As we move into the fall season and the final quarter of the year, it’s a perfect time to commit to a project in your business that will help you reach the year’s end in better shape. Here are five ideas:
1. Back-to-School Time
If payroll expenses are one of the higher costs in your business, then it makes sense to boost your team’s productivity and maybe also your own. Fall is back-to-school time anyway, so it’s a natural time of the year to take on a course, read a business book, or hire an organizer to help you get more from your workspace.
If you spend a lot of time doing email, consider taking a course on Microsoft Outlook® or even Windows; learning a few new keystrokes could save you tons of time. If you need more time, look for a book or course on time management. Look for classes at your local community college or adult education center.
2. A Garage Sale for Your Business
Do you have inventory in your business? If so, take a look at which items are slower-moving and clear them out in a big sale. We can help you figure out what’s moving slowly, and you might even save on taxes too.
3. Celebrate Your Results
Take a checkpoint to see how your revenue and income are running compared to last year at this time. Is it time for a celebration, or is it time to hunker down and bring in some more sales before winter? With one more quarter to go, you have time to make any strategy corrections you need to at this time. Let us know if we can pull a report that shows your year-on-year financial comparison.
4. Get Ready for Year’s End
Avoid the time pressure of year’s end by getting ready early. Review your balance sheet to make sure your account balances are correct for all transactions entered to date. You will be ahead of the game by getting the bulk of the year reviewed and out of the way early.
Also make sure you have the required documentation you need from vendors and customers. One example is contract labor that you will need to issue a 1099 for; make sure you have a W-9 on file for them. If we can help you get ready for year-end, let us know.
5. Margin Mastery
If your business has multiple products and services, there may be some that are far more profitable than others. Breaking these numbers out to calculate your profit margins or contribution margins by product or service line can help you see the areas that are adding the most income to your bottom line. Correspondingly, you can determine if you have any items that are losing money; knowing will help you take the right action in your business. Refresh your financials this fall with your favorite idea of these five, or come up with your own fall project to rejuvenate your business.
Sales tax laws are constantly changing, and sales tax audits have increased since states and local agencies have become creative about finding new ways to generate revenues. If you haven’t made any changes in your sales tax procedures in a while, you are probably at risk.
From state to state, the taxability of items varies. For example, data processing services including web hosting and graphics are taxable in Texas but not California. Because of these intricacies, it makes sense to consult an expert in this area. Some states have been taxing certain services for many years now.
The new buzzword in sales tax is “nexus,” which simply means presence. If your business has a presence in a state, then certain items you sell could be taxable. “Presence” is a little gray, but here are a few examples of some characteristics that the courts have decided prove nexus.
- If you have employees or contractors working in a state, you are liable to collect and remit sales tax. This can play havoc if you hire virtual or remote workers. Even if they are part-time, you have nexus in that state.
- If you outsource inventory fulfillment in any way (think Amazon sales), you have nexus in states where there is a physical warehouse that houses your products.
- If you own business property in a state, you must file sales tax.
- If you participate in trade shows or are a public speaker, you have nexus in states where the conferences are held.
If you fail to collect taxes where you should, the risk is easy to calculate. Take the potential taxable sales times the sales tax rate, and add any penalties. The numbers get scary if you’ve been in business for several years.
Let’s say your annual revenues are $5 million. You didn’t realize that your Texas sales were taxable, and this amounts to 10% or $500K. Your tax liability is $41,250 per year. If you have been doing it wrong for five years, well, you can add it up. Add penalties on top, and it’s not a small amount. It can wipe out your entire year’s profit.
Sales tax liability becomes more important if you plan to sell your business. A traditional valuation will always include a sales tax risk analysis. Even if you don’t plan to sell, the odds of you getting audited or a disgruntled employee blowing the whistle can be too much to risk.
If you want help calculating your risk or assessing nexus or taxability for your business, reach out and we can help.
