You’ve raised capital, finished the research, and your startup is growing rapidly. Suddenly, you're working with different financials than when you started. Revenue is consistent, but costs are increasing, and you’re at the point where you need to hire a team to handle production levels, marketing, and so on.
All these numbers need a place to live and provide structure – that’s in your budget.
When budgets are unclear, it leaves room for costly mistakes and unexpected expenses. Startups may also lack the expertise to accurately forecast and plan for growth, leaving them vulnerable if something unforeseen occurs.
As a result, a structured budget becomes the backbone of a startup's financial strategy. By accounting for the dynamic nature of startups, a well-managed budget can provide the insight needed to optimize cash flow, helping a business stay financially healthy.
What Is A Business Budget?
A business budget estimates revenue and expenses over a certain period. Financial advisors or accountants break down budgets into categories based on different areas of the business, such as marketing, sales, office supplies, or personnel expenses.
Budgets help a business track the movement of cash in and out to better prepare for the future. Startups need to create and manage a budget to combat financial surprises. The pandemic, for example, was a massive financial hit on many businesses. No one can predict the future, but having a sound (and flexible) budget keeps your business in the black.
Why Is A Budget Important In Business?
Startups require careful budgeting and budget management to be successful. A recent survey shows that the biggest reason startups fail is a lack of cash. Based on an analysis of more than 100 startups, 38% reported running out of money as the primary cause of failure.
Startup costs are notoriously higher than other small businesses due to product development and market research. Additionally, startups must adjust quickly to market, customer, and product changes. A well-managed budget ensures that a startup has enough cash for short-term and long-term goals, helping it stay agile during times of change. Let’s look at some examples below.
1. Resource Allocation
A budget allows startups to plan for and manage the allocation of their resources in the most efficient way possible. Well-planned allocation ensures you have enough money to invest in the most critical areas for success.
2. Control Expenses
A budget helps startups keep track of costs and limits overspending in any business area. By setting realistic goals for growth and profitability, budgets can show where startups may be taking on too much risk. With this, you know where to focus creative or risk-taking efforts aligned with your growth goals and expectations.
3. Accurate Forecasting
You can use a budget to predict future income and expenses based on historical data. Prior data helps a business plan for the future and manage its finances accordingly. Many startups use various financial forecasting models to construct possible financial pathways depending on the model used.
4. Cash Flow Management
A budget can help startups understand their current cash flow situation and plan for future changes. Managing cash flow helps ensure they have the necessary funds to pay employees and vendors on time.
5. Better Decision-Making
A budget can provide valuable insight into the financial status of a business, allowing startups to make more informed decisions in the future.
Accurate budgets keep your startup from making common mistakes like overspending, which can lead to financial mishaps and possible failure. With careful planning and management, you can keep your expenses under control and position yourself for future growth.
Risks You Run Without A Budget
Startups face numerous risks when they operate without a budget, including making poor financial decisions, missing out on opportunities, underutilizing resources, and impacting investor relationships. Keep reading to make sure you don’t make these same mistakes.
Lack Of Oversight
Without a budget, startups are more likely to make decisions without considering their financial implications. Lack of oversight can lead to costly mistakes or investing in projects that may not be profitable in the long run. Businesses also require proper oversight to reduce fraud and financial mismanagement.
Missing Out On Potential Opportunities
Failing to create a budget can cause startups to miss out on opportunities that could create significant revenue or growth. A budget can also help startups identify areas where additional investments are necessary, such as new products, services, or marketing campaigns.
A budget can help startups understand how to utilize their resources best and maximize their profits. Without a budget, they may end up with inefficient resource use, leading to lower revenues and higher costs. Startups must make the most of their available resources to remain competitive and profitable. Underutilization can stunt growth and slow progress.
Negative Impact On Investor Relationships
A lack of financial planning can lead to investor distrust, damaging relationships with existing or potential investors. Investors need to trust that the startup is making sound decisions when it comes to managing funds and forecasting the future.
Growth and expansion require capital, and investors must be confident that founders allocate their money correctly and will receive a return on their investment. A budget can help provide this confidence by detailing the projected financial future of the business.
You can mitigate these risks by creating an accurate budget and sticking to it. Composing a budget will ensure the startup properly allocates resources and controls expenses for future growth.
