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Archive for the Bookkeeping Tips Category

Eight Ways to Increase Your Profits

Increasing your profits might sound like it’s an unattainable dream just out of your reach. But there are a finite number of ways that profits can be increased. Once you understand what they are, you’ll have clarity on how to best reach your goals.

There are two primary ways to increase profits:

  • Raise revenue
  • Lower expenses

That’s not particularly enlightening or instructional, is it? Let’s look at the four ways you can increase revenues and the four ways you can reduce expenses to get clearer on what actions we can take.

Four Ways to Increase Revenue

1. Raise prices

The easiest way to raise revenue is to simply raise prices. However, this is not foolproof and assumes you’ll be able to maintain the volume of sales you’ve achieved in the past.

This method is also limited by market demand, what your customers are willing to pay.

2. Add new customers

Adding new customers is what most entrepreneurs think about when raising revenue. Increasing your marketing or adding new marketing methods is typically the way to add new customers.

Another related option is to work hard to keep the customers you already have. You can also potentially contact the customers you lost and ask them to come back.

3. Introduce new products or services

For some companies, your products and services are changing every year. For others, not so much. To increase revenue, consider adding new products or services that will bring in an additional revenue stream that you didn’t have before.

Even if your products are changing every year, you can consider adding something completely different that your customer base would love.  For example, a hair salon could add a nail desk, a clothing store could add handbags or shoes, a grocery store could add a coffee bar, a restaurant could add catering, a landscaper could add hardscaping, and so on.

4. Acquisition

The final way a business can increase revenue is to acquire another business in a merger or acquisition.

Four Ways to Reduce Expenses

1. Negotiate for a better deal with vendors

If you’ve been working with a vendor for a while, you may be able to re-negotiate your contract with them. This is especially common with telecom companies. Call you phone provider and ask them for the latest deal. They always favor new customers over long term customers, but they don’t want to lose customers either. Just calling them usually yields a better price than what you are paying now.

2. Change vendors

If a vendor has gotten too expensive, it might be time to look for a new vendor. Health care insurance seems to be in this category. Often, changing providers will lower your costs.

3. Cut headcount

If there is not enough work to support your employees or not enough cash flow to pay them, then it might be time for a layoff or restructuring. You might also consider outsourcing a function that you previously did in-house.

4. Cut the expense or reduce services

It might be your business no longer needs to spend money on an expense. Perhaps this expense has been automated. In this case, it’s an easy decision to cut the expense out entirely.

Those are the eight ways to increase profits. Which one makes the most sense in your business? Create a plan around these eight ideas to boost your profit in 2017, and let us know if we can help.

Is There Really a 4-Hour Workweek?

Tim Ferriss made the 4-hour workweek a popular concept in his 2007 book.  But is there such a thing, and more importantly, can business owners like you and me cash in on it?  As the last of the Baby Boomers approach retirement, the topic of working less while making the same or more income is popular.

Here are five ideas to help you work fewer hours while making the same or more income.

Active vs. Automatic Revenue

Some business models allow you to generate automatic revenue.  Automatic revenue is revenue you can earn and leverage over time by doing something only once and not over and over again.  Active revenue is earned while doing something over and over again.  Showing up for a teaching job with a live audience is active revenue while producing and selling video recordings of the same teaching is automatic revenue.

A goal of a 4-hour workweek concept is to increase automatic revenue while reducing active revenue.  You may have to think out of the box to do this in your industry, but the payoff can be huge.

Delegation and Outsourcing

One traditional way to move to a 4-hour workweek is to have others do the work.  Hiring staff frees up your time and allows your business to become scalable.  When it runs without you, it’s more salable too.

Time Batching

If you have a lot of distractions in your day, you can easily double your productivity by learning time batching, which is grouping like tasks together in a block or batch of time and getting them done.  For example, if an employee interrupts you with questions multiple times a day, train them to come to you only once a day to get all their questions handled at one time.  Take your calls one after the other in a group, and then stay off the phone the rest of the day.  Do the same with email, social media, running errands, and all of your other tasks.

Automation and Procedures

New apps save an amazing amount of time. List all of your time-consuming chores and then find an app that helps you get them done faster.  For example, a scheduling app can reduce countless emails back and forth when setting meetings and appointments.  To-do list or project management software can cut down on emails among you and your staff.  And apps like Zapier can connect two apps that need to share data, reducing data entry.

