The worst cash flow mistakes a small business owner can make can be counted on one hand. They have one thing in common, and that’s about failing to follow the money. They’re about keeping your eye on the prize, and we go through them here, ending with advice about how to track your own company money using expense management software for small businesses…
- Failing to think before you splurge. Great! You’ve started a business. You’re on the road to fame and fortune, and now’s the time to invest in an expensive suit and a new car, isn’t it? No, in short, it isn’t. This is exactly the time NOT to commit money – yours of the company’s – to anything you don’t need. So there’s the first lesson. Understand the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. To succeed in business you need a phone, but the Armani suit can wait…
- Expecting the best. This is about your financial planning. Understand that you’re not going to be a millionaire in the first year. On the contrary, you’ll be doing well if you can afford to pay yourself anything like a salary in Year One. If you overestimate the number of units you can sell, or the clients you can get to come on board, then revenue will be lower than you predict, and you may find yourself overstretched with any finance package you’ve put in place.
- Offering credit. Poor paying suppliers can cripple small businesses. If you’re made to wait for payment, that’s like offering them an interest-free loan, and you shouldn’t do it. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask for payment up front, so long as you’re ready to honour your commitment. After all, you wouldn’t expect the local supermarket to give you a month or more’s credit on your grocery shop (though if you’re a supplier to them, the boot would be on the other foot). In general, large organisations are slower payers, and also have complex internal procedures in place about how and when payments can be made. Better to work with smaller companies, where you have direct access to the person with the power to pay.
- Being cash poor. If you’ve made careful and conservative cash flow forecasts in the early days of your business, everything’s fine, so long as cash moves as you’d predicted. But what happens if it doesn’t? If you have no cash cushion you could be in trouble. Try to have a couple of months-worth of cash in the bank so you could carry on if you had no income at all. It’ll help you sleep easier, too.
- Not making an unpaid finance assistant work for them. Bet that caught your attention didn’t it? This is not about the kind of modern slavery that has people working for nothing, but it’s about technology. It’s about arming yourself with good quality business expense management software for small businesses and being disciplined in its use. In the early days of your business you need to be especially careful with money, because having little of it generally sharpens the focus in the need to be a good money manager. In later years, when you’ve earned a wedge, there’s no reason to take your foot off the control pedal. Keep a tight rein on finance, and you’ll be rewarded with better dividends in the future. Selection of the right small business expense management software will enable you to keep track of expenses very easily, but more importantly, it will allow you to interrogate the data, and show you how effectively you’re managing spending and cashflow – and show where improvements can be made. And picking the right package means it’ll offer excellent value for money, because the savings you make by using it are probably going to be more than the cost of investing in it in the first place.