Different Types Of Business Budgets
Businesses use different budgets to manage their resources better, plan for the future, and make informed financial decisions. There are a few common budgets startups use to maximize their current financial situation and plan for the future.
An operational budget helps startups identify how much money they need to cover their day-to-day expenses, such as payroll, rent, and other costs related to running the business. An operational budget allows a company to plan for and manage its resources in the most efficient way possible.
This budget can help businesses identify areas where they may need to cut costs or invest more funds. It also provides an accurate snapshot of how a startup uses its resources and identifies potential areas for improvement. Additionally, the operational budget helps founders allocate finances more strategically.
Capital Expenditure Budget
A capital expenditure budget can help startups plan for large purchases they may need to operate, compete, and succeed, such as additional equipment or real estate. This budget will allow you to allocate funds to make these investments properly. To create an expenditure budget, you'll need to identify the type of investment, its cost, and any potential risks involved.
A capital expenditure budget can provide businesses with a strategic roadmap of investments necessary to meet organizational objectives. In addition, they can plan out how much money to allocate to each investment and a timeline of debt payments.
Cash Flow Budget
A cash flow budget helps startups better understand their short-term financial situation and plan for any potential changes in cash inflow or outflow. This type of budget includes items such as revenue, expenses, investments, and debt payments.
Cash flow budgets compare projected income and expenditures and identify areas where cost-cutting or additional support may be necessary.
A cash flow budget is an essential tool for businesses of all sizes, as it provides a comprehensive understanding of the company's current and future financial status. It can help businesses better understand their short-term cash flows and prep for any changes in income or expenses.
How To Create A Budget For A Startup Business
Knowing how to create a budget for a startup business takes a lot of planning and understanding of your company’s current financial health. Depending on the type of budget you’re creating, you’ll need to pull financial statements and reports from your bookkeeper to secure accuracy. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Start with an operational budget. An operational budget is the foundation of any business because it allows you to plan and prioritize its financial resources. Identify your operating expenses and account for them in the budget.
- Factor in any potential changes. Modifications in the business environment — such as changes in the economy, customer demand, or regulations — can dramatically affect a startup's budget. For instance, increased costs could deplete resources. Thus, startups should factor in possible changes to help them prepare for potential risks.
- Monitor and adjust accordingly. Once you create the budget, startups should monitor financial statements closely and make necessary adjustments. For example, you may need to cut costs or raise prices if your resources run low. This will ensure that your expenses align with your revenue so you can stay on track.
This is just an overview, but if you want a more in-depth guide check out this article here for a step-by-step guide.
Tech Startup Budget Example
You don’t have to create a budget from scratch, especially if it’s your first time drafting a startup tech budget. Many startups create their own reusable budget template, too when they find one that works well.
We’ve included a free downloadable template here to help you get started.
How To Manage a Business Budget Once You're Set Up
Managing a business budget doesn't stop once you have it set up. Here are some tips to help you stay in control of your finances:
1. Review Your Startup Budget Regularly
Setting aside time to regularly review and assess your budget can help you track where you’re spending money , if you're meeting your goals, and if it requires any adjustments.
2. Record Milestones
Setting milestones and goals in your budget can help you track progress and ensure you’re going in the right direction.
3. Monitor Company Performance
Regularly monitoring financial performance can help you spot potential issues quickly before they become significant problems.
4. Keep Your Records Up-To-Date
Keeping accurate and up-to-date business records can help you stay on top of any changes or developments within the business, including budgeting.
5. Utilize Financial Software
Utilizing software to monitor your finances can make it easier to track expenses and compare them against the budget. Additionally, automating daily tracking tasks reduces the chance of errors and frees up time.
6. Be Flexible
It's essential to be flexible with your budget, as business needs and trends change over time. Don't be afraid to make adjustments to ensure your budget is still relevant.
Why Do Founders Need Budgets?
Startups face a lot of uncertainty and risk in their early stages. You never know when changes in customer demand, regulations, or the economy could dramatically affect your business. It's essential to protect yourself from potential risks and plan for any possible scenarios. This is why creating a budget and leveraging a financial expert to help is so crucial for startups.
A budget can help founders set goals, monitor their expenses, and track their progress toward achieving long-term success. It also allows founders to identify areas where they need to cut costs or allocate resources more effectively.
Regardless of your industry, all startups benefit from creating a budget and learning how to use the financial framework effectively.