All About Financial Management in Business

Sections of this topic

    © 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 for a healthy

    Sections in This Topic Include

    Basics and Getting Started

    Activities in the Yearly Accounting Cycle

    Planning and Cash Management

    Financial Statements, Analysis and Reporting

    Evaluating Your Financial Practices

    Evaluating Your Financial Management Practices

    Special Topics

    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.

    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 affect the financial condition of your business in the future.

    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, the generation of financial statement,s 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!

    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 of the recurring financial activities in the typical, read the following articles. (You’ll soon get the more basic information below in the section titled “Bookkeeping Basics”.)

    Other sites that you might benefit from are:

    Understanding Bookkeeping and Accounting

    Basics financial management 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 every term and process. But do think about what you’re reading in order to get a strong “feel” about the process of accounting.

    Classification of Accounts (for Chart of Accounts)

    In accounting, different types of financial transactions (e.g., 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.

    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 (e.g., using a checkbook and cash register tapes to more complex, e.g., yearly financial audits).

    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


    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.

    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.

    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

    Preparing a Cash Flow Statement

    Preparing Cash Flow Projections and Forecasts

    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

    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.

    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

    Difference (planned minus actual)

    % Deviation (Difference x 100)

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

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

    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.

    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 get into them in more detail later on below. Here are several perspectives on the statements.

    Profit and Loss (Income) Statements

    These “P and L” statements depict the status of your overall profits. These statements include how 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 of how well the business is operating.

    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 is referenced particularly when buying or selling a business, or applying for funding. Here are several perspectives.

    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 a financial analysis. The 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 of the “territory” of financial analysis.

    Profit Analysis

    There are a variety of ways to help determine the profitability of your business.

    Break-Even Analysis

    The break-even analysis uses information from the income statement and cash flow statements to compute how much sales must 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 (e.g., sales, rent, insurance, maintenance, etc.). Variable expenses are incurred according to the level of sales of products or services (e.g., 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.


    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 explanations 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, e.g., manufacturing, wholesale, service, etc.

    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 Cutting

    Boards and Understanding 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

    Have a Treasurer to Help You?

    Officers and Roles – Treasurer

    Accounting Software

    Software for Small Businesses

    Business Calculators

    Also consider

    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.

    For the Category of Financial Management (For-Profit)