Building a Financial Forecast for the Business Plan

This is not the easiest of tasks in creating a solid business plan. When creating a business plan however, it is essential to have a reasonable set of numbers. This is something often much easier done through using the latest in business plan software as much of the work and calculations are already done for you.

It is usually among the first things an investor, whether an angel investor or Venture capital firm looks at, it is where many of your initial answers to investor questions will come from, and yet it is the dependent variable or result of many critical business decisions made to get to this point.

The following is an abbreviated summary – a "walk through" the Income Statement. Some questions are used and some guidance given as to the types of considerations that should be made as you iteratively plan, forecast, edit and massage this spreadsheet hundreds of times in the coming months.
We will assume it is a product-oriented business. This drives certain items to be on the Income Statement as follows:

It all looks pretty standard. We usually only go out for three years. Who knows what it will really be like out there anyway? Hopefully you can show an operating breakeven in the third year or less. If not, then you should extend the period of time. Also depending on the business, you may want to add some unique line items to the P&L, but this should cover most of your expenses.

Revenue: This should be a list of the sources of revenue you anticipate over the plan period. Product sales, warranty and maintenance/upgrade fees, royalty income from licensing, NRE, consulting fees, and revenue-sharing income should there be any. For purposes of the basic income statement, we would probably put the detail of each of these line items in a backup spreadsheet, and only list the total revenue with subtotals for Total Product Revenue and Other revenues.

Cost of goods (COGs):
All costs on a unit basis for the products manufactured are to be included. If you are buying specific test equipment that may be going on consignment to the manufacturing subcontractor, that should probably go elsewhere. You would then include a capital equipment deprecation expense under operating expenses, or even below the operating expenses before taxes, but surely not in COGs. Sometimes, warranty support costs you may incur in the first year or two for a product are included before the Gross Margin line. This is debatable and you should probably have a good accountant look into this.
Depending on what your monthly average runrate of units to be shipped is, you may want to use a local manufacturer and then consider an offshore manufacturer for higher volumes. Even in the latter case, sometimes they have local onshore facilities and then transfer offshore when the volumes justify it. We would go with a local manufacturer until you have all the manufacturing bugs out of the product and then turn on the volume. Taking it offshore saves unit costs sometimes, but will certainly increase manufacturing management expense.

In the detail worksheet where you rollup the COGs, break them out for the number of units per product type, average selling price (ASP) per unit and so on. This is important when you have multiple product lines. You can always go back and rework one or more line items when you have more data without upsetting the whole worksheet. The result of all this then feeds into the Income Statement Summary sheet. Learning curves for price reductions for example are the highest on the semiconductor content portion. Prices may actually go up in some BOMs where the discrete component costs have reached maturation and the precious metals (tantalum capacitors) or market demand are driving prices back up. Software average selling prices (ASPs) always go down at varying rates – we've seen as much as 50-75% per year to as low as 5% per year or even flat - look at how high Microsoft Office has held prices over the last 5 years – a benefit of monopolism.

Gross Margins:
This should probably asymptote toward 20-25% in volume. Probably more like 60-70% initially but that should go down by year 2 to way under 50% unfortunately. You might want to check out some public companies that are in similar businesses already and use their P&L as an example of what is reasonable for you.

Here you list the kitchen sink as follows:

We break out R&D into the hardware and software components plus any external contracting as separates. You may even want to have separate lines for H/W and S/W contract engineering if you expect to have both. This is usually so you can track outside expenses and there may be some additional R&D tax credits so breaking them out might help later (see your accountant to see if this is still necessary).
On R&D we look to see how many person-hours are needed to complete the project, times their burdened monthly or annual rate (burdens of 50% usually will include all headcount-loaded facilities expenses less capital equipment per employee – PCs, shared printers etc.). If you just take payroll and add personnel benefits (insurances, employer's FICA, etc. it is more like 26-27%, maybe as high as 30% but no more. Travel and Entertainment (T&E) for engineering is usually fairly low – we figure about $2K/qtr. per senior engineer and zero for junior types- this covers customer visits and the one or two trade shows they attend per year.

