11 valuable lessons learnt from running a small business

23 January 2018

I’ve always believed in good family business financial advice.

So, before I understood accounts, I ran a small business. It happened suddenly, thrust into a sink or swim situation after the demise of the business I was working for. Friday I was employed, Monday I was the owner of something quite exciting hopefully, it was going to survive. And even more hopefully, it was going to give me a living, possibly a good one.

How was I going to run the office side of this was my thinking. I was production based and the paperwork was handled by others. So here I was, invoicing, banking, chasing debt and trying to work out what I owed. Not what I wanted to do, but a small family business is what it is. Initially, I didn’t have the cash to pay someone to do it so there was only one choice

Late nights and early starts were the order of the day, and eventually some semblance of financial order developed. I gradually learned how to do all of the financial tasks associated with a growing business. Systems were developed, relationships built, and we grew, slowly. We also found an excellent accountant who helped me through everything that I couldn’t do, or didn’t have the time to do or any other reason I could find to farm out the undesired bits of the business.

My time was becoming too valuable to dedicate to something I personally wasn’t good at. My experience and strength was running the production and management side of the business, which had become a full time job as we grew. Eventually we had enough business going through to be able to employ a bookkeeper part time. But we still invested in the services of our accountant, who became a trusted supplier and friend and gave me great family business advice.  That was the next big step for me.

The financial lessons I learnt all those years ago stay with me today, and I’ll share them with you now.

  1. Learn your business finances: Know what’s in your bank, know what you owe and know what you’re owed, at any stage, every day. Even if you employ an accountant or bookkeeper, understand your financial position.
  2. Let the bookkeeper or accountant deal with where the figures go in the accounts.
  3. Keep in contact with these suppliers
  4. Trust these suppliers. Or move on. Trusting these is far more important than the price they charge.
  5. Let your accountant know of any changes to personal or business circumstances immediately.
  6. Ask for advice before purchasing anything unusual, like a car or machinery. Timing the purchase can make a huge difference.
  7. Your accountant should be proactive and friendly. They should keep you informed about any necessary changes in the law that affect you daily running of the business.
  8. Keep your paperwork up to date.
  9. Use your accountant wisely they will need time to advise you properly and give you time to react to the business financial advice.
  10. Organise regular, maybe quarterly, meeting with the financial people. Confirmation of your financial situation is important.
  11. Don’t run out of cash! Lots of assets won’t pay the bills as they crop up. Have enough cash to pay people. Cash IS King.

These principles have made me more relaxed, more successful and more able to help others going through the same feelings as I had in the early stages of business ownership. While it can be a stressful experience, use it as just that experience. Learn, adapt and de-stress. A good financial understanding and management undoubtedly gave me and my business a better chance of success in this fast-paced, evolving world.

Work the list, it’ll work for you too.

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