Wednesday 26 February 2014

Guest post: Lana Joubert - Let's talk small business finances

Meet Lana Joubert...AKA Small Business Finance expert 

Today I've asked Lana to share some secrets about how to take control of your small business finances. Her tips are easy to understand and so informative for anyone needing some direction when it comes to planning, spending, taxes and getting your business registered :) 

Hi there...

I am so honoured and excited to be writing this post for Caitlyn’s blog today… my first guest post and one of the first few posts that I’ve written (my own new blog included). While I may be new to blogging, I’ve been involved with all aspects of business for a while now and am absolutely passionate about helping creative business owners in taking their business ideas and turning them into realities, or growing their businesses by taking control of their finances and the “Business” side of their companies. 

Starting a business can be one of the most exhilarating times in a person’s life… feeling like everything is possible and that you are finally following your dreams and turning them into a reality… you walk around on a constant high and there is nothing that can pull you down from that. However, this feeling can fast fade and be replaced by a very stressful daunting situation that feels more like a jail cell than walking on air when suddenly you find yourself with no fixed income, bills coming in and no set plan moving forward.
So how then do you enjoy the exhilaration of making your dreams come true while ensuring that you don’t fall into the pitfall of not knowing what’s going to happen next? A Clear vision, backed by definite plans and a sound knowledge of all aspects of your business, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.

When you first think about starting your own business, you generally have a clear vision of what you want, and the only way of turning that vision into a profitable reality is by having DEFINITE PLANS. The first of these plans will form long before you even take the leap into the role of full time business owner, and that is to plan your finances. The reality is that you are not likely to begin to make a profit in your newly formed business for some time. In fact most businesses, in the first 4 – 6 months of business, will make a loss. From 7 – 12 months, you may break even if you are lucky, and only thereafter is it likely that you will begin to start to show small profits.

Sometimes life doesn’t give us too much chance to plan thoroughly before catapulting us into the entrepreneurial world (situations such as job losses happen) and we just have to make the best and work really hard at a difficult situation, but where possible I strongly recommend you look at the following pointers before starting your own business…

1.    Pay as much of your debt off as possible. This will just take off the pressure each month when bills need to be paid and income is scarce.

2.    Build a Cash cushion. Remembering that you will need to carry yourself and your expenses for at least 12 months.

3.    Put Key Benefits in place where possible. This is probably the “luxury” on this list but if you can, look at taking out disability & income loss protection plans. Remember that as a business owner, if you don’t work for any reason, you don’t get paid.

Next let’s look at having a SOUND KNOWLEDGE of your business. I know this is the one that most people like to ignore but at the end of the day you can control only what you can measure. Businesses do well and succeed when they make a profit but can be destroyed if money & finances are not managed properly or at all.

It is essential for every business owner no matter how big or small your business is, to undertake the process of managing and tracking cash in your business (this is called Cash Management), whether you do this yourself or you find a reliable Bookkeeper to assist.  After all this is the life blood of your business. Cash management involves knowing where cash is coming from and where it’s going. You may be thinking, “It’s obvious… cash comes from sales,” but from what product or service, which customer and when. If you want to grow your business, it is essential you think and look at all of these things.
There are 3 main financial documents that you as a small business need to ensure you have compiled:

1.    Cash Journals– these record how money has come in and how money goes it, but it also shows you which products/services are best sellers, which customers purchase the most, and where you are spending your money. This is day-by-day record of every transaction that goes through your business. The Cash journals give you a clear indication of actual profit/Loss on a monthly basis. You record these entries from each of every slip, invoice, purchase receipt etc that goes through your business. (These by the way MUST be kept on record for SARS)

2.    Cash Flow Analysis– this is generally a 6 – 12 month projection of what income you can expect to be coming in and what expenses you can expect to incur.It gives you an indication of what months you will be short and where you will have some profit that can then carry you through the quieter months.

3.    Income Statement & Balance sheet – An income statement is basically a summarised version of your Cash Journals and shows at a glance your profit/Loss. The Balance sheet shows you where your money is sitting (if it is in Cash, or in the bank or in assets such as stock), your receivables coming in, where you can pull money from and where to invest into your business.

The last topic that I want to touch on quickly with you is the one I think we all dread even more than keeping financial records… TAXES. For most of you starting a business, you will be starting out as a Sole Proprietor. This means that your business is you and you are your business – income earned by the business is income earned by you and losses or debt incurred by the business is yours as well.

When you earn income, you are expected to pay over a portion to SARS. For Sole Props, this is done by means of 2 payments throughout the year, Provisional Tax and Income Tax Payments, based on the profit that you have made less certain deductibles. As an individual owning a Sole Prop, you need to register with SARS for a Tax number, which then allows you to submit your returns and pay over your taxes.

It is never too late to get your tax affairs in order and I strongly recommend that you do so. The penalties are not worth the avoidance.

We all know the hard work, long hours, blood, sweat & tears that go into pursuing your dream and turning it into your own business, why then run the risk of putting it in jeopardy or stunting its longevity by not really knowing what’s going on within the business. Whether you choose to take on this task yourself, or find someone who can help, It is imperative that you keep financial records for your business so that you can use them to make informed decisions about how your business is doing and where it is going, ensuring that you get to keep building your dream.

Lana is passionate about helping people turn their dreams and ideas into realities by helping them register their business, build it, market it, develop a brand and set up proper procedures and records. In her words, “I love accounting and business management and feel it is vital in any business no matter how bog or small. I offer consulting and business coaching, as well as run workshops which teach people how to run their own finances and understand their financial documents.

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