2019 is right around the corner, which makes today the perfect time to think about your business goals and where you want to be one year from now. As year-end wraps up, you’ll soon know your financial numbers for 2018. You’ll then be able to evaluate how you did and map out a new plan for 2019.
If you’re like many small business owners, you may have started your business without a business plan. Most businesses don’t need a long 20-page document that will just gather dust on a shelf. But you might want to consider putting together a short, 1- to 2-page concise document that includes the basic components of a typical business plan: mission, vision, strategies, and objectives.
A mission statement describes what the company is in business to do. And while you could simply state a mission similar to “Our mission is to sell our products and services,” you may want to think bigger than that in terms of how you want to be known or to impact more than your customers.
A vision statement describes your company’s future position. It’s what you aspire to be. It could again be, “Our vision is to sell more products and services than any other business.” Or it could be more inspiring and uplifting.
Your business strategies support how you’ll get from where you are to what is stated in your mission and vision statements. While there may be many ways to accomplish your mission and vision, strategies are the approaches you’ll take to get there.
Goals are measurable destinations with a timeline that are created from your strategies. Objectives finally get down to the nitty gritty and state the tactics and action plans you need to execute to put all of this work into play.
Each of these items can be written out on a few lines, taking up all together no more than a few pages. The benefits of having a concise business plan are many: if you think of an idea you want to do, you can check the plan to make sure your idea falls under your vision, mission, and strategies that you’ve laid out for the year. If it doesn’t, then you’ll know that your idea would take you off track from your plan, and you know how easy that can happen these days with all of the distractions and options available to us.
You may want to add additional sections to your plan depending on your strategies. If you plan to launch a new product or execute new marketing strategies, you might want to add a Market Summary section. If you seek new funding, you might want to have a section on funding options. With business planning, it makes sense to do what’s relevant, and nothing more or less.
We wish you the very best in 2019, and if we can help you with the financial portion of your business planning, please reach out.
Do you know if your marketing efforts are paying off? More importantly, do you know which marketing campaigns and channels are profitable and which are losing money?
Marketing is one of the toughest areas to calculate return on investment, and one of the reasons is because customers may have had contact with your company in multiple ways before they make a purchase. Other reasons such as a lack of systems are more easily solved and can give you valuable information that you can make smart decisions with.
One main goal of marketing is to acquire leads that will hopefully turn into buying customers and even repeat customers. To start measuring your marketing efforts, we need to find out where those leads are coming from and measure which ones became your customers. That means we need to develop a system that tracks a customer from lead source to sale.
The hard part is that some of this needs to be done outside the accounting system. The good news is that there are many tools and analytics available to help in this process.
One of the first things to do if you don’t already have it set up is to record the lead when they enter your sales process. Enter basic information about them in your CRM (customer relationship management system), and be sure to ask them how they found out about you. This will help you track the lead back to the campaign or channel that they came in on. Once they’ve made a purchase, you can connect the lead to the customer record and track revenue by marketing source.
If your leads come in digitally, there are many automated tags you can set up to track where they originated, whether it was from the web site, a particular web page, a social media account or a link from an email you sent out.
An important statistic for businesses is cost per lead, how much it costs to generate one lead for your business. The cost will vary by channel or marketing source. For example, someone coming from your website will cost less than someone coming from social media in most cases.
Once you know how many leads to generate to make a sale, you can start calculating what your marketing budget should look like. More importantly, you’ll be able to forecast your revenue more accurately, too.
While numbers are probably the last thing you think about when you’re doing your marketing, they can be very effective for your bottom line. There are many metrics beyond cost per lead that would be valuable to measure as well. Here are just a few of them:
- Number of leads (in total or per channel)
- Number of press mentions
- Number of direct mail pieces sent out
- Number of email subscribers
- Number of social media connections per platform
- Number of posts sent, number of shares, number of comments
- Total web visitors, new and returning
- Google rankings for keywords
- Number of customer reviews per site, ratio of positive to negative reviews
You might not think of accountants when you are doing your marketing, but we encourage you to think about the “numbers” part of marketing, the financial side. And as always, if you want help developing these processes and metrics, please reach out.
