A great way to start 2021 is to take a fresh look at your business finances. Many things changed in 2020, and if you are in the habit of spending on the same items year after year, it’s the perfect time to decide what is essential and what can go.
There are only a few ways to increase profits when you think about it in black and white terms. You can either raise revenues or cut costs. Let’s take a look at where we can potentially cut costs.
These expenses tend to be monthly or yearly, and we tend to just let them automatically renew time after time. But do we really need them? Take a look in your Dues and Subscriptions account to evaluate what you really need to stay informed, and cancel the rest.
If you are a member of an organization or two, what benefits are you getting from your investment? Does it raise revenue for you? Do you use everything the membership offers? If not, it might need to go on the chopping block.
Memberships are especially tricky if the organization provides a local meeting component as a benefit and your state or county has been shut down. There’s a tradeoff right now between supporting the organization so that it’s still there when we can freely meet again and being responsible about your own business costs.
With many employees working from home, the question has come up in many businesses about how much space they really need. As leases expire, consider how much space you really need. Some employees may love to work from home permanently, which frees up space.
Retail stores that have moved their business online may be able to cut back on customer-facing space but might need more inventory storage space. A restaurant that has successfully transitioned to pickup and delivery orders might be able to get by with a smaller seating area.
Are you paying for any technology applications that you are simply not using? This is a good place to look for cuts.
Some applications charge by number of contacts. Keeping your lists clean inside these apps will avoid increases and cut costs in some cases.
Do you really still need things like staplers and scissors on everyone’s desk? If your business is going paperless, you can save a lot on office supplies.
Do you need to spend money on printing, or can the printed item be delivered electronically?
While information can be delivered electronically, physical goods still need to be shipped. Make sure you have the best deal with your shipping vendors based on your volume. You may also need to consider building your shipping costs into the price of the product or add a shipping fee to the bill if you don’t already.
A great way to increase profits is to become more intentional about your marketing costs. Are you able to measure what’s working and what isn’t? Or are you doing the same thing year after year?
Marketing has changed so much, even in the last few years. It might be time to implement digital marketing methods, which can be more cost-effective than older, outdated methods.
Make sure employees manage their time effectively by providing the right training and supervision. This should help to reduce labor expenses.
Has your business changed? Do you need all those extra features you are paying for? Could you do without those extra lines? Would another phone plan save you money on long distance or international calls? Many telecommunication companies will often bargain with you or offer you a new deal just for checking in with them.
This gives you ten places to look to cut costs and correspondingly increase profits for 2021. If you need help reviewing your income statement, please reach out.
Regardless of the type of relationship—personal, professional, or even acquaintance—communication is key. Communication is particularly necessary when it comes to customers and building a successful business. It’s even more important this year since many businesses have gone through so many changes. This article will help you achieve better customer communication.
Are You Communicating Properly?
Effective communication helps to ensure your product or service meets the customer’s needs and satisfaction. By meeting these needs and satisfaction, you are potentially generating repeat business. Start by figuring out what your customers are thinking and what questions they might have about your business.
Congratulate yourself if you’ve sent emails or posted notices on your website that answer the following questions:
- Have your hours changed?
- Has your location changed?
- Can you handle drop-in service?
- If so, is there a protocol? For example, do customers call a number when they get to your locked door? Will you be taking their temperature? Is a mask required?
- Is your business by appointment only?
- Then, how do customers make an appointment?
- Do you require a covid-19 test before an appointment can be made?
- Are there special accommodations for at-risk groups?
- Has your contact information changed? With people working at home, phone numbers may have changed.
- Have your services changed?
- Do you deliver?
- Do you offer curbside pick-up?
And this is just pandemic-related. You may have launched new products or services, changed prices, added staff, and implemented many more actions that customers should know about.
Tips on Effective Communicating
Here are some foundational reminders about communicating in business.
Communication starts with a connection. To give the customer what they want, you have to connect with them. If you can connect on a personal level, even better. Regardless, you need to convey to the customers that they—as well as their wants and needs—are important.
Listen to your customer—and listen well. Depending on the customer’s communication, you may have to ask very specific questions to better understand what they want or need. However, intently listening to your customers will allow you to form a better relationship with them.
