Moving the goalposts

Managing the annual financial accounts is a redundant exercise. Financial accounts are a snapshot of past performance and you can't manage business on this basis. Managing information is the key to success.

Financial goals are necessary over a relevant future period, say three years, and partners' support in achieving those goals.

Budgets are short term, covering key revenues and expenses. Good cash flow projections will demonstrate commercial awareness to your bank manager and prevent any nasty surprises.

Top spreadsheets skills are vital, combined with computing power. Monthly management accounts help the on-going monitoring.

The real engine room is accounting for time. Are you getting a return on your most expensive commodity – fee earners? It should be easy to see if your investment in client work (WIP, aged debt and unbilled disbursements) is going awry.

However, managing potential accounts is a greater challenge. Does your management information tell you where your most profitable work is coming from?