Are you one of those small business owners who just love poring over spreadsheets? Me neither. Yes, your business’s books are a scorecard of how well you’re doing—but if you’re not a “numbers person,” doing your bookkeeping may sound as appealing as a root canal. Still, other business owners mean to go over their business finances but get caught up in the day-to-day and never get around to it. No matter how you feel about bookkeeping, it’s one of those tasks no business owner can avoid forever.
Here are ten tips to make small business bookkeeping easier.
1. Separate business and personal finances.
Co-mingling expenses and income is a common mistake in small business bookkeeping—and one that will cause huge headaches for your business in the future. Open a business bank account as soon as you decide to go through with your startup, and get a separate business credit card. This not only separates your accounts but also helps your business build its own credit rating.
2. Automate whatever you can.
Entering data into spreadsheets and reconciling numbers manually is so old school. Use cloud-based bookkeeping software, and do your business banking online. That way, you can sync your bookkeeping software with your business bank account so you always have accurate, up-to-the-minute records. Plus, with the cloud, your critical financial data is backed up safely off-site.
3. Ask a pro.
Talk to your accountant to figure out if you can use off-the-shelf accounting software or if you’d benefit from customizing it. Your accountant should be able to not only offer advice but also set up the software for you and show you how to use it.
4. Perform regular financial checkups.
If you put off bookkeeping too long, you end up with bounced checks, overdue invoices, or figures that don’t add up. Go over your books weekly to make sure everything is ship-shape.
5. Do a quarterly review.
At the end of each quarter, take an in-depth look at your bookkeeping and accounting records. Look for trends, such as growing or declining sales, year-over-year revenues, or an increase in late-paying customers. Talk to your accountant: He or she can help you look at the big picture so you’re better prepared for future capital needs such as buying new equipment or moving to a bigger location.
6. Keep records of business expenses.
So many changes to the tax code were made for 2018 that you should consult your accountant for guidance on what kinds of expenses you can deduct next year. For anything you think you’ll be claiming, maintain detailed records; save time by scanning and digitizing receipts. You can also simplify expense tracking by always using a business credit card for business purchases.
7. Monitor your employees’ hours with time tracking software.
Cloud-based time tracking software allows employees to clock in and out on their smartphones, tablets, or computers. But it doesn’t just save them hassles—it also makes your life easier by automatically tracking overtime, PTO, etc. You can find time tracking software designed for just about any industry. Choose one that works with your bookkeeping software, and payroll will be a snap, too.
8. Keep a close eye on accounts receivable.
When customers don’t pay on time, your business’s cash flow can dry up fast. Pay attention to when your receivables are due and contact late-paying customers right away to nudge them along. Even if a customer is having financial problems, you may be able to set up a payment plan to get at least some of what you’re owed.
9. Stay on top of tax deadlines.
To avoid getting caught short, plan ahead and set aside money for any anticipated tax bills. Pay on time so you don’t face fines. The IRS website’s tax calendar for businesses can sync with your own cloud-based calendar so you never miss a deadline; it can even send you reminders a week or two before a payment is due.
10. Get help from SCORE.
SCORE mentors can help you with all aspects of small business bookkeeping and accounting, and even recommend qualified local accountants. If you don’t have a mentor, what are you waiting for?