Tax & admin · 8 June 2017

What is a profit and loss statement and why is it important?

The profit and loss statement can give clear indication of the health of a business
Understanding whether a business is profitable or not is fundamental to the success of the business. Writing for Business Advice, Ormsby Street’s Rob Drury explains to readers what a profit and loss statement is and why it’s important to your venture.

If you’re the business owner, you need to know where to act to maximise your profit, and if you’re an investor, you want to know that the business is heading in the right direction or whether there are some key areas requiring attention.

This all sounds like you need to be a numbers whizz to understand all the ins and outs, but in reality, the profit and loss statement is a simple mechanism that can give some clear indication of the health of a business.

What is a profit and loss statement?

Often referred to as the income statement, the profit and loss statement is one of the cornerstones of business financial analysis and reporting.

Its role is to summarise the revenue, costs and expenses of the business over a period, giving an insight into the business? ability to generate a profit.

All over the world, profit and loss statements tend to follow the same structure of revenues, cost of sales, and operating expenses, with the statement calculating gross and net profits from these numbers. Here’s an example:

Revenues (a) £100, 000
Cost of Sales (b) £40, 000
Gross Profit (c) = a-b £60, 000
Operating Expenses (d) £20, 000
Net Profit (e) = c-d £40, 000
When were down to the information about operating expenses, then were looking at the other costs of the business, including salaries of non-production teams, salaries of service based teams, marketing, rent, and more.

As we move down the profit and loss statement, the line detailing cost of sales includes any costs that are directly related to the generation of revenue, so would include things like the parts bought to make the widget, and the salaries of the team who make it.

Revenues are simply what the business has sold to make money, whether it is a product or a service. It could be widgets or it could be servicing of the widgets, either way it’s brought some money into the business.

Why is a profit and loss statement important?

By structuring the finances of the business in this way, it’s straightforward to see what’s going on and to ask some key questions that can impact how the business is run, such as:

  • Is the cost of sales too high, and do we need to become more efficient at making the item or source a cheaper supplier?
  • Are revenues too low and not generating enough money to cover the operating costs? Do we need to get more customers or look at charging more for what we sell?
  • Are the operating expenses too large, and do we need to start making some cost savings?
These are questions that banks will be asking when they’re looking to loan funds to the business and have asked to see the statement, and they are the questions that investors will ask when they are considering the viability of investing in a business.

Notable investor and founder of, Francis Gaskins omce said: People will just walk away if they don’t have a healthy income statement.

What else should Iconsider?

As useful as the profit and loss statement is, it isnt the only document that a business needs to review regularly.



Former footballer and cinema manager Robert Drury has been a digital professional since 2000, specialising in project management, client services, and product management. He supported global brands such as Kraft Foods, Peugeot Citroen, and Lloyds Banking Group with their online presence before moving into startups. He was a founding team member at Ormsby Street, a small business financial information tool, before moving to Qudini to oversee the development of that firm's customer experience software product.