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Get Ahead on Year-End Tasks

Year-end is just around the corner, and that means a couple of administrative tasks are necessary to take care of bookkeeping and tax chores. Here are a couple of tips to make year-end go smoother.

Cleaning up

Things will go a lot smoother if you reach out to your vendors and employees and get their help to update your records.

  • Send a notice to all employees, asking them to verify their address so they will get their W-2s without delay.
  • Make sure you have the right information for vendors that you need to produce a 1099 for. Before you pay your vendors more than $600 in one year, ask them for a W-9 so that you have a current address and taxpayer ID number on file.
  • Check to make sure you have any sales tax exemption certificates from vendors that you are not charging sales tax to.

It’s also time to clean up any account balances that need to be reclassified or corrected.

  • Any clearing accounts, such as undeposited funds, should be zero.
  • Bank reconciliations should be caught up and book balances should match the bank or be explained.
  • Inventory should be adjusted to reflect accurate quantities.
  • Loan balances should be adjusted to correctly reflect interest and principal allocations.
  • Depreciation entries should be made.

Maximizing deductions

Here are a just a few ways to maximize deductions:

  • Any bad debts that aren’t expected to be collected can be written off.
  • Any inventory that is not saleable or worth less than you paid for it can be adjusted on your books.
  • For cash basis taxpayers, pay any large bills before year-end if you have excess profits.
  • Pay employee bonuses prior to year-end.

Getting organized

Create a place in your home or office or a special file on your computer to store tax-related documents, such as W-2s, brokerage statements, and tax returns. Convert them to PDF format if they are not already, and upload them to your accountant’s secure client portal as you get them.

With all this great preparation, you’ll find tax season easier than ever and a chore that you can mark off your to-do list early.

 

Which Accounting Program Should I Choose for my New Business?

 

