So Hard to Choose
If you have lots of ideas in your head or on your “to do” list that are not getting done, you’re certainly not alone. Here’s a process for helping you decide what to do first, next, and not at all.
Once you have everything down on paper, you will be amazed at how much this unclutters your thinking. You will also have all your great ideas captured so you don’t forget them. You might also get very overwhelmed, but don’t stop now. Relief is on the way.
Add some information about each item, creating four additional columns:
Analyze your choices
- Separate tasks that are working ON vs. IN your business. There is never enough time to work on your business, so force it by blocking out a few hours or a half-day a week and do it, no matter what. It might be the best way to make progress in your business.
- Sort the list by how much revenue the task could generate or how much potential it has, and decide how to prioritize from there. If you need help calculating the ROI, return on investment of an idea, we can help you calculate that.
- Take a look at what you marked “not able to delegate,” and ask “why not?” Does a procedure need to be written? Do you need more staff? Does your staff need training? Or do you need to learn to let go? Whatever it is, and especially if there are a lot of these items, get these roadblocks tackled so you don’t become the bottleneck in your own business.
- Sort the list by “column D” above, the market value you recorded for the task. Then ask yourself what your hourly rate is. How many tasks are you doing that are below your hourly rate? Hiring someone to do your lowest level tasks could very well be another item you need to add to your new “to do” list.
This last one is really important, because it can so strongly affect the profitability of your business. The last thing you want to do is go backwards and give yourself a demotion with a pay decrease, but that’s exactly what you’re doing each time you do a task yourself that’s at a low market rate.
Prioritize with confidence
There’s nothing more precious and scarce than our time. Every day, we have a choice about how to spend it, but too often we get caught up in the urgent, but not important, daily fires. This exercise helps us take a step back and look at what’s important instead of what’s urgent.
As entrepreneurs, we work hard for our money, and the last thing we need is to have it disappear due to fraud, hackers, or identity theft. Some people have called 2013 the year of the hacker, which is worrisome. But you’re far more likely to experience risks with disgruntled or financially desperate employees and contractors. Mistakes happen too, and when they do it can be costly to get them corrected.
Here are five ways to increase your financial controls so that you can lower your business risks when it comes to the handling of cash and cash equivalents. As you read the list, check to see where you can tighten up controls in your business.
1. Checking your Checks
Do you have blank checks lying around? If so, reduce the temptation and get them locked up. You can also go a step further and have your accountant run a report each month of missing check numbers. If any checks are unaccounted for, take action by processing Stop Payment orders at your bank.
2. Bank on It
If you are still getting your bank reconciliation on paper, where does it get mailed? The business owner should always see the bank reconciliation before anyone else does. Also, make sure the person that performs the reconciliation is not the same person that deposits the checks. Segregation of duties is essential to improve cash controls.
Today, it’s a good idea to do all your banking online, if possible, so that nothing gets mailed. In that way, you have some reduced risk over identity theft.
Some banks offer multiple-user access to your banking account, so that bookkeepers can get the information they need. Lock that user ID down as much as possible, so that the user can only get to what they need to. If they’re honest, they will appreciate the reduced level of responsibility and consider it a smart financial move.
3. PayPal Protection
If you have a PayPal account, keep the balance low by transferring funds frequently to your bank account. You can also restrict access to reduce your risk.
4. Credit Card Control
If you use credit cards in your business, you’ll want to maintain tight control over them. For each employee or contractor that needs to charge items on a credit card, here are a couple of points to consider:
- If the credit limit on the current card is sky-high, then ask the bank to lower it or set up a new card with very low credit limits just for employee use.
- Contact your credit card company and get a card in the employee’s name.
- Make sure you can access the credit card transactions online. They are immediate, and if necessary, you can closely monitor what’s going on.
- Insist on a receipt brought to you for every purchase.
- Create clear procedures, limits, and approvals before the spending occurs.
