Building a growth business is a thrilling ride. Unfortunately for some entrepreneurs, the ride can end in disaster without smart financial planning.
If you are thinking about starting a business or have already done so, don’t let your enthusiasm for your company’s potential to take away from your practical focus. Successful entrepreneurs must be diligent about when, where, and how much they spend. A bad investment or a hasty purchase can quickly drain your bank account to zero. If you can’t make payroll, any employees you have will quickly jump ship for more reliable gigs.
According to research from CBInsights, running out of cash is the second most common reason startups fail. No matter how great your product or how devoted your fanbase, you can’t succeed for long if you don’t practice the proper financial discipline to manage your company over the long haul. Imagine setting the foundation for a great business, closing shop for poor money habits, and watching someone else succeed with your idea. Doesn’t sound like fun, does it?
Start off on the right financial foot in the new decade by following these six rules for startup money management:
Get your personal finances in order first.
Start your company with your savings if you want, but don’t let your commitment to the company’s success put you out of house and home. You still need to eat, invest for your future, and pay your bills while you build your business from the ground up. If you want to build an empire, do yourself a favor and put your financial education first.
Spend an afternoon tracking down all your personal accounts and debts, then make a plan to get your personal finances in a good place. Pay off high-interest debts quickly and consider the advantages of debit cards vs. credit cards and the roles they play in your financial toolbox. If you have retirement accounts, make sure you aren’t paying enormous fees to advisors who don’t provide above-market returns. Once you know how much money you have, you’ll be better prepared to make important decisions regarding your financial interest in your business.
Set goals for yourself and for your business.
You may aspire to build a unicorn, but you need to reach several milestones between working out of your garage and owning a billion-dollar company. What does success look like for your business over the next few months? The next year? The next five years? Can you take the salary you want without jeopardizing your company’s future?
Without a solid grasp on your company’s position, you can’t answer any of these questions with certainty. Figure out where you and your business stand, then think about where you’d like to go and what you need to do to get there. How many units do you need to sell to reach $100,000 in monthly revenue? Identify the goal, then plot out the steps between the present and the dream.
Evaluate your spending, and explore your options.
Be honest with yourself. Unless you have a large team, you probably don’t need a fancy office. Fixed expenses can kill small businesses during the inevitable rough times. The fewer bills you have to pay, the better off you’ll be until you have more stability.
Go through all your business expenses to identify areas where you could save some money. Consider expenses such as rent, office equipment, staffing, and merchandise. You may be able to save money by eliminating your office or moving to a new location. Instead of owning office equipment outright, try leasing expensive items from suppliers. Look at employees-as-a-service companies or contractors to handle infrequent needs.
Get your insurance coverage in order.
Paying for insurance may feel unnecessarily expensive, but don’t be fooled. Insurance premiums are annoying, true, but facing a claim without proper insurance coverage can be catastrophic. You may trust your loyal team members with your life, but if someone gets hurt on the job or if a client sues you, your lack of insurance could cost you your company.
Talk to an insurance agent or a lawyer who specializes in business insurance. Depending on your industry, you may need to find coverage for things like product liability or business interruptions. Make sure you understand what your policies do and don’t cover to avoid finding yourself in a bad situation. You may discover during this process that you can’t ask employees to perform certain tasks or keep certain types of materials at your company’s location. Pay a few thousand now to avoid facing a court case of millions down the road.
Work with great partners.
The only thing more valuable than a good employee is a good professional partner. Your vendors keep your company running so you can serve your own customers. Do your homework to discover all your options, make a shortlist of candidates, then vet them thoroughly to identify the best ones for your organization.
Remember that the prices your vendors give may not be set in stone. You can negotiate with your vendors just like you would for any major purchase. Even if you can’t get a lower quote, you may be able to negotiate for faster shipping, better warranties, extended payment periods, or other perks. See if you can barter your services for those of your vendors to make the numbers work.
Exercise caution regarding ownership and equity.
When you don’t have much money in the bank, you may feel tempted to exchange ownership in your company for more experienced employees or investment capital. Think long and hard before doing so. Those single-digit percentages add up quickly when multiple people get pieces of the business. If you aren’t careful, you could end up losing majority control of your company.
Never raise money you don’t know how to spend. Never give up equity to an employee who won’t be a critical piece of your leadership team or a vital building block for an essential function. Definitely don’t give away shares to people in your social circle as thank-you gifts, no matter how integral they were to your success. Thank them by taking them on a nice vacation or buying them a boat when you make it big, not by mortgaging your future.
Navigating the tricky waters of entrepreneurship is a dangerous business, even in the best of times. As the founder, you must maintain a clear head to keep your finances on track. Follow these tips to avoid the most common pitfalls of entrepreneurship and enjoy your journey to the top.