For many people the Christmas period is fun filled and relaxing with good food, drink and most of all great company. But unfortunately for some it can be one of the toughest times of the year. The festive season is a period of celebration and for many it acts as the perfect time of year to reflect on the year gone by. Over the backdrop of endless annual top 100 countdowns on TV we reflect on personal and professional achievements and regrets whilst planning our infamous New Year resolutions. This period of reflection is a source of happy memories for most but it can also be a real source of sadness for some people. Suicide rates are believed to increase throughout the holiday season and with the harshness of the current economic climate there are genuine concerns about the mental welfare of small business owners as we head into this years this festive season.
The combination of pressures derived from the accountability of owning business in today’s tough trading condition and people’s natural inclination to reflect over the Christmas period makes the festive season prime for an increase in anxiety across the SME community. Research has suggested that the SME community has experienced a 47% increase in suicide rates since the economic downturn of 2008. There are 2 intrinsically linked contributing factors to mental anxiety within the small business community over Christmas. Investing in good accounting software and practising disciplined financial management can help keep both factors at bay.
1) Money and the financial health of the business
The main cause of distress and anxiety for a small business owner over the festive season is money. Unfortunately there are still too many small business owners that are not into the detail of their company financials. For many Christmas time represents the time of year for the annual review of the company financials. The combination of compulsory requirements to prepare yearend accounts and the natural desire to reflect over the Christmas period makes it completely understandable why many owners get their head in the books over the festive season.
Practicing financial discipline once a year rarely results in a sound set of company financials. It is all too common for owners to find financial problems in their business just at the time when everyone else is relaxing and celebrating. The lack of detailed financial understanding often results in longstanding disparities between expenditure and income left unchecked throughout the year. It is also common for business owners that haven’t maintained a detailed view of the financials to find missing payments from customers. These findings ultimately leave business owners learning about nasty cash flow problems in their business that have accumulated over time which can be devastating for the short term future of the business. The emotional extreme between the relaxed PAYE employees enjoying their pre-booked off time and the anxious self-employed small business owner that can’t leave their business is already vast over this period. Finding out about a stark cash flow problem in addition to the existing frustrations of running a small business over the Christmas period can be enough to tip existing anxiety into full blown depression.
The key to a happy and relaxing Christmas period is sound financial discipline throughout the year and a good accounting software package can be central to achieving this. Accounting software allows small business owners to stay close to their business financials in a quick and easy to understand way. A simple, cost effective accounting software package means that company financials are done and managed consistently throughout the year. This ensures that if any problems occur with expenditure management or if a client hasn’t paid an invoice on time it can be rectified quickly and easily. Small business owners that are close to their financials do not have the emotional drain of a big annual review of their company accounts. Most importantly of all they don’t have the shock and subsequent unhappiness of finding nasty surprises in the books over the festive season!
One of the main reasons that make Christmas so special is having the chance to spend time with your loved ones. The problem for the small business owner is that they don’t feel like they can simply leave the business for a couple of weeks. “The business doesn’t run itself!” This is in stark contrast to PAYE friends who have no responsibilities in their booked off time other than enjoying time with their loved ones. This contrast in fortunes puts an almighty strain on the relationships of small business owners as their loved ones have to cope without them for long periods over Christmas. This can be especially difficult for the loved ones of small business owners when it seems that everyone else is surrounded by their family and friends.
It can be incredibly challenging to take time off when you’re running a small business but time off is essential to keep and enjoy important relationships healthy. Time off during this year’s festive season will be even more strained for many small business owners as they not only need to complete the usual year end admin but they are also operating in some of the toughest economic conditions known for many years. BBC news have recently stated that the total number of divorces have increased 4.9% in England and Wales in the past year as a result of the tough economic conditions.
Whilst these pressures are very real they do not exist for every small business. There are SME’s that do not worry about year end accounting because it happens to be a 5 min exercise due to their on-going management of the company financials throughout the year. Small businesses that have sound financial discipline are also more likely to have enough working capital to see out the current economic pressures. These businesses have impressive working capital due to their complete detailed focus on expenditure and income and well managed time allocation reducing non-value adding administration tasks in favour of business optimisation planning. Small business owners of these types of companies are more likely to be able to relax over the Christmas period and spend time with loved ones as their businesses are sustainably healthy.
The secret to these healthy businesses is their sound financial discipline and well-structured time management. Accounting software is a critical tool that makes sure that small business owners reallocate time away from doing lengthy manual quarterly and annual accounts to free up more time to be spent on value adding business planning. This additional planning gives the business a greater chance of directing themselves successfully through hard times. In addition but equally as important accounting software makes sure that a small business has a tight grip on their cash flow position. By having a clear vision on the direction of the business and a healthy cash flow position a business owner can ultimately be more relaxed over the Christmas period focussing on what’s important – their relationships.
Small business owners that face the prospect of finding out about money problems and living through the happy festive season working all hours to keep the business afloat are in real danger of unsustainable anxiety and depression this Christmas time. The answer is to work on embedding financial discipline and well-structured time management throughout the business. The only way a small business owner will be able to relax with their loved ones this Christmas is if their business is financially sound. Having a well embedded accounting software solution is a key step towards achieving this.