As business owners, we want to remain optimistic about our business’s future. But life can happen, and we need to be prepared.  A good business owner thinks about all the risks to their business and has a plan in place to reduce or eliminate them.  In 2017, we’ve already had floods in the Midwest and California, a healthy dose of tornadoes, and an ice storm earlier in the year.  And those are just the weather disasters. Are you ready?

In 2015, Nationwide ran a survey that revealed that three out of four small business do not have a disaster plan.  The same survey noted that 52 percent of small business owners thought it would take three months to recover from a disaster.

The most common solution is to create two plans:

  • A disaster recovery plan, which details the steps needed to recover the business from a catastrophic loss
  • A business continuity plan, which details the steps needed to keep the business running in case of a major loss, such as a loss of electricity, location, or key personnel

There’s a lot of help online to help you create your plan. A few of the major items that should be covered include:

  • Employee safety: you’ll need an evacuation plan in case of a disaster that is life- or health-threatening.
  • Communication plan: how will you reach employees in an emergency?
  • Electricity contingency: will you need to access a generator?
  • Internet contingency: can your business survive without the internet for long periods of time, or will you need to find a way to get connected?
  • Location contingency: if your worksite is inoperable, do employees have another place to report to?
  • Employee roles: who will carry out the plan?
  • Private data: how will you safeguard private company and customer data?
  • Systems: do you have an inventory of hardware and software, including vendor technical support contacts? How will you prioritize which system to get back up first? Do you have agreements with vendors who can come to your aid quickly?

Creating a disaster recovery plan can be the lowest priority item on your to-do list as a business owner – until it isn’t.  If you have a lot to lose, then consider spending some time on a plan to give you peace of mind.

One of the hottest buzzwords in marketing this year is influencer marketing. Influencer marketing uses key people in thought leadership positions to spread the word about your brand.  These people may be paid or unpaid spokespersons for your brands, products, and services.

The profitable thing about influencer marketing is the leverage.  Instead of marketing or selling to one person at a time, you are marketing to key leaders with followings who can influence many people at once.

Influencer marketing varies by industry; here are some common examples:

  • Locating photos of your product already on social media and reaching out to those people to do more
  • Hiring a social media expert with a large following to talk about your clothing line
  • Having a prominent lifestyle blogger post a photograph containing your juice product
  • Starting a referral program for a makeup company so “regular” women will spread the word

The common theme to all of the above examples is finding people who have a huge number of followers that just happen to be your ideal customers.

To take advantage of this marketing method, ask yourself who is influential in your industry that has the ear and respect of your customer base. How could you partner with them so it’s a win for you, them, and their following?  You may or may not need to compensate them, depending on their revenue model.

There are plenty of apps to help you locate influencers relevant to you. A favorite is Ninja Outreach at ninjaoutreach.com.

Try reaching out to influencers to leverage your existing marketing and make your marketing dollars go farther.

For business owners with employers, payroll is a necessary task that can slow your day and tie you down if you let it.  If you’re looking for a way to make payroll less time-consuming, here are five ideas you can put to good use:

  1. Employee Onboarding

If you hire a lot, empower your new hires by letting them do their paperwork for you.  A good payroll system allows employees to “onboard” themselves, completing the I-9, W-4, and direct deposit authorizations electronically, even before they show up for their first day. You’ll still need to ask for ID on their first working day, but at least you won’t have to do their paperwork for them.

  1. Integrate Employee Benefits

Rather than hire several separate companies to handle benefits, some payroll systems allow you to integrate benefits solutions right in their dashboard.  That way, you won’t have to re-enter employee data in multiple systems, which often gets out of sync.  Deductions and payments can also be integrated to save accounting time.

  1. Delegate Timesheet Entry

Require non-exempt employees to enter their own time; all you should have to do is approve it.  The right timesheet application can take care of that, and a great timesheet application will allow employees to enter time from multiple options, including timecard, cell phone, and others.