Congratulations on your new and exciting business!
The right accounting program for you depends on what you need now and what you want later.
The three most popular ones for startups are:
QuickBooks Desktop
QuickBooks Online
Xero
In summary, if you are going to start small and grow into something quite large, go with Xero.
If you want to keep costs down in the long term and are accepting paper checks from customers, use QuickBooks Desktop as long as you can run Windows.
If you are accepting paper checks, aren’t going to grow to a 7-figure company, really need a mobile app, and don’t mind the risk of not being able to access your file when you want to, take a risk with QuickBooks Online.
~~~PROS AND CONS~~~
QuickBooks Desktop:
PRO: You only have to buy it once
PRO: Can give you detailed business intelligence on customer trends, service trends for the types of flights – this information can help you price for maximum profitability
PRO: Is the fastest of the 3 programs
PRO: If you will be accepting checks, this has a clear way of handling that
CON: If you need more than one user in the file at the same time, it can get pricey, depending on the situation
CON: Only accessible on a computer, not mobile
QuickBooks Online:
PRO: Syncs with more 3rd party apps (project management, CRM, time tracking, invoicing & payment for example)
PRO: If you will be accepting checks, this has a clear way of handling that
PRO: There’s an app which I hear is “okay.”
CON: Frequent outages
CON: The GUI slows down the whole process because somebody came up with the bright idea that all of the data entry screens should slide up and down. I hate having my time wasted.
CON: Intuit, the company that makes QuickBooks, is pushing everybody toward QuickBooks Online, but for years it has been a problematic product, and now they’re running around fixing bugs and trying to make it better.
Xero:
PRO: Syncs with the most 3rd party apps (project management, CRM, time tracking, invoicing & payment, analysis, forecasting for example)
PRO: In an all-digital environment, it saves you the most amount of time in regular bookkeeping. It pretty much handles everything automatically.
PRO: Has 2 tracking categories in comparison to 1 in QuickBooks, so if you’re going to build a large business with different locations and lines of service, it’s all clear and trackable so you can see things clearly and manage things well.
PRO: There is an **amazing** app
PRO: Once the business grows and you have people helping you, you can approve bills in the system in order to keep track of your money
PRO: They are the up-and-coming cloud-based accounting app taking the world by storm. No bugs. No outages. And getting better all the time.
CON: Doesn’t handle batches of customer paper checks very well.

What Should I Expect From My QuickBooks Trainer?

Start by sharing your business strategy and business model so your trainer can activate features that you’ll need for external and internal reporting, such as:
* bank accounts, including PayPal
* receivables
* jobs vs. customers
* customer types
* inventory features
* item specifications
* item groups
* price levels
* credit card accounts
* payables
* sales tax
* class tracking
* 1099 setup
Then learn how to pull meaningful information from your QuickBooks file and how to interpret that information and make money with that information. If your company is new, have the trainer use a sample file from your own industry to teach you. Examples are: Financial statements, aging reports, job profitability reports, Profit & Loss by business segment or location.
Next: Back-fill into the data entry that’s required to produce those reports. Sales cycle, purchasing cycle, how to do an inventory count & inventory adjustment if you have inventory. Your training should include bank feeds, information about the best 3rd party apps (if any) for you, and the massive time-saving merits of attaching files to transactions and list items.
Next learn how to check your own data with error trapping techniques. For example, if you’re using class tracking, then the Profit & Loss Unclassified report should always be empty. Undeposited Funds should never be stale; the bank reconciliation detail will show transactions that have been outstanding for too long. Stay on top of this and you’ll avoid an irate vendor who hasn’t gotten paid because the check that you wrote is sitting on someone’s desk. You’ll also avoid making a decision based on incorrect financial statements.
To put a bow on the pre-structured piece, learn best practices in backing up the file, data security.
Don’t sign on to a training without a final phase that includes trainer availability for questions that will arise as you actually use the file. You can discuss with your trainer if you want anytime availability for questions as they arise vs. weekly sessions to get the answers, and you’ll document your questions in a list as they come up.

Figuring Out the Real Value of a Compliance Project

How do you measure the value of a compliance service that you received…or provided?
A story recently came my way in which a business owner received professional services required to help his business be in compliance with federal and state laws.
Specialty knowledge was required to accurately complete the right forms.
He engaged the services of an expert who got the job done…but didn’t want to pay the invoice in full because it just didn’t seem worth the price tag.
As a buyer, have you ever felt like that?
As a service provider, has that ever happened to you?
Let’s hone in on why the business owner did not perceive value for the service. In this case, it was because there just weren’t that many documents produced.
I can’t blame the business owner for using what he knows – and a quantitative metric, at that – in order to assess value.
