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Plan for the financial success of your business

In business as in life, you’ve got to have a plan - particularly when it comes to managing the finances of either, or in the case of many business owners, both.

Chartered Accountant Daniel Stern is a Partner with RSM Richter LLP in Toronto. His advice about how best to mix a personal financial plan with one for your business? Carefully!

“A financial plan is an integral aspect of a business that often doesn’t get emphasized enough,” says Stern. “It’s your roadmap, telling you where you’re going, what you need and whether or not you’re getting there.”

If you don’t have a financial plan for your business that dovetails with one for your life, it may be time you got one. Here are Stern’s best tips for developing good plans -- in business and in life -- to take you where you want to go.

Think qualitatively - Whether your business is just starting up or already established, it’s much easier to plan the financial aspects when you know what the whole picture is supposed to look like. An optimistic outlook for the long term is great, but to be realistic, Stern suggests that you set a two-year time horizon. Decide where you want to go in that time; then figure out what you’ll need to get there.

The earlier you start planning, the better - Time is a comfort factor - nowhere more so than in financial planning for your business. Enough of it can forgive a myriad of sins and errors. It can give you the leeway to think things through in tough times and allow you enough wiggle room to make calm, prudent strategic decisions.

No one will look after you but you - “It’s human nature that as our income grows, so does our spending,” Stern says. “The cardinal rule in any financial plan must be to pay yourself first. There are many different instruments for wealth creation and preservation, so everybody can find one that’s right for them.”

The bank is your partner - They don’t like surprises, however, so do what’s required to keep them informed. Understand, too, that they want you to survive and succeed. Their first concern is the security of their investment; second is serviceability -- how you will pay them off. A good financial plan addresses where that money will come from -- whether it’s you, the business or some other way entirely.

Projections help provide accuracy - A good financial plan supports what you want to do with strategies to do it. Then, it lets you measure the impact of those strategies. Be proactive rather than reactive. Consider what the market for your products or service may be like a little further down the road.

Plan for hiccups - Road maps are important, but so is structure, Stern says. “We all believe things will go smoothly, but plan alternatives and remedial actions, just in case things should turn.”

Asset protection - Preserving money is as important as making it. “You don’t want excess capital left in your operating company where it can be lost if problems should arise,” Stern says. “It’s usually better to set up a holding company to manage money and investments.”

Take advantage of Canada’s favourable tax rates for business - For small businesses under $500,000, the corporate rate is an unbelievable 15.5 per cent! The top corporate rate as at July 1, 2011 is 26.5 per cent. The tax rate will be 25 per cent, but not until after June 30, 2013. Compare these to the highest personal tax rates of 46 per cent, and you’ll understand how smart financial planning in business can positively impact your personal bank account.

Engage the professionals - Accountants, lawyers and other business specialists are important to your success, Stern says. They can provide invaluable guidance and service about structuring your business for tax savings and optimal results.

A meeting costs nothing - Most professionals will happily schedule an initial discussion with you about your business and financial plan at no charge. Let them look at your situation, and explain how they can help you and your business succeed.

Brought to you by The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario

Dana Newton
Senior Coordinator, Public Affairs
Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario

Dana Newton    9/20/2011


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