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How to Profit First Your Way to Team Growth

Bringing on new employees is an exciting part of business growth. But if you haven’t done it before, or even if you have, it may be daunting to think about taking on the added responsibility. Can you afford the expense of a new hire? How do you navigate the administrative aspect of paying them? Maybe you’re only paying yourself thus far, and that’s simple enough—you just transfer fixed percentage allocations into your Profit and Owners accounts twice a month. That all changes when you have a team.

As you know, the Profit First system involves setting up five separate bank accounts for the distribution of funds. But there are smart reasons to create additional accounts, or subaccounts, to earmark and protect funds that need to be reserved for a certain purpose. Paying employees might be one of those reasons. 

Split Payroll from OPEX?

That is why we often suggest that if you have any employees besides you as the owner, you should create a separate payroll account, as a subaccount of OPEX. 

Why do you need a separate payroll account? Why can’t you just take from OPEX to pay your employees? Two big reasons. 

A separate account makes sure the money you’ve allocated for employee wages can’t accidentally get intertwined with all your other expenses, and then accidentally spent. For example, if your rent and your payroll are both paid out of OPEX and one of these expenses would happen to place you in overdraft this month, the bank will decide what to pay. The bank might choose your rent over your payroll. They’re both important, but which is easier to rectify?

Having separate accounts ensures that your team members get paid no matter what. Bouncing a payroll check is really the absolute worst for employee morale. 

Having the payroll account split from OPEX also ensures that you meet your obligation to set aside the taxes you owe to the federal government on behalf of your employees as soon as you pay their wages. These funds can’t get accidentally spent either. This is another big one. You don’t want to get in trouble with the IRS for failure to pay your payroll taxes.

A payroll service can help you calculate your employee wages and payroll taxes. Check out a few services here. We recommend OnPay and you can check them out at our affiliate link here.

And don’t let us scare you too much. Read our blog post on some common payroll mistakes and how to avoid them.

Can You Afford to Hire Help?

Theoretically, a new hire should help to generate revenue in some way, or free up the owner to do so, but in reality things can take a while to get off the ground—or things might not go according to plan. You need to onboard the new employee, which takes time. Time where they may be costing you time and money. 

And according to Profit First principles, hiring an employee is a business expense that you must be able to meet without increasing your current total OPEX allocation. This means, for example, that if your current OPEX target allocation percentage is 50%, and your payroll subaccount target is determined to be 25%, then your OPEX becomes 25%.

So how do you determine what percentage to allocate toward the payroll subaccount?

If you’ve already got employees on the books, take a look at last year’s figures to see what you paid for employees in total. Determine what percent of your revenue that figure was, and use it as a basis for your payroll target allocation percentage.

If you’re considering your first hire, you will want to have one month’s worth of employee salary as a buffer in your payroll account before you bring them on board. Determine what that figure is, and then try to transfer 2-3% from OPEX into the payroll account each month until you’ve reached that figure. 

The length of this process will enlighten you as to whether hiring someone now is feasible. Did it take just a month or two to accumulate that one-month salary buffer? Then you can probably afford to add that employee. On the other hand, did you struggle to make available 2% from OPEX each month to transfer to the payroll account? If that’s the case, you need to rethink your decision.

Independent Contractors… on Payroll?

Your business might depend on independent contractors, rather than employees. In terms of cash flow management, we recommend that you compensate them from your payroll banking account if they are providing your clients substantially the same service that is provided by your business as a whole (for example, personal trainers who are contractors at a fitness studio). If, however, the independent contractor is providing a service FOR your business, such as janitorial or marketing services, you should include this expense as part of OPEX.Here’s more on leveraging team members in your wellness business.

Analyze Your Expenses and Increase Your Profits

Who doesn’t want a more profitable business? We’re in business to help people, sure, but we’re also here to make a living. And if we want to make a good living with a business, we need to be profitable.

Generally, there are two ways to increase your profit:

  1. Increase revenue (while keeping expenses in check), or
  2. Reducing expenses (while keeping revenue the same)

This article will focus on the latter—reducing expenses to increase your profitability. Because while increasing revenue is important, most businesses forget that increased revenue is not an excuse to lose sight of expenses. The beautiful thing about this strategy is that it simply involves cutting some expenses to increase what you keep. Expenses that you probably don’t need anyway.

To reduce your expenses, simply conduct an Expense Analysis. There are many ways to conduct one, but here’s a simple method that anyone can use:

Make a list of your common and recurring business expenses.

  • Go through your bank and accounting records, and be on a special lookout for those small monthly subscription services that you no longer really use or don’t use fully.

Trash or Trim your list.

  • Write TRASH (or strike through) any expense that you can eliminate without negatively affecting your business (think about services that you no longer really use, but are still paying for)
  • Write TRIM next to expenses that can be negotiated down to a lower rate, replaced with a competitor at similar quality but lower price, or downgraded without issue to the business. 

Contact the vendors to cut/trim expenses.

