Does Your Accounting Department Have Holes in It?

April 2, 2015 · Posted in Accounting, Business Development · Comment 

Does Your Accounting Department Have Holes in It?

You’ve got someone to do your federal and state income tax returns, and you have a bookkeeper. So that’s all that a small business needs when it comes to having an accounting department, right?

Wrong.

Large companies have many functions in their accounting departments, and small and mid-sized businesses need many of the same functions as well. They just won’t need as many staff to handle them. Many of these functions will fall on the CEO, but a smart CEO will find a way to delegate some of the accounting duties to free their time up.

Here are just a few of the things you’ll want to make sure that you have covered in your small business accounting department:

Accounting Software Expertise

Who do you have on your team that can identify opportunities for making your accounting function run more efficiently? The solutions could include training on your current system or could be more comprehensive such as identifying a new accounting system that will save a tremendous amount of time and money.

Let your accountant get to know your processes because they may know of some software applications that can do what you need faster, better, and cheaper. Manual data entry is a hot spot of potential; today, you can find software, scanners, and even smartphones and tablets that can automate the data entry, even if all you have is paperwork to enter.

Business Performance Advice

Are you getting accounting reports that tie to the areas where you have challenges and issues? If not, let your accountant know where those areas are. They may be able to suggest some reports that will provide you with insight and enlightenment.

If you are receiving reports with lots of numbers that you’re not quite sure how to interpret, ask your accountant for help. They can not only help you interpret the numbers, but they can also put the report into a graphical format so that it’s more visual for you.

It’s All About the Revenue

The number one challenge of most small businesses is to attract more business and generate more revenue. Your accountant can help you study your revenue patterns by presenting “what if” tools that can help you see what happens when you change price, impact mix, or adjust volume.

Keeping the Cash Flowing

If your business seems to stampede through cash, you’re not alone. A cash flow forecasting report is in order so you can plan ahead and be ready for the valleys and hills.

Beyond Compliance

If your accounting department focuses on compliance work alone, such as taxes and recordkeeping, you’ll miss out on allowing it to become a profit center of sorts. With these added functions, you’ll discover new actions to take in your business to drive profitability. You’ll have clarity about decisions like price changes, and you’ll know your accounting function is efficient and not wasting time and money.

Take a look at your accounting department, and let us know if we can help you plug any of the holes.


Custom Fields Give Better Business Insight

How QuickBooks’ Custom Fields Can Provide Better Business Insight

QuickBooks’ customizability makes it flexible enough for countless business types. Custom fields are a big part of that.

QuickBooks makes it possible for your business to create very detailed records for customers, vendors, employees, and items. In fact, you may find that you rarely make use of every field each contains.

But you may also find that there are additional fields that you’d like to see in your predefined record formats. That’s where custom fields come in. QuickBooks lets you add extra fields and specify what their labels should be.

You can define up to 12 total fields for use in customer, vendor, and/or employee records. QuickBooks treats these just as it treats your built-in fields. They appear in the records themselves, of course, and are included when you export a file containing them. You can also  search for them in reports. 

People Records

There are separate processes for defining fields for your individual and company contacts and your items. Let’s look at how you can set up custom fields for customers, vendors, and employees first.

 

Go to your Customer Center and open a blank Customer record (in newer versions of QuickBooks, you’ll click on New Customer & Job in the upper left corner, and then click New Customer). Then click the Additional Info tab in the left vertical pane of the New Customer window, then click on the Define Fields button in the lower right. This window will open (with blank fields):

Figure1: You can create up to 12 total custom fields that will be shared by customers, vendors, and employees.

It’s easy to create your custom field labels. Simply type a word or short phrase on a line under Label, and then click in the box(es) on the same line in the appropriate column(s). While it’s possible that you would want to include the same field in multiple record types, you’ll most likely have separate labels for each. 

