Mid-Year Financial Checkup: 11 Tips

Usually, we at IOU Financial share financial checkup tips with our readers every half-year. In normal times, we would discuss the prudent steps you should consider to increase revenues and cut costs.

Then, along came Covid-19.

So, this installment is dedicated to ways for small businesses to survive the pandemic in the second half of 2020.

  1. Don’t panic:

    Millions of business owners are going through the same problems that you’re facing, so you are not alone. There are a couple of problems with panic. First of all, it wastes physical and emotional energy that would be better applied to solving problems. Perhaps even worse is that panic begets desperation, which leaves many vulnerable owners to consider bad advice. Carefully think through your decisions using your good common sense.

  2. Don’t count on more government help.

    We can’t KNOW that the government will come out with another stimulus package or relief funds.

  3. Be proactive:

    It’s hard to stay ahead of the pandemic because it keeps on changing. New hot spots pop up and old ones cool down. The best you can do is to pay attention to what’s in front of you and figure out if there’re any actions you can take that are under your control.

  4. Involve your workers and partners:

    Nobody wins when businesses fail. You might find that employees, vendors, and suppliers are willing to accommodate you in your hour of need.

  5. Communicate with reputable experts:

    Good advice is worth a lot, so speak with your local Small Business Development Center, your lender, your CPA, and your political representatives. It’s important to know what works and what doesn’t.

  6. Strength from unity:

    Perhaps you’ve noticed how businesses have come together to find ways to help the surrounding community during the pandemic. For example, restaurants in Brooklyn have banded together with each other and with financial resources to help feed folks who have lost their jobs. Whatever your business, you might be surprised to learn the many ways you can make a positive difference (and earn long-term goodwill).

  7. Identify key employees:

    If layoffs are unavoidable, try to protect your key employees. Perhaps they will agree to a temporary pay holiday in return for staying on the company health plan. Work with your best employees to brainstorm the most pressing problems.

  8. Model your cashflow:

    You need to know how long you can remain solvent. Stress test various scenarios to see what’s possible under different conditions. Consider marketing steps you can take to spur sales, even if you must take a hit to your profit margins. If you can cover your expenses, you are ahead of the game.

  9. Consider factoring:

    Perhaps you can sell off your invoices to collect the bulk of your accounts receivable. You might also want to liquidate some of your inventory and other assets you can survive without. If appropriate, see if you can induce your customers to order in bulk and speed up purchases. Use these moves to build an emergency cash fund.

  10. Provide extra service:

    You may be able to keep operating if you can provide extra services for free, especially if it saves your customers money. You may be able to provide free services without greatly increasing your variable costs. If you have some time on your hands because of decreased demand, spend that time helping your best customers in meaningful ways.

  11. Borrow carefully:

    You may be operating at a suboptimal level right now in which your cash inflows don’t quite meet your unavoidable expenses. In other words, if you can hang on until conditions improve, your business can survive. That’s where borrowing can make a crucial difference. You can use borrowed funds to limp through the current situation in preparation for better times ahead.

IOU Financial stands ready to work with you to fund your business based on your current and projected cash flows. We can fund you quickly and offer you flexible repayment terms. Contact us today and let’s help each other survive the coronavirus nightmare.

Finance 101 for Small Biz: Debt vs Equity

Small business owners trying to grow their businesses need sufficient capital (i.e., money) to pay for inventory, marketing, equipment, and other vendor-related items. But owners must also have enough capital to pay for operational expenses like rent, utilities, and labor. And let’s not forget about the owner’s salary or draw. After all, most owners rely on the income from their businesses to live on.

So, the question is how to pay for company growth. Basically, you have two funding choices: debt and equity. Here’s how to decide between the two.

Equity

Equity is the money you and investors would have leftover if you liquidated your company and paid off all debts. In other words, it’s the business’ assets minus its liabilities.

Many small businesses have a single owner, meaning that 100% of the equity belongs to the owner. In this case, the owner’s equity is equal to the business’ retained earnings, which is the accumulated profits of your company after you pay all your bills and draw your own income.

Some small businesses have investors. You issue shares of stock to investors and pay them dividends in return for their equity investment. Then, the total equity of the company is money contributed by investors (including yourself) plus retained earnings.

Unlike debt, equity does not have to be repaid. Equity investors are willing to risk their money in return for a return on their investment. You can use equity capital to pay for the growth of your company, but you need to know the cost of doing so.

