Listed as one of the top 50 Women in Accounting worldwide, Ria-Jaine Lincoln specialises in beauty industry accounting and is a keen advocate of cash flow management as the key to success. Here, she speaks to Timely about the key components to financial wellness.

What is the most essential element to financial wellness?

Cash flow; and keeping on top of it.  Everything, both in business and in personal life, comes back to how much money is going out, and how much money is coming in.  Having a clear understanding of what this picture looks like on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis is hugely important. 

Where is the best place to start with cash flow?

It can be as simple as looking at your bank statement and highlighting all the direct debits, regular payments, and other outgoings.  Then doing the same with your income.  If you put this information onto a simple spreadsheet then great, but even a pen and paper list is a good starting point. 

How important is bookkeeping for beauty industry businesses?

For businesses in any industry, it really is important to keep up to date with bookkeeping.  It doesn’t matter if you are a large company, or a sole trader working from home.  From a tax point of view, the last thing you want is the added stress of penalties or sanctions imposed on you due to late payments.  

But it’s not just about the tax side of things.  As a business owner, you should know how your business is performing month to month, and what the cash flow situation is.  Most business decisions need to be made with a full financial picture in sight, and can therefore be made much more easily, and quickly, if your books are up to date and correct.  If they’re not, you end up having to go through masses of bank statements, diaries, booking systems, and receipts. It causes extra stress and wastes a lot of time. 

Can you recommend any tools that make bookkeeping easier?

I’m a big fan of online bookkeeping.  QuickBooks, Sage, Xero, and FreeAgent are examples of the accounting software packages you could use. There are also a number of apps, such as Receipt Bank, that enable you to upload your receipts, so that you have them all to hand and don’t need to keep paper copies.  Usually, these apps will sync with your accounting software and other cash flow tools.  Forecasting software, such as Float App, is extremely useful in terms of planning and making decisions based on different scenarios.  

What is the best way to deal with things if outgoings are more than income?

Prioritise your outgoings and look at any flexibility.  Consider things like payment holidays, negotiating better rates, changing providers, cutting usage levels, and pausing subscriptions.  Look at reducing or removing any non-essential outgoings. 

What advice would you give to anyone who is struggling to repay debt?

Ask for help.  That might mean speaking to lenders, landlords, or suppliers, and being very honest about your situation.  Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed; financial struggles and problems with debt are, sadly, very normal.  It is very overwhelming when you are in that situation and often feels too difficult to deal with, but you don’t need to do it on your own.  

Charities such as StepChange in the UK exist to advise and help you tackle your debts.  And once you have begun to deal with the practical side of things, it will feel like a huge weight off your shoulders and you will feel much better knowing that you have taken the first step back to financial wellness.