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Accounting and finance are one of those things only a few got educated in while growing up. The truth is that money is like a sixth sense – and you can’t make use of the other five without it. In business, we say that there are four factors of production: land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship. Arguably, human capital is the most essential factor amongst these four. However, misappropriation of organizational funds may render every other factor of production irrelevant in the long run. Every business owner is required to know little things about everything, and everything about little things. The mention of accounting and finance often sends a cold shiver down the spine of many individuals. This is quite understandable due to the technicality and delicateness of financial records. Notwithstanding, a proper understanding of basic financial terms and principles will help to prevent avoidable economic hazards in the organization. Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like. Every day, I see errors being made around financial decisions. From personal impulse spending to inefficient staffing. From not separating one’s income and expense from their businesses entity to taking out too much money by paying out what should have been either capital or retained earnings to invest back in the business directly. I see people have a budget for production with none for marketing and sales (I guess they just assume that a good product should sell itself). It’s financial literacy to not live above your means. It’s okay to say, “I can’t afford it now”. Take pride in it. There is a saying that like most women fake orgasm, so do men fake intelligence, power and finance. That doesn’t have to be you. Every day, I see people run out of cash from living ‘la vida loca’. I see people run into cash flow problems because they used their cash in hand for lending, or even instead, they use it to buy land too early or even do charity. In money matters and financial management, knowing what to do at the right time is gold. Some false notions around money can also be misleading. For example, a few people will tell you they don’t borrow or take out loans because it’s bad. Well, this is not always exactly true. Rather, don’t ever borrow money for something that doesn’t further or enhance your financial goals or the future. I have also seen people try too much. The fact that you have put money in a bad business unit doesn’t make you a loser when you quit. Quitting and counting your loss is sometimes the most intelligent thing to do, else you’re just a victim of the sunk cost fallacy; an idea that because we have invested so much in something, we have to keep pursuing it, even when it’s not working. It’s the principle behind why a gambler who’s down, stayed at the table, thinking he will win back his money, or why an investor keeps her money in a dwindling stock, waiting for it to go back up. Timing is key, and beyond intuition, let knowledge inspire it. We all need an intermediate knowledge of accounting and finance to get by. Financial management helps an organization to keep track of the expenses and plan how much to spend. It also helps you know what you own and what you owe (the difference is your net worth). Financial management helps a business to organize its operations and strategize its funding. It also helps to make sound financial decisions that would boost the growth of the organization. To understand it, we must start with knowing its conventions. Accounting conventions are guidelines used to help companies determine how to record business transactions. For example, it’s always advised that while recording transactions, that you “Debit the Receiver, Credit the Giver” (Double Entry Principle). There are several concepts and conventions guiding the understanding of accounting. They include the principles of Materiality, of Full Disclosure and Conservatism. Other accounting concepts include Accrual Concept (that transactions should be recognized at the time when the transaction occurs rather than when payment is made or received), Economic Entity Concept (a business is a separate entity), Going Concern Concept (it should be built to continue), Matching Concept, and Materiality Concept amongst others.
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Finance and accounting is a major part of your business development process. You need a basic knowledge of both to stay afloat. It’s the cost structure part of your business model canvass. As a start-up, CEO or serial entrepreneur, irrespective of your industry or role, I advise that you take a crash course in bookkeeping or at least hire a bookkeeper to keep track of and categorize your revenues and expenses. And if you can’t afford one, I insist that you learn how to do it yourself. If you are working with a bookkeeper or accountant as a startup, then have them send you a monthly income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. This means you must learn how to read these financial statements if you don’t know how to. It’s up to you if you want to see your statements on a cash basis or accrual basis. Online tools can help here. Most common accounting packages like QuickBooks and Peachtree or (or online accounting tools like Xero, Zoho, Kashoo, or Legerble) can produce both cash basis and accrual basis reports. You will need an accounting system set up to be able to input, track, report and make other standard documentation later. Documenting your financial process starts off with recording each and every transaction made in journals and cashbooks. And later on, by understanding how financial ratios gotten from them work in relation to income and expense, assets and liabilities, debits and credit. But from the basic, you have a product to sell, right? And there are costs you incur in either developing or selling that product, right? Okay. Looking at that can help you in defining the price tag on that product (which can either be done by cost-based or value-based pricing). Businesses have methods by which to price their products and services. Two common methods are cost-based pricing and value-based pricing. When a company uses cost-based pricing, the company sets a price at a percentage above the cost it incurs to manufacture the product or to provide the service. Value-based pricing takes a different approach, considering the potential value the product or service will bring to its customers. Either one you choose depending on the business model and market you are in should help you in fixing your price and in determining the units sold or to be sold, which in total is gotten when multiplied together, and it gives you your revenue. This sits on top of your income statement. It’s also important for executives to know how to read and translate financial statements. Basically, there are four financial statements that are relevant to every organization:
- Statement of Comprehensive Income (Formerly, called Profit and Loss statement)
- Statement of Financial Position (Formerly, Balance Sheet)
- Statement of Changes in Equity (Formerly, Statement of Retained Earnings)
- Statement of Cash Flows
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