If you think managing your business finances is one of the LEAST SEXY parts of running your own business, I don’t blame you! 😝 In my early career as a CPA, I’ve spent almost a decade working at a global accounting firm, then at a multi-national bank before I started my own business. Naturally, I get alot of questions from fellow entrepreneurs about how I manage my finances.
The hard truth is: your finances are the lifeblood of your business. You need to have access to the most up to date status on how your biz is doing financially in order to make the best day-to-day decisions. Tasks like bookkeeping, budgeting, and cash management aren’t going away anytime soon!
TODAY ON THE BLOG:
I’m breaking down my overall approach on how I manage my business finances as an accountant. No matter what type of business you run, these tips can help you conquer your books in a savvy and systematic way, and save yourself time and stress in the long run!
The good news is, managing your finances doesn’t have to feel like a chore once you have a good process in place. Follow my tips below to get organized and save yourself headaches in the long-run!
1 Personal + Business Transactions Don’t Mix 🙈
Keep your personal accounts seperate from your business accounts — This is golden rule #1.
Currently, I’m handling personal finances on behalf of my family, plus two sets of business books: one for my eCommerce food startup, and another one for my blog.
My personal finances consist of various checking, savings and investment accounts. Each of my business lines has its own dedicated checking account, and reside at the same bank (for ease of transferring funds between accounts if needed).
Your first few business-related purchases were probably made using personal funds, but as soon as you determine that your business is viable, you should open up seperate business accounts ASAP. The same goes for debit and credit cards — Obtain new cards that are used exclusively for business purchases.
Advantages of having seperate business accounts:
- Looks more professional: You can write and receive checks using your business name, rather than your personal name
- Establish business credit: Having a business credit card will help you establish business credit history. This is beneficial if you ever need to business funds in the future (ie. business loan)
- It’s easier for bookkeeping:
- Delegation: As your business grows, you may want to give signing authority on your business account to a bookkeeper or other finance staff member to authorize or manage day-to-day transactions.
- Faster service at the bank: Many banks have seperate lines for business customers. Preferred service + less waiting time = winning!
2 Keep Everything In One Place 🗄
I used to run a stationery design studio, but I HATE paper when it comes to receipts and bank statements. It’s my mission to make my life as paperless as possible!
Inevitably when running a business, paper attacks you from every corner. Being OCD about organization, I get anxiety watching piles of paper grow on the corners of my desk. I’ve found it helpful for my sanity to have a dedicated place to file things away: a filing cabinet for paper in my office, and dedicated email folders for digital correspondence.
Even if I don’t want to look at something right away, I can at least make sure it’s stashed somewhere I can find it later instead of adding it to my paper desk fortress, or into email inbox oblivion.
Here are some things I do that keep me organized:
- I’ve opted for online statements for all my bank and credit card accounts, then download them monthly to Dropbox or Google Drive
Using a Google alias, I’ve set up a dedicated email address to handle all financial correspondence (ie. invoices, receipts, transaction confirmations from my bank or Paypal). This declutters my main inbox from emails that need a reply from me. I use Gmail filters to divert all emails that come to the payment email address to dedicated folders within Gmail so I can review them later on.
- I have a box on my desk where I stash all paper receipts into. They get sorted by month, and paper clipped. Once a month, I’ll use an app called Genius Scan to take photos of all my receipts so that I can also store them as PDFs on my cloud files, and attach them as backups in my Quickbooks Online expenses. I also name my files in this format: “MM-DD-YY Company Name (description)” so that everything stays together and in order.
3 Budget Like a Rockstar 🤟
In a nutshell, budgeting is about setting financial goals about your income and expenses, then measuring against your ACTUAL results to see how you compared to your targets. This is the first step in taking control over your numbers!
My personal finances consist of various checking, savings and investment accounts. I budget using good ol’ fashioned Excel spreadsheets and a free mobile app from Mint.com to track my actual spending against my budget.
On the business side, I create monthly and annual budgets using Excel spreadsheets. If you need a ready-to-use budgeting solution to use for your business. you can get a copy of the exact spreadsheet templates I use in my Ultimate Business Budget Spreadsheet Bundle.
Depending on the number of day-to-day transactions that happen, I use different ways to input my ACTUAL results. Below, I’ll show you examples of how I do it for:
- My Blog (a simple business model with few transactions), and
- My eCommerce business (a more complex business with many transactions)
Budgeting for My Blog
I only launched this blog about 2 months ago, so there is minimal transaction activity. So far, I can get away with manually entering the revenue and expenses once a month, and comparing to my budget at a high level.
Here’s a screenshot of my simple budget for blog expenses:
In this simple budget, I created 2 distinct sections for expenses only:
1. ONGOING COSTS: These are costs I have to pay monthly, like hosting and online subscriptions. Since this is my first year blogging, I didn’t have a sense of how much ongoing costs I’d incur before I started, so I just budgeted my expenses at a VERY high level for the whole year.
- I budgeted $50 per month in ongoing fees to get to $600 for the year.
- Next year, I’ll have my actual results from 2018 to compare to, so my “budget” number should be more accurate.
2. ONE-TIME COSTS: Costs such as equipment, design services, and courses are specific to the startup phase, so I won’t be incurring these next year. As you can see, I’m a bit over budget in this area (because I’m a sucker for online courses!) but it was balanced out by being under budget on my ongoing costs. Overall I’m only $50 over so far — That’s not bad!