Consider carefully before creating custom field labels. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What do I want to know about customers/vendors/employees that isn’t already covered in the pre-built record formats?
  • What kinds of information will I want to make available in report filters?
  • How will I want to separate out individuals for communications like emails, memos, special sale invitations, etc.

Remember that you’ll have to go back into existing records and fill in these blanks in order to be consistent. You’re not required to complete them, but your searches, reports, etc. will not be comprehensive if you don’t.

As always, you can consult with us if you want some suggestions. 

Item Records

The custom fields we just created are generally only used internally. That is, they won’t automatically appear on sales forms, purchase orders, etc.

You may decide that some custom fields in item records, on the other hand, do need to be available on some forms. For example, you might sell shirts in multiple sizes, colors, and styles.

To start creating them, open the Lists menu and select Item List. Click the down arrow on the Item menu in the lower left, then click New. Since you will be selling similar items that you’ll be keeping in stock, select Inventory Part under TYPE. Then click on the Custom Fields button over on the right and then Define Fields.

Figure 2: If you sell similar items that are available with different characteristics, you’ll want to create custom fields. 

As you did with the earlier custom fields, enter a word or phrase under Label, and then click in the Use column. After you’ve entered up to five fields, click OK.

A Complicated Process

This is where the simplicity of creating and using custom fields for items in reports and transaction forms ends. If you sell t-shirts in various sizes and colors, you’re going to need our help in order to see true inventory levels in reports and add those custom fields to sales and purchase transaction forms.

Figure 3: Adding custom fields to QuickBooks’ standard transaction forms is possible, but you’ll need our assistance to make sure inventory tracking is set up right. 

It may be that you need more inventory-tracking tools than are offered in your version of QuickBooks. If that’s the case, we can help you either add an application that will meet your needs or suggest an upgrade.

The Short and the Long of It

March 19, 2015 · Posted in Accounting · Comment 

The balance sheet is one of the main financial reports for any business. Among other things, it shows what a company owns, what they owe, and how much they and others have invested in the business. One of the characteristics of a balance sheet is how it separates what you own and what you owe into two categories based on timeframe.

Current and Long-Term

You may have seen the Assets section of your balance sheet divided into two sections: Current Assets and a list of long-term assets that might include Property, Plant, and Equipment, Intangibles, Long-Term Investments, and Other Assets.

Current Assets

Current Assets include all of the items the business owns that are liquid and can easily be converted to cash within a year’s time.   The most common types of current assets include the balances in the checking and savings accounts, receivables due from clients that haven’t paid their invoices, and inventory for sale.

Long-Term Assets

The remaining assets are long-term, or assets that cannot easily be converted to cash within a year. Property, Plant, and Equipment, also termed Fixed Assets, includes buildings, automobiles, and machinery that the business owns. You might also see an account called Accumulated Depreciation; it reflects the fact that fixed assets lose their value over time and adjusts the balance accordingly.

Intangible assets are assets that have value but no physical presence. The most common intangible assets are trademarks, patents, and Goodwill. Goodwill arises out of a company purchase. Investments that are not easily liquidated will also be listed under Long-Term Assets.

Current Liabilities

Similarly, liabilities are broken out into the two categories, current and long-term.

Current liabilities is made up of credit card balances, unpaid invoices due to vendors (also called accounts payable), and any unpaid wages and payroll taxes. If you have borrowed money from a bank or mortgage broker, the loan will show up in two places. The amount due within one year will show up in current liabilities and the amount due after one year will show up in long-term liabilities.

Long-Term Liabilities

The most common types of long-term liabilities are notes payable that are due after one year, lease obligations, mortgages, bonds payable, and pension obligations.

Why All the Fuss Over Current vs. Long Term?

Bankers and investors want to know how liquid a company is. Comparing current assets to current liabilities is a good indicator of that. Some small businesses have loan covenants requiring that they maintain a certain current ratio or their loan will be called. The current ratio of your business is equal to current assets divided by current liabilities. Bankers like this amount to meet or exceed 1.2 : 1, although this can vary by industry.

