A balance sheet is a document that outlines the business’s value. It does this by listing three main things: the assets that a business owns, the liabilities that a business owes, and the equity, which is the assets less liabilities.

The balance sheet forms part of the management report pack that Creative CFO produces. Often, the balance sheet can be quite challenging to understand, so we have made it our mission to make it visually understandable.

What is the purpose of a balance sheet?

The purpose of a balance sheet is to give interested parties an idea of the company’s financial position, in addition to displaying what the company owns and owes. It is important that all investors know how to use, analyze and read a balance sheet. A balance sheet may give insight or reason to invest in the business.

Components of the balance sheet

The balance sheet consists of three main components:

  1. Assets – what the business owns
  2. Liabilities – what the business owes
  3. Equity – this is assets less liabilities and represents the accounting business value.

What does a healthy balance sheet look like?

Every business owner wants to know that their balance sheet is looking good. But what exactly does this mean? We have recorded a short video to explain.

What steps can be taken to improve the balance sheet?

When a business’s balance sheet is not looking too healthy, the business owners might consider taking some steps. The balance sheet can be improved in a couple of ways. Some steps can be taken immediately, but mostly the business owners have to put longer-term strategies in place to ensure positive change in the business’s financial position.

If the strategy of the business is to improve equity and make the business more attractive for potential investors, the following steps can be taken:

Immediate actions

  1. Pay close attention to inventory control
  2. Improve debt collection days
  3. Review all business expenses and ensure that the cost are needed to increase profitability
  4. Review procurement strategy and negotiate with suppliers for better rates
  5. Look for “low hanging fruit” opportunities in terms of sales.

Longer-term actions

  1. Put a strategy in place to see how debt can be paid off faster
  2. Review underperforming assets and consider selling if necessary
  3. Ensure the business stays cash positive and saves for a rainy day.

When is a business insolvent and what does it mean for directors?

One important use for a balance sheet is to show whether or not a business is insolvent.

A business is insolvent when its total liabilities exceed its total assets. In other words, the business owes more than it owns. This shows that a company is in financial distress.

The Companies Act 71 of 2008 defines “financially in distress” in section 128 (f) as:

  1. reasonably unlikely that the company will be able to pay all of its debts as they fall due and payable within the immediately ensuing six months, or
  2. reasonably likely that the company will become insolvent within the immediately ensuing six months.

There are two types of insolvency:

  1. Technically insolvent: Liabilities are more than assets (fairly valued)
  2. Commercially insolvent: A business is unable to pay its debts even though the assets may exceed liabilities.

It is the directors’ responsibility to assess insolvency and to ensure that the business will be able to continue as a going concern in the foreseeable future. Should there be warning signs of the business not being able to continue as a going concern directors need to take immediate action by seeking legal and financial advice. Should a director not take the necessary steps, they may be held responsible for losses incurred.

When is the best time to get a balance sheet?

Now is the best time to get a balance sheet, but more importantly any business should monitor their balance sheet on a regular basis and the goal should be to improve the balance sheet. Creative CFO is well equipped to prepare a balance sheet for your business.

Speak to our  helpful consultants they are available for your reporting and business processing needs.

👉   READ: Part 4 – Understanding and achieving a healthy cash flow

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This is a topic that is very close to my heart and I am sharing this everywhere I go. A couple of years into my career as a chartered accountant I started to wonder if I was still enjoying working in the finance industry. I was busy with so many routine, tedious tasks that it felt like I was not growing and it did not feel like I was making a difference in other people’s lives. I was so consumed with day-to-day accounting tasks that I did not have time to monitor the financial health of businesses I was taking care of, or to provide valuable feedback to business owners.

All of this made me question my career choice. In other industries I could see innovation and people who were fulfilled by their work, and I remember thinking that there must be a way to make accounting enjoyable and fulfilling.


Cloud accounting is a term that did not exist in my vocabulary a couple of years ago, but it completely changed my life and my thinking. Learning this term saw the beginning of an incredible journey for me where I went back to enjoying finance work again.

I stumbled upon cloud accounting while reading the Entrepreneur magazine and saw an advert for Xero accounting software . The tag line was “Real-time accounting”. It caught my eye immediately; I have never seen “real-time” and “accounting” in the same sentence. At the time, I had been working in the finance industry for over ten years. What I had experienced was that we as accountants were usually playing catch-up. In general, we were processing financial and business information that had happened a few months or even a few years ago. The idea of “real-time accounting” seemed unreal to me!

I knew that cloud accounting would cause disruption in the accounting and finance industry, probably in the same way that Uber disrupted the public transport sector and Airbnb disrupted the hospitality industry.


