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Five Ways to Streamline Data Entry

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?

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.


Planning for a Fabulous 2015

The holiday month of December brings celebration as well as reflection for all the events that occurred in 2014.  It also gives us great hope for a new fabulous start in 2015.  Here are three ideas to start 2015 with a bang.

  1. Find a focus for the year.

    Instead of getting into the rut of making and breaking resolutions, consider having a focus for the entire year.  Choose your focus from among things like:

    • Developing a department in your business, such as your sales, marketing, operations, HR, admin, or another.  The focus will be on building or expanding the department you’ve chosen to work on.
    • Changing your company culture to a trait or aspect you want to be known for.  Developing the trait will be your focus.
    • Building a relationship with an individual or a group of people related to your business.  The relationships are the focus.

  2. Live by a theme for 2015.

    Your theme could be an emotion or expression such as gratitude or compassion.  It could be a color – purple – just for fun.  You might adopt a favorite quote or religious verse or even song.  Your goal for the year will be to embody your theme and/or bring it into other’s lives as well.

  3. Do the one big thing.

    Are you holding back on a huge dream for yourself?  Then take steps in 2015 to move closer to it.  Make 2015 your year to do the one big thing that’s been weighing heavily on your mind.  Just think how you’d feel if you finally did it; your life would be forever altered.

Happy 2015Write your focus, your theme, or your one big thing on dozens of sticky notes, and plaster them everywhere.  Mark your calendar and to do list with reminders and milestone checks.  Make art out of your sticky notes, and post them on the refrigerator door and your office walls.  That way, the reminder will be physically with you all year.

We wish you a happy and healthy new year to you and yours.

It’s Bonus Time

Year-end is a great time to think about rewarding your staff for a job well done in 2014.  Here are a couple of quick tips to help you make the most of bonuses while protecting your business and cash flow.

  1. Timing.  Would you be better off timing bonuses in this year to reduce 2014-year taxes or to wait until next year so they impact the 2015 tax year?  It’s something to consider before you dish them out.  Do what’s best for your business.
  2. The pretty holiday envelope.  It might be tempting to hand out envelopes of cash but it’s oh-so illegal.  Making payroll in cash is illegal in most states, and bonuses are part of payroll.  Stick to the payroll system to generate your bonuses even if it’s boring, and you’ll stay out of trouble.
  3. Pesky deductions.  Bonuses are subject to payroll deductions just like any other payroll check, so please don’t forget that.  If you write a check for $1,000 to an employee, you will be liable for taxes on the gross-up, and this ranges between 20% to 30%.  So that $1,000 bonus just turned into $1,200 or $1,300, which is quite generous but might not be what you really meant!
  4. Sticking around.  Bonuses are a great motivator and can help keep employees from leaving, thereby reducing your turnover costs.  If possible, announce a bonus structure ahead of time so employees will have something to work toward and “earn.”
  5. Invisible costs of bonuses.  Bonuses will drive up your workers compensation, state and federal unemployment costs, and any other costs that are related to gross wages, so do take all of that into consideration when issuing bonuses.
  6. Beyond money.   Money is a great motivator, but you may want to provide non-cash bonuses to your employees for extra special memories.  If you do, your tax accountant can help you get the transaction recorded properly.         

Bonuses are fun for everyone, and we hope these tips will help you make the most out of them in your business.

Catching Up with Your Contractors Before 1099 Time

In a little over a month, it will be 2015 and time for year-end accounting chores.   One of those chores is getting your 1099s out, and now is a good time to tie up loose ends so the year-end process can go smoother.  Here are some tips to do just that:

  1. Go through your vendor list and make sure each contractor that you are paying is marked in your accounting system as a contractor eligible for a 1099.
  2. Obtain a W-9 form from each contractor if you haven’t already, and update the address and federal EIN for each contractor.  This will ensure that you have the most current information for each contractor and that they will receive their 1099 promptly.

    If you need to make any changes in the way you are paying them or withholding taxes, you’ll have a chance to update that information as well.
  3. Ask your contractors for a worker’s compensation certificate.  If you don’t have one, you might need to add their payment totals to your payroll amounts on your worker’s compensation audit worksheet.
  4. If your accounting system doesn’t break out payment type, you’ll need to do that on a separate spreadsheet before you input the 1099 amounts.  Contractors paid with a check will require 1099s.  Contractors paid via PayPal or credit card will not.   If you have paid them both ways, you will need to break it out.  You can do the bulk of the work now and post the remainder of the year after year-end.
  5. Consider re-evaluating each contractor as to whether they meet the employee versus contractor tests from the IRS.  If you are accidentally misclassifying a contractor who the IRS defines as an employee, you will be responsible for social security, withholding, and other payroll taxes, which can add up to huge numbers for small businesses.