However, this needs to be a lesson for all of us, those who engage the services of others and those who provide services.
Notice what metric you’re using to assess value. And use the right metric.
“Number of pages produced” is an inaccurate and unhelpful metric.
Ask yourself:
* What isn’t possible without said documents
* Comparable pricing with other service providers for the same level of speed, accuracy, and other factors in the relationship
* Opportunity cost of his time if he were to do this himself
* Length of time that it takes anyone to be able to build the expertise to handle this
* Making sure the RIGHT documents get prepared
* The fallout from the documents being prepared incorrectly or late
The Emancipation Proclamation is only 5 pages long.
The Declaration of Independence is only 1 page long.
But “number of pages” is what he knows to use as a measurement of value in the face of nothing better.
Service providers: Teach your clients how to measure value, and you’ll empower them for life. And thereby get them present to the amazing value they have access to by working with you.
Business leaders: Beware of illusion of value that comes when you measure something that is NOT correlated with actual value. Get clear with yourself and with your service provider about the real indicators of value before your engagement begins, and you’ll both be delighted and better off after your project is complete.

The Perfect Chart of Accounts for Your Business

Your “Chart of Accounts” is the list of accounts in your accounting software.  The accounts are listed in your reports, and the totals allow you to determine how much you’ve spent, made, own, or owe depending on the type of account.

It’s essential to create a list of accounts that you need in order to make better business decisions.  Your chart of accounts needs to be designed intentionally.  If it hasn’t been, it’s never too late.

Two Types of Accounts

There are two major types of accounts:

  1. Balance sheet accounts that tell what you own and owe.  These are determined by your checking accounts, inventory, and credit cards.
  2. Income statement accounts that tell you about current period operating results.  These, in turn, have two major categories, income and expenses.  For companies with inventory, expenses are further broken out into cost of goods sold and other expenses.

Three Purposes

A chart of accounts should meet three needs:

  • Make it really fast for you to do your taxes
  • Give you all sorts of “Aha’s”
  • Allow you to spend far more time on revenue analysis than expense analysis because that’s where success lies for small businesses

Taxes

Your accounts should be the same as (or be able to be grouped into) the lines on your tax return.  You can find a copy of the tax form you fill out. For example, a sole proprietor will use a Schedule C of the 1040, and a corporation will complete an 1120.

There are a few special needs, such as meals and entertainment which are only partially deductible, that you need to pay special attention to. We can help you with that.

Aha

As small business owners, we work with a gut feel, but when you see what you’ve made or spent in black and white, it takes on a whole new level of meaning.  Your income statement and other reports should do that for you.  If they don’t you may not have your accounts set up right.

Revenue

Think about how you want to see your revenue:

  • By product line
  • By major supplier
  • By category of solution to the customer
  • By customer type
  • By service type
  • By location (you can also use Class for this)
  • By job
  • By distribution method

We can help you brainstorm based on your industry and type of business.

Actionable Intelligence

If you’ve been putting all your revenue into one revenue account, it will be exciting the first time you see your new Profit and Loss statement.

If you’ve been breaking out your revenue but it hasn’t led to any actionable change in your business, then there may be a better way to break it out.

If you’re happy with the way your revenue is broken out, then think about how you can take it to the next level.

Once you see your new chart of accounts, you will likely have even more questions.  The chart of accounts can be an evolving entity, designed to serve your business needs.

How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

The security breach at Equifax a few months ago left many people thinking once again about identity theft. The best thing is to do everything you can to prevent it from happening to you. Here are a few tips to help you reduce your risk of being a victim of identity theft as well as how to reduce the damage from security breaches of your personal data from sources you can’t control.

Discontinue paper statements that are mailed. 

Paper bank, brokerage, and credit card statements that are mailed can be misboxed, intercepted, lost, or stolen, and the information can fall into dishonest hands. Instead, discontinue paper statements, and access them via your online account where you can review, print, or save them each month for your records.

Rent a private mail box.

If you have trouble with mail theft in your area and can’t check your mailbox as soon as the mail is delivered, consider renting a post office box or a private mail box. These are especially handy if you travel a lot or have many packages delivered and no one is home to sign for them. They cost up to $300 per year, and you can find them at places like The UPS Store, Mailboxes Etc., Postal Annex, or your local post office.

Shred your trash.

If you throw out junk mail offers for new credit cards or bank accounts, be sure to shred that paper and anything else that might contain private information.

Don’t email secure data. 

