Making Small Business Finance Simple & Effective

Small Business Accounting Transformation

As a Fractional CFO, I’ve witnessed firsthand how the right balance of priorities can transform small business bookkeeping and finance from a headache into a strategic asset.

Often, small businesses have inaccurate books and financial records, yet the business owners still want to grow and take risks. This poses a challenge as the only measure of financial success becomes the amount of cash in the bank. To address this, we implement a layered approach to finance and accounting that starts with bookkeeping and ends with aligning financial decisions with strategic goals.

Suitable systems, processes, and people can simplify modernizing your small business’s finance and accounting functions. At Westport, we focus on building tangible goals, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), and strategic alignment to maximize short—and long-term profits.

It is common for business owners to take on debt, increase management payroll, and assume other financial burdens when their businesses are not ready. With a simple and well-defined bookkeeping system, your organization can leverage data and drive results through accountable managers and units.

Here is Westport Financial’s four-step approach to achieving financial clarity and driving growth:

  1. Bookkeeping – Start with a Solid Foundation:

Implement a simple and consistent bookkeeping system that forms the backbone of your financial operations, ensuring the accuracy and accessibility of your financial data. One way to maintain your books effectively is to issue approved vendor and customer lists, which help you track each transaction precisely.

A solid foundation in bookkeeping drives financial health, providing the visibility needed to manage receivables, payables, and inventory. Effective accounting practices offer valuable insights into business trends, enabling small business owners to identify opportunities for growth and improvement.

In essence, small business accounting is not just about numbers—it’s a strategic tool that drives informed decision-making, fosters financial stability, and contributes to long-term success.

  1. Monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):

Track weekly KPIs that reflect your business drivers, such as cost of sales, expense ratios, and sales percentages. This real-time insight allows for swift decision-making and adjustments. Reporting on the drivers of your business performance enables you to align short-term actions with long-term vision.

By focusing on the right KPIs, businesses can pinpoint areas for cost reduction, optimize pricing strategies, and uncover new economic value. It is essential to balance these measures to select the critical metrics through which you manage the business. We recommend a maximum of 10 to 15 metrics for KPIs, categorized into finance, sales, operations, and customers. A fifth category for safety/compliance or risk may be added in a compliance-heavy industry.

By balancing these diverse perspectives, small businesses can gain a comprehensive view of their operations, enabling them to make more informed decisions. Integrating lean practices into this approach further enhances its effectiveness. Lean principles focus on eliminating waste and optimizing efficiency, which, when applied to KPIs, ensure that businesses are tracking the right metrics and continuously improving their processes.

  1. Engage in Collaborative Reviews:

Establish a regular review program with your management team to discuss financial statements and identify actionable items. This collaborative approach ensures that financial strategies are aligned with business objectives and adaptable to changing market dynamics.

Management’s regular financial statement reviews are crucial in steering a business toward its long-term economic objectives. These periodic assessments provide a snapshot of the company’s financial health, highlighting areas of strength and potential issues before they escalate.

Management can ensure that the business stays on course by closely examining balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements. Regular financial reviews foster a culture of accountability and transparency, encouraging all levels of the organization to contribute to overarching objectives.

In essence, these reviews are routine exercises and critical tools for aligning with the company’s vision and ensuring sustained financial success.

  1. Forecasting and Budgeting:

Develop and maintain a robust forecasting and budgeting process to manage revenue goals, cash flow, and profits. This forward-looking approach enables you to anticipate financial needs, allocate resources effectively, and identify future working capital gaps or surpluses.

By prioritizing continuous planning around financial outcomes, small businesses can achieve financial clarity, make informed decisions, and drive sustainable growth. Budgeting and forecasting are indispensable tools that enhance financial planning and control.

4-Step Financial Planning Process:

  • Create a Strategic 3 to 5-Year Plan (Updated Annually): Establish a long-term strategic plan outlining your business’s vision, goals, and objectives for the next three to five years. This plan should be revisited and updated annually during your annual planning process to ensure alignment with the evolving business landscape and market conditions.
  • Create an Annual Plan: Break down your long-term strategic plan into actionable annual plans. Based on your longer-term objectives, set specific financial targets and operational goals for the upcoming year. Your annual plan should include detailed budgets, revenue projections, and expense forecasts.
  • Manage and Track KPIs Linking Annual Plans and Strategic Goals: Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that directly relate to your annual plan and strategic goals. Regularly monitor and track these KPIs to assess progress and performance. This helps identify areas on track and those needing adjustments or interventions.
  • Generate Rolling Forecasts and Budgets at Quarterly or Monthly Intervals: Implement rolling forecasts and budgets to maintain agility and adaptability. Update these financial projections quarterly or monthly, taking into account the latest business performance, market trends, and economic conditions. This allows for continuous financial planning, refining strategies, and making informed decisions throughout the year.

3 Budgeting and Forecasting Tools:

  • Annual Planning: Set clear financial goals and allocate resources efficiently, ensuring strategic spending to support growth and profitability.
  • Rolling Budgets and Forecasts: Add flexibility, allowing businesses to quickly adapt to changing market conditions and update their financial plans. This dynamic approach ensures responsiveness and agility, minimizing risks and capitalizing on opportunities.
  • Scenario Analysis Planning: Provide insights into potential outcomes, enabling businesses to prepare for various contingencies. By considering different scenarios, companies can develop strategies to mitigate risks and seize potential opportunities, ensuring resilience and long-term success.

Small Business Profitability

Simple and effective financial management enables companies to capture higher profit margins, increase liquidity, and build a path forward for the organization. When you develop and create a culture of financial champions, each performance manager will hold their units accountable for the group’s success. A team of strong leaders with the financial education and awareness to make changes in the business generates long-term profits.

What are your thoughts on small business financial success?

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