Five Small Business Finance Tips

Owning a small business involves much more than coming up with and implementing a business idea. Small business owners quickly learn that a huge part of their role as the owner of a business means learning how to take care of the financials. Here are several tips for small business owners who want to learn the best practices for managing their business’ finances:

1) Bookkeeping

To the dismay of many business owners, the ancient art of bookkeeping isn’t going anywhere. Fortunately, bookkeeping has become much easier. Bookkeeping programs can make the process much easier, but there are still certain fundamental rules that business owners must take into account. Firstly, business owners must always keep a record of all of the invoices processed by their business as well as the expenses they have incurred, such as raw materials, salaries, and operating expenses. While there is no solid rule for how to keep track of earnings and expenses, what matters most is that you keep track of your finances in a consistent fashion and that everything is written down. This is arguably the most important part of owning a small business.

2) Don’t Over-Exaggerate Your Earnings

When working with investors, banks, or other financial lenders, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to exaggerate your business’ earnings. These lenders need to know how likely you are to repay the money they have lent you when making their decision about whether or not to lend it in the first place. Lying or exaggerating about your earnings will only harm you and the lender in the long run.

3) Make Sure All Of Your Funding is Backed by a Legal Contract

Regardless of where you are going to receive funding, you need to ensure that the terms of your financial agreements are written down on a contract. Unfortunately, things can become troublesome during the repayment process and it is therefore urgent that you and your lender lay out terms in the beginning that you must adhere to later on. This keeps both sides accountable and also ensures that both sides know exactly what they are getting into before the money starts circulating.

4) Cash Flow

A successful small business always maintains a sufficient amount of cash on hand to take care of daily operations and unexpected expenses. However, many businesses that have been successful in receiving funding find that the money they are lent covers already-existing expenses but doesn’t quite leave enough cash left over to keep on hand. This is why small business owners are familiar with the feeling of being stuck somewhere between outstanding invoices and bills that are past-due. One option for small business owners is to use a merchant cash advance. These types of business cash advances can provide small businesses with additional cash flow to meet these expenses or to grow their business, and they are repaid through future credit card receivables. This is an important option to consider for many small business owners who have been denied other forms of funding.

5) When to Process Credit Cards

The short answer: Now! Being cash-only is extremely inconvenient for most customers. While setting up a credit card processing system can be costly, your customers may find it more convenient to go to your competitor’s business once they learn that your business doesn’t process credit cards. Furthermore, using credit cards at your business functions as an instant line of credit and means less hassle and paperwork for your business. This can cut down on lengthy credit approval processes. Also, there are additional types of funding available for businesses who process credit card transactions as opposed to those who don’t.

Marketing Ideas Small Business Owners Can Use to Get More Referrals

Many professionals and small business owners want more referrals. They know referrals are a big part of their marketing strategy.   However, many people are reluctant to ask for referrals. It makes them feel needy, greedy or pushy.  But it doesn’t have to be that way!

What is the number one question people ask you?  It doesn’t matter what you do for a living.  The question is always the same.  Ready?  It is:  “How are you?” 
 
If you are like just about everyone, your answer is always the same: “Fine.”  That is a dead-end street.  Next time, use that as an opportunity to talk about your business. 

 
Try something like: 
 
“I’m great.  I’m working with a new client who (describe your client).  I’m helping him by (fill in what you are doing to help that client).  I really like working with people like that because (say why).”
 
Now here’s the important part. Ask for a referral.
 
“Do you know anyone who (describe your client again)?  If you do, let me know.  I’d love to help them, too.”
 
Need an example?   
 
Here’s something an accountant might say.
 
“I am great.  I am working with a client who wants to retire and sell her business in a few years.  I’m helping her get her finances order now, so she’ll be in good shape when she is ready to sell.  I like this type of project because I know with my help, she’s going to get a lot more money when she does sell her business.  Do you know any business owners who are nearing retirement age?  If you do, send them my way.  I’ll be happy to review their books and see if there are areas that need updating.”
 
Need another example? Here is something a restaurant owner could say.
 
“I am great! I just introduced a new menu. It has some heart-healthy entrees on it and my customers love it! I like providing food that tastes fabulous and is good for my customers, too. It makes me feel like I am really taking care of them. Do you know anyone who is interested in improving their eating habits? If you do, send them my way. Be sure they tell me they know you. I will be happy to give them extra-special treatment.”

 
With a little modification, you can also use this type of message in written communication (seasonal cards, e-mails, etc.) to your contacts. 
 
Give it a try!  You’ll soon find getting more referrals is a lot easier than you thought.

Starting a Small Business: Dreaming

There are many phases to starting your own small business. Lots of steps to go through to get from that initial idea to a fully functioning business. My husband and I are just beginning this journey, and as we do so, I want to walk you through the steps we are taking based on the advice and insight we’ve received from successful entrepreneurs and my years of business marketing experience.

Phase one is at once simple. Almost like taking a breath it can come unexpectedly and give you everything you need to dive into the depths of a new adventure. It is simultaneously complex. Just like breathing, if you stop to think about it too much, you may just freeze up and forget how to get started.

Jon Acuff talks about a rule he and his wife have. He is allowed to talk through his dreams and she just listens. No questions of how or the cost from her planning brain, and no spontaneous purchases from him during this “Wow” time. When I first heard this concept, I knew it was perfect. For every dreamer out there, they probably have a close relationship with a planner. Spouse, friend, business partner, whoever that person is for you, this safe atmosphere to dream is a must.

As you start dreaming about your small business idea, find someone you can safely dream with, maybe several people even. Jot down your ideas or have your phone take a voice memo. Just keep thinking of things you enjoy, things you are passionate about, things you think will make a difference or that need changed.

Truth be told, you may not even realize you have a small business idea during the dreaming phase. You may just be dissatisfied with your job or you may have a frustration that you see a solution to that no one has thought of. While the first phase of starting a small business is dreaming, often this phase will be over before you realize you do want to start a small business.

But even if you have already begun your business or if you a veteran business owner, you should always be dreaming. It is in the creativity of imagination that we continue to grow and find new avenues for enjoyment and even profit.

The dreaming phase may be the beginning, but it should also flow throughout the life of your small business. In our family, my husband is the dreamer. He has tossed out a lot of ideas brainstorming about his goals. He has finally settled on one that is a great starting point, meets a real need, and has a low starting overhead. This dream is one that we can both latch onto, and in the coming months, I will share our journey in launching our very own small business.