The cost of equity is equal to the return demanded by investors (including yourself) for investing in your company. Because small businesses are risky, equity investors usually require a higher rate of return than lenders do. The reason is that lenders have the first claim on the business’ assets if it goes bankrupt. For instance, you might be able to get a commercial loan at, say 10%, but have investors requiring a 15% return to justify their investments.

Dividends and owner’s draw are not tax-deductible to your business.

If you want to grow your company without debt, then the amount available for you to pay yourself and perhaps pay dividends to investors is decreased by the money you spend on growth.

Debt

Debt is the capital you borrow. The cost of debt is the interest rate, but since business interest is deductible, you must adjust the interest rate by your tax bracket.

For instance, suppose you take a 10% commercial loan and you are in the 20% tax bracket. Then, your after-tax cost of debt is 0.10 x (1 -0.20), or 8%.

Unlike equity, you have to repay debt. If you are taking a loan to finance growth, then you expect that the increased revenues from growth will allow you to pay the loan interest and repay the loan principal.

Owners looking for financing often prefer debt to equity because they don’t want partners. Lenders have no say about how you run your business, whereas equity investors may want to have input on your decisions. If you don’t want investors questioning or disputing your decisions, you will prefer debt financing.

Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC)

If you use both debt and equity to finance your company, then WACC is the percentage of each times the cost of each. For example, if your capital structure consists of 50% equity with a cost of 14% and 50% debt costing 8%, then WACC is 11%.

Preferred Shares

Sometimes, a business will issue preferred shares to equity investors. Preferred stock is a hybrid of equity and debt because it pays a relatively high dividend that must be paid before common stock dividends. The cost of preferred shares is, therefore, a complex calculation.

Conclusion

For many reasons, business owners turn to debt rather than using their own money or that of investors to fund their business’ growth. We at IOU Financial provide small businesses affordable loans of up to $500,000 with instant pre-approval and funding within a day or two. We invite you to contact us today to arrange financing that will help you grow your company and increase your revenues.

Are You Ready for Your 2020 Budget?

You can’t put it off any longer. The time has arrived to prepare your 2020 budget that’s so necessary for important activities such as:

  • Projecting cash flows
  • Preparing for taxes
  • Identifying borrowing needs
  • Evaluating growth opportunities
  • Assessing performance

The stakes are high, because 50% of small businesses fail during their initial five years. You can increase your chances of success by budgeting your company’s income and expenses. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

Review the previous budget:

Your 2019 budget contains a wealth of information. The most important is the line-by-line comparison between budgeted and actual expenses and income. This exercise should point you toward any significant adjustments to your 2020 budget.

Estimate your income:

You need a realistic picture of monthly income. If your company is brand new, speak with other small business owners to build a rough mental picture of your cash inflows. Don’t overestimate, as it encourages overspending, and don’t underestimate income, thereby inhibiting growth and expansion.

Estimate your expenses:

Start with fixed expenses, typically including rent, salaries, insurance, utilities, and taxes. Naturally, these can vary from one year to the next. Prudence suggests you pay about 30% of your income on estimated tax payments. You owe these on the 15th of April, June, September, and January. You don’t want to get dinged for underestimated tax payments.

Pay attention to unexpected items:

These may include vehicle maintenance and fuel costs, office supplies, shipping costs, meals and entertainment expenses, and professional dues/subscriptions. Also, allow for events like equipment breakdowns, rent increases, and other contingencies. Put aside a contingency fund so that surprises don’t blow your budget.

Consider capital expenditures:

You may be able to increase productivity by purchasing a new machine or system. The budget should include the amount of current cash inflows that must be allocated for these expenditures versus using funds from retained earnings. You may also want to use excess capital to pay down debt and thereby lower your interest expenses. On the other hand, you might want to borrow money to finance growth or to plug a gap in your budget. IOU Financial can provide you with a business loan of up to half a million dollars and get funding in as little as one day.

Concentrate on return on investment (ROI):

When you have multiple funding opportunities, choose the one with the highest ROI that exceeds the weighted average cost of capital. You can use internal ROI calculations to see which ones provide the most benefits. The same is true for marketing ROI, in which you direct your dollars toward different channels and media.

Create a review routine:

If you don’t already have one, set up a monthly budget review process that can allow you to make course corrections as soon as possible. For instance, if your fixed costs are higher than anticipated, you might have to cut variable expenses until you can find a way to lower your fixed costs.

