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Five Ways to Go Green with Your Accounting

With St. Patrick’s Day and spring arriving, March is a great month to have “green” on the mind.  There are green shamrocks, green beer, the green of new vegetation, and there’s even green accounting too.  Here are five ways to make your accounting a little more green.

Business Receipts     

When you spend money on your business, ask for an emailed receipt rather than a paper one if you have an option. More and more vendors are providing this option.   Then when the receipt comes in your email, you can forward it to your bookkeeper and/or upload it to your accounting system.

Smile for the Camera

If the vendor does not offer an emailed receipt, do the next best thing:  take a picture of the receipt with your cell phone.   Some accounting systems allow you to upload the receipt right from your phone, and if you don’t have that feature, you can always email it or upload it to your PC.

PDF Invoices

If you invoice customers, send a PDF invoice via email.  More and more businesses are abandoning the snail mail and getting it to customers faster via email.  They’re getting paid faster, and speeding up your green is usually a good thing.

Online Banking

Many people adopted online banking about a decade ago.   If you’re still getting paper statements, you can get those stopped and download your statements once a month from your online account.  It’s better not to get your statement in the mail anymore; it reduces your risk of identity theft from stolen mail.

Software and Supplies

When possible, purchase your software online and download it rather than making a gas-guzzling trip to the store and purchasing a box.  You can also order your office supplies online and have them delivered.   As long as you buy local, it should be a green purchase, and it will save you tons of time too.

These five ideas will help your accounting become a little more green.

Music and Business: Finding the Measure

While I was enjoying the networking portion of a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Shutterfly’s new facility in Fort Mill, SC last week, I had an interesting conversation with someone. Her area of expertise includes bringing together professionals from the fields of education and business to create new possibilities and new opportunities for the students.

As we were discussing the similarities and differences in the two industries, she asked me what precisely was my instructional field prior to becoming a CPA.

“Music!” I replied.

She said regretfully, “Oh, well, that doesn’t have much to do with business…muzak, maybe.”

I said, “I’ve actually used a lot of my underlying musical knowledge in business, just without the music itself. There are small things that make a big difference.” She looked curious so I illustrated.

Picture yourself in a choir rehearsal. The conductor stops everyone and says, “Let’s go back and practice this section again. Please begin on measure 2, in the third system, on page 5.”

Now everyone has to hold these three pieces of information in their heads and employ additional processing to spit it back out in the reverse order. When you’re acting on the information, you have to find the page, then the system, then the measure. And by the time you get to looking for the measure, half the choir has forgotten it. The flow of the rehearsal is lost as pages are being flipped and re-flipped, the conductor is reduced to repeating the instructions instead of giving the downbeat, and choir members are asking each other , “What system?” “What measure?” instead of singing.

Why make the brain work so hard? Any good choral, band, or orchestral conductor will tell you that effective instructions are conveyed in the same order that they will be processed by brains of the listeners: “Page 5, system 3, measure 2.” Notice the use of “measure 2” over “second measure.” Same idea.

So how does this show up in a business context?

Take a quarterly meeting between a CPA and business owner who is new to the idea of reviewing the company financial statements.

CPA: “Look at that 25K.”
Business owner: [scans documents for 25K, feeling out of sorts and somewhat addled with all of these columns and columns of numbers] CPA: “Yeah, the 25K, in Office Expense, on the P&L.”
Business owner: [Holds information mentally, processes it to act on it in the reverse order…] “Which amount? Where?”

System_and_measure-300x190

The business owner should be leaving these meetings empowered and with clarity in what to do next. Instead his experience of himself is “schmuck,” his experience of financial statements is “inaccessible” and his experience of the CPA is “unrelatable.” He loses out on the valuable business intelligence contained within those financial statements and decides that he’s better off with the “gut” technique. Actually, instinct is the most effective when it is powered by actual facts.

