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Setting up a Financial System for Your Business

Setting up a Financial System for Your Business

Welcome to the world where numbers aren’t just digits; they're the lifeline of your business! Today, we're drawing inspiration from Clarissa, the mastermind behind Nerdy Number Lovers, an accounting firm that's a haven for small business owners navigating the intricate dance of finances. With a rich background in accounting, an MBA in Forensic Accounting, and a Master of Science in the same field, not to mention her six-year stint as a government tax auditor, Clarissa brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. She's seen firsthand the challenges and pitfalls of financial mismanagement and has made it her mission to help businesses stay ahead of the game, ensuring the government doesn't come knocking unexpectedly.

Clarissa’s journey into the realm of numbers began in high school, driven by a simple elective that blossomed into a lifelong passion. Despite the evolving perception and valuation of accountants over the years, her dedication remains unwavering. Her goal? To demystify the complex world of accounting for entrepreneurs, especially those in the service-based sector, who may deal with digital rather than physical products. Through her story, we're reminded of the vital importance of setting up a robust financial system for our businesses. So, whether you’re just starting or looking to refine your financial strategy, let’s dive into the essentials of setting up a financial system that supports and propels your business forward.

Setting up a financial system for your business

Setting up a robust financial system for your business kicks off with a crucial step that might seem basic but is foundational: opening a business bank account. Clarissa emphasizes the importance of not mingling personal and business finances. By funneling all business transactions through a dedicated business account, you simplify your financial management significantly. This separation ensures that, even if bookkeeping isn't your strongest suit or if it's been a while since you last reconciled your books, you can easily distinguish between personal and business expenses. This clarity is invaluable, especially when it comes to ensuring that every business expense is accounted for without the painstaking process of sifting through mixed transactions.

Furthermore, the importance of retaining receipts cannot be overstated. In the event of an audit, lacking physical or electronic receipts for your expenses could mean missing out on valuable deductions, regardless of what your bank or credit card statements show. Clarissa, drawing from her experience as a government tax auditor, starkly warns against relying solely on bank statements. Lastly, adopting a reliable bookkeeping system, whether it's a traditional spreadsheet or a sophisticated software solution like QuickBooks or Xero, is paramount. Regular, systematic bookkeeping not only streamlines your financial oversight but also ensures your readiness for tax season and potential audits. These foundational steps lay the groundwork for a financial system that supports your business's growth and legal compliance.

Business Set-up and Tax Writeoffs

When setting up a business bank account, whether you're a sole proprietor or operating under an LLC, the process is straightforward and accessible. Clarissa notes that most banks offer business bank accounts, and obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS is a key step in this process. This EIN is crucial as it's free, can be obtained directly from the IRS website, and serves as an alternative to using your Social Security number for business transactions, enhancing privacy and professionalism. It's important to highlight that an EIN can be acquired regardless of your business structure, whether you're a sole proprietor or have formed an LLC.

Choosing between operating as a sole proprietor and forming an LLC is a significant decision that impacts the legal and financial aspects of your business. While tax treatment remains the same for both structures, the fundamental difference lies in the legal protection of personal assets. An LLC can shield your personal property from business liabilities, provided you strictly separate personal and business finances. This separation is essential for maintaining the legal protection offered by an LLC. When it comes to tax write-offs, Clarissa clarifies common misconceptions, such as personal grooming expenses. Generally, expenses directly related to business activities, like a photoshoot, may qualify as deductible, whereas routine personal expenses do not. This distinction underscores the importance of consulting with an accountant or utilizing IRS resources to understand permissible business deductions fully.

Understanding the 4 most important numbers in your business 

Understanding the four most important numbers in your business is crucial for financial clarity and management. Clarissa breaks these down into revenue, gross margin, net profit, and operating expenses. Starting with revenue represents the total income your business generates before any expenses are deducted. This figure is what's often flaunted in social media posts, where businesses boast about their earnings. However, Clarissa points out a common oversight in such boasts: they frequently include revenue from payment plans as immediate income, which can be misleading since it doesn't account for the total costs of running the business that eventually eats into this number.

Moving on, the gross margin is your revenue minus the cost of goods sold (COGS), which includes the direct costs associated with producing your product or service. For instance, if you use a tool like Canva to create digital products, its cost could be considered COGS. The net profit, the third crucial number, is what remains after subtracting both the COGS and total operating expenses from your revenue. This figure represents the actual earnings of your business and is the basis for tax calculations, differing significantly from the more impressive revenue figures often shared publicly. Lastly, operating expenses cover all costs necessary to run your business, highlighting the amount needed to maintain operations without any income. These insights emphasize the importance of looking beyond top-line revenue to understand the true financial health of your business.

