Tax time is usually the time when most small business owners think about their bookkeeping system. All year they have been collecting receipts in a drawer and it isn't until about a month before the tax accountant calls that they think... "Uh oh, I have to get my books in order so I can get my taxes done!" This is also the time of year when I'm asked to help someone set up a system for the bookkeeping and help them organize their work because they don't want to "go through this again next year".
On occasion I’m asked whether or not I’ll help someone write a business plan. I am often left feeling like I should say yes, and needing to defend my answer of “no”. For a long time I have focused on how much it would cost the small business owner to have me do it for them. In my opinion, when you are first starting your business, you need to reserve as much cash as possible. It will take at least twice the amount of money and time as you think it will take to get started and you will need the cash to keep a roof over your head. By the way, STOP spending $5,000 on a website before you even get started! Start with a basic stock site and upgrade to a more sophisticated site later when you are making money. But I digress…
Have you said any of these before?
- I’ve changed bookkeepers five times in the last three years
- I just can’t seem to get what I need
- Bookkeepers are all the same
Before we discuss the purpose of a cash flow statement, let’s first discuss what it is. The three sections of the cash flow statement are operating, investing and financing. There are two methods to use when preparing your cash flow statement, the direct method and the indirect method.
There are three major cash flow activities in each business. These consist of Operating, Financing and Investing. You’ve heard these terms before, but you’re not clear about how they appear in your small business. After all, you don’t have investments and you’re running your business with credit cards and a small line of credit.
Working with small businesses for the last 20 years has brought with it some very interesting experiences. One of the most common experiences is the cash flow management mistakes that business owners make. You might think that only the inexperienced business owner have these near death experiences with their companies, but I have worked with some very experienced, very savvy business owners who have made these very same mistakes.
I’ve been thinking about all the noise and distractions we have in our lives and I have begun to question how much do we REALLY need? One thing I did for myself was to cancel a few magazine subscriptions that I never make the time to read.
I read a post recently on my friend Jean Summit-Riker’s blog titled "Lighten Your Journey with Laughter" where she has this great image of Mother and Baby turtle. The baby turtle is saying to its mother “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” The statement “Are we there yet?” reminded me of so many business owners I’ve known over the years, particularly when on the eve of a large project. But I've found that doing a financial review throughout the project can help put your mind at ease.
My friend Susan Baylis at Medical Account Solutions lays out some important points of lost profits in medical office billing processes in her blog “Maximize your medical receivable with a few simple steps”. It’s important in all types businesses to have solid processes in place for billing as well as collecting. Part of cash flow management is having proper training and support in place so that the staff can be successful in protecting precious profits for your business.