The principles behind winning in business and winning in sport are similar in many ways.
Take tennis, for example. If you’ve ever watched a match on television, you’ll know that along with all the hitting, running and grunting there are a lot of numbers involved.
And we’re not just talking about the score here. Each player’s performance can be measured in other ways—percentage of first serves in, points won at the net, number of unforced errors on forehand versus backhand, and so on.
But while the statisticians may love all those details, everyone else is just interested in the score, right?
You might not be interested. But the players certainly are.
Admittedly they may not know the percentages down to the decimal place. But they’ll know if they’re making too many mistakes at the net or wasting their first serves. And they’ll change their game accordingly—by staying at the baseline or slowing down their first serves a bit—to fix the problem.
Yes, the score is important. After all, the players obviously want to win. But the only way the players can actually change their winning percentage is to change how they play.
And it’s the same when you’re a business owner. Your business may actually have several scores—number of sales, profit made, etc. But while they’re a great way to keep track of how your business is doing, you can’t do much about them once they’re available.
They are—quite literally—history.
They’re what we call “lag indicators” (or sometimes “results KPIs”). And apart from putting them in your reports and sharing them with your stakeholders, there’s not much else you can do with them. They’re done.
What you should be more interested in are the things you can change. These are what we call “lead indicators” (or sometimes “activity KPIs”) and can lead to improved results for your lag indicators (your score).
For example, if you want to increase the number of sales your business makes, you might want to measure things such as:
- Your website traffic
- Your website’s conversion of visitors to buyers or email opt-ins
- The size of your marketing database of contacts
- Email campaign open rates and click-through rates
- How many sales telephone calls you make each week
- How many sales meetings you have each week
- Your conversion rate of inquiries to appointments scheduled or sales (depending on your business model)
And for profits, you might want to measure:
- How much it costs you in materials to produce each service
- How much time and labor cost it takes to produce each service, and so on.
Once you know what your lead indicators are, you can tweak them to see how much they affect your lag indicators.
For example… Improve your site’s SEO to improve website traffic. Increase the number of sales calls you make each month. Give your existing customers an incentive to tell their friends about your business. Look for efficiencies in your production line so you can produce your items more quickly.
The beauty of focusing on your lead indicators is that when you improve them, then your lag indicators—the scoreboard—will improve as a natural flow-on effect.
And lead indicators are things you can control this month. This week. Today. With measurement of your performance in these areas you can refine your activities and feel a greater sense of control in ‘improving the scoreboard’.
Lead and lag indicators are both vital measures of how your business is doing. But by looking after the lead indicators you’ll be keeping your eye on the ball when it really matters, rather than looking at the scoreboard of what has already happened.
Ask yourself, what lead indicators are you focusing on improving this month? How are you looking at that data? Do you have real-time dashboards and weekly or even daily reports on these lead indicators?
If not, we should talk. We can set up lead indicator tracking for you which is the surest way we know to improve your business’ scoreboard.
Larger businesses have a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) on staff. But what can small and medium sized businesses do in this regard?
Clearly, larger businesses can afford an in-house CFO. But it goes beyond an affordability issue: Large, successful businesses also understand how crucial the CFO role is to their business performance.
The CFO in a business:
- Keeps a close eye on the numbers and trends,
- Alerts management when preventative actions are required,
- Helps management create sound forecasts and plans,
- Ensures the cash inflows and outflows are managed well so the business never runs out of cash or needs to borrow in haste,
- Reports on revenues achieved compared with targets,
- Gives solid information on a range of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to the business decision makers, and also
- Helps management with decision making.
This is management input that all businesses require regardless of their size. But how can small and medium sized business access CFO-level input and guidance?
The answer: You out-source it. You get a part-time, out-sourced CFO until you can afford one full-time.
That’s where we play a role for many of our business clients.
Our ‘Controller/CFO’ service has been developed with input from our clients to make sure it’s the ideal mix of support services and affordability.
As your CFO we roll our sleeves up and work with you in management meetings throughout the year on:
- Cash flow – Efficient management of cash flow to provide cash for saving or investing in growth
- Profitability – Identifying key drivers of profit and focusing on these
- Business value – Growing a valuable and saleable business asset
- Structure management – Staying on top of risk and taxation issues
As business owners we all need to measure and monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). That is, the handful of numbers that really matter in running our business.