IOU Financial offers our Business Budget Smart Sheet to help you get a grip on your business budget. With it, you have a sophisticated yet easy-to-use tool that will help you plan and analyze your cash flows. If your budget forecasts shortfalls in the next 12 months, turn to IOU Financial for a convenient business loan that can put money into your bank account quickly. In many ways, IOU Financial is an important resource to help your business succeed.

Business Credit Scores vs. Personal Credit Score

Starting a business takes money, and that money typically comes from financing. But in order to get approved for a business loan, entrepreneurs need to meet certain lending criteria, including having decent credit. Lenders will not only look at your personal credit score but also your business credit, both of which play a role in your ability to obtain financing for your business.

But how exactly does business credit and personal credit differ? Let’s dive into each to understand the difference.

Business Credit

Business credit – also referred to as commercial credit – helps lenders to determine your creditworthiness and candidacy for financing. A high business credit score can boost the odds of securing a business loan and obtaining better favorable terms. On the other hand, a low business credit score can make it more difficult to obtain financing and secure more favourable terms.

Not only do lenders look at our credit score, but so do vendors and suppliers before agreeing to deal with your company. Business credit is also required to obtain business insurance, and in many cases, it’s also needed for purchasing goods and services.

While your personal credit may be able to be used for some of these, in many cases it can’t. And even in cases where personal credit may be used, it really shouldn’t, as using personal accounts can make accounting a lot more confusing and difficult.

Who Creates Your Business Credit Score

There are three major credit bureaus in Canada that are responsible for determining business credit scores: TransUnion, Equifax, Dun & Bradstreet. Each of them uses a set of factors to determine a business credit score.

TransUnion

TransUnion offers both business credit reports and business credit scores. TransUnion uses business credit data and public record information to create their business risk score. This score takes into consideration a number of factors, including insolvencies or delinquencies, available credit limits, business bank accounts, credit cards, and collection.

Equifax

Equifax works a little differently than other credit bureaus in that it assigns a business three different scores. The first is a conventional credit risk score between 100 to 992, which assesses a company’s credit history. The second report from Equifax contains a “Payment Index” range from 0 to 100, which is a measure of payment history to past creditors. A score of at least 90 means that a business pay their bills on time, on average. Thirdly, Equifax’s “Business Failure Score” ranges from 1,000 to 1,880 and assesses the risk of businesses dissolving.

Dun & Bradstreet

The Dun & Bradstreet PAYDEX score is a rather straightforward business credit scoring model that’s based on how promptly payments are made and is scored up to 100. This credit score assesses the average number of days needed to pay off a debt. A score of 100 means that bills have been paid at least 30 days or more before they’re due, on average. Scores of 80 mean that bills are being paid the day they’re due, on average. Generally speaking, the longer it takes for you to pay your bills, the lower your score will be.

Personal Credit

Personal credit scores are used by lenders to assess a borrower’s creditworthiness and financial health. These scores represent numerical expressions that are based on an assessment of a person’s credit information.

Lenders use credit scores to assess whether or not consumers are able to qualify for a loan, the interest rate charged, and potentially even the loan amount. Missing bill payments and taking out too many loans can bring a credit score down, which can make it more difficult for a borrower to secure a loan.

A high credit score, on the other hand, means the individual has been much more responsible with his or her finances. Payments are typically made on time, credit limits are not maxed out, and debt loads are relatively healthy.

In Canada, personal credit scores range from 300 to 900. The closer the score is to the upper level, the better. Generally speaking, lenders like to see a score of at least 650 to 680 before they agree to extend a loan to an individual.

Who Creates Your Personal Credit Score?

In Canada, there are two major credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion. These bureaus compile the information found in your credit file to calculate your credit scores.

Certain factors are used to calculate a credit score, including:

  • Payment history – A history of timely payments will help increase your credit score, while a history of missing payments will do the opposite.
  • Debt load – The amount of debt you carry relative to your income will impact your credit score. Higher debt loads are often associated with lower credit scores, while lighter debt loads are typically associated with higher scores.
  • Credit utilization ratio – The amount of money that you spend relative to your credit limit will be a factor in your credit score calculation. It’s generally recommended to keep your spending to no more than 30% of your credit limit in order to keep your credit score healthy.
  • Age of your credit accounts – Older credit accounts are usually a good thing for credit scores, especially if they’re in good standing. Further, a longer credit history will help credit bureaus better assess your credit health.
  • Credit mix – Having a few different credit accounts – such as a mortgage, personal loan, car loan, and credit card – can be a good thing for your credit score, as long as you are responsible with all bill payments associated with each.

