As your revenue grows and you continue to scale, the money matters you’ll need to handle in your business will also grow. The habits, systems, and support that got you started will likely not carry you all the way to 6-figures and beyond. As a CEO, managing your money becomes an integral part of how you’ll build your business.
When you have a team counting on you each month, as well as your own livelihood, it becomes more and more critical to really get your money foundation rock solid.
Let’s look at how you can do this:
Managing Your Money with Systems
There are four basic money systems I like to ensure clients have in place to make things run smoothly…
As with many things when it comes to managing your money, this doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, but it’s important you have an easy way to bill your clients. For service providers, this can be something simple, like Quickbooks or Xero. If you sell products or courses, an online shopping cart is a must. Paypal often works for this for a while, but eventually, you’ll need more functionality so consider something like SamCart or Thrivecart.
Generally speaking, you’ll also need a merchant account of some sort. Stripe and Paypal are easy to set up and integrate into your business. Depending on the practices of your primary market, direct bank transfers may also be standard.
Pro-tip: Assuming you’re incurring merchant fees, fold them into your prices and consider it a normal cost of doing business. Expecting your clients to pay extra so they can quickly and conveniently send you money is a real turn-off.
Setup whatever systems or resources you need to ensure you can bill on time and regularly. We keep a running list of all clients’ billing dates, package rates, and hourly rates for overage all in one spreadsheet. This one document saves me so much time each month because all the info I need to generate invoices is all in one place. Make sure you also have the appropriate reminders set up, so bills go out on time. If you can set up auto-payments, that’s great, but if you do manual billing, make sure you can do it efficiently.
Managing your money starts with efficiently and consistently collecting the revenue you’re generating, so the importance of your billing system cannot be underscored enough.
There’s nothing worse than getting to year-end and realizing you haven’t properly saved any of your receipts. So many things with online businesses are automated and live in the inbox, but if they never make it out of there, you have a potential nightmare on your hands should you need them. Again, set up an easy, reliable, and recurring method of saving receipts for your records to help with managing your money.
Consider using email filters and labels to automatically flag receipts as they come in. Then once a month, save them all to one place. We use Dropbox folders to group them by month and then by year. I also have my assistant do the actual work of downloading or printing them all to PDF. He then renames everything and uploads them all to the right place. This only takes about 30 minutes per month and is a huge time saver come tax time.
There are a few key things to have in place to make sure you aren’t losing track of regular, recurring expenses. Again, many will likely be automated charges with varying frequency so documenting them all in one place helps keep them corralled. A simple document with billing date, amount, method of payment, frequency, and short description of what it is you’re paying for is what you really need here. Then, calendar a time to periodically review/update the list. I tend to do this quarterly and build it into my quarterly review and planning process.
As part of managing your money, take the time to go through all the current services, software, and apps to make sure you’re really using them, and there’s no overlap in what you’re paying for. Check to see if you’ve accounted appropriately for any upcoming annual charges since those tend to be a bit larger or if you need to adjust your cash flow.
Pro-tip: Running a lean business doesn’t mean you can’t pay for the tools you need or regularly use. It merely means you’re intentional about what you do pay for and ensure it truly benefits the business or helps it make money!
I strongly recommend outsourcing this to an expert as quickly as you possibly can. Most people avoid it like the plague otherwise and generally don’t have the expertise to do it efficiently. With regular bookkeeping, you can ensure you are managing your money and keeping the proper attention on the financial health of the business regularly.
Don’t be afraid to ask for the data you need to understand the big picture. My bookkeeper does all of the traditional reporting you’d expect, but we’ve also created some additional reporting to help me have a better idea of what’s going on in the business.
For instance, we track paid invoices as you would traditionally for accounting purposes but then we also generate a report of the total revenue collected in a month. Since sometimes people pay late or pay on a different date than we expected, this allows me to make sure all the revenue in months is accounted for even if it was officially assigned somewhere else. She also generates a monthly report to help me keep track of client reimbursables. These are things we’ve developed over time to make it easier for me to understand what’s going on day-to-day and in the big picture — both of which are critical to managing your money.
Managing Your Money Through Profits
When you’re busy serving clients or customers, it’s easy to let profits slip your mind. But at the end of the day, a business needs to be profitable to survive.
I look at profits in two ways: What am I able to pay myself each month and what’s truly profit after everything is paid (taxes, overhead, labor, etc)? Depending on how you pay yourself, true profit may technically be small, but if you’re paying yourself what you want, this may not be as concerning.
Beyond looking at the numbers, there are a few things I like to dig into with clients around profitability.
This is perhaps one of the most tricky parts of managing your money because it can be so subtle. Start by considering where you are leaving money on the table with existing clients. Whether it’s overages from packages, time that’s not being billed, or services you just add in without charging extra, scope creep can cost businesses a ton of money. So, make sure you have some method of reviewing workflows and client engagements regularly to catch these leaks.
If you identify a repeat offender, build in fail-safe going forward to help prevent further scope creep. One thing that I help a lot of creatives with is using their project management systems to watch for scope creep. It’s often easier for a support person to play the heavy when clients ask for things that weren’t originally included. Creatives very often get so excited about what they’re breathing life into that they forget about the project scope so having someone else monitoring that and chiming in about extra fees before work is done can be a great way to manage scope creep.
