Budgeting Breakthrough

When you hear the word “budget,” what do you think about?  Most people would say something similar to “Ugghh!” If you would rather do just about anything besides create a budget, you’re not alone.  The word “budget” brings up connotations of endless numbers, constraints, the opposite of freedom and creativity, and hard work, none of which are very desirable.

Yet, the benefits of a budget are huge.  Budgets can help you with cash flow improvements, keep you on track for higher profits, and alert you to items that need further action.

From “Budget” to “Profit Plan”

To be successful with budgeting, we need to get rid of all of the connotations that go with the word.  Perhaps it might work if we rename “budgeting” to “profit planning.” And then, rather than focus on how little we should spend, let’s start with how much revenue we’re going to make.

Revenue Clarity

It’s simple to create a revenue plan if you go backwards.  What revenue goal would you like to hit this year?  Just like we would never get in a car without a final destination, a revenue plan gives us a number to aim for in our businesses.

Once you know your number, then we can use averages to come up how many sales or clients we need to generate in order to meet our revenue goal.  Here’s a quick example:  Let’s say you want to reach $5 million in revenue this year.  If you average order is $10,000, then you need 500 sales.  If you have multiple products and services, then you’ll need to sum the product of the average sale times the needed number of sales for each line.

From there, you can make marketing and production plans based on the number of sales or clients you need.

Protecting Your Profit

Think of the expense side of your “profit plan” as protecting your profit margins so that you can ensure financial gain from all the hard work you do.  Setting budget limits on spending will allow you to control overhead and other items so you can keep more of what you make.

Exceptional Reporting

A great “profit plan” report will provide several things.  You can compare budget to actual, or better yet, just be alerted to the accounts showing exceptions.  You can also get an income statement that compares the current period with the prior year period so you can see how far you’ve come.  One last option is a benchmark report which provides industry averages so you can measure how you fare compared to other companies in your industry.

A “profit plan” is a great tool for your business.  If we can help you with the process or provide you with custom reporting, please give us a call.

Need an A/R Makeover? A Quick, 5-Item Best Practice Checklist

June 27, 2013 · Posted in Accounting, Bookkeeping Tips, Management Tips · Comment 

Technology has allowed businesses to make substantial improvements in their customer invoicing processes.  The good news is that when you implement these technologies, you will almost always get paid much faster.

If it’s been a few years since the last time you’ve changed your accounts receivable processes, it’s time for a new look.  Here are five tips you can use to rate your own invoicing process, step by step.

1.     Invoice Creation

The best way to create all of your invoices is by the push of a button from one of about five types of systems that already have all of your data:

  •  Time and billing, if you bill hourly
  • Estimating and project management, if you use proposals
  • Customer relations management (CRM) systems that have invoicing as a feature
  • Point of sales systems that track open accounts
  • Accounting system that includes an A/R component

There are a couple of key best-practice concepts to follow at this step:

  • Eliminate any duplicate data entry you can.  You should only have to enter your invoicing data in one place, and it should flow to every other system that needs it.
  • Automate as much of the process as possible.  Never start in Word or Excel, because this always means duplicate data entry somewhere.
  • Have an easy approval process so someone else can do the data entry if needed.
  • Keep your invoice data real-time so you can benefit from the next step, which is….

2.     Invoice Delivery

How you create your invoice will vary by the type of business you have, but the main thing to make sure of is that the invoice is approved quickly and sent out to the client as soon as the work has been done.

The only way to do this is electronically.  If you’re still printing, stuffing, stamping, and mailing you invoices, you’re losing anywhere from two days to nearly a week before your customer even sees the bill.  Change that by using email or delivering the invoice electronically.

3.     Invoice Terms

When do you want to get paid?  Most people feel it’s realistic to aim for 30 days.  But if you set your payment terms to Net 30, you’re more likely to get paid in 45 days, not 30, according to recent research by Xero, where over 12 million small business invoices were reviewed.

