The two major ways entrepreneurs can take money from their business is through draws or by receiving a paycheck. The type of entity in which their business is set up will determine which method can be used. In either case, entrepreneurs need to be careful not to shortchange themselves.
Especially if you’re running a service business, it’s easy to initially think you can do well with a similar hourly rate that you earned as an employee. Here’s a quick list of five elements that should be included in the compensation of every entrepreneur:
1. Competitive Pay
If you were doing the same work for a company that hired you, what would your pay be? Are you making at least market equivalent or better? A lot of times, as entrepreneurs, we tend to focus only on this piece of our compensation when we set our pricing, and that’s a big mistake. It’s only 75 percent of what our total pay needs to be.
As an entrepreneur, you take extra risk when you own your own company, and you should be compensated accordingly. Your capital is tied up in your business and should be earning a good return in addition to your reasonable compensation.
Employees get vacations, health insurance, and bonuses; and you should too. This should be part of your compensation package as an entrepreneur.
Although our individual taxes are not deductible as business expenses, we need to compensate for them so that we’ll have enough cash for our living expenses. It’s a huge chunk too. We work about three and a half months every year, just to pay for our taxes.
5. Retirement Plan
When you work for yourself, no one is going to fund your retirement for you. Although the Social Security program helps a lot of seniors, it’s up to you to set additional money aside for a comfortable future.
Your compensation should include all of these components. If it doesn’t and you feel like you can’t afford to pay yourself that much, then your pricing might not be reflecting all of these items correctly, you might have a volume problem, or your business model may need some adjusting.
It’s normal to take a smaller paycheck the first few years as we’re building our businesses, but if you’re still doing it after several years or constantly having cash flow issues, then something may be wrong.
If you’d like our help in this area of your business, please reach out and let us know.
Make sure your future is bright and financially secure by including all five components in your entrepreneur compensation.
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:
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 from 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.
Increasing your income is good. But even if you can’t, you can still take steps to collect the money you’re already owed faster. Here are five ways.
If you asked five small business owners to name the top three roadblocks they face in their quest for ongoing profitability, it’s likely that all five would point to slow payments.
It’s everyone’s problem. Accounts receivable requires constant monitoring. As satisfying as it can be to dispatch a group of invoices, you know that it’s going to take some work to bring in payment for at least some of them.
By using QuickBooks’ tools and complying with accounting best practices, you’ll be more confident during the invoicing stage that what you’re owed will actually be in your bank account in a reasonable amount of time. Here are five things that we suggest.
Let Customers Pay Invoices Electronically
Figure 1: You’re likely to get paid faster if you let customers pay electronically when they receive an invoice. Go to Edit | Preferences | Payments | Company Preferences.
A few years ago, this was a good idea. In 2014, when people have stopped carrying checkbooks and are accustomed to using their mobile devices to pay for merchandise, it’s become almost required. Whether or not you know it, you’re probably losing some business if you don’t have a merchant account that supports credit and debit card payments, and possibly e-checks.
If you have an online storefront, you’ve undoubtedly been accepting plastic for a long time now. Not many shoppers want to place an order on a website and hunt for envelopes and stamps and blank checks to complete it. If you invoice customers, it’s just as critical that you allow them to remit payment as soon as possible.
Not set up with a merchant account yet? We can help you get started with the Intuit Payment Network.
Keep a Close Watch on your A/R Reports
Part of being proactive with your accounts receivable is being vigilant and informed. Create and customize A/R reports regularly. When you customize your A/R Aging Detail report, for example, in addition to the other columns that you include, be sure that Terms, Due Date, Bill Date, Aging and Open Balance are turned on (click Customize Report | Display and click in front of each column label).
You should also be looking at Open Invoices and Collections Report frequently, or assigning someone else to monitor them closely. We can help here by creating more complex financial reports periodically, like Statement of Cash Flows.
Figure 2: In this window, QuickBooks wants you to create filters to identify customers who should receive statements. Here, everyone with transactions that are more than 30 days old will be included.
Invoices are generally the preferred way to bill your customers, but you should consider sending statements when customers have outstanding balances past a certain date. QuickBooks sometimes calls these reminder statements. You’re not providing the recipients with any new information; you’re simply sending a kind of report that lists all invoices sent, credit memos and payment received.
To generate statements, click Customers | Create Statements. You’ll see the window pictured above. You can send statements to everyone, a defined group or one customer, and you can define the past-due status that you want to target in addition to other options.
