Bare Bones of Bank Selection

When choosing a bank, there are four “bare bones” items things to consider.

  1. Service: You’ll get better service at local community banks. It’s also important to consider whether a bank has 24/7 service available by phone and/or online.
  2. Technology: The flip side of #1 is that the smaller the bank, the less effective it is in using technology. Finding a balance between service, integration with your accounting application(s), and  mobile app quality.
  3. Location: If you’ll need to visit the bank frequently, convenience is important. Selecting a bank that embraces technology (see #2) will mean features like mobile deposits will be available. Such features will reduce your need to visit the bank.
  4. Products and Fees – Your financial advisor can help you identify what banking products your business needs now and in the future. He or she can also help you evaluate how much the needed services are going to cost you.

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Home Work

According to SBA.gov, more than half of U.S. businesses are home-based. I own one of them, so I know both the benefits and the challenges of working from home. In the hopes that I can be helpful to other small business owners, here are some things I’ve learned over the years.

  • Set aside space in your home for work. A separate room or building works best, especially if you have other family members at home during your working hours. Minimizing distractions will increase your productivity and decrease the amount of time you must spend working.
  • Make your office space pleasant, because you’ll be spending significant time there. Decorate it the way you like, use ergonomic furniture to maximize your comfort and productivity. Add motivational and/or inspirational artwork if you feel it will be beneficial.
  • Establish regular office hours, and firmly ask family and friends to honor those hours. There’s a tendency on their part to think, because you work from home, you’re available to family and friends all the time. But frequent interruptions can drain productivity, meaning you have to spend more time in your home office to get your tasks finished. Those same interruptions can also lead to mistakes in your work.
  • During those office hours, decide what time of day you are in top form, and reserve that time every workday for focusing on  your more intense tasks. Use the remainder of the work day to do things like return phone calls and answer emails.
  • Use automation and outsourcing as much as possible to minimize the amount of time you must spend on administrative or management tasks. The cost of tech hardware and applications can be justified if it allows you to spend more time growing your business and, therefore, your income.
  • Never give out your home address as your business address. Instead, get a post office box, an address at the UPS store (for example), or an address with a virtual mail service such as Virtual Post Mail or Traveling Mailbox. I know several home-based business owners who gave out their home address, only to find themselves in scary stalking/harassment situations.

Download my free report, Bookkeeping Myths.

 

Cloud Accounting Advantages

If you’re tempted to switch to a cloud accounting application, but you’re afraid you’ll regret it, this article is for you. Let’s briefly review the advantages of a cloud accounting application.

  1. Accessibility – desktop applications require licensing for each device on which you wish to use them. Then there’s the hassle of data transfer or access from more than one device. Cloud accounting eliminates all these problems.
  2. Operating System (OS) Compatilibity – cloud-based accounting applications accessed through an internet browser will run on any OS, independent of whichever OS you’ve chosen to use.
  3. Usability – Cloud accounting applications have a shorter learning curve and are more user-friendly. Computer-proficient staff will easily adapt.
  4. User management – Cloud accounting applications allow multiple users to collaborate on the same files simultaneously. Different levels of access (permissions) can be assigned to different users. This means you can control which parts of your accounting app each user can access, plus what changes they’re enabled to make to your data.
  5. Security – the two largest cloud accounting applications, QuickBooks Online (QBO) and Xero, both utilize 256-bit, bank-level, military-grade encryption.
  6. Support and backup – Cloud accounting applications typically offer free support via phone, chat, and/or email, depending on your subscription level. Your data is back up in multiple locations. And the provider handles all software updates and server maintenance.

Most cloud accounting applications offer free trials, as well as free tutorials and demos. If you’re even remotely considering the switch, I encourage you to investigate these further.

Download my free Bookkeeping Myths report.

Think Outside the Box

In a small business, because cash flow can be a challenge at times, you (the owner) must be very cautious with your expenditures. But balancing quality against cost efficiency can be its own challenge.

Which part of your company can best help you identify cost savings? Your accounting department, of course. That department tracks all your expenses  and, therefore, best understands where you can save money. In fact, the accounting department is key to keeping your financial operations on track. It has direct influence on the overall productivity of your company. Your awareness of these facts can, however, lead to overspending on bookkeeping and accounting functions, because the expenses seem to become a necessity.