Set your terms to 13 days or less, Xero suggests, because most small business debtors pay two weeks late.  Here is the infographic in case you want to check it out:  http://www.xero.com/guides/invoicing/

4.     Payment Method

How does your business rate when it comes to payment options?  If all you take is checks, you can add another week’s delay to your payment.  Instead, we recommend creating lots of choices for customers, such as taking:

  •  Credit and debit cards through MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Discover
    • You can set up links online (best) or receive a fax or scanned form where you can enter the card into your back office.
  • PayPal
  • ACH for recurring payments that the client agrees to draft from their bank account
  • Checks

Your industry may even have more options.  For example, in accounting, Intuit has their Intuit Payment Network (IPN) where small businesses can receive money electronically and send and receive requests for money.  IPN is far cheaper than PayPal fees, too.

5.     Receipt

When you get paid electronically, it’s in your bank (or your merchant account) within minutes.  If you bank online, you can see things immediately now (it’s really amazing!).  When you receive a check, you have the overhead of preparing the deposit and making the trip to the bank.  If you have hundreds of paper checks, you also have additional bank fees incurred from processing the checks.

If your accounting system interfaces with your bank, then you save a lot of time and money not having to post those transactions.

Invoice-Free Zone

Why not get out of the invoicing business altogether by offering a pay-in-advance option?  Your Accounts Receivable balance goes to nothing, to name one of many benefits.  Not every industry can adopt this practice, but if you think creatively, you might find some ways you can implement this in your business.

How did your A/R process rate on the 5-point checklist?  Got some ideas for improvement?  As always, please reach out if you have A/R questions or if we can help you implement your best practice invoicing system.

Is Hosted QuickBooks Right for You?

If you are currently using the popular QuickBooks desktop software, you now have a fairly new option available to you:  hosted QuickBooks.  In this article, we’ll talk about what it is, what type of businesses it’s right for, and how to get started if you decide it’s for you.

A Host of Opportunities

Hosted QuickBooks changes the location of your QuickBooks company file from your local computer to one of the dozen authorized QuickBooks hosting companies.  You then access your QuickBooks file through a secure Internet connection.  The good news is you continue using the exact same QuickBooks software, screens, forms, and reports that you are comfortably familiar with, so the additional learning curve is extremely low.   The two biggest differences are:

  • You access your QuickBooks differently; instead of accessing your local software, you will access the same version of QuickBooks software via the cloud on a secure server provided by a hosting vendor.  You will most likely access your QuickBooks by clicking on a desktop icon or accessing a screen and entering your login information.
  • The pricing is different.  Instead of paying a large software fee at the beginning and then optionally paying for annual upgrades, you pay monthly, like a lease.

There are a few other very minor differences, such as how you back up your file, how you print checks, invoices, and other forms, and how you interface with other software such as Microsoft Outlook® or Word®.  At most, the learning curve for each of these minor changes is five minutes top for any user.

Who Benefits

You will benefit from hosted QuickBooks if any of the following are true:

  • You, your team, your bookkeeper, or your CPA needs to be able to access your QuickBooks files from multiple locations.
  • You are spending at least one hour per month restoring the file from one location to another.
  • You have experienced errors in the past from backing up and restoring the company file or the Accountant’s Copy because of passing it back and forth among people who need to update it or to get information from it.
  • You prefer to save the time it takes installing QuickBooks and applying the upgrades to QuickBooks software.  With hosted QuickBooks, the hosting vendor takes care of all of that.
  • You do not have a recent backup of QuickBooks and forget to take backups on a regular basis.  With hosted QuickBooks, backups are a routine part of the process.
  • You’re great at working on the core items of your business, but want to reduce time spent on IT-related tasks.
  • You dislike or feel inadequate when it comes to technology, and you agree it makes sense to outsource as much as possible.

Any Concerns

Hosted QuickBooks is great, but it’s not right for everyone.  If you feel “safer” with no one having access to your QuickBooks, then hosting it may not be right for you.  Although the data centers are far more secure than the PCs in most people’s homes and offices because they have to undergo a rigorous security audit to become a hosting vendor, some people are simply uncomfortable passing their financial data to others.  If you want to consider hosted QuickBooks and wonder about security, we’ll be happy to have a conversation with you about that.