Cool Tech Tools: Customer Portals
If you have a business where you have to send documents of any kind to your customers, then you may benefit from a portal. You can save time on customer service and possibly postage and labor. You will also look most professional while increasing service delivery.
What Is a Portal?
A portal is software in the cloud that allows users to upload and download files from a secure space that only they have access to. For each client you have, you can set up a private virtual filing cabinet where only you and the client will have the key. Your client will have their own user ID and password into their area of the portal. There, they can upload and download documents. Some portals also have secure signature capability to help you take the paperwork out of obtaining signatures.
How Can I Use a Portal?
Think of all the paperwork that occurs between you and your customer, and that will give you several ideas about how to use a portal. If your business is data-intensive, you will definitely benefit from a portal; imagine moving all of those documents out of email and into a clean, private filing folder in the cloud.
Businesses that would benefit the most include:
- Any small business with remote employees: a portal can be where they pick up and drop off work.
- Mortgage companies where the loan officers are collecting a great deal of information for the underwriters.
- Construction companies: each subcontractor could access the schedule, estimates, material details, invoices, and certificates of insurance.
- Real estate agents to collect the details of home purchases and sales
- Accountants, attorneys, consultants, coaches, and other professionals who deal with private customer information.
- Web design, ad agency, and marketing companies
Types of documents and files you can upload and download from portals include:
- Contracts, estimates, and legal documents
- Invoices and credit card authorizations
- Instructions and training materials and aids
- Company policies and procedures
- Brochures and marketing materials
- Reports and spreadsheets
- Forms and applications, blank and completed
- Graphics, drawings, and photos
You don’t necessarily have to set up a portal for every client; perhaps it’s cost-effective to use a portal on your largest customers or vendors.
Where Can I Find a Portal?
One of the leading vendors in the portal space is Citrix Sharefile. You can find them here: http://www.sharefile.com/. Your industry may have specific solutions for you as well, especially if you have regulations such as HIPAA that you need to follow.
You may also have heard of DropBox and Box.net. These companies offer file transfer and don’t have a dedicated user area, so they are useful, but a bit different than a portal.
Look for software that provides each user with their own unique login, and that will distinguish the software as a true portal.
If you decide to implement portals for your business, you can private-label them with your logo and place a direct link to your portal login page for easy client access.
Using portals will keep your inbox cleaner, save time looking for lost emails and documents, and help you look professional in the eyes of your clients.
A great way to speed up your cash flow is to get paid faster by customers who owe you money. One way to do that is to examine your payment terms to see if you can accelerate them. First let’s talk about what payment terms are common. Then I’ll share a study that showed which payment terms generate the fastest payments.
Traditional payment terms are spoken in the following format:
Percentage discount/(Days due from invoice date), “Net” (Days due before payment is past due)
An example is 2/10, Net 30. It means to the customer that if they pay within ten days, they can take two percent off of the invoice due amount. If they don’t want to do that, they need to pay the full invoice within 30 days of the invoice date.
You could write “2/10, Net 30” on your invoice, but you will get paid faster if you write it out in plain English.
If your industry “has always done it that way,” I encourage you to challenge the status quo. Getting your cash faster is important to all small businesses, so don’t let your industry hold you back.
Most corporations are required to take discounts if they are offered, so offering an early pay discount might help you get paid faster.
There are several studies on how to get paid the fastest. Of course they all have different conclusions! FreshBooks advises that “due upon receipt” terms can work against you as most people decide that that can mean anything. They suggest using wording that says “Please pay this invoice within 21 days of receiving it.” Here is their blog post on the topic:
Xero produced a page on the topic as well. Their research suggests that debtors pay bills 2 weeks late on average. They also suggest using terms of net 13 or less in order to get paid within 30 days. Here is their page on the topic:
Feel free to contact us if you’d like help deciding on payment terms for your business.
Google Drive, which used to be called Google Docs, is a great way to collaborate with team members and stakeholders that are in a different location than you are. Here’s a quick introduction (or refresher) on how to use this powerful collaboration tool.