It is also important that you have a ‘KPI dashboard’ to display your KPI targets compared with your current KPI performance. This helps tremendously in monitoring and managing your business’ performance and, ultimately, hitting your targets.
As your outsourced CFO, we will bring to each meeting that we conduct with you clear financial reports, easy-to-understand KPI information, as well as our commercial experience to interpret the information, make suggestions and help guide your decision making.
Items we’ll discuss each meeting include:
- Profit (historical and future)
- Cash flow (historical and future)
- KPIs: A mixture of focusing on Lead Indicators which drive performance and Lag Indicators that measure the outcomes
- Marketing activity and effectiveness
- Operational efficiencies such as work-in-progress or workflow
- Financial indicators such as debtors, inventory, stock turn (depending on your industry and type of business)
- Team efficiencies, knowledge management, morale and safety.
By helping with your forward planning for achieving the next period’s targets, and by being a sounding board for you as you strive to meet your targets, our ‘Controller/CFO’ service and support gives you a crystal-clear focus for what needs to be done to achieve the goals of your business.
Your next step … Contact us for a no cost and no obligation meeting to discuss how we can work with you as your outsourced CFO. We’ll outline for you what’s included and what costs are involved so you can see how the service can be comfortably included in your budget.
Think back to the days before you started your business, when you were working for a boss. Chances are you were rewarded for your hard work with a regular salary. It may not have always been the same amount, but it came through like clockwork. And for the next week, month or however often you got paid, you’d do your best to make it last.
But now you are the boss, and so you don’t need to be restricted to a set salary, do you? You can simply draw money out of the business whenever you need it, right?
7 good reasons to pay yourself a regular salary
As a business owner, here are seven reasons why you should pay yourself a regular salary instead of treating your business like an automated teller machine.
1. It’s what you’re used to.
When you first started working for someone else, you couldn’t ask the boss for more money whenever you ran out. All you could do was hold out until the next time you got paid. And having a regular income also made it easier to budget for your income and expenses, manage your money, and save up for a mortgage or investment.
So why change now?
2. Much of the money in the business’ bank account is already spoken for
It’s easy to think all the money sitting in your business’ bank account is yours. After all, it’s your business, isn’t it?
But that money actually belongs to the business—not you personally—and is needed to cover things such as:
- Salaries and wages
- Paying contractors and suppliers
- Stock purchases
- Rent and utilities
- Future tax payments
It doesn’t matter how profitable your business is. If the money isn’t there to pay the bills when they’re due, your business is as risk of becoming insolvent (i.e. you have more commitments and bills to pay than cash or available funding to pay them with).
Having sufficient cash flow is vital for any business. And it’s far easier to manage cash flow when you have predictable expenses you can plan around—including your salary.
3. You need money to grow your business
A growing business is a cash-hungry business. As it grows you may need to move it to a larger premises or invest in new staff or technology to grow your capacity. Even if you can keep a lid on your fixed expenses, your business may require an increase in variable inputs such as materials.
And all this ties up cash.
So whatever your growth plans, you’ll need enough money in reserve to fund them. And that’s on top of the money you need to keep the business running at its current level.
As you can see, knowing exactly what cash is flowing in and out of your business, and saving as much of your profits as you can to build up your cash reserves, is important for a growing business.
But if you keep ‘raiding the till’ whenever you’re short of cash, you’ll never know how much cash you have in reserve, or when you have enough funds to initiate the next stage in your growth plans.
4. You won’t be risking ‘lifestyle creep’
The lifestyle we lead is largely dictated by the amount of money we have readily available. So if your business does particularly well one week and the bank balance is up, you might be tempted to draw a little extra money and spend it on dinner at a fancy restaurant, a weekend away, a new ‘toy’ or some other indulgence.
It’s okay to spend money in these ways if it’s a bonus for achieving a certain result or milestone in your business. But these bonuses should still be within the planned and documented salary and remuneration package the business pays you.