Not only that, but you can get some great ideas for how to improve or create new products and services so that you fulfill even more of your customers’ wants and needs.
Now that you’re connecting and listening to you customer, make sure you understand them. If you don’t understand what they’re saying, ask them to clarify. This isn’t a guessing game, but a two-sided relationship. To give the customer what they want or need, you must understand what it is they are asking for.
Be completely transparent with your customer. You cannot earn a customer’s trust or loyalty—or repeat business—if you aren’t one hundred percent honest with them. Tell the customer exactly what you can do for them; don’t promise something you can’t deliver.
Make sure you can—and do—deliver exactly what your customer is expecting from you. If you promise to deliver something, whether it’s a service, product, or result, then you need to keep your word. In doing so, you will be laying the brickwork for a successful, long-term relationship.
Communication is one of—if not—the most important skill to have when it comes to connecting with your customers. After all, happy customers will come back.
Learn how to back up your QuickBooks file with Rhonda Rosand, CPA of New Business Directions, LLC.
Why Rhonda Rosand, CPA of New Business Directions LLC started to vlog and why she thinks it’s important to strive for excellence…not perfection!
If you want to create more revenues in your business, you need to create more transactions. Run these figures with your business to see how you can generate more revenue. Learn How Revenues Are Transactional with Rhonda Rosand, CPA, and Advanced Certified QuickBooks® Pro Advisor of New Business Directions, LLC.
QuickBooks is made up of Lists. The most important list in QuickBooks is the Chart of Accounts; it creates the framework for your financial reports from your Balance Sheet to your Profit and Loss statement and your statement of cash flows. It also creates the infrastructure for your budgets or revenue plan.
Learn about the Chart of Accounts in QuickBooks with Rhonda Rosand, CPA or New Business Directions, LLC.
Hiring a new employee is a big accomplishment in any small business, and there are a lot of steps involved, too. Here’s a handy checklist to help you stay organized when you bring that new hire on board.
First things first, the legal and accounting items:
- Signed employment agreement, typically an offer letter. There may also be a supplemental agreement outlining employee policies.
- Payroll documents include:
- IRS form W-4
- Form I-9
- Copy of employee’s government-issued ID
- Most states require a new hire report to be filed; sometimes your payroll system vendor will automatically file this for you.
- Notify your workers comp insurance carrier.
Next, it’s time for employee benefits enrollment:
- Health insurance
- Any other benefits you provide
- Provide the employee with the holiday schedule
- Explain their PTO and vacation if not already explained in the offer letter
Set your new employee up for success with the right equipment:
- Desk, chair, lamp, other furniture
- Coffee mug, refrigerator shelf
- Truck, keys
- Computer, monitor, mouse, keyboard, power strip, floor mat
- Office keys, card entry, gate remote, parking assignment
- Filing cabinet, keys
- Office supplies
- Cooler, other supplies
Your new employee may need access to your computer software systems:
- Employee email address
- Any new user IDs and password for all the systems they will need to access
- Document access
How will your new employee learn the ropes?
- Set up training
- Assign a buddy
Hopefully, this list will give you a start toward making your employee onboarding process a little smoother.
Do you know if your marketing efforts are paying off? More importantly, do you know which marketing campaigns and channels are profitable and which are losing money?
Marketing is one of the toughest areas to calculate return on investment, and one of the reasons is because customers may have had contact with your company in multiple ways before they make a purchase. Other reasons such as a lack of systems are more easily solved and can give you valuable information that you can make smart decisions with.
One main goal of marketing is to acquire leads that will hopefully turn into buying customers and even repeat customers. To start measuring your marketing efforts, we need to find out where those leads are coming from and measure which ones became your customers. That means we need to develop a system that tracks a customer from lead source to sale.
The hard part is that some of this needs to be done outside the accounting system. The good news is that there are many tools and analytics available to help in this process.
One of the first things to do if you don’t already have it set up is to record the lead when they enter your sales process. Enter basic information about them in your CRM (customer relationship management system), and be sure to ask them how they found out about you. This will help you track the lead back to the campaign or channel that they came in on. Once they’ve made a purchase, you can connect the lead to the customer record and track revenue by marketing source.
