Financial Accounting

An understanding of balance sheet math is needed in order to proceed. For project managers not familiar with the balance sheet idea from the domain of financial accounting, here is a quick overview. First, the balance sheet is nothing more than a graphical or tabular way to show a numerical relationship: y = a + b. However, this relationship is not functional since all three of the variables are independent and, because of the equality sign, a relationship exists among the three that makes them interdependent as well. Thus, a change in one requires a change in another to maintain equality among the three. This equality is called "balance" in the accounting world, and the process by which if one variable changes then another must change in a compensating way to maintain balance is called "double entry accounting."

Second, accountants would understand the equation this way: assets ("y") = liabilities ("a") + equities ("b"). That is their "accounting equation." If assets increase, then so must either or both liabilities and equity increase in order to maintain balance. In fact, any change in the variables must be compensated by a change in one or two of the other two variables.

There is an important business concept to go along with the math: assets are property of the company put in the custody of the company managers to employ when they execute the business model. Assets are among the resources to be used by project managers to execute on projects. Assets are paid for by liabilities (loans from outsiders) and capital, also called equity. Equity is the property of the owners and liabilities are the properties of the creditors of the company. Thus, some stakeholders in the project arise naturally from the accounting equation: the financiers of the assets! As noted, these are the suppliers (accounts payable liabilities), creditors (long-term and short-term notes), and owners or stockholders (equity owners).

An asset cannot be acquired — that is, its asset dollar value increased — without considering how its acquisition cost is to be paid (increase in liability or capital, or sale of another asset). An asset cannot be sold — that is, its dollar value decreased — without accounting for the proceeds. Typical assets, liabilities, and equity accounts are shown in Table 1-2. A balance sheet for a small company is shown in Table 1-3.

Table 1-2: Balance Sheet Example


Liabilities and Capital Employed

Current Assets

Current Liabilities

Cash on hand


Vendor payables




Short-term notes


Finished inventory


Work in process


Long-Term Assets

Long-Term Liabilities





Software and equipment


Supplier loan


Equities or Capital Employed

Capital paid in


Retained earnings


Stock ($1 par)


Total Assets

Total Liabilities and Equities



Notes ■ Cash on hand is money in the bank.

■ Receivables are monies owed to the business on invoices.

■ Finished inventory is tangible product ready to sell.

■ Work in process is incomplete inventory that could be made available to sell within one year.

■ Buildings, equipment, and software are fixed assets that are less liquid than current assets.

Notes ■ Vendor payables are invoices from vendors that must be paid by the business, in effect short-term loans to the business.

■ Short-term notes are loans due in less than a year.

■ Mortgages are long-term loans against the long-term assets.

■ Capital paid in is cash paid into the business by the

Software is usually

stockholders in

considered an asset

excess of the par

when the capitalized

value of the stock.


purchasing, or licensing

■ Retained earnings

cost exceeds certain

are cumulative


earnings of the


business, less any

dividends to the

■ The supplier loan is


money loaned to a

supplier to finance its

■ Stock is the paid-in


par value, usually

taken to be $1 per

share, of the

outstanding stock.

In this case, there

would be 98,000

shares in the

hands of owners.

Table 1-3: Balance Sheet Accounts


Liabilities and Capital Employed

Current Assets

Current Liabilities

Cash in checking and savings accounts

Monies owed to suppliers

Monies owned by customers (receivables)

Short-term bonds or other short-term debt

Inventory that can be sold immediately

Long-Term Assets

Long-Term Liabilities

Overdue receivables


Loans to suppliers

Long-term bonds

Investments in notes, real estate, other companies

Overdue payables

Plant and equipment


Software (large value)

Cash paid in by investors for stock

Retained earnings from operations and investments


■ Current assets are


■ Current liabilities are

generally those

generally those due

assets that can be

and payable within one

turned into cash

year. Some companies

within one year.

may assign a shorter

Some companies


may assign a shorter


■ Long-term liabilities are

less liquid than current

■ Long-term assets

liabilities, but

are less liquid than

nevertheless have a

current assets, but

cash value in the

nevertheless have a


cash value in the


■ Equity is the monies

paid in by owners or

■ The dollar value of

monies earned from

all accounts on the

operations and

left side must equal

investments. These

the dollar value of

funds finance the

the accounts on the

assets of the business,

right side.

along with the liabilities.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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