Have you ever sat down at your desk and seen papers everywhere, little to zero organization, and not been able to tell where your company stood financially right away? It is easy for financial leaders, executives, and other business leaders to get in this messy state. Sure, you may have once had accurate records and known exactly where you were. But maintaining accurate records consistently is a critical piece to positioning your company for sale, getting ready for growth, acquiring capital, etc.
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First, what is accurate or accuracy? Oxford Dictionaries defines accuracy as “the quality or state of being correct or precise.” If your company’s records are not consistently correct and precise, you may encounter some undesired results.
A simple way to answer this question is to look at your records. Can you easily pull client reports, tax filings for the past couple of years, or receipts from a specific vendor? Are you able to find information quickly? How well are you able to manage your business with your current records?
Maintaining accurate records is not just for external entities like the IRS, banks, venture capitalists, etc.; but it is also essential for major management decisions, customer support, and financial growth. It allows every party related to your business to see clearly where the company stands. Banks, attorneys, decision makers, etc. all need to understand how your company is positioned. “These records will help you analyze your business’s profitability, stay out of trouble with tax authorities, maintain positive relationships with clients and vendors, protect your business from lawsuits and win lawsuits if you are harmed” (Investopedia).
No one likes to drive blind, so why would you have disorganized, inaccurate records that blind you from seeing the whole picture when making decisions?
There are several ways to maintain accurate records. These include identifying revenue streams, keeping track of invoices and receipts, preparing financial statements, tracking deductible expenses and preparing tax returns. Although these are not all the important records you should maintain, they are a good starting point.
This might seem like the most obvious thing to do. But oftentimes we arrive at a new client to find they are mixing business and nonbusiness receipts as well as taxable/nontaxable sources of income. Separate for-profit and non-profit clients from each other. If you service multiple industries, it might be useful to separate your revenue streams by industry.
You don’t want to avoid looking at your business’s revenue. Where did that revenue come from? Is there an industry or type of business that is more profitable than others? Maintaining accurate records isn’t just for those outside the business, but it also will allow you to understand your entire company’s performance.
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To prepare precise financial statements, it is critical that you maintain accurate records. Your income statement and balance sheet act as a window into how your business is performing. If the data isn’t 100% accurate, then any decisions made based on that data will not be the best decisions possible. This is because the information isn’t reliable. This can cause a disaster!
Because of the importance of tracking profitability, you as the financial leader should have a process to track your income and expenses. As a major tool in managing cash, regularly produce reports of the amount and composition of accounts receivables and accounts payable, what has been collected and paid. Not only will this create a system to time payments and encourage your team to collect, but your bank or creditor will be able to rely on your system. This is essential knowledge for the banks to know if you are in a financial crunch.
Taxes are a necessary part of operating a business. When you produce tax returns, precise records are required. You need to report income, expenses, and debt on this document. Thankfully, this is not a major burden on your time as you should already have these three categories accurately measured and tracked as you need them to effectively measure the success of your business.
There are a couple tips and tricks to maintaining accurate records. Some of these include separating personal and business finances, having client files, storing contracts, and maintaining accounting/tax records.
One of the top rules in operating your own company is to separate personal and business financials. When companies do not separate business and personal finances, records are muddled and there is no clear method to see what is personal and what is business. By doing this, you may run into tax issues, relationship issues, and inaccurate records.
Separate each client into their own individual file. This will allow you to easily see when they started doing business with you, what work you’ve done with them, and how your relationship is progressing. In addition, you will be able to save time by picking up just one file for the client. And you will have everything you need to know about them in that folder. Need to have invoices, etc. in another folder? Make copies and put everything related to that specific client in their folder.
When you get served with a lawsuit, it can be shocking. But the best way to combat the stress is to know exactly where to find everything you need to battle your accuser. Store and make copies of all contracts in one place. Then categorize the contacts by clients, employees, vendors, suppliers, etc.. Organize the contracts in a way that makes sense for your business.
The worst offence in maintaining accurate records is not staying on top of your accounting and tax records. Instead of doing the past three months of accounting in a week, create a system to update, maintain, and produce reports regularly. Submit these report for your financial and executive team to view on a schedule.
One of the main “destroyers of value” is not consistently having accurate records. If you are looking to sell your company or just want to improve its value, download your free guide to avoiding things that take value away from you.