  • Do your research ahead of time if you plan to ask for a reduced rate.
  • If you’re switching software, set up a free trial of the new service first before cutting out the old one. If needed, hire a professional to help with the transition.

Any business can do this in a couple of hours. The more your cut, the more profitable your business becomes–as long as you’re not cutting out vital services in an effort to save a few dollars. It’s worth weighing whether cutting out a service will mean less fluidity of workflows or more time investment for you. 

We recommend going through this process on a quarterly basis at a minimum. This practice will keep you financial efficient and profitable.

Not sure if you can eliminate a particular expense? Try this test…

Eliminate the expense for a month, but be prepared to regain if needed. How do your customers react? Does your team notice its absence? Are you having to spend any additional time connecting dots that are no longer connected? If no one is negatively affected, then you could probably eliminate the expense.

Remember the old saying, “It’s not what you make, it’s what you keep.” Doing a quarterly expense analysis will help you keep more of your money, and help you earn higher profits. If you need help implementing Profit First in your business, let’s connect. Schedule a call with us today.

When and How to Reassess Your Profit First Distributions

So you’ve implemented Profit First in your business and are on your way to establishing smarter expense spending habits, financial security, and peace of mind. You’ve determined the target allocation percentages for your five bank accounts—and you’re maintaining the discipline to distribute your revenue into those accounts consistently according to those percentages. What’s next? Should you sit back and relax?

Not exactly! The Profit First method is designed to help you not only become immediately profitable, but to set you up for continued success in the long term. The goal is to have distributions that are not only achievable and adequately meeting the needs of your business and personal priorities today, but that are also optimal for business growth, efficiency, and sustained profitability going forward. Making sure that you’re dividing your revenue into the optimal percentages, in turn, enables your business to be fully optimized and, ideally, one step closer to an optimized quality of life.

You see, your target allocations can and should evolve over time depending on your revenue and your needs. The Profit First assessment graph serves as the fundamental guidance for how to allocate funds based on revenue range, and it’s largely appropriate for most businesses, but your specific business and your priorities will dictate if, when, and how your percentages will fluctuate.

When to Reassess

You should review your target percentages every quarter. Quarterly reassessment allows you a few months to see if your current allocation percentages are working fully in your favor, and if not, where you can make improvements.

(Actually, a quarterly review makes sense in every area of your business, but it’s particularly important for your finances, and we have some ideas here on where to start.)

How to Reassess

There are a couple of ways you can do this.

You could start the assessment process from scratch and determine target percentages based on your revenue range using the Profit First assessment graph. But what if you haven’t yet made the leap into the next revenue range? It may look as if no changes are necessary to your strategy, but you probably know better. You’ve come so far already, and you likely have a clearer picture of your desired and attainable goals.

When your revenue changes, it’s definitely a good time to reevaluate your target percentages, but you might need a professional to help you make sense of the numbers and set new quarterly goals. We can help with this.

Look at OPEX

For starters, you can look at your OPEX account for guidance. Are you accumulating more money in your OPEX account than you’re actually needing to spend? If so, you know you can safely reduce the distribution.

Let’s say you’ve got a $5000 surplus sitting in OPEX that’s built up over the last quarter. You can figure out what percentage led to the accumulation of that surplus, and you can safely reduce the OPEX distribution, in increments of 2% to 3% per month.

This would be the time to consider how you could better make use of those funds by reallocating them to another account or by creating a special account for another use that also falls under OPEX, like a payroll account.

Let’s say your OPEX is at the target allocation of 50% and you want to take some continuing education classes which will improve the services you provide in your business. You know you’ve got some wiggle room in OPEX (that $5000 cash surplus as proof) so you decide to create a separate account for, say, Personal Development and mark its target allocation percentage at 5%. You then reduce your OPEX target to 45%. Soon enough you’ll have the funds for that class, while still being able to cover your other business expenses.

Or you could create a separate account for large annual expenses or emergency maintenance. It really all depends on what you need.

Owner’s Pay

Having too much revenue to distribute is a nice problem to have, but what if your revenue is down? Should you cut your own pay to compensate? We don’t ever recommend reducing your Owner’s Pay percentage when revenue is down, though it may seem like an easy solution. Check out this blog post for guidance on determining your Owner’s Pay percentage according to Profit First principles (hint: you’d only ever reduce it when revenue is UP).

When to Talk to Your Accountant

Any time you have a big change in revenue—certainly if your business moves into another revenue range on the Profit First assessment chart—it’s wise to talk to your tax professional. That’s because beyond any changes you make to your cash management system, there may be changes to your tax liabilities. A good accountant will recommend ways to reduce your tax burden, such as investments or deductions, that are specific to your overall finances and priorities.

And come September (aka the financial third quarter), you should ask your accountant to estimate your tax rate for the current year. You’ll have eight months worth of real revenue data, so there’s no need to make a guess based on last year’s figures. However, if you’re following Profit First principles, you should have enough funds in your Tax Account based on the performance of your business to pay your taxes. But your accountant can and should work with you to reduce that tax liability as much as possible. (If not, get a new accountant!)

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