Want to ask these entrepreneurs your toughest financial questions? Sign up for the webinar How to Fine-Tune Your Small Business Finances--from Funding to Growth here for a chance to do just that.
Sabrina Parsons, CEO of LivePlan, believes "budgeting, forecasting and planning is not just for startups. If you do this on an ongoing business, you're going to grow 30 percent faster, you're going to be more successful and your numbers are going to mean more."
Trying to navigate the world of pro forma, P&Ls, balance sheets, and so on is never easy for an entrepreneur, but Parsons is right. You don't just think about the numbers when you start a business. In fact, what will define your success is how you involve them in your day-to-day decision making.
Here are six tips from some of my favorite entrepreneurs to help your business master financial management:
1. Profit doesn't define success
As a growing company, profit isn't the best indication of how your business is actually doing. In fact, it can often be discouraging. Matt Rissell, CEO of TSheets, reminds us that "a new or rapidly growing company will burn through cash--fast." If business is booming, you'll find your cash stash is being depleted more quickly than expected. Your profits might be low, but that could very well be because growth is rapid. Instead, calculate your business's growth rates to see if you're headed down the right path.
Keep in mind, though, that profitability should be the ultimate financial goal for your business.
2. Know what metrics matter for your business
There are some financial metrics that are universal and apply to all businesses (think revenue, expenses, cash on hand, gross margin, etc.). But Joshua Reeves, CEO of ZenPayroll, recommends that your business consider what it's own unique metrics might be, and include those when gauging your health. "For example, in a subscription-based company, there are two incredibly important metrics: customer lifetime value (LTV) and customer acquisition costs (CAC). LTV helps you understand what your customers are worth to you, and CAC helps you understand how much it costs you to acquire them. Tracking these two metrics across your channels allows you to easily evaluate the profitability of different channels, and focus on the best ones."
Take a close look at your business model and reach out to industry peers to help define these specialized points. What are some unique metrics relative to your industry that you should be paying attention to?
3. Don't lose money on dumb mistakes
With everything on your entrepreneurial plate, it becomes all too easy to make mistakes that end up costing you. What mistakes should you watch out for? A perfect example, says Parsons, "is not managing your accounts receivable and having protocols in place to encourage customers to pay early. Money you get today is worth more than money you get in four months. The sooner you have your money in the bank, the more interest you'll be making on it. If you're going to extend the time at which you receive money or if customers are paying late you could implement a late fee or charge interest on the amount owed. A lot of small businesses don't do this and as a result lose money that could have been in the bank."
What other mistakes could be costing you money? Maybe you're missing your payment dates for your credit cards and overpaying? Or getting charged fees for paying your own suppliers late?
Take some time to work through your business processes and identify places you could be unknowingly losing money. If you're unsure, reach out to your accountant or bookkeeper for help.
4. Perform an expense audit
"In my last company of 30-plus employees with four locations, I learned that all the employees in my company (even the most honest ones) were giving themselves the benefit of the doubt on their time sheets to the tune of $2,300/month in extraneous payroll costs," reveals Rissell.
Those numbers add up, especially as a small business. As your business expands, overspending can become a problem, as you don't have time to monitor every dollar that leaves your business. But, it's important you make time. How? Perform a quarterly expense audit.
Sit down each quarter and take a close look at where you are spending money. Can you confidently say you're not overspending? Is there a software or service you're not using that you should cancel? How else can you cut costs? Setting aside four times throughout the year to ask yourself these questions could help you save thousands annually.
5. Value your time
"Small business owners often work with very tight budgets, which leads to a do-it-yourself' mindset," says Reeves. "However, the most valuable resource is often their time. Entrepreneurs should constantly think about whether they're spending time on the most important parts of their business. For instance, if a business owner is spending three hours a week running payroll manually, they may think they're saving money, but they are actually expending time and energy that could be put toward growing their business."
Believe it or not, your efforts to save money by "doing it all" could actually be sending more money down the drain. That's why technology plays such an important role in small businesses, as it allows you to outsource or automate complicated tasks.
Rissell suggests that "business owners step back and evaluate where they can upgrade their technology. And if possible, leverage cloud-based solutions and trusted advisers to solve the problem."
Technology may come with an upfront cost, but the time and money it can save you down the road justifies the initial expense. What business processes could you automate to help free up your time?
6. Create a system to track your success over time
The key to simplifying your financial management? Develop a system that tracks your financial progress over time and motivates you to set goals. As Parsons says, "If you don't set your goals, you're missing a data point you could be tracking over time. Your system has to include what you want to do, what you actually did, how that compares with the previous period, and how that compares with the same period last year for seasonality. If you want to be as successful as possible, your system has to have those four data points in it. This data will make making decisions easier and increase your likelihood of success."
Not only would such a system help validate any future financial decisions, but it pushes you to improve your financial health each year. Entrepreneurs can never get too comfortable or growth will stop.
You don't need to be a financial wizard to succeed as a business owner. What matters is that you work toward being as financially proficient as possible. Invest time in understanding what metrics matter most for your business and how you can measure and improve these over time.
If you want to fine-tune your business's finances, I invite you to join Matt Rissell, Josh Reeves, Sabrina Parsons, and myself for a free webinar, where we will be sharing more about our experience as entrepreneurs and what we recommend for those looking to fund or grow their business. Communication and leadership expert John K. Bates will be leading this exciting conversation.
Sign up for How to Fine-Tune Your Small Business Finances--from Funding to Growth here.