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All About Financial Management in Business

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD
Applies to for-profits unless otherwise noted.

New business leaders and managers have to develop at least basic skills in financial management. Expecting others in the organization to manage finances is clearly asking for trouble. Basic skills in financial management start in the critical areas of cash management and bookkeeping, which should be done according to certain financial controls to ensure integrity in the bookkeeping process. New leaders and managers should soon go on to learn how to generate financial statements (from bookkeeping journals) and analyze those statements to really understand the financial condition of the business. Financial analysis shows the "reality" of the situation of a business -- seen as such, financial management is one of the most important practices in management. This topic will help you understand basic practices in financial management, and build the basic systems and practices needed in a healthy business.

Sections in This Topic Include

Basics and Getting Started

Basics of Financial Management
- - - Role of Treasurer and Board Finance Committee (if yours is a corporation)
- - - Getting an Accountant or Bookkeeper, If Needed
- - - Buy Accounting Software to Help You?
- - - Getting a Bank and Banker
- - - Basic Overview of For-Profit Financial Management
Understanding Bookkeeping and Accounting
- - - Bookkeeping Basics
- - - Addressing Financial Controls and Risk Management

Activities in the Yearly Accounting Cycle

Planning and Cash Management

Financial Planning
Budgeting and Managing a Budget
Managing Cash Flow
Credit and Collections
Budget Deviation Analysis

Financial Statements, Analysis and Reporting

Financial Statements
- - - Profit and Loss Statement (Income Statement)
- - - Balance Sheet
Financial Analysis
- - - Profit Analysis
- - - Break-Even Analysis
- - - Ratios

Evaluating Your Financial Practices

Evaluating Your Financial Management Practices

Special Topics

Financing Major Purchases
Cost Cutting
Boards and Understanding Financials

General Resources

Various Types of Financial Resources

Also consider
Related Library Topics


Basics of Financial Management

Role of Treasurer and Board Finance Committee

If your small business is a corporation, you would do well to find someone experienced in financial management and encourage them to be your board treasurer (your board chair has this responsibility to find someone suitable, as well). Therefore, it's important to understand the role of the board treasurer.
Role of Treasurer (for club, board, etc.)
Board Finance Committee

Getting an Accountant or Bookkeeper, If Needed

If you are inexperienced in financial management, then you should get an accountant initially to help you set up your bookkeeping system, generate financial statements and do some basic financial analysis. But don't count on an accountant to completely take over your responsibility for financial management! The accountant can help you set up a bookkeeping system, generate financial statements and analyze them, but you have to understand financial data to the extent that you can understand the effects of your management decisions, the current condition of your business and how decisions will effect the financial condition of your business in the future.
How to Hire an Accountant
What to Look for When Hiring an Accountant

You should carefully consider whether you should hire an outside accountant, or hire your own employee. The IRS pays increasing attention to the hiring of independent contractors.
Hiring Consultants

The following link might help you when you establish a contract with an accountant.
Business Contracts (this will be useful if you sign any contracts with the accountant)

Also consider
Various Types of Resources

Buy Accounting Software to Help You?

Strongly consider getting a software package to manage your books! There are a number of very useful software packages that will help you automate bookkeeping, generation of financial statement and their analysis. Note that an accounting software package can greatly reduce the time to enter and manage accounting transactions, and generate financial statements. However, you still should have at least a basic understanding of the accounting process for your organization, including what journals are used and what general accounts exist. You must have good understanding of financial statements and how to analyze them -- an accounting package cannot do this for you!
Accounting Software (this link is to "Software for Small Computer Systems")
What Type of Bookkeeping System Should you use?
How to Automate Payroll

Getting a Bank and Banker

You'll need to start a business account at a bank. Probably the best way to find a good bank is to ask for advice and references from other small businesses, especially those that are of the size and nature of yours. If you're just starting out, you probably don't have much money. You may be able to get buy with a non-interest-bearing checking out that has no, or minimal, fees. The following links may be useful
Getting and Using a Banker

Also consider
Various Types of Resources

Basic Overview of For-Profit Financial Management

To get an overall sense for the recurring financial activities in the typical, read the following articles. (You'll soon get more basic information below in the section titled "Bookkeeping Basics".)
Basics of Financial Management in U.S. Small For-Profit Businesses
Financial Management Training Center
Basic Accounting Lesson Plans and Worksheets

Other sites that you might benefit from are:
Bookkeeping 101: A Beginning Tutorial
Online Learning Center's tutorial
Financial Accounting for Owners, Managers, and Administrators
Free Introductory Accounting & Bookkeeping Tutorial
Business Plan : Finances of a Small Business

Understanding Bookkeeping and Accounting

Basics financial managements starts with good record keeping. Be sure that you've read the above-mentioned article Basics of Financial Management in U.S. Small For-Profit Businesses before you continue reading the links listed below.