How to Establish Business Credit

In addition to keeping all of your business finances separate from your personal finances, there are other ways to establish business credit:

Open a separate business account – As already mentioned, mixing your personal and business finances can make things more cumbersome. Not only will a separate business checking account make things easier for bookkeeping purposes, but it can also help you build business credit when you use it strictly for business expenses.

Apply for a business credit card – Using a business credit card responsibly can help you build good credit, much like using a personal credit card responsibly can have the same effect. With each timely payment you make, your business credit can be improved.

Apply for a small loan – Every payment you make will be reported to the credit bureaus, which can help you build good credit.

Establish credit lines with suppliers and vendors – Since Dun & Bradstreet needs a minimum of four vendors to generate its credit report, it would help to establish credit lines with suppliers and vendors and build up relationships so they can eventually turn into future trade references for your business when you apply for a business loan.

Regularly keep tabs on your business credit – It doesn’t take long for your business credit to change, so it’s important to keep an eye on it on a regular basis. By identifying any changes in your business credit report, you’ll be able to spot any strange issues that you can deal with right away before they negatively impact your credit rating.

Should You Ever Mix Business and Personal Credit?

While we don’t recommend using your business credit card to pay for personal expenditures, your personal credit score plays a key role in your business. Having said that, lenders are still going to look at your personal credit score if your business is relatively new and will require a personal guarantee when applying for financing, which means you’re still responsible for the loan. If you ever default on your business loan, the lender has some more recourse aside from going after your business.

It’s important to still maintain your personal credit score while you’re building your business credit since they can both be important when applying for a business loan.

Guest Post: About the Author

Loans Canada is a financial technology and media company that connects Canadian consumers to financial service providers and educational resources. Loans Canada is one of the nation’s leading online destinations for information on loans, debt relief, credit building, and commercial financing. Their technology platform allows consumers to search for the best lenders and credit providers in Canada.

6 Practical Tips to Manage Your Small Business Finances

Even experienced business owners can benefit from improving the way they manage their finances. This is especially true if your expertise in your product or service doesn’t extend to managing business finance. It would be a shame not to realize the full potential of your company, so we’ve assembled six practical tips to help you stay on top of your business finances.

1.   Remember to Pay Yourself

Especially in the early days, your desire to make your company a success can cause you to plow every dollar back into the business. While the impulse is admirable, it is also unsustainable. The fact is, you need to ensure that your personal finances are adequately handled so that you aren’t distracted from your business. You are central to your startup and deserve compensation for your efforts. Remember, if for some reason the business fails, you don’t want to be in a position where you never received any pay for all your hard work.

2.   Budget for Growth

After paying yourself, it’s crucial to plan for the growth of your company. For many businesses, if you are not growing, you are dying. So put aside some money to fund growth opportunities and to take advantage of favorable circumstances. Besides increasing the scale of your business, your commitment to growth will have beneficial side effects. For example, it might be easier to recruit quality employees if they see your willingness to invest in the future. Your customers will welcome improved service, and your business will realize additional value.

3.   Optimize Your Billing Strategy

Billing is part of your central accounting package, but unlike some other areas, billing can involve extra operations beyond bookkeeping. We’re talking about dealing with those occasional clients who are slow to pay. These semi-deadbeats put a dent in your cash flow, and if the problem gets out of hand, your business could be jeopardized. You can improve your billing strategy by adopting discounts, such 2/10 net 30. This gives your customers a 2% discount if they pay within 10 days. Another strategy is to sell off your problem accounts to a collection agency. You’ll take a small loss, but you’ll free up your time to concentrate on more important tasks.

4.   Be Ready to Pounce

Ideally, you will have sufficient funds put aside to take advantage of unusually favorable opportunities. For example, one of your wholesalers might offer you a special discount on inventory. Or perhaps a desirable piece of equipment suddenly becomes available at a good price. It would be a shame to lose out on these opportunities simply because your money is tied up elsewhere. Therefore, be ready to borrow money on short-notice from a convenient and fast source, such as IOU Financial. Typically, the profit opportunities from a good deal far outweigh the interest costs of a short-term loan.

