Financial uncertainty is at the top of life’s biggest stressors for most of us. With over 30 years of accounting experience which include 15 years of experience owning a professional services firm, Heather Kourcklas, President and Founder of Golden Gait, LLC, has learned firsthand that the only way to make informed financial decisions is by having a strong understanding of your finances. Whether you are in the planning stage of your business or are reviewing your finances, the numbers will always help you see what is working and what is not. As you are budgeting for 2022, it is important to remember that strategy and strategic planning go hand in hand with the process.
A good place to start understanding your finances is to work through an annual budget. When it comes to setting up a budget for a small or start-up business, it is vital to look at the entire financial picture and this process may – and should - entail analyzing your own personal finances in addition to your business’s. The process of putting together an annual budget is imperative to having a financially successful year. Working through the cycle of preparing, monitoring, and analyzing your annual budget not only helps further your understanding of your cash flow but will help you better manage your finances.
Heather created an informative E-Guide and workbook combined, Budgeting & Cash Flow: A Simple Guide to Goal-Oriented Budgeting, designed to help firms like yours effectively prepare their annual budget. Heather shares her tips on how to monitor and analyze your actual results against the budget you prepared. The E-Guide also includes questions to help guide you through the process.
Download the interactive guide and workbook here, and continue reading to get a sneak peek — starting with thought-provoking questions to ask yourself to get the most out of your planning.
Annual Budgeting Preparation
Preparing your annual budget is one of the most critical steps in the process of understanding your finances. This step will require you to put an enormous amount of thought into your business for the year. Before you begin brainstorming on the numbers, you must first be able to identify and articulate your goals, objectives, and plans. The best exercise to help you with this process is to write down your one, three, and five-year objectives. If you cannot identify your three and five-year goals, you at least need to have a solid understanding of what you want to achieve in the upcoming year. This process may not necessarily come easily or quickly, but if you put pen to paper (yes, actual pen to paper – not just typing in a word document), you should find that the thoughts come to the surface and your creative juices start flowing.
To have a meaningful, well-put-together budget, it is important to take the time to do the thought-provoking work. What that entails will be dependent on each individual and business taking into consideration where you are in your work-life balance, financial needs and desires, and the size of your company, among many other factors. If you are reading this, you are likely a small business owner which means you have an entrepreneurial spirit. Most entrepreneurs are high achieving, goal-driven, and incredibly focused. When planning your budget and setting goals, you want to tap into these qualities. Keep in mind that while you never want to set yourself up for failure by creating an unachievable goal, you may want to push yourself to achieve more than just an average year. It is important to remember that no business is the same – they can offer the same services, but your business is unique to you. There is always something to learn from others, but you should not simply copy someone else’s plan, nor should you want to! This is your company and your plan.
As you start to think through this area, ask yourself the questions below (in no particular order):
- Where are you with your business? Are you a start-up? Mid-sized? High growth? Cruising? Are you ready to think about an exit strategy?
- What are your business goals? Are there any areas you want to break into and explore? Do you want to launch a new service or product this year?
- Do you want to hire someone for business development to kick start a period of high growth?
- What are your personal goals? Do you want to travel more? Are you getting married or having a baby this year? Are you coming off a year of high stress or burnout? If so, this may not be the right year to dive into launching a new product or pushing for a year of high growth.
- What are your financial goals this year? Do you want to break even? Pay off some debt or a line of credit? Purchase equipment? What should your bottom line look like?
- Are parts of your business seasonal? If so, when? Most businesses have a slow time and a highly productive time. Understanding this flow in your business as much as possible is critical.
- What kind of work/life balance are you looking to achieve? How much do you want to work? What kind of support do you need? If you are the type of person who does not view your business as work, you will still want to plan on understanding the amount of time you want to spend away from your business.
Throughout the process of answering these questions, you should get a clear sense of both personal and business goals. When articulating your thoughts and decisions, stay true to yourself and what you want out of your business and your life, keeping in mind that business and life often change, and your plan should be adaptable and even scalable to take on the unexpected.
Bringing it All Together
You have begun to work the numbers and reflected on business (and personal) goals, now what? Dive into the rest of Heather’s E-Guide, Budgeting & Cash Flow: A Simple Guide to Goal-Oriented Budgeting to learn more about budget vs. actual monitoring and analysis. Heather also covers preparing, analyzing, planning, achieving, and mid-year forecasting for your budgeting. What’s more, Heather includes an interactive budget planning workbook to get the most out of your planning efforts.
Watch our Q&A Budgeting Workshop!
We know planning out your year is a big undertaking, and we want to make sure you start 2022 with confidence in your plan. To help you work through it, we hosted a workshop webinar earlier this year to complement the work you put into creating your goal-oriented budget. Once you have done the thought-provoking work and crunched the numbers, go watch our on-demand webinar for part 3 in our financial planning webinar series with Golden Gait, LLC.
This webinar functioned as an interactive workshop with the majority of time reserved for live Q&A with Heather and learning from your peers. We also used the time to focus on questions around strategic planning, your 2022 budget, prepping for mid-year forecasting, and the best way to monitor and analyze your actual results to the budget you prepared.
About the Author
Content Marketing StrategistSee more by Leanna Michniuk