If you’re not disciplined in this area, it doesn’t take long for these indulgences to become part of what you consider a ‘normal’ part of your lifestyle, and so you start drawing extra cash on a regular basis.
And that’s not good for the health of your business.
By living off a regular salary (and nothing more) instead, you’ll learn to live happily within your means, which is a key to building wealth.
5. You’re more likely to fly under the taxman’s radar
Governments’ tax departments are used to people being paid a regular salary. It’s generally how things work. And by giving yourself a regular salary, you’ll be seen as just another salary earner and be more likely to fly under the radar.
If, on the other hand, you start drawing large amounts from your business at irregular intervals, you may raise a few eyebrows with the governments’ tax auditors. And that’s never a good thing.
6. You could be creating a tax liability for your business
When wage and salary earners are paid, the employer must withhold and set aside a portion of their pay as tax, which is periodically paid to the government on the employees’ behalf.
When you withdraw money from your business, it’s not ‘free money’ (i.e. tax-free). These amounts, depending on your business structure, need to be properly accounted for as:
- drawings or a loan from the business
- dividends (a portion of your profit).
Your actions here could be building up a potential debt that will need to be paid at some point. And that debt could lead to severe cash flow problems down the track, especially when it comes time to sell the business.
You’re much better off accounting for, setting aside and paying taxes as they fall due. It will not only help your business, but also the quality of your sleep.
7. You’ll more easily qualify for mortgages and other loans from the banks
When it comes to assessing a person’s ability to service a potential loan, banks much prefer consistently earning wage and salary earners to sporadically earning self-employed business owners.
The bank wants to know you can comfortably service the loan each month, and by paying yourself a regular salary you’ll have the paystubs and bank statements to show a steady cash flow history.
So the sooner you set this up in your business, the better.
A successful business is a great way to create creation and accumulate wealth. But don’t disadvantage yourself by presenting a poor case to the banks when applying for a mortgage or other type of loan.
How much should you pay yourself?
As you can see, there are many good reasons to pay yourself a regular salary instead of continually raiding the till. The question is, how much should you pay yourself?
That’s a question we can help you answer.
Obviously you need to pay yourself enough money to cover your basic living and lifestyle requirements. The last thing you want is to be stressing about your personal finances, especially when you’re trying to make business decisions.
But it’s not a good idea to pay yourself too much in salary—even if the business can easily afford the cash flow. Depending on your business structure, there are probably more tax-effective ways to receive income from your business, such as dividends.
Every business and person’s situation is different in this regard, so it’s important to get one-on-one advice in this area. Don’t view this article as personal advice to you—it’s not. We’re simply opening your eyes to the many benefits of paying yourself a consistent salary as a business owner.
To work out the right amount to pay yourself regularly, you’ll need to consider things such as:
- What your business’ cash flow can comfortably pay you on a regular basis
- What you feel you’re worth (e.g. if you were employed by someone else)
- What will let you achieve your personal and family wealth creation goals, such as paying off your mortgage and building your investment portfolio
- Tax considerations so you pay yourself the optimum amount to meet your needs without needlessly paying too much personal income tax
- The business’ projected profitability for the financial year. (Your shareholding percentage and dividend policy on withdrawing profits or retaining and reinvesting profits in the business will determine your projected profit dividend.)
As you can see, it makes sense to get professional advice on calculating your salary as a business owner. We’ll help you work it out by taking into account your current business and personal situation. We’ll also set up payroll systems to automatically create and distribute the necessary tax-related paperwork each pay period.
You enjoy being your own boss.
Now it’s time to also enjoy being your own employee.
There’s a saying in business, “You can go broke making a profit.” And another, “Cash is king. Profit is theory.
As you know only too well, you don’t pay rent, meet payroll or pay your bills with profit.
You pay them with cash.
A business can make a lot of sales, have a book full of orders, have delighted customers and clients, have a great reputation, be growing, and yet still go broke.
Why? Cash flow.
The business might be profitable on paper, but have no money left in the bank. They become insolvent.
A growing business is often hungry for cash … hungry for inputs so it can make the business’ outputs, be they physical products, services or a combination of both.
The tragedy in this is that cash flow crises can often be averted. They can be predicted, planned for, and then contingency measures put in place.