- Don’t let the employee “keep” the credit card during off hours. Keep it locked up on your premises instead.
5. Safeguarding Payroll
One of the biggest cash outflows for small businesses is payroll. Here, segregation of duties comes into play again. The person preparing the payroll should not be the one who approves it and actually runs it.
You can do this by having different user accounts and controls within your payroll system.
Hopefully, you already have a lot of these ideas in place. If not, add the ideas you like to your to do list so that your business risks will be reduced.
It’s generally a good idea to keep overhead costs low so that your business profits will be higher. This is especially true with items that are easily commoditized and fairly standardized, such as utilities and rent. But there are times when increasing expenses pays off nicely, and here are five areas to consider so you can reap the rewards.
Whether it’s for you or your staff, good training can pay back for years to come. Learning new skills, no matter what our crafts are, will keep our businesses from becoming stagnant. Implementing what we learn will help us grow.
You might get training to increase the mastery of your chosen profession. You might also want to consider general business skills, including technology, marketing, finance, and leadership. Just about everyone can benefit from learning more about project management, communications, and negotiations, to name a few more.
You might also want to consider “human performance” skills such as public speaking. Whatever you choose, training is always a great investment that pays back big dividends.
Without the right tools, the same task can take double the time. It’s a great idea to provide your employees with the most powerful computers and software on the market. The cost of labor outweighs the costs of the computers, so it makes sense to load employees up with the best tools you can. An employee with a slow computer, through no fault of their own, is not giving you their best, and that will cost money in lost productivity.
The same thing goes for owners. You can spend your time fighting with a machine or getting a ton of work done. I’m pretty sure the latter is more profitable.
The most successful companies we work with invest in accounting services in five areas: accounting technology, accurate bookkeeping, thorough reporting, tax minimization, and professional consulting. When we see business owners cutting corners in any of these areas, it usually costs them more money in the long run to clean up the problems that result.
An up-to-date accounting system minimizes maintenance and troubleshooting costs. Making sure the bookkeeping and reconciliations are done properly is essential for compliance reporting and decision-making. A robust set of reports allows a business owner to make smart decisions about running their business, and minimizing taxes helps you keep more of what you make.
Since accountants see thousands of financial reports in their careers, they have developed an eye for opportunities that a business owner may not see. Bringing an outside perspective into your business is a good investment that can help you discover great opportunities in your business.
Whatever you do in your business, you are helping others. You are sharing a skill you have that your clients either don’t have or don’t choose to do for themselves. Being a best-kept secret doesn’t help you share your gifts and talents.
Marketing can help you get the word out to people who need your services but might not know about you. Developing great marketing materials will help you communicate what you do as well as receive fair compensation for what you do. It almost always makes sense to invest in this area of your business.
5. Employee Perks and Benefits
Keeping employees passionate about your vision and motivated to be productive is a continuing task. One way to do that is to provide employee benefits and perks that make it attractive for employees to work for you.
There are many ways to invest in your employees. Good health insurance, personal time off, extra vacation time, education reimbursement, flex time, and working from home are just a few of the many options you can choose from to enhance employees’ working environments.
Measuring the Payoff
We can help you measure your return in any of these areas; as always, please let us know how we can help.
Depending on your location, you’re probably starting to see early signs of spring. The nicer weather and signs of new life seem to make people want to spruce up their surroundings.
Now would be a good time, too, to clean up your accounting environment. Some of your screens may be unnecessarily cluttered. And your QuickBooks® company file probably needs attention, too.
Make a Clean Start
Intuit did a great job of giving QuickBooks’ home page a fresher, more “open” look in its 2013 versions. But does everything really need to be there? Could you simplify it a bit? There are several things you can do, including:
- Minimize icons. That pretty graphical process map on the home page is great for quick access to frequently-used actions. Some of them must remain there if they’re related to activities you do (i.e., Invoices has to stay if you use Estimates), but you can remove some of the ones you don’t use. Go to Preferences | Desktop View | Company Preferences. You’ll see this:
Figure 1: You can turn off some of the feature icons on your home page.
