Setting up and maintaining a budget is one of the keys to the long-term survival and ultimate success of your small business. It's not exactly rocket science, but no enterprise can long exist if it consistently outspends its resources. Your business's budget allows you to keep a close watch on your company's expenditures and its revenue stream.
If revenues begin to rise beyond the levels you originally projected in setting up the budget, it signals an opportunity to expand or build up a surplus that can help you to weather financial storms in the future.
If, however, your revenues are falling consistently below budgeted projections, it's a clear signal that you need to cut back on expenditures to compensate for the unexpected shortfall in revenues.
Budget apps available
Making life easier for small business owners is the growing availability of inexpensive budgeting apps that can simplify and streamline the process, providing a template into which anticipated revenues and expenditures can be entered.
Most of these apps also allow users to enter actual financial performance data as it becomes available. This allows the user to see how well his business is performing, compared to budgetary projections.
But no matter which budget app you decide to go with, the principles involved in setting up and maintaining a budget are much the same.
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If yours is a start-up business, you really have no past experience on which to base your budget's projections.
To set up a budget, you'll need to conduct fairly extensive research into the revenue and spending trends that are typical for the business sector you're entering. It would be wise to have sufficient funds set aside to cover anticipated expenses until the business has been able to develop a fairly reliable stream of revenue.
For newbies, it makes sense to overestimate expenses and underestimate revenues, at least until your business finds it way and has posted reliable enough numbers on which to base future revenue and spending projections.
Start-up companies also should keep a close watch on actual financial performance so they can detect the seasonal fluctuations that they will need to factor into future budget projections.
Most existing budgeting apps -- or extensions thereof -- run on multiple platforms, allowing you to keep tabs on how your business is doing from your smartphone, iPad or other tablet, or your laptop or desktop computer.
Monthly, quarterly budgets
As guidance for the short-term future of your business, it's wise to set up an annual budget. However, to be able to closely monitor your company's performance, develop monthly and/or quarterly budgets within the framework of that annual budget.
Far too many businesses set up an annual budget, set it aside, and fail to monitor how closely -- or not -- the company's actual performance is following budgetary projections.
Having a budget grounded in reality is a necessity for businesses that plan to seek loans from banks or other lenders. Lenders will want to take a good look at your budget projections before agreeing to lend you money.
Easy access to budget data
The advantage of having up-to-the-minute budgetary information at your fingertips is obvious. The sooner you know when revenues are unexpectedly trending downward or expenses are exceeding anticipated levels, the more quickly you can take steps to minimize the financial consequences of these developments.
Budget apps that can be accessed no matter where you are make it possible to monitor costs and revenues on a daily or even hourly basis.
Tracking your company's actual financial performance against the budget's projected performance allows you to fine-tune the business's operations so you can ultimately attain the financial goals you've set.
About the author
Don Amerman is a freelance author who has written extensively about small business, corporate strategy, and social media. His latest piece looks at the advantages of using a budget app.