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Finance Function - 10 Ways to Provide More Accurate Timely Financial Information

As operators, we know how many balls a small business owner needs to keep in the air. Days are spent on sales, operations and the crisis of the day, leaving nights and weekends for administrative tasks such as preparing the reporting required for your board, equity/debt stakeholders and your own management purposes.

Yet ongoing access to accurate, timely financial insights and operating metrics can make or break your success. Here's a framework to help ensure your finance function has you covered.

1. Articulate Your Goals. Establish clear, quantifiable short and long-term goals so you know we’re you’re headed. Live by the maxim: “Without a plan, all activity looks like progress.”

2. Direct Your Reporting. Identify the financial insights required to inform your decisions en route to achieving your goals, including regular comparisons to industry benchmarks so you know how you’re doing relative to your peers.

3. Align & Equip Your Team. Even a finance team of one should have the capability, bandwidth and mindset required to consistently produce useful financial metrics each month. Tired of the headaches associated with attracting, managing and retaining your finance team? Consider outsourcing your finance department.

4. Select the Right Tools. There are many affordable software applications available to manage your general ledger and each facet of your finance function. The right mix of tools helps make the information you need secure, accessible, consumable and shareable.

5. Ensure Accuracy. Well placed controls help ensure your information is accurate and secure, no one is exploiting weaknesses in your system for personal gain and you’re operating within the law.

6. Demand Consistency. Establish and document standard procedures to facilitate consistent delivery of highly accurate information week after week and month after month, regardless of who performs the work.

7. Produce Timely, Consumable Info. Generate financial reports monthly to ensure issues are caught early and opportunities are spotted while there’s time to exploit them. And remember presentation matters. No business owner has time to read cryptic financial statements built for a CPA. Useful insights should leap from the page.

8. Know Your Cash Position. Yes, cash is still king. You won’t have your finger on the pulse of your business until you understand how and when cash flows in and out of your business. No better way to know if you’ll have adequate cash when you need it than to maintain a running 13-week cash flow projection.

9. Review, Take Action. Don’t simply file the monthly reporting package. Use the data to measure your progress toward your goals. If you fall off track, engage your team to understand why and devise a plan to recover. Make it a habit to review and respond no less than monthly.

10. Evolve with Your Business. The opportunities and challenges a business owner faces change with time. It follows that the financial insights required to inform your decisions does as well. Invest the time to ensure your metrics allow you to remain one step ahead of your competition.

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