Balance Sheet 101: How to Make a Balance Sheet in Five Minutes


It has been my experience that competency in mathematics, both in numerical manipulations and in understanding its conceptual foundations (accounting), enhances a person’s ability to handle the more ambiguous and qualitative relationships that dominate our day-to-day financial decision- making by Alan Greenspan former FED Governor 


The main financial statements are: Balance Sheet, Income Statement and Cash Flow Statement. Each of these statements has a different purpose and together they give us specific information in regard to: “Return, Risk and Cash”.

First, if you look at the income statement, there is no way you would make any assessment about the risk of the organization in that particular point in time or the cash produced in a certain period. Instead, the Income Statement (or Profit & Loss) will show you the return generated by the business.

Second, if you want to understand how an organization acquired the resources to operate the business, you have to

look at the Balance Sheet. How does the balance sheet assess the risk of an organization? Simple: there are two ways a company can acquire resources, either trough Equity or Debt. As you can imagine, too much debt can be dangerous. What would occur if you run a business and suddenly your creditors ask for the money you owe them? You would go bankrupt. Instead, when debt in proportion to the equity is dismal, this makes your organization creditworthy and safer.

Third, it is highly probable seeing an organization which makes profits but out of cash. The cash flow statement helps you to answer questions such as: How much cash did we make? Where this cash came from? In fact, an organization can find cash through three main activities: Operating, Investing and Financing.


The main purpose of the income statement is to show the return of the business in a certain period: Quarterly, Biannually or Yearly. The income statement is built around the bottom line, the “net profit”. Do not be surprised to notice your eyes unexplainably falling on the net income. In fact, accountants make it as visible as a fluorescent fish ready to mate. This distracts you by other metrics on the Income Statement that are as important as the Net Income (We will see them in Chapter 8).


The main purpose of the Balance Sheet is to show the risk of the business in the particular moment you are looking at it. In Fact, if you look the balance sheet on January 1st it won’t be the same on January 2nd. Of course, this is true for the P&L and CFS (Cash Flow Statement) as well, but the balance sheet

is an instant snapshot of the business more than a collage of pictures taken in different moments, like the Income Statement.


The main purpose of the CFS is to show the cash generated by an organization in a certain period: Quarterly, Biannually or Yearly. It doesn’t matter how much profits a business is making, one way to know whether the business will survive in the next future is to look at the cash. Generating cash is not easy task and the organizations who are able to keep their profits stable and generate enough cash to sustain their operations and invest for future growth are the ones who thrive.


Let me use a real life analogy here. If you are a photographer in order for you to do your job, you must have a professional camera. In addition, you can take instant pictures or build a collage of pictures you have taken in the last three months, and remember the camera will work as soon as the battery will be charged. Indeed, you can compare the single picture or “instant picture”, to your balance sheet, while the “collage” of the picture taken in the last three months, to your P&L. Furthermore, you want to see what’s the level of charge of the battery and how long the camera will operate. The battery life can be compared to your CFS. According to your needs you can look separately at each statement. Although to have the whole picture of the business you must look at all of them concomitantly.

Book to learn everything you need to know about accounting

Published by

Gennaro Cuofano

Creator of | Head of Business Development at | International MBA

Leave a Reply