Earnings Before Interest Taxes Depreciation and Amortization. The way I like to think about EBITDA is the pre-tax cash earning power of the business. It is not much different than the notion of Operating Income which is revenue minus cost of goods sold and operating expenses. But it takes out the two big non-cash items in an income statement, depreciation and amortization.
When you think about the various ways you can make money, two ways predominate. You can provide services to others and get paid for those services. That is ordinary income. And you can invest in something; shares of stock, a building, a domain, and then sell it later for more. That is a capital gain. The distinction is important, at least in the US, because these two kinds of income are taxed differently.
I like to focus on "gross margin" because I think it tells you a lot about the scalability of a business (as I detailed in last week's post). But operating margin which is gross margin less all the operating costs is another really important metric.
Margin is the amount of money you make on each incremental sale or unit of revenue before factoring in the "fixed costs" of your business. Fixed costs would be things like the rent on your office, your administrative team, and the people who do your accounting/bookeeping work for you. The key concept to wrap your head around is some costs rise and fall based on how much revenue you have and some costs are fixed and are the "cost of keeping the doors open."
When a customer commits to spend money with your company, that is a “booking”. A booking is often tied to some form of contract between your company and the customer. The contract can be simple or very complicated. And some bookings do happen without a contract. Examples of these contracts with customers include an insertion order in advertising, a license agreement in enterprise software, and a subscription agreement in “software as a service” businesses. Revenue happens when the service is actually provided.
Balance sheets and income statements are important to understanding a company. But they do not tell the entire picture. They don’t tell you if the team is solid. They don’t tell you if the product is any good. They don’t tell you if the market is big. And they don’t even tell you about all the costs and they don’t tell you about all the liabilities. So you have to dig deeper and understand what is really going on before putting your capital at risk. That is called due diligence and it is critical to investing. And looking out for liabilities that aren’t reported on the financial statements is an important part of that.
The Balance Sheet is a report of the asset and liability accounts. Assets are things you own in your business, like cash, capital equipment, and money that is owed to you for products and services you have delivered to customers. Liabilities are obligations of the business, like bills you have yet to pay, money you have borrowed from a bank or investors.
There are two kinds of accounting entries; those that describe money coming into and out of your business, and money that is contained in your business. The P&L deals with the first category. A profit and loss statement is a report of the changes in the income and expense accounts over a set period of time. The most common periods of time are months, quarters, and years, although you can produce a P&L report for any period.