While accounting software has made bookkeeping and accounting easier for small businesses, it’s also made errors and accounting mistakes—from incorrectly categorizing a transaction to doing all accounting yourself—much more common. Some accounting mistakes are minor, insignificant, and—when they’re inevitably noticed by someone within your business—easy to correct. But others are more serious and could have a significant effect on your business’s financial health.
Over time, poor accounting practices can distort the reality of your company’s fiscal health. In severe cases, repeated accounting mistakes and bad accounting practices can lead your business toward insolvency or company administration.
1. Assuming profits always mean cash flow. You just closed a $50,000 deal that will take your company three months to fulfill. It’s going to cost your busi ness $20,000 to fund the project, so you book a $30,000 profit on the deal before you’ve delivered anything. Big mistake.
What happens if the deal, rather than taking three months, runs into an issue that causes an additional three months of delays? What is your costs increase, making the $20,000 costs estimate inaccurate? It’s tempting to write down each deal as income when it happens—after all, it’s new income for your business. But doing so can make your company seem healthier than it really is and give you a distorted picture of your company’s real condition.
2. Not taking bookkeeping seriously enough. The key to effective accounting is recording everything. From small transactions to large payments from customers and clients, it’s important to ensure that everything is recorded and properly categorized in your accounts.
No matter how small your company might be, taking accounting seriously gives you an accurate, reliable picture of your company’s health, letting you determine exactly how well (or poorly) you’ve performed in a given period. From categorizing different types of assets and liabilities correctly to performing a monthly check of your books and accounts, establishing a serious bookkeeping and accounting system for your business is the key to keeping it financially secure.
3. Failing to reconcile books with bank accounts. It’s important that your business reconciles its accounts frequently. Reconciling is the process of checking that an account balance as listed on your books is accurate and correct, ensuring that it matches the real balance of your bank account.
From time to time, small costs and expenses that you might not think about at the time could go unrecorded. Reconciling your accounts—from your business’s bank cash to its payable accounts—lets you accurately track your financial situation. Small businesses should always reconcile their books every month to ensure all of their transactions are accurately recorded, preventing their books from becoming out of sync with the real status of their accounts.
4. Forgetting to record small transactions. How does your business manage its small transactions? It’s very easy to think of petty cash transactions as unimportant, but it’s essential that your business has a record of all of its spending, no matter how insignificant. This is especially important in retail environments, where many transactions are cash based.
It’s also important to record small transactions like paying for a postal delivery, even if the cost is insignificant. Stay on top of the small transactions and it becomes far easier to manage the bigger ones. By keeping a record of small transactions, you’ll be able to easily manage your books as your company grows in size and its number of transactions increases.
5. Managing all of your accounting in-house. Do you handle all of your bookkeeping and accounting in-house? When you run an extremely small business with limited revenue, it can be tempting to lower costs by handling your accounting on your own. While taking care of your accounting yourself might seem like a great way to save money, it could actually be costing your business money.
An accountant will have greater costs than managing your accounts by yourself, but will also save you money. From tax deductions that you didn’t know about to errors that are difficult to see in your own company but easy for an expert to notice, managing all of your accounting in-house causes you to miss an opportunity to save money.