Instead, how about:
CPA: “Let’s have a look at the P&L to see the results of operations this quarter.”
Business owner: [Turns to the P&L.] CPA: “In the Operating Expenses section, about halfway down, is Office Expense. Check out the third column – there’s a 25K increase over last quarter. Tell me the story.”
Business owner: “We created new marketing collateral for an upcoming expo. It’s classy and really shares the opportunity of working with us!”
CPA: Oh, the Chamber expo next month? Sounds exciting! Have your bookkeeper move these expenditures to Marketing Expense instead. Let’s talk about what you’d like to have in place to be able to measure your return on your investment in the expo.”

All because of the order in which information is presented.

“Wow,” said my networking partner. “Musical techniques apply more than I’d realized!”

In which other types business conversations do you imagine that this technique facilitate an amazing and profitable result? 

Why Your Small Business Should Invest in Financial Consulting

As a small business owner, you are juggling a lot of things on your own. You are probably your own sales team, marketing department, and head of customer service. One job you shouldn’t be handling on your own is the role of a CFO–at least, not without some guidance. The financial decisions you make for your business will impact it for years to come, and making sound decisions can help build a stronger business. Our financial consulting services for small businesses will help you reach business goals by providing you with an acting CFO for your company.

As an acting CFO, we can help with your accounting, acquisitions, tax preparations, and more. We can also offer you the financial consulting you need to make good decisions for the future of your business. With our education and experience, you can trust that you are getting the best advice possible and can rely on our expertise to help guide your financial decisions. This is the perfect solution for any small business that needs a Chief Financial Officer but cannot afford to hire one full time. Instead, with Tier One Services, LLC you’ll get the advice and services you need at a plan that fits into your budget.

Call us today and let’s discuss your business and how we can help you. We offer periodic financial consulting on an as-needed basis for your business so you can call on us for help when necessary. This can even make your business look more enticing to investors, because they’ll know you’ve taken steps to make sound financial decisions with your business. Get in touch with us through our website and get the financial consulting your small business really needs!

Yaks, Drachmas, and Orange Juice

Yak

 

Cattle, shells, coins, leather, paper, bits and bytes…we humans created money so I wouldn’t have to lug my yak over to your place to get a fabulous shoe shining. What if you didn’t even need a yak? There I am, stuck with scuffed shoes and a bunch of extra yaks.

For a currency to represent anything of value, enough people have to agree on that representation. The minute that Confederate notes, drachmas, or Pan Am frequent flyer miles are no longer accepted by enough people, they’re useless to me. And no one can convince me to accept gil for my consulting services because I don’t play Final Fantasy. Currency is about faith. I’ll give you a mouth-watering batch of fresh monkey bread and you’ll give me some bits of dirty paper? Are you kidding? I’ll only accept that if I have faith that I can then pass off that paper for something I want, like some decent anti-frizz serum that doesn’t have carcinogens in it.

There is no “true” value of money…it’s always shifting because it’s based on something so personal. Money represents only what I choose for it to represent to me. That includes emotions.<

Here’s the kicker: Once I get that I am responsible for how I relate to money and what it represents, I get that I am free to design that relationship. I get insights into areas in which money is limiting me, and I get to have breakthroughs in those areas.

One of my favorite money stories started with orange juice. I used to buy the cheap stuff – the kind that is sold in a plastic half-gallon jug – the store brand, of course. I really enjoyed it, plus I felt good about being economical. That’s what orange juice was. To me, there was nothing else on the shelf.

David, my husband, invited me to try the pricey stuff. With pulp, in the cardboard container marked “Not from concentrate.” At first I brushed off the invitation. I have no use for expensive OJ.

Then I tried some…and instantly realized that I would never again buy that Brightly Colored Liquid Substance Formerly Known as Orange Juice.

That phenomenon of not seeing the other choices on the shelf? This is known as a “blind spot.” Seeing them for the first time and having a new, finer experience of life as a result? A breakthrough.

My blind spot pertained to missing out on the full richness that life had to offer because I let cost stand in the way even though I had sufficient funds. Others’ blind spots include not realizing that it’s possible to enjoy a financially sustainable life without debt; thinking that one must choose between a healthy paycheck and a fulfilling job; believing that having a “rainy day” savings account would be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Do you know someone with a financial blind spot? What do you wish that this person realizes and then achieves?

