The short answer is ‘yes’. The longer answer is ‘absolutely yes’.
Seriously, there are multiple reasons why smaller businesses need to forecast and implement a FP&A (Financial Planning and Analysis) framework. First, cash is generally the most delicate asset of any small business, especially those under $20 million in sales. Cash (and the corresponding line of credit) has to use forecasting regularly so that potential shortfalls can be addressed as quickly as possible.
The second reason is not as readily apparent. Businesses who plan revenues, margins, and operating income regularly and compare actual results to these plans will do significantly better than those who do not. The former will seek answers to why plans fall short or are even exceeded. In such cases, strategies and action plans are the result of plans which are not met. Conversely, those businesses doing little to no planning are typically ‘winging it’ or flying by the seat of their pants.
A FP&A Checklist for Small Businesses
- Daily treasury management is a must. That means reconciling cash every day and drawing or paying down on the LOC each morning. Other daily processes need to be adhered to in the areas of billing, collections, purchases, and cash disbursement. No shortcuts allowed.
- Cash should be projected 8 to 13 weeks each week on a rolling basis, and this is not the job of the accountant or just the CEO. This should be done by everyone in the business who has an impact on cash (whether producing or consuming it).
- A few key metrics should be maintained and monitored weekly, but only a few which can lead to actionable change.
- Financials MUST be completed on a monthly basis within a reasonable time frame after month-end. There are no excuses to not making this happen.
- And finally, ensure your actual results are a part of your FP&A tool. What went right last month or quarter? What did not go according to plan, and why? Running a causal analysis is an incredibly powerful tool to use when answering these questions. At this time, re-forecast the P&L and relevant balance sheet items over the next 12 months.
Check out Harvard Business Review’s: Why Budgeting Fails: One Management System is Not Enough below to learn more about best budgeting practices.
HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW
Learn what is wrong with the current approach to budgeting and how to fix it.