There are ways to optimize the accounting processes and reduce costs, without degrading quality. Modern technologies and business practices allow you to reduce accounting expenses such as hardware and software, facilities, and manpower, while achieving the same level of quality. These technologies and practices allow you to easily outsource  outsource your bookkeeping and accounting functions.  Secure cloud accounting applications significantly reduce your hardware and software expenses. Such applications also give you real-time access to updated financial records, from any internet-connected device. (More on cloud accounting applications in my next blog post.) Other applications such as Hubdoc.com, Bill.com, and Teamwork Projects streamline the handling of receipts and other important documents, bill payment, and financial project task management.

These technologies allow you to hire virtual bookkeeping and accounting staff on a contract basis, greatly reducing your expenditures on both manpower and office space, without sacrificing speed, convenience, or quality in your company’s accounting functions. To ensure your quality standards are met or exceeded, seek out qualified, experienced financial professionals who are certified in the application(s) of your choice, and who have verifiable references. It’s also important to take into account any language barriers and differences in time zones, especially if you want your virtual staff to be available via IM during your office hours.

Schedule a free consultation with me today and learn how easy it is to work with a virtual bookkeeper.

 

Digital Mail Management

mailLadyDid you know there’s a way to receive your mail without having it actually come to your business (or home)? It’s called virtual mail, and the service is popular with small business owners and RV owners, among others. I use it for my business, and my husband and I use for our personal mail. It cuts down dramatically on junk mail, and converts all our “real” mail to PDF. That makes it easy to digitally file important mail items. A Google search reveals a comprehensive list of companies who provide the service. The two largest ones are Virtual Post Mail and Traveling Mailbox.

Here’s how virtual mail works.

  1. Select a virtual mail company and purchase a subscription.
  2. Fill out and send in USPS Form 1583.
  3. Update your address with senders of your mail and/or submit a Change of Address form to the USPS.
  4. The virtual mail company you selected in step one will scan envelopes of incoming mail and send you an email notification when new mail is waiting. You then log into an online dashboard, review each envelope, and decide whether you want it opened and scanned to PDF, shredded/deleted, or forwarded.

Virtual mail companies typically take stringent security measures to ensure their employees don’t steal vital personal information; these measures are different with each company. If the company’s website doesn’t explain those security measures, I encourage you to contact them and ask. It’s probably wise, however, not to have things sent there that contain bank account numbers, debit/credit card account numbers, etc. And if you do have them sent to your virtual mail company, request that they be forwarded to you rather than opened and scanned.

The larger virtual mail companies have locations in multiple states, and can therefore provide you a mailing address near where you live. In addition to virtual mail services, each company offers different add-on services, so it’s important to evaluate each one carefully in order to find the best combination of price and services you need.

Paper Nightmares

manPaperStacksBack in 2007 I took on a sign company client. It was a small business owned by a retired engineer who had bought the business from a relative, having never owned or run a business of any kind before. The books were several months behind–especially accounts payable. There were stacks of invoices and bills that were not filed or organized in any particular order. Even after I entered them into QuickBooks Desktop for payment, the owner refused to let me or anyone in the office setup any kind of filing system for them, and would not explain why. Because I was doing the books, it quickly became evident to me that the business had serious cash flow problems. The bank account balances were barely enough to cover payroll each week. Furthermore, even after entering all those bills and invoices into QuickBooks, few of them were paid, and most were seriously past due.

At the end of each week I sent the owner updates on what I had completed in relation to the bookkeeping and what information I needed from the owner in order to complete other bookkeeping tasks. All my emails were ignored. (I should note here that the owner was almost never in the office when I went there to work on the books.) After a few months I terminated the relationship. I could not properly do my job if the owner was not going to communicate with me. There is only so much a bookkeeper can do without that communication. Just a short time later, the company went belly up.

It is so important for business owners to know where they stand financially. In order to know this, they must be responsive to bookkeeper and/or accountant requests. They must have a filing system (digital or physical) for all types of documents including invoices, and to understand that bills must be paid on time. And they must keep the books updated so they can effectively make both routine and emergency business decisions.

Even more important, a business owner must be willing to accept when a business is no longer viable and take appropriate action.