There’s no shortage of financial tips that can be given to the new entrepreneur, ranging from the tactical to the strategic. Here are a few things we recommend entrepreneurs keep in mind as they begin making critical financial decisions for their business:
- Choose the right finance partner.
Let’s face it: accounting and finance isn’t the sexiest thing to spend your money on. But every hour you spend managing your business finances is an hour foregone at the expense of further business development. Besides, would you hire you to navigate difficult financial decisions? Are you giving adequate time and attention to proactively and strategically managing your most critical asset (cash), or does it get relegated to your sometimes-nonexistent spare time?
Because cash is scarce, spending must be held accountable to the future business plans if the business is going to survive. Likewise, having a good handle on how to profitably price your product will determine whether you can support future spending as the business grows. Engaging an experienced finance or accounting pro will support your business by bringing clarity to your profit potential and helping direct spending and effort towards the things most likely to propel your business forward. It will also help alleviate the burden on your time.
For some businesses, a bookkeeper may be enough. But if your business is complex or if you’re planning to grow (especially if you’re looking to grow utilizing investor cash or bank leverage) a bookkeeper likely won’t cut it. At the outset, you probably won’t need a full-time person, and there’s no shortage of firms, freelancers, and consultants that offer fractional help. Here are some considerations to ensure you’re engaging the right individual:
• Do they know your industry?
• Do they have enough experience with small businesses to know the systems, tools, and service providers that specialize in small business?
• Do they have the experience to support your business through the next several stages of your growth cycle?
• Are you comfortable enough with this person that you can trust their advisement and their ability to execute on the day-to-day financial obligations?
• Can they commit long term? (And will they? While never a guarantee, consider that someone who isn’t committed to the “fractional resource” lifestyle for the long term isn’t likely to be committed to your firm for the long term either.)
- Put pen to paper on your mid and long-term strategy.
You may be asking “why is this in a list of “finance tips?” The answer: cash management.Cash can be tight in a startup. Your initial round of funding may seem like a lot, but you may be surprised how quickly you can blow through that money, especially if your spending habits lack discipline. Your current and future investors will want to know you will spend their investment dollars wisely.The best way to ensure your company can exercise (and later demonstrate) disciplined spending is to know where to invest to achieve your goals. A seasoned financial professional can utilize your strategy to develop a financial model that projects both your future cash generation and your future cash needs. This model can also be used to measure the effectiveness of your spending. Ultimately, the usefulness of this model will be directly correlated to the strength of your strategy. A well-thought-out strategic financial model, time-tested and tweaked for actual experience, is a great way to keep your spending, and the rest of your business, on track.
- Don’t forget where you came from.
Unless you’re independently wealthy, you likely raised money through investors or bank leverage. Behind that funding was a litany of individuals and companies willing to risk their (or their employers’) money based on their belief that your idea would generate returns on their investment, either in the form of interest, dividends or investment appreciation (capital gains). They’ve risked a lot on you – you should be communicating with them about how their investment (your business) is performing. The frequency and manner by which you communicate can be debated, but the key is to stay transparent, balanced and consistent in your communications. Also, spend some time deciding which metrics (revenue drivers, leading indicators, operational measures, etc.) are the most meaningful to clearly and succinctly communicate your current and expected future business performance. The right finance professional can help you navigate these communications.
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. But with these considerations in mind, you will be better equipped to weather the financial ups and downs that are an expected part of new business ownership.