Financial Forecasting: Meaning

24/03/2020 1 By indiafreenotes

‘Forecast’ means to form an opinion beforehand i.e. to make a prediction. Thus financial forecasting means a systematic projection of the expected action of finance through financial statements.

Financial forecasting is the processing, estimating, or predicting how a business will perform in the future. The most common type of financial forecast is an income statement, however, in a complete financial model, all three statements are forecasted. In this guide on how to build a financial forecast, we will complete the income statement model from revenue to operating profit or EBIT.

It is needless to mention that such forecasting needs past records, cash flow and fund-flow behaviour, the applications of financial ratios etc. along with the industrial economic condition. It is a kind of plan which will be formulated at a future date for a specified period.

The merits of the financial forecasting are noted below:

(i) It can be used as a control device in order to fix the standard of performances and evaluating the results thereof

(ii) It helps to explain the requirement of funds for the firm together with the funds of the suppliers

(iii) It also helps to explain the proper requirements of cash and their optimum utilization is possible and so surplus/excess cash, if any, invested otherwise.

Financial planning, on the other hand, is nothing but one part of a larger planning process within an organization.

“A complete planning system begins at the highest level of policy with the firm’s basic goals or purpose, usually stated in qualitative, mission-oriented, terms. From this it is derived the firm’s commercial strategy, defining the product or services it will produce and the markets it will serve. Supporting policies are developed in production, marketing, research and development, accounting and finance. The extent to which the system formalized with detailed planning and budgeting system in each area depends in part on the firm’s size and the complexity of its operation.” — E. Solomon and J. S. Pringle

Thus, in a broader sense, financial planning can be viewed as the representation of an overall plan for the firms in terms of finance and, similarly, in a narrower sense, it may refer to the process of determining the financial requirements which is needed in order to support a given set of plans in other areas.

Financial Forecasting Vs. Budgeting

When you create a budget for your business, you plan to set aside money for certain costs, taking into account your income and expenses. The budget you make may be based on info from your financial forecast, but it’s distinct from the forecast itself.

Think of financial forecasting as a prediction, and budgeting as a plan. When you make a financial forecast, you see what direction your business is headed in, based on past performance and other factors, and use that to anticipate the future.

When you make a budget, you plan how you’re going to spend money based on what you expect your finances to look like in the future (your forecast).

For instance, if your financial forecast for next year says you’ll have an extra $5,000 in revenue, you might create a budget to decide how it will be spent—$2,000 for a new website, $1,000 for Facebook ads, and so on.

Three steps to creating your financial forecast

Ready to peer into the crystal ball and see the future of your business? There are three steps you need to follow:

Step 1: Gather your records

If you’re not looking into the past to see how your business has grown, you’re not really forecasting—you’re just guessing.

You’ll need to gather past financial statements so you can see how your business has developed over time, and then project that development into the future.

Your bookkeeper or bookkeeping software should generate financial statements for you. If you don’t have either, and you don’t have financial statements, you’ll need to take care of that before you can start forecasting. You need complete bookkeeping in order to get the transaction history you base your financial statements on.

Put aside the task for financial forecasting for the moment, and learn How to Catch Up on Your Bookkeeping.

Once your books and financial statements are up to date, you’ll have everything you need to start planning for the future.

Step 2: Decide how you’ll make your forecast

Depending what resources you choose to use, the type of forecast you create will fall between two poles—historical and researched-based.

Almost every financial forecast includes a little bit of historical forecasting, and a little bit that’s research-based. The blend you choose will depend on your needs and the resources at your disposal.

Remember, the goal is to create a realistic, useful forecast—without breaking the bank or eating up all your time.

(i) Historical forecasting

When you use your financial history to plot the future, it’s historical forecasting. You’re looking at your last few annual Income Statements, Cash Flow Statements, and Balance Sheets to see how fast you’ve grown in the past. From there, you can make a guess about how fast you’ll grow this year.

The benefit of this is that it’s relatively easy to do and doesn’t take a lot of time, money, or expertise. The drawback is that you’re only using info about your own business, and not looking at broader market trends—like what your competition has been up to.

Historical forecasting is a good bet if you’re forecasting for modest growth, or else creating a quick-and-dirty forecast for your own use not putting together a presentation for potential investors.

(ii) Research-based forecasting

When you do research about broader market trends, you’re using research-based forecasting. You may look at how your industry has performed over the past ten years, investigate new technologies and consumer trends, or try to measure the progress of your competitors. You might look at how companies similar to yours have planned their own growth.

The benefit of research-based forecasting is that you get a detailed, nuanced view of how your business could grow, taking into account a lot of different factors. And it’s the kind of forecast that investors and lenders want to see.

The drawback is that researched-based forecasting can be expensive. You may find you need to hire outside consultants and researchers to handle the heavy lifting.

Research-based forecasting is a good choice if you’re courting investors, or planning on rapid, aggressive growth. It’s also good if your company is brand new, and doesn’t have a lot of financial history to draw on for making projections.

Step 3: Create pro forma statements

Once you’ve collected the information you need to build your forecast, you can create pro forma statements.

We’ll cover the three key financial statements here. Whether you use all of them is up to you.

If you’re creating a quick forecast for your own planning, you may only need to create pro forma Income Statements. If you’re presenting to lenders or investors, you’ll want to use all three.

Rule of thumb: Any form you’d use in the month-to-month operation of your business should be created pro forma. For instance, if you move a lot of cash around every month, and you rely on Cash Flow Statements to make sure you’ve got enough money on hand to pay your vendors, then it’s wise to create pro forma Cash Flow Statements as part of your forecast.

(i) Creating the pro forma Income Statement

First, set a goal—a projection—for sales in the period you’re looking at.

Let’s say you made $30,000 in sales this year. Next year, you want to make $60,000. So, your total sales will increase by $30,000.

Set a production schedule that will let you reach that goal, and map it out over the time period you’re covering. In our example, there will be 12 Income Statements in the year to come (one each month). Map out that $30,000 increase in sales over the 12 statements.

You could do this by increasing sales a fixed amount every month, or gradually increasing the amount of sales you make per month. It’s up to your instincts and experience as a business owner.

Then, it’s time for the “loss” part of “Profit and Loss.” Calculate the cost of goods sold for each month, and deduct it from your sales. Deduct any other operating expenses you have, as well.

It’s important to take every expense into account so you get an accurate projection. If part of your plan is quadrupling your online advertising, be sure to include an expense that reflects that.

Once you’re done, your pro Forma Income Statements show you how much you can expect to earn and how much you can expect to spend in the time ahead.

(ii) Creating the pro forma Cash Flow Statement

You create a pro forma Cash Flow Statement a lot like the way you’d create a regular Cash Flow Statement. That means taking info from the Income Statement, and using the Cash Flow Statement format to plot out where your money is going, and how much you’ll have on hand at any one time.

Your projected cash flow can tell you a few things. If it’s in the negative, it means you’re not going to have enough cash on-hand to run your business, according to your current trajectory. You’ll need to make plans to borrow money and pay it off.

If your net cash flow is positive, you can plan on having enough surplus cash on hand to pay off loans, or save for a big investment.

(iii) Creating the pro forma Balance Sheet

Drawing on info from the Income Statement and the Cash Flow Statement lets you create pro forma Balance Sheets. But you’ll also need previous Balance Sheets to make this useful so you can follow the story of how your business got from “Balance A” to “Balance B.”