In the past 10 years as a public accountant I've watched my fair share of clients succeed and fail. From their successes and their failures I have created a system that I use on all my current consulting clients. My system is based off on of the most important skills you will ever need as a business owner and that is to PLAN FOR PROFITS. While everyone else is telling you to sell more and I work with my clients to dream more and grow smart.
This is a really great question and one that a lot of business owners don't always take the time to try and understand. This can really help improve efficiency, control your cash flow and help you plan for the future. I've worked in accounting for the past 10 years and I now work as a consultant giving business owners the tools to create success. The most important thing that I work on with my clients is planning for profit and paying themselves and that starts with your scorekeeping aka bookkeeping software. There are many on the market that will link to your bank account and actually import data automatically. There's even patches that will import sales data from website shopping carts. This will save you loads of time and also cut down on input errors. Many will also allow for clients to pay their bills via email. Which saves you time, money and gets your paid faster. A very easy to use one is Quickbooks. This one can even import client/customer data into your mailchimp account. They have a variety of options to choose from so it will really depend on your individual needs and business type. You'll want to make sure before you purchase any software that the software you get has the capabilities to link everything like you would like it to do. You also want to make sure that you get it set up right the first time. It's extremely time consuming to try and change your chart of accounts and records. I always recommend to my clients to set up their books as if they are as busy and successful as they want to be - meaning when you grow you won't have to reinvent the wheel. I would love to discuss this more with you and I think we could get a lot done in one phone call!
This would definitely vary depending on the client and the industry. In general, I always recommend having a cash reserve (somewhere from 3-6 months of expenses) plus putting away the 10-20% of retained earnings. If you establish a reserve first for emergencies, then what gets put away on top of that can be used for growth and future planning. In general I'd use the 10-20%, but this will really vary based on each clients individual goals.