Hosted QuickBooks is also not right for people that are using very old software versions because you may be forced to upgrade to a newer version.

Hosted QuickBooks is also not right for people who have much more free time than budget.  Although hosted QuickBooks is not particularly expensive, there is a cost outlay that will buy you time savings.  If the free time you gain (that you can apply to completing more important priorities in your business) is not valuable to you, then hosted QuickBooks may not be right for you.

Getting Started

Before moving to a hosted QuickBooks solution, your accounting professional will want to ask you questions about how you are using QuickBooks, if they aren’t already familiar with your requirements.  Selecting the right hosting solution means evaluating:

  • What version and line of QuickBooks you are currently using because this has to be exactly matched with the hosting vendor.
  • What other applications access QuickBooks, such as online banking and payroll.
  • What add-ons you are using with QuickBooks, if any.
  • What printers, Microsoft software, email software, and other peripheral needs you have when using QuickBooks.

Once those answers are gathered, your accounting professional can provide you with some hosting solutions, costs, and implementation plans.  Most accounting professionals partner with one or more hosting companies so that you can get a seamless one-stop shop experience.  You may also be able to benefit from volume or package pricing through your accounting professional.

If you are thinking that hosted QuickBooks might be right for your business, please email us or give us a call so we can talk more about it.

What Is Cloud Accounting?

One of the most exciting changes in the accounting industry is cloud accounting.  The concept is easy to grasp:  cloud accounting simply puts your accounting system in a private space online so that it is fully accessible to you via a browser or a secure remote connection.

Two Ways to Be in the Clouds

There are primarily two ways to have your accounting system in the cloud.  First, it can be “hosted.”  This means that the current software you are using on your desktop, such as QuickBooks or Sage, does not change.  Neither does your company file.

The only thing you do differently once it’s set up is click a different icon to start the software.  Once you log in, most everything else is the same.  There are a couple of differences in printer access, Microsoft Excel® access, and some of the other interfaces, but it’s essentially the same experience.

So if it’s the same, why would you want to move to the cloud?  Because it completely eliminates the passing back and forth of the file among you, your CPA, your bookkeeper, and anyone else that needs to update or access your accounting file.  No more restores.  No more DropBox or YouSendIt downloads.

Hosting saves a ton of time because the people you grant access to can login to your file from anywhere.

The second way to have your accounting system in the clouds is to switch to an online accounting system.  In industry jargon, this is called SaaS, which stands for Software as a Service.  Examples of online accounting systems include QuickBooks Online, Xero, Wave, and Kashoo.  These systems have fewer features and will only be right for a client with a need for a simpler accounting system.

When you switch from desktop accounting software to SaaS, it will likely require conversion, setup, and training.  It’s a major change.

Benefits

There are many benefits to moving to the cloud; here are just a few of the more common ones:

  • Anywhere, anytime access to your accounting system.  Companies with multiple locations will benefit significantly from a hosted solution.
  • No more worrying about who has what version and whether the changes the accountant made were updated or applied.  There is one central file, and multiple people can be accessing it at the same time as long as you have the right number of user licenses.
  • No more software updates that you have to apply yourself or wait for.  This is done by the hosting provider or the SaaS.
  • Tighter security for your data.  The data centers typically have multiple state-of-the-art data security controls and must pass a rigid audit, which is far more protection than any small business can afford to provide for their own data.
  • Automatic offsite backup for disaster recovery purposes.

Concerns

Clients’ two major concerns include security, which is covered above, and costs.  When it comes to costs, the most important thing to look at is return on investment.  Will the time you save be of greater value to you than the costs of hosting or moving to a SaaS?  That answer varies for each client.

Curious About the Cloud?

If we’ve piqued your curiosity about cloud accounting, please feel free to reach out so we can continue the conversation.