As a business owner, you’re the person primarily responsible for your company’s finances. Not your bookkeeper. Not your accountant. You.
It’s tax season, a time when finance—and finance management—is on all my clients’ minds. So I usually take the opportunity to ask them: “Are you abdicating or delegating your finances to your accountant?” In other words: Do you defer to your accountant, waiting for them to give you financial results that’ll help you better lead and manage your business? Or do you already know the results they’ll give because you know how to read the financials yourself?
Most clients start by abdicating—and it puts them in a risky position.
If, after reading part one and part two in this series, you’re starting to see the value in better understanding your financial performance, then we’re in a good place to move forward. If you’re thinking, “Sure, that all sounds good, but there’s no way I have time to put this much energy into tracking and thinking about my money—nor the ability to pay someone else to do it,” then you need to stop and reconsider. A relationship with your numbers is a key ingredient of your success, but there are some tools you can leverage to reduce the technical work significantly.
Perhaps you use Google Analytics to track every visitor to your website, right down to the country they’re visiting from. Maybe you even use wearable technology and a smartphone to measure the steps you take in a day or how much sleep you get at night. But what are you doing to measure the financial health of your business? If your only measure of financial performance are the sales you generate each month or the balance in your bank account—you’re missing out on a wealth of information about your business.
How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m just not a money person”? Have you ever been that person? It’s a common expression and an easy escape hatch to fall through when you’re staring at spreadsheets full of numbers and formulas. But it’s a phrase, and an attitude, that’s ultimately unproductive and stopping you from taking your business to the next level.
Trendspotting is a term most commonly used in fashion circles. Top designers will spend thousands of dollars to send their curators all over the world to… spot trends. We’ve notoriously been told that the fashion industry is capable of predicting what colors we will want to wear before we even know we want to wear them.
Numbers—drilling down into a complex spreadsheet of financial data—can be unsettling. Even to those who are accustomed to reviewing their own financials and metrics on a regular basis, it’s entirely possible to feel degrees of panic when faced with looking at the numbers. Why? Because there’s no hiding from the truth with numbers. In your weekly status meeting, your executive team may sugar-coat the truth about a project that’s going off the rails. Your direct reports might be marking up your “360 review process” with above-average scores because they fear the consequences of sharing some harsh truths. But when you look at your cash flow last month, there’s only cold reality: where you started, what changed and where you ended.
When most business owners hear the word “budgeting,” they cringe. Many times, the “budget” ends up collecting dust on some back room shelf, never to be seen again—until your accountant asks to see it. But your budget is more important than you think. It’s critical in helping you and your management team get the profit you want.