The New Year brings new opportunities for a fresh start – and for me that involves ‘spring cleaning’ around the home and in my life. This year, I managed to clean out the garage, visit the dentist and plan my next holiday. So, with these personal items ticked off, I’m now ready to tackle 2017… or am I?
We take time at the start of the year to think about the personal aspects of our lives – so why not do the same with our finances? And while 2017 is well underway, it’s not too late.
Here’s our list of the top 10 things you should think about as you start 2017.
1. Do you have a will in place? If so, is it up to date?
According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), half of all Australians die without a will, meaning the law decides where their assets go. And whilst no-one wants to think about death in the prime of life, it’s important to decide what will happen to your assets when you die. A will is the only way to be certain that your assets will be distributed the way you want, so it’s worthwhile taking time to check this one off your list.
2. Do you have personal insurances in place and are they still appropriate?
Life can sometimes throw you a curve ball that you just didn’t anticipate; which is why it’s important to have appropriate insurances in place to protect your current way of life and the lives of those around you.
Personal insurance comes in many forms, each seeking to cover particular events and protect you from the financial effects of being unable to work. These can include life insurance, total & permanent disability (TPD) insurance, trauma insurance and income protection insurance.
If you already have personal insurance, it’s important to ensure that your current level of cover is aligned with your current circumstances and is still adequate.
3. Are your assets and investments held in the most tax-effective structure?
To maximise the performance of your assets, you need to ensure that they’re held in the most tax effective structure for your circumstances.
Proactive tax planning involves structuring both your personal and business affairs and transactions to maximise your after-tax position, ensuring that you keep more of your hard- earned money while still meeting your tax obligations. And the good news is that it’s not too late to review any existing structures you have in place.
Reviewing your investment structures can not only increase tax efficiency, but also help ensure that your assets are protected against business risk (see below).
4. Are your personal finances and assets held in a way that protects them from the risks of your job or business?
Protecting your personal wealth against unforeseeable circumstances or losses in your business isn’t something many of us think about.
However, if your business is not structured in a way that keeps it separate from your personal assets those assets could potentially be at risk if a claim is made against the business or worse still, against you personally, in your capacity as a director. Thus, you could stand to lose your family home or savings.
Whatever stage you’re at with your business, it’s worth looking at different asset protection strategies to ensure your personal wealth is protected.
5. Are you making the most from superannuation?
With a raft of super reforms set to come into play from 1 July 2017, there’s never been a better time to review your superannuation strategy. For some members of Self-Managed Super Funds (SMSF), the changes present new opportunities, while others will need to review their strategies carefully to ensure they still comply with legislation.
Whether you’re a member of an SMSF or a member of a retail fund, the new year is the perfect time to review your fund’s performance to ensure you’re on track for a secure retirement and are not paying higher fees than necessary.
6. Are you holding regular board/management meetings? If not, consider the introduction of an advisory board to help kick you off
Regular management and/or board meetings can really help to propel your business to new heights. They provide structure and accountability, forcing the board / senior management team to work “on” the business rather than “in” the business.
Alternatively, you may consider setting up an advisory board. An advisory board is a select group of independent people who provide advice and support to the owners or shareholders of a business. Typical members of an advisory board may include your accountant, lawyer, industry experts and entrepreneurs.
The main benefits of an advisory board are; access to a range of skillsets and experience, and the support of mentors who can help coach you to become a more effective leader.
7. Do you have a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) dashboard that enables you to monitor the key drivers of your business on one page, at regular intervals and in real-time?
A KPI dashboard is an invaluable tool that can help you measure business performance against agreed goals in real time.
While there is a range of widely accepted financial ratios such as gross profit margin, inventory turnover days and debt to equity ratios, it’s important that your dashboard is relevant to your business. Designing a relevant KPI dashboard begins with understanding the value drivers of your business and market and need not only include financial measures.
This is one of those situations where less is more; a few well-chosen KPIs can help focus management’s attention on the areas that really matter rather than overwhelming them with data overload.
With the availability of cloud-based accounting software, accessing KPI’s is easier than ever. If appropriate for your business, cloud accounting software could allow you and your team to access real-time financial data from anywhere using a laptop or other mobile device.
8. Is it time to upgrade your accounting system? Have you considered moving to a cloud-based system?
As your business grows in size and complexity, the time will come when you need to look at upgrading your accounting system and possibly consider a cloud-based solution.
Here are a few tell-tale signs to look out for:
- Your business is reliant on excel
- You’ve lost data in the last 24 months
- Not all users of the data have access at the same time
- Data from one system is manually entered into one or more other systems to produce your accounts
- You can’t get the information you need when travelling, or away from the office
With a range of cost-effective solutions on the market, upgrading to a cloud-based accounting system definitely has its benefits and can help minimise the issues, outlined above. However, we’d recommend getting professional advice before deciding if moving to the cloud is for you.
9. When did you last critically evaluate your revenue streams?
Is your business overly-reliant on one or two key customers or sources of revenue? If that source of revenue disappeared, would your business come to a screeching halt?
You should regularly evaluate your revenue streams to identify whether your business is protected against disruptions such loss of a key customer or contract, market or legislative changes, loss of key staff members or future trends.
You should also consider whether individual revenue streams are in fact profitable. The 80/20 rule often applies here. For example, do you have revenue streams that consume 80% of your resources, yet only contribute 20% towards your profits?
In looking at your revenue sources, some questions you should ask include:
- Are your revenue streams diversified and how can you improve on this?
- What percentage of revenue do you receive from your top 10 clients or products and what would happen to your business if they were to disappear?
- What percentage of your revenue is contracted and what would happen if you lost those contracts?
- Are you reliant on 1-2 staff to generate the majority of your revenue and would happen if they were to leave your business?
- Are your products or services providing a consistent stream of revenue? Are there extreme differences from month to month?
- What are the market trends that may affect your revenue? For example, are there any market and legislative changes in play that may impact your revenue streams now or in the future?
10. Can anything be done to streamline or systemise your back-office functions?
Often as a business grows, it is done haphazardly and eventually it may suffer “growing pains” when cracks can start to appear. Processes become outdated, departments are not optimally structured and record management can easily get out of control.
You probably declutter your workspace when it starts to drag down productivity. When was the last time you took a hard look at decluttering your back-office functions as well?
Here are a few things to think about:
- Are you doing things the way they’ve always been done instead of looking for a streamlined business process that fits your current and future needs?
- Are there old, outdated policies and procedures you no longer need?
- Is there opportunity to outsource (either domestically or internationally) parts of your operation such as marketing, HR or finance?
- Can technology be used more effectively or can new technologies be implemented to improve productivity?
As we move into February, the message is clear – it’s not too late to make a fresh start. While, your weight loss or exercise regime may have fallen by the wayside, tackling just one or two of these financial areas can help set you up for your most successful year yet.