If You Want to Learn All About Bookkeeping and Accounting, Start Here

These sites provide an online tutorial about the basics of bookkeeping and accounting. Don't worry about thoroughly understanding very term and process. But do think about what you're reading in order to get a strong "feel" about the process of accounting.
Basic Guide to Financial Statements
Bookkeeping 101 (tutorial)
Introduction to Bookkeeping
Introduction to Accountancy

Classification of Accounts (for Chart of Accounts)

In accounting, different types of financial transactions (eg, paying telephone bills, copier bills, getting money from sales, getting money from interest income, etc.) are assigned specific numbers (account numbers) which help to record and track those types of transactions. Businesses might create their own list (or chart) of accounts or adopt a chart used by other organizations. In any case, you should have some basic impression of a chart of accounts. The following links will help you.
Setting Up a Chart of Accounts
Develop the Chart of Accounts for your Small Business
Chart of Accounts Definitions

Addressing Financial Controls and Risk Management

Financial controls exist to help ensure that financial transactions are recorded and maintained accurately, and that personnel don't unintentionally (or intentionally) corrupt the financial management system. Controls range from very basic (eg, using a checkbook and cash register tapes to more complex, eg, yearly financial audits).
Internal Financial Controls for a Small Business
Top 20 Financial Controls to Protect Your Company from Fraud, Theft and Embezzlement
Fraud Symptom 1 Insatiable hunger of CEO
Fraud Symptom 2 A Weak CFO
Fraud Symptom 5 Insufficient focus on organization culture and processes

The following link is to a variety of links about controls to prevent intentional subversion of the financial management system.
Protecting Against Theft, Fraud, Forgery, etc.

Also consider
Risk Management
Risk Management With Boards of Directors


Now that you have a basic sense of the overall accounting and financial management process, we'll look at the key parts at the beginning of the overall process, including budgeting, managing cash and credit.

Financial Planning

Financial planning works from the strategic and business plans to identify what financial resources are needed to obtain and develop the resources to achieve the goals in the two types of plans. Typically, financial planning results in very relevant and realistic budgets -- budgets are addressed later on in this topic. So be sure to consider business planning for each of your products and services.

Financial Planning in Business (Wikipedia)
Small Business Financial Planning -- the Basics
7 Tips for Business Forecasting
The Ultimate Guide to Setting SMART Financial Goals
Course 2: Financial Planning and Forecasting

Strategic Planning
Business Planning

Budgeting and Managing a Budget

A budget depicts what you expect to spend (expenses) and earn (revenue) over a time period. Amounts are categorized according to the type of business activities, or accounts (for example, telephone costs, sales of catalogs, etc.). Budgets are useful for planning your finances and then tracking if you're operating according to plan. They are also useful for projecting how much money you'll need for a major initiative, for example, buying a facility, hiring a new employee, etc. There are yearly (operating) budgets, project budgets, cash budgets, etc. The overall format of a budget is a record of planned income and planned expenses for a fixed period of time.
Small Business Budgeting
The Three Primary Types of Financial Capital
Is Your Budgeting Process Killing Your Strategy?

Managing Cash Flow

As a new business, your biggest challenge is likely to be managing your cash flow -- probably the most important financial statement for a new business is the cash flow statement. The overall purpose of managing your cash flow is to make sure that you have enough cash to pay current bills. Businesses can manage cash flow by examining a cash flow statement and cash flow projection. Basically, the cash flow statement includes total cash received minus total cash spent. Cash management looks primarily at actual cash transactions.
(Thanks to the Women's Business Center for a very useful set of links!)

Basics of Cash Management

The Importance of Cash Management
Techniques for better cash flow management
Basic Cash Management Techniques
Techniques for Improving Cash Flow

Man oh Man, Don’t Run Out of Cash

Preparing a Cash Flow Statement

Preparing Your Cash Flow Statement
Cash Flow Worksheet
All About Cash Flow Analysis for Your Small Business

Preparing Cash Flow Projections and Forecasts

More information on doing cash flow forecast
How to Make Cash Flow Projections
Short-Term Cash Flow Projections

Managing Your Checking Account

For a new business, your check register very likely will be your primary means to record and track cash. Whether yours is a new business or an established business, you'll need to know how to manage your bank account. See
Checking Account Lessons
Managing Your Checking Account

Credit and Collections

One of your biggest challenges in managing cash flow may be decisions about granting credit to customers or clients, and how to collect payment from them.
Know your rights: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Credit Granting Authority

Budget Deviation Analysis

You learned above that a budget depicts what you expect to spend (expenses) and earn (revenue) over a time period. Budget deviation analysis regularly compares what you expected, or planned, to earn and spend with what you actually spent and earned. The budget deviation analysis can help greatly when detecting how well you're tracking your plans, how much to accurately budget in the future, where there may be upcoming problems in spending, etc. A budget deviation analysis report might include columns with titles:

Planned for Month

Actual for Month

(planned minus actual)

% Deviation
(Difference x 100)


Test - What is the Quality of Your Financial Management Practices Now?

Before reading more in this topic, you might get an impression of your own financial knowledge and practices now.

Evaluation of Financial Management Practices in Businesses

So, based on the results of the test, what do you want to improve? Consider the guidelines in the rest of this topic.