Send Accurate Invoices the First Time
Few things will slow down your accounts receivable more than incorrect invoices. The customer can wait until payment is almost due to dispute the charges, which means that they’ll probably get another 15 or 30 days (or whatever their terms are) to pay the amended bill.
So whoever is responsible for creating invoices needs to be checking and re-checking them. If it’s logistically possible, and depending on your workflow, have them verified by a second employee.
Offer Discounts for Early Payment and Assess Finance Charges
Offering discounts is a balancing act. You’ll be getting less money for your sale – even 5 percent multiplied by many customers can add up – but it may make sense financially for you to take a small hit in return for being able to deposit the payment sooner. We can help you do the math here.
To offer this, you’ll have to set up your discount scenario as a Term option (Lists | Customer & Vendor Profile Lists | Terms List), as seen here:
Figure 3: The screen above showis a 5 percent discount if their invoice is paid within 10 days.
To make a customer eligible for the discount, open the Customer Center and double-click on a customer, then on Payment Settings| Payment Terms.
You might also want to be assessing finance charges. The revenue you bring in from finance charges will probably be negligible. But sometimes, just knowing that a late payment will be more costly may prompt your customers to settle up in a timely fashion.
Whatever approaches you choose to accelerate your receivables, be consistent. If any of your customers should compare notes, you want to be regarded as being firm but fair.
Have you ever called a help line and at the end of the call had a bigger problem than before you called? Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon.
Navigating the help line process can be a challenge for anyone’s patience. Here are a couple of tips you can try to make the process a little less painful.
If you get someone that does a good job of solving your problem, ask them if you can contact them directly. You will begin to establish a rapport, and you’ll have an inside ally you can turn to. They’ll also begin to know your issues, the product you’re calling about, and how you use it.
Fly First Class
Sometimes, it’s just worth it to pay for a higher level of access. You can check that out yourself, or you may have expert vendors you can tap to access their higher-level resources. By paying for a higher level of service, you can get priority service and access to more highly trained personnel.
Learn the Language
How you communicate your request to the help line personnel can make all the difference in the world when it comes to saving time. To speed up the process, have the following things handy:
- If an error message is involved, take a screen print or write down the exact wording or error code, if any.
- If software is involved, be ready to let your technician know the operating system you’re on, what browser you’re using if the Internet is relevant, and other details that will isolate the problem.
- If software is involved, they may ask you what version you have. You can find that by choosing File, Help from the menu, or they can walk you through it.
For shorter wait times, try to call when no one else in calling. For hardware and software support, this may mean avoiding Mondays and rush hours. For questions to the IRS, it may mean calling earlier in the season.
Hire an Expert
Some of your vendors (including us!) may have access to a higher level of support based on their connection with the company. For example, certain QuickBooks ProAdvisors have access to an elite group of support technicians and get priority services as well. Accountants have a special line in to the IRS. Fortunately here at New Business Directions, we have both.
You may be able to save money and especially time by delegating these help line calls to those privileged vendors. (And if we can help save you time and frustration in this area, please let us know.)
You may not have even completed your 2013 taxes yet. But now is an ideal time to start getting ready for your 2014 returns.
We know that you’re in some stage of preparation for your 2013 income taxes. It may seem odd to start thinking about 2014 taxes just now, but actually, this is the ideal time to start planning and making business decisions with their tax implications always in the back of your mind.
As you look at the data that will be entered in your 2013 tax forms, you’re likely to come across some expenses that you might have handled differently, or some income that should have been deferred. If you begin your planning process for 2014 while 2013 is still in the works, you can start making smarter, more tax-advantageous business decisions now, instead of late in the year when everyone is rushing to take actions necessary to lower their tax obligation.
Here’s how QuickBooks can help you with this new approach.
Overhaul your Chart of Accounts
The mechanics of doing this in QuickBooks are fairly uncomplicated, but changing this critical list – the backbone of your company file – requires solid knowledge of which accounts should be added, deleted or changed. You also need to know which accounts and subaccounts will have impact on your income taxes. They must be structured accordingly.
Figure 1: QuickBooks’ default Chart of Accounts can be easily modified to meet your company’s unique needs. But let us help you with this task.
For these reasons, we ask that you consult with us if you think your Chart of Accounts could use an overhaul. Our early involvement will be much more economical for you than if we have to come in down the road when your accounts have become dangerously tangled.
Devise an Effective System for Estimated Taxes
As you well know, there’s no magical formula for estimating how much income tax you’ll owe when all of your income and expenses have been tallied. We can make this an ongoing task by creating monthly or quarterly financial reports for your business and working from those.
