Financial Glossary

The following are seven basic finance terms that every good entrepreneur knows or should know.

Bottom Line: Net earnings and net income both fall under the “bottom line” description. You may hear people talk about “affecting the bottom line” of the company and this is simply any action that may increase or decrease the company’s net earnings, or overall profit. The term “bottom” is in reference to the typical location of the number on a company’s income statement, below both revenues (top line) and expenses. Needless to say, this is an important term to know.

 Gross Margin: Gross margin is expressed as a percentage and represents the percent of total sales revenue that a company keeps after subtracting the cost of producing its goods or services. The higher the percentage, the more the company keeps on each dollar of sales (that will eventually go toward paying its other costs and obligations). In simple terms, if a company’s gross margins are 25 percent, for every dollar of revenue that is generated, the company will retain $0.25 before paying its overhead, which includes salaries, rent, and more.

Fixed versus Variable Costs: A fixed cost is exactly what is sounds like, a cost that does not change with increases or decreases in the volume of goods or services that are produced by your company. These costs are obviously the easiest to predict and plan for. Rent, salaries, and utilities all usually fall into this category.

Variable costs are just the opposite. They can vary depending on what a company is producing (such as Amazon Web Services usage), and as a result are much harder to forecast.

 Equity versus Debt: The “equity versus debt” comparison may seem silly to some, but you would be surprised at how many people I have come across who have no idea what either really means. Equity is simply money obtained from investors in exchange for ownership of a company, while debt comes in the form of loans from banks that must be repaid over time. Both are necessary for growth, with their own pros and cons. Equity versus debt is a critical decision for any entrepreneur and it is important to know the difference as the future of your business may depend on it.

Leverage: Leverage can be interpreted a couple different ways. In the financial world, leverage is most commonly known as the amount of debt that can be used to finance your business’ assets. In simple terms, the amount of money you borrowed to run your business. The balance you want to strike as an entrepreneur is that of your debt and equity. If you have way more debt than equity, you will be considered “highly leveraged” aka “very risky” to potential investors.

 Capital Expenditures (CapEx): Capital expenditures are any items purchased by your business that create future benefits. Basically, if something you bought is going to be useful to your business beyond the taxable year in which you purchased it, capitalize the item(s) as assets in your accounting. Examples include computers, property, or acquisitions.

 Concentration: Concentration is simply the measure (usually a percentage) of how much business you are doing with a specific client or partner. Relying on one or a couple of clients and partners to do business is a prime example of over-concentration. This is a losing strategy for any business because if something goes wrong with those limited relationships your business will be in serious trouble. Focus on keeping low concentrations for your accounts and investors will be impressed.