While there can be many different challenges when starting and managing a small business, money concerns top the list for most small business owners. There are many ways you can give your business a financial overhaul by modifying your operations processes, but there are also some easy things you can do in the day-to-day management of your business to improve your finances.
These tips are practical, everyday actions you can take to manage your money more effectively.
1. Don’t mix business and personal expenses.
There are so many reasons not to mix your business and personal accounts, including tax issues, personal liability, and jumbled accounting records, just to name a few. When things get tight, resist the urge to secure your business finances with personal funds because it will surely create a mess you will have to deal with later on.
The best way to maintain clear separation of your expenses is to set a personal budget and a business budget. Adhere to them strictly and separately so that credit cards and loans for your business don’t get used for your personal finances and vice versa. Your bookkeeper and accountant will thank you for not muddying the money waters when it comes time to manage your books and pay your taxes.
2. Negotiate with vendors before signing a contract.
Sometimes you have to dig a little for a good bargain. When making purchases from vendors or contracting with suppliers, try negotiating for a better deal. Don’t forget to examine purchase terms like late payment penalties and grace periods when making a decision. Sometimes being given an extra 30 days to pay can save you more than a 5% discount off the top.
3. Pay your bills on time, every time.
Just as you do with your personal finances, it’s important that you pay all of your business bills diligently. Credit card and loan payment late fees can cost you dearly, but paying small late fees on vendor and utility bills consistently adds up, too. The same goes for taxes: paying too late can result in serious penalties.
Set up monthly reminders to make sure there are no business bills falling through the cracks. For young businesses especially, the profit-loss margins are thin. Avoiding late fees could be the difference between ending the year in the red or in the black.
4. Make frugality a habit.
You don’t have to turn yourself into an extreme couponer to save money on ordinary business expenses. Follow through on mail-in rebate offers for office equipment and supplies, buy furniture and major equipment secondhand, and go green to save money on utilities.
5. Spend some time in an introductory accounting class.
Being a small business owner doesn’t automatically make you a whiz with money, but you’ll still have to make big money-related decisions for your company. So even if you hire a bookkeeper or work with an accountant, you should know the basics of business accounting. Take an Introduction to Accounting course online or at your community college if you need to, and learn how cash moves in and out of your small business.
The more you understand your business finances and cash flow, the better prepared you’ll be to make smart money management decisions. And, while these tips will get you started, nothing replaces being proactive and hands-on when it comes to managing your money—no matter how big or small the financial challenge.