Posts Tagged ‘financial management’

8 Ways to Reduce the Cost of Your Small Business

July 29th, 2011

 

Cutting costs can be a great way to increase profitability, or to afford the assets essential for growing your business. The problem is, when you’re running a small business things are usually happening so quickly that you can’t take the time to analyze your spending and determine if you are really acting as wisely as you think. However, it’s more likely that a small business will experience a noticeable increase in profit due to a series of small cost-cutting strategies rather than by the acquisition of a new client.

Cost cutting strategies don’t have to be complicated; they just require that you pay attention to some of the more mundane aspects of your business.

1. Make a Budget and Stick to It
Budgeting is an inseparable component of reducing business expenses. When you don’t know exactly where the money is coming from and going to each month, you cannot make smart and effective financial decisions. A proper budget for your business is a powerful tool to reduce business costs.

2. Make Better Use of Technology
Technology can turn out to be a real money saver and can advance your business in many ways. Technologies like teleconferencing services, online payment services, open-source software and remote desktop applications make a great contribution in reducing small business costs.

For example, consider remote applications such as using the fully compatible Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office. It’s a small move that will dramatically improve efficiency. You can access Docs from anywhere and from any device. Sharing documents is much easier, so collaboration becomes even more efficient. Depending on how many employees you have, this can cut thousands of dollars or more out of your annual software expenses.

3. Shipping & Delivery Services
Shop for the best deal on your shipping and delivery services. As the amount of items you dispatch increases, ask for rate reductions from your shipping company. If they won’t reduce your rates, offer your business to other shipping companies. Shipping is very competitive and there are always rate saving deals to be made.

4. Product Stock and Business Supplies
Continually research the prices you pay for the product stock you sell to customers and the supplies you need to operate your business. Don’t compromise on quality, but keep an eye out for similar, or the same, products at lower cost. As the amount of business you do increases, ask your suppliers for discounts. Plus, ask your regular suppliers for other similar products that could satisfy your customer demand but at a lower cost. You may just stumble upon a new fast moving product line.

Whenever possible buy in bulk, not only for your product stock, but also for the items that your business uses on a continuous basis. A good way to do this is to observe which office supplies you always seem to be running out of. Shop around for the most attractive price. When you buy large amounts at once, you will usually get much larger discounts.

5. Embrace the Paperless Office
Businesses often overlook the expense incurred by having hard-copy documents. If you could reduce, even by half, the amount of paper, ink, mailing supplies, postage, etc., that your business consumes, it would surely be a noticeable amount. You don’t have to go completely paperless, and probably can’t as there are always some records and other documents that must exist in the physical world. But most need not. Surely you are already sending all your invoices by email, and the ones you receive probably don’t need to be printed out. Almost all important paperwork can be kept in digital format and stored on a computer rather than in a filing cabinet 

6. Promote Your Business Online
You are probably already marketing your business online, as that has become a crucial component in attracting customers. You’ve been building your brand and establishing your presence on the Internet ever since you set up your company website, but you need to keep going in that direction. Your money is better spent on starting a business blog, leveraging your social media properties and advertising with the appropriate online sites and tools, as opposed to the old print media methods. This will invite quick responses from new and established customers at a lower cost and a higher volume per dollar spent.

7. Premises
Your premises may be one of your most expensive overhead items. If you are just starting out, don’t lease a place of business until it’s absolutely necessary. If you can work from home, continue to do so for as long as possible. You already pay the various utilities at home, so running your business there will only increase these bills by a small percentage. Don’t add rent or mortgage payments to your expenses until it makes proper business sense. Even then, try to find a facility that minimizes your cost exposure by perhaps renting some of the space to another business or looking for a location where you may pick up some passing retail trade.

Business places are often expensive but, in many cases, you can reduce these costs to a great extent. By looking for a co-working arrangement, a sub-lease, a temporary office or temporary storage site for product inventory, or by setting-up a home office, you can reduce the cost of your premises.

8. Get an Accountant
Save money in every way possible but keep in mind that a good accountant will save you the money you pay many times over. Good businesses fail on the back of poor advice. Good businesspeople are cleaned out and demoralized by the unforgiving tax man, also due to the lack of good advice.

Even if you don’t have your accountant doing all your bookkeeping and compliance work, you should still have up-to-date information at all times. So when establishing a business use software from the start, and if you can get into the practice of recording every transaction more or less as it happens, you won’t wind up with a backlog of work to complete. The information your system provides can be used by your accountant to give you the analysis and reporting you need to make good business decisions, and should in-turn reduce your annual expense.

The Bottom Line
It’s impossible to run a business without some overhead. But these costs can be minimized or eliminated in many cases, leaving you with more profit in your pocket. The cost savings process may seem obvious, but even the best organized among us forget, or put off, our cost saving procedures. However, continually analyzing and reducing costs will not only dramatically increase the chances of your business succeeding but, if implemented on an already successful business, they will seriously increase profits.

6 Common Bookkeeping Errors

July 11th, 2011

 

Since keeping a complete, accurate and up to date set of books on a company’s financial activity is the core of every business, it is important to recognize the most common mistakes made by small businesses. From cash flow problems to tax compliance issues, small errors can have big consequences. Below is a list of six of the most common problems I see which can and should be avoided.