Capital equipment per engineer is probably about $10K/engr./yr. unless you are buying specialized CAD S/W which can get way up there >$1M per department is not uncommon.
R&D as a percent of total expense will likely be 40-45% of total expenses in the early phases and settle into about 15-20% of revenues in the out years. Again look at some business models for comparison.
If you are doing NRE work, the revenues come in above the line and usually the engineering hours spent on your side are listed under "COGs" as a "manufacturing" expense. You can do this as a product company so long as it isn't a big part of your total income over the plan period. If it would be a significant percentage you would want to reorder your P&L somewhat.

Sometimes the CFO will try to lump marketing and sales together. We hate this. They are two separate functions and how you balance resources between the two demands you separate them. For purposes of this P&L we have separated them. Marketing has staffing costs - salary times burden rates (same as for engineering). You might want to consider differences if they are in different states or countries, but we found even when dealing with Swedish and German groups, the deltas were not tremendous – but 5% can be a big number later. In the early years, it is not such a big deal.
Marketing costs to launch a company and product are important. They are non-periodic expenses and need to be planned for cashflow purposes especially. We would also build in the "ongoing" part of PR/marcom, collateral, website support, yadayadayada. Collateral costs are expensive. Capital equipment for a marketing/sales person usually will run only about $2K/person/qtr. with an initial $5K load upon hire. This of course discounts any really special tools needed. Capital equipment is usually scheduled separately and not in the P&L except for the capital equipment depreciation expense. Software usually gets written off as an expense item since most of it is much less than $1000 per package. This differs sometimes, but as a general rule, this is enough for now. T&E is about one trip every six weeks for the top marketing folks, once a quarter for others – this covers customer visits, trade shows, etc.
Any outside contracting you do in marketing should be included and counted separately.

Technical support
This lost child gets put in so many different places. We like to include it under Marketing initially because they are (or should be) the closest to the product via the sales channels. Later when life gets bigger you can move this to a separate organization or under Engineering or Manufacturing. This is mostly political – the key is to cover the costs and be able to look at it separately. This is often the kernel for a later full-scale tech support/customer service operation so it is good to see how it grows initially. There is a lot of variation on how much resource you should put here. We usually start with one or two people who can double-duty for marketing to create and give presentations, train initial sales people, keep the website happy, and write tech manuals if you're really lucky. Later, all these functions get split out into more compartmentalized pieces.

Warranty support refers to the costs and resources dedicated to tracking down returns from customers, getting them turned around back into the field, doing the hot swap for failed or suspected failed units, keeping the configuration control database up to date so you know what has been shipped to whom and at what rev. level.

This can also be called Business Development – fancy name for a bag carrier, but also at some point in the company's growth an important role to separate from the marketing efforts. Business development usually takes on the role of creating strategic relationships where sales channels or customers are involved. If the relationship has to do with a technology or a new product arena then it should be handled by the marketing grunts.
Here you include their base salaries and any bonus/draw/commission plans they have based on their performance – bookings, shipments, big deals closed, etc. Overhead and capital is about the same as for marketing; T&E is usually twice that of marketing.

The executive staff salaries, benefits etc. go here, plus any manufacturing management expenses not related to the unit cost of the product being sold. Also any facilities or other corporate costs that don't make sense to allocate to departments should be captured here. Legal fees are a good example. Others are building rent, insurances, office supplies, corporate jets and villas, and other essentials.
And guess what's left!!!

Profit Before Taxes (PBT)
PBT will undoubtedly have minus signs, parentheses or red ink involved initially, but it is important to see what all your decisions have done to your improving bottom line over time. The questions and answers they will drive are: when is operating breakeven? when do you begin to achieve your "success model" i.e., your target Revenue/GM/PBT as a successful business, and when will you need more cash, if at all. Usually the fund raising should start 6-9 months before you run out. Don't wait until the last moment where you might have to take bridge loans and other ugly financing alternatives.
We can forego thinking about Net Income for a while, although when profitable your loss carryforwards may start running out and you may actually have to pay taxes. You have arrived when that occurs.
We hope this is some help. It wasn't meant to be a tutorial but to help you think through some of the considerations as you build your financial plan. The financial plan should be a good tool to help you make decisions and be able to see what the results of those decisions turn out to be.