Of all the roles a small business owner takes on, often the most challenging is managing the business’s finances. You can improve your chances for success – and your profitability — by being aware of and steering clear of these common small business money mistakes.
Insufficient cash is one of the leading causes of business failure. Startups often overestimate how quickly they’ll start making money, and underestimate all the expenses they’ll incur. But startups aren’t the only businesses prone to failure due to insufficient cash. Once you have a steady flow of business you can run into cash problems in a couple of ways. One is a failure to realize the difference between cash flow and sales. You can have plenty of sales on record, but unless you get paid in advance for those sales, you’ll have expenses to pay before you collect from your customers.
The worst time to look for a business loan or line of credit is when you most need it. If your business is paying its bills late and is on the brink of failing, finding funding will be difficult or impossible. The time to seek funding is when your business looks solid enough to convince a lender you will be able to repay what you borrow.
Whether you are starting a new business, or you’re running an established business, mixing personal and business funds is a recipe for disaster. Assuming you are the sole owner and you buy business supplies with your personal credit card or use a business check to pay for a personal purchase, you’re going to have difficulty keeping track of how much money the business is actually making or losing throughout the year.
If there are times when you have to use personal funds for your business – or vice versa – the correct way to handle the situation is to make a formal transaction and document it. If you have business partners, get them to sign off on the transaction, too.
As a business owner, your focus is usually on winning business and making sure the customers get it in a timely fashion. Along the way there are so many things to do that it’s easy to let recordkeeping fall by the wayside. Receipts for inventory or other purchases get shoved in a folder, envelope, drawer, or the proverbial shoebox, until such time as you “get around” to recording them. Invoices for items you’ve purchased on credit maybe wind up in your inbox – with dozens of other pieces of paper.
Records for business travel may wind up on the back of a receipt or napkin, or stuck in a note on your smart phone. Receipts from people who still pay you wind up in the same folder or drawer, and credit card payments show up in your bank account based on the credit card used to make the purchase, with no convenient way of matching any one day’s credit card receipts to specific purchases made.
Determining the right price to charge for products or services is seldom an easy decision. Charge too much, and you could lose sales to a competitor. Charge too little, and you won’t make much profit – or worse, you’ll lose money.
Small businesses – particularly those just starting out – often charge too little. Sometimes they rationalise that the low price is a way of “getting their foot in the door.” Sometimes the price is low because a new business owner isn’t taking into account the cost of his or her own labour, or hasn’t accurately determined all of the costs that have to be considered in setting prices. If you’re just starting out, remember to account for all your costs in figuring out what to charge, and check to see what competitors are charging for what you sell.
References:Attard, Janet. “5 Common Small Business Money Mistakes”. Business Know-How. N.p., 2017. Web. 29 June 2017.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)