Introduction to vs. Intermediate Financial Management – Which is Right for You?

Accounting is the language of business. Being conversant in this language means you have a better ability to proactively plan where your business is going and to work effectively with your accountant, bookkeeper, lenders, and other members of your entrepreneurial advisory team. The Small Business Development Center at UW-Madison offers two primary open-enrollment opportunities to learn more about business finances and concepts.

We recommend that, before taking either financial course, you begin to plan out some basics of your business.

  1. Start your exploration process with First Steps to Starting a Business. This free, interactive, online class will help you explore your business idea and assess your entrepreneurial readiness as well as identify your own strengths and weaknesses as a business owner.  Discover what information you need and where to find it. The class includes downloadable worksheets, hands-on exercises, local entrepreneur stories, and additional resources to determine your next steps.
  2. Get a broader business overview with Biz Smart Sprint OR dive more deeply into your business planning process with the Entrepreneurial Training Program (ETP). Both classes – which cover business basics at two different levels of depth – with give you an understanding of business basics and help you make foundational decisions for the direction of your business. Not sure which business planning class is right for you? Check out our Biz Smart Sprint vs. ETP page for a comparison of each.

Compare: Introduction vs. Intermediate Financial Management

Course Element Introduction to Financial Management Intermediate Financial Management
(formerly Building Financial Confidence in Your Business)
Timing Offered in spring or early summer (will be offered in fall 2023) Offered in the fall
Time commitment & format 7.5 hours of instructional time (live virtual). The course content is recorded, so you’ll have the opportunity to review a session. 14 hours of instructional time (in person). The course content is not recorded.
Tone and overview of the course Introductory course focused on bookkeeping basics, accounting terminology and overview concepts, and a deep dive of the components/inputs of “big 3” financial statements (profit & loss statement, balance sheet, statement of cash flows). Intermediate course providing more in-depth exploration of financial management topics to help you analyze your financial data and make decisions for the future of the business.
One-sentence summary This course breaks down the nuts-and-bolts of bookkeeping and accounting – covering the “what” of financial management. Includes custom class workbook to help you apply concepts to your business context and does not assume you are familiar with financial statements. This course provides further context for how to use the information gathered through bookkeeping and accounting – the “so what” and “what now?” of financial management. Relies on participants’ historical financial experience to help make meaning of existing financial data. Provides quicker overview of financial statements.
This course is best suited for those who… …new to financial concepts and who do not have an accounting background

…may be uncomfortable with “the numbers side” of the business and are looking to increase familiarity and their financial vocabulary

…are looking for an introduction to key financial tools and concepts, or those who are looking to revisit these topics

…have recently taken on financial management support roles in their business, or who need a general understanding of financial management to be successful in their roles

…would benefit from breaking down the components of each of the “Big 3” financial statements – the Profit & Loss (Income) Statement, the Balance Sheet, and the Statement of Cash Flow

… has a brand-new or not complex business (consultants, solopreneurs, service-based businesses that do not require extensive supplies or licensure)

… have basic familiarity with business financials and terminology

… want to learn how to read and understand financial information

… want to take their knowledge to the next level in order to analyze financial information to improve business management decisions

… want to improve and manage profitability using budgets and better manage working capital

… want to improve and manage cash flows using budgets.

… has some complexity in the business and its operations (employees, inventory, depreciating assets)

…may have some financial familiarity based on experience, but has not received formal training

Topics and focus of the course
  • Financial recordkeeping (what records to keep and how to organize them)
  • Deep dive on Financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement), including the components of each, why they are important, and what types of information each statement conveys
  • Financial analysis – broad overview with a few simple examples of how to analyze your financials. Includes high-level overview of pricing and breakeven analysis concepts.
  • Review of Financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement) – assumes participants have some familiarity
  • Budgeting basics (different budgeting types and common red flags)
  • Recording transactions (including an overview of debits and credits)
  • Using Financial Information to Make Operational Decisions (financial analysis principles, financial ratios). Sprint covers financial management at a broad, conceptual level; this series provides more specific examples of how to analyze financial statements to make business decisions)
  • Pricing, Breakeven Analysis, Profit Planning, and Budgeting
  • Cash Flow & Inventory Planning and Management


Can’t get enough financial knowledge?

Check out The Beginner’s Guide to Financial Projections

When seeking funding and/or determining the feasibility of your business idea, you will likely need financial projections. This free, interactive online class is designed to help you understand what inputs you need to create projections.

Access the Beginner’s Guide to Financial Projections here

You will learn to answer these questions:

  • How can I prepare to create financial projections? What information do I need to gather?
  • What is some basic terminology I should understand to be more “fluent” in the language of projections?
  • How do financial projections work? What are the key components?
  • What can I expect when working with a traditional lender?
  • What are some typical sources of funding for new businesses and expansion projections?
  • What are some next steps I can take to translate my inputs into projections?