    This is a “red flag” area for the IRS, meaning they are looking to “bust” employers.  However, they also have a Voluntary Classification Settlement Program for people who have been misclassifying workers in the past and want to come clean.

Following these five steps will put you in great shape for year-end.  And if you need help catching up with your contractors or with any related issues, please let us know.

What Is Real-Time Accounting (and Why Should You Care)?

Real-time accounting is when your books are caught up to the present and you know exactly where you stand with your account balances, revenue, and profit.  It’s truly doing your accounting in real time.

The opposite of real-time accounting is getting your books done once a year (or worse, being years behind).  When you wait to do your books once a year, say at tax time, you lose the power of being able to monetize opportunities in real time.   Some examples are realizing your prices are too low and your profit margins need adjustment, seeing what’s selling well and restocking sooner than later, or discovering a worker is not productive based on your pay rates and prices.

Today’s cloud accounting systems and bank feeds allow you the potential for real-time accounting, where the benefits include:

  • Better cash flow management
  • Faster correction of pricing, hiring, stocking, and margin mistakes, saving money and increasing profits faster
  • Faster identification of any tax liabilities as well as the ability to reduce or eliminate penalties from paying late or underestimating taxes due
  • Ability to see whether you are making a profit or a loss
  • Potential to catch fraud or identity theft much faster if you become a victim
  • Lower accounting costs when errors snowball over time
  • More peace of mind
  • Ability to be more proactive in your business management, capitalizing on opportunities that show themselves in the numbers

Consider moving to real-time accounting if you haven’t already.  For example, if your books are done annually, moving to quarterly or monthly services will begin to provide the advantages listed above.

How Understanding Assets vs. Expenses Can Make You Rich

Assets and expenses both have a “debit” balance on the financial statements, but that’s where their similarities end. Spending on one can make you rich and spending too much on the other can leave you broke.

An expense is money you may need to spend, but after a year, there is nothing lasting to show for it. An asset is a tangible resource that is still worth something after a year or more and that belongs to you or your business. The best assets grow in value over time, but some lose their value too. Real estate typically goes up in value, while a car loses value, or depreciates heavily, in its first few years.

The best example of an asset versus an expense is spending on a mortgage versus rent. When you pay a mortgage, you own more of the property than you did last month. One day, you can sell your ownership in the property and get cash or another asset in trade. When you pay rent, there’s nothing left at the end of the month. There’s no accumulated value.

Generally speaking, spending on an asset builds or at least better preserves your wealth. Spending on an expense drains your worth because you don’t own anything at the end.

The path to building your wealth is to spend on assets when you have a choice and minimize expenses when you can.

In the book “The Millionaire Next Door,” one of the top examples to build wealth is to avoid replacing your car as long as you dare. It used to be a habit for some families to replace their car every two years. With today’s reliable models, you can go between five to ten years without having to replace your car. Although a car lasts more than a year and is considered an asset, it still loses value every year.

Investing in assets and reducing expenses will build your business’s net worth and increase profits. Look for ways you can apply this to your business and watch your money grow. As always, reach out if you’d like to know more.

What’s Your Hourly Worth?

Time is the most precious resource on the planet, but sometimes we don’t treat it that way. In our businesses, it’s important to get everything done, but we can also get overwhelmed with all the little things that need to be done to take care of customers. One of the big differences between highly successful entrepreneurs and less successful ones is how they manage their time: the more successful simply value it more and treat it as the scarce commodity it is.

A great exercise to bring this home is to track what you do in one day. You can write a diary as you go through the day or simply recall what you did at the end of the day. List the tasks you did; then write the hourly market rate of each task you did next to the task.

Did you spend time on low-level tasks such as email cleanup, filing, order-taking, order filling, or handling routine customer questions? Or did you spend time calling up power partners, dreaming up new products or services, or restyling your marketing message so that it’s more impactful and reaches more customers?

What was the average hourly rate of the tasks you did today? Multiply that by 2,000 hours and compare it your gross revenues. If your gross revenues were higher than the value of the tasks you did today, then your revenue might be stagnant. If your annualized day was worth more than your gross revenues, then congratulations; you’re moving up and giving yourself a raise. Your business is likely growing.