For example, if a business has seasonal effects where some months are busier than others, or if a business knows it has some jumps in expenses or fixed costs approaching—such as moving to a larger premises or hiring more staff to cope with growth—then these expenses can be planned for and compared with the planned income in those months.
Which would you prefer to do?
(A) Call your bank manager and ask for a short-term loan or increase in overdraft when you are urgently in need of the cash (and therefore stressed, and desperate, and not in a great frame of mind to negotiate good terms), or
(B) Call your bank manager 6 months in advance and meet with him or her to explain the coming cash crunch, the reasons behind it, and plan for the funding in a calm, relaxed, totally-in-control manner?
Not only would you get the loan, you’d impress the bank manager and strengthen the relationship for further funding, should it be needed to support your growth.
The bank manager would see you are a professional operator with a planned approach to your business, not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operator. (They see a lot of those. They don’t like doing business with them.)
Apart from the relationship with your bank, there’s the immediate effect of sleeping better at night.
We all seek a level of certainty to comfort us. Knowing what lies ahead in business and planning your cash flow gives you a peace of mind and confidence in your day-to-day work that will rub off on those around you…
…in your workplace and at home. It’s a good feeling.
This is one of the reasons we are so passionate about helping our clients put together cash flow forecasts, to help them keep their business on track and to avoid any stressful, unpleasant surprises in the coming months.
It doesn’t matter whether a business is a one-person hairdressing or lawn mowing business, or a 10 person, 20 or 200+ person business.
Every business needs a cash flow forecast.
Running your business without a cash flow forecast is like driving a car at night along a dark country road with only your normal headlights on. It’s hard to see what lies ahead. Some wildlife might come right out in front of you, leaving no time for you to react. CRASH!
On the other hand, a cash flow forecast is like driving along that country road with high beam on. You can see so much more. You can drive with much more confidence. Less stress. And avoid the CRASH!
Another thing we often find in helping our clients build realistic cash flow forecasts, is that we can spot problems and make suggestion that help improve the business’ cash cycle. This puts money in your bank account.
For example, a combination of negotiating better terms with suppliers, tightening up or at least clarifying and enforcing your business’ own credit terms, and reducing stock holding and waste can have a powerful positive effect on your cash flow.
So, if a cash flow forecast is so crucial, why do many businesses not have one?
Simple. Business owners get busy. Busy pleasing customers or patients. Busy dealing with staff. Busy paying suppliers. Busy generating sales.
Also, it’s easy to get ‘too close’ to your own business. “You can’t see the forest for the trees,” as the saying goes.
Having an independent and fresh pair of eyes come in and look at your business—especially cash flow which is its life blood—allows opportunities for improvements to be identified. Things that are there, but difficult for the business owner to see amidst the ‘busy-ness’ of it all.
So, what should do about it? Call us. Take action. A cash flow forecast costs less than you think.
It’s time to turn those high beams on!
Your next step … Call us at 844-424-9637 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to make a time to meet and discuss your options. We’ll then outline the costs so you know exactly what lies ahead.
For many, the word ‘budget’ is about as appealing as the word ‘diet’.
It seems to imply what you will go without, rather than what you will achieve.
To a successful business owner, however, the word ‘budget’ has a very different meaning.
It’s more like a map than a diet. It’s an outline of where you want to take the business, and what you need to achieve to get there.
Running a business without a budget is like a ship’s captain setting off on a voyage without a map. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it. Who would do that?
Yet this is, figuratively speaking, what many business owners do.
Successful business owners, on the other hand, not only set clear targets and budgets each year, they monitor them closely each month, even each week, and adjust them as they go throughout the year.
Here are 3 compelling reasons your business needs a budget, now:
One: If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know you’re not already there?
If you’re not satisfied with how your business is performing, unless you set clear goals for where you want to take it, it’s probably as good as it is ever going to get. At best, it will just wander along, subject to the whims and quirks of the economy and general market conditions.
The good news is that your business doesn’t need to wander along.
The first step in charting a clear course for growing and developing your business is objectively measuring ‘where it’s at’ right now.
And the numbers do tell a story.