Next time you receive a balance sheet from your accountant, check out your current and long-term sections so that you’ll gain a better understanding of this report.


Influencing Your Word-of-Mouth Results

March 5, 2015 · Posted in Business Development, Profitability Tips · Comment 

Just about every business relies on “word-of-mouth” marketing to get the vast majority of its clients. If this is true for your business, then it just makes sense to figure out how to boost your referrals from all sources. Referrals are almost always easier to sell and they keep your marketing costs low. But how can you do that?

The first step is to make sure that you know who your best current referral sources are. If you’re not already asking the question to new clients “How did you find out about us?” then I’d recommend you implement that right away.

If you do know the answer to that question for each customer, then you can make a list of your referral sources. Take a look at the list, and see what these referral sources have in common. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Are they all customers?
  • Do they all have a profession in common? For example, are they all lawyers, massage therapists, plumbers, or pediatricians?
  • Have you properly thanked each of these individuals? If not, you can send out a thank you card or take them to lunch with no other agenda.

The last question to ask yourself is “where can you find more of the same type of people that are referring you?” If you discovered that you get a lot of business from dog groomers, then you may want to consider visiting every grooming salon in your zip code. You may also want to present a speech to a dog groomers Meetup group that you find.

You really can be proactive about your referrals so that business comes to you more easily. Try these tips to boost your referral sources in your business.


Memorize Transactions in QB: Why? How?

Memorizing Transactions in QuickBooks: Why? How?

QuickBooks saves time in countless ways, one of which is its ability to memorize transactions. Are you taking advantage of this feature?

One of the reasons you started using accounting software, among many others, was to save time. And QuickBooks has complied. Once you create a record for a customer, vendor, item, etc., you rarely — if ever — have to enter that information again; you simply choose it from a list. 

You no longer waste time searching through endless piles of papers to find the one you need; you just do a search. And when you need a report on your monthly sales or inventory purchases or your payroll liabilities, you don’t have to wrestle with Excel or locate the right paper records; you just click a few times.

Memorized transactions can be another major time saver. You might use them when you, for example:

  • Provide the same service for a customer on a regular basis,
  • Charge a monthly fee for rentals, maintenance, membership, etc.,
  • Pay a bill to the same company regularly, or
  • Have a standing order with a vendor for a similar set of items.

It’s easy to create memorized transactions. QuickBooks provides an icon for them in the toolbar of every transaction form that’s supported, like invoices, bills, and purchase orders.

Figure 1: When you see the Memorize icon in the toolbar of a transaction form, you know that you can create a template to use over and over.

To get started, create a transaction that you know will be repeated – even if the amount will be different every time (you’ll still save time because you won’t have to fill in or select absolutely every detail). Let’s say you’re doing some social media consulting for a customer, and you’ve contracted for eight hours every month. Create the invoice for that billing.

Then click the Memorize icon. This window opens:

Figure 2: In the Memorize Transaction window, you’ll tell QuickBooks how often the transaction will be created, in addition to providing other information.

Your customer will already appear in the Name field. You’ll have to choose from among three options so that QuickBooks knows how to handle this recurring form:

Add to my Reminders List. If you choose this by clicking on the button in front of the option, QuickBooks will add this transaction to your existing Reminders List.

Note: Confused about how you get QuickBooks to remind you about actions you have to take? We can walk you through the setup process.

Do Not Remind Me. We don’t recommend this option unless you have an exceptionally good memory, few memorized transactions, or a tickler file in another application. Even then, reminders are a good idea.

Automatic Transaction Entry. This absolutely saves the most time. It’s also the riskiest option. If you select this, QuickBooks will send the transaction through at the intervals you’ve defined. You’ll have to enter a number that indicates how many times you want the form sent and how many days in advance it should be entered. Please consult with us if you are planning to automate transactions. We don’t want you to have unhappy customers or vendors or an unpredictable cash flow.