Some of the options have been grayed out because they support other processes. To remove an active feature icon like Inventory, click on it. In the window that opens, uncheck the box next to Inventory and purchase orders are active (you can also modify options here).
Figure 2: Clicking the checkbox next to Inventory and purchase orders are active grays out the other options and removed related feature icons from the home page.
To reduce the number of feature icons even more, go to the Finance Charge, Jobs & Estimates, Payroll & Employees, Sales & Customers, Sales Tax and Time & Expenses. QuickBooks® removes the related icons and reroutes the process map on the home page.
More Time-Saving Tweaks
- Don’t allow multiple windows to open in your work area. Tired of seeing all of those overlapping open windows on your desktop? Open the View menu and select One Window. All of your open windows remain active in the background. To return to one of them, open the Window menu and select the one you want to move to the front (Window | Close All returns you to a blank work area).
Figure 3: Your Icon bar can be your fastest route to often needed screens – if you modify it to only contain the functions you use, in order of importance. You can also change the labels to make them more meaningful to you.
- Trim down your icon bar. Seems like a minimal change, but it’s one of those things that can add unnecessary moments of frustration throughout the day (“Where’s the Calendar!“). Click View | Customize Icon Bar.
- Customize columns in Lists. You probably work in QuickBooks’ Lists often, but are you spending too much time tracking down the right information? Customize their columns so your registers contain only what you usually need (and add additional ones if it’s helpful). Open a list, right-click anywhere within it and select Customize Columns to modify the display (resize column widths by placing your cursor on the vertical set of dots between labels and dragging).
Figure 4: When you customize your columns in Lists, you’ll find what you’re looking for faster.
- Hide inactive names and items. Highlight an item, right-click and select Make Item Inactive. Open the Item menu in the lower left and click Hide Inactive Items (this action won’t delete them). This should be done with Customers, Vendors, Employees and Items to keep them manageable.
These may all seem like cosmetic changes, but you will save time and frustration over the long run. The most critical spring cleaning task is company file analysis and maintenance. We can handle this for you. QuickBooks® can slow down and start generating error messages when the data file becomes unwieldy. Preventing file corruption before it crashes your system is a lot faster and less expensive than a reconstruction project.
This article of QuickBooks Tips and Tricks was based on the 2013 version of QuickBooks.
What is Cloud Computing?
By now, we’ve all heard about the subject of Cloud Computing. Working in the Cloud simply means that you are accessing servers, software and technology via the internet.
It’s something that most of us are already using on a daily basis when we access our bank accounts and pay our credit card bills online; or when we use Facebook and other social media websites.
That’s the infamous Cloud – you access it with a browser from any computer or mobile device with an internet connection and you log in to use applications that you do not own and that are stored elsewhere to retrieve your data.
Many businesses are looking for an online solution for their QuickBooks® software but are hesitant to move to QuickBooks® Online because it does not have the full functionality of the Desktop versions of the software that we’ve all become familiar with.
A great option for those who want to move to the cloud but don’t want to change everything all at once is to have their licensed QuickBooks® Desktop software hosted by an Intuit Authorized Hosting Provider.
The average cost of hosting is approximately $50/month/user for basic setup and storage space, plus the cost of the software. The following is a list of certified secure data centers with proven reliable up-times:
Many of these providers are also licensed to rent QuickBooks® licenses for currently supported versions of the software which is quite cost-effective.
The hosting service provider installs and manages the QuickBooks® software and the company data files on their cloud-based servers. They install the software, update it and maintain it and provide system maintenance, redundant servers, improved security, virus protection and managed data backups.
It’s the full version of your licensed QuickBooks® software hosted on a secure server that users can access anytime, anywhere – remotely and simultaneously with proper licensing. There’s no data conversion and no retraining of users because it’s the same software that they have already been using.
