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Bookkeeping Services 101 | Making Use of the Best Business Apps

April 6, 2016 / by Lori Kunkel posted in Southern New Hampshire, Bookkeeping Services

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Lori-Kunkel-for-web.jpgSuccessful entrepreneurs are always looking for an edge and asking themselves “What new approaches can I take to make things run better, faster, and more efficiently?”  Many of the entrepreneurs that I see in my capacity as a bookkeeping services provider owe their success to this quality: they try to fix what’s not necessarily broken.  I tend to emphasize this to all my clients – one of the most important hallmarks of success is the ability to maximize personal productivity and to find streamlined ways to manage tasks and/or employees.  Keeping up with the latest technology might be a great way to do this.

Without a doubt, there’s a ton of great apps out there that will serve your specific industry.  But here are a few of my favorites that will definitely be useful and enriching for any kind of business:

1.  Tallie 
This is one of my go-to recommendations, and your bookkeeping services professionals will thank you for using Tallie's great service.  They offer an easy to use platform for tracking, recording, organizing and processing business expenses.  Not only will this make life easier for you and your bookkeeper – your employees will thank you too.  This is much easier than saving receipts and copying them over later.  This often leads to error and sometimes employees lose those receipts, which can create a big mess.  Now employees can simply snap a photo of the receipt right onto the app.

2. Confluence
Confluence is an amazing way to get your office all on the same page – literally.  It’s a platform that allows communication and sharing to occur quickly and easily between employees and across departments.  Basically it becomes the online mirror of your business, and keeps everything in one place (while still allowing different teams, projects and departments to store their work and organize their communications separately and easily).  It can be accessed on all your devices.

3.  LinkedIn
By now you probably know about LinkedIn.  It’s been a dominant force in online business networking for years, and I still find myself recommending it to any clients who haven’t yet gotten on board.  It’s recently been upgraded to be faster and imbued with some new features, but essentially has stuck with its original mission: to connect professionals all around the world.  They have over 400 million members, arguably the largest and most powerful business network in the world!

Finding new applications and software solutions can change the way you do business – eliminating old problems and opening new doors.  The key is to be curious about what’s out there, as the list is always expanding.  Start following the latest news in business technology.  Tech.co is a great resource for keeping up with latest tech trends for entrepreneurs.  And you can always check in with your bookkeeping services provider as well to get recommendations for great financial and accounting apps, as well as industry-specific solutions perfect for you.


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Bookkeeping Services 101 | Managing March Madness

March 15, 2016 / by Elliot Hershik posted in Chicago, Bookkeeping Services

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Elliot-Hershik-for-web.jpgTo most people in the U.S., “March Madness” refers to the NCAA Division 1 college basketball tournament. This has become one of the most widely watched sporting events in the world and many people rearrange their work and personal calendars in order to catch the games on TV. This year the games start on March 15th  – a  date that is significant for another type of March Madness as well.

The second type is the one bookkeeping services professionals see small business owners go through every year when it’s time to get their recordkeeping for the prior year up-to-dateAfter that, it’s time to pass the required information on to their tax preparer or bookkeeping services firm – most corporations must file their tax returns by March 15th.  Basically this is a whole year’s worth of recordkeeping tasks heaped on just a couple of weeks.  

This process repeats itself year after year and unfortunately, many business owners just see this as a cost of doing businessThe good news is that this process can be simplified by keeping track of this information on a timelier basis throughout the year and eliminating the panic and stress of doing it all at once.  Not only does this make for a calmer March, but having this information ready throughout the year can be used to gain an advantage in the marketplace.

More consistent recordkeeping will give you the opportunity to review product lines and determine which should be expanded and which might need to be closed down. Companies can also review their short and long-term cash needs. This gives them the chance to go to outside funding sources while there is still time to negotiate advantageous terms, long before the cash runs out.

Take this opportunity to remove yourself and your company from the stress of this March Tax Madness.  Start by approaching your bookkeeping services professional or CPA to see how you can get better organized throughout the year and eliminate this stressful period – leaving you more time this March to sit back and enjoy the tournament! 

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4 Tax Related Mistakes to Avoid and How Outsourced Bookkeeping Services can Help

March 4, 2016 / by Dawn Hershik posted in Chicago, Bookkeeping Services

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Dawn-Hershik-for-web.jpgLet’s face it – most people, whether business owners or not, dread dealing with taxes. However, it is something that is unavoidable and needs to be dealt with in a timely manner or you run the risk of serious consequences. Listed below are four very important things to watch for when thinking about taxes. The bottom line, if you struggle in any of these areas, it’s worth it to seek help from a bookkeeping services pro.
  1. Failure to file –Whatever the reason, this is never a good idea. If you haven’t kept your books up-to-date throughout the year you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of getting everything organized for your tax preparer.  Most business owners believe they can handle the bookkeeping work themselves – how hard can it be? Even if the bookkeeping is fairly simple it’s usually not a priority in the mind of a busy owner. Chances are, after spending 12+ hours a day working on their business they don’t have the energy or inclination to work on the bookkeeping. By outsourcing the bookkeeping services everything will be up-to-date and readily available for the tax preparer – saving time and expense.

  2. Not Filing for an Extension – If you don’t have everything ