KFP is the Place to Be

November 11, 2006
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If you were driving 80 miles an hour in the dark with your lights off, heading towards a cliff, would you like someone to yell, "Stop!"?

OK. Stop!

Do you produce financial reports - the balance sheet and income statement - every week? Do you analyze sales, costs, cash flow, and debt every week? If not, you may be heading for the cliff.

Stop and find out. This is the year. This is the day. From here on in, you are going to know.

Get to KFP

KFP stands for Known Financial Position. A KFP is essential to your success and profitability. "Known" is the key element. It may be that you are losing money, or deeper in debt than you would like to be. Find out how much and how deep. That's the starting place. The financial reports are the scorecards in the game of business. You can always improve the score. But you must know where you are right now.

This seems obvious. But from my experience as a business consultant, nine out of 10 business owners don't know where they stand financially. There are a couple of reasons for this.
  • They don't know how to keep score.
  • They are afraid to look, because they don't want to know how bad it is.
If you are the one in 10 who runs, reviews and understands financial statements, congratulations! If not, well that's going to change starting today.

Learning How to Keep Score

You'll be at a KFP when you can generate income statement and balance sheet reports and trust that the information is current and accurate, and go through the reports line by line, account by account, and understand what each dollar amount represents.

I strongly recommend you do your accounting in-house. You can't wait until the month is over to find out the score. You need to know the score while the game is on! You need to run financial reports every week to check sales, expenses and cash flow. You should compile a finished set of financial reports at the end of each month to comply with the taxman, as well as review and revise your financial strategy. The best way to do this is by generating basic financial reports in-house.

Your accountant can support your efforts and check your homework, and may be able to train you on how to use your accounting software, or recommend someone who can. You can also contact your accounting software company for a list of qualified trainers. Today's computers are so fast and accounting software is so simple, you can do the accounting at your shop. However, you are going to need some help to get to a KFP.

You need a good accountant. Most accountants just prepare tax returns. A good accountant will help you develop an accounting system that delivers the financial information you need to make good decisions. A good accountant will be excited when you tell him that you want to learn how to read and use financial reports. A good accountant won't feel threatened when you tell him you want to move the accounting system in-house instead of shipping it out to him.

A good bookkeeper is meticulous about data entry and getting it entered on time. In a small company, you may hold the position of bookkeeper. This will serve you very well in the long run. Embrace the position. Figure out double-entry accounting and how to fully utilize your accounting system. When you are ready to hand off the position, you'll be prepared to work with your bookkeeper to receive on-time, accurate and relevant information.

Getting to KFP

Schedule a meeting with your bookkeeper and your accountant for sometime this week. Go through the balance sheet and income statement line by line, account by account. Ask these questions:
  • What do the account titles mean? (If you don't know what retained earnings means...ask. If you don't know what "Other" stands for...ask.)
  • Where do the dollar amounts come from?
  • What do the dollar amounts represent?
  • How does the information get entered into the accounting system? Review the flow of data and see where ends up on the financial reports.
  • How can we structure the Chart of Accounts to better reflect how we do business?
  • How can we separate information so that we know how different divisions of the company are performing?
  • Should we create divisions in the accounting system?
  • Are we tracking information that we don't really need?
  • What will it take to generate current and accurate balance sheet and income statement reports at any time?
Finally, look over the Month-End Checklist together. This checklist makes sure that you stay in a KFP. Ideally, your bookkeeper completes the checklist. Your accountant can help by checking to make sure that your reports are accurate, and that all the legal and tax compliance requirements are handled. Commit to completing the checklist every month, starting right now.

Don't delay. Insist on meeting this week. Insist on getting to a KFP by the end of this month. It is that important.

"If he appreciates his lack of knowledge he will find a way to acquire it, and it is cheaper to learn before an investment is made in stock and fixtures, tools, etc., than it is to learn afterwards by sad experience." -- Wesley A. Fink, Bookkeeping and Cost-Finding, 1918.

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