There is no more dealing with Accountant’s Copies and Transfer Files at year end for your tax preparer, as access can be provided to outside professionals to seamlessly share data and collaborate with the business.
You are not required to upgrade to the newest version of the software each year in order to use hosted services, as long as the version is still supported by QuickBooks®, you do not have to upgrade.
If you aren’t satisfied with the hosting service, you can move to a different hosting vendor or you can move back to your desktop – you’re not tied in – it’s your data and your software.
There are a number of areas of the QuickBooks® application which are designed directly in conflict with the concept of a hosted, shared application service model, making QuickBooks® hosting a fairly complicated business.
Installing the correct application licensing levels and multiple editions of the product, allowing individual user settings for printers and forms, and even providing multi-user access are areas where some service providers fall short.
In addition, not all hosting service providers support additional third party applications that integrate with the QuickBooks® software and there may be issues with hardware integration, e.g. scanners, bar code readers and so forth.The biggest drawback of all – no internet, no access.
Hosting QuickBooks® can be a great solution for many businesses. It is best to spend some time in advance choosing the right hosting provider; one that best fits your business needs. If you need help, please call us.
This article of QuickBooks Tips and Tricks was based on the 2013 version of QuickBooks.
You work hard for your money. Strong internal controls can keep it from disappearing unnecessarily.
You trust your employees or you wouldn’t have hired them. That’s what everyone says as they watch a valued staff member being hauled off in handcuffs. But I trusted him.
Whether your accounting tasks are done on one PC or you have multiple users working on different screens, it’s critical that you make use of all that QuickBooks offers in terms of internal controls. You’ll also need to establish some common-sense rules.
First Stop: Audit Trail
An audit trail is a very large report that displays every addition, deletion and modification of every transaction. In older versions of QuickBooks you could turn it on and off, but it’s permanently on now.
Because of its size, you’ll probably have to use QuickBooks’ filtering tools to zero in on the user and/or date(s) you’re looking for. Go to Reports | Accountant & Taxes | Audit Trail. Click Customize Report | Filters to set up your search.
Your audit trail won’t alert you when someone tries to enter a prohibited area, and it won’t detect changes to lists. Setting up permissions will help (Company | Set Up Users and Passwords | Set Up Users), but you need more than that.
Figure 1: Be especially careful when granting user access to areas that contain customer, vendor and employee information.
Run the Right Reports
Other QuickBooks features can help prevent fraud. Review these reports regularly:
- Closing Date Exception. Why were those changes necessary?
- Voided/Deleted Transactions. Is there supporting documentation? Should you be reviewing these daily?
- Expenses by Vendor Detail. Look for irregularities, especially multiple payments made to a vendor in a short period of time.
- Check registers. Use the Balance Sheet for this. Go to Reports | Company & Financial | Balance Sheet Standard and customize the report for the correct period and – if necessary – for specific customers, vendors and/or jobs.
Adhere to Best Practices
You undoubtedly implement financial best practices in your personal life. You reconcile your accounts. You don’t give your online banking password to anyone. And you glance through your recently-posted transactions on your financial institutions’ websites.
If your company is large enough that you have multiple accounting employees, you probably can’t be as hands-on as you are at home. But you can still set up internal control procedures.
Figure 2: Debit? Credit? Reverse the transaction? No one should be making General Journal entries but you. It’s easy to err here; talk to us before using this feature.
For example, if your company has grown to the point where you’re removed from the daily workflow, you may still want to have approval rights for some procedures, like bank balance adjustments, refunds and credits, printed checks (you should still be signing them), timesheets and expense reports.
It goes without saying that you should password-protect your QuickBooks company file and change the password regularly, even – and especially – if you’re the entire accounting department. And protect yourself from external fraud. We can do a review of your security procedures and make suggestions.