5.   Stay on Top of Your Tax Payments

Taxes might be the bane of your existence, but you had better keep current with your tax obligations to avoid disastrous consequences. You will owe income tax, sales tax, maybe even property tax, that must be remitted on time. If you have trouble making quarterly payments, then switch to monthly payments. In this way, taxes become a routine monthly expense, just like all your others.

6.   Monitor Your Books

You should review your books and records at least weekly. This is your best bet for quickly becoming aware of potential problems. Part of monitoring your books is being able to diagnose any weaknesses in several important areas, including liquidity, efficiency and return on investment so you can respond quickly as problems arise.

Conclusion

There are many ways to improve your business finances, but they require vigilance and prompt action. Ensure you have enough resources available, including access to working capital, to help you fund your efforts to grow your business and remove impediments to growth. If you’d like to discuss a strategic loan from IOU Financial, we’d love to hear from you.

4 Things Small Businesses Must Include in Their Budgets

Budgeting is to business as oxygen is to life: Without it, you die. The reason budgeting is vital to the health of a small business is that it is your GPS device for telling you where you are supposed to go and where you are actually heading. You use the budget to track business expenses, cash on hand, revenue needed and received, and other items to know whether your business is succeeding. The differences between your projected and actual budget numbers are your early warning system when things start to go wrong — or your confirmation that you are on the right track. Those differences are also a call to address problems by changing what you are doing.

Bottom line, your budget tells you how much money you have, how much you must earn and how much money you will have to spend. Importantly, it also tells you how much you might need to borrow to plug any cash shortfalls and to finance your growth. To know these things, you should include in your budget the items listed below.

Required Budget Items

Your budget might have dozens of line items, but they can all be organized into four groups of items that every budget must track: Sales, costs, profits and cash flows.

Sales and Other Revenues

These figures are the foundation of your budget. You can’t spend money unless you make it, and you don’t want to overestimate how much you’ll make by donning rose-colored glasses. Your estimates should be conservative but realistic — if they turn out to be too conservative, well, that’s a good thing. On the other hand, bloated estimates could leave your business floating belly up.

Estimating your revenues is hardest if you are just starting up your business, because you don’t have any prior-year data. That’s why you did extensive research by talking to other owners in your same field, undertaking market research, and relying on your knowledge from previous jobs.

Be sure to include, if appropriate, estimates for sales allowances and returns, which you subtract from gross sales to calculate net sales.

Total Costs and Expenses

To make money, you must spend money– those are your costs and expenses. You should categorize your costs by type:

  1. Fixed costs: These are costs that remain the same independent of your sales numbers. They include rent, insurance, property taxes, leased furniture and so forth. While these costs are called fixed, they are not carved in granite. “Fixed” just means that it will take a while (up to a year and maybe longer) to change these costs.
  2. Variable costs: These are costs that vary directly with sales volume. They include the costs of merchandise, raw materials, labor, utilities, freight, inventory and alike.
  3. Semi-variable costs: These are costs that can slowly vary with the volume of business. For instance, they include the costs of salaries, marketing, communications and various elements of overhead.

Profits

Profits, or net income, are revenues minus all expenses. Ultimately, your business won’t succeed unless it can generate profits. Your budget should include estimated  interest and income tax expenses when projecting profits. If your budget tells you that it will take years before you might begin making profits, you should re-evaluate your business model and see if you can operate until the profits begin rolling in.

Projected Cash Flows

Lack of profits can slowly poison your business. Lack of cash can stab it in the heart. Your cash flows revolve around collections and disbursements. The timing of both will reveal whether your cash inflows and outflows align. To some extent, you can try to accelerate collections and delay disbursements when revenues fall short or unexpected expenses arise. Your budget will indicate when you might have to inject more cash into your business, either by contributing additional capital or taking out a loan. If the latter is required, contact us at IOU Financial for a quick working capital loan on easy terms and convenient daily repayments.

Budget Templates

You don’t have to build your budget from scratch. We recommend our Business Budget Smart Sheet, which will help you analyze your spending patterns, streamline areas of overspending, gauge the cash flow impact of fixed and variable costs, and much more.

5 Keys to Qualifying for a Small Business Loan

Are you looking to secure a loan to grow your business? The numbers aren’t exactly encouraging when it comes to approval rates. Alternative lenders approve around 56 percent of small business loans, while traditional banks (who have less experience with non-collateralized loans) only approve around 27 percent.