If you’re self-employed, you might want to open a low-fee checking account that will serve solely as your tax fund. Because you have no employer to pay a portion of your Social Security and Medicare obligations, it’s critical that you’re putting enough away. Consider putting one-third of your taxable income into that account and see how it goes. You may get a pleasant surprise at tax prep time, or you may have to dip into other savings to be compliant.
Figure 2: You may want to set up a separate bank account to park estimated tax funds, so you know they’re committed. Ask us about numbering new accounts.
You can submit federal payments online on the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System site. Check with us to see if your state has an electronic system. Of course, the IRS will accept a check.
Run Reports on Everything. And Keep Running Them.
We already mentioned that we’re happy to create and analyze your most critical financial reports on a regular basis. You may have tried to understand the Trial Balance, Statement of Cash Flows, etc. in QuickBooks and been puzzled. Don’t feel incompetent because of that: It often takes an accountant-level individual to understand what they mean for your business.
You can define and build your own reports using QuickBooks’ customization tools. If you have employees who travel, consider bringing in an automated expense report application (we can help you find one and implement it). Stress the importance of adhering to IRS rules about travel. Same goes for your local salesforce, off-site technicians and other service providers, etc.
For employees who come into the office every day or are telecommuting, you can give them some ownership of their contribution to expenses by bringing them into the budget process and/or requesting that they submit their own monthly mini-reports on any company funds they spend. The more employees are aware of and accountable for expenses, the easier it will be for you to work toward minimizing your tax obligation. And having some information about the considerable sum you pay in taxes may help staff understand your tightening of the purse strings.
Consider Retraining Bookkeeping Staff if Necessary
You may be paying a portion of your taxes unnecessarily, simply because your company’s bookkeeping is less-than-precise. Nip that in the bud.
The more you manage your reporting, stay aware of the consequences of every expenditure and bring employees into the process, the more prepared you’ll be for 2014 taxes.
Have you ever tried on a shirt or jeans and found they didn’t fit at all? They looked great on the hanger, 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:
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 workarounds, and it feels like patchwork, 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.
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.
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:
Y: $20K loss
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.
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.
QuickBooks is easy to use, intuitive and flexible. But it is not an accounting manual or class or tutorial. If your business is exceptionally uncomplicated, you might get by without knowing a lot about the principles of bookkeeping.
Still, it helps to understand the basics. Here’s a look at some terms and phrases you should understand.
2. Accounts Payable (A/P). Everything that you owe to vendors, contractors, consultants, etc. is tracked in this account.
3. Accounts Receivable (A/R). This account tracks income that hasn’t been realized yet, like outstanding invoices.
4-5. Accrual Basis. This is one of two basic accounting methods. Using it, you record income as it is invoiced, not when it’s actually received, and you record expenses like bills when you receive them. Using the other method, Cash Basis, you would report income when you receive it and expenses when you pay the bills.
6-7 Asset. What physical items do you own that have value? This could be cash, office equipment and real estate. In QuickBooks you’ll be managing two types. Current Assets are generally used within 12 months (or you could convert them to cash in that length of time). Fixed Assets refers to belongings like vehicles, furniture and land, property that you probably won’t use up in a year and which usually depreciates in value. Depreciation is very complex; you may need our help with that.
8. Average Cost. This is the inventory costing method that programs like QuickBooks Pro and Premier use to calculate the value of your stock.
10-12. Double-Entry Accounting.This is the system that QuickBooks uses – that all legitimate small business accounting software uses. Every transaction must show where the funds came from and where they went. Each has a Credit (decreases asset and expense accounts) and Debit (decreases liability and income accounts) which must balance out (other types of accounts can be affected).13. Equity.This refers to your company’s net worth. It’s the difference between your assets and liabilities.
14. General Journal. QuickBooks handles this in the background, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever be exposed to it. We sometimes have to create General Journal Entries, transactions required for various reasons (errors, depreciation, etc.) that contain debits and credits. Please leave that to us.
15. Item Receipt. You’ll create these when you receive inventory from a vendor without a bill.
16. Job. QuickBooks often associates customers with multi-part projects that you’ve taken on, like a kitchen remodel.
17. Net income. This is your revenue minus expenses.
18. Non-Inventory Part. When you purchase an item but don’t sell it or you buy something and resell it immediately to a customer, this is what it’s called. It’s merchandise that isn’t stored by you for future sales.