Credit card numbers, social security numbers, and passwords should not be sent via email unless the email is encrypted or secure. The odds of something happening are low, but could happen.

Use different passwords for different account groups. 

Even the most secure-minded person uses the same password for many different accounts. You can too, but be smart about it. Use a unique password for your bank that you don’t use anywhere else. You might use the same password for all of your social media accounts because it’s just easier. Or another one for all of your free accounts; just don’t use those for any banking or credit card activity. Be smart about your password use, and make your password difficult based on the level of information that is at risk.

Choose hard passwords.

It’s painful, but choosing long, hard passwords can help throw off thieves. Include at least one capital letter, one special character, and one number in your password.  Make it nice and long. And don’t use common words, your birthday, parts of your social security, or your phone number in your password.  When it’s provided, use a random password generator.  And don’t let your browser automatically save your banking passwords for you.

Close inactive accounts.

If you no longer use an account you signed up for, close it rather than let it linger. It will reduce your risk. Be mindful, though; if you close some credit card accounts, your credit score could be adversely affected even if there has been no activity for a while.

Consider freezing your credit.

If you don’t need a new credit card or loan or are not planning a large purchase soon, consider freezing your credit. When you credit is frozen or secure, no one can run checks against it. Any identity thieves would not be able to take a loan out in your name.

Avoid unsecure wifi.

Although the ambience is nice at a Starbucks, the wifi is not secure, and connecting and doing your work all day long there is a big security risk.

Monitor all account activity.

Check your bank and credit card accounts frequently, and turn on all alerts and fraud notifications. You can turn on alerts for when transactions exceed a dollar amount and when your bank balance goes below a certain amount. Getting emails or text messages on your activity can help you stay on top of things.

Consider identity theft insurance.

Identity theft insurance is now common, and you can get it and fraud protection for your business as well as for individuals. If you are a victim, it reimburses you for the cost of restoring your credit. Check with your local insurance agent for more information.

We hope it never happens to you. Try these tips to reduce your risk of identity theft.

Giving a Workshop? How to Short Yourself in One Easy Step

 

Pricing your workshop by using your materials cost as a point of comparison is an approach that is likely to leave money on the table and keep yet another entrepreneur playing small-time by default, all for lack of design.
Long ago, I made the mistake of using my costs as a determining factor for my price point. I practically gave away my product because my materials cost was tiny…but my expertise was exceptional.
Consider the following:
Charge what the market will bear.
See what other people in the area have charged for similar workshops. If it’s more than you were contemplating, yippee! Charge market rates if your audience is the same and your value proposition is the same.
Be aware of who you’re attracting to your workshop and what’s in it for them so you can decide who you want to attract and put together language accordingly.
When you attract people to your workshop who stand to make a financial gain (make or save money) by coming to your workshop, this can drive up the price.
When you attract people to your workshop who stand to save time by coming, then if the opportunity cost of their time is worth anything, this can drive up the price.
Your opportunity here is to decide who your audience is and then tailor your workshop message to help them realize the real value that’s on offer.
Take into account the relationship of risk to price.
The lower the risk for the attendee, the higher the price can be. There are many ways to lower risk, such as guarantees. If you want a list, I can start a list.
Take into account the social value of the event and the relationship to price.
Price something at $10 and you’ll attract people who are willing to pay $10. Nothing wrong with that. But you’ll have to generate a lot more volume to cover your house nut, much less create a real profit. If you’re a volume-generating machine and you want to make the results of a $10 workshop available to many people, go for it.
However, don’t believe that this is your only option.
Price the same thing at $5,000 (and have the value proposition aligned with that) and you’ll attract people who want to be in the same room as other people who can pay $5,000 for a workshop.
My point is that you can design how this goes and not assume that it has to be a certain way.

“Compensating” Volunteers in Your Not-For-Profit Organization

Volunteers have their own reasons for devoting their time to your organization. If you’d like to offer them some perks but need to watch the cost of those perks, watch out.
If you have someone in charge of volunteers, it can be tempting for that person to start creating a lot of rules around those perks. Although some people will do this for a power trip or because that’s the only example they know, most people do it out of a well-intentioned desire to keep costs low for the organization.
However, beware: This will chase away volunteers, guaranteed. Don’t overcomplicate and overadminister something that is a huge arbitrage opportunity.
