Today’s worrying financial climate has made most of us more aware than ever of the need for good financial management in business. Businesses need to be competitive and fiscally strong in order to survive, and it is only through carefully considering several key areas of financial planning that any business can hope to achieve this. These critical areas of financial management may seem obvious when pointed out, but many business people still make silly mistakes in these areas or worse still overlook them entirely.
Cash flow Projections- Even the most inexperienced of business owners has probably understood the vital need for good cash flow long before starting their enterprise, but keeping cash flowing without the nightmare that a cash flow crisis can bring is nothing more than a matter of good planning. Every business should be making regular cash flow predictions that detail all cash expected in to the business from sales and other income and all anticipated outgoings of cash such as expenses and other payments. Regular cash flow forecasts of this kind allow a business to stay ahead of the game by giving it the opportunity to arrange finance in advance of any looming crisis.
Payment Management- For most businesses invoicing for payment is standard practice; for every customer sent an invoice, one will probably be received from elsewhere for supplies etc. To get the best from your cash flow it is wise to make good use of any terms offered, paying an invoice immediately might seem honourable, but it will mean that the cash used to pay it will be helping the supplier’s cash flow and not your own. When a supplier gives a business 30 days to pay, they are allowing 30 days to receive payment, so it is always good practice to use this time.
Debtor Management- Although when offering terms a business expects its customer to utilise the terms in full and will allow for this, there are always customers who push terms further than your business can stand. It is therefore crucial to have a workable system in place for dealing with bad payers well before the first bad debt occurs. It is important to know exactly what is owed to the business and when it is due at all times and so good record keeping in this area is essential; many accountancy software packages have debtors’ listings built in, but a simple spread sheet will suffice. Chasing the money due in to your business can be a valuable exercise, as it is often the case that debtors have simply forgotten to make payment or are merely pushing terms as far as they can, waiting to be chased before they pay. Many invoices will be settled once chased, so it is important to do this regularly, clearly and uniformly; using a standard letter, followed by a call if the letter remains unanswered is a useful system. When it comes to persistent bad payers, it is probably prudent to drop them as customers and to put the chasing of any accrued debt into the hands of professionals.
Monthly Records- Plenty of business owners prefer not to get involved in what they consider to be the remit of their Bookkeeper or accountant, and will shy away from regular bookkeeping. However this is an area of financial management that it really will benefit the business owner to hang on to. Keeping monthly records of transactions will allow a business owner to keep a firm control of the businesses finances; it gives a far better indication of business performance than most other indicators and will highlight profits and losses well in advance of the annual reports. As with other records kept, it is not necessary to have complex software packages to keep monthly books, a spreadsheet will work just as well.
There is no real alternative for enlisting the help of a good accountant to give your business the solid financial advice it needs, but decent financial management must also happen on a regular basis at the core of every business; there is no substitute for knowing what is going on with your business’ finances if you want to survive in today’s difficult climate.