It’s that time again—time for business owners to review their financial health and set measurable goals for the future. Performing a regular financial check-in is smart business practice. Here’s how to do it on a quarterly, half yearly, and yearly basis.
Why financial check-ins are important for your business
A financial check-in helps keep you on track with your business or personal finances. On the business side, a check-in can help you build a roadmap for the future, ensuring sustainable growth.
It’s up to you how often you check in with your finances, but entrepreneurs often aim for quarterly, half yearly, and yearly regularity (for larger businesses and startups, quarterly may be best, but seasoned small business owners may be able to get away with checking in half yearly or annually).
A quick disclaimer: You may want to review some of these business aspects at different times of the year than we have specified below. Use this as a guide and build a plan that works for you. Consider consulting a business professional before making any major financial decision.
How to do a quarterly financial check-in
A quarterly financial checkup may or may not be necessary for you, but it’s a solid opportunity to practice goal setting and financial planning for your big or small business. If you have higher expenses one quarter, doing a financial check up can help you know when to trim expenses or increase revenue so you can still reach your goals.
- Set key performance indicators (KPIs) and review their metrics. This could be the cost of goods sold (COGS), gross margin, inventory turnover, return on ad spend (ROAS), new users, or any other metric you want to keep an eye on.
- Review and project your cash flow. Make sure you set a cash flow budget and review it against actual at least on a quarterly basis. Remember “cash is king”!
- Review your investments. How well are they performing based on recent earnings? Should you make any adjustments to take profits or even pursue tax-loss harvesting? Pro tip: If you choose to take losses to deduct on your taxes, make sure a certified public accountant (CPA) advises you first.
- Record expenses. This will help reduce your tax liability. Tracking your expenses as you go (or at least quarterly) trims the headache at tax season. Don’t forget to save the receipts in case of an IRS audit.
- Check for fraud. Review any accounts using your business name and information. Make sure there are no collections against you. If you find business fraud, contact your credit card company, inform your bank, and report it to authorities.
- Review and set your budget. Consider your revenue and spend for the previous quarter and set a fair budget for the upcoming quarter. In your budget, include upcoming quarterly estimated tax payments.
- Review subscriptions and accounts. Close what you don’t need (this will help your balance sheet moving forward) and update payment information for expired credit cards so you don’t miss payments.
- Review retirement savings. Self-employed people often contribute to their own retirement. Plan to deposit tax-advantaged contributions to your retirement account at least quarterly (if not monthly or bi-weekly).
How to do a half yearly financial check-in
A mid-year financial review may help you be more flexible as a business. This helps you account for unexpected changes in the economy, your industry, and even your personal life.
- Update your budget if necessary. You may need to account for large, one-time, or generally unplanned expenses.
- Increase tax withholdings if necessary. You may need to do this if your revenue is higher than anticipated.
- Pay off debt. If you have additional profit, you can use it to pay down debt faster and reduce the cost of interest.
How to do a yearly financial check-in
Another year in business? Congratulations! Make sure you celebrate your success—but also perform an annual financial check-in to secure your future.
- Review your income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow. These are the three major financial documents for any business. Your trusted CPA will be able to help you.
- Consider business goals you’ve already set and measure your progress for the year. If you have yet to set financial goals, you should still analyze your data over the course of the year. You can use this information to set future goals, which you can check up on in a year or sooner.
- Separate your goals into two categories: short-term and long-term. Short-term may be a quarter or year, while long-term may be 2–5 years. Make these goals achievable and develop a road map for how to get there. You can even use this opportunity to revise your business plan, which will eventually evolve from your founding days.
- Take stock of your assets and liabilities. Make sure you’re protected through insurance.
- Review your debts. Know where you stand with lenders and review interest rates on loans (you may even want to refinance to reduce interest rates).
- Set updated goals for your emergency fund. Even if you already have an emergency fund, you may want to increase its dollar value to account for inflation. With the cost of US living up 8.6% in the year ending in May 2022, this is key.
- Plan ahead to file your taxes. Make sure you file your taxes on time. This will help you to avoid any penalty and you can focus on your business instead of spending time with the IRS.
- Check your business credit. Tillful offers a free business credit score. If you’re still building your business credit, you may want to refer to your personal credit score, which you can check for free without a credit ding once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com.
FAQ on financial check-ins
How often should you do financial check-ins?
You definitely want to check in with your finances at least once a year. However, doing so quarterly or half yearly may be a smart move for your new or growth-oriented small-to-medium-sized business. Plus, in a fickle pandemic-era economy, doing so more often ensures your continued success through times of high inflation and a potential recession.
Finding your flow with financial check-ins takes time. You may find that quarterly is too often for you, or you may find that your usual annual check-in is not enough. Be flexible and adjust as needed.
How far out should you set short-term goals and long-term goals at a financial check-in?
Your time frame for short-term and long-term goals may vary. In general, short term goals may be six months to two years. Goals with longer time frames may be 2–5 years out. The time frame may not be as important as setting clear, simple, achievable goals.
What are some examples of financial goals for business owners?
In the short term, you may set a specific goal for revenue, cost reductions, profit margins, debt-to-income ratio, cash flow management, and more.
Long-term financial goals may include product pricing, number of paying users or audience size, productivity, brand recognition that translates to conversions, and more.
Last word on regular financial check-ins
It doesn’t matter if it’s a new quarter, new half, or new year. What matters is that you’re aware of your business’ financial health on a regular basis and making adjustments as you go.
Review budgets, set business financial goals, protect your assets, and take other steps to ensure your financial wellbeing—now and in the future. Read these checklists and form your own, personalized financial check-in plan that caters to your unique business needs.