Budgeting for my eCommerce Business
On the other end of the spectrum, my eCommerce food business is also in the startup phase, but the transactions are more complex just due to their sheer volume!
My husband and I are both working on this business in different capacities, and we’re incurring A LOT of startup costs and day-to-day expenses upfront on things like purchasing kitchen tools and ingredients, supplies for our home office, car expenses for business use of our vehicle. It’s super difficult to keep track of every transaction manually, so I decided to invest in an accounting tool to automate most of the expense reporting (more on that below).
Similar to my high-level blog budget, I couldn’t start with a super-detailed expense budget, so I estimated annual numbers for the major expense categories that are on my Ultimate Business Budget Spreadsheet Bundle. These are larger categories such as Advertising, Car Expenses, Rent, Professional Fees, Utilities etc. that most businesses will incur, no matter what industry or niche.
At the end of each month, I use Quickbooks Online to download the expense transactions directly from our online bank and credit card statements, and categorize them within the dashboard. The transactions then get reported in the appropriate lines in my reporting (it’s very easy, even for non-accountants!).
Here’s a screenshot of an expense report from Quickbooks:
NOTE: Most of the line items you see on the left side are already built into Quickbooks Online, but you can always add more accounts if needed.
I categorize every expense I see on my business bank and credit card statements, then manually enter any cash transactions along with receipt details.
When the recording of all my “actual” results is done, I’ll export an Excel version of the report, and I’ll copy and paste the numbers into my Excel budget (see Column B in the screenshot below):
The numbers in July–December columns are still estimated numbers that make up my TOTAL 2018 budget for the year. As I incur actual expenses each month, I get an updated overall budget that changes based on actuals to date. I also get an opportunity to adjust any monthly budgets from now until the end of the year in case I need to tweak any of my anticipated spending.
4 Arm Yourself With the Right Tools ⚔️
OK, I know what you’re thinking… That last section was INTENSE, right? 😰
Yes, it seems a little intimidating on first glance, and it DOES take time to get all the accounts and reports set up, and get comfortable with the reporting process.
But what if I told you my entire monthly bookkeeping process for TWO businesses takes no more than 2-3 hours per month on average? Because of Quickbooks’ built-in automation, I spend way less time than someone would spend doing all that bookkeeping manually on excel spreadsheets! 🙌
I’m big on bootstrapping your business and avoiding all unnecessary startup costs, but a solid bookkeeping tool IS NOT an area I’d cut back on. The benefits of having a ready-to-use financial reporting tool far outweighs the additional cost.
Advantages of using an accounting tool:
- Less manual entry: Transactions are downloaded from your bank and credit card statements and auto-populate in the tool. This saves tons of time, and makes the numbers less prone to manual error.
- Cloud-based hosting: You can access your books and run reports from any device while on the go.
- You don’t have to recreate the wheel: You can download Excel-ready versions of popular reports from the tool, then further manipulate them in Excel without having to design the reports from scratch.
- Run reports in a few clicks: Want to see a yearly total? Check. How about viewing the results by month, or by category or vendor? It’s all done in a few clicks through your accounting tool. Getting different views manually on Excel is often a very time-consuming an painful process that involves manipulating the spreadsheet, and multiple VLOOKUPs to sum different lines…. things I’d rather not spend my evenings doing.
- Integrations = More Automation: The major accounting tools feature integration with various sales channels like Shopify or Amazon, as well as payment gateways like Paypal or Stripe — This helps automate the recording of cash in. You can also integrate with a wide range of third-party apps for functions such as payroll, dropshipping, and inventory management.
- Your accountant will love you: The good cloud-based accounting tools will make it super-easy to share your reporting with your accounting at year-end or tax time. Chances are, your accountant will be familiar with the tool as well, and will appreciate receiving your information in a format that they’re already comfortable with. The less time your accountant needs to spend adjusting your books, the more money you’ll keep in your pocket!
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5 Make a Hot Date… With Your Books 📆
Let’s be real — just like your coffee dates or 6 pm hot yoga class, if it isn’t planned in your calendar, it ain’t happening, amiright? Life is so busy that your bookkeeping and budgeting will be the easiest things to sink to the bottom of your priority list if you don’t give it a home on your monthly calendar.
Here’s How I Use My Calendar:
- I set up recurring appointments for all monthly statement dates so I know when they become available.
- I set up reminders for bill due dates — I set up autopay wherever possible to automate bill payments and save even more time. There are times I’ve forgotten to pay a bill after dismissing a reminder because I was busy during the moment it popped up! (oops)
- 1 week before month-end: I block off time to run my monthly payroll cycle. Direct deposit paychecks usually take at least 2 days to clear with the bank, so I want to set everything up to make sure people et paid on time!
- 1-2 days before month-end: I block off time to review all my income + expense transactions and categorize them in Quickbooks Online.
6 Establish Systems & Processes ⚙️
After spending years in the corporate world, I’ve developed an appreciation for SYSTEMS and PROCESSES. The reason why systems + processes are so powerful is because they’re the building blocks towards delegation and automation (a.k.a. freeing yourself from having to perform these tasks forever).
Define when, why and how something gets done, and write it down somewhere you can refer back to later. This ensures someone else can pick up these instructions and perform that function in the exact same way that you would — this is how you will eventually free yourself from having to do these tasks on your own as you build your empire!
I’d love to know: What are the biggest pain points you’re experiencing when it comes to your business finances?
What tools are you using to make it feel like less of a chore?
Please enlighten me in the comments!
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