After reading the Xero advert in the Entrepreneur magazine, I decided to propose this new technology at the company where I was working at the time. We switched from a desktop accounting software to Xero. The switch was easier than I thought. Suddenly I had access to a variety of amazing features that I never knew existed. A whole new exciting accounting world opened up for me. I could write an entire book about how this change improved my life but to give you a glimpse of what these features mean, I will only share a few of them. Just a disclaimer: I am going to talk about automation – a lot.


Firstly, let’s talk about aesthetics. Xero has been designed specifically for the web so work screens are straightforward and user-friendly. The platform is also great to look at and easy on the eye. This may not seem to be that important, but when you spend hours staring at a screen you want to be interacting with the best-looking platform possible.

Not only is the design well thought out, but the logical flow of transactions happens much more efficiently than I have ever seen before. There is no more batch capturing, but rather a transaction flow. The cloud accounting software links directly with your bank. It feeds transactions automatically to the software, matching automatically with source transactions, for example, matching the supplier transaction with supplier payment. All you have to do is click OK.


Xero’s platform allows for every transaction to have a source document digitally attached to the transaction. There is drill-down functionality available from the general ledger, and you can click right through to the supplier invoice. It makes any query and audit way easier than before. No more looking for source documents in files and no more worries that files or paperwork might get lost. All of this is then saved securely on the cloud.

Since the application is web-based and all the information is on the cloud, it enables me to access this from anywhere I have an internet connection.


It means that I have the freedom to work from anywhere and check up using my mobile phone. How incredible is this! I am not bound to a desk anymore. 



I have mentioned the automatic bank feeds already, but this is only the beginning of automation in Xero. There is an automatic link to XE.com , so multi-currency transactions are converted automatically to your reporting currency. When you pay the foreign supplier or receive money from a foreign client, Xero calculates the foreign exchange profit and loss and posts the journals automatically.

Fixed assets are a breeze. The fixed asset register is integrated into the software and at month-end or year-end, you only have to click one button and depreciation gets calculated automatically, and journals are posted (yes, you guessed it) automatically! The level of automation is unheard of in other accounting applications.


In summary, the automation functions in Xero save me a significant amount of time. This is time that I can spend on things that matter and that actually bring about positive change.



When I think back to the days when I was using old desktop accounting software, I remember how miserable and frustrated I felt. Compared to what I know now the software design was terrible. It took me hours to capture transactions manually, and there was so much room for human error. Things like typing errors, miscalculation mistakes, and misallocation errors could easily slip through the net.

In addition to the potential for errors, you could only work from a computer where that file was located. You had to have a very reliable backup procedure in place and make sure the file did not corrupt. Every year you had to ensure that you received the updates from the software company and then install the latest version on your computer. Just talking about all these frustrations makes me feel exhausted. No wonder I was so miserable and unhappy in the finance industry.

With all the software housekeeping, back-and-forth using non-automated software and ensuring that I had not made a mistake I never felt like I was adding real value to businesses. I never had time for the exciting things, like forecasting and presenting valuable business insights to business owners and helping them to grow their business.


Since the routine tasks are taken care of with cloud accounting and I know that the financial integrity is of a high standard, I can now focus on monitoring the financial health of businesses I look after and providing regular and valuable feedback to business owners.


I am now able to improve financial reporting and be innovative with bringing the business numbers to life so business owners can make better decisions.


I am not stuck in the past anymore, and I am certainly not playing catch up all the time. Instead, I can look ahead in business and focus on cash flow forecasts and company targets and help business owners prepare for what is coming.


Cloud accounting made me enjoy the finance industry again. It enables me to contribute in a meaningful way to businesses by utilising my financial expertise on a level that matters.

The routine tasks are necessary, but with this great new technology available you do not have to waste time by doing it yourself anymore. I am also a happy accountant because I help other accountants and businesses switch toXeroand make them aware of this brilliant technology. I love to see how people’s lives are improved and how stress levels decrease because the automation of cloud accounting brings freedom and joy.

Now that you are totally convinced to switch over, click here to get started.

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The term “Cash is King” rings true and is crucial for the survival of any business.  Statistics have shown that 80% of businesses fail in their first three years due to a lack of support. Poor cash flow management is at the top of the list of issues that require support.

What is cash flow management?

In theory and simply put, cash flow management is:

  1. Cash coming into the business as early as possible,
  2. Cash exiting the business as late as possible,
  3. Keeping an eye on the future and planning accordingly and,
  4. Ensuring the numbers make sense.

Why do businesses struggle with cash flow?

  1. Business owners make decisions that are only based on their bank balance

Imagine that your bank balance is a large, delicious home-baked pie and that you are expecting guests for dinner and aim to serve a satisfactory piece of pie to each person. The question you now have to answer is, how do you ensure that everyone is satisfied?

To find the answer you have to consider the following: Who are the stakeholders in the business that need a piece of the cash pie? How big should each slice be? In to how many slices do you need to divide the pie? How big should the pie be?  Do you need to bake more pie?

It all comes down to proper cash planning.  Cash flow management does not just happen by chance.  Careful planning is essential.

