All businesses start small. From Apple, started part-time in the garage of Steve Jobs’ parents home in Los Altos, California, to Walmart, started through the dedicated energies of just one person, Sam Walton, all businesses have one thing in common – they have to start somewhere.
So what differentiates a small business that fails from one that succeeds?
It’s simple – proper financial management.
As a small business owner in any niche, you might be wondering what you can do to really help your business get off the ground. In most cases, being a successful small business owner has less to do with making the right moves and more to do with avoiding critical mistakes.
In the course Finance Essentials for Small Business, taught by instructors Kay and Jim Stice on LinkedIn Learning, you’ll learn all about the five major mistakes that small business owners make. These mistakes might seem small, but they’re the ones that can lead you the most quickly to failure.
An innovative, engaging, and interactive course, it is brief and designed specifically for beginners. I recently enrolled in and took the course – here’s what I got out of it.
What is This Course All About?
This course explores five characteristics of small businesses that make them fail, namely insufficient capital, poor cash management, poor record-keeping and controls, improper product pricing, and uncontrolled growth.
A self-contained course, it is highly detailed and introductory, perfect for small businesses in just about any niche. Offered as more of a “what not to do” seminar, the class offers general advice to help you reduce your risk as a small business owner.
That said, the instructors do remind students that it does not give students investment, nor does it analyze your individual risk tolerance, objectives,s or other factors.
In Finance Essentials for Small Businesses, you’ll learn more about the steps you can take to manage your small business in a more effective, efficient, and productive way. You’ll also get some valuable insight as it relates to pricing and the risks of fast, untethered growth.
What Kinds of Content Does the Course Cover?
The introduction section of this course is brief, detailing the five characteristics of businesses that make them fail. The instructors also give some background on themselves, something that was helpful to hear as it gave me more confidence in the expertise of my instructors. There is a brief disclaimer included in this section, too, meant to remind students that the instructors obviously do not know your personal circumstances and can’t provide individualized guidance.
Growing Your Business
The first main module of the course is brief, running less than three minutes. It [provides students with an overview of small businesses, reminding us that all businesses start small. There’s nothing wrong with being small, either, as small and medium-sized businesses often serve as the foundations of their communities.
However, for every small business that becomes successful, there are dozens (hundreds, even!) of small businesses that fail. These businesses often fail because of preventable and predictable mistakes.
Determining Your Capital Needs
The next module of the course is a bit more specific. Financing a small business is often the most challenging part of starting a business. This can be a major problem, as many small business ideas are solidly framed and built, but don’t have enough capital to get up and off the ground.
Many people start their small businesses with a small amount of money, not recognizing that there will be a lag while you are waiting for potential customers to find you and then pay you. The lag is often what causes small businesses to fail. Many businesses must close before they ever find out whether their business idea worked.
The instructors of the course give some solid advice on how to manage this pitfall. The first is to make sure that you have sufficient access to capital to allow your new idea time to succeed. To determine this, you will need to have a detailed idea of cash inflows and outflows. A good business idea isn’t enough -you need money.
Although most banks will ask you to prepare a cash forecast when you request a loan, it’s a good idea to prepare one of these for yourself, too. With this, you’ll be able to figure out how much capital you need to get through the pivotal first few months.
Cash Management Basics
This next module of the course discusses some cash management basics you need to know. This section, along with the others that I completed earlier in the class, includes multiple real-life examples.
In this module, you’ll gain more insight on how to manage cash and balance cash flow. The instructors will give you more information on how to prepare a cash forecast or budget, too.
To do this, you’ll have to first distinguish between your fixed and variable costs. These can be tough to estimate, as there can be a number of costs that vary for different reasons. You can get as complicated or as simple as you’d like in your cash forecasts, but it’s essential that you do this so you can plan your finances accordingly.
Another crucial element that goes into cash management is estimating the number of customers. This is a critical question you must ask yourself, because without knowing how many customers you can realistically expect, you can’t plan your business accordingly. The instructors walk you through how to estimate your customer demand and costs before going on to a lengthy explanation of a cash flow example.
I would highly recommend that you don’t gloss over this section, even though it can be a bit verbose. It’s important that you look at the cash flow example in particular so that you have a framework when designing your own.
The Need for Record Keeping and Controls
The need for good record-keeping and control is something that is often overlooked by many early small business owners – however, this is a fatal mistake.