Next, you’ll tell QuickBooks how often this transaction needs to be created by clicking on the down arrow to the right of How Often. Click on the calendar icon in the Next Date field to select the exact day this should occur next (you’ll have an opportunity when you work with the Reminders List to specify how much advance warning you want). 

When you’re done, click OK.

Once you start memorizing transactions, QuickBooks will store them in a list. When you get a reminder that one is due soon, open the Lists menu and select Memorized Transaction List. You’ll see this screen, populated with your own work:

 

Figure 3: You’ll open the Memorized Transaction List to enter one or to work with one you’ve already created.

Highlight a transaction in the list and click the down arrow next to Memorized Transaction in the lower left corner to see your options here. You can also click Enter Transaction, and your original form will appear. If you’ve saved it with a permanent amount, you can just save and dispatch it. Otherwise, enter the correct amount before you proceed.

If you’re fairly new to QuickBooks and don’t feel like you’re well acquainted with its time-saving features, give us a call and we’ll set up some training. Better to do that up front than to have to untangle a jumbled company file. We’re always happy to help.

Are Your Workers Contractors or Employees?

February 19, 2015 · Posted in Business Tips, Payroll Tips · Comment 

If you have workers in your business, you likely made a decision when you hired them as to whether they should be an employee or a contractor. If all you hire are employees, then you have nothing to worry about. But if you hire contractors, there may be some financial risk you may be taking that you may not know about.

Any person that runs a business as a sole proprietor that you pay money to for services rendered is considered a contractor. One difference between an employee and a contractor is that an employee receives a W-2 and a contractor that you have paid more than $600 per year by check receives a 1099. There are many other paperwork differences, but that’s the major one.

One of the biggest mistakes when a business owner hires a worker is thinking that they can decide to classify the worker as a contractor if they simply want to. Unfortunately, it’s the IRS that decides on the classification, not the worker or the business owner.

What’s the Risk?

There is no risk from an IRS standpoint to classify a worker as an employee instead of a contractor. There is significant financial risk if you incorrectly classify a worker as a contractor when they should be classified as an employee. You may be liable for back employment taxes if the IRS re-classifies a worker from contractor to employee, and this can go back many years.

To calculate your risk, take roughly 20 percent of the payments you made to contractors. This amount plus late fees and penalties can add up to what you could owe the IRS if you are mis-classifying workers and the IRS finds out.

IRS’s Employee vs. Contractor Rules

The IRS focuses on three factors to determine whether a worker should be a contractor or an employee: behavioral control, financial control, and type of relationship.

If you control both what and how a task is to be done, you should probably classify your worker as an employee. If you can control only the results you want, you may be able to classify the worker as a contractor.

There are many other rules about this classification, so be sure to check with your tax accountant for more information. Also, for those of you that love tax research, here’s a link that gives the full details of the IRS rules: http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Independent-Contractor-Self-Employed-or-Employee

Having a successful business is all about taking calculated risks; however, you may not have known the risk you’ve been taking with contractors that you’ve employed. For the IRS, misclassifying workers is a “red flag” area, meaning they are paying extra attention to it. If you feel like you might be taking a risk that you don’t want to, please reach out and let us know how we can help you with this.


The One Question to Ask Each Day

February 5, 2015 · Posted in Business Development, Decision-Making Tips · Comment 

As a business owner, you’re likely torn in a hundred different directions every day. It can take up most of the work day just fighting fires, serving your customers, and answering employees’ questions. It’s super-easy to lose sight of what you can be doing to move your business forward the most.

That’s when “the one question” can come in handy. It’s something you can ask yourself at the very beginning of each day, even before you check your email.

The one question is, “What’s the highest payback thing I can do today that will boost my profits?”

It’s not fighting fires or answering routine employee questions or even serving current customers. Although those are all important and essential, none of them will take your business to the next level.

It could be meeting with a power partner or referral source that sends you a lot of business, designing the next campaign that will bring in a higher level customer, or researching new products to sell. It’s going to be a task that gets you working “on” your business instead of “in” it.