Reinforce the rules
Know who your employees are (consider running background checks) and, if you can, rotate the duties assigned to accounting staff. If you have only one person managing all of your bookkeeping work, conduct an even more thorough background search: credit, references, criminal activity, etc.
Finally, make sure that all employees understand the definition and consequences of fraud. Let them know about the steps being taken to prevent it, but do some unannounced auditing on your own. Include a session on fraud in orientation and get current staff up to speed. Explain that this is necessary for their protection, too. Make it easy to report fraud anonymously, with no fear of repercussions.
This may seem like a lot of extra tasks in your workday, but imagine the time you’ll lose tracking down fraudulent activity if it occurs. So spend a fraction of that time upfront.
If you have questions on this subject, or anything else Accounting or QuickBooks related, give us a call or email. We’re here to help.
This article of QuickBooks Tips and Tricks was based on the 2013 version of QuickBooks.
Using QuickBooks Mobile, you’ll improve business relations, put out fires before they start and unchain yourself from your office computer.
There are only a few reasons why you wouldn’t be using QuickBooks Mobile on your smartphone. Maybe you don’t have a smartphone. Or when you’re out of the office, you don’t want to be available for accounting work. Or you might not think that it has enough features to make it worth using.
While the first two reasons are matters of personal preference, the third just isn’t true. QuickBooks Mobile automatically – and almost instantly – synchronizes the data from your desktop or laptop computer copy of QuickBooks. While it’s only focused on sales, not payables or payroll, you can manage receivables quite nicely whether you’re in a customer’s office or at a trade show or community event – or sitting on the couch at home.
Figure 1: You can see this screen no matter where you and your smartphone are (the-recently-upgraded Android version is pictured here).
There are numerous situations where you might want to access, add or edit customers, estimates, invoices, sales receipts or payments when you’re not near the PC where QuickBooks is installed, like these:
- You’re a mobile service provider (i.e. appliance repair, locksmith, tow truck operator, pizza delivery) and you want to accept payment on site.
- You do a half day of onsite training and your client wants to pay you cash right then. You can record the payment and email a sales receipt.
- You’re on the road and you want to see how well your bookkeeper is managing receivables. QuickBooks Mobile displays three views: recent activity, today and upcoming.
- You’re with a client who would like to give you a check to get current, but he or she can’t find the invoice. Rather than calling your office and sitting on hold until someone has time to look, you can pull up the form on your smartphone to discuss it.
Figure 2: You can record sales receipts and payments on your smartphone – even schedule appointments that move to your Google calendar.
The Perils of Payroll
QuickBooks Mobile doesn’t support payroll, but Intuit Online Payroll does. Like QuickBooks Mobile, the app itself free (of course, you have to pay for the service itself). You can view the most recent payroll run and employee information, as well as preparing, previewing and approving the current payroll.
Neither app is available yet for the iPad, though QuickBooks Online is.
Figure 3: Missed your flight and afraid you’ll miss the current payroll run, too? Intuit Online Payroll gives you access from your Android or iPhone.
Paper or Plastic?
If you’ve been in business for very long and still don’t accept credit cards, you have an idea of how many sales you’ve lost. You’ll need to get a merchant account from Intuit Merchant Service for QuickBooks (fees apply). A merchant account allows you to accept plastic through QuickBooks itself, your web browser, your web storefront – and on your smartphone or iPad.
You can also download Intuit’s free GoPayment app. You can either swipe cards on the free mobile reader or type numbers in. Your customers sign their names on the surface of your mobile device, and you can print, text or email a receipt. There are no monthly fees, no long-term contracts, and you pay as you go.
Figure 4: You’ll need to get acquainted with the Intuit Merchant Service Center to work with credit card payments.
It would be nice if those credit card payments were just instantly zapped into the right places in QuickBooks, but alas, it isn’t so. You’ll need to do some setup and processing both within QuickBooks and in the online Intuit Merchant Service Center. We can help you with setup and your initial transactions to make sure all of your payments get through and are deposited and/or credited correctly.
