance’s need for structured planning with the business’ need for dynamic planning, and enabling your organization to make better decisions more confidently, quickly, and strategically by uniting the business together.

Comprehensive budgeting, planning, and forecasting features offer the financial planning and analysis team the control, structure, and partnership with the business they want. Meanwhile, dynamic planning features empower business leaders and finance with individualized, agile models and plans to manage for multiple business outcomes

Planful also delivers complete financial consolidation, including inter-company eliminations, partial ownership rules, and statutory reporting. The platform also ensures your business meets every management, financial, regulatory, and ad hoc reporting need with a robust library of delivery options and reporting formats.

Planful can help your business:

  • Reduce reporting time up to 90% by automating manual processes
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How to write a financial plan for your business

Steer your business on the road to success with a solid financial plan.

A financial plan gives you a snapshot of the overall health of your business. There are 3 key financial statements that make up a business financial plan. Taking the time to prepare these at the start of your business journey can pay off in the long run.

Related articles

1. Cash flow statement

Sometimes called cash flow projection, this is one of the most important steps in completing your financial plan. It details your incoming and outgoing cash and helps make sure you have enough money to keep your business running. 

Try this simple cash flow formula:

  • Determine the period you want to focus on (e.g. the next 3 or 6 months)
  • Start with your opening cash balance
  • Estimate your incoming cash and expenses for the period
  • Subtract the estimated expenses from your income and add it to the opening balance

How to use your cash flow statement

You can look at your cash flow statement from previous years to determine if you’ll have enough to cover your costs, like wages and rent, over the specified period. It’s important to allow for glitches like late payments when projecting your cash flow.

2. Income statement

Also known as profit and loss statement (P&L), this shows you a clear view of your income and expenses, and how these change over a period of time.

What to include in your income statement

What goes into an income statement depends on the type of business. You should at least cover these key areas:

  • Cost of goods or services
  • Total profit or loss (revenue minus cost of goods/services)
  • Operating costs (e.g. rent)
  • General expenses (e.g. marketing, advertising, depreciation)
  • Operating income (total profit minus expenses)

How to use your income statement

Estimate your sales and expenses on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis to see whether you can expect to make a profit or loss for each of these periods. This will help you develop sales targets and find ways to grow your business. 

3. Balance sheet

Unlike your cash flow statement which looks at the future, and your income statements which looks at the past, your balance sheet is a financial snapshot of your business in the present.

Try this simple balance sheet formula:

  • In one column list all your assets (e.g. cash, inventory, buildings)
  • On the other side list your liabilities (e.g. accounts payable and loans)
  • Subtract your total liabilities from your total assets to determine your equity

How to use your balance sheet

Your balance sheet can help you evaluate the financial health of your business, show your profit at a glance and work out if you’ll have enough resources to run your day-to-day operations.

Take your business financial plan to the next level

To enhance your business financial plan, consider preparing a break-even analysis. This shows you the number of sales needed to cover costs – anything above this number can be counted as a profit. 

The break-even point can be useful for analysing the sales, costs and pricing numbers used in your earlier forecasts and judge whether your business idea is feasible. For example, if your break-even point is years away, you may want to revisit your numbers to see if there are any opportunities to make your business more profitable.

Next steps 

Once it’s ready, treat your business plan as a guide to running your business. Remember that it’s a working document, so if your goals and circumstances change, update the plan. If you need help, an accountant could help assess your prospective financial position and ensure you’ve thought through all potential income and expenses.

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what is a financial plan for a business plan

6 Elements of a Successful Financial Plan for a Small Business

Table of contents.

what is a financial plan for a business plan

Many small businesses lack a full financial plan, even though evidence shows that it is essential to the long-term success and growth of any business. 

For example, a study in the New England Journal of Entrepreneurship found that entrepreneurs with a business plan are more successful than those without one. If you’re not sure how to get started, read on to learn the six key elements of a successful small business financial plan.

What is a business financial plan, and why is it important? 

A business financial plan is an overview of a business’s financial situation and a forward-looking projection for growth. A business financial plan typically has six parts: sales forecasting, expense outlay, a statement of financial position, a cash flow projection, a break-even analysis and an operations plan.

A good financial plan helps you manage cash flow and accounts for months when revenue might be lower than expected. It also helps you budget for daily and monthly expenses and plan for taxes each year.

Importantly, a financial plan helps you focus on the long-term growth of your business. That way, you don’t get so caught up in the day-to-day activities that you lose sight of your goals. Focusing on the long-term vision helps you prioritize your financial resources. 

Financial plans should be created annually at the beginning of the fiscal year as a collaboration of finance, HR, sales and operations leaders.

The 6 components of a successful financial plan for business

1. sales forecasting.

You should have an estimate of your sales revenue for every month, quarter and year. Identifying any patterns in your sales cycles helps you better understand your business, and this knowledge is invaluable as you plan marketing initiatives and growth strategies . 

For instance, a seasonal business can aim to improve sales in the off-season to eventually become a year-round venture. Another business might become better prepared by understanding how upticks and downturns in business relate to factors such as the weather or the economy.