Pricing to Win

I was reading a white paper on activity-based pricing models and it got me thinking about a seasoned CPA who was delivering a tax seminar. He was so committed to the success of his fellow CPAs that he went off topic and started talking about the merits of a flat rate over hourly.

Entire industries shift the way they charge their customers. It’s about the ability of a business to keep making available its products and services…and about the way the pricing is perceived by customers, which is impermanent.

Be careful of a “grass is always greener” approach with pricing. It’s not better because it’s different. If it’s better, it’s because there’s a greater match for how the value is perceived by the customers and the model can sustain and grow the business.

CPAs usually charge an hourly fee for their services. However, a customer’s greatest concern is that costs will get out of control in order for a project to be completed. A client shared this concern with me recently as we discussed a suite of services, so we explored alternatives:

  • A fixed fee for the project

Upside for the client: Peace of mind
Upside for the vendor: Peace of mind is valuable, so the price can be set somewhat higher than an estimate based on an hourly rate.

  • An hourly rate with a cap

Upside for the client: Peace of mind and the possibility of paying lower than a fixed fee.
Upside for the vendor: Charge the full hourly rate with no discounts. If the project comes in lower than the cap, rate realization will be high.

  • Success fee

Upside for the client: Guaranteed to come out breakeven or ahead.
Upside for the vendor: Upon realization of the additional cash flows due to cost savings or greater opportunities capitalized upon, the project fee will be greater than either a fixed fee or an hourly rate.

  • Others: Success fee with a low guaranteed minimum; subscription; freemium; premium; hybrids of any of these.

Owners of product-based businesses and owners of service-based businesses have a lot to learn from each other.

I have welcomed aboard more than one good client by being creative with pricing, with no sacrifice to the health of my business.

What area of your business would you like to grow? Consider an alternative pricing model and monitor and measure the impact on your business.

 

How to Avoid Seasonal Bumps in Your Cash Flow

Many businesses operate with seasonal peaks and valleys.  Retail stores just completed their busy holiday season.  Construction contractors are busy when the weather is good.   Accountants are very busy from January through April, but also experience a quarterly peak in July and October.

Your business many have its own calendar of busy and slow times.  If your business goes through slow times, then your cash flow may suffer at certain times of the year.  But having seasonal sales is only one of the reasons for a bumpy cash flow.

You might also have a business where annual payments are made for many items such as equipment purchases, software licenses, insurance renewals, and other large costs.  On the revenue side, it could be that your clients pay you annually, which can be hard to predict.

There are many solutions that can help to smooth out the seasonal bumps, and here are a few ideas for your consideration.

Plan for Prosperity

When income and expenses go up and down and up and down, it’s really hard to know if you have enough money for obligations coming up.  Creating a budget can help a great deal.  Consider creating two budgets:  one that shows the ups and downs and one that averages a year’s income and expenses into twelve equal parts.

With both budgets, you’ll be able to see which months will be deviating from average and by how much.  From there, it’s easy to create some forecasts so you can stay on top of your cash requirements.

Cash vs. Accrual Basis 

It might help your business decision-making to convert your books from cash basis to accrual basis.  This is a huge decision that should be made with an accounting and tax expert, as there are plenty of ramifications to discuss.

In some cases, the accrual basis of accounting will help keep those annual payments from sneaking up on you as 1/12 of the payment can be accrued on a monthly basis to a payables account.  This also keeps your net income figure steadier from month to month.

If your clients prepay their accounts on a yearly basis, you can book the income monthly and keep the difference in a Prepaid account.  This spreads your revenues out and recognizes them over time.

“Hiding” Money

If you feel accrual basis accounting is a little too much of a commitment, your accountant can still work with you to help you avoid the impulse of spending too much during the cash-rich busy season.  Perhaps the excess cash can be put into a savings account until it’s needed.  You can draw out 1/12 each month as you need it.  A little planning such as the above suggested forecasts will help you determine how much you can take out each month.   You can even name the Savings account “Do Not Spend!” or “Save for a Rainy Day.”

If it’s just too tempting to have all that excess cash building up in the good times of the year, try one of the ideas above to take back cash flow control and smooth out those bumps.