Labor can often be a business’s biggest expense. Owners are often diligent about examining costs when adding new team members, but it’s very easy to get complacent as time goes by. Taking some time to analyze how your team helps or hurts profitability can pay off immensely.
- For instance, are there some basic admin tasks you are doing that could be done by a lower-cost team member?
- Do you have any specialists spending time on basic admin tasks?
- Is anyone on the team not contributing proportionately to what you pay them?
Ask these questions every so often to make sure you don’t have any profitability leaks here.
Cash Flow Projections
As revenues and expenses increase, having an accurate method of projecting your cash flow becomes more and more essential to managing your money.
Start by looking at any guaranteed revenue for the next several months.
Depending on your client or project turnover, you may be able to project just a few months or perhaps even longer. Here, you only want to look at the revenue that is secured — whether by an existing payment plan or contract.
Then, look at your lead pipeline and estimate how much business you’re likely to close. Consider your average close rate as a starting point, and mix in a bit of ambition or caution depending on your preferences.
Now, look at your basic recurring expenses, like:
- Your salary
- Contractor costs
- Tools you need to run the business
- Taxes or other fees
After documenting the basic expenses you know are required to run your business, start thinking about any extras you’d like to add. This could be things like:
- Bonuses for you and/or your team
- Professional development, such as conferences, coaching, or consultants
- Upcoming business travel
- Expenditures for things like computers, printers, or other tangible tools
- New software needs
With a solid list of all these expenses, you can start looking at how it all plays out. Notice when the revenue is coming in versus when the expenses are due. Depending on how healthy your cash flow is, you may need to look at this day by day. Get as specific as you need to here to balance efficiency and accuracy.
As you build this out, start with the end results. Do you have a negative or positive situation at various points? What about at the end of your projection?
It can be tempting to start stressing about any gaps, but this exercise is primarily intended to be informational and helpful. Once you know what’s projected, you can make strategic decisions on how to move forward.
If you have a lot of negative cash flow points, for instance, you may decide to make a plan to increase revenue or raise capital through investment or loans. This is a very different scenario than if you have a lot of positive cash flow with a surplus.
It’s also important to look at the entire period to make the best decisions.
For instance, if you have a decent cash buffer to cover regular expenses, it’s easier to ride out days or weeks of lower revenue. However, if you’re always running right against zero, these negative days can be more important to pay attention to.
Most of my clients are monthly retainers who pay at the start of the month with a few clients who pay during the month. This means I have several very high cash influxes during the month. So while most days throughout the month are technically negative because there are only expenses and no revenue, it ultimately isn’t concerning because of the high influxes of cash at certain points during the month.
In addition to cash flow projections, consider building a budget so you can stay on track for expenditures throughout the year. A budget is such a useful tool to help make smart decisions — and it doesn’t have to be restrictive at all. Use the budget to plan for what to do with excess revenue or to hedge your bets during any business slowdowns.
Build-in as much detail and specificity as you need to here. Breakdown categories in ways that make sense to you! This is your tool, so build it for you. Want more on how cash flow and understanding your bookkeeping is important?
Check out these resources from Do Your Thing.
Uplevel Your Money Team
There are different levels of support you can get to help you with managing your money and the business’s financial health. Most CEOs start with a bookkeeper to help ensure the income and expenses are properly recorded for tax purposes. A bookkeeper can usually provide monthly reports that help you analyze how things are going.
But, you may find you want more nuanced reports and advice as things grow. This is where a CFO might come into play. CFOs generally help advise on things, like managing cash flow, leveraging business credit, pricing, and profitability of offers. They also often give more strategic advice than a bookkeeper to help you make decisions. Many people think of CFOs as something only huge businesses need — but even small businesses can benefit from this expert help by using an outside CFO rather than a full-time employee.
One of my amazing clients, Ariane Trelaun of Do Your Thing, provides bookkeeping and CFO level support. I’ve worked with her as well on the other side with my clients and have seen how powerful CFO analysis and advice can be!
As my clients’ strategic partner, I often help bridge the gap between bookkeeping reports and CFO support. When clients aren’t ready for a CFO but need someone to help keep cash flow up-to-date or provide a second opinion on pricing and profitability, I provide an experienced sounding board.
For other clients who have no desire to be involved with liasing with the bookkeeper, CFO, or accountant, I am the go between in this case who makes sure things are getting done, and the owner has the right information to make decisions.
This is perhaps the most overlooked part of managing your money as a CEO. So often, we don’t realize how our relationships with money (good or bad) can impact our businesses. Whether it’s pricing, charging for scope creep, or even paying for things your business needs, money mindset comes into play.
Consider working on your relationship with money to ensure it’s working with you and not against you.
Check out some great resources on this from Leisa Peterson of The Wealth Clinic.
Mastering your money matters will help you become a more effective CEO
Mastering your money matters will only help you become a more effective CEO. It will help you navigate the stresses of growing your business and dramatically impact your overall financial picture with diligence and intention. You can make these money matters support you towards new heights of abundance and wealth!