8 Financial Planning Tips for Small Business Owners

Small business owner reviewing her financial planning documents on a laptop.

Running a small business involves juggling multiple responsibilities. Managing the business’s finances is one of the most crucial aspects. Proper financial management can be the difference between a thriving business and one that struggles to stay afloat. Here are eight essential financial tips for small business owners to help ensure long-term success.

1. Keep Personal and Business Financial Goals Separate

One of the fundamental rules for small business owners is to maintain a clear distinction between personal and business financial goals. Mixing the two can lead to confusion, complicate decision-making and obscure the true financial health of your business. In the event of an audit, it can add layers of complexity not in your favor.

Set up separate plans and goals for your business and your personal finances. For many small business owners, this can be very intertwined. By keeping these goals distinct, you can create more focused strategies for achieving each set of objectives without compromising either.

2. Have a Comprehensive Budget (and Stick to It)

A well-structured budget is a roadmap for your business’s financial health. It helps you plan for future expenses, allocate resources efficiently and stay on track with your financial goals. Identify all revenue sources and list all expenses, including fixed, variable and one-time costs. Regularly review your budget to ensure adherence and adjust as necessary.

Always allow for emergencies. While the event itself can be a surprise and unknown, you should always have cash ready to meet these costs head on and keep your business operating.

3. Monitor Cash Flow

Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business. It’s crucial to keep a close eye on the money coming in and going out to ensure you can meet your financial obligations. Regularly review financial statements — ideally monthly — to spot trends and potential issues early. Use historical data to forecast future cash flow and prepare for slow periods. Efficiently managing receivables and payables ensures timely invoicing and follow-up on overdue payments while negotiating favorable terms with suppliers. And if this becomes an overbearing task, hire a professional bookkeeper to take care of your statements.

4. Identify and Mitigate Risk

Every business face risks, whether financial, operational or market-related. Identifying these risks early and having a plan to mitigate them can save your business from significant setbacks. Conduct a risk assessment to identify potential risks and their impact on your business. Develop a risk management plan to implement strategies that minimize or eliminate risks, and protect your business with appropriate insurance coverage, such as liability, property and business interruption insurance.

5. Get Help with Tax Planning

Tax planning is a critical component of financial management. Proper tax planning can save your business money and ensure compliance with regulations. More importantly, be prepared to pay the proper taxes throughout the year.

All taxpayers are required to meet Tax Safe Harbor. Safe Harbor is either 100% of the prior year’s tax — 110% for some higher-earning taxpayers — or 90% of the current year’s tax paid within the calendar year. Understand your tax obligations at the local, state and federal levels, and keep detailed records of income, expenses and tax-related documents.

Depending on the structure of your business, you may have a partnership filing requirement. Be careful when setting up LLCs with family or friends. Some states also require a partnership filing if a taxpayer and spouse create an LLC in a non-community property state. Consulting a tax advisor or attorney can help develop strategies for minimizing tax liability and staying compliant.

6. Plan for Your Retirement

As a small business owner, it’s essential to plan for your retirement independently since you may not have the benefit of employer-sponsored retirement plans. Set up a retirement plan, such as a SEP IRA, Solo 401(k) or SIMPLE IRA, and make consistent contributions to your retirement savings. Not only do these plans help you save for the future, but you are also able to defer taxes to later years. Consulting a financial advisor can help you optimize your retirement plan based on your financial goals.

7. Create Succession and Exit Plans

Having a clear succession or exit plan ensures the continuity of your business in the event of retirement, sale, or unforeseen circumstances. Identify potential successors and train them to take over your business. Establish a timeline for your transition or exit and document the comprehensive succession plan outlining the steps and responsibilities involved.

There are many financial professionals who are well versed in business exit strategies. The largest of which is helping minimize the tax burden of selling. There are investment solutions that help minimize the tax implication while aligning with portfolio goals.

8. Work with a Financial Professional

Managing finances can be complex, and working with a financial professional can provide valuable insights and expertise. Many times, financial professional have connections to attorneys and CPA firms to get their clients the service and help they need. A financial advisor can offer strategic advice on investments, retirement planning, and risk management while quarterbacking your business and personal financial plans. Regularly meet with your financial professional to review your financial status and adjust strategies as needed.

The Bottom Line

Proper financial management is critical for the success and sustainability of a small business. By keeping personal and business financial goals separate, adhering to a comprehensive budget, monitoring cash flow, identifying and mitigating risks, getting help with tax planning, planning for retirement, creating succession and exit plans, and working with financial professionals, small business owners can navigate financial challenges and achieve their long-term goals. Implement these tips to build a solid financial foundation for your business and ensure its growth and prosperity.

1 Safe Harbor: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/estimated-taxes
2 ACTC, “What is Community Property?” https://www.actec.org/resource-center/video/what-is-community-property/
Ryan Egolf is a non-registered affiliate of Cetera Advisor Networks, LLC.
For a comprehensive review of your personal situation, always consult with a tax or legal advisor. Neither Cetera Advisor Networks LLC nor any of its representatives may give legal or tax advice.

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