We think you’ll find that once you start using all of the mobile payment services that Intuit offers, you’ll wonder what took you so long.
I was telling a friend of mine about the topic of this months’ newsletter and he said “you’re the expert in QuickBooks® and you make a living from setting it up and cleaning it up and teaching people how to use it – why in the world would you tell people NOT to use it?”
The answer is simple – QuickBooks® is a really great program, it’s relatively low cost and it works well for most small businesses. However, one size does not fit all. It’s like that suit in the back of your closet. If QuickBooks® doesn’t fit, it won’t work and it won’t get used.
Fortunately, QuickBooks® has many solutions in their product line-up and with our expertise and knowledge we can customize and tailor a program specifically for you and your small business.
Data File Sizes and Transaction Limits
What impacts whether you should use QuickBooks® Pro or Premier or the more powerful version, Enterprise Solutions, is the size of your data file today and how that data is expected to grow over the time period for which you want to keep all transaction data in one (1) company data file.
The rate of growth of QuickBooks® company data files varies significantly from company to company. There is no “average” or “typical” data file size, since businesses track different information. How quickly a file grows depends on the number of transactions, the amount of information entered in each transaction and the number of “links” per transaction.
If your business generates more transactions than QuickBooks® can handle, performance may be affected. Technically, QuickBooks® Pro and Premier can handle two billion transactions in a single company file. In practice, however, tasks like running reports and finding transactions can take longer if the file grows too large.
We recommend that QuickBooks Pro and Premier data files should not exceed 200MB and that Enterprise Solutions files should not exceed 300 MB. These are general guidelines, based on several factors. There are no specific maximum file sizes and your system will not come to a crashing halt if you exceed these recommended sizes, however, as the data file grows, the overall performance of the software declines and the risk of data corruption increases.
To see how large your data file is currently, open your QuickBooks® file and press the F2 key. A Product Information box will appear and your data file size will be listed on the left hand side of the screen under File Information.
Item or List Limitations
QuickBooks® also has item limitations – counts that cannot be exceeded. Companies with list requirements that exceed those in the following table are not a good fit for QuickBooks®. This list highlights some of the more important physical limits and it is not an all-inclusive list. These counts are “combined” counts. For example, in Premier, you can have 14,500 customers, vendors AND items combined, not 14,500 per list.
|List Name||Pro and Premier||Enterprise Solutions|
|Chart of Accounts||10,000||10,000|
|Names (customers, vendors, employees and other names)||14,500||>100,000|
|Items (including inventory)||14,500||>100,000|
For companies that require a more robust inventory, we recommend using Enterprise Solutions, QuickBooks® Point of Sale or an add-on software such as Fishbowl.
To find out how many items your data file is currently using, open your QuickBooks® file and press the F2 key. A Product Information box will appear and your List Information will be shown on the right hand side of the screen – be sure to scroll down to see all of the lists.
User Access Limitations
QuickBooks® limits the number of users who can access the company data file simultaneously. Companies that require more users simultaneously accessing the company data file than QuickBooks® supports are not suited for QuickBooks®.
Inventory Method Limitations
Companies that require an inventory method other than average cost (such as FIFO or LIFO) may want to use QuickBooks® with an add-on software for the inventory feature. Note that an exception is QuickBooks® Online Plus – as of mid-2010 it offers Inventory using the FIFO cost method. Another exception is QuickBooks® Enterprise Solutions for 2012 with Advanced Inventory which has a FIFO option as well.
|QuickBooks® Product||# simultaneous users|
Although QuickBooks® works quite well for companies of various sizes and across many industries, there are a few situations in which QuickBooks® may not be the best solution.
If you are interested in finding out more about any of the QuickBooks® line of products or if you would like to discuss what solution is best for your small business, please call us.
This article of QuickBooks Tips and Tricks was based on the 2012 version of QuickBooks.