If you like this idea, consider writing the question on a sticky note and posting it to your bulletin board so that you can see it every day.

Try asking yourself this one question each day: “What’s the highest payback thing I can do today that will boost my profits?” Then do it, and watch your business grow.


Make Your Preferences Known in QB

January 30, 2015 · Posted in Bookkeeping Tips, QuickBooks Help, QuickBooks Software · Comment 

Make Your Preferences Known in QuickBooks 

QuickBooks is ready to use when you install it. But you can change its settings to make it work the way your company needs it to.

There are some features that all small businesses need in their accounting software. Everyone needs a Chart of Accounts and a good set of report templates. There must be tools to bill customers and to document income and expenses. Some companies need payroll management, and some need the ability to create purchase orders. These days, many businesses want to accept payments online. 

But what does your company need? It’s unlikely that you would use absolutely every feature that QuickBooks offers, but you need to make sure that every tool you want to use is set up properly. 

If you’ve been using QuickBooks for a while, you may have been directed to the Preferences window already (accessible by clicking on Edit | Preferences). If you’re just starting out with the software, it’s a good idea to acquaint yourself with the most important elements contained there. Here are some of them.

Figure 1: QuickBooks’ Preferences window. Some features are already turned on or off by default, but you can change their status.
 

Accounting 

Click on the Accounting tab in the left vertical pane, then on the Company Preferences tab. Here, QuickBooks wants to know whether you plan to use account numbers. It also offers the option to turn on class tracking, which lets you define classes like company locations or divisions, or salespeople. Not sure what you should do here? Please ask us.

Desktop View

Options here involve usability and visibility issues. Getting them right can save you time and frustration. For example, under the My Preferences tab, you can choose between a VIEW that displays only One Window, or one that keeps Multiple Windows open. Click on the Company Preferences tab to turn specific features – like Payroll and Sales Tax — on and off.

Finance Charge 

Should you decide to apply Finance Charges to late payments, for example, please let us go over this feature with you. We’ll explain how it is set up and how it works in day-to-day accounting.

Items & Inventory 

This is critical: you must visit this screen if you will be buying and selling products. First, you need to make sure that the box in front of Inventory and purchase orders are active has a check mark in it. If not, click in the box. Also important here: QuickBooks can maintain a real-time inventory level for each item you sell so that you neither run short nor waste money by stockpiling. Check the box in front of Quantity on Sales Orders if you want the software to include items that appear on sales orders in the count. Also, do you want a warning when you don’t have enough inventory to sell (as you’re filling out an invoice, for example)? We can explain the difference between Quantity on Hand and Quantity Available; it’s rather complex.

Figure 2: Some inventory concepts may be unfamiliar to you. If you’ll be buying and selling items, let us walk you through this section. 

Payroll & Employees

Payroll is integrated with QuickBooks, but it’s so complex that it almost acts as another application. If you’re planning to take this on yourself, some training will be necessary.

Reminders

Unless you have a very simple business or an extraordinarily good memory, you’ll probably want Quickbooks to remind you when you need to complete certain tasks. Click Reminders | Company Preferences to see the lengthy list of events that QuickBooks supports, like Paychecks to Print, Inventory to Reorder, and Bills to Pay. You can have the software display either a summary or a list of what needs to be done, and you can specify how many days in advance you want to be alerted.

Sales & Customers, Sales Tax, and Time & Expenses 

If your accounting workflow includes tasks in any of these areas, you’ll need to visit them to turn features on and make other preferences known.

You probably won’t need to have absolutely every feature turned on from the start. But as your business grows and changes — and we hope it does — you can always revisit the Preferences window to let QuickBooks know about your new needs. We hope you’ll let us know, too.

Five Ways to Streamline Data Entry

January 22, 2015 · Posted in Bookkeeping Tips, Profitability Tips · Comment 

Are you manually entering data into your accounting system? If so, there may be a way to enter that data that’s faster, cheaper, and better. Data entry automation has come a long way. Here are five common ways to automate data entry so that it no longer has to be manually entered.

