Financial Performance

What is Financial Performance?

Financial performance is a complete evaluation of how well a company can use its assets from its primary mode of business and generate revenues. It measures a firm’s overall financial health over a given period and is used to compare similar firms across the same industry or to compare industries or sectors in aggregation.

Key components of financial performance include:

  • Revenue — The income a business earns from its normal business activities (typically from the sale of goods and services to customers).
  • Profitability The company’s ability to generate profit from its operations, and what percentage of sales this profit represents.
  • Cost structure — Operating costs, including fixed and variable costs.
  • Assets — Financial resources the company owns that have the potential for future economic benefits (e.g., cash, inventory, property).
  • Liabilities — Obligations or debts a company owes to external parties (e.g., loans, accounts payable).
  • Cash flow The amount of money coming into and going out of a company during a given time period.
  • Solvency — The company’s ability to meet its long-term debts and financial obligations.
  • Liquidity — Its ability to quickly convert assets into cash to meet short-term obligations.

To assess a company’s financial performance, stakeholders, creditors, or potential investors will look at their financial statements. From there, they’ll dive deeper into the numbers to get a sense of how it’s doing and where it’s headed.


  • Financial performance analysis
  • Financial performance indicators
  • Financial performance reports

Measuring Financial Performance

Financial performance is a subjective measure — that is, two people may look at the same financial documents and surrounding factors and come to different conclusions.

To make as informed a decision as possible, you’ll need to examine the company’s past performance, current financial status, and future prospects. And for that, you need to use financial performance indicators to paint a complete picture.

Profitability Ratios

When you conduct a profitability analysis, you’ll use different ratios to assess a company’s ability to generate earnings relative to its revenue, operating costs, balance sheet assets, or shareholders’ equity.

The most important profitability ratios are:

  • Gross profit margin is the percentage of revenue that exceeds the cost of goods sold (a measure of production and sales efficiency). Gross Profit Margin = ((Revenue – COGS)  / Revenue) X 100.
  • Net profit margin measures how much of each dollar of revenue is left over after handling all its operating expenses (indicating the overall profitability of the company). Net Profit Margin = (Net Income / Total Revenue) X 100.
  • Return on assets (ROA)  shows how efficiently a company can manage its assets to produce profits during a period. ROA = (Annual Net Income / Total Assets).
  • Return on equity (ROE) points to how well the company uses investments to generate earnings growth. ROE = (Annual Net Income / Shareholder’s Equity).

Liquidity Ratios

Liquidity ratios measure a company’s ability to pay off current liabilities with its current assets. A company with good liquidity doesn’t have to raise outside capital to settle its outstanding debts.

The two essential liquidity ratios are the quick ratio and the current ratio.

  • The current ratio represents a company’s ability to pay back its short-term liabilities with its short-term assets. A higher ratio indicates more liquidity. Current Ratio = Current Assets / Current Liabilities.
  • The quick ratio (also called the acid-test ratio) demonstrates its ability to meet its short-term obligations with its most liquid assets (and therefore excludes inventories from assets). Quick Ratio = (Current Assets – Inventory) / Current Liabilities.

The reason you want to compare both ratios is that a company can “fudge” its current ratio — either by taking out long-term loans or buying inventory (as inventory is considered a current asset). The quick ratio offers a more conservative look at the company’s ability to pay off current liabilities without having to sell inventory.

Debt Ratios

Debt ratios help you understand how leveraged a company is — that is, its current financial obligations relative to its assets or equity.

The two main debt ratios are the debt-to-assets and debt-to-equity ratio.

  • Debt-to-assets looks at how much of the company’s assets are financed by creditors versus shareholders. Debt-to-Assets = Total Debt / Total Assets.
  • Debt-to-equity examines how much of the company’s assets are financed by shareholders versus creditors. Debt-to-Equity = Total Debt / Shareholders’ Equity.

A higher debt-to-assets ratio means the company is leveraged, meaning it’s more reliant on creditors and carries a larger risk. A lower debt-to-equity ratio could indicate the company has more internal financing and less risk. However, too little debt can also hinder a company’s growth.

Efficiency Ratios

Efficiency ratios evaluate how effectively a company uses its assets, liabilities, and internal processes to generate profits.