Sales forecasting is also the foundation for setting company growth goals. For instance, you could aim to improve your sales by 10 percent over each previous period.

2. Expense outlay

A full expense plan includes regular expenses, expected future expenses and associated expenses. Regular expenses are the current ongoing costs of your business, including operational costs such as rent, utilities and payroll. 

Regular expenses relate to standard business activities that occur each year, such as conference attendance, advertising and marketing, and the office holiday party. It’s a good idea to distinguish essential expenses from expenses that can be reduced or eliminated if needed.

Expected future expenses are known future costs, such as tax rate increases, minimum wage increases or maintenance needs. Generally, a part of the budget should also be allocated to unexpected future expenses, such as damage to your business caused by fire, flood or other unexpected disasters. Planning for future expenses ensures your business is financially prepared via budget reduction, increases in sales or financial assistance.

Associated expenses are the estimated costs of various initiatives, such as acquiring and training new hires, opening a new store or expanding delivery to a new territory. An accurate estimate of associated expenses helps you properly manage growth and prevents your business from exceeding your cost capabilities. 

As with expected future expenses, understanding how much capital is required to accomplish various growth goals helps you make the right decision about financing options.

3. Statement of financial position (assets and liabilities)

Assets and liabilities are the foundation of your business’s balance sheet and the primary determinants of your business’s net worth. Tracking both allows you to maximize your business’s potential value. 

Small businesses frequently undervalue their assets (such as machinery, property or inventory) and fail to properly account for outstanding bills. Your balance sheet offers a more complete view of your business’s health than a profit-and-loss statement or a cash flow report. 

A profit-and-loss statement shows how the business performed over a specific time period, while a balance sheet shows the financial position of the business on any given day.

4. Cash flow projection

You should be able to predict your cash flow on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. Projecting cash flow for the full year allows you to get ahead of any financial struggles or challenges. 

It can also help you identify a cash flow problem before it hurts your business. You can set the most appropriate payment terms, such as how much you charge upfront or how many days after invoicing you expect payment .

A cash flow projection gives you a clear look at how much money is expected to be left at the end of each month so you can plan a possible expansion or other investments. It also helps you budget, such as by spending less one month for the anticipated cash needs of another month.

5. Break-even analysis

A break-even analysis evaluates fixed costs relative to the profit earned by each additional unit you produce and sell. This analysis is essential to understanding your business’s revenue and potential costs versus profits of expansion or growth of your output. 

Having your expenses fully fleshed out, as described above, makes your break-even analysis more accurate and useful. A break-even analysis is also the best way to determine your pricing.

In addition, a break-even analysis can tell you how many units you need to sell at various prices to cover your costs. You should aim to set a price that gives you a comfortable margin over your expenses while allowing your business to remain competitive.

6. Operations plan

To run your business as efficiently as possible, craft a detailed overview of your operational needs. Understanding what roles are required for you to operate your business at various volumes of output, how much output or work each employee can handle, and the costs of each stage of your supply chain will aid you in making informed decisions for your business’s growth and efficiency.

It’s important to tightly control expenses, such as payroll or supply chain costs, relative to growth. An operations plan can also make it easier to determine if there is room to optimize your operations or supply chain via automation, new technology or superior supply chain vendors.

For this reason, it is imperative for a business owner to conduct due diligence and become knowledgeable about merchant services before acquiring an account. Once the owner signs a contract, it cannot be changed, unless the business owner breaks the contract and acquires a new account with a new merchant services provider. 

Tips on writing a business financial plan

Business owners should create a financial plan annually to ensure they have a clear and accurate picture of their business’s finances and a realistic view for future growth or expansion. A financial plan helps the business’s leaders make informed decisions about purchases, debt, hiring, expense control and overall operations for the year ahead. 

A business financial plan is essential if a business owner is looking to sell their business, attract investors or enter a partnership with another business. Here are some tips for writing a business financial plan.

Review the previous year’s plan.

It’s a good idea to compare the previous year’s plan against actual performance and finances to see how accurate the previous plan and forecast were. That way, you can address any discrepancies or overlooked elements in next year’s plan.

Collaborate with other departments.

A business owner or other individual charged with creating the business financial plan should collaborate with the finance department, human resources department, sales team , operations leader, and those in charge of machinery, vehicles or other significant business tools. 

Each division should provide the necessary data about projections, value and expenses. All of these elements come together to create a comprehensive financial picture of the business.

Use available resources.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) and SCORE, the SBA’s nonprofit partner, are two excellent resources for learning about financial plans. Both can teach you the elements of a comprehensive plan and how best to work with the different departments in your business to collect the necessary information. Many websites, including business.com , and service providers, such as Intuit, offer advice on this matter. 

If you have questions or encounter challenges while creating your business financial plan, seek advice from your accountant or other small business owners in your network. Your city or state has a small business office that you can contact for help.

Several small business organizations offer free financial plan templates for small business owners. You can find templates for the financial plan components listed here via SCORE .