Whether you call it bacon, Benjamins, or big bucks, cash – and having enough of it – is key to running your business. Here are five tips related to managing and getting the most out of your business cash.
1- All banks are not the same.
Choose your bank wisely, and don’t be afraid to switch if you need to. Banks know they have a “high switching cost,” which means it’s one big time-consuming hassle for customers to change banks.
A couple of things that are important when choosing banks (some of which we never knew to ask five years ago) include:
- Is your accountant able to connect your accounting system with free bank feeds, saving you hours and hours of accounting work?
- How automated is your bank? The more automated, the fewer errors, and the more likely the bank is to have competitive services, features and prices.
- What is their policy on holding large deposits?
- Do they offer ACH services?
- Does your payroll withdrawal need to be approved each pay period?
Accountants have experience with banks, so if you are in the market for a new one, feel free to reach out and ask us our opinion on the easiest bank to work with.
2- Keep the number of cash accounts to a functional minimum.
Certainly, you’ll need at least a business checking account, often a business savings account, a business PayPal account, and perhaps a petty cash fund. You may also want a separate account for payroll; a lot of companies do. But if you need more accounts, there should be a functional business reason to support them. That’s already a lot of accounts to reconcile and keep track of each month.
The same is true of credit card accounts. It’s the keep-it-simple approach.
3- Reconcile all of your cash accounts every month.
Keeping all of your cash accounts reconciled each month is a good idea. If a bank error, accounting mistake, or even fraud occurs, you can catch it and get it resolved more quickly than if you delay.
You’ll also have more accurate information about your balances and can move and manage your money better.
As you learn your balances each month, you can also move money around. Unless you spend a lot out of PayPal, plan to move that money to pay off debt or into your checking account on a regular basis.
4- Maintain a cushion in your checking account.
If your checking account hovers close to zero more often than not, you may be wasting precious time watching your bank balance instead of spending time to manage your business. If you make a small error, you may get hit with costly overdraft fees, making your cash situation even worse.
Instead, consider depositing a fixed amount, like a cushion, that you never spend. You won’t get overdraft fees, and you won’t have to watch your balance so closely. You may give up some interest income, but the time freed up and the reduced worry will be worth a few extra pennies.
5- Watch your liquidity.
Cash is to business as water is to people; we can’t live without it. Make sure you have enough to cover future obligations, and when possible, build up several months of reserve for emergencies. Anything that you can liquidate quickly, such as accounts receivable, can count toward this fund too.
Try these five cash flow tips to keep bringing home the bacon in your business.
There are a lot of deadlines that come with running a business. Missing some deadlines can have serious financial implications to the health of your business. Let’s take a look at how much you’ll save by being on time with the following deadlines.
One of the toughest deadlines of all, making payroll, is essential to keeping employees happy. Making payroll tax deposits on time is even more crucial. You’ll save the following in penalties by staying on time with payroll deadlines:
- If you’re 1-5 days late with payroll tax deposits, the penalty is two percent of the payroll.
- If you’re 6-15 days late, you’ll pay five percent in penalties.
- If you’re more than 15 days late, the penalty goes up to 10 percent.
And that’s just the federal penalties, not your state penalties.
Everyone knows about the April 15th deadline to file your taxes. Some people file an extension and have until October 15th. However, we need to remember that the best estimate of your tax liability needs to be paid by April 15th even if an extension is granted. Failure to correctly estimate and pay income taxes leads to a penalty that is calculated by multiplying the number of days the tax is late by the effective interest rate.
If we’re slow to make our accounts payable payments, our vendors may tack on a penalty, but the larger consequence is the effect on our credit score.
It’s so easy to let internal deadlines slide, but they may be the most important of them all. To move your business forward, set goals with deadlines so that you can measure your results.
Here are a couple of tips to master your deadlines so you can avoid the above consequences:
- Keep a list of deadlines, or hire someone to help you with them.
- Make a mental commitment to yourself that the deadline is important to your business.
- Set aside the time you need to prepare for the deadline. Block time on your calendar and stick to it.