  1. Eliminate the Annual Worker’s Compensation Audit

Tie your worker’s compensation vendor to your accounting system, and you’ll be able to avoid that time-consuming annual reconciliation report required by your worker’s compensation insurance company.  You can also avoid the large annual payment because the insurance will be taken out each payroll cycle.

  1. Reduce the Frequency of Payroll

It’s not always possible, but if you can pay employees less frequently, you might be able to cut your payroll time in half.  Pay weekly employees every two weeks or pay bi-weekly employees monthly.  Reducing payroll frequency boosts cash flow as well.

Try one of these five ideas to streamline your payroll time and costs in your business.  And as always, let us know if we can help.

You work hard to make sure your QuickBooks data is accurate. Make sure it’s safe, too.
Your QuickBooks company file contains some of the most sensitive information on your computer. You may have customers’ credit card numbers and employees’ Social Security numbers. An intruder who captured all that data could create tremendous problems for you and a lot of other people.
That’s probably the worst-case scenario. But other situations could also spell disaster for your business, which  involve losing your company data through fraud, hacking, or simple technical failures.
We can’t overstate the vital importance of protecting your QuickBooks company file, especially your customer and payroll information. Whether someone steals it or it’s inaccessible for another reason, it’s gone. Keeping your business going after such a loss would be very difficult – maybe even impossible.
Here’s what we suggest to prevent that.
Internal Safeguards
 
No business owner wants to believe that his or her employees could use their QuickBooks access to commit fraud. But it happens. Your company file contains credit card and checking account data that could be used for nefarious purposes. As we discussed just last spring, you can restrict user access to specific areas
and actions of QuickBooks.
You can limit your employees who have QuickBooks access to certain areas and activities.
To get started, open the Company menu and select Set Up Users and Passwords | Set Up Users. The User List window opens. It should have at least one entry there, for you (Admin). Click Add User and enter the employee’s name and password in the next window that opens, then click Next.
Tip: Your QuickBooks license limits you to a specified number of users. If you’re not sure how many you’re allowed, click F2 to open the Product Information page. The number of user licenses you’ve paid for appears in the upper left.
 
On the next page of this wizard, click the button in front of Selected Areas of QuickBooks. The following screens will let you define that employee’s access permissions in areas like Sales and Accounts Receivable, Inventory, and Payroll and Employees. When you’ve clicked through every screen and reviewed the summary displayed, click Finish. Your user will now be able to sign in and access the areas you specified.
You can-and should-take numerous other steps to keep your QuickBooks data safe. If your company is big enough to have a dedicated IT expert, he or she will handle most of this. But there’s a lot you can do on your own to prevent data loss and theft.
Keep Your Operating System and Applications Updated
 

Don’t ignore this dialog box.
Software companies’ occasional updates offer more than just adding new features and fixing bugs. They sometimes refresh your software to ensure greater security based on new threats. Don’t forget about those all-important antivirus and anti-malware applications, as well as QuickBooks itself.
Keep Your Networks Safe
 
Just as a cold virus spreads around your office, so, too, can unwanted intrusions like computer viruses. Don’t allow an electronic epidemic to get started; take steps ahead of time to prevent it:
  • Discourage employees from excessive web browsing. This can be a hard rule to enforce, as some employees probably need internet access for research, timecard entry, and other work-related tasks. Create a firm policy legislating what workers can and can’t do on company-issued equipment (including tablets and smartphones) or any personal devices that use your wireless network.
  • Ask employees to refrain from using public networks on work equipment. Enforce the rules vigorously, and make compliance an element of performance evaluations.
  • Minimize app installations on business smartphones. Employees should ask for approval. Viruses and malware get in that way, as well as through some websites and email attachments.
  • Use monitoring software. If you can’t afford to pay for “managed IT” (a la carte, third-party IT services), install an application that alerts you to problems.
Use Common Sense
 
