6 Essential Bookkeeping Terms for Small Businesses

6 Essential Bookkeeping Terms for Small Businesses

Essential accountant terms for small businesses

Hiring an bookkeeper is widely considered best practice for small business owners.  But delegating your bookkeeping doesn’t mean you should not be involved in the process to some degree, or not have a handle on your financial performance and position. On the contrary, it’s recommended that business owners work closely with their bookkeeper to better understand their financial position, and make smart plans for future growth.

Want to increase your bookkeeping knowledge so you can have more informed, insightful discussions with your bookkeeper? Start right now, with our list of six essential bookkeeping terms for small business owners.

Learn more: 3 ways a bookkeeper can save you money

Bookkeeping Terms # 1: Cash Flow

Do you have more cash flowing into your business each month than you pay out to cover costs and expenses? If so, that’s fantastic and you’re “cash flow positive.” If the opposite is true, your cash flow statement will reveal that you’re “cash flow negative.”

Having excess cash on hand means you’re better equipped to keep up with debt, cover unforeseen expenses, and invest in growth opportunities. Your bookkeeper can generate a cash flow statement regularly to keep tabs on this key performance indicator.

Learn more: Cash flow is King

Bookkeeping Terms # 2: Profit and Loss Statement

The Profit & Loss statement (also known as the Income Statement or Statement of Financial Performance) is one of the most important documents used by bookkeepers and accountants to determine the profitability of your business.

The Profit & Loss statement lists revenues and gains as well as expenses and losses over a certain period of time. It calculates your all important “bottom line” so you know if you’re operating at a loss or turning a profit.

Bookkeeping Terms # 3: Gross vs Net Profit

Gross profit is what remains when you subtract the cost of goods sold (COGS) from your total revenue. Net profit, on the other hand, drills deeper. It reveals your profit after also allowing for your operating expenses.

Gross and net profit are both profitability ratios, and are key for measuring business performance.

Bookkeeping Terms # 4: Balance Sheet

The Balance Sheet (also known as Statement of Financial Position) offers a snapshot of your overall financial position at a particular moment in time. It lists the assets (such as cash, inventory, accounts receivable, and equipment); liabilities (such as accounts payable, tax and super payable, loans payable); and shareholder capital.  In a nutshell, the balance sheet shows what you own, as well as what you owe.

Learn more: Building a business budget

Bookkeeping Terms # 5: Accounts Receivable & Accounts Payable

Simply put, accounts receivable is money your business is owed by customers for goods or services sold. It is considered an asset on your Balance Sheet. Accounts payable is money you owe suppliers and any bills you have yet to pay, so it’s listed as a liability on your Balance Sheet.

Bookkeeping Terms # 6: Bad Debt Expenses

Bad debt happens when you can’t collect payment from your customers. Long term outstanding accounts receivable could be listed on your balance sheet as “bad debts”, and if they’re never collected, may have to be written off as a loss.

And there you have it – six key bookkeeping terms to help you build your accounting vocabulary, join the conversation, and empower smarter business decision-making.


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PS. Whenever you’re ready, here are 3 ways we can help you eradicate financial stress in your accounting firm or professional services business – faster …

  1. Sign up to our LinkedIn newsletter, published weekly. You can sign up here: Eradicating Financial Stress

  2. Get our book “Wow – I’m in Business! Your journey from overwhelmed to organised.” It’s full of insights, solutions and downloadable resources you can implement into your business immediately. Click here for your copy: Wow … I’m in Business! – Miss Efficiency

  3. Book a time with me privately and we’ll do a deep dive into your Xero file to help you optimise for cash flow, efficiency and growth. Click here to book: Book a time with Sarah


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