  1. Customers are not paying on time

In this day and age with fantastic cloud-based accounting technology, cash flow management is an easy problem to solve. Online invoicing, automatic invoice reminders and online payment optionshave decisively proven that more customers pay on time.

The first step in solving this problem is to ensure that monies owed to the business come into the business as early as possible. To achieve this you need to set your invoicing structure up in such a manner that you receive timeous payment from customers.

  1. Suppliers are paid too quickly

Everyone is planning their cash pie and want their slice as soon as possible. However, sometimes you have to fight for your piece. Be prepared to communicate, and if need be, negotiate payment terms with your supplier. Choose an option that will best suit your business needswithout ruining the business relationship.

Subsequent to this negotiation you need to plan and prioritise your payments according to your business’ requirements. This will reduce your stress and realise your payroll commitments.

  1. Seasonality is not taken into account 

If, for example, your business sells ice cream, there is a high probability that people will eat less ice cream during the winter months, thus your sales will decrease. On the contrary, during the summertime, your sales will increase exponentially and your business will boom.

In this example, it is imperative to, like the squirrel, put cash away during the summer months so as to provide for the leaner winter months when sales are down. In so doing, you will ensure that your business comfortably stays afloat during quieter times.

  1. Failing to plan for tax payments 

Tax planning is not always fun to discuss, but when the tax man knocks on the door, you want to be prepared and not suffer a heart attack. The sooner you make peace with having to pay tax and make proper provision for it, the sooner you will start to enjoy running your business.

  1. Unexpected expenses

There should always be an extra slice of pie dedicated to a large or unexpected expense. Business is unpredictable and things never go 100% according to plan. Never have just enough money to scrape by, make sure to build a buffer for those unforeseen events.

Solutions to overcome cash flow problems

  1. Open separate bank accounts

For many business owners, this is an easy and very practical step to start managing cash better. Start by opening a separate bank account,for the purpose to save for tax payments. Create a rule in the business that every time a client pays you, you will transfer a certain percentage to the tax savings account.

By doing this, you remove your tax money from your regular day-to-day business bank account. This will give you peace of mind that the money left in your day-to-day account is available to use as and when required.

You can open bank accounts for different purposes.  For instance, if you have to pay staff bonuses at the end of the year, you could initiate an account and save specifically for this purpose.

  1. Prepare a cash flow forecast

This is a difficult exercise, since predicting the future is not easy. However, the business owners that put in the time to do cash flow forecastsknow what to expect each month and reap the added benefit of having peace of mind, knowing that all outflows are provided for.

Cloud accounting software makes this calculation easier,  more understandable and accurate.

  1. Review your numbers
  • High overhead expenses

Overhead expenses are the costs of running a business that is not tied directly to selling a particular product or service. Examples of overheads expenses include items such as rent, telephone, utilities, etc. Sometimes overhead expenses get out of hand relative to the revenue of the business. High overhead expenses can hurt your business’ cash flow.

High overhead expenses are particularly challenging because they are persistent. These expenses affect your cash flow on an ongoing basis and will continue until the problem is corrected.

To address the problem you need to page through the overhead expenses on a regular basis and make sure each expense is still relevant and necessary for your business.

  • Insufficient gross profit margins

Small businesses sometimes sell their products and services atsuch low prices that they have little, or negative, gross margins. This scenario often happens in highly competitive environments with constant pricing pressures. It usually affects small business owners who do not have a clear understanding of their costs.

To address the problem, you need to go through all your products and services and calculate the gross profit margin for each. Next, you need to check where you can possibly raise prices. If you can’t raise prices, see whether you can cut back on costs without compromising quality.

  • Too much bad debt

Bad debt occurs when you sell a product or service to a client who does not pay. Bad debts cause clear harm to your cash flow and your profitability.

Make sure the take-on process of new customers is strict and that you obtain credit scores before selling to a customer on credit. Invoice reminders can also be a big help to get customers to pay on time.

  • Excess inventory

This problem can affect companies that manufacture goods as well as companies that resell goods. In both instances, warehouses are stocked with the product and if too much of the product is placed in stock and the stock turnover is too slow, the product ends up sitting on the shelf tying up cash and hence affecting cash flow negatively.

Fine-tune your inventory so that you only keep the minimum amount of stock for both the manufacturing and resell operations. The amount of product you keep in stock ideally depends on your sales volume, sales forecasts, available cash, and supplier capabilities.

Monitor inventory levels carefully. Having key products out of stock is a sure way to lose clients.

Think about cash flow regularly

Eat your frogs early in the morning.

Don’t put cash flow management off to deal with later. Get it done today and have peace of mind.

If you have any questions or require support with cash flow management please contact your Accountant or Financial Manager at Creative CFO.  Alternatively, if you are interested in receiving services from Creative CFO please get in touch.

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