Five Steps to a Financial Recordkeeping System that Works

As you start your new professional practice, you have lots to think about, including getting paying clients or patients, and making sure everything and everyone is working properly. But don’t neglect the financial part of your new practice; if it isn’t working properly, you can’t be successful in your business.

If you want to succeed, you’ll need to create a financial system that clears out the garbage and gives you accurate and useful information to see how you are doing and so you know when to act on this information. Here are five easy steps in creating a simple financial recordkeeping system: Capture, Check, Record, Review, Act:

First, CAPTURE the information. If it isn’t there, it doesn’t exist. As you start your practice, get in the habit of capturing everything, so it becomes automatic. “Capture” is the most difficult, and the most important part of the process; it’s a matter of forming the habit of collecting information. Keep track of every amount you spend for your practice and every amount you take in to your practice as sales. If you think you’ll remember because it was significant at the time, I guarantee you won’t!

1. Don’t worry at this point about doing anything with the information. Just be sure everything you capture includes (a) a description of the item, (b) the amount, and (c) the date.

Second, CHECK. Every two weeks, spend an hour going through everything and checking it. Check to see that all the information you have is ready for recording. Be sure you have included the date and amount, and enough detail on what the expense was for, so you can record it accurately. For example, a note for “paper, $3.55, 7/12” may not be enough information. What was the paper for? Was this a newspaper you bought for the office? Or did you buy a ream of paper for the computer?

Set up a specific time for an appointment with yourself at the end of alternate weeks to check everything. Don’t wait too long; the longer you wait to do this, the more difficult it will be to remember and collect information.

Third, RECORD. Recording means putting your financial information into useable form. After everything is checked, turn it over to your bookkeeper to record, or record it yourself. Do this monthly. Input the information into a spreadsheet or accounting software. You might also find that online software works for you, so you and your bookkeeper can both see the information and discuss it. Just be sure you get everything recorded each month, so you can review it.

Fourth, REVIEW. After your financial information has been recorded each month, print out four reports. For each report, include a comparison with the same report information from last month. Pay special attention to specific information within these reports:

1. Balance sheet, to show assets and liabilities and changes in your equity (ownership) in the business.

Income Statement, showing your income and expenses for the month.

2. Accounts Receivable Aging Report. This report shows you the amounts owed by patients and how long the amount has been due. Use the report to show you which clients have owed you the longest.

3. Accounts Payable Report. This report shows what you owe, to whom you owe it, and how long it’s been owed.

1. Finally, ACT. In most cases, “ACT” can mean doing nothing. In other cases, it might mean making a change. Create “trigger points” where the information compels you to act.

Even if you’re not familiar with financial systems, you should be able to set this one in motion and keep it running. As I said above, the most difficult part is collecting the information. Once you have formed the “collection habit,” you’ll find the rest will come along with it.

Remember, CCRRA- Capture financial information for your practice, Check it every other week, Record and Review the information monthly, then Act as necessary to keep your financial situation moving smoothly. If you follow this simple five-step system, you’ll minimize the “garbage” and the problems that come with it and you will maximize your financial situation.

A well-organized financial system will keep your practice financially viable for many years to come, so you can get back to your practice.