University of Southern California

Understanding Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Managers Online


Finance and Accounting


July 26, 2017 - August 16, 2017
January 24, 2018 - February 14, 2018

Registration for this course will close 12:00 PM one full day prior.


Understanding Finance and Accounting will equip non-financial managers with the financial knowledge necessary to communicate more effectively with financial managers, analyze financial statements and understand how they relate, interpret a company's profitability, solvency and liquidity, explore the sources and costs of capital and the factors of investment decisions, and learn valuation principles and their impact on the value drivers of the firm. Participants will gain both competence and confidence in their interactions with financial colleagues and senior executives.


Participants will learn how to:

  • Read and understand balance sheets and income statements
  • Understand how common economic transactions impact financial statements
  • Evaluate a company's financial performance
  • Analyze financial statements and understand the drivers of firm value
  • Explore the sources and costs of capital and factors of investment decisions
  • Learn alternative business valuation principles and how they impact the value drivers of the firm


  • Overview of Financial Statements
    • It is difficult to be an effective manager without a solid understanding of the primary financial statements. The first session introduces the basic financial statements and illustrates them through a variety of real-world examples. The objective of this first session is to provide a 30,000 foot overview of the concepts that underpin the basic financial statements.
  • The Balance Sheet
    • The components of the balance sheet - assets, liabilities and equity - are the economic building blocks of business enterprises. This session focuses on how to read and understand balance sheets and how to understand firms' financing and investment decisions. We look at the balance sheets of several major corporations as examples.
  • The Income Statement
    • The revenues minus the expenses reported in the income statement equal the proverbial "bottom line." We will find out that it's not always easy to decide when a company has earned revenues or when it has incurred expenses. Importantly, we will learn about the concept of 'accrual-basis accounting,' a very old but very ingenious method of calculating the bottom line.
  • Transaction Analysis
    • Understanding how basic economic transactions impact the primary financial statements is fundamental to the understanding of a business enterprise. No one can really claim to understand a balance sheet or income statement unless they can coherently analyze how those statements change in the wake of common economic transactions. Thus, one portion of the course is devoted to a critical and detailed evaluation of how the financial statements are derived and how they change as a result of economic events.
  • Financial Ratio Analysis
    • The financial statements tell a story, and a careful analysis of the accounting ratios can reveal the plot. This session demonstrates how information in the financial reports can be used to evaluate management performance, credit risk, and valuation issues. We spend most of our time unraveling the mysteries contained in the annual reports of some major corporations.
  • Foundations of Finance and Introduction to Valuation
    • The sessions will begin with an overview of six basic tenets that are critical in measuring value and enhancing financial decision-making. Following those foundations, the session will allow us to explore the various basic, yet powerful, methods associated with present value and future value concepts - methods that allow us to measure what assets and liabilities are worth and to plan for future resource allocation.
  • Pricing of Stocks and Bonds; Introduction to Capital Budgeting - Measuring Value
    • Using the concepts discussed at the earlier session, the material in this session will focus on applying the techniques in order to price fixed income securities, value stocks in a basic framework, think about P/E ratios, and estimate the value of capital expenditures on fixed asset investments.
  • Issues in Forecasting Cash Flow
    • Forecasting cash flow is a critical element in estimating value. This session will explore some of the subtle issues involved in forecasting cash flow - in particular the need for external capital and the management of growth. Participants will be asked to complete estimates of cash flow and growth and discuss the assumptions they made to accomplish the task.
  • Cost of Capital and Valuation
    • The final session will include estimation of the components used in calculating the cost of capital in a company. General issues and examples will be discussed, with participants being asked to apply those concepts in estimating cost of capital for a specific company and forecasting future value.


$995 per person includes tuition and course materials. There is a 10% discount for three or more registrants from the same company.

Who Should Attend

Managers in marketing, sales, production, engineering, R & D, human resources and others who wish to know about more about accounting and finance. Participants often use (or should be using) financial statements and want to develop more confidence in their analytical skills. No prior classroom experience in accounting or finance is expected, but familiarity with the general language of business will be assumed.

Participant Testimonial

"After completing Understanding Finance and Accounting I have a much clearer comprehension of accounting, finance, purchase orders, and the day-to-day operations of my company."
IT Manager, Clean Energy

"Great, relevant course! This has made numbers and finance side of our business much easier for me to understand and work with.”
Director of R&D, Windsor Foods

Online Teaching Method & Experience

Designed to fit your busy schedule, this approximately 12 to 18-hour “on demand” online course can be taken at your own pace over a three-week period. It includes online video sessions, reading and case studies, interactive exercises and discussions with faculty. For more detailed information click here.


Mark DeFond, Ph.D., USC Marshall Professor of Accounting studies financial accounting, auditing, and international accounting. He is a CPA (inactive), a four time winner of the MBA Golden Apple teaching award, and was ranked among the ten most outstanding USC MBA faculty by BusinessWeek. He is widely published and one of the 25 most cited authors in accounting. Professor DeFond is a board member of several leading academic journals and a recipient of several research awards, including the Notable Contribution to Auditing Literature Award and the Mellon Award for Excellence in Mentoring Faculty. He has held visiting professorships at universities in Hong Kong and Singapore. click here.

Julia Plotts, MBA, USC Marshall Professor specializes in financial analysis and valuation, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate finance. She is the author of several valuation case studies and contributed to Valuation: The Art and Science of Corporate Investment Decisions. Professor Plotts has been teaching corporate finance and financial analysis and valuation in the EMBA, GEMBA, MBA.PM, IBEAR, and undergraduate programs since 2002. She has received the Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence seven times and the Evan C. Thompson Teaching & Learning Innovation Award for Teaching (2011) and Mentoring (2012) and the Dean's Award for Community (2010). Prior to joining the faculty at USC, Plotts worked within the investment-banking group of Bank of America Securities LLC, where she was involved in the execution of mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyout/recapitalization and capital raising via private/public offerings of equity and debt. She has consulted on shareholder value and corporate strategy for a variety of firms. click here.

Course Disclaimer

Every reasonable effort will be made to ensure this course runs as described on this web page. Please note that course dates and professors are subject to change. You will be notified by email in advance if there is a date or professor change. Additionally, this course also requires a minimum number of registrants in order to take place. You will be notified by email if the course does not meet this minimum.

Contact Us

For more information click here

Telephone: 213-740-8990
Fax: 213-740-6406

Office of Executive Education
Marshall School of Business
University of Southern California
1150 South Olive Street, Suite 2900
Los Angeles, California USA 90015-2211