From how you access your financial data, to where you store it. From how you collect the money you’re owed to how you spend it. There exist a wealth of business finance tools and services that allow you greater clarity, control and peace of mind over your business finances.
With all the help available, it’s never been faster, easier, or cheaper to take control of your finances and make better use of the data gathered. So we've taken a look at six key areas within the realm of business finance, highlighting some of the best tools and resources available for managing them.
Starting with these, you can really make 2019 the year you truly oversee your finances.
1. Mobile banking
If you haven’t already, make sure that you’ve got a decent mobile banking app on your device. Depending on your company size, this could even involve making the switch to a dedicated ‘challenger’ bank. The likes of Starling, Coconut and Tide are dedicated business accounts that are entirely mobile & online based. Though, it's important to note that not all of these are actually banks, so check the small print. As they are built specifically for business, you get extra features to help you with things like managing tax, payments, and accounting integrations.
Having real-time access to your finances when on the go can make a huge difference to your business long-term. So it’s important to make sure that you’re getting the most out of what your bank has to offer.
2. Business budgeting and forecasting
Creating a good budget is an art in itself. So much so that we dedicated an entire post to it. However, it’s well worth reiterating here that judicious use of tools that help you create (and maintain) a budget and manage your cash flow will be well worth the investment. These days, many forecasting apps cover both, and can do wonders for your financial sustainability.
There are many excellent options in this respect. Our favourites are Futrli, Fluidly, and Float. All three work alongside your existing accounting software to give you more accessible, real-time insights into your finances. Because they gather the live data from your accounts you don’t need to waste time manually entering all the information yourself (while reducing the potential for error too).
Using this info, they can accurately predict your cash flow well into the future - making it easier for you to plan how to move forwards with your business. You can also easily model different scenarios too, allowing you to ‘stress test’ your operation against favourable and unfavourable circumstances.
3. Cloud accounting software
These days, it seems everything is ‘going digital’, and being done on the cloud. Of course, accounting is no exception as the rise of the likes of Xero, QuickBooks and Netsuite demonstrates. Traditionally, a business’ finances were limited to one machine, and a small handful of individuals who could navigate the complex systems. But by utilising cloud accounting software, you can make your financial data (or aspects of it) readily available across your company, making it easy for people to collaborate on a wide range of projects with the insights they need. And for small business owners, it’s a great way to stay connected to your finances too.
Moreover, the advent of these connected systems has spawned a whole ecosystem of related services that connect to the cloud-based accounting platforms. The value added by these tools and services mean it’s well worth making the switch to a cloud service (if you haven’t yet done so). Although, of course, do your research - not all apps are created equal!
4. Alternative finance
Gone are the days when every business needed a long-established relationship with a financial advisor to get ahead. Today, short term financing companies are big business, providing short term loans to cover a variety of professional situations. There are numerous ways they go about this too, with the whole sector of ‘alternative finance’ practically booming.
One option you might consider is invoice financing services (Satago, MarketInvoice, even the big banks like RBS are getting involved) - essentially an ‘advance’ based on your debtor pipeline. Another option is peer-to-peer lenders, such as Funding Circle, which offer a fairly quick and flexible way to access capital. Alternatively, make use of Funding Options who will compare over 50 providers to match you with the ones that fit best.
Want to expand but don’t have the cash to invest up front? Or perhaps you need to cover the cost of equipment or materials for a new project? Whatever you’re planning, companies like these offer small business loans of up to £200,000, with the goal of helping you build a more sustainable future.
Sorry. Couldn't resist!
5. Getting paid faster
Of course, getting on top of your finances isn’t always about you - often, invoicing issues and clients that delay payment can have a negative effect on your cash flow. If you haven’t already consulted Xero’s ‘Invoicing Survival Guide’ we’d recommend it as a good place to start. With some useful tips that can change the perception of your invoices when they’re received.
To further help you with your invoicing in 2019, consider using an invoice automation service such as Chaser, WorkflowMax or Paypal Invoicing. Services such as these allow you to easily automate much of the process of creating invoices and chasing payments.
And, through gathering the data in a coherent manner, you also gain a good overview of which of your clients or customers are the most reliable (and valuable) - useful knowledge when deciding whether to allocate credit or take on additional work. For recurring payments, consider using tools such as GoCardless - we use them here at Expend, and are big fans!
6. Manage your company spending
Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t cover one of the most important aspects of business finance - spending! While the spending itself can be exciting, we doubt anyone is thrilled about the paperwork and admin the business requires to keep track of it. (We know we didn’t - it’s the reason we started building this whole expenses management platform in the first place!) We also know that challenger 'bank' business accounts are not for everyone, nor does everyone want their entire businesses money in sat in one account, especially in larger organisations.
Unfortunately, sometimes the most mundane tasks are also the most important to do well - and this is the case with managing your company spending, especially with Making Tax Digital around the corner. Fortunately however, some processes were just made to be automated, and (*shameless plug alert*) we’ve created Expend to help you with just that.
We believe a streamlined, yet thorough, expense management software allows you to; Accurately measure employee spending when it occurs; Accurately account for all of this spending while saving hours of administration time (and overhead); Increase control of how much is spent, what is spent on, when it is spent, and by whom; Reduce errors, delayed claims, and lost paperwork (especially receipts). Plus with our new Expend Flex card you can create budgets and spending rules to manage employee expenses. You could say it's like having your very own business bank that you control every step of the way.
Fundamentally, spending is an investment. You’ve got to spend money to make money, as the old saying goes. As with any investment risk management is the key to long-term sustained success. Therefore, effective spending management must be considered a key ingredient to your business performance.
To conclude, the tools and services that can help you get on top of your business finances are abundant, intuitive and interconnected. They’re also far quicker and easier to implement in your business than ever before. Expend, for instance, takes only minutes to get set up, and can be customised to suit your existing business processes. So, given the advantages available from the increased insight and automation these tools provide, why not make 2019 the year you finally get on top of your finances?