Google Drive is a browser-based application that allows you to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other documents that reside in the cloud. They can easily be shared with others, and both of you can see and edit the document at the same time.
Using Google Drive
To get started, you’ll need to have (or set up) a Google account. If you have a gmail account, you can use it. Log in to your gmail or Google account, and at the top right corner of your screen, you will see a square made up of nine small squares. You can click on it and select Google Drive. Alternately, you can go to drive.google.com.
Time to Create
Once you’re on the Google Drive main page, you’ll see a large red CREATE button on the top left. Click it to create your first Google document. Select among the choices of spreadsheet, document, presentation, and more. Give the document a title, and start editing. The commands are very similar to Microsoft Office®, so there’s no learning curve.
Time to Share
When you are viewing a document, you’ll see a blue SHARE button on the top right side of your screen. Click it to enter the email address of a person you’d like to have see and/or edit the document.
You can tell who else is viewing the document at the same time you are because you’ll see a colored box and perhaps their picture on the top right side. You can also tell where their cursor is in the document; it will show up in another color.
As you create documents, you will see your list growing under My Drive. If someone else created the document and shared it with you, you’ll see it under Shared With Me.
So Many Uses
Here are a couple of ideas on how you can use Google Drive.
- As a bulletin board for your employees or customers
- For status reports on projects
- As a to-do list when multiple team members are involved – they can check off the items as they go
- As a collaborative note-taker when you’re brainstorming with another person
- With a client when you need to explain part of a document – you can copy and paste from Word or Excel to Google Drive (but check to make sure everything came over)
Google Drive is great for productivity and makes communications easier. Try it and let us know how you use it.
| The balance sheet is one of the main financial reports for any business. Among other things, it shows what a company owns, what they owe, and how much they and others have invested in the business. One of the characteristics of a balance sheet is how it separates what you own and what you owe into two categories based on timeframe.
Current and Long-Term
You may have seen the Assets section of your balance sheet divided into two sections: Current Assets and a list of long-term assets that might include Property, Plant, and Equipment, Intangibles, Long-Term Investments, and Other Assets.
Current Assets include all of the items the business owns that are liquid and can easily be converted to cash within one operating cycle, typically a year’s time. The most common types of current assets include the balances in the checking and savings accounts, receivables due from clients who haven’t paid their invoices, and inventory for resale.
The remaining assets are long-term, or assets that cannot easily be converted to cash within a year. Property, Plant, and Equipment, also termed Fixed Assets, includes buildings, automobiles, and machinery that the business owns. You might also see an account called Accumulated Depreciation; it reflects the fact that fixed assets lose their value over time and adjusts the balance accordingly.
Intangible assets are assets that have value but no physical presence. The most common intangible assets are trademarks, patents, and Goodwill. Goodwill arises out of a company purchase. Investments that are not easily liquidated will also be listed under Long-Term Assets.
Similarly, liabilities are broken out into the two categories, current and long-term.
Current liabilities is made up of credit card balances, unpaid invoices due to vendors (also called accounts payable), and any unpaid wages and payroll taxes. If you have borrowed money from a bank or mortgage broker, the loan will show up in two places. The amount due within one year will show up in current liabilities and the amount due after one year will show up in long-term liabilities.
The most common types of long-term liabilities are notes payable that are due after one year, lease obligations, mortgages, bonds payable, and pension obligations.
Why All the Fuss Over Current vs. Long Term?
Bankers and investors want to know how liquid a company is. Comparing current assets to current liabilities is a good indicator of that. Some small businesses have loan covenants requiring that they maintain a certain current ratio or their loan will be called. The current ratio of your business is equal to current assets divided by current liabilities. Bankers like this amount to meet or exceed 1.2 : 1 (that’s 120%: 100%, although this can vary by industry).
Next time you receive a balance sheet from your accountant, check out your current and long-term sections so that you’ll gain a better understanding of this report.