Believe it or not, the New Year is just around the corner, leaving many business owners scrambling to create a business plan for 2010. A sound budget is one of the cornerstones of any enterprise, large or small, and taking the time to plan ahead makes all the difference in crafting a realistic plan that will help your business grow stronger and more profitable.
If you’re a small business owner tasked with budgeting your resources for next year, keep the following tips in mind:
- Budget conservatively: It can be difficult to accurately predict income or expenses, so err on the side of caution. Assume that costs will be higher than anticipated and that income may be lower, and then craft a budget tailored to those pessimistic figures. You’ll be prepared for the worst, and if business in 2010 is as good as (or better than) you hope, it will come as a happy surprise.
- Be flexible: A budget is a plan, but it’s never set in stone. You may need to adapt or even rewrite your budget after the first quarter or half of the year. It’s important to factor in safety margins on spending. Set aside some money in an emergency fund, and try to assess each unexpected cost on an individual basis.
- Consider projected cash flow: Cash flow is the focus of your budget, and can usually be broken down into three categories:
- Projected sales: How much income you expect to see this year
- Direct cost of sales: The cost of each sale in terms of shipping, customer service, materials, and/or labor in production.
- Fixed costs or overhead: These are costs that exist regardless of your sales, ranging from administrative expenses to office supplies and utilities.
- Use last year’s numbers as a basis: Last year’s figures can provide a rough scale for your 2010 budget estimates. Don’t get too attached to them, however, since costs and sales can vary widely from year to year.
- Involve the right people: Depending on the size of your company, it may be necessary to create or request budgets from each department. Even if you’re creating only one budget for the entire business, ask essential team members to contribute their thoughts and expertise. Getting the advice of a CPA or other financial expert can also help make your budget more realistic and viable.
- Be realistic: As you consider the advice of your department heads and your CPA, as well as last year’s figures, do your best to be realistic. It might be nice to assume that sales will rise by 50% next year, but it’s prudent to assume that’s not going to happen. If the unexpected occurs, either good or bad, will your business be prepared to sell more product or spend a little more than you had anticipated? Plan for as many contingencies as possible and do your best to use all the expertise and information available to you.