  • Receivables turnover ratio calculates how many times per year the company collects its credit sales. Receivables Turnover Ratio = Net Credit Sales / Average Accounts Receivable.
  • Inventory turnover ratio compares how many times a company has sold and replaced its inventory in a year. Inventory Turnover Ratio = Cost of Goods Sold / Average Inventory.
  • Asset turnover ratio shows how well a company is using its assets to generate revenue. A high ratio indicates more efficient use of assets, while a low ratio suggests poor asset management. Asset Turnover Ratio = Total Revenue / Average Total Assets.
  • Sales efficiency compares revenue generated to the sales and marketing expenses that drive it. Sales Efficiency = (Gross Revenue / Sales and Marketing Expenses) X 100.

Cash Flow

Cash flow is a critical measure of financial performance because it indicates the company’s ability to generate cash to fund operations, pay debts, and invest in growth.

Depending on whether you want to gauge short-term or long-term cash flow, you’ll use one of the three main cash flow ratios:

  • Operating cash flow (OCF) demonstrates how much cash a company generates from its business operations. OCF = Net Income + Depreciation and Amortization +/- Change in Working Capital.
  • Investing cash flow is the amount of cash generated or used by long-term investments, minus the cash spent to acquire them.
  • Cash flow from financing activities (CFF) shows how much cash is generated or spent through equity and debt financing and dividend payments.

Working Capital

Working capital represents a company’s liquid assets (like cash, accounts receivable, or inventory) that it can quickly convert to cash or use to pay its short-term liabilities.

Positive working capital indicates that the company can fund its current operations and invest in future activities. Negative working capital signals liquidity issues. It indicates you may be unable to meet its short-term obligations without additional financing.

Benchmarking and Trends Analysis

Every type of business has a different cost structure and is therefore subject to different ranges of financial performance.

For instance, a SaaS company can operate at a gross margin somewhere between 75% and 90%. Ecommerce companies typically operate at gross margins between 50% and 70% because they require greater upfront costs for inventory and fulfillment. 

To get usable insights out of financial ratios, you need to compare them against other companies in the same sector (called benchmarking) or track trends over time within a single company.

Types of Financial Performance Reports

Most of the info you need for a financial performance analysis is available right in your financial statements. There are three primary documents to look at (income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement). You’ll also need an annual report, which is a more detailed account of your operational and financing activities.

Income Statement (Profit and Loss Statement)

The income statement, also known as the profit and loss statement or P&L, provides a summary of the company’s revenues, expenses, profits, and losses, offering insights into its profitability and operational efficiency.

A P&L includes:

  • Revenue
  • COGS
  • Operating costs
  • Interest
  • Taxes
  • Net income
  • Any other gains and losses

Categories like interest are especially important when evaluating a company’s P&L. High-interest expenses can significantly affect a company’s net income, especially if they are disproportionate to its operating income.

Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is a snapshot of the business’s financial position at a particular moment. It outlines what the company owns (assets) and owes (liabilities) and the difference between them (equity). The formula for the balance sheet is:

Assets = Liabilities + Equity.

It includes:

  • Current assets
  • Non-current assets
  • Current liabilities
  • Non-current liabilities
  • Shareholders’ equity

The balance sheet is essential for evaluating the company’s liquidity, working capital, leverage, and risk. If you compare it to previous periods, you can also track trends in these areas.

Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement shows how changes in the balance sheet and income statement affect the company’s cash position. It also highlights the company’s sources and uses of cash over a particular period.

The three main sections of the cash flow statement are operating, investing, and financing activities.

  • Operating activities show how much cash is generated or used by normal business operations such as sales, inventory purchases, and payroll.
  • Investing activities capture investments in long-term assets such as equipment, property, and investments in other companies.
  • Financing activities demonstrate how much cash comes from or goes to investors through equity or debt financing, dividend payments, share buybacks, etc.

The cash flow statement is vital for understanding the company’s ability to generate cash and its future financial stability.

Annual Report

The annual report is a comprehensive document that contains all the information a company provides to shareholders. It includes all the other financial statements, as well as management discussion and analysis (MD&A), which explains how the company’s performance compares to past years, its future plans, and financial goals.

The management team also includes a company overview, mission statement, and other qualitative information that gives the big picture of the company. Additionally, it may include further details on financial ratios and explain how they were calculated.

Interpreting Financial Statements

When you’re delving into a company’s financial performance, you have to remember that no single financial statement tells the whole story.

  • The income statement provides a view of operational efficiency and profitability.
  • The balance sheet displays short-term liquidity and long-term financial stability.
  • Cash flow statements demonstrate how the company generates and uses cash.

You also have to consider the context of all three statements and how they relate to each other. For instance, a company may have strong income and cash flow but high debt levels that hinder its long-term financial stability.