- Remind yourself of the consequences of missing the deadline.
- Try not to overcommit. Delegate other tasks when possible.
- If possible, automate or systematize the processes around the deadline so that it’s met automatically.
- Stay up late if you have to in order to meet your deadline.
- Celebrate when you meet your deadline!
Every business has a gold mine in its current customer base. But not all business owners remember to mine this gold because they are too busy trying to attract new customers or developing new products or services. This is the perfect time of year to step back and remember the three easiest ways to grow your business revenue using your existing customer base.
1. Upsell current clients.
Offer steady customers a product or service with more features than they usually purchase. Examples include moving a client from coach to first class, from a budget vacation to a luxury one, from a standard model car to a luxury version, from an off-the-rack suit to a designer suit, from the standard service to an all-you-can-eat version, and from a regular meal to a super-sized one.
Some customers simply need to be given permission to splurge on themselves, so why not by you? Others have outgrown the standard package but find it hard to break routine. With a gentle nudge from you, a percentage of your clients will purchase the upgrade, therefore boosting your sales with little effort on your part.
2. Cross-sell current customers.
Restaurants practice this the most, asking us if we want appetizers, dessert, or fries with our entrée, and you can apply this to your business too. If you offer two services and a client is only participating in one service, make sure they know about the other service you offer, and find out if they have a need for it.
This is called cross-selling, where you offer a current customer a service or product that they don’t already purchase from you. For example, an attorney that does trademark work for clients might also let clients know that they do wills, too. A pool builder who also offers maintenance service will want to follow up with the new pool owner once the pool is built. A real estate agent who also manages properties will want to let rental property investors know about this service.
3. Raise prices on current customers.
If your costs have gone up but your prices have remained the same, you’ve accidentally given yourself a pay cut. No one wants that, so raising prices is an option that will restore your profit margin to the way it was before costs went up.
If it’s been a while since you’ve raised prices, it might be time to make an adjustment. Review your price list for your services and products and determine what you need to do to bring the numbers back in balance. Let us know if we can help with some profit margin or breakeven calculations to help you make this decision.
Raising prices requires careful consideration and timing. Customers do expect periodic price adjustments, so don’t let procrastination or fear hold you back from making a good solid business decision here.
All three of these strategies will help to raise your average revenue per customer and boost your overall revenue without a lot of additional work on your part. Try these strategies so you can enjoy a more prosperous 2018.
One of the many online marketing options available for businesses is blogging. A blog can act as a company’s daily newspaper, letting customers and followers know the latest news about what’s happening. It can also be a wonderful revenue-generator.
As long as the content of your blog is relevant to your readers, you can post on a wide variety of topics. You might want to let clients know about an upcoming sale, a new employee, or a tip related to a product or service of yours.
Some businesses make a separate revenue stream out of blogging. The most profitable blog today is the Huffington Post. Revenue from blogging can be earned in many ways:
- By selling ad space to people who want to get their products in front of people who read your blog
- From sponsors
- By holding events your readers attend
- From commissions from the sale of products on your site
- By creating products and services such as membership sites which allow paid access to your resources
Making money from blogging through one of these revenue streams takes work. Not only do you have to find or create content, you’ll need to attract readers too.
You can also simply use your blog to generate a following for your products and services. The right content can improve customer service, educate customers on your products which leads to better client retention, or inform them of the benefits of your products during your sales cycle.
If you’re not a writer, there are plenty of freelance writers available that you can hire to create your blog posts. You can also curate articles, meaning you can find existing articles and ask the author if you can re-publish theirs.
Creating a blog is easy with software like WordPress or apps like Blogger.com WordPress.com, and Wix.com, and all of these solutions are free.
Think about how a blog can impact your business for the better.
If you perform a service or ship a product before you get paid, then you likely have a balance in your Accounts Receivable account. If customers pay when their invoice is due, all is right with the world. If they don’t, then your cash flow slows down and your bank balance is not as high as it should be. Here are some tips, preventive and supportive, to help you keep your accounts receivable current.