If your leads come in digitally, there are many automated tags you can set up to track where they originated, whether it was from the web site, a particular web page, a social media account or a link from an email you sent.
An important statistic for businesses is cost per lead, how much it costs to generate one lead for your business. The cost will vary by channel or marketing source. For example, someone coming from your website will cost less than someone coming from social media in most cases.
Once you know how many leads to generate to make a sale, you can start calculating what your marketing budget should look like. More importantly, you’ll be able to forecast your revenue more accurately, too.
While numbers are probably the last thing you think about when you’re doing your marketing, they can be very effective for your bottom line. There are many metrics beyond cost per lead that would be valuable to measure as well. Here are just a few of them:
- Number of leads (in total or per channel)
- Number of press mentions
- Number of direct mail pieces sent out
- Number of email subscribers
- Number of social media connections per platform
- Number of posts sent, number of shares, number of comments
- Total web visitors, new and returning
- Google rankings for keywords
- Number of customer reviews per site, ratio of positive to negative reviews
And as always, if you want help developing these processes and metrics, please reach out.
Internal control is a very special phrase in the accounting profession. Tactically, it’s the set of processes that help a company produce accurate data throughout the organization, follow reporting requirements and laws, and maintain consistency and accuracy in its operations. Strategically, it’s an entirely new way of thinking and doing business.
Internal control helps to reduce organizational risk. A blunt way of putting it is internal control is what you put in place to avoid mistakes, intentional or accidental, and to control accuracy and quality. It impacts every aspect of an organization.
As a small business, you’ll want to be familiar with the concept because it can help you reduce risks you might not realize you have. Here are some practical examples of good ideas that support internal control:
- When data is private and secure, provide access only to employees who need to know the data and restrict access of others.
- Have someone check that your bank balance matches the reconciled amount in your books, and that someone should be different from the person who does the reconciliation. This is an example of what’s called segregation of duties.
- Lock up paper checks and use the missing check number report to make sure none of the stock could be used for nefarious purposes.
- Have employees sign in and out equipment that they take home. This is part of asset management.
- Write and enforce a hardware and software use policy that includes items like employees should make sure their anti-virus software is active at all times, they should not bring in disks or CDs, and they should not download games or other unauthorized programs. This protects from computer viruses and helps to avoid catastrophic network failures.
There are literally hundreds of internal control procedures that should be implemented in small businesses as they grow into larger businesses.
Internal control is typically a big part of an audit or an attest function in accounting; it determines how many additional procedures an auditor needs to do in order to provide assurances about the reliability of the financial reports. But it’s also just good plain common business sense to implement as many internal control processes as are cost-effective for your business to protect it at the level of risk you’re comfortable with.
If you’d like to discuss the idea of internal control further, please feel free to reach out any time.
A quick glance is all you need to check your fuel gauge, speed limit, engine temperature, and RPM when you’re driving down the road. Your car’s dashboard is designed to focus you on what’s important and what you need to know to have a safe trip.
Your car’s dashboard items, if they applied to business, would be called key performance indicators or KPIs. Unlike a car’s, the KPIs of your business vary depending on your business goals and what’s important to you. Common ones might include your cash balance, how fast you get paid, how much revenue is coming in, and whether you’re making plan. There are literally hundreds of them to choose from, and many of them are not derivable from your financial statements, such as number of orders, client satisfaction levels, and employee turnover.
Would it be useful to have a dashboard of KPIs for your business so you can know what’s working and get alerted to what needs focus? Here are the steps to creating a dashboard for your business:
- Decide on the KPIs you want to track. Selecting 6-10 to create and track is a good place to start.
- Select a tool that will provide you with the KPIs in the format you desire. There are many great add-ons to your accounting software that will instantly crunch the financial KPIs for you and present them in insightful formats, including charts, graphs, dashboards, and reports.
- Create any new processes to calculate the new KPIs and get them entered into the dashboard app.
- Hold a review meeting to go over the KPIs and determine any action based on the review.
There are many great KPIs available right in your accounting system, which might be plenty to get started with. And there are some real gems outside your accounting system that will take a bit of work to calculate. In any case, we can help you through this process. Feel free to reach out to us any time to discuss the possibilities of having a dashboard in your business.