In this section, the instructors go over the need for good bookkeeping and give some ideas on ways in which you can improve your bookkeeping practices. You not only need access to information on a regular basis, but you also need a system that will tax vital information, like your tax obligations.
Before concluding this section, the instructors also give you ideas on how you can use controls to track your business activity and safeguard your information.
Pricing Products Properly
This next section is one that will have most small business owners perking up their ears – at least, that’s what I found to be the case! Pricing is a challenge for most business owners, and ultimately, it requires a lot of research and considerations.
The instructors break down proper pricing in two settings – when you are pricing products and when you are pricing services. The methods given by the teachers are helpful in both settings.
The last major module of the course has to do with controlling growth. The title of this section is a bit of a misnomer – why would you want to control growth? Shouldn’t your growth be more or less unlimited?
Well, yes and no. The instructors go into details about how to control rapid growth so that you remain profitable and have a good cash flow balance. The major example given here is with the USFL, which grew too quickly and suffered from a variety of problems as a result.
The instructors discuss ways in which you can drive growth while also maintaining a realistic forecast for your business.
The Finance Essentials for Small Businesses course ends with a conclusion that is formed similarly to the rest of the course modules – with a story.
At the end of the class, the instructors use a story to remind you of the importance of managing your finances for small business success so you don’t “lose the farm.”
Then, you’ll learn about the next steps you can take for your business. The teachers recommend identifying your own small business problems, whether they have to do with poor records, nonexisting financial reports, or managing cash flow.
The instructors take this opportunity to drive you toward other classes taught by them on LinkedIn Learning. They also recommend meeting with a qualified business advisor so that you can describe your business, your plans, and your frustrations and receive some solid advice.
The Course & The Instructor
The Finance Essentials for Small Businesses class on LinkedIn Learning is one of several that delves into greater detail about how to manage a small business in a successful way. lucrative way. It has been taken by more than 41,525 students and liked by more than 3,018 students.
This is a true testament to its efficacy and popularity!
This class is one of many taught by Jim and Kay Stice, two brothers who are both accountants and teach classes at Brigham Young University.
Jim Stice is a Distinguished Teacher Professor in the Marriott School of Management here – he also holds a Ph.D. in accounting from the University of Washington. He has published numerous articles and conducts regular teaching and researching activities. Together with his brother, Kay, they have more than 70 years of experience.
Kay Stice, or Earl Kay Stice, is the Pricewaterhouse Coopers Professor of Accounting at Brigham Young University. He holds a Ph.D. in Accounting from Cornell University and has also served as a full-time faculty member at the University of Arizona, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Rice University.
I always like reading over the credentials of the instructor(s) before I take any kind of course, but particularly, an online course. That way, I know that I’m receiving an education from someone who really knows his or her stuff!
Major Benefits of Taking This Course
Something I loved about this course, especially as compared to other classes I’ve taken on LinkedIn Learning, is that it was taught by two separate instructors. Most classes on LinkedIn Learning, as well as on other course platforms, are only taught by one teacher.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but I felt as though there were two major benefits associated with having two separate instructors.
For starters, the two teachers brought significant yet different levels of experience and personal backgrounds to the course. Each offered a unique perspective on finance essentials for small business and unique personalities that I enjoyed.
Plus, listening to the two teachers was incredibly enjoyable. They talked back and forth with each other rather than staring directly at the camera, so I felt like I was sitting in on a conversation between two brothers and friends rather than intruding on a private class.
Clear Learning Objectives
The course is paired with a detailed list of clear learning objectives. As with many of the other courses I’ve taken on LinkedIn Learning, I liked this detail in particular. It lets you give yourself a list of skills you know you should have by the end of the course.
This class includes the following objectives:
- Describe the most common reason small businesses fail.
- Identify two reasons why your business plan needs to budget cash inflows and outflows for the first six months of your business’s operation.
- Write the formula to forecast cash flow for the first four months of your small business.
- Explain the first step you should take if your new small business is not making the profit you anticipated.
- Identify the most important thing to keep in mind if you are considering faster growth for your small business.
This class is taught by two instructors who are professors of accounting, yet most of the examples they bring to the table aren’t about their own professional lives, but about small business owners that they know.
For instance, the instructors mention examples of a small trucking company owner with a cash flow problem and one of a man who operates a beachside shop in a vacation area. These examples are incredibly helpful as they relate to managing finances for a small business.