1. Thinking that no Accounting System is Necessary
One big mistake made early on is especially common with start-ups. The neophyte business owner sometimes thinks they can make do without a real system. Instead of using software, like QuickBooks, the business owner just collects receipts in a box and/or keeps a check register by hand. Or maybe the owner creates the illusion of an system by using Excel to make lists of expenses and payments that add up the numbers. Unfortunately, before having your taxes done, the tax preparer needs to cobble together some sort of makeshift system that will allow your tax return to be prepared, but it almost surely won’t capture all your deductions. And the information that this crude system provides will be too late to help you make the “smart” decisions to run your business in the best possible manner.

2. Doing Your Own Books
The DIY approach is one of the biggest pitfalls I see from business owners and managers. QuickBooks and other software programs essentially promise proficiency with just a few simple clicks. However, unless you are familiar with general principles, any software can be confusing and frustrating. You often end up spending a lot of time trying to figure out where you went wrong. Having a professional bookkeeper with the knowledge and skills necessary to complete your books quickly and accurately, and then analyze your financials, is crucial to small business success.

3. Slow Entry of Accounting Data
Most business owners intend to keep their system up to date, but often they don’t. Taking too long to enter the data into your system creates a problem such that any useful insights that come from your financial numbers will come too late to be really useful. Whoever is doing your books should keep up to date on the data entry. Within a few days of transactions occurring, the system should reflect the activity

4. Inconsistent Reconciliation of the Books with the Bank Statements
One of the key elements of good bookkeeping is to consistently reconcile the books with the bank statements (and your business credit card and other statements too). Many businesses either fail to or improperly reconcile on a regular basis. A major benefit of reconciling the bank statement is ensuring that the cash on a company’s books equals the amount of cash shown by the bank.

Errors will be made in using any system. But the nature of a double-entry bookkeeping system means that it’s usually pretty easy to catch errors as long as you reconcile the bank accounts at the end of each month when the statements arrive. Furthermore, if you hold other valuable assets like inventory or investments, you should periodically compare what the system shows to an actual physical inventory count, or to the statements you receive from external sources. Reconciling your books to your various statements is a kind of reality check that cleans up all sorts of easy-to-miss errors. This is important for all decisions made by the company and it is one of the best reasons for outsourcing your bookkeeping.

5. Incorrectly Tracking Expenses
In order to get the most accurate picture of your business, you need to properly track every business expense. A major issue with small businesses is forgetting to record reimbursable expenses. Often small business owners or managers make business purchases with a personal credit card. These purchases can get lost in the shuffle and consequentially not be submitted for reimbursement. Additionally, the owner may mislabel personal expenses as business deductions. Co-mingling personal and business assets and liabilities makes financial records and books pretty much useless for tax preparation and for use in managing the business.

6. Not Being in Close Contact with Your Bookkeeper
Bookkeepers are only as valuable as the information you give them. Unless you keep them current on all of your financial decisions and transactions, the accuracy of your books will suffer. It is the job of a professional bookkeeper to be able adapt to a surprise or an unexpected inflow of information.

8 Tips for Establishing Business Credit

March 11th, 2011

As a smart entrepreneur you will want to establish your company’s credit as separate from your own. Realize that your personal assets might be on the line if your business uses your personal credit. You want to be able to distinguish your personal credit from your company’s business credit. It will take some extra effort, but you’ll have a stronger business in the long run. The following eight topics are crucial to giving your company its own credit identity.

1. Separating your personal credit from your business credit protects your personal finances if the business fails, but it also protects the business just in case there are problems with your personal credit. Ideally you will want to incorporate your business or form an LLC to establish business credit without a personal credit check. Sole proprietors and partnerships by definition are personally liable for the business, so if separate business credit is your goal you’ll want to avoid those options.

2. Establish your business’ identity. You’ll need a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your business as well as separate bank accounts that are under the legal name of your business. Make sure you have all necessary licenses and permits and designate a separate phone line solely for your business. All these things give your business more clout when creditors are reviewing your business potential.

3. Pick a bank and stay there. Loyalty counts in the credit markets. Try to keep your capital in the bank and earning as much as possible. 

4. Open business credit files with the credit reporting agencies that are designed for businesses such as Dun & Bradstreet and Experian. They report on business credit similarly to the way companies track your personal credit. Once you have credit established for your business, you can report your payment history to these agencies to build your credit score. Proactively call to set up your file with a D&B Representative. When applying for business credit, submit your D&B report with your credit application.

5. Obtain business credit cards that are not personally linked to you. Your bank is a good place to start looking for a business credit card.

6. Contact a few vendors and suppliers that report to D&B and ask them to extend a small amount of credit to your business. Vendors that report to D&B build your business’ credit. Vendors that don’t report to D&B don’t build your business’ credit. Pay your bills on time and you’ll soon have solid relationships. If a vendor won’t give you net 30 days terms, then pre-pay your first couple of orders and ask for credit again. You’ll probably get it.

7. Borrow against an asset that your business owns, then make your payments on time.

8. Don’t spend beyond your means. Don’t run up lines of credit that you can’t hope to pay. It will not only destroy your credit, but also your business.  Spend wisely but regularly, and try to keep costs low.  By spending and paying in a timely manner, you’ll develop good business relationships and begin to see your credit score rise, which will ensure that if the time comes when you do need more money to keep your business going, you’ll not only have access to it, but you’ll get better terms.