For some, they act as a wake up call. For others, they just confirm the journey’s starting point.
It’s paradoxical that a large part of the value in a business budget is not in the numbers themselves. It’s in the realization and acceptance of where you are and where you want to be.
The numbers are just the signposts for the journey.
A factual look at the numbers that describe where your business is right now takes away all the subjectivity, opinions and ‘reasons’ (often excuses, disguised as reasons).
This is the naked truth.
In fact, it is like standing on the scales, naked, looking at yourself in a full length mirror. That may or may not be a pretty sight!
For your business, these factual numbers are the sales, the variable costs, the margins, the overheads, and, lastly, the profit. After all your work, this is the reward you’re left with.
Then comes the first of a series of ‘hard questions’…
- Are you happy with that profit?
- Is it worth it? Or are you dissatisfied? Then …
- What do you want those figures to look like?
Answer those questions, and you’ve just described where you want to be. Congratulations! You have charted your course, which is the first step to ensuring your success.
Two: What’s more important to treat? Symptoms or causes?
As you well know, sales don’t just happen. Costs don’t drop just because you want them to. Sales and costs are a result of other underlying factors. Put another way, they are symptoms of causes.
The business budgeting process quantifies the symptoms, and by asking a series of ‘What leads to this number?’ questions, it also identifies the underlying causes.
For example, underlying factors contributing to a sales (revenue) figure could include:
- the number of active patients,
- the number of Hygiene re-appointments,
- the percentage of pre-appointments, the dollar value of the average production per visit, or simply
- where your marketing is targeted.
These are all called drivers. The sales figures are simply a result of these drivers. Costs are no different.
For example, the advertising paid may be a result of a new marketing strategy. Staff wages may be blowing out as a result of overtime paid but underlying that there may be inefficient staff. Or a lack of clear processes. Or both.
So in reality what came first was not the sale or the cost, but their underlying drivers. The budgeting process forces you to name and to quantify these underlying drivers.
That’s one of the most valuable aspects of preparing your budget. Not the budget itself, per se, but identifying your business’ drivers.
Because then you can focus on improving them.
That’s what will produce the improved results in your business. Not focusing on last quarter’s figures. That’s history.
It’s more fun to create history. And that is, in essence, what you are doing when you are in your own business. You are captain of your own destiny, and you can steer it in any direction you want.
Note that word … direction. A key point is to have one.
You will enjoy how effectively the budgeting and planning process will get you crystal clear on your direction.
Three: Budgeting is not about accounting. It’s about being accountable.
Once you are clear on the handful of drivers that creates your business’ results, the next question is…
What are you going to do about it?
Your budget won’t just give you a monthly sales target, for example, it will help you quantify the drivers that will produce the result.
For example, if next month’s sales target is $120,000, that end-result figure is not your focus. Not on a day-to-day basis. Knowing the underlying drivers, your focus will instead become, for example:
- 25 patients per day (Driver No.1)
- At 80% Hygiene re-appointment rate (Driver No.2), with
- An average of $500 in Production per Patient Visit (Driver No. 3).
Now you and your staff have a clear focus and are 100% accountable.
That’s good for them, and good for you and your business.
People in a business want a clear scoreboard and a ‘game to play’ so they know whether or not they are winning. Research has found that a lack of measurement in a job is demotivating to a staff member. Patrick Lencioni’s book ‘3 Signs of a Miserable Job’ gives some great examples of this.
Knowing these drivers, and quantifying a target for each you can then ask questions like:
- Have the 25 re-appointment follow-ups been made today?
- If not, why not? Is the target realistic?
- Does the team need training?
- Do they need better telephone equipment or dialing software?
- Or just more focus?
- Or guidance on what their task priorities should be?
- Or a combination of these?
- Are we being effective and converting 80% of the calls?
- Again, if not, why not?
You can then decide to improve skills, or systems, or attitude, or all three!
As you can see, the power of the budget is in the process of preparing it, and then the budget itself is a tool to hold you accountable to the measurable indicators you’ve chosen.
An added layer of accountability is… us.
