I’m doing a 990 study. Each Sunday for 10 weeks, I will give out one insight for leaders. Most people ignore the 990 and its 16 additional schedules. Life is too short to do all that reading!

Sustainability
Let’s start with a critical number – Net Income or Surplus. To start a company, cash is the1019_4272975 key number. To buy a building or equipment, cash is key. Banks loan cash. Investors give cash. Customers pay in advance. But to keep a company going, there has to be a consistent profit or surplus which is the best source of cash. .

What Profit Do You Need?
What’s the required surplus for a business to stay in business indefinitely? Most businesses will soon be gone if there are year over year deficits, on life support with less than 5% surplus, and healthy over 10%. Why not profit of $1?
The income statement (Statement of Activities) does not include the cash that you need to keep investing in the business. Computers and cars need to be replaced. Technology is a huge investment. The surplus provides the cash to invest in new assets. Business owners will also want a profit on the money that they put into the business. Why would you put $500,000 into your business and not expect an annual return? That cash eventually has to come from profit.

Nonprofits/NGOs need 10% surplus to be sustainable for the some of the same reasons. But Nonprofits have a special additional burden.  Nonprofits usually show more profit than cash because government pays so late. Let’s say that you make a profit of $100,000 this year. How much of that cash is in your bank on the last day of the year? Possibly $0 or less if government is involved!  Nonprofits need a 10% surplus with the expectation that their cash account will stay above $0!

Depreciation
You may be lucky and have a lot of depreciation and bad debt allowance on your income statement. Why do we like depreciation? Because it’s not a cash item.   Let’s assume that your revenue is $10 million. 10% profit will be $1 million. That’s a challenge! But let’s assume also that you bought a $5 million dollar electrical system that has a ten year life for depreciation but it will probably be working 20 years from now. Your income statement has a $500,000 charge for depreciation already so a 5% surplus ($500,000) and the depreciation ($500,000) is a fairly safe combination for the present.

Conclusion
Non profits in particular are usually happy if they have a $1 surplus. This is not a plan for the long term.

Today’s example is a nonprofit started in 1953. $45 million in revenue last year. Payroll of $1.4 million and 14 days of expenses in cash in the bank. Limited depreciation and an average of 1% profit over 4 years.   If the CEO quit, would you enthusiastically apply for that job?

Scaling Up business coaching creates a plan in 90 days, a quick win in the 2nd quarter and a 20% growth in revenue in the 2nd year.  Until next Sunday, keep your eyes on surplus!

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