You can fight data loss and theft by being cautious. Be diligent about backups, and if you create them on a local, portable device, don’t leave them in the office. Cloud-based solutions are better. Shred papers that have sensitive information on them. Log out of QuickBooks when you’re not using it or when you leave your office. Be aware of who may be around you, looking over your shoulder.
We take data security very seriously in our own office, and we strongly encourage you to do the same. Contact us if you’re at all concerned with your own data safety, and we’ll come up with a plan together.
-Thank you
New Business Directions, LLC
It’s one of your more pleasant tasks as a QuickBooks user: receiving payments from customers. 
Here’s how it works. 
QuickBooks was designed to make your daily accounting tasks easier, faster, and more accurate. If you’ve been using the software for a while, you’ve probably found that to be true. Some chores, of course, aren’t so enjoyable. Like paying bills. Reconciling your bank account. Or anything else that has the potential to reduce the balance in your checking accounts.
The process of receiving customer payments is one of your more enjoyable responsibilities. You supplied a product or service that someone liked and purchased, and you’re getting the
money due you.
Depending on the situation, you’ll use one of multiple methods to record customer payments. Here’s a look at some of your options.
A Familiar Screen
 
If you’re like many businesses, you send invoices to customers to let them know what they owe and when their payment is due. So one of the most commonly used ways to record payments is by using the Receive Payments window. To open it, click the Receive Payments icon on the home page or click
Customers | Receive Payments.
 

You’ll use QuickBooks’ Receive Payments screen when you record a payment made in response to an invoice.
 
The first thing you’ll do, of course, is choose the correct customer by clicking the down arrow in the field to the right of RECEIVED FROM. The outstanding balance from that customer will appear in the upper right corner, and invoice information will be displayed in the table below. Enter the PAYMENT AMOUNT and make sure the DATE is correct. (The next field, REFERENCE #, changes to CHECK # only if the CHECK option is selected.)
Next, you’ll need to ensure that the payment is applied to the right invoices. If it covers the whole amount due, there will be a checkmark in every row in the first column of the table. If not, QuickBooks will use the money received to pay off the oldest invoices first. To change this, click Un-Apply Payment in the icon bar and click in front of the correct rows to create checkmarks.
Several Options
 
You’ll then want to tell QuickBooks what payment method the customer is using. Four options are displayed. The possibilities that are visible here are:
  • CASH
  • CHECK
  • CREDIT DEBIT (A specific card type may be shown here if you’ve indicated the customer’s preferred payment method in his or her record.)
  • e-CHECK
If the desired payment method isn’t included in those four, click the down arrow under MORE. If it’s still not there, click Add New Payment Method. This window will open:
The New Payment Method window
 
Click OK. When you choose your new payment method from the list, a window opens containing fields for the card number and expiration date. Click Done after you’ve entered it, and you’ll be returned to the Receive Payments screen. If you’re satisfied with your work there, click Save & Close or Save & New.
Haven’t gotten set up to accept credit and debit cards yet? We can get you going with a merchant account to make this possible. You’re likely to find that some customers pay faster with this option. Your customers will be able to click a link in an emailed invoice and make their payments.
Instant Sales
Depending on the type of business you have and its physical location, there may be times when customers will come in and buy something on the spot. You’ll need to give them a Sales Receipt. Click Create Sales Receipts on the home page or open the Customers menu and select Enter Sales Receipts to
open this window:
The Enter Sales Receipts window
 
You’ll complete this form much like you entered data in the fields of the Receive Payments window. As you can see, you can print the mail for the customer and/or email it.
After all the hard work you’ve done to make your sales, the last thing you want to do is record a payment incorrectly so it isn’t processed and you don’t get paid. Though QuickBooks makes the mechanics of receiving payments simple enough, you still should understand the entire process involved in getting income into the correct accounts.  We’re available to help with this and any other areas of QuickBooks