A small business lives or dies by its cash flow. If you’re not staying on top of your accounting, you could be making significant mistakes that can derail business growth. Failing to reconcile your business bank accounts, not keeping track of income and expenses, or waiting to apply payments to open receivables leads to incomplete or incorrect accounting information.
Business accounting doesn’t have to be an onerous task. With the right mindset, tools, and support, you can stay on top of your accounting and keep accurate track of your business’ income and expenses. These five tips will help you manage your numbers even if you’re not a ‘numbers’ person, and keep careful track of your accounting data.
Five Ways to Handle Small Business Accounting
- Hire an accountant: Some business owners have neither the time nor the inclination to complete their own accounting tasks. For these business owners, hiring an accountant makes sense. Look for a local accountant so it’s convenient to meet with your accountant on a regular basis. Make your accountant’s life easier by collecting all of your paperwork in a folder or envelope, and organizing it before your meetings. Keep track of all expenses, save receipts, and include bank statements and other payment indicators. To find a small business accountant, ask at your Chamber of Commerce or local business meetings, look through local listings, and schedule interviews and appointments with a few to find someone who has the skills and experience you need for your small business accounting needs.
- Purchase and use accounting software: There are many excellent small business accounting software packages on the market today. Each can be customized for your business needs. Accounting software makes it easier and simpler to track expenses, apply payments to open receivables, and track customer expenses. If you aren’t sure how to set up your books for the year, speak with a local accountant. Some are certified by accounting software providers such as QuickBooks to teach and manage the software packages and will set up your system for a nominal fee. This service may even be free of charge if you use the same accountant for your taxes and end of year accounting, depending on who you work with. While QuickBooks may be the popular software, there are plenty of alternative options to choose from to fit your business needs.
- Set reminders: Common small business accounting mistakes include not updating your books regularly, failing to send invoices on a timely basis, and leaving open invoices unpaid. Set weekly or monthly reminders for accounting tasks. Block and hour or two to update your books regularly and track down unpaid invoices. A simple calendar reminder on your smartphone or in your calendar tool on your computer can help keep you up to date and on-task with your accounting needs.
- Set and keep an invoice schedule: Make sure you establish a schedule to invoice customers or clients. Each business owner must evaluate and determine a schedule to invoice customers, but make it a routine to keep your cash flow even and regular. A service provider may send invoices upon completion of the service. Others may choose to invoice customers on the last day of the month or the 15th. The schedule itself does not matter, but having a schedule does. The more you can make invoicing a simple routine, the easier it is to stay on top of it.
- Organize your paperwork: By far the biggest hurdle many small business owners have to leap is staying organized. This can be especially problematic for businesses on the go, such as lawn care companies, mobile food trucks, and others who work in a non-traditional office setting. Many items can be organized and stored on your laptop, smartphone or a cloud-based file system such as Google Docs, but others involve paper receipts. These should be stored in a central location until you are ready to tackle your accounting. You don’t need a fancy storage system; a shoebox or an envelope can suffice. Just be sure to use it regularly and store it in a safe place until you are ready to input your data into your accounting software or drop it off at your accountant’s office.
Professional Advice Is Invaluable
Even if you choose the do-it-yourself route and handle your own basic accounting, a yearly ‘checkup’ with a professional accountant or CPA is highly advisable. Small business accountants are both numbers-ninjas and business strategists. They can advise you on how to use accounting software, the latest IRS rules, changes and requirements, state taxation laws, and other issues pertinent to your accounting needs. With a good accountant by your side, you can be sure that your business’ financial information is handled competently.