Accounting for Business Owners

accounting for business owners

Don’t Believe Your Accountant!

This is an indictment against business owners who blindly believe what their accountants say – an accounting for business owners guide.

Business owners, it is your responsibility to check your businesses finances even if your accounting knowledge is poor. This week I came across two tragic stories of owners who blindly believed their accountants – unfortunately SARS (IRS) did not agree, and neither did their unpaid suppliers.

I am not talking about complex accounting practices – I am talking about the absolute basics of simple money management. Here is a guideline of what you – as the business owner – need to physically check every month.

  1. You need to log into every bank account and determine that the money is actually there! This includes the following accounts – current, investment, trust, holding, credit cards and savings.
  2. Physically check that your invoices are going out every month. Physically check that the number of payments received corresponds with the number of invoices that go out.
  3. Your suppliers’ invoices and statements – keep on top of supplier debt before it gets out of hand.
  4. Know who your tardy payers are and manage them yourself. Know when to shut down their line of credit – this is your responsibility.
  5. Debit orders – know your monthly debit orders and the dates that the amounts are due.
  6. Rent – tell your landlord that if the payment is not made by the 7th of the month you must be phoned (not the accountant).
  7. Electricity and telephones – make sure that your number is the one that is notified if payments are not made.
  8. VAT and PAYE – log in to SARS (IRS) monthly and make sure that your tax payments are being made. Even if the amount is not correct it is 80 percent better than no payment at all. Compare the current payments to previous months and previous years. Query any deviation.
  9. Bank statements – physically run your eye down the bank statements. You will be amazed at how easy it is to pick up transactions that don’t make sense. Don’t be fobbed off by complex explanations, pursue your query until it makes sense; if not, seek external help.
  10. Every month download your bank statements into a continuous spreadsheet. Many banks do not provide electronic data for more than three months (the archive PDF versions are useless for management purposes).
  11. A set of company financials must be generated every year. This is not negotiable. Pay the cost off monthly if you have to.
  12. Audits – regardless of the size of your company an external audit must happen every year, even if it is not a legal requirement. If your company is small, give your company records to an external experienced bookkeeper. Ask them for a two-hour general check; this is not expensive.
  13. Commissions, bonuses, incentives, allowances and increases – this is the scene for horrendous mistakes. Physically check the figures yourself. Ask your accountant to explain the calculations; the discipline of explaining can be the very thing that brings the errors to light.
  14. Filing – your suppliers’ invoices should be filed alphabetically according to the company name. Look at the files and make sure that they are up to date. There must be a separate file for contracts and agreements (cars, phones, machines etc.).
  15. Assets – there must be an assets register. Check that it is up to date.
  16. Is your company legal? Is it registered? Physically check the certificates. Are these registrations up to date (these are annual payments)?
  17. You need to know the name and phone number of your business banker; if you have a business account you automatically have one. Introduce yourself and take two minutes to tell him/her what you do.

Here is the awesome thing about this. Once you have done this for six months you will develop a feel for how the money moves around in your business. You will know something is wrong without knowing what it is and this is the most important part.

If you are tempted to ignore this posting remember this. Your accountant will sail off into the setting sun and you will sit with the problem. If you don’t have the financial expertise to manage your cash flow on a monthly basis you will not be able to explain any discrepancies to SARS (IRS) either.