Before you creative entrepreneurs out there see “CFO” and let your brain tune out like it did back in high school calculus class because you’re “not a numbers person,” let’s chat for a minute.
Think about your current work week and all of the different hats you wear. CEO, content writer, marketer, editor, publicist, bookkeeper, administrative assistant, and so on. I bet you didn’t go to school or get training in all of those things, but you wear those hats with confidence and pride because your business depends on it, right?
When I started my business, the only marketing experience I had was handing out flyers for my odd jobs business in fourth grade, which is, needless to say, a long way from marketing a professional consulting company. I’ve been a number cruncher extraordinaire for a decade but didn’t have the slightest idea how to create a website, business cards, or a Facebook page. I know, however, that these were critical elements to growing my business so I put on my marketing hat and dove in.
A CFO is the same thing. Your business depends on financial analysis to grow and be sustainable; simply keeping track of the numbers is not enough!
Have you ever had these questions?
You’re a maker bringing in a few thousand bucks in sales every month but somehow your bank account is coming up near empty. Why?
You’re a web design freelancer with a full pipeline of work and thinking about bringing someone on to help you but not sure if you can afford it. How do you figure it out?
You want to quit your full time job but have no idea what your revenue will look like in six months. Can you actually predict the future?
A generic profit & loss report from Xero or an Excel sheet can’t answer these questions, but a CFO can. And I promise that you don’t have to be an accounting major or a math person to be that CFO yourself.
If you’re ready to be your own CFO (and I know you are!) there are three easy things you can do to own your finances and make better decisions for your business, even if you hate numbers.
1. Set up your system.
All you need to get started is an easy way to track revenue, expenses, and cash. I have tons of thoughts on the best accounting system and I highly encourage all business owners to pick a system and become best friends with it because it is the most important tool in becoming your own CFO.
Every piece of income that comes in and business expense that goes out should be tracked by date with descriptions and proper account codes attached. This may sound hard to the non-numbers people but Quickbooks, Xero, and Freshbooks make it easy.
2. Analyze the past.
Every accounting system has two reports that I want you to review each month: Profit & Loss Statement and Balance Sheet. Once your revenue and expenses are updated in the system, these two reports will take literally five seconds to pull.
A CFO will look not only at this past month, but the month prior and/or year prior. Comparative data is where you will gain the most insight! Most programs will allow you to add variance percentages too, so we can see how much more or less you’ve spent on supplies compared to last year, or how much more or less revenue you brought in this month compared to last month.
Write down three findings from looking at your comparative data. You can use this info for number three.
3. See the future.
To make better decisions and own your numbers, we need to incorporate basic forecasting into your routine once you’ve reviewed your P&L. It’s super easy – just add a column for each month on the P&L and start filling in how much revenue you think you’ll bring in each month and what your expenses will be. Here’s a tool that can help.
Now step back and take a look. Are there any months where you’re in a deficit? Why? Do your revenue or expenses drop? What is causing that decrease and how can you prevent it now?
Now it’s time to put on your CFO hat and dig into those numbers. An hour a month will bring you clarity, confidence, and the ability to grow and scale. And I promise, there is no calculus involved.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie Skryzowski, 100 Degrees Consulting
Stephanie Skryzowski is a Chief Financial Officer and visionary number-cruncher extraordinaire. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from New York University, with a focus on nonprofit management and finance. She has spent the last decade working with high impact global nonprofits in the apple orchards of Afghanistan, terai of Nepal, and mountains of Haiti among other far-flung locales. She now brings sound financial management to entrepreneurs and nonprofits through her company 100 Degrees Consulting at www.100degreesconsulting.com.