Leverage

The key to working less is to embrace the concept of leverage.  How can you leverage the business resources around you to save time, increase staff productivity, and improve profits?  It takes discipline and change, two difficult goals to accomplish.  But when you do, you will be rewarded.

Signs You Might Be Outgrowing Your Accounting System

If you’re struggling with your accounting system, it might be a sign that you’re ready for something new.  Perhaps your company has grown so much that it’s outgrown its older accounting solution.  Here are several indications to look for that justify moving to an accounting system with more features and scalability.

User Permissions

Some companies have a need to limit certain functions to certain users.  Most systems come with basic functional limitations, such as restricting Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable functions.  But what if you need more granular user permissions such as access to only purchase orders or a certain bank account?  Mid-market systems like QuickBooks Enterprise provide those features.

Multiple Companies and Consolidated Financial Statements

Do you have multiple companies that are the “children” of a parent company?  You might need consolidated financial statements and the ability to open multiple companies at the same time.

Number of Customers and Vendors    

If your business is growing and the number of customers and vendors you do business with exceeds 14,500, you will have reached a list limit in QuickBooks Premier.  Each system has their own list limits, and these limits can get complex quickly, so check with us if you feel you are getting close.

File Size and Performance 

There may also be file size limits that you need to watch, especially if you have a high volume of transactions or multiple years of history in one file.

You could also have performance issues.  If you have a new PC and your accounting system is still running slowly, we can help you improve your performance by condensing your file or setting preferences differently before you have to switch.

Inventory Features

A mid-market system like QuickBooks Enterprise provides advanced features, such as tracking inventory in multiple locations, using the FIFO method, and managing lots or serial numbers.  If you need these features, it may be worth it to switch.

Enhanced Customization   

Most mid-market accounting systems provide better customization such as additional custom fields, better reporting, and improved form design.

Number of Simultaneous Users

The final reason to switch to a larger accounting system is if you need more simultaneous users.  QuickBooks Pro allows for up to three simultaneous users, QuickBooks Premier handles up to five, and QuickBooks Enterprise makes room for up to 30 simultaneous users.  QuickBooks Online allows up to 25 simultaneous users.   Check with us if you are curious about your system’s license limits.

Did any of these reasons resonate with you?  If so, let us know so we can discuss your needs.

What’s Your DSO?

If you grant credit to customers, then you have a balance in accounts receivable. DSO stands for Days Sales Outstanding, and this helps you measure how fast your receivables are being converted to cash.

Here’s how to calculate it:

DSO = Accounts receivable balance / Annual net credit sales * 365.

DSO is measured in days and it represents how many days it takes to collect the customer invoice balance and convert it to cash.

Whether the DSO measure is “good” or not varies by industry as well as the terms you’ve set for your clients. If you’ve set your invoices to be due in 30 days and your DSO is 45 days or less, that’s pretty good. If you’ve set your invoices to be due in 10 days and your DSO is 60 days, then you might want to consider a more aggressive collection policy to speed up your cash flow.

Here are some tips to reduce DSO:

1. Invoice clarity.

Make sure your invoices are accurate and clear. Make it clear whom to make the check out to, where to mail it, the due date, and the amount due. All of these features should be easy to find on the invoice.

2. Consider discounts.

A common discount term is 2/10, net 30. This means the customer can take two percent off their invoice if they pay in 10 days; otherwise they owe the whole amount in 30 days. If you have customers from large companies, discounts are often required by policy to be taken and this can speed up your payments from them.

3. Consider electronic payments.

Going paperless with your invoicing as well as your payment process can speed up the entire billing cycle. Customers getting their bills earlier will also pay earlier.

What’s your DSO? If you need help calculating it, give us a call.

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.


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.

Is It Time for Spring Cleaning Your Business Files?

How much time do you spend each day looking for information about orders, customers, vendors, or employees?  If it’s a lot, a little spring cleaning might pay off.  Here are five quick tips to assess and improve your information access.

Your Librarian

Large companies often have a librarian on staff that is in charge of stored documents, both physical and virtual.  It’s not a bad idea to have this function in your small business, although you certainly don’t want to devote an entire headcount to it.

Today, a company librarian might be in charge of the company’s document portal, which is a very secure area where company documents can be stored.  It might be on the company server or in a secure area of the cloud.  There are companies that offer secure file storage, accessible through document portals.

The librarian will also be in charge of creating recordkeeping policies and procedures.