Despite these somewhat disheartening statistics, there are several steps you can take to strengthen your application and make the best case for your business.

Keep in mind that lenders are essentially risk managers. When they review your application, they’re looking at the amount of risk involved when it comes to your ability to repay the loan. Follow these five steps to minimize the risk your business represents and improve your chances of approval.

Get Cash Flow Under Control

In the eyes of a lender, cash flow is king. The strength (or weakness) of your business’s cash flow is one of the main factors lenders consider when deciding whether or not to approve your loan.

Ideally, lenders are looking for a history of positive cash flow — when more money is coming in than going out. They want to see that you have enough money to cover all of your monthly expenses, with enough left over to comfortably make a hypothetical loan payment. Dips into the negative are a red flag that indicate risk.

Depending on the lender, anywhere from 90 days to 24 months of your cash flow history will end up under a microscope. It pays to get serious about cash flow management now so you can build up a history that lenders are comfortable with. Intuitive online tools can help you get a handle on your cash flow, and simplify analysis with visuals like charts and graphs.

Check Your Credit

Always check both your personal and business credit before you apply for a loan, and fix any errors that may be dragging down your score. Depending on the lender and the type of loan you’re requesting, one or both reports may be pulled as part of the loan approval process.

Your business credit will likely be taken into account if you’re applying for an SBA loan, or a loan from a traditional bank. If your business is new and has yet to build up business credit, your personal credit will often be taken into account, along with that of other majority stakeholders. In lieu of business credit, banks often judge your ability to repay the loan based on your personal score.

Not only will your credit scores affect your chances of getting approved for a loan, they can impact your interest rate should you get approved. If either your business or personal credit score is low (below 600 for personal credit), take steps to improve it before you apply for a loan.

If your credit is less than stellar and you don’t have the luxury of time to improve your score, you still have options. Alternative lenders are generally more lenient when it comes to credit scores, and often weigh cash flow more heavily when making their lending decision.

Know What to Ask For

Asking for either too much or too little can hurt your chances of getting approved for a loan, depending on the type of lender you’re working with.

Need a loan that’s less than $500,000? Traditional banks may not be your best bet. Historically, they tend to lend higher amounts — and have less experience dealing with loans that may not be backed by collateral.

Alternative lenders, on the other hand, are more likely to lend small amounts, and the application process can be much faster and easier. The key, of course, is to show these lenders that you can repay the loan (see number 5). To increase your chances of approval with these lenders, only ask for as much as you can comfortably pay back.

Know Why You’re Asking

Would you let a friend borrow $10,000 without knowing what it’s for? The same goes for lenders. A surprising number of applicants fail to tell lenders exactly how they plan to use the loan. Always define how you’ll put the capital you’re requesting to work to grow your business.

A convincing business plan is a great opportunity to remove any doubts a lender may have about your ability to repay the loan. Laying out a plan for the funds you’re asking for will go a long way to boost a lender’s confidence in your business.

Prove You Can Pay it Back

This common sense step goes right back to your all-important cash flow. When a lender scrutinizes your financials, what they’re really looking at is your ability to repay the loan you’re requesting. If you ask for an amount without showing exactly how you plan to pay it back, your application will likely land in the rejection pile.

Cash flow projections will go a long way to show a lender exactly how you’ll cover those loan payments. Fortunately, showing lenders where your business is headed doesn’t have to be difficult. Those same online tools that helped you analyze your past and current cash flow can help you create a future projection that you can hand over with your application to improve your chances of getting approved.

Guest Post: About the Author

Eddie Davis – As VP of Business Development at FINSYNC, Eddie has the great pleasure of introducing a world-class financial platform to partners ranging from financial institutions to accounting, advisory, payment and others parties interested in facilitating better business through automation and analytics innovation.

 

Streamlining Your Bookkeeping Process: Tools for Small Business

Whether you’ve been running your small business for years or are just opening up shop, efficient operations are the key to business success. When it comes to bookkeeping, it’s vital you run a smooth operation that gives you timely, reliable results. Bookkeeping tasks includes setting up accounts, entering transaction data, generating reports and preparing tax returns. It is the key part of your accounting system, including invoicing, bill payment, banking, inventory management and payroll. We’ve assembled here a short prescription for streamlining your bookkeeping process and have included a list of bookkeeping tools to boost your efficiency.

