If you were driving 80 miles an hour, in the dark, with your lights off, heading toward a cliff, would you like someone to yell, "STOP"?
Do you produce financial reports - the balance sheet and income statement - every week? Do you analyze sales, costs, cash flow and debt every week? If not, you may be heading for the cliff.
STOP. And find out. This is the year. This is the day. From here on out, you are going to know.
Get To KFPKFP stands for known financial position. A KFP is essential to your success and profitability. "Known" is the key element. It may be that you are losing money, or deeper in debt than you would like to be. Find out how much and how deep. That's the starting place. The financial reports are the scorecards in the game of business. You can always improve the score. But you must know where you are right now.
This seems obvious. But from my experience as a business consultant, nine out of 10 business owners don't know where they stand financially. There are a couple of reasons for this.
- They don't know how to keep score.
- They are afraid to look, because they don't want to know how bad it is.
If not, well, that's going to change starting today.
You'll be at a known financial position when:
- 1. You can generate income statement and balance sheet reports and trust that the information is current and accurate.
2. You can go through the reports line by line, account by account, and understand what each dollar amount represents.
You need to run financial reports every week to check sales, expenses and cash flow. You should compile a finished set of financial reports at the end of each month to comply with the tax man, as well as review and revise your financial strategy. The best way to do this is by generating basic financial reports "in-house." Your accountant can support your efforts and check your homework.
Your accountant may be able to train you on how to use your accounting software, or recommend someone who can. You can also contact your accounting software company for a list of qualified trainers.
However, you are going to need some help to get to a KFP.
You need a good accountant. Most accountants just prepare tax returns. A good accountant will help you develop an accounting system that delivers the financial information you need to make good decisions. A good accountant will be excited when you tell him that you want to learn how to read and use financial reports. A good accountant won't feel threatened when you tell him you want to move the accounting system "in-house" instead of shipping it out to him.
A good bookkeeper is meticulous about data entry and getting it entered on time. In a small company, you may hold the position of bookkeeper. This will serve you very well in the long run. Embrace the position. Figure out double-entry accounting and how to fully use your accounting system. When you are ready to hand off the position, you'll be prepared to work well with your bookkeeper to receive on-time, accurate and relevant information.
A KFP ExerciseSchedule a meeting with your bookkeeper and your accountant for sometime this week. Go through the balance sheet and income statement - line by line, account by account. Ask these questions:
- What do the account titles mean? (If you don't know what retained earnings means - ask. If you don't know what "other" stands for - ask.)
- Where do the dollar amounts come from?
- What do the dollar amounts represent?
- How does the information get entered into the accounting system?
Unfortunately, when the bookkeeper entered the data into the accounting system, it was all entered into one account - payroll expense. So, all that data was collected, and then lost. Find out if that kind of confusion is happening at your company.
Work together to answer these questions:
- How can we structure the chart of accounts to better reflect how we do business?
- How can we separate information so that we know how different divisions of the company are performing? Should we create divisions in the accounting system?
- Are we tracking information that we don't really need?
- What will it take to generate current and accurate balance sheet and income statement reports at any time?
Don't delay. Insist on meeting this week. Insist on getting to a KFP by the end of this month. It is that important.
Good for you for your determination to acquire this knowledge! May 2005 be your best business year ever!
Download Ellen Rohr's "Month-End Checklist" and get to a Known Financial Position.
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