We’ve all heard the dismal stats on the percentage of small businesses that fail. But what we don’t hear much about—and this is really important—is how many of those businesses might have succeeded if the owner had a rock-solid plan for managing their business finances.
Yes, there are a lot of factors you can’t control when you start a small business, such as market conditions, customer preferences, and supply chain issues. However, finance management is one thing that you have 100 percent control over, and it can make or break your company. The benefits of a holistic financial management strategy are huge:
- Drive growth.
- Increase productivity.
- Reduce accounting errors.
- Optimize planning and strategy.
Ready to take control of your business finances? Let’s take a look at common mistakes to avoid, how to build a strong financial foundation, and ways to create a financial strategy for success.
Common Financial Mistakes Small Business Owners Make
Every business has its own specific challenges, but there is a pattern of missteps many small business owners make that contribute to financial difficulties.
Combining business and personal finances
It’s tempting to use your personal cash and credit to fund your business expenses until you start generating revenue, but resist the urge. Not separating business and personal finances can cause serious tax issues down the line—not to mention make it hard to cover your living expenses.
Relying heavily on credit cards
A business credit card can be a valuable tool when used correctly. However, too many small business owners rack up high balances without sufficient income to pay them off each month. Monitor your credit card spending closely to avoid getting hit with excessive interest on an out-of-control balance.
Buying unnecessary items
It’s OK not to have the brightest, shiniest equipment when you’re just getting started. The money you spend on expensive office furniture is money you could have put into an emergency fund. This brings us to our next common mistake ...
Not saving for emergencies
As we learned the hard way, you just never know when a global pandemic is going to shut down the economy for months. Having an emergency fund will help your business stay solvent during a simple slow stretch and during a full-blown disaster.
Not insuring the business
Business insurance is nonnegotiable if you want your company to succeed. Rebuilding after a natural disaster, cleaning up a cyberattack, or paying on a liability claim can ruin your business financially if you aren’t insured.
Failing to make and stick to a budget
A budget helps you control your spending and understand where your business’s money is going. Set a budget for everything from office supplies to overtime and stick with it. If you find that you spend more than you budget each month, look for inefficiencies or waste to make up the difference.
Underestimating tax obligations
Underpaying taxes can land you and your business in serious legal trouble. Work with a tax or financial expert to ensure you understand exactly what your obligations are and when payments are due.
Start with the Financial Management Basics
Now that you know some of the pitfalls to avoid when managing your business’s finances, let’s work on building a foundation for success. Here are seven essentials you’ll need to get started:
- Personal financial statement: A list of your personal assets, net worth, income, and expenses. You will need this if you apply for a business loan.
- Balance sheet: A point-in-time look at your business’s assets, liabilities, and equity that together provide a snapshot of your company’s financial health.
- Income statement: A record of your business’s profit and loss over a given period of time.
- Accounting ledger: A physical or electronic repository for your business’s balance sheet and income statement transactions.
- Cash flow forecast and statement: Documents that help you track and plan cash coming in and going out of the business so there are no surprises.
- Accounting support: Whether you hire a CPA, bookkeeper, online accounts receivable/accounts payable (AR/AP) service, or all of the above, putting your finances in the hands of a professional frees you up to grow your business.
- Tools/software: If you decide to take a DIY approach to your business finance management, a software solution, such as Autobooks, can help you automate many of your AR/AP and bookkeeping tasks.
10 Tips for Managing Your Business Finances
When it comes to managing your business finances, you can learn a lot from those who have been in your shoes. Here are 10 tried-and-true tips for creating a financial management plan for your business.
1. Make a financial plan
As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” You simply cannot run a successful business without a plan that addresses how you will handle the finances for everything from taxes and technology to invoicing and inventory.
2. Monitor cash flow
Cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Ensuring you have the right balance of money coming in and going out is a key factor in whether your company will succeed.
3. Invest in the company
Your business won’t thrive if you don’t invest in it. Growth depends on expanding into new territory, refreshing your inventory, and improving technology and infrastructure.
4. Create (and stick to) a budget
Control your business’s money—don’t let it control you. A budget can help you maintain control of your business’s finances by providing a single source of unambiguous truth for how the company’s money should be spent.
5. Borrow wisely
Debt isn’t a bad word. In fact, business loans and lines of credit can be valuable financial tools when used as part of a growth strategy or to supplement cash flow during a slow period.
6. Automate what you can
Financial management software is an excellent investment. Not only does the technology help ensure your bookkeeping is accurate and up to date, but it also can eliminate the expense of hiring a full-time employee.
7. Schedule tax payments
Small business taxes aren’t paid on the same schedule as your personal taxes. Many businesses submit their estimated taxes quarterly. For simplicity, you can also set up tax payments as a standard operating expense and submit them monthly.
8. Have a billing strategy
Unfortunately, collecting from certain vendors can be challenging. Customizing a payment schedule for vendors that are consistently late will help ensure you have the steady cash flow needed for day-to-day operations.
9. Track your finances
Even if you use a third-party financial or accounting service, you need to set aside time weekly to review your books in depth. Knowing what should be in the books will help you quickly identify discrepancies, waste, and problem vendors.
10. Plan for the future
Look ahead three, five, 10 years and think about where you want your business to be financially. Create a plan that breaks down each of your goals into incremental, measurable milestones, and get to work!
Manage Your Business Finances Like a Pro
No one starts a business with the intention of failing, but if you don’t create a comprehensive financial management plan, your business will struggle from day one.
Managing your business finances effectively takes commitment, attention to detail, and self-discipline, but the results are worth the effort. If you are ready to take the next step in your financial management journey, download the First State Community Bank Guide to Finance Management Success for Businesses for a deeper dive into business banking.