Is Your Business Using the Right Accounting System?

Have you ever tried on a shirt or jeans and found they didn’t fit at all?  They looked great on the hangar, but that was the end of it.  Accounting systems come in all sizes, shapes, and colors just like clothing; and just like clothing, some accounting systems fit your business better than others.  It’s not that easy to spot in a mirror when an accounting system does not fit a business, but there are other signs that will give it away.  Here are five of them:

Numerous Workarounds

A workaround happens when your current system cannot do all the things you need it to do.  A workaround can take the form of a spreadsheet, a report, a program, or a database that is created with extra time spent every month so you can get the information out of your system and manipulate it the way you need it to run your business.

Since no accounting system is a perfect fit for any one business, it’s normal to have some workarounds in place to meet your unique business needs.  If you have too many, it might signal that you’ve outgrown your current system and need to find an accounting system that provides you with more functionality.

Downtime or Wasted Time

If you are unable to access your system when you need to do your job, then you are experiencing downtime in one form or another.  You may be waiting for a file to be fixed, or the system may actually be down.  If your system runs slowly, then that’s another form of downtime that wastes your time.  If you have to take time to make backups and perform restorations, this type of activity does not add value to running your business.   When you have too many of these time-wasters, it could be time to look for a better way.

Old Technology

If your accounting system is more than about three years old and you’ve chosen not to update it, then you may be missing out on newer time-saving features that could help you reduce the amount of time you spend doing your accounting.  If your accounting system is more than six or seven years old, then you are definitely losing productivity.  It’s time to bite the bullet and learn a new system so you can experience better profit margins in your business.

Limited Users or Security

If your current accounting system does not provide you with enough users, then you might have more expensive employees doing lower level jobs, which is costing you more in payroll expenses.

You may also need certain user permissions to be more granular than they are in your current system as you grant access to certain parts of the system to different users.   If you’re on QuickBooks, that’s a really easy fix, so please talk to us about this.

We find that user access is a hot button with a lot of business owners, so if it’s true for you, please reach out and let’s have a conversation about this.

Limited Physical Access

If your accounting system is located on a private PC or server in your business, this limits access to your files.  If you have more than one business location, you like to work from home, or your employees work from their homes occasionally, then you may want to look for a system that accommodates “anywhere, anytime” accounting.  This is a pretty easy fix too, as this requirement is now quite common with business owners today.

The same can be said for mobile access.  New apps enable many accounting features to be completed from your mobile phone, such as checking bank balances, approving a bill, and taking a picture of a receipt and uploading it, to name a few.  If you want to do you accounting from your mobile phone, ask us about mobile apps that we can link to your system to enable this functionality.

Boosting Your Accounting Productivity

We might be a little biased, but accounting has gotten to be a lot more fun in the last few years with advancements in technology.  If you see any of the signs listed above, it might be worth a conversation to see if your accounting system is the best fit for your business.   Just reach out anytime.

Celebration of Business Growth

Dawn Johnson, a member of the Tier One Services business ecosystem, has been with State Farm since 1992 and opened her own agency in 2006. Here she celebrates the growth of her agency and shares her secrets for how she made it happen.

Five Ways to Reconnect with Your Passion for Your Business

As business owners, we are a highly self-motivated bunch of people.  We love our businesses, we love helping our customers, and we work very hard at what we do.  Sometimes we work so hard, we get disconnected from our passion.  Occasionally, it’s a good idea to step out of the daily details of business and get ourselves re-energized, reconnected, and rejuvenated about what we do.  Here are five ways to do just that:

Remember Your “Why”

Do you remember why you started your business in the first place?  Many people saw a need and created their business to fill that need.  Others want to help people with the services and products they offer.  Still others have a wonderful skill that when shared, leave people better off.

To help you remember your “why” on a regular basis, consider posting visual clues around your office.  It could be pictures of you and your partner, you and your first sale, you and a product you’ve created, or you and a customer.  Posting these pictures will leave you feeling great and remembering why you sometimes work so hard!

Start a Long Desired Project

It might be time to give your business a gift and get around to that project you’ve wanted to complete.  The project might be a website update, a new internal system, some new equipment, or that new employee you are ready for.  Take the leap and make the change that will breathe fresh air into your passion.

