Are you managing a startup with little or no sales as yet? Running on a lean skeleton crew of employees banking on your promises of success?
At this stage, it might seem most important to just do everything possible to keep the doors open, but that’s the wrong kind of thinking. Working on a day-to-day approach is the same as saying “We might not make it.”
In order to keep your startup in the black, or get it to that point if you’re not even there yet, you need to put systems in place that will help you both presently and in the future when sales start to pour in and potential investors start to show interest in your company.
Need expert tips? Our friends at Fusion Accountants, a London-based Firm specializing in small business accounting and taxes, share the following tips that can help you in getting started easier and smarter:
1. Set up an accounting process
This doesn’t mean going out to buy the most expensive accounting software available. No need to add gasoline to the fire eating away at the company bank account presently.
Instead, look to solutions like QuickBooks, Zoho, or another solution and take advantage of their startup plans. For $10 – $15 a month, you can get your accounting system established, then upgrade your plan as the business grows.
2. Know who you owe and when
The worst kinds of bills are those that crop up suddenly, like when you have to replace an expensive product that was damaged while shipping to the client, or to pay the plumber for a sudden problem cropping up with the pipes in your building.
Knowing this, you should have a list of all your financial obligations plugged into your accounting system. Even if you can’t pay them right on time, at least you’ll know what’s coming rather than being surprised and forced to take drastic action.
3. Get your receivables in order
The cold hard truth is, if you don’t know who owes you money and/or don’t track who’s paid, who still owes, and when you can otherwise count that money as cash flow, you’re always going to be in trouble – robbing Peter to pay Paul until they talk with each other and the jig is suddenly up.
Identify all your expenses and when they need to be paid. This is the starting point of figuring out how long you can let clients slide on their payments. There’s nothing wrong with expecting 31-day payables or even payment on delivery from your clients. You’re a startup after all.
If you’re working with high-dollar clients and this seems like a bad idea, consider offering early payment incentives that no thrifty corporation can resist! Also, establish reasonable interest rates for late payments and make it clear you’ll hand chronically past-due accounts over to collection agents without notice.
4. Create a financial forecast for the business
Do you know your break-even point? Would an accountant agree with your estimations? You need to know where you’re going to be spending money in relation to everything that’s coming in.
Expenses mount and profits may only trickle in over the coming months. You need to know what’s happening this month, next month, quarterly, and yearly – up to the 18 to 24 month mark.
5. Set up accounts with vendors early
It might seem prudent to keep your relationship with vendors on an “as needed” basis while you continue to shop around, or until the business gains a foothold in the market. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking costs you money now and may hamper your ability to get credit later with said vendors, when the business starts to explode and you need to scale.
Painstakingly research to find the best vendors early. Some will take time to find, but the best out there will have a reputation and you should bank on that reputation and establish and start to grow that relationship early. After making a few or several small purchases, most will be willing to give you discounts and a reasonable credit line that can actually help you grow your business more quickly when it starts to scale.
6. Start talking to the banks from day one
It’s important to set aside time to go in and start talking with the banks early on. You don’t want to wait until your business is scaling to find out the bank you’re with doesn’t offer the kind of service you need, or that there’s no way they’d ever consider extending credit to a startup.
This section in the GOV.UK site is a good starting point; it’s a great resource for identifying banks and other lenders that are willing to work with startups. Look for banks that offer one-on-one service, that don’t require a month’s notice to sit down with you and offer help and advice. Keep all personal and business accounts separate, whatever you do!
7. Look to alternative staffing solutions for now
There are a thousand-and-one startups in the business graveyard who banked on their success to early and hired more staff than they could afford. Once you hire that person, you’re obliged to pay their salary, benefits, severance and other expenses.
There are plenty of options that can put you in touch with talent, while still limiting your financial obligations such as using freelancers, hiring contract staff, or using virtual assistants.
8. Constantly analyze your need for and eligibility for outside funding
You may never need outside funding depending on what business you’re in. However, if you’re keeping on top of all the variables mentioned already, you should never find yourself walking into an angel’s office begging for money that you needed “yesterday” in order to keep the business going.
You should know when you’re ready for growth before it happens. This allows for numerous funding options such as angels, VCs and even crowdfunding on a platform that caters to your type of business.