Where can I find a financial template for a startup?

Charlie Tillett, a consulting CFO to early-stage, VC-backed, technology companies and a frequent guest lecturer at MIT entrepreneurship classes, has graciously provided the attached template for building a pro-forma Profit and Loss statement (P&L).  This is a complete template that will help you create a high level operating plan for a startup.

The key components to this financial template includes:

  • P&L by year. This is the most common view that you will need to show to investors (and later, board members). It provides a one-page view of the company's vision on how it will generate revenue, and where it needs to spend money to generate this revenue.
  • P&L by quarter.  This worksheet breaks down the financials by quarter. This view is particularly important for highly seasonal businesses such as giftable consumer electronics products (which typically do over 50% of their business during the holiday season each year).
  • Sales Plan. This is the most important worksheet.  It captures the business model with which you will capture value from your customers, as well as your view of how you will be able to acquire customers and drive sales over time.
  • COGS. This worksheet outlines the "Cost of goods sold" that corresponds with the sales projections in the Sales Plan.  COGS is relevant for hardware businesses (where you need to pay for components, assembly, packaging and shipping), as well as software businesses that license technology from another entity (where you may need to pay a royalty per unit sold to, say, the owner of a patent which covers the technology you are using.)
  • Staffing plan.This worksheet outlines the biggest driver for operating expenses: Compensation for people working for the company. 
  • Expenses. This worksheet captures other expenses outside headcount and can be significant for hardware businesses with a great deal of non-recurring engineering (NRE) expenses, such as consulting fees paid to a product design firm to bring a technology to market, and/or tooling costs, which are needed for certain manufacturing processes such as injection molding, metal casting and the like.
  • Balance sheet. This sheet summarizes assets (what you own) and liabilities (what you owe).  This is less immediately relevant for day to day management.  The cash flow statement (see below) is a much more important financial statement
  • Capex and Cash Flow. This sheet indicates how your cash looks year over year and quarter over quarter. This is very important for day to day management - cash is oxygen, and if you run out of cash, you are not able to continue operations. 

If you find this confusing, don't worry.  As a founder you really only need to understand how to construct the P&L, and have field data to back up your ideas for how you will grow revenue.  The rest can be taken care of by engaging a finance professional to join your team after you close on a significant round of financing.

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