Income flows into your account and expenses flow out. The goal is to have cash left over at the end of the month and to increase that amount each month. The difference between net sales and the costs of business is known as the margin. As you increase your margin income, you increase your net worth.
The key to success starts with tracking every dollar.
Where does your income come from? While it’s nice to have one big account, project or client, relying on one source can be risky. Find more income sources and you’ll be less vulnerable in a slowing market.
Is your revenue consistent from month to month, or do you have months with high income followed by months with no income? Regular income makes it easier to plan & budget, but many of us rely on unreliable commission. If you project income and budget, it’s easier to allocate future expenses on every sale you make. Adding sources that produce monthly income (e.g. rental properties, bonds) can temper the extremes.
If you’re carrying accounts receivable, keep meticulous records and follow up diligently. Many small businesses fail because they can’t collect on their invoices. If receivables make up most of your income, get a line of credit secured by the invoices to help you manage your cash flow.
Looking to increase income? You can either get more business from the people in your existing network, or expand your network. Actually you should do both, but I recommend you spend 60% of your time soliciting new business from your existing clients and contacts and 40% contacting potential new clients. Be energetic, be positive, and always follow up.
If you can’t easily estimate your monthly overhead, you’re headed for trouble. Use a program like Quicken track every expense. When it comes time to cut expenses, you’ll appreciate knowing exactly where your dollars are going.
Fixed expenses occur whether you have business or not. Examples are rent, utilities, payroll, auto use, insurance, and professional dues.
Variable expenses occur as your business increases. Advertising, postage, office supplies, mileage, cell phone use all fluctuate based on how much business you’re transacting.
If your cash is running out before the bills are paid, cut expenses. Some areas to look at:
1) Postage- email everything. If you usually advertise by mail, use an e-newsletter or your website instead.
2) Office space-If you can get out of your lease, downsize or work from home. If you’re stuck in a lease, find a complementary business to share space and expenses.
3) Vendor contracts-cell phone, janitorial, landscaping, ISP -call everyone and renegotiate.
4) Advertising & marketing-determine whether you’re getting your money’s worth. Advertising should focus on getting your customer to act now.
5) Office supplies- cut back on paper quality, switch from color to black & white copies, cut out the colored paper.
6) Payroll-Convert a full-time employee to part-time, combine 2 positions into 1 or hire a virtual staff. Whatever you decide, give your employees plenty of notice.
7) Prospecting/Networking-If you rely on expensive leads from websites or advertising, simplify. Start with face-to-face contact with people who can give you business. Update your client database and touch base with everyone you’ve done business with in the last 5 years. Your goal in every contact should be to get more business today.