Financial Fitness for Entrepreneurs: 7 Lessons From Personal Finance
Starting a company is exciting. You get to pursue a dream, try something new, and become financially independent. That is, if you can get your finances in order.
Financial management matters, whatever the age of your company or the it's you're in. The good news is, a lot of personal finance advice also translates to the business world.
Whether your company is flush or flat-out broke, these seven lessons apply:
1. Stick to a Budget
Knowing your financial situation is the first step toward success. You can split up your budget by asking yourself two questions:
How much do I need to spend?
Just as in your personal life, your business has bills to pay and investments to make. Tallying up these needs can give you an idea of how much of your income your company needs to bring in each month.
Putting together a budget is key if your company is to live within its means. Identifying opportunities to cut expenses is the best way to avoid overspending, both in your own life and for your business.
How much do I need to earn?
Once you have an idea of how much you're spending, you can start thinking through your revenue projections. Remember, what you earn needs to not just cover your bills, but also allow you to build a nest egg.
Setting aside money for the future can be tough. Using a debit card with a round-up system can bump your savings with every purchase. That way, there's always something left at the end of the month.
2. Set Financial Goals
The whole point of budgeting is to help you achieve your financial goals. Otherwise, you'll feel like your company is merely treading water.
What do you want your company's future to look like? Picture its near-, mid-, and long-term future:
In the short term - think 1-3 months - your goals should be small, such as:
Saving for a new tool or software subscription
Earning enough to reward loyal workers with a bonus
Affording an ad campaign
Sending team members to a conference
What about in the 6-12 month range? For the mid-term, you might consider:
Investing in a new service line
Redesigning your flagship product
Making room in the labor budget for a new team member
Boosting your revenue enough to afford rent at a larger office
The long term is when your really big goals come into play. Yours might include:
Aiming to be acquired at a certain valuation
Earning enough to buy out a competitor
Pivoting to a more profitable area of the market
Spinning off a second brand
Goals give you something to work toward. Instead of spending and saving on a whim, they make it possible to be strategic with your money.
3. Avoid Debt Whenever You Can
As you work toward your financial goals, you will run into obstacles. Not all debt is avoidable, but you should skip it unless you really need the cash.
Some math might help put this into perspective: Imagine you take out a five-year, $10,000 loan at a 5% interest rate. Assuming you make all your monthly payments on time, you'll have paid $11,323 over the lifetime of the loan. Think about all you could do with that extra $1,300.
The bigger problem with debt, however, is that it adds risk. If something unexpected happens and your revenue takes a hit, then what happens? Not being able to pay back your debt can cost you your business.
4. Get Insurance
Insurance acts as a safety net. Even if you have a solid savings account, it may not be enough to survive a catastrophe, such as a lawsuit or natural disaster.
Getting your car insured is one thing. Making sure your livelihood is intact is a much greater priority.
General liability insurance is a good idea for every business. If you're in a high-risk industry, such as construction or medicine, specialty insurance can make sure your bases are covered.
5. Know When to Ask an Expert
The world of finance can be complicated and confusing. That's why so many business owners turn to pros, such as accountants and financial planners, for key financial decisions.
Especially if your background is in tech, sales, or marketing, don't try to navigate your company's finances alone. Ignorance is not an excuse for tax mistakes, bad bookkeeping, or poor investment decisions. When in doubt, reach out to someone in your network who can help.
6. Watch Your Credit Score
A good credit score can be the difference between a good and a bad interest rate on a loan. Although you shouldn't take on debt without a good reason, certain major purchases - think an office big enough to accommodate a growing team - are worth it.
If you're a new entrepreneur, banks will look to your personal credit score when deciding whether or not to give you a loan. After you've been in business for a couple of years, your company will be assigned its own credit score.
Consider a credit monitoring service. As is true in personal finance, business credit mistakes happen. Don't let one linger on your company's credit report, or you might find yourself ineligible for a loan when the time comes.
7. Never Let a Discount Go to Waste
For the same reason your mother clipped coupons, your company should take advantage of discounts whenever it can. Don't buy things your business doesn't need, but do nab deals on goods and services you'd purchase anyway.
A good way to do so is to buy in bulk. Much like Costco or Sam's Club, group purchasing organizations pass on volume discounts to businesses. Plus, GPOs negotiate vendor contracts themselves, saving you the headache of trying to get the best price.
Personal and business finance aren't as different as they might seem. The core principles are the same: Keep a budget, set goals, live within your means, and know when you need an expert opinion. Anything less is leaving your company's future up to chance.