19. Payroll Liabilities Account. QuickBooks tracks federal, state and local withholding taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare obligations, that you’ve deducted from employees’ paychecks and will remit to the appropriate agencies.
20. Post.You won’t run into this term in QuickBooks. It simply refers to recording a transaction within one of your accounts.
21. Reconcile. QuickBooks helps you with this. It’s the process of making sure your records and those of your financial institutions agree.
22. Sales Receipt.This is how you record a sale when payment is made in full during the transaction.
23. Statement. You’ll generally use invoices to bill customers in QuickBooks, but you can also send statements, which contain transaction information for a given date range.
24. Trial Balance. This standard financial report tells you whether your debits and credits are in balance. Should you run this report and find a problem, let us know right away.
25. Vendor. With the exception of employees, QuickBooks uses this term to refer to anyone who you pay as a part of your business operations.
These are just a few of the terms you should recognize and understand. We hope you’ll contact us when you need help understanding how the accounting process fits into your workflow.
Knowing your vital signs, and especially when they are out of whack, is good for your health. In the same way, knowing your business’s vital signs, and especially when they are out of whack, is good for the financial health of your business.
- Checking account balance(s)
- Cash flow requirements for bills and payroll
- Revenue for the month and year-to-date
- Sales by customer so you can see the top five to ten largest customers
As time goes on and your business grows, you may want to add some of the following:
- Revenue for the month and year-to-date compared to last year
- Net income for the month and year-to-date compared to last year
- Days Sales Outstanding which is a measure of how long it takes to collect on an invoice from a client
- Revenue by service or product line in a pie chart
What about these important metrics?
- Best and worst selling products
- Tracking promotion codes and coupon results
- Work in progress or backlog
- Number of days to fill an order
These are just a handful of the many options there are when it comes to measuring the results of your business, and it would be difficult for us to list all of them here. The point is to decide proactively what you would like to track on a monthly basis. Then you can set up the process it takes to get those numbers delivered to you in the format you prefer.
Once you decide on the numbers you need to run your business, you’ll be able to take your “vitals” whenever you want. You can take this to the next level with one more idea: exception reporting.
Phone: (603) 356-2914 | Fax: (603) 356-2915
Cash flow improvement is a hot issue for small businesses; in many businesses, it seems like there is never enough cash when you need it. The last thing a business owner wants is to reduce their cash balance unnecessarily. To help you preserve or increase your cash, here are five cash management leaks to avoid.
1. Bloated Bank Fees
Some banks are more business-friendly than others. We recommend you assess the fees you are currently being charged to see if you can discontinue any unnecessary services.
- Could you maintain a cash balance to avoid monthly fees?
- Are you being charged online banking fees and bill pay fees, and are these still necessary?
- Are you being charged for a high volume of transactions or cash drawer services, and are these competitive with other banks?
Banks, including national brands, that have not kept up with technology and have not automated a significant amount of their transactions are inefficient and must charge higher fees to cover their processing costs. If your accounts are located at one of these costlier banks, you do have a choice.
Are you sure that you are paying the lowest amount of taxes you legally owe? There are several places to look to make sure you have not overpaid taxes anywhere in your business or personally:
- Payroll taxes
- Sales and use tax
- Franchise taxes
- State and local income taxes
- Property taxes
- Federal income taxes
- Taxes that are specific to your industry
In preparing income taxes, a few of the easiest items to overlook include carryovers from prior years and new deductions you become eligible for. If you received a large refund this year, congratulations, but that means you gave Uncle Sam an interest-free loan on your money. You can do better next year by estimating your tax payments and paying only what’s due.
3. The Check Is in the Mail
Customers who take too long to pay you are big cash drains in your business. Consider changing your terms, asking for deposits, or becoming more aggressive with collections to bring your DSO (days sales outstanding) down. When you do, you’ll get an instant, permanent cash flow improvement.
4. Sweat the Small Stuff
You may have an eagle eye on your largest bank account, but what about your other cash stashes? PayPal, petty cash, and business savings accounts are among the places that may not get daily scrutiny. Make sure those accounts are properly reconciled and have the proper controls in place so funds don’t go missing.
5. It’s in Your Interest
A nice problem to have is when your bank balances get too large and you don’t need the money immediately. Make sure that money is still working hard for you by putting the excess in an interest-bearing account. It’s not much these days, but every little bit helps.
Make a Dash to the Cash
If we can help you plug any of these cash leaks in your business, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know.