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Time flies when you're running your own business and your accounting records are likely to be low on your priority list. But a monthly routine will keep your business on the right track and will give you the information you need to make better business decisions. Here are 19 tried and tested great habits practised by successful small business owners that will help you to grow your business and keep it on track.

  1. Write up your accounting records regularly – whether you complete a simple spreadsheet or use a cloud based product will depend on your circumstances and preferences, but creating and maintaining decent records helps you know how you are doing.
  1. Bank and cash balance –Do you have enough cash in the bank to survive the next few months? If not, make sure that you build up a reserve to see you through any rocky patches.
  1. Sales invoices – Have you chased all your late or slow payers? Be consistent with credit limits and deadlines; have you invoiced for all the work you have carried out? Make sure you keep a record of late payers and follow them up.
  1. Purchase invoices – Organise and retain in folders or consider scanning in and attaching to cloud based software . Try to keep a list of items purchased where you haven’t received an invoice. Consider using purchase orders to help you monitor this more easily.
  1. Value for money – Is it time to look for new suppliers or negotiate with your current suppliers? You could save a lot of money. Review your contracts (e.g photocopiers) and make a note of renewal dates.
  1. Expenses – Ensure all staff members including the directors produce expense claims where they pay for items on behalf of the business. Set time limits for claims to be made. Make sure you reclaim VAT.
  1. Mileage – Keep your mileage records up to date. A simple excel list detailing date, distance, customer/client, to and from. AA Routefinder is a useful reference to double check mileage.
  1. Payroll – Review the schedules produced monthly and ensure your staff and HMRC are paid on time. Regularly review your staff contracts and employment documentation. If in any doubt speak with your advisors as it is easy to get this wrong, and the implications can be expensive. Consider your company pension commitments and your auto enrolment start date.
  1. Dividends – Ensure these are only paid out where your company is in profit. Remember to produce and retain board approval minutes and dividend vouchers for your for your personal tax return.
  1. Directors’ loan accounts –Don’t borrow from the business. If you need cash from the business a combination of salary and dividends is the probably the preferred solution.
  1. Corporation tax – Review your profits and put 20% to one side as a provision to pay your corporation tax liability, which is due within 9 months of your year end.
  1. VAT – On a quarterly basis check that your VAT control account agrees to your VAT return. If there are differences then something has gone wrong.
  1. Fixed assets & depreciation – Maintain a fixed asset register on a spreadsheet. Add and remove assets as you go. Put through a monthly depreciation charge.
  1. Companies House Register – Any changes of directors or registered office will need to be lodged at Companies House. Make sure you do this as soon as it happens.
  1. Statutory accounts – Need to be submitted to Companies House within 9 months of the year end; if you are late Companies House will fine. You need to be aiming to get your records to your advisor ideally within 3 months of the year end.
  1. Data Security – Take backups and change passwords regularly.
  1. Talk to your advisors – Ask questions as they arise and don’t leave them until the year end. Regular contact with your accountant or bookkeeper is encouraged. Use their knowledge and experience to get the best value from your relationship.
  1. Review business performance -For the last 30 days and last quarter to check you're on track and hitting your KPIs (key performance indicators). If not, investigate any anomalies and take action straight away.
  1. Diarise your new habits and stick to them!
Adopting these habits will help you to stay on track and in control will make a positive difference to your business.

By Rebecca Trudgett, Accounts Manager, Alliotts Accountants