What’s in a Name

One such procedure that brings order to chaos is setting naming conventions for client files and folders.  Set consistency by using a naming standard such as having a client file name always start with the last name of the client followed by a birth date, or something else unique.

It will save time each time you look up a file because you’ll always know where to look.  Even if it’s only seconds saved per lookup, that time will add up to minutes and hours saved over a year.  That will save you labor costs.  A naming standard will also look professional in front of the client.

Permanent vs. Transactional

Get uber-organized by separating your important long-term legal papers from your transactional documents.  Long-term papers such as your corporate by-laws and tax returns should have a special place away from your day-to-day invoices and receipts.  Also keep major purchases such as settlement documents from real estate transactions in a special file that you’ll keep for many years.

Your daily transactional files should be batched up by month or year and stored accordingly.  You’ll be able to delete these files after their retention period is up, while you’ll want to keep your long-term legal papers almost forever.  You still won’t be able to throw away your annual documents too soon – some agencies require you to keep transactional documents for as long as 11 years.

Paper or Paperless

What percentage of your business documents is scanned and stored online?  If you’d like to increase this percentage, then make a plan to convert your paper into scanned documents you can access online.  So that it’s not such an overwhelming task, break it down into smaller chunks:   start with one area of your business at a time or one vendor at a time.

Purchase a scanner for everyone in your office, and you’ll soon find your office getting more and more paperless by the week.  You can also have fun taking pictures of receipts on your cell phone and uploading the documents to your document portal.

A Backup Plan

So that you don’t lose your documents to a catastrophe, theft or any other disaster, make sure you have a backup of all of your documents so you are able to recover them.

This is where paperless shines over paper, because there is always risk of fire with the latter.  It’s also where a secure document portal beats your company server anytime because of the elaborate layers of security that are required for secure commercial data centers.

After you implement these five tips, you may not even need to do a spring cleaning.  You’ll be organized and efficient, and that’s good for business.

Optimize Your Revenue Mix for More Profits in 2014

Many small business owners focus on generating more revenue every year, and that’s a great objective.  But not all revenue is created equally.  If you sell more than one product or service in your business, then you can benefit from looking at your revenue mix.

Although it’s fun to watch our revenues grow, it’s the profit number that really matters.  If your expenses grow faster than your profits, then you have a lot of activity going on, but you don’t get to keep as much of what you make, which is what really matters.

An insightful exercise to try is to take a look at your revenue mix.  Then you can ask “what if?” to optimize your profits.

Your Revenue Mix

Let’s say you offer three different services: Services X, Y, and Z. Your revenue pie looks like this:

X:  $1.4 million or 70% of the total

Y:  $0.3 million or 15% of the total

Z:  $0.3 million or 15% of the total

Total:  $2.0 million

In this example, Service X is clearly the service making you the most revenue in your business.  But is it making you the most profits?

The profit you receive from each of these service lines is as follows:

X:  $160K

Y: $20K loss

Z:  $60K

Total:  $200K

While Service X is generating the most profit volume for your business, it’s actually Service Z that’s the most profitable.  Earning $160K on $1.4 million yields 11.4% return on Service X, but earning $60K on $300K yields nearly double the return at 20%.  Service Z generates the most return.   And if possible, Service Y may need to be discontinued or turned around.

Optimizing Profits

Your strategy for a more optimum revenue mix might be to sell as much of Service Z as possible, while eliminating or fixing the problem around Service Y.

It’s fun to experiment with different revenue mixes.  And of course, there are many more variables besides profit, such as:

  • Which service do you prefer to work on?
  • Are you able to sell more of the most profitable service or are there marketing limitations?
  • Is one service a loss leader for the others?
  • Are you able to adjust price on the lower margin services to increase your profits?

There are many more questions to ask and strategies to consider to make you more money, which is why we love our job!

A New Year, A New Mix

We hope you’ll spend some time analyzing your revenue mix and having fun asking yourself “what if?”   If we can help you expedite the process or add our perspective, please reach out anytime.

Five Tips to Get Ready for a Pain-Free Tax Time

With the holiday season just around the corner, it’s a perfect time to get your financial records in order.  Tax moves you make now can mean finding more “green” to spend on family gifts and festivities.  Here are five quick tips for you to feel more prepared about your financial status as you go into year-end.

Avoid Penalties

This time of year is ideal to double-check your tax payments to make sure enough has been paid in, and even more important, to avoid overpaying so your money is not tied up unnecessarily. If you’re not sure of your 2013 tax liability, check with your tax preparer.