If you’d like a raise, then the first thing to do is to start delegating the lower level tasks that are eating up all your time. They might be a comfortable way for you to pass the time, but they could also be keeping you stuck, overwhelmed, and moving toward burnout.

We all have the same amount of time each day. If we can free up our time to focus on more powerful action items that move our business forward instead of the chores that clog our progress, then our success will accelerate.

Navigating Nanny Taxes and Household Payroll Compliance

Time is precious for most of us these days, and often, we need help at home so we can have more time to run our businesses or careers.  That may mean hiring help for personal tasks such as caregiving for the young, elderly, or special needs family member.  When you first hire a household worker, there’s a whole different set of rules to follow compared to hiring for business.

Underground Payroll

There is a whole industry of “underground” payments made to domestic workers.  Individuals such as housekeepers, regardless if they live with you full time or work once a month, are wrongly paid as contractors, and often in cash, most of the time.  According to the IRS, in court case after court case, these workers should be paid as household employees, even if they are part-time.

Cracking Down

One of the focus areas for the IRS is this area of household payroll.  The current and strong drive to bring this underground payment system to the light is caused by several new pieces of legislation.  A few states have recently passed a domestic workers bill of rights.  Changes in minimum wage and overtime requirements are going into effect in 2015.  And the health care act requires workers to document their wages before they can qualify for a subsidy, so this can bring more workers asking you to get them fully documented on your books.

Getting It Right

The need to hire household workers is rising due to the silver tsunami – a term describing the aging of the populous Baby Boomer generation and their growing need for health care, which will truly stretch our system based on their numbers.

Expert Guidance

When your family makes the decision to hire household workers, seek expert guidance so that you can get through the maze of compliance in this area.  You’ll want to be sure you learn about the risks and compliance issues in this area so that you can properly protect your personal wealth as well as your peace of mind.  And if we can help, please reach out and let us know.

How to Read Your Balance Sheet

The Balance Sheet is an important report in your business’s financial statements.  Most small business owners are unsure of what all of the numbers mean on this report, so let’s see if we can shed some light on what they mean.

A Summary of Balances

One big characteristic of a balance sheet is that it represents one date in time, for example, 12/31/2014.  The numbers represent balances, and since the balances change daily, a balance sheet only represents one point in time versus a range.

Three Parts

There are only three parts to a balance sheet, and the easiest part to understand is the assets, or what you own.  Most balance sheets start off with cash balances, and these typically represent what you have in the bank less any uncashed checks that could reduce your account once they come in.

If customers owe you money that you have invoiced but not collected, you might see an Accounts Receivable balance on your balance sheet.

If you sell products, the cost of all of them that you haven’t sold yet and that you may have stored in a warehouse is in the Inventory account.

If you own equipment, furniture, cars or trucks or something similar that lasts for years, you will have a balance in Fixed Assets for what you paid for these items.   If it’s been a while since you’ve owned them, you may have a Depreciation account, and when you net the two, your Fixed Asset values are reduced.

All of the above are assets and they are listed in the first section of a balance sheet.

What You Owe

If you owe money for taxes, to vendors, or to employees, then it will show in the Liabilities section which is the second of three major sections of a balance sheet.  Day to day unpaid bills are in an account called Accounts Payable.

If you have bank loans, they usually each have a separate account like a bank account does.   Each bank loan account represents the principal due on a loan (the interest you pay goes to another place).

Equity 

The final section of the balance sheet is Owner’s Equity.  It is the section that will vary the most depending on the type of entity your business is set up as.  For example, if your business is a corporation, then there will be a common stock account which will represent the original amount of money you put into the business; it will match the Articles of Incorporation that you drew up when you incorporated.  This amount will rarely ever change for the life of the business.

There is also usually an account called Paid-in Capital which is how much additional money you’ve put in or taken out of the company beyond the common stock balance.

A corporation will also have a Retained Earnings account.  This reflects accumulated profit (or loss) through the years of operation.

If your business is set up as a partnership, the equity section will include an account for each partner that represents their balance in the firm, which is the net amount of money they have put into the business over the years plus or minus the business income or loss through the years.

Keeping It Simple

These are the very basics of the numbers represented on your balance sheet.  If you have questions about any of the numbers, please feel free to reach out and ask.

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