Importance of accurate bookkeeping 

The significance of accurate bookkeeping cannot be overstressed, as illustrated by Clarissa's encounter with a client who was baffled to see a profit for the year despite feeling he hadn't made any money. This confusion often arises from misunderstandings about what constitutes an expense. For instance, loan repayments do not count as business expenses in the context of profit and loss statements, because they don't directly reduce your net profit. Similarly, credit card payments are not considered expenses; instead, it's the purchases made with the credit card that are expensed. This distinction is crucial for accurately calculating your profit, as mistaking these payments for expenses can lead to misconceptions about your financial performance.

Moreover, understanding that only the interest on loans and credit cards qualifies as an expense highlights the importance of diligent bookkeeping. Regularly updating your books ensures you have a clear picture of your financial health, particularly your net profit, which is essential for accurate tax preparation. By staying informed about your financial status through meticulous bookkeeping, you can better manage tax obligations, potentially opting for quarterly tax payments to avoid being caught off-guard by a hefty tax bill at the end of the fiscal year. This proactive approach to financial management underscores the vital role of bookkeeping in maintaining the fiscal health of your business.

Tax Payment and Audits

Navigating the complexities of tax payments and audits is a pivotal aspect of managing your business finances. Clarissa highlights a crucial, yet commonly overlooked requirement: if you anticipate owing more than $1,000 in taxes for the year, you're mandated to make quarterly estimated tax payments. This revelation underscores the intricacies of tax regulations that many business owners may not be aware of, emphasizing the importance of having a proficient accountant or bookkeeper in your corner. These professionals not only keep you compliant with tax laws but also help illuminate the nuances of financial management that you might not uncover on your own.

Moreover, the dialogue between Clarissa and Madison sheds light on the importance of clear communication with financial experts. Many entrepreneurs may not realize what they don't know about their finances and taxes, making it essential to ask questions and seek clarity. This interaction serves as a reminder that expertise in one area does not automatically translate to knowledge in another, such as finances. Clarissa also dispels myths about audits, noting that while it's a common belief that lower-income might trigger IRS scrutiny, in reality, audits are less about income levels and more focused on accuracy and adherence to tax laws. This discussion emphasizes the value of transparency, accurate reporting, and the pivotal role of informed financial guidance in avoiding common pitfalls and ensuring compliance.

Tips for bookkeeping and tax deductions

Clarissa simplifies the daunting concept of audits and financial management with straightforward advice that resonates with new or struggling business owners. The cornerstone of her guidance is twofold yet fundamentally linked: open a dedicated business bank account and meticulously keep copies of all receipts. This approach not only prepares you for a potential audit, making the process significantly smoother, but it also lays the groundwork for efficient bookkeeping. By segregating business transactions from personal finances and retaining proof of expenses, entrepreneurs can alleviate the stress often associated with financial audits and management.

Furthermore, Clarissa stresses the importance of not just working in your business but on your business, especially regarding financial oversight. Keeping an eye on both the revenue coming in and the expenses going out is crucial. This perspective helps business owners understand the full scope of their financial health, beyond just the top-line income numbers. It prompts a deeper inquiry into whether the business is truly profitable, that is, if it retains money after covering all expenses. This advice underscores the essential nature of financial management in entrepreneurship, highlighting the need to balance the focus between generating income and maintaining a healthy bottom line.


Wrapping up, the journey to managing a profitable business extends far beyond the initial thrill of seeing income flow in. Clarissa, with her expertise from Nerdy Number Lovers, has demystified the complexities surrounding financial systems, bookkeeping, tax payments, and the nuanced world of tax deductions. Her insights emphasize the importance of distinguishing between mere expenses and investments that genuinely contribute to business growth. The litmus test for any deduction, as Clarissa suggests, is whether it directly impacts your business's ability to generate revenue.

Navigating the financial landscape of a business can seem daunting, but with resources like Nerdy Number Lovers and the detailed guide on expense deductions Clarissa offers, entrepreneurs are better equipped to make informed decisions. Remember, the beauty and the challenge of managing business finances lie in understanding that not all expenses are created equal. The key takeaway? Focus on strategic financial planning that not only enhances your business's aesthetic appeal but solidifies its financial foundations for long-term success. As we close this guide, let Clarissa's insights inspire you to look beyond the surface of income statements and delve into the financial intricacies that truly determine your business's profitability.

Learn more about Clarissa here: 

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