Reading accounts and making sense of them – E-learning course

Do you look at a set of figures and go brain-dead? This e-learning course will help you understand the jargon of accounts; enable you to see how a company's accounts tie in to the actual business and how they reflect the performance of the company.

We will show you how to analyse the figures that actually drive companies, and help you compare different types of companies in your sector. We will help you see how the accounts tell the story of a company and enable you to understand what is really happening and get a good picture of what the company is doing.


This course is great for anyone who wants to be able to read and see a picture in accounts, and not just a blur of numbers on a page. It gives you some simple tools and techniques so you can really see what's happening and get a good idea of what and how a company is doing so that you can interpret it for your audience.

If you're worried that your maths isn’t up to it, don’t be. If you need help we’ll take you through simple arithmetic and a step-by-step way to calculate the percentages that are so important in working out how a company is doing. If you know what you’re doing you can simply skip that section.

We'll show you how to analyse margins, break-even points, business efficiency, RoTA (Return on Total Assets); RoE (Return on Equity) and Asset turn. And we’ll give you Excel templates that you can use to analyse your own set of figures. There is also a comprehensive financial glossary that you can use throughout which explains all the jargon.

The course comes in 4 parts:

Part 1: Introduction and the Profit and Loss account
Part 2: Balance Sheet and linking the P&L and the Balance Sheet
Part 3: Cash flow accounts
Part 4: Four different types of companies

If you sat down and did the course in one sitting, it would take approximately 3-4 hours to complete. However, the exercises and quizzes we include mean it can take longer. You can work at your own pace, and dip in and out of the course as often as you want, and go back to sections to really make sure you've understood. If you have any queries at all, you are very welcome to get in touch with the trainer as often as you want.

We set a 4 week deadline from the point you receive your enrolment information.  If you need longer though, you just need to let us know. The course covers:

The purpose of business and the purpose of accounts

Percentages - how to calculate
  • Percentage of another number
  • Percentage of a total sum
  • Percentage of growth or decline
Three types of accounts
  • Profit and Loss
  • Balance sheet
  • Cash flow
Definition of items
  • Turnover / Sales / Revenue
  • Earnings / Profits
The Profit and Loss account
  • Turnover
  • Cost of sales
  • Gross profit
  • Administrative expenses
  • Operating profit
  • Interest
  • Pre-tax profits
  • Tax
  • Post-tax profits or EBITA
  • The difference between Gross and Net
How to analyse the P&L
  • Margin - working out for each sale how much is profit
  • Break-even point - working out how much the company has to sell to pay its total costs
  • Business efficiency - working out how well a business keeps its costs in line with its business growth
Balance sheet - assets and liabilities
  • Answers the question - what is the company worth?
  • How the balance sheet works
  • Fixed assets
  • Current assets
  • Current liabilities
  • Long-term/non-current liabilities
  • Shareholders' funds/equity
Profiling companies and comparing them
  • ROTA - Return on Total Assets
  • RoE - Return on Equity
  • Calculating the two fundamental performance ratios
  • Asset turn - what sales were achieved by the company using its total assets
  • Linking the P&L and the Balance Sheet
The cash flow account
  • Answers the question - how much cash does the company have, where does it come from and what is it using it for?
  • The importance of cash flow and how to calculate it
  • Opening and closing cash
  • Cash from operations
  • Cash from investing
  • Cash from financing
  • Dividends and keeping the shareholders happy
  • Key questions to ask on the cash flow statement
Four different types of companies and their accounts
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail/wholesale
  • Services
  • Banking
  • What they live and die by
  • How fast is it turning over its inventory
  • R&D to turnover
  • How capital intensive
  • How fast is it turning over its inventory
  • Liquidity ratio
  • What to look in the notes of the accounts for
  • Staff ratio
  • Capital ratio
  • Liquidity ratio

This course is packed with interactive exercises to check your understanding of the material, so you can practise what you learn as soon as you learn it.

We also include clear examples; checklists and our famous Top Tips so you can be sure of understanding and applying every single part of this invaluable course. Handy tips and checklists include:

  • The three different accounts
  • Looking for changes
  • What to look for first
  • What to analyse
  • Building league tables for businesses in the same sector
  • Keeping companies in different sectors separate
  • Using appropriate ratios for each sector.

and many more.

Free financial tools
We have created spreadsheets of the P&L, cash flow and balance sheet accounts, as well as one for the different types of companies, for you to download for free. You just need to take the numbers from the accounts you are analysing and fill in the boxes, and the spreadsheet will automatically give you the changes and the ratios.

Richard Sharpe is a trainer, journalist, researcher, a Visiting Fellow in journalism at the University of East London and a director of ContentETC. As a journalist he has contributed to the Financial Times, The Herald Tribune, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Observer, Computing, Computer Weekly and other publications covering IT and its impact. Richard is a highly successful trainer, regularly training journalists at publishing companies including Bauer, Haymarket and TimeInc and coaching executives at organisations including UCLU and LSE.

The beauty of e-learning is that you can do it at a time and place to suit you. But you won't be alone! Richard will talk you through the key points to improve your skills and knowledge, and at any time during your e-learning course, you can email him with any queries or comments.

Richard can also give you invaluable one-to-one feedback on your own work. If you buy the trainer feedback option with your course, email your work to him after you have completed the e-learning and he will supply you with individual guidance, comments and practical suggestions. Then, once you've improved your work, he will review your revised content and provide a second set of comments. This unique feedback really brings your e-learning to life and makes sure you have truly grasped - and applied - all of the key principles.

If you would like to receive a Certificate when you have completed your e-learning course, please just let us know and we will arrange for one to be sent to you.

Reading accounts and making sense of them is £55 + tax per user * which gives you full unlimited access to the course for one month. If you need longer though, you just need to let us know.

If you want to add personal one-to-one trainer feedback to the course, the price is £105 + tax.

* Discounted rates of up to 70% are available for multiple users. The discount applies to this course or a mix of e-learning courses. We will give you an immediate 10% discount off your second course if you book with us again.