Anyone who has started a small business can tell you that your finances can be the difference between success and closure, no matter how great a business idea may be.
From startup capital, to reducing costs and record keeping, it may feel as though staying on top of your business finances takes more than any other operational task. Here are some quick ideas to get your finances rolling and keep them going for the long-term.
FINDING START UP CAPITAL
It’s no surprise that the easiest way to finance your new business is by covering the startup costs yourself. However, that option is not feasible for many new business owners. Similarly, finding small business loans can be difficult because banks may be hesitant to invest in an untried venture. A strong business plan, which we discussed earlier in the series, can put you on the best footing to secure a loan.
Even if traditional methods of financing your new business seem out of reach, don’t let that discourage you. More and more new business owners find start up resources in obscure ways. Here are a few:
- Apply for a 0% APR credit card. Depending on your type of business and your credit worthiness, you could secure a personal or business credit card with a 0% APR for the first 6 months to a year. You may be limited in the amount you can borrow. However, with a 0% APR, you are not eating into your startup funds by paying off interest charges. Just make sure you continue to pay off the card each month so the debt does not get out of hand for when interest does begin accruing. And for great rates all the time—not just introductory—consider low-interest cards like those at the Credit Union, with rates half or less banks and most other financial institutions.
- Equity Financing. Securing investors in your business is another way to finance your startup. If you are passionate about your mission, and can clearly articulate your plan of action (hint: business plan), finding investors can be a great way to not only finance your business, but also bring on other people to help you promote it. Your investors will be motivated to help you succeed because they want to see a return on their investment. Equity financing can provide you access to funds, as well as influence from your investors’ networks. The downside, you are turning over a piece of your business, and potentially portions of control of operations.
- Small Business Grants. If you are looking for options that you don’t have to pay back, it’s worth taking the time to research your industry or personal demographic to see if there are grants that your business may qualify for instead of a loan. Grants do not need to be paid back, but generally have strict requirements on how and when the funds are used. You will also need to submit a grant proposal, which can be a daunting task in itself. However, a grant could be just the way to get your business started on a positive financial footing.
- Family/Friends Loan. Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends that may have resources to help you get started. Since they likely already believe in you, they are likely to also believe in your business. Just be sure that you treat these loans as any other loan, and stick to whatever repayment terms you originally agree to for the loan. Someone else who believes in your business—treats it like our own—is the Credit Union. In fact our general purpose Signature Loans are such great value, you might want to turn to your Credit Union “family” first!
REDUCING STARTUP COSTS & OVERHEAD
Once you have your startup capital, you want to have a solid financial plan in place so that you do not spend unnecessarily trying to get your business up and running. Instead, try these simple ways of reducing startup costs, as well as keeping on-going expenses down.
- Go Paperless. Paper products, ink, and storage are just a few costs associated with traditional hard-copy business methods. By switching to paperless operations where possible, you can save on those costs, help the environment, free up physical space in your business, and make searching for particular records and documents more efficient.
- Search For Cost-Free Options. These days you can generally find an app or software program to do anything, at a cost. However, there are also free versions of different apps available that may suit your needs just fine without the subscription cost. At the very least, you can try the program out before committing to another expense. Many apps also offer free trials of their premium services so you know you will really use those extra features that come with the extra cost.
- Look For Discounts. Many businesses offer discounts or special perks exclusively for small business owners. You may be able to save hundreds of dollars per year on expenses you regularly use such as business supplies, travel, and insurance. And don’t forget to use your rewards on any business credit cards specifically for your business. That way, you’re putting your business purchases to good use!
- DIY. Take a look at any business-related tasks to see what you have the time (and ability) to do yourself. Rather than hiring a full-time sales clerk, you might be able to take on some of that work yourself. Or, if you have bookkeeping experience, and a good bookkeeping program, you could save money by doing the record keeping yourself.
Speaking of record keeping, having clean, up to date financial records is a must for small businesses. At any given time, you should be able to access a snapshot of where your business stands financially. This includes upcoming expenses, current and projected revenue, outstanding accounts receivable, and taxes due. You can hire a tax accountant or bookkeeper, or manage your financial records yourself. Many local small business associations have free classes designed to teach business owners the ins and outs of financial recording. Financial software is also available, with most offering live support, which may be included or available for an added fee.
Even if you plan on doing your record keeping yourself, make sure you consult with an accountant to know exactly what financial documents, including receipts, prior tax returns, and invoices, you need to maintain copies of for the IRS and for how long.