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When preparing financial projections for your business plan, be conscious of the pitfalls and dangers listed below. These can arise as the result of a lack of foresight or insight, or because of excessive optimism. As they can lead to underestimation of the resources required to develop a business with potentially disastrous consequences, it can be counterproductive to overstate its potential.

Financial Planning Traps
  • Using financial forecasting as a substitute for business planning.
  • Ignoring historic trends or performances at company, sectoral and national levels.
  • Overstating market shares and growth, sales forecasts, and profit levels.
  • Giving insufficient consideration to working capital requirements.
  • Underestimating costs and delays likely to be encountered.
  • Disregarding industry performance norms and competitors' responses.
  • Breaching generally-accepted financial guide lines and ratios.
  • Making unduly optimistic assumptions about the availability of loans, trade credit, grants, equity etc.
  • Seeking spurious accuracy while failing to recognize matters of strategic importance.

 

Realistic views should always be taken of a business's prospects, prospective profits, funding requirements etc. There is often merit in compiling "worst" case projections to complement "most likely" or "best" forecasts.

In practice, the realization of financial projections, especially for a new business without any trading history, might easily take twice as long and cost twice as much as expected. This is the double (costs), double (time) or half (revenues) rule.

Remember that it is much less painful to deal with a flaw in a business at the planning stage, than later on when commitments have been made and the business has started trading.

Our software planners - Exl-Plan and Cashflow Plan - offer comprehensive facilities for doing sensitivity analysis and exploring "what-ifs".

When preparing financial projections for a business plan, you may need to consider raising finance from venture capitalists, business angels and/or banks.

Here are some tips. They assume you are using a fully-integrated financial planning tool, like our Exl-Plan range, to prepare projected income statements, cashflows and balance sheets covering a time horizon of 3-5 years or so.

  1. Use "most likely" (highly probable) assumptions to generate initial projections but exclude, for time being, any assumptions about external funding. When the financial model runs without this funding, it should automatically build up a substantial overdraft (cash shortfall) based on projected net cash outflows.
  2. Review the trend in the overdraft and identify its peak month/quarter and value.
  3. Review the desired mix of external funding - overdraft, grants, loans and equity - and inject funding amounting to the peak overdraft into the model.
  4. Rerun the model and check that key ratios - especially debt/equity and quick ratio - look sensible for all months/years. If needs be, adjust the mix of funding to improve these ratios. For example, if the debt/equity ratio is 100%, consider reducing the debt level and increasing the equity content.
  5. Take note of the timing and amounts of proposed external funding.
  6. Undertake sensitivity analyses by running the model with revised projections for sales volumes/prices, costs and/or overheads in order to identify a realistic "worst" case.
  7. Repeat points 2-5 to determine "worst" case funding.
  8. If desired, raise the projections with altered sales volumes/prices, costs and/or overheads to see the "best" case funding and help sell the business's potential to investors.

Base funding needs on the "most likely" projections but take account of higher requirements suggested by the "worst" case. - it may be prudent to seek too much money rather than too little!

For more guidance:

Yes. Tax-related items in Exl-Plan, our range of financial projection tools, are parameter-driven so it can easily handle a diversity of regimes for corporation tax, payroll taxes as well as VAT, GST and other sales/input taxes. As evidence of this, Exl-Plan is used in over a hundred countries.

For corporation taxes, you specify effective tax rates after taking account of any losses forward, capital allowances and other adjustments.

Payroll taxes and social insurance type charges are expressed as a percentage of payroll costs.

In the case of VAT, GST etc., Exl-Plan accommodates several different tax rates for sales and inputs and lets the user specify the payment/refund frequency.

Get a detailed description of the Exl-Plan range. Note that all versions are available as either US/Canadian or UK/International editions.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Financial Projections category.

Exl-Plan Software is the previous category.

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