Starting a business comes with a lot of risks, most of which can seriously impact your finances.
Whether you’ve bootstrapped the company yourself, take out a commercial loan or raised investor capital, one poor business decision could lead you down the road to financial ruin.
So how can you make sure you’re being smart with your money when you start up? We asked 14 members of the Forbes Finance Council to share some common financial mistakes that every entrepreneur should avoid.
1. Concentrating Your Risk
Many entrepreneurs play the personal finance lottery. They make a concentrated bet when they assume their business will be the golden ticket for their retirement, even if that’s decades down the line. With the failure rate of businesses, it’s a very risky bet to assume your business will provide for your golden years. You can balance out that risk by also having a less-risky investment account. – Elle Kaplan, LexION Capital
2. Doing Too Many Things Yourself
You need to know the difference between what you do best and what you do each day because it “needs to get done.” Wasting time with a task that is not in your highest skill set is a misuse of your time and, more importantly, your money. Hire help so you can focus on your strengths! – Francesca Federico, Twelve Points
3. Failing To Analyze Cash Flow
Based on a U.S. Bank survey, 82% of startups and small businesses fail due to poor cash-flow management. Entrepreneurs need to analyze and manage their cash flow to more effectively control the inflow and outflow of cash. Depending on the sensitivity of their financials, this may be done daily, weekly or monthly. – Peter Heald, Signature Analytics
4. Only Focusing On Fundraising
Often entrepreneurs think that, if they can just raise more money from some magic investor, it will solve all of their financial headaches. But it’s more important to focus on creating value within the company. Build a great product, serve your customers well, treat your employees honorably, and have sound economics. With good fundamentals, the business (and perhaps funding) will follow. – Jeremy Almond, PayStand
5. Not Paying Yourself
For entrepreneurs, their business is their baby. Like some parents, they get so wrapped up in making sure their baby is taken care of, they neglect their own needs. Sound personal finances are just as crucial as good business finances. Paying yourself what you and your family need to live stress-free and selling some shares for cash before the big IPO may let you think more clearly. – Atish Davda, EquityZen
6. Hiring Too Quickly And Too Cheaply
When starting your own business, it may take a little time before you have the capability to hire, but when you do, failing to invest in the right people can be a big blunder. You’re hiring because you need the help, and many desperate entrepreneurs hire too quickly and too cheaply. Investing in talented, reliable people will take your business to the next level. – Stacy Francis, Francis Financial, Inc.
7. Not Planning For Your Future
Most entrepreneurs’ lifeblood is their business, but it’s imperative to think about the future. Feast or famine, carve off some savings for an emergency and, ultimately, for retirement. I encourage business owners to look at their business first as a source of cash flow and only secondarily as an asset. Build value for yourself outside of your business. – Gregory Ostrowski, Scarborough Capital Management
8. Not Automating Business Tasks
A lot of business owners still do things manually and solely on paper. Since they wear multiple hats, they don’t take advantage of how technology can be used to grow their business. Using systems like a CRM or Quickbooks helps with management of finances and automates tasks, which also frees up time to focus on more urgent business matters. – Chad Otar, Excel Capital Management, Inc.
9. Spending Too Much On Inventory
Inventory doesn’t apply to every type of business, but this is a common mistake. New entrepreneurs are often excited to get started. Unfortunately, their excitement blinds them to the reality of business, and they end up overspending, sometimes to the point where they can’t even pay off debt. Starting from a place of financial security is ideal, though not always possible. – Ismael Wrixen, FE International
10. Ignoring Gross Margins And Input Costs
Top line revenue and other vanity metrics are pointless if you don’t focus on gross margins. Who cares if you make $100 if it costs $110 to produce that revenue? Ruthlessly track your input costs and make the hard adjustments early on in order to avoid having a business that won’t attract investor capital when you need it. – Jason Lee, DailyPay
11. Failing To Consult Financial Professionals
The biggest mistake I see is not using Certified Public Accountants, attorneys or financial planners. Entrepreneurs need a professional board of advisors, a CFP, a CPA, and a good tax or business attorney to lean on. The CFP is your quarterback year-round. Your CPA is there for accounting and taxes. Then the attorney keeps you out of legal messes. – Justin Goodbread, Heritage Investors
12. Failing To Plan And Track Campaign Metrics
Anyone starting a business should accept the following truth: adaptation and pivots are the path to success. This applies directly to continuing to spend money on marketing programs that do not produce the desired or expected results. Prior to spending one dollar on any marketing or branding campaign, detail what you expect to achieve, in dollars or other metric, within a given time interval. – Ivan Illán, Aligne Wealth Preservation & Insurance Services LLC
13. Anticipating Future Revenue
Without sufficient start-up capital and a sizable cash reserve, many entrepreneurs are faced with trying to meet today’s expenses with anticipated future revenue. Unfortunately, in the real world, anticipated future revenue does not always arrive on time, if at all. – Jacob Alphin, Rillhurst Capital
14. Forgetting To Set Aside Money For Expenses
When you get paid for that first job or the first couple of jobs, not all of that money is yours. New business owners need to make sure that they money have put aside for taxes, marketing for the next job, overhead expenses, and savings for a rainy day when the jobs are not flowing in. The first big paychecks are not yours; with business ownership, you are the last to get paid. Plan accordingly! – Robin Hall, VARC Solutions.