Five Keys to Efficient Bookkeeping

Even minor improvements can have a major impact on your business’ efficiency. Here are five:

  1. Establish or review your system:

    If you are just now organizing your business, you will need to have a detailed bookkeeping system in place from the very start. It starts with basic tasks, such as entering your receivables and payables as soon as you can — don’t let invoices or checks pile up on a desk, as it’s all too easy for something to fall through the cracks. Review your chart of accounts to ensure its properly set up and capturing all the information you need. Establish training materials in case you change bookkeepers, as this will save much time should the need arise.

  2. Maintain your pace:

    As we just touched upon, you should never fall behind on your bookkeeping. Even a delay of a few days can snowball into bigger problems. Errors often occur when you have to play catch-up. For example, your inventory system might fail to reflect orders placed if you haven’t yet entered the data into the system. It’s wise to have at least one “backup” bookkeeper who can step in when the primary one is away.

  3. Contract with a CPA:

    You probably don’t need a full-time CPA on staff, but that shouldn’t stop you from hiring one as a part-time consultant. CPAs can ensure your books are being kept correctly. You’ll probably have the CPA prepare your tax returns and answer any questions that come up. And in a pinch, your CPA can temporarily maintain your books if you need to find a new bookkeeper.

  4. Keep receipts:

    It’s such a cliché, but nonetheless true. If you don’t keep, organize, and record your receipts, your business will likely slow down as you search for purchase information from weeks or months before. Consider digitizing each receipt, and in any event, set up a filing system that ensures you can find a receipt when you need it.

  5. Use the best tools:

    It goes without saying that, in 2019, very few businesses are run using a paper-based accounting system. Since everyone automates, it makes sense to choose the systems and tools that have impressed the experts and other users. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pay thousands to get a basic accounting package. In fact, some good ones are free! Keep reading to see some expert recommendations.

Tools for Efficient Bookkeeping

The most valuable business tool is your accounting system. If you are a small company, consider getting a modular system with separate packages for basic bookkeeping, invoicing, inventory, payroll and so forth. Here are some noteworthy systems to consider:

  1. Wave:

    This is a top-rated free accounting system with more than 1.5 million users around the world. It’s a cloud-based system accessible anywhere you can establish an internet connection. It has impressive functionality, including invoicing, receipt management and banking. The only cost is a processing fee for online payments.

  2. Sage Accounting:

    Perfect for self-employed business owners who need a simple system that can be upgraded as your business grows. Prices start as low as $10/month.

  3. FreshBooks:

    A powerful accounting system that integrates most accounting features and interfaces with popular CRM and customer service apps. Prices start at $19.95 per month.

  4. Others:

    Many other accounting systems also perform well, including QuickBooks Online, Xero, Sage 300 Cloud and Sighted. If you need a payroll package, consider WagePoint, Gusto and SurePayroll. For tracking time and expenses, look at TSheets, Expensify and Neat.

Take the time to get your bookkeeping right from the start and you’ll save countless hours on error correction and rework. Your business will save money and you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

Are You Overpaying Your Business Expenses?

Running a small business is a costly undertaking in terms of time, effort and money. Unfortunately, too many businesses spend too much on their expenses. This eats into your working capital unnecessarily, possibly crimping your flexibility and your ability to take advantage of opportunities as they appear. Let’s look at some expenses for which many owners overpay.

Credit card processing:

As your business grows, so does your credit card volume. Have you asked for a quantity discount on your credit card processing fees? This is an extremely competitive market — shop around and you might find much better deals.

Design instead of content:

Your website is a tremendous lead generator. A problem surfaces when owners lavish too much money on design without paying enough attention to content. Your search results will improve if you populate your website with timely, authoritative content. While fancy design is fine, it won’t improve your Page Rank, and it can be expensive to create and maintain. Spend that money instead on quality writing and search engine optimization.

Oversized office:

Rent is expensive. Are you paying for space you don’t really need? Have you filled your office with expensive furniture and equipment? Many businesses can function in smaller spaces or even in a home office. The latter is a great option because it gives you a tax deduction without additional expense, eliminates your commute time (saving money on gasoline), and perhaps reduces your wardrobe costs.

Inefficient employees:

You might spend more on labor than any other expense. Inefficient employees are costly because you are not getting your money’s worth and you might even overstaff to compensate for some bad apples. There are ways to quantify how much an employee is returning to the business. Good employees should return 5 to 10 times what you pay them. If your employees are underperforming, replace them with better ones (even if they cost more) or use contractors instead.