Receive Gratitude

Gratitude always feels great – when we give it and when we receive it.  Ask your customers for testimonials of how your product or service has impacted them.  Then just receive and enjoy.

It always feels great when you know you are appreciated and are recognized for doing a good job.  And since we don’t have bosses, who else will tell us how we’re doing except our customers?

Take a Break

Stepping away from work brings perspective and fresh ideas.  Take a day off, or go on vacation.  Unplugging allows our brain to rest and relax, and when it does, you’ll have a whole new set of creative and passionate ideas to consider when you get back.

Give Yourself a Raise

If you’ve lost passion for what you do, then you might just be due for a raise.  Take a good look at your books, and see if you should increase prices or can find a way to improve your profit margin. Either way, you’ll boost your profits and be able to keep more of what you make.

Try these five ideas to restore the passion you have for your business.  When you are refreshed and rejuvenated, your customers will feel it too.

Six Business Topics and Trends to Study for 2014

Happy New Year!  The New Year brings new areas to benefit from and be aware of.  You’ve likely heard these topics mentioned in the news.  The question is, have you stopped and thought about how they will be impacting your business this year?

The Biggie:  The Affordable Care Act

This new law impacts both employer insurance and taxes of small businesses.  The law is complicated with many definitions and varying effective dates.  It impacts self-employed individuals, business with fewer than 25 employees, and businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

You may be eligible for tax credits, and under certain circumstances, you could be subject to penalties if you don’t act.  It’s best to consult with a tax professional to sort out what it means to you.

Big Data and Data Transparency

In large businesses, big data refers to all of the data that is collected from customer’s habits and purchases.  In small businesses, we do not collect data on the scale that large businesses do, but we do collect customer information.  It will become more important than ever to be transparent about what data is being collected and how it is used.

If you do not already have a privacy policy that you provide to your clients, this may be a good first step in becoming more transparent with your clients about data collection.

Mobile Accounting

Mobile everything is as hot as any trend out there, and mobile accounting is certainly keeping up.  You can now do so much on your phone:  swipe credit cards to take payments, scan receipts and upload them to your accounting system, check credit card and bank balances, pay for things, create invoices, and pay bills.

The days of men with green eye shades and long paper receipts in the back office are long gone.  Accounting goes where you and your phone go.  If you have not downloaded your mobile bank and accounting apps, let us know how we can help you get mobile.

Government Budgets, Shutdowns, and Last Minute Tax Laws

Last year’s tax filing season was compressed due to laws that were enacted at the last minute.  As you might imagine, last-minute tax law changes put the tax software companies and the IRS into a tailspin.  Once forms are finalized and interpretations are published, the accountants then get busy figuring out what’s changed.

Many forms were not finalized last year until early March, but the April 15th deadline remained fixed.  This makes tax accountants have to do a year’s worth of work in about six to eight weeks.  And it’s going to happen again this year because the government was shut down during a key time that the IRS needed to get their systems ready.

To help avoid adding stress to this year’s tax season, you can help your accountant as well as yourself by having your books up-to-date and accurate, getting as much as you can ready early by scanning key documents into digital files, and having a checklist of questions you want to cover at your meeting.

Nexus

As states scramble to balance their budgets, they are constantly looking for new ways to tax businesses, and sales tax is one of their favorite ways.  Nexus means “presence.”  If your business has a presence in a state, you may need to collect and pay sales tax in that state.  If you hire employees or contractors that work from home and are located in a state other than where you are located, you may have nexus in those states.  Check with a sales tax expert who can guide you on these issues.

Engagement and Collaboration

Products and services in the accounting marketplace continue to experience a renaissance in accessibility and enhanced functionality.  This is exciting because small businesses can benefit most by the increased ability to collaborate with their accountant.  Gone are the days of once a year tax consults and never hearing from your accountant.  Now accountants can reach out more often, learn more about your business, and provide valuable collaborative advice to help you reach your financial goals.

If we can help you monetize any of these current events in accounting, please contact us, and let’s have a conversation.

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