Business financial plan templates

Many business organizations offer free information that small business owners can use to create their financial plan. For example, the SBA’s Learning Platform offers a course on how to create a business plan. It also offers worksheets and templates to help you get started. You can seek additional help and more personalized service from your local office.

SCORE is the largest volunteer network of business mentors. It began as a group of retired executives (SCORE stands for “Service Corps of Retired Executives”) but has expanded to include business owners and executives from many industries. Advice is free and available online, and there are SBA district offices in every U.S. state. In addition to participating in group or at-home learning, you can be paired with a mentor for individualized help. 

SCORE offers templates and tips for creating a small business financial plan. SCORE is an excellent resource because it addresses different levels of experience and offers individualized help.

Other templates can be found in Microsoft Office’s template library, QuickBooks’ online resources, Shopify’s blog and other places. You can also ask your accountant for guidance, since many accountants provide financial planning services in addition to their usual tax services.

Diana Wertz contributed to the writing and research in this article.


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How to Write the Financial Section of a Business Plan

Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.

what is a financial plan for a business plan

Taking Stock of Expenses

The income statement, the cash flow projection, the balance sheet.

The financial section of your business plan determines whether or not your business idea is viable and will be the focus of any investors who may be attracted to your business idea. The financial section is composed of four financial statements: the income statement, the cash flow projection, the balance sheet, and the statement of shareholders' equity. It also should include a brief explanation and analysis of these four statements.

Think of your business expenses as two cost categories: your start-up expenses and your operating expenses. All the costs of getting your business up and running should be considered start-up expenses. These may include:

  • Business registration fees
  • Business licensing and permits
  • Starting inventory
  • Rent deposits
  • Down payments on a property
  • Down payments on equipment
  • Utility setup fees

Your own list will expand as soon as you start to itemize them.

Operating expenses are the costs of keeping your business running . Think of these as your monthly expenses. Your list of operating expenses may include:

  • Salaries (including your own)
  • Rent or mortgage payments
  • Telecommunication expenses
  • Raw materials
  • Distribution
  • Loan payments
  • Office supplies
  • Maintenance

Once you have listed all of your operating expenses, the total will reflect the monthly cost of operating your business. Multiply this number by six, and you have a six-month estimate of your operating expenses. Adding this amount to your total startup expenses list, and you have a ballpark figure for your complete start-up costs.

Now you can begin to put together your financial statements for your business plan starting with the income statement.

The income statement shows your revenues, expenses, and profit for a particular period—a snapshot of your business that shows whether or not your business is profitable. Subtract expenses from your revenue to determine your profit or loss.

While established businesses normally produce an income statement each fiscal quarter or once each fiscal year, for the purposes of the business plan, an income statement should be generated monthly for the first year.

Not all of the categories in this income statement will apply to your business. Eliminate those that do not apply, and add categories where necessary to adapt this template to your business.

If you have a product-based business, the revenue section of the income statement will look different. Revenue will be called sales, and you should account for any inventory.

The cash flow projection shows how cash is expected to flow in and out of your business. It is an important tool for cash flow management because it indicates when your expenditures are too high or if you might need a short-term investment to deal with a cash flow surplus. As part of your business plan, the cash flow projection will show how  much capital investment  your business idea needs.

For investors, the cash flow projection shows whether your business is a good credit risk and if there is enough cash on hand to make your business a good candidate for a line of credit, a  short-term loan , or a longer-term investment. You should include cash flow projections for each month over one year in the financial section of your business plan.

Do not confuse the cash flow projection with the cash flow statement. The cash flow statement shows the flow of cash in and out of your business. In other words, it describes the cash flow that has occurred in the past. The cash flow projection shows the cash that is anticipated to be generated or expended over a chosen period in the future.

There are three parts to the cash flow projection:

  • Cash revenues: Enter your estimated sales figures for each month. Only enter the sales that are collectible in cash during each month you are detailing.
  • Cash disbursements: Take the various expense categories from your ledger and list the cash expenditures you actually expect to pay for each month.
  • Reconciliation of cash revenues to cash disbursements: This section shows an opening balance, which is the carryover from the previous month's operations. The current month's revenues are added to this balance, the current month's disbursements are subtracted, and the adjusted cash flow balance is carried over to the next month.

The balance sheet reports your business's net worth at a particular point in time. It summarizes all the financial data about your business in three categories:

  • Assets :  Tangible objects of financial value that are owned by the company.
  • Liabilities: Debt owed to a creditor of the company.
  • Equity: The net difference when the  total liabilities  are subtracted from the total assets.

The relationship between these elements of financial data is expressed with the equation: Assets = Liabilities + Equity .

For your  business plan , you should create a pro forma balance sheet that summarizes the information in the income statement and cash flow projections. A business typically prepares a balance sheet once a year.

Once your balance sheet is complete, write a brief analysis for each of the three financial statements. The analysis should be short with highlights rather than in-depth analysis. The financial statements themselves should be placed in your business plan's appendices.

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