If your organization provides meals, for example, giving a free meal and beverage is a tiny price to pay for the labor required to make it all happen. Tiny. There’s your arbitrage, turning a tiny financial cost into a huge benefit. Don’t go making rules about which food they can eat or how many cups of coffee they can drink.
Find other ways to increase revenues and reduce costs. When reducing costs, choose expenditures with the greatest financial impact and the least benefit impact.
Start by looking at your financial statements for the greatest cost areas.
Typical cost areas that are worth looking at include:
* office supplies
* leases
* number of users for a technology subscription
* memberships that aren’t being utilized
* items that get renewed automatically on a monthly or annual basis
* insurances
* penalties being paid for being out of compliance
* bank fees
* costs related to having everything on paper instead of paperless back-office operations
* income tax preparation and/or independent audit services – can cost less if your internal staff does work that doesn’t require correcting by the tax preparer and/or auditor (who typically cost more)
* any outside services for which you are paying someone hourly – this is a misalignment of the service provider’s interests with your organization’s interests
* lost opportunities to get not-for-profit rates on technology, products, and services
Which areas might be available to help your not-for-profit save some money this budget cycle?

The Pointillism Maserati

 

Every action that we take either enriches us or impoverishes us.

When we have perfect clarity about which is which, we’ll have the keys to the vault.

Expenses

I was driving through downtown Naples on a beautiful October Saturday. You have probably heard – and rightly so – what a beautiful city Naples is, and certainly there is a lot of wealth here, in the city itself and on lovely Marco Island.

On U.S. 41, the main north-south road connecting the main cities in the area, there are plenty of luxury car dealerships. I don’t mean the Honda Acura. I mean Maserati, Aston Martin, Tesla.

That’s fine.

But these are, for most people, expenses. Most people will not leverage a vehicle into a (spoiler alert!) ROI.

In the heart of downtown Naples is the difference between spending 6 figures to enrich your life or spending 6 figures to impoverish it. Just where U.S. 41 turns to the southeast is a cluster of establishments that spells out that difference in 2 words:

art galleries.

Art appreciates in value. Most vehicles do not. In a given transaction, one type of disbursement is an expense whereas one is an investment.

But while the dealerships are all up and down U.S. 41, you have to go to one special place for those art galleries.

What are the questions you’re asking yourself right now?

 

Browser Productivity Tips You May Not Know

If you spend a lot of time online using a web browser to view web sites or to work in online applications, then you may benefit from knowing these wonderful features about your browser software.

Bookmarks

All browsers support bookmarks, and hopefully you are already using this powerful feature. Which web pages do you need to visit on a daily basis? Those should be ones that have a place on your browser’s bookmark bar. Look for your browser menu to find the bookmark commands you can use to set them up.

Avoid bookmarking your bank, brokerage, and credit card web pages for security reasons, but most everything else is fair game and will save you a lot of time.

Browse Incognito

Need to browse privately?  Many browsers offer incognito browsing which disables browsing history and the web cache. Find this command in your browser menu.

People

Roughly two-thirds of the population use Google Chrome as their browser, and the People feature is unique to Chrome. If you have a situation where you have multiple accounts with one software provider, Chrome allows you to have an entirely separate browser session going on for each person.

Let’s say you’re a social media consultant and manage the Facebook accounts for ten clients. You can set up a “person” in Chrome, one for each client. You then can have ten browser sessions going for each of your clients without having to log out and log back in to each Facebook account.

Do you volunteer at a nonprofit where you manage accounts for them? Set them up as a new person, and you can log in to all of their accounts without impacting yours.

Pretend that different departments of your business are separate people. Set up Accounting as a person in Chrome and log in to all of your accounting apps. Or set up Marketing as a person and log in to all your marketing and social media apps using this person.

Set up a different bookmark bar for each person, pouring rocket fuel on your time savings and decluttering you bookmark bars at the same time.

Set up a new person using the Manage People section in Settings.  Toggle between People by using the button on the tab bar at the top right of your screen just to the left of the Minimize command.

Extensions

Many browsers have extensions or plug-ins which expand the functionality of the browser. Here are couple of favorites.

  • Gmail Offline – allows Gmail users to view their email when they don’t have an Internet connection.
  • AdBlock Plus – tired of ads popping up? Get this extension to thwart them.
  • Momentum – provides a customized, motivational dashboard with weather, time, and daily to-do items.
  • Pocket – allows you to save articles and other content to read later or on your other devices.

Many of the software apps you use every day also have Chrome extensions you can use. Pinterest, Evernote, your anti-virus software, Hootsuite, and others have extensions you can check out and install.

Try these tips to learn your browser software better and become more productive while navigating the web.

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