1.  Bank feeds or online banking

    If you’re still entering your bank transactions, the good news is you have an opportunity to save a significant amount of time and money on your accounting. Almost all banks and many credit unions provide interfaces with your accounting system so that checking account, savings account, and credit card transactions can be automatically entered directly into your accounting system. There are two ways to do this:

      a. The older way is through online banking which can be started by working with both your accounting system and the bank. The fee is usually $25 per month, with additional fees for bill pay.

      b. The brand new, more modern and completely free way is through bank feeds, which are available when you move to a cloud accounting system such as QuickBooks Online or Xero. Bank feeds are not available in desktop accounting systems.

2.  A smart scanner

    If a lot of paper flows across your desk, you can scan it in using a smart scanner that can parse the document and enter it straight into your accounting system. You will usually have a chance to edit and accept the data, which is far better than entering it from scratch.

3.  Import and export functions

    If you need to get data from one place to another, such as from a point of sale system to an accounting system, then using the export and import features of the software may be the most efficient method. There are also software apps that help you scrub the data and get it ready for the receiving system.

    If you ever convert from an old accounting system to a new accounting system, this method will come in handy to get you historical data moved.

4.  Interfaces and programmers

    If you have a high volume of transactions that need to move from one place to another on an ongoing basis, it may make the most sense to employ programmers who can build an interface. Alternately, some systems can talk to each other already; they just need to be plugged into each other correctly.

5.  Smartphones, tablets, and field service hardware and software

    If your sale occurs out in the field, don’t wait to get the data into your system when you get back to the office. You may be able to complete the sale right out in the field, so that when you get back to the office, you can call it a day instead of keying in the day’s work.

    Mobile accounting apps are where to look for this form of data entry automation.

No more manual data entry

In 2015, consider taking on the goal of no more manual data entry. If we can help, let us know.


Do You Have a Revenue Plan for 2015?

January 8, 2015 · Posted in Accounting, Business Tips · Comment 

A great way to start the new year is to get clear on exactly how you can make your revenue goal number. A revenue plan is the perfect tool. You’ll need to be proficient in Excel, and if not, you can work with your accountant on this very important and enlightening spreadsheet.

Start by listing all of your products and services, listing one product or service in each row of a blank spreadsheet.  Enter the description in the first column and use the second column for price. You may be able to export an item list from your accounting system, which will save a lot of time if you have a lot of products and services that you sell.

Use column three to enter the number of items you want to sell for the year. Column four should contain formulas to multiply the price by the volume to get revenue for each service and product you sell.

You can then sum the numbers in column four to generate your projected revenue for the year.

Getting Industry-Specific

Depending on what industry you’re in, you may need to make some adjustments to the above simplified revenue plan. If you work in construction, you’ll need to list your projects instead of products and services, and you’ll need to make adjustments if your project will go longer than one year. You’ll need to add a couple of extra column to determine the percentage of the project that will be complete and billable in 2015.

If you bill by the hour, you’ll need to calculate how many hours of service you’ll be able to charge for and factor that into the equation.

If you have sales, you’ll need to figure a discounted price. I recommend you have an extra line for each product that sells at a discount and allocate the total amount you plan to sell at each price. If that’s too much work, you can calculate an overall discount rate and apply it to total revenue at the bottom of the worksheet.

Use the 80-20 Rule

If you sell a lot of products and services, consider bundling them into subgroups to keep your plan cleaner and at a higher level. Spend only the amount of time that’s worth the insights you’ll gain from doing an exercise like this.

A Prosperous New Year

Once you’ve created the plan, you can now take action based on insights you’ve gained. Perhaps you’ve got a whole new set of revenue resolutions to accomplish in 2015. If you need help constructing or analyzing this plan, feel free to reach out to us and let us know how we can help.


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