Nobody likes to talk about budgeting. Even more, budgeting is sort of a drag to do — but all can agree it’s incredibly important.
A few companies have launched software to make budgeting faster and easier. Plus, options for interaction with fellow entrepreneurs on sites like Twitter and Quora enables relevant feedback so you don’t pay excessive amounts for a service you don’t need. Read on to discover a few ways you can manage your company’s spectrum of debits and credits without too much stress.
1. Use Software
If Excel spreadsheets, paper receipts and data entry don’t match your cloud storage lifestyle, you’re in luck: Many entrepreneurs felt the same and a few decided to create an app that would turn their dream version of budgeting into reality.
inDinero is like Mint for small businesses and offers a deep feature set for keeping your transactions in check. You can connect bank accounts to view all of your cash flow in one place, as well as set categories, which inDinero will bucket transactions into automatically.
If you’re looking to solve a more specific problem in your workflow, there are niche finance solutions as well. Xpenser is a platform specifically for expense reports, with apps on iPhone, Android and Windows. FreshBooks is for invoices, and while it’s especially useful for freelancers and the self-employed, it’s also been used effectively by teams.
Apps like these will help to visualize cash flow, something that’s difficult to get a handle on with multiple accounts and payments that are set on automatic.
“So much of entrepreneurship is future-focused,” says Derek Flanzraich, founder of Greatist. “Especially in terms of funding and revenue generation — it’s tough sometimes to remember you need enough money in the bank today.”
2. Hire Outside Help
When you’re bootstrapping, you’ll want to take extra care when deciding what tasks to outsource — because, if you can do it yourself, why pay someone? For Melani Gordon, founder of Taphunter, bookkeeping was one task that was just too time consuming to fulfill in-house. For Taphunter, Gordon hired a CPA separate from her bookkeeper. She’s found this to be more affordable, but don’t forget that you’ll take on an extra task — making sure these two people are communicating with each other.
The third piece of the financial equation for Taphunter required finding a financial expert to act in an advising role.
“The bookkeeper or CPA doesn’t have the pulse on the startup world, so we had to go out and hunt for this type of person to help with our financial modeling,” Gordon explained.
The financial expert offered specialized expertise to nail down its cost of acquisition — which Gordon says is a moving target in the beginning, when there’s little data to go on. Drilling down on the ROI of sales staff and/or marketing is included here.
3. Ask Around
Money is a touchy issue, but remember it’s often easier to be transparent about how much you’re paying for a service during in-person conversations. So, next time you’re at an event or getting coffee with other entrepreneurs, ask if they don’t mind sharing how much they pay in fees for something you’re looking to buy.
Flanzraich also found Quora to be helpful in answering questions, especially generics such as “How much is too much to pay for … ?” Even though each industry and region is unique, it helps to get a general idea so you know you’re not getting robbed — especially while your company is young.
Every small business is different. State taxes will vary, and due dates won’t be consistent. Even though the web is filled with how-to explainers and guides on budgeting, you won’t know how your business is different until you get started.
“Especially for companies in which most employees are under 26, health insurance costs can vary like crazy,” says Flanzraich.
4. Overestimate Monthly Burn
Is it better to be safe than sorry? Probably.
Most of your expenses are predictable. Office expenses — including desk, phone, furniture, computer, and if your company employs salespeople, travel, entertainment, gas, mileage — are commonly divided up by headcount.
“We’ve seen us and entrepreneurs around us underestimate month-to-month travel, entertainment and office expenses,” says Gordon. One lesson learned was to stagger hires over a period of time, which will reduce monthly burn.
And, in the vein of preparing for the worst, consider unfortunate things like parking tickets and high gas prices, if employees (or you) will be doing business travel on the company’s dime.
Budget success, as most will agree, is not necessarily hitting the nail on the head with what your expenses end up being. It’s setting yourself up for the least money-related stress possible. There’s enough to worry about with product, recruitment, PR and more — don’t let that unexpected debit put you in the red. Make sure there’s room for a few untimely expenses and if they’re avoided after all, you’ve got extra cash.