Unproductive advertising:

Do you know your marketing return on investment (ROI)? If not, you don’t have a handle on how your marketing efforts are performing. Many businesses spend a lot of advertising dollars on Google and Facebook. These media sites can provide extensive information about your marketing ROI, but it goes to waste if you don’t use it.

Using paper:

OK, its 2019. Aren’t you ashamed you still haven’t gone paperless? If you had invested in a paperless office, you’d be saving a small fortune on printing and photocopying costs. Plus, don’t you want to save the trees?

Unnecessary travel:

Some transactions require in-person interaction. But does that really pertain to your business? Consider the costs of travel, hotel, meals and entertainment. Chances are you aren’t getting a good return on these expenses. Your time might be better spent conducting your business on Skype, and you’ll save a fortune.

Living the louche life:

You are a business owner, not a superhero. If you burn the candle at both ends, you’ll get burnt. Guard your health by avoiding too many nights entertaining customers, vendors and employees. Your tab will be substantial, and your health might suffer. Sure, you can probably charge off your entertainment expenses, but you may pay in other ways.

Failure to grab opportunities:

In the penny-wise and pound-foolish department, false economies can cost you in the long run. For instance, you might be offered inventory or raw materials at a discount, but you don’t make the purchase because you don’t want to borrow the funds you need. This behavior can stymie growth. The lesson is to use borrowing intelligently. If you don’t, you can be certain your competitors will.

These are just a few of the many ways you can cut waste and increase efficiency. Should you need to beef up your working capital, contact us at IOU Financial for business loans that are easy to get and easy to repay.

Women in Business: Grants for Female Entrepreneurs

The federal government offers a number of grants to small businesses owned and managed by women. Most of these grants allow flexible use of the money as long as it doesn’t go toward startup expenses. The two major houses for information about federally sponsored grants are:

Grants.gov: This is the main databases of federally sponsored grants. You can search it with a keyword of “women” to identify grants of interest. If you’d like to apply for one of these grants, you’ll have to secure a DUNS number from Duns & Bradstreet, register at the System Award Management website and then create a Grants.gov account.

Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs: This website from the Small Business Administration can be used to identify grant to small businesses involved in federal research and development. A dozen federal agencies pool their grant information here for businesses with up to 500 employees.

There are also a number of national, regional and state grant programs that female entrepreneurs can tap. These include:

  • Eileen Fisher: Until 2018, this company offered a grant program for women in business. It is currently reformulating its grants program and plans to reintroduce it in 2019.
  • Amber Grant Foundation: The foundation awards $10,000 grants to women-run businesses. It is dedicated to a young woman named Amber who died before realizing her entrepreneurial dream. If you are passionate about your business, this program might suit you well.
  • The Girlboss Foundation: Grants of $15,000 each are awarded every other year to female entrepreneurs. In addition, you receive marketing assistance and press exposure for your business. Grant winners must be women owning businesses in the art, music, fashion or design industries.
  • The Halstead Grant: This $7,500 grant is awarded annually to female emerging silver jewelry artists. The program is designed to boost an artist’s career as she starts out. You must submit your design portfolio and answer 15 business questions to compete for this grant.
  • FedEx Small Business Grant: This is a grant contest for women entrepreneurs and businesswomen who are involved in logistics, trade and other related industries. Ten winners are chosen each year with prizes ranging from $15,000 to $50,000.
  • Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards: This program drives change by empowering women entrepreneurs. Each year, 21 women finalists (three from each continent) are awarded. The focus of the program is to support women who make concrete contributions to solving problems that challenge the planet’s future.
  • Grants for Women: This is an online guide for women grants and scholarships. You can search by entering a keyword, or you can peruse the site’s directory of foundations and organizations that offer grants to women. The website filters out schemes and scams to protect applicants from fraud.
  • Open Meadows Foundation: This organizations offers grants of up to $2,000 each to women who run projects that promote economic, racial and gender justice. It is an activist organization that encourages the building of community power through projects implemented for girls and women who have limited financial access. Recipient must have organizational budgets that do not exceed $75,000.

Grants are a wonderful boost for any small business, but unfortunately, aren’t always enough to go around. The next best thing is to obtain funding through a convenient, affordable small business loan, such as the ones we offer at IOU Financial. If you need up to $500,000 funding for your small business, contact IOU Financial today and we can have your money available in days.