ACTIVITIES IN YEARLY ACCOUNTING CYCLE: Financial Statements and Analysis

Financial Statements

To really understand the current and future conditions of your business, you have to look at certain financial statements. These statements are generated by organizing and analyzing numbers from your accounting activities. You should understand the two primary financial statements, the Profit and Loss Statement (or Income Statement) and the Balance Sheet. (Some sources believe that there are other primary statements, too, such as the cash flow statement or change in capital, etc. However, the Income Statement and Balance Sheet are the two standard statements for any business.) The following links will give you an overview of these two key statements, and we'll soon get into them in more detail later on below. Here are several perspectives on the statements.
Basic Guide to Financial Statements
The Accounting Journal - An Important Part of the Bookkeeping Process
Using Financial Statements
How to Read and Understand Financial Statements
Understanding Financial Statements
Financial Accounting and Financial Statements

Profit and Loss (Income) Statements

These "P and L" statements depict the status of your overall profits. These statements include much money you've earned (your revenue) and subtract how much you've spent (your expenses), resulting in how much you've made money (your profits) or lost money (your deficits). Basically, the statement includes total sales minus total expenses. It presents the nature of your overall profit and loss over a period of time. Therefore, the Income Statement gives you a sense for how well the business is operating.
Understanding Income Statements
Income Statement Analysis

Balance Sheets

Whereas the P and L statement depicts the overall status of your profits (or deficits) by looking at income and expenses over a period of time, the balance sheet depicts the overall status of your finances at a fixed point in time. It totals your all your assets and subtracts all your liabilities to compute your overall net worth (or net loss). This statement are referenced particularly when buying or selling a business, or applying for funding. Here are several perspectives.
Basics About Balance Sheets
Understanding Balance Sheets
Balance Sheet Analysis

Financial Analysis

Financial analysis can tell you a lot about how your business is doing. Without this analysis, you may end up staring at a bunch of numbers on budgets, cash flow projections and profit and loss statements. You should set aside at least a few hours every month to do financial analysis. Analysis includes cash flow analysis and budget deviation analysis mentioned above. Analysis also includes balance sheet analysis and income statement analysis. There are some techniques and tools to help in financial analysis, for example, profit analysis, break-even analysis and ratios analysis that can substantially help to simplify and streamline financial analysis. How you carry out the analysis depends on the nature and needs of you and your business. The following links will help you get a sense for the "territory" of financial analysis.

Profit Analysis

There are a variety of ways to help determine profitability of your business.
Calculating Profitability Ratios (scroll down)
Cost-Volume-Profit Analysis
Calculate Cash Flow Ratios When Doing Financial Analysis

Break-Even Analysis

The break-even analysis uses information from the income statement and cash flow statements to compute how much sales much be accomplished in order to pay for all of your fixed and variable expenses. Fixed expenses are expenses that you'd have regardless of the level of sales of products or services (eg, sales, rent, insurance, maintenance, etc.). Variable expenses are incurred according to the level of sales of products or services (eg, sales commissions, sales tax, freight to ship products, etc.). Break-even analysis can help you when projecting when you'll make a profit, deciding how much to charge for a product, setting a sales goal, etc.
How to Do a Breakeven Analysis
Break-even Point
How to Perform a Break-Even Analysis


There are a variety of ratios that can be used to help determine the current and future condition of a business. The following links provide explanation and procedures for using those ratios. The ratios are produced from numbers on the financial statements. Note that the usefulness of ratios often are from comparing ratios from different time periods in the same business or from industry standards for a type of business, eg, manufacturing, wholesale, service, etc.
Overview of major types of ratios and how they're computed
Financial Ratio Analysis (Definition)
Financial Ratios (different types)

Evaluating Your Financial Management Practices

The following assessment tool asks about each of the best practices and can give a good impression of the overall quality of financial management practices in a business.
Evaluation of Financial Management Practices in Businesses


Financing Major Purchases

Cost of Lease vs. Purchase
Leasing Office Space

Cost Cutting

Business Cost-Cutting Ideas
Cost-cutting ideas for Small Businesses
Commentary: Cost-saving measures for businesses short of layoffs
26 Cost Cutting Ideas for Your Small Business to Reduce Expenses
Temporary Cost Cutting Measures Violate the Wage and Hour Laws
Recession Cost-Cutting No-Nos

Boards and Understanding Financials

Scrutinizing Financial Statements The Sum of All Parts: Redesigning Financials

Also consider
Organizational Sustainability


Various Types of Financial Resources

Sources of Online Assistance and Information

Resources for For-Profits

Getting and Using Banking Services

How to Set Up a Business Bank Account
Closing a Bank Account Without Going to the Bank

Have a Treasurer to Help You?

Officers and Roles - Treasurer

Accounting Software

Software for Small Businesses

Business Calculators

Business Calculators

Also consider
Business accounting and finance advice covering bookkeeping, cash flow, and payroll
Getting and Using a Lawyer in the U.S.
All About Business Finance

Learn More in the Library's Blogs Related to Financial Management in Businesses

In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blogs that have posts related to Financial Management in Businesses. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

Library's Business Planning Blog
Library's Building a Business Blog
Library's Strategic Planning Blog

For the Category of Financial Management (For-Profit)

Related Library Topics

Recommended Books