Like many young entrepreneurs, Gwen Brydson started her company, Motion and Still, out of passion.
As a busy freelance photojournalist working in Toronto, Ms. Brydson saw talented photographers in her community undercharging or being ripped of by clients, and decided she wanted to help them get paid fairly for their work.
“It got to the point where I was overbooked, and I started hiring my friends and other photographers to help me out instead of turning down jobs,” says the 29-year-old. “Now, I manage a team of about seven people and I have one full-time employee and we try to get jobs for our photographers, all the time, everyday.”
Motion and Still is a Toronto agency that provides photos and video for social media campaigns across all platforms, from Facebook to YouTube to Instagram to Pinterest. Business is booming now, says Ms. Brydson, but it wasn’t always that way.
When she started Motion and Still 14 months ago, Ms. Brydson was a recent immigrant from Singapore with no parental safety net, little knowledge of Canadian tax law and minimal financial management skills. A small business loan from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation was a boon, but Ms. Brydson struggled to keep her finances in order. In particular, doing her taxes was a daunting challenge.
“For the first nine months of this business I was just thinking, ‘How am I going to figure this out?’” says Ms. Brydson. “It was so difficult to do the income, because everything – personal and business – was mixed up together. It was a long and difficult process. I really wish someone had told me, ‘If you start out with QuickBooks, you will bypass all of this pain.’”
Ms. Brydson signed up for QuickBooks Online two months ago, and says it has been a turning point for her business.
“You aren’t perceived as professional if you aren’t using this kind of software, it’s a lot harder for you to get funding or a line of credit or anything. You need good financial statements,” she says. “Because of QuickBooks, we’ve finally managed to get a business credit card. It’s really hard to get these things, if you’re a young person you have no collateral.”
Many entrepreneurs go through the same struggles in the early days of their business, says Victoria Lennox, CEO of Startup Canada, an entrepreneur-led non-profit.
“I think financial management is a sore point for entrepreneurs, especially those who are driven by the product, the service, the idea, the passion,” she says. “It might not be the sexiest part of starting up, but it’s one of the most important if you’re really serious about making a successful startup.”
Ms. Lennox says that utilizing effective financial and business management tools like QuickBooks Online from the very beginning can help set up startups for success, and avoid problems later on.
“If they can get the financial management part of it right from day one, if they can use the tools available to do that, they are going to be in a much better position to grow,” she says. “Understanding where money is going and how it’s coming in helps you make better business decisions.”
Jeff Cates, president of Intuit Canada, says their research has shown that the majority of startups utilize outdated methods to track their business finances, with the majority (54 per cent) using spreadsheets or a pen and paper to keep track of business themselves.
“In our research, we see that small businesses know that having good base financial management skills is critical to their success, and yet, what’s surprising is how few actually invest the time up front,” he says. “You can have a great idea and it can still fail because you didn’t have the right business and financial management skills.”
To boost your financial acumen, says Mr. Cates, find a mentor while you are still developing your business idea.
“It may be your lender, your loans officer, your accountant, it could be other small business entrepreneurs… Build that network around you to help learn and become a better business manager, as you are bringing your product to market,” he says.
When it comes to financial management software, Intuit wants to make it easy for startups, says Mr. Cates. Intuit’s cloud-based accounting software, QuickBooks Online, is available free to startups for the first year of their business. As well, Intuit is committed to making their software easy to use for first-time entrepreneurs who are just learning the ropes.
“The user interface, the language we use, the graphics, how we present information and making it fun and easy to spend time in – that’s really important for those early small businesses who are still learning that spending time on the data is critical to their success,” he says.
With QuickBooks Online, entrepreneurs can also keep track of their financial data from any Internet-connected computer or mobile device. They can create invoices, capture receipts and track expenses, sync bank and credit card information, and produce business reports. The “dashboard” function gives business owners a quick snapshot of their financial health, while highlighting tasks they should take action on, like overdue invoices.
Ms. Brydson says she thinks QuickBooks Online will help entrepreneurs who are feeling intimidated by the prospect of leaving the work world and stepping out on their own.
“If you have a template or a guideline to follow, it’s not going to solve all the problems, but it’s going to help a lot,” she says.
“If I had had done this at the start, I would have started my company and gotten it up and running much faster. Now with QuickBooks, it will be so much easier.”