When you deliver your service or product before your client pays you, you are in effect their “bank,” granting them credit. Not everyone deserves to be granted credit. Consider running credit checks, especially if you are billing large amounts of money for your sized business.
You may also want to ask for a retainer or deposit prior to starting work or shipping your products. This will smooth your cash flow and reduce your credit risk.
Offer Multiple Payment Options
When a customer is ready to pay their bill, make it easy on them by offering multiple payment options. Perhaps they will pay faster if you take payment by credit cards. Many people have extra money sitting in their PayPal accounts, so that is another payment option. Apple Pay and Android Pay are relatively recent options to consider adding.
You may also want to revisit the credit cards you offer: MasterCard, Visa, and American Express are universal, but many places also take Discover and Diners Club. If you are doing international business, consider JCB (Japan), China UnionPay, and RuPay (India).
Once an unpaid invoice has reached its 90-day mark, the chances of collecting it are about 50 percent. This means that you will need to put some aggressive collection processes in place prior to the 90-day mark.
If the invoice is due in 30 days, start at the 35- to 40-day mark with a friendly reminder. At 60 days, your customer needs a strong reminder and perhaps a phone call. At 75 days, they need to know what consequences there will be for not paying. Will you report the customer debt to credit agencies? Will you turn the account over to a collection agency?
At 90 days, it’s probably a good idea to make one final collection effort and then turn it over to a collection agency. It might sound too soon, but the odds of collecting something much older go down significantly as time passes.
At any rate, create your own process, and automate it as much as possible. The main thing is to stay on top of it.
Past Due Accounts
From how you first engage with your clients to the last steps in the collection process, there are many cost-effective techniques to avoid past due accounts and the unpleasantness that goes with them for both parties. If this is an issue in your business, try these ideas above and reach out if you’d like our help.
Increasing your profits might sound like it’s an unattainable dream just out of your reach. But there are a finite number of ways that profits can be increased. Once you understand what they are, you’ll have clarity on how to best reach your goals.
There are two primary ways to increase profits:
- Raise revenue
- Lower expenses
That’s not particularly enlightening or instructional, is it? Let’s look at the four ways you can increase revenues and the four ways you can reduce expenses to get clearer on what actions we can take.
Four Ways to Increase Revenue
1. Raise prices
The easiest way to raise revenue is to simply raise prices. However, this is not foolproof and assumes you’ll be able to maintain the volume of sales you’ve achieved in the past.
This method is also limited by market demand, what your customers are willing to pay.
2. Add new customers
Adding new customers is what most entrepreneurs think about when raising revenue. Increasing your marketing or adding new marketing methods is typically the way to add new customers.
Another related option is to work hard to keep the customers you already have. You can also potentially contact the customers you lost and ask them to come back.
3. Introduce new products or services
For some companies, your products and services are changing every year. For others, not so much. To increase revenue, consider adding new products or services that will bring in an additional revenue stream that you didn’t have before.
Even if your products are changing every year, you can consider adding something completely different that your customer base would love. For example, a hair salon could add a nail desk, a clothing store could add handbags or shoes, a grocery store could add a coffee bar, a restaurant could add catering, a landscaper could add hardscaping, and so on.
The final way a business can increase revenue is to acquire another business in a merger or acquisition.
Four Ways to Reduce Expenses
1. Negotiate for a better deal with vendors
If you’ve been working with a vendor for a while, you may be able to re-negotiate your contract with them. This is especially common with telecom companies. Call you phone provider and ask them for the latest deal. They always favor new customers over long term customers, but they don’t want to lose customers either. Just calling them usually yields a better price than what you are paying now.
2. Change vendors
If a vendor has gotten too expensive, it might be time to look for a new vendor. Health care insurance seems to be in this category. Often, changing providers will lower your costs.
3. Cut headcount
If there is not enough work to support your employees or not enough cash flow to pay them, then it might be time for a layoff or restructuring. You might also consider outsourcing a function that you previously did in-house.
4. Cut the expense or reduce services
It might be your business no longer needs to spend money on an expense. Perhaps this expense has been automated. In this case, it’s an easy decision to cut the expense out entirely.