One of the most helpful features of taking a class with LinkedIn Learning is that some courses offer you the ability to join a learning group upon completion of the class. This was one such example.
After completing this class -or even while you are taking it- you can join the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, a LinkedIn Learning group that will help you learn more about the organization and connect and collaborate with others in the organization.
Bonus Exercise File
This course comes with one bonus exercise file. For me, this didn’t really make or break the course, since the included exercise file is merely a glossary of the terms used in the Finance Essentials for Small Business course. I did print it off, however, as I think it might be useful moving forward.
This class culminates with a final exam. Although this isn’t something you absolutely have to take (unless you want to receive the certification and continuing education unit for the class, which I’ll mention below), it is still handy. I like the option to take a final exam at the end of the class so I can assess whether I’ve reached the stated learning objectives by the time I finish up.
Continuing Education Units/Certifications Available
Take this class, and you could be eligible for 1.2 continuing professional education credits through the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. This wasn’t necessarily anything I was interested in particularly for myself, but I thought it would be quite helpful for people who are business strategists, corporate finance specialists, or other professionals.
To get this certification upon completing the class, you’ll have to complete the course and all of its associated modules as well as pass the final exam with a score of at least 70%.
Whether you take the final exam or not, you can receive a final LinkedIn Learning Certificate after you complete the class. This can be used as a line on your resume – it’s also an asset you can display on your LinkedIn profile.
Notebook and Transcript Features
Neither Jim nor Kay Stice are terribly hard to understand, but I’ve taken online courses before in which it was incredibly tough to discern what the instructor was saying. This class, like all of those offered on LinkedIn Learning, comes with helpful transcript features. The transcribing is quite accurate, too – it details what they are saying and highlights the text so you can track along.
There is also a notebook feature. This is helpful if you want to take any notes at all during the course. I took quite a few, since there were some sections that were a bit complex for a beginner.
I’ve written about this in reviews for every online course I’ve ever taken, and it’s something I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of mentioning – I absolutely love that many classes on LinkedIn Learning wrap up with chapter quizzes.
I love seeing chapter quizzes at the end of each course module because it tells me that I have something to work for at the end of a course. Without a chapter quiz or a similar sort of assessment, I have a tough time determining whether or not I’ve achieved the course objectives as detailed by the instructors prior to the course start.
You don’t necessarily have to take the chapter quizzes at the end of each section, but I recommend doing so. You’ll be able to gauge your level of comprehension and whether you’re ready to move onto the next section. If you get the answers wrong, you’ll be guided back to the appropriate section of the course where you can find the information.
Jim and Kay Stice offer several other courses on LinkedIn Learning. If you liked the teaching style of these two instructors, you might want to consider other offerings such as:
- Harness the Power of Budgets to Solve Problems
- Corporate Financial Statement Analysis
- Introduction to Bookkeeping
- The Essence of Finance
- The Importance of Accounting
Complaints About the Course
For the most part, I very much enjoyed learning from the two instructors in this course. I found them to be engaging and enlightening, offering a detailed and helpful overview of finance essentials for small businesses.
However, there were some moments in the course where I found myself wondering when storytime would be over. This was my one major complaint!
The instructors do a great job of pulling in real-life examples to make the course material more relevant. That said, sometimes they go overboard. There’s one story, for example, in the section titled “The Need for Record Keeping and Controls,” in which the instructors spend nearly half of the module telling a story from a book they like.
I see how the story connects to the major point, but frankly, could have done without it (or with just the Cliffs Notes version of the story). You may find yourself fast-forwarding several sections of this class as a result.
Ultimately, however, that was my only complaint – and I didn’t see many others from other students and reviewers listed on the course page. You should have good results and an overall positive experience when you take this course.
Who is the Finance Essentials for Small Business Course on LinkedIn Learning Best For?
As a small business owner, I enjoyed having the opportunity to learn more about finances for small businesses in this class on LinkedIn. The Stices are talented, engaging instructors who know what it takes to reach a diverse audience of students.
Although there were some concepts in this course that were a bit complicated – and quite a few rambling stories! – the class would ultimately serve as an excellent experience for anyone wanting to learn more about the role of financial management for small businesses. Plus, it’s only 51 minutes long – so what do you have to lose?