Financial Management is the process of managing the financial resources, including accounting and financial reporting, budgeting, collecting accounts receivable, risk management, and insurance for a business.
The financial management system for a small business includes both how you are financing it as well as how you manage the money in the business.
In setting up a financial management system your first decision is whether you will manage your financial records yourself or whether you will have someone else do it for you. There are a number of alternative ways you can handle this. You can manage everything yourself; hire an employee who manages it for you; keep your records inhouse, but have an accountant prepare specialized reporting such as tax returns; or have an external bookkeeping service that manages financial transactions and an accountant that handles formal reporting functions. Some accounting firms also handle bookkeeping functions. Software packages are also available for handling bookkeeping and accounting.
Bookkeeping refers to the daily operation of an accounting system, recording routine transactions within the appropriate accounts. An accounting system defines the process of identifying, measuring, recording and communicating financial information about the business. So, in a sense, the bookkeeping function is a subset of the accounting system. A bookkeeper compiles the information that goes into the system. An accountant takes the data and analyzes it in ways that give you useful information about your business. They can advise you on the systems needed for your particular business and prepare accurate reports certified by their credentials. While software packages are readily available to meet almost any accounting need, having an accountant at least review your records can lend credibility to your business, especially when dealing with lending institutions and government agencies.
Setting up an accounting system, collecting bills, paying employees, suppliers, and taxes correctly and on time are all part of running a small business. And, unless accounting is your small business, it is often the bane of the small business owner. Setting up a system that does what you need with the minimum of maintenance can make running a small business not only more pleasant, but it can save you from problems down the road.
The basis for every accounting system is a good Bookkeeping system. What is the difference between that and an accounting system? Think of accounting as the big picture of how your business runs -- income, expenses, assets, liabilities -- an organized system for keeping track of how the money flows through your business, keeping track that it goes where it is supposed to go. A good bookkeeping system keeps track of the nuts and bolts -- the actual transactions that take place. The bookkeeping system provides the numbers for the accounting system. Both accounting and bookkeeping can be contracted out to external firms if you are not comfortable with managing them yourself.
Even if you outsource the accounting functions, however, you will need some type of Recordkeeping Systems to manage the day-to-day operations of your business - in addition to a financial plan and a budget to make certain you have thought through where you are headed in your business finances. And, your accounting system should be producing Financial Statements. Learning to read them is an important skill to acquire.
Another area that your financial management system needs to address is risk. Any good system should minimize the risks in your business. Consider implementing some of these risk management strategies in your business. Certainly, insurance needs to be considered not only for your property, office, equipment, and employees, but also for loss of critical employees. Even in businesses that have a well set up system, cash flow can be a problem. There are some tried and true methods for Managing Cash Shortages that can help prevent cash flow problems and deal with them if they come up. In the worst case you may have difficulties meeting all you debt obligations. Take a look at Financial Difficulties to learn more about ways to manage situations in which you have more debt than income.
It is possible you may even be at the a point where you want to sell the business or simply close it and liquidate assets. There are financial issues involved for these circumstances too. So, be certain that you know what steps you need to take in order to protect yourself financially in the the long run.
Clearly, financial management encompasses a number of crucial areas of your business. Take time to set them up right. It will make a significant difference in your stress levels and in the bottom line for your business.
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