We work with a number of clients where, on either a monthly or quarterly basis, we act as a sounding board and independent party to ask you the hard questions about the drivers and the results. This focuses your mind, allows you to form a clear Action Plan to improve results, and then increases your chances of success because you know you need to report in to us next time.
It’s a powerful process that you’ll enjoy due to the focus it creates and, in turn, the results that focus achieves in your business.
To take more control of your business and its performance, get in touch to make a time to come in and see us. Depending on the size of your business, we might work out that a quarterly process might work best (and be the most feasible, cost-wise), or your business might be at a point where monthly or even weekly guidance would be ideal.
Either way, we’ll outline your options and your costs so you know precisely what’s involved.
We look forward to helping you chart your course, helping to get a clear direction, and then keeping you and your business on course.
After all, you won’t end up at the ideal destination by drifting.
There are numerous QuickBooks Online reports that you should be consulting at regular intervals. But you need these five at least every week.
QuickBooks Online’s Dashboard, the first screen you see when you log in, provides an effective overview of your company’s finances. It contains at-a-glance information about your recent expenses, your sales, and the status of your invoices. It displays a simple Profit and Loss graph and a list of your account balances. Scroll down and click the See all activity button in the lower right and your Audit Log opens, a list of everything that’s been done on the site and by whom.
You can actually get a lot of work done from this page. Click the bar on the Invoices graph, for example, and a list view opens, allowing you access to individual transactions. Click Expenses to see the related Transaction Report. Below the list of account balances, you can Go to registers and connect new accounts.
Other Pressing Questions
The Dashboard supplies enough information that you can spot potential problems with expenses and sales, accounts, and overdue invoices. But you’re likely to have other tasks that require attention. How’s your inventory holding up? Are you staying within your budget? How about your accounts payable – will you owe money to anyone soon?
QuickBooks Online offers dozens of report templates that answer these questions and many more. If you’ve never explored the list, we suggest that you do so. It’s impossible to make plans for your company’s future without understanding its financial history and current state.
QuickBooks Online has many reports that can provide real-time, in-depth insight into your company’s financial health.
Comprehensive and Customizable
When you click Reports in your QuickBooks Online toolbar, the view defaults to All. The site divides its report content into 10 different sections, including Business Overview, Sales and Customers, Expenses and Vendors, and Payroll. Each has two buttons to the right of its name.
Click the star, and that report’s title will appear in your Favorites list at the top of the page. This will save time since you’ll be able to quickly find your most often-used reports. Click the three vertical dots and then Customize to view your customization options for that report (you’ll have access to this tool from the reports themselves).
You can, of course, run any report you’d like as often as you’d like. Most small businesses, though, don’t require this frequent intense scrutiny. But there are five reports that you do want to consult on a regular basis. They are:
- Accounts Receivable Aging Detail. Displays a list of invoices that haven’t yet been paid, divided into groups like 1-30 days past due, 31-60 days past due, etc.
- Budget vs. Actuals. Just what it sounds like: a comparison of your monthly budgeted amounts and your actual income and expenses.
Warning: Some reports let you choose between cash and accrual basis. Do you know the difference and which you should choose? Ask us.
You can customize QuickBooks Online reports in several ways.
- Unpaid Bills. Helps you avoid missing accounts payable due dates by displaying what’s due and when.
- Sales by Product/Service Detail. Tells you what’s selling and what’s not by displaying date, transaction type, quantity, rate, amount, and total.
- Product/Service List. An accounting of the products and/or services you sell, with columns for price, cost, and quantity on hand.
Customization, Complex QuickBooks Online Reports
Note that there’s a category of reports in QuickBooks Online named For My Accountant. That’s where we come in. The site includes templates for reports that you can run yourself, but that you’d have difficulty customizing and analyzing. These standard financial reports—which, by the way, you’ll need if you create a business plan or try to get funding for your business—include Balance Sheet, Statement of Cash Flows, and Trial Balance.
You don’t need to have these reports generated frequently, but you should be learning from the insight they provide monthly or quarterly. We can handle this part of your accounting tasks for you, as well as any other aspect of financial management where you need assistance. Contact us, and we’ll see where we might help provide the feedback and bookkeeping expertise that can help you make better decisions for the future of your business.