Business advice and support
Finance underpins all business, so ensuring you have an expert on side is crucial. If you run your own business, you may find the need to hire an accountant with experience in business development. It may be that your business isn't performing as well as you had hoped, or perhaps it is performing well, but you need help to manage the company's growth.
Offering business advice and support in a financial capacity, an accountant can help you with a range of duties, including management accounts, cash flow forecasting, business valuation and online bookkeeping support. All of these elements work together to give you a clearer picture of how your business is performing, how it will perform if you don't make changes and what you need to do to turn a profit.
Keep reading to find out more about the role accountants have in the success of your business.
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The world of business is constantly evolving and changing, and to ensure your business is a success - you will need to evolve and change too. Measuring the success of your business and how you can improve is largely down to finance and cash flow. Once you have established how you are doing and how you would like to be doing in the future - you can develop a clear business strategy to help you get there.
Your first step however, is to look at the numbers - and here is where the expertise of an accountant comes in handy. The following areas should be considered when hiring an accountant to help with business development.
Management accounts can help you make more meaningful decisions about your business. As well as analysing historical performance, management accounts also include forward-looking elements such as sales, profit forecasts and cash flow.
The management accounting needs will depend on the business, but may include the following:
- the sales process - i.e. pricing and distribution
- the purchasing process - i.e. creditors and stock records
- fixed asset register with details of all fixed assets
- employee records.
Management accounts can identify trends in your business, help you manage your resources better and highlight any variations in your spending that need attention. Seeing where your money is coming from and where it is going can help you focus your attention when it comes to business strategy.
There are no legal requirements to prepare management accounts, however they are considered crucial to many businesses. The accounts are typically produced on a regular basis (usually monthly or quarterly) and are carried out by specially trained management accountants.
Find out more about management accounting.
Cash flow forecast
If a business runs out of cash and is unable to get the funds it requires, it will quickly become insolvent. For this reason it is easy to understand why cash flow is the lifeblood of all businesses, especially start-ups and small enterprises. Forecasting (or predicting) what is going to happen to cash flow is an important part of keeping a business going.
How often a business's cash flow needs to be monitored will depend on the financial security of the business itself. Those that are established and stable may only require weekly or monthly forecasting, while new companies or those that are struggling financially may benefit from daily revisions.
What cash flow forecasting can do:
- Help to determine when you expect to get paid and when bills/rent need to be paid.
- Create 'what if' scenarios to measure the impact of a dip in sales or increase in outgoings.
- Show when there is likely to be a negative cash flow, giving you time to arrange a financial buffer.
- Show when there is likely to be a positive cash flow, allowing you the opportunity to plan how to use/invest it.
- Spot problems with customer payments.
- Offer a forecast for external stakeholders.
What is included within a cash flow forecast
Cash flow forecasts will differ according to the business, however most will consist of the following:
- Receipts - These cover all cash coming into your business, including any loans you've taken out and sales revenue.
- Outgoings - These cover all cash going out of your business, including stock costs, office costs and purchasing any raw materials.
- A monthly cash balance - This includes a cumulative cash balance, which should equal the amount of money you currently have in your bank account.
Cash flow forecasts can be especially useful when you are looking to grow your business. While it may feel as if you are flowing in cash, closer inspection might reveal a surprising amount of outgoings. A business that is growing can therefore (in the short-term at least) have more money going out than coming in, spending on suppliers, new staff etc,. Ensuring your cash flow forecast plans for success before this happens will help keep you afloat during a turbulent time.
As well as looking ahead, cash flow forecasts should also look at your history. Looking at your history of sales and expenditure will help your accountant create an accurate projection for the future. It is likely that your accountant will develop a month-to-month cash flow forecast for the entire year. This will then be revised as and when required.
Reviewing your business and its progress is recommended to ensure you are on track for success - especially if it is not doing as well as expected/hoped. An accountant with business development experience will be able to help you with the financial side of a business review. This will involve looking at where your business is today, how it is doing according to goals, and whether or not something needs adjusting.
Going through finances with a fine-toothed comb will uncover any potential issues that may have escaped your notice. Within a business review you should look at the entire business plan and reassess the following things:
Your core activities
A good starting point is to look at what you do as a business - the service you provide or the products you sell. Look at what is working well and what isn't, review your costs and root causes of any problems.
Your business efficiency
Find out how efficient your business is - this will enable you to gauge its flexibility when it comes to growth and development in the future. Within this, you can consider a variety of factors, including your premises, facilities, IT and staffing.
Your financial position
Financially, it is helpful to consider your cash flow, working capital, cost base and plans for future growth. Reviewing your financial position will help you see if your plans are in line with your resources.
Even if your business has been going for a long time, keeping up to date with what your competitors are doing is essential. Within your business review ask yourself the following questions about your competitors:
- Who are they?
- What do they offer?
- What do you offer that's different?
- How well are they doing in comparison to you?
- What is/was their reaction to you entering the market?
Customers and markets change over the years, so it is important to review these when reviewing your business. Have there been any changes in the market? Who are your target customers? What has changed about your customer's needs?
Your business goals
Using your business review you will be able to reassess your business goals. Consider where you are now and where you would like to be. It may be that you need to reign in unrealistic goals - or perhaps you've done better than expected and can afford to dream big. Either way, reassessing your goals and aspirations should take place every time you review your business.
Find out more about business review.
Finding out how much your business is worth can be useful in a number of scenarios. If you are looking to buy or sell a business, understanding its worth is crucial. If you are planning on expanding or you are dealing with a financial dispute - knowing your business's worth can also be of use.
Aside from these situations, many people like to get their business valued for strategy purposes; knowing what your business is worth can ensure you are going in the right direction when it comes to future plans.
Accountants who specialise in business valuation will look at a variety of factors to decipher your business's worth, including the following:
- Financial history - Including past balance sheets, turnover and profit.
- Current finances - This involves looking at how the business is performing today.
- Future projections - Cash flow forecasts will help create a clearer picture of what the business is capable of financially.
Find out more about business valuation.
Online bookkeeping support
Many businesses now choose to do their bookkeeping online. There is a wide variety of software and computing programmes available to choose from. For many, one of the benefits of hiring an accountant specialising in business is that they can usually provide advice and support when it comes to online accounts/bookkeeping. A knowledgeable accountant can help you choose the best online software for your needs as well as showing you how it works.
The benefits of using online accounting software
Taking your bookkeeping/accounting online has a variety of benefits, including the following:
- Online access 24/7 - Business users will be able to access their financial information anytime and anywhere, as long as they have Internet connection and login details.
- Paperless online storage - Online software stores all information remotely, meaning there will be no fallout should your computer systems crash. Electronic copies of your documents (accepted by the HMRC) will also eliminate the need for paper storage.
- User friendly - The software is designed to be easy to use, and with support from an accountant you should be able to navigate the system easily.
How an accountant can help
Understanding that various skills business accountants have should help you make a more informed decision when it comes to hiring one. As you can see, there are many different areas where a professional can be of help - for this reason it may be helpful to understand which areas your business needs help with.
Accountants who specialise in business may have particular experience in one field (for example management accountants) or they may have experience in many areas. Talking to them to understand where their skills lie will help you establish how best they can help you.
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