So, in addition to benchmarking your key performance indicators, it’s crucial to look at the whole picture when evaluating a company’s financial performance. You have to evaluate everything contextually to get a meaningful understanding of the company’s financial health.

Improving Financial Performance

Really, there are countless ways to improve your business’s financial performance. How exactly to approach do so is ultimately a subjective, case-by-case issue that requires you to look at your internal processes, competition, industry, and company-specific challenges.

That said, there are a few common strategies that nearly every modern business can benefit from when it comes to improving financial performance.

Here are a few:

Implement strategic cost-saving measures.

Simple yet effective strategies like switching to energy-efficient solutions, taking your in-office team remote, and reducing paper usage by digitizing operations can result in significant savings. You can also renegotiate contracts with suppliers to secure better deals and minimize overhead costs.

Utilize technology to streamline operations.

Automation, machine learning, data analytics, and other technological advancements can eliminate errors, improve speed, and save resources in just about every facet of business.

For example:

  • CPQ (configure, price, quote) helps businesses generate quotes as much as 10x faster, according to a Salesforce report.
  • Contract management software eliminates errors in one of the most costly areas (organizations lose 9% of revenue on average due to poor contract management practices).
  • Sales enablement AI tools help your sales team prioritize leads, reach out more effectively, and share valuable content to close high-value deals faster.
  • Automated invoicing saves your receivables team the hassle of manually creating and sending invoices, reduces errors, speeds up payment processing, and minimizes revenue leaks and delinquent payments.

There are also platforms you can use specifically to optimize your sales, marketing, and pricing strategies to drive faster revenue growth at better margins. Investing in price optimization, revenue intelligence, and financial modeling software can help you make dramatic improvements to business performance.

Diversify your revenue streams.

If it makes sense for your business, revenue diversification is one of the best ways to hedge against changing market conditions and ensure long-term financial stability.

Examples of revenue diversification strategies are:

  • Developing new products, microservices, or product tiers
  • Creating additional streams of passive such as eBooks, courses, or digital products
  • Expanding your target markets to new regions or countries
  • Leveraging affiliate marketing to tap into complementary niches or audiences
  • Forming channel sales partnerships
  • Offering ancillary services (e.g., SaaS implementation and consulting)

Gather as much data as you can about how current customers use your product, what they wish you offered, and what your competitors you’re losing deals to are doing to serve the buyers. This can help you make informed decisions about expanding product lines or creating complementary offerings that generate additional revenue streams.

Find ways to optimize your resources and capital.

Finding ways to make the most out of what you already have, whether it’s equipment, inventory, or human resources, can help you generate more revenue while minimizing costs.

Some ways to optimize resources and capital include:

  • Implementing lean manufacturing processes
  • Utilizing data analytics to identify areas where resources are being underutilized or misused
  • Cross-training employees to handle multiple tasks and roles
  • Leveraging technology and software solutions to automate repetitive tasks
  • Auditing your billing and collections processes to reduce revenue leakage and delinquent payments

Investing in software can help with a lot of these. But it’s still ultimately up to your leadership team to make improvements at the employee level to create a sustainable operation.

Forecast your cash flow and capital needs.

A key part of keeping your business financially healthy is forecasting your future needs and preparing for them in advance. Creating an annual budget and regularly updating it to reflect changes in your business is a crucial first step. You should also be closely monitoring cash flow, identifying patterns in accounts payable and receivable, and keeping an eye on industry trends that may impact your working capital needs.

Also make best-case, worst-case, and most likely financial projections based on historical data and real-time market trends. If you can predict financial challenges before they happen, you can make adjustments to your operations or secure financing in advance to avoid cash flow issues.

People Also Ask

What is an example of a financial performance analysis?

One example of financial performance analysis is an investor assessing a prospective company’s inventory turnover ratio to determine its efficiency in managing inventory and generating sales. To get the full picture, they’d also look at days sales of inventory (DSI), which tells them how quickly the company actually moves its product.

What is financial performance management?

Financial performance management involves the process of monitoring and directing an organization’s financial actions and performance. It includes strategies for planning, budgeting, forecasting, and analyzing financial activities to align them with business objectives and improve profitability and growth.

Does the balance sheet show financial performance?

No, the balance sheet does not show financial performance. It provides a snapshot of a company’s financial position at a specific point, detailing assets, liabilities, and equity. It does not reflect its performance over a period. Businesses assess performance through income and cash flow statements.