Balanced Books

Rather than wait until the busiest time of year for accountants and bookkeepers, you can get a head start now on catching up your books  You’ll have more of their attention and you may even avoid a rate increase if you get your books done early.  Completed bank reconciliations are a very important part of catching up.

Forms

It’s not too early to get your orders in for the forms you need at year-end like your W-2s, W-3s, 1099s, and 1096s.  That way, your forms will be onsite when you’re ready.

Records

Information that’s missing at the last minute can take up extra time and be costly.  It’s a great idea to do an audit now of W-9s to grab missing addresses and tax ID numbers of your contractors.  Also do a scrub of your employee payroll records so that your W-2s will be complete and accurate.

New Tax Changes

Be sure to check with your advisors on new laws affecting individuals and businesses next year.  One of the biggest ones making news is avoiding the fine involved regarding the new health care requirements for individuals.  And there are many more you’ll want to get up to speed on so that you’ll know how they affect your situation.

We know it’s early to be talking about taxes, but we’re also all about saving you money and time.  Try these five tips so you’ll have better peace of mind and be more prepared for year-end.

Five Best-Practice Accounts Payable Tips for a Smoother Cash Flow

Watching the cash balance is one of the most frequent activities of a small business owner.  Besides making sure you have enough cash for payroll and bills, there is another huge opportunity you can benefit from: lowering the cost of processing your bills.  It can be expensive and time-consuming to process bills and handle the paperwork involved.  We’ll take a look at a couple of the many ways you can streamline your accounts payable processing costs in this article.

Opportunity #1:  Go Digital

The Intuit Payment Network (IPN) is a best-kept secret when it comes to sending and receiving money.  It’s free to set up your account, and it’s also free for your receiver to set up an account.  All you do is add your bank account, and you can easily transfer funds between the two accounts just by knowing the receiver’s email address.

The receiver of money only pays 50 cents per transaction, so when you have a large transfer of funds, it’s totally worth it.  It saves you postage, check stock, envelopes and the related mailing labor.  You could even increase your payment by 50 cents so that your receiver receives exactly what you owe them.

Another way to go digital is via PayPal.  Fees vary, and are usually paid by the receiver.

Opportunity #2:  Get Control

When it comes to finances, it’s never a good idea to mix business and personal, especially when it’s coming out of the same bank account.  Keep separate accounts for business and personal, and your bookkeeping costs will go way down.  Do the same thing for credit cards as well.

If you’re comfortable with credit cards and you can maintain control of your spending, it saves accounts-payable time when you can charge everything you spend on business to your credit card as long as you pay it off every month.  Using your card is faster at checkout than writing a check these days, so you’ll save time on errands as well.

Opportunity #3:  Automate

Put recurring expenses such as utilities, rent, accounting, and other monthly bills on bank draft or autopay if the vendor has that option.  This will save you a huge amount of time, supplies, and postage.  You can also be more accurate with the timing of the payment which will allow you to keep your money for as long as possible until the due date arrives.

Opportunity #4:  Verify

We hope you never pay bills that aren’t yours, but it can happen.  To avoid it as much as possible, implement a three-way matching process on all your payables, especially those related to inventory.  The three-way part refers to the three documents involved in accounts payable:

  • The purchase order
  • The packing slip
  • The invoice

Before any invoice is paid, these three documents should be matched line by line – for quantity, price, and description — to ensure you ordered and received what you paid for.  Only then should your bill be approved.  This will ensure that you don’t pay a fraudulent bill, you don’t pay for out-of-stock that didn’t ship and that you paid the correct price you agreed to in the first place.

Please feel free to reach out and ask us about this if you’d like to know more.

Opportunity #5:  Tell Yourself a Little White Lie

There’s an old saying:  “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”  If you’re always moving money around form one checking account to another to cover bills and payroll, you’re not the only small business owner who juggles funds.  It takes up valuable time to make all these transactions, and then it costs to record them and track them.

Reduce all that by telling yourself a little white lie about your bank balance.  If your bank balance is $10,000, tell yourself it’s only $5,000 (or whatever amount makes sense for you).  That way, you’ll always have a cushion in your account that will help you reduce transfers.  There are several ways to set this “little white lie” up in your books.

More A/P Ideas

These are only five of many ways you can reduce your processing costs and save time on accounts payable processing.  Give these five accounts payable ideas a try, and if you’d like to know more, please reach out and let us know.

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