Those are the eight ways to increase profits. Which one makes the most sense in your business? Create a plan around these eight ideas to boost your profit in 2017, and let us know if we can help.
Are you ready for 2017 to be even better than 2016? If so, take a few minutes to reflect on the questions below and take action to set your 2017 profit plan.
Question 1: What were the three best business things about 2016?
No need to re-invent the wheel. If you knocked it out of the park in 2016, can you wash, rinse and repeat these tasks in 2017?
If you’re having trouble thinking of three things, here are some hints:
- What apps saved you time and money?
- Did you make some good hires?
- Did you let go of a bad hire or two?
- Was there a marketing campaign that really worked?
- Were there any events you went to that generated great ideas?
- Did you add or remove products and/or services?
- Did you buy new equipment or open a new location?
Summarize the three best things that happened in your business for 2016 and think about how you can repeat them to enhance your 2017.
Question 2: What were the three worst business things about 2016?
While we don’t want to dwell too much on our failures, we do want to learn from them. Think about the three things that are causing you to lose time, money or gain stress, and decide if you can make changes for 2017.
Question 3: What vision do you have for your business in 2017?
At the end of 2017, what has to have happened in order for you to have a successful year? Think in terms of metrics as well as intangibles, such as peace of mind and happiness.
Once you know your destination, the fun is in creating a roadmap to get you there.
Your 2017 Profit Plan
If your vision includes financial goals, then creating a profit plan is one way to measure your progress throughout 2017. Start by deciding how much profit you want to make in 2017. From there, you can compute your revenue goal and make a plan. Then you can add expenses to complete the budget. Here’s an example:
Let’s say you want to make $50,000 in profit for 2017. You can do that in a number of ways:
- Generate $500,000 in revenue and $450,000 in expenses.
- Generate $2 million in revenue and $1,950,000 in expenses.
- Generate $150,000 in revenue and $100,000 in expenses.
- And so forth.
From your profit number, you can create a revenue plan. A revenue should include how many items you need to sell. Like this:
|No. of units||Price||Revenue|
Once you have your revenue plan, you can fill in your estimated expenses.
You might be thinking that this sure sounds a lot like making a budget. And it is. But it’s far more fun to work on something called a profit plan than it is a budget. And if you need us to do the number-crunching part, please feel free to reach out any time.
Here’s to a very happy and prosperous 2017.
Some numbers need reviewing on a daily basis, and one example of this is cash. When cash is coming in from a number of places, it’s great to have a daily summary of what was collected.
It’s also great to make sure all the collections hit your bank account so you can feel confident that no errors were made along the way. A daily cash reconciliation report will serve both needs very well.
A daily cash report will vary depending on the type of business you have, but it will look like a combination of a bank reconciliation and a sales report wrapped into one.
If you are managing your cash closely from day to day, then this report will help you stay sane. You’ll need two very brief spreadsheets to get started. The first one below is your daily sales from all sources. Your accounting system may be able to generate this.
|Total Bank Deposit||$900.00|
|Total Credit Card Due||$600.00|
If your accounting system is up to date, all you’ll need to do is pull the cash balance and adjust for today’s activity. The following day, you can double check your accuracy and adjust accordingly using the last two rows.
|Daily Cash Report|
|Book Cash Balance||$5,000.00|
|Deposit from Today’s Sales||$900.00|
|Less Checks Written Today||($1,200.00)|
|Expected Bank Balance Tomorrow||$8,300.00|
|Actual Bank Balance||$8,300.00|
|Explain any differences|
If your accounting system is not updated in real time, you’ll need to start with the bank balance and correct it for uncleared transactions as well as list today’s activity.
|Daily Cash Report|
|Deposit from Today’s Sales||$900.00|
|Less Checks Written Today||($1,200.00)|
|Checks Still Outstanding||($3,000.00)|
|Deposit from A/R Paid||$5,000.00|
|Expected Bank Balance Tomorrow||$8,300.00|
Using these formats, you can easily extend them to cover the entire week. This way, you’ll know what your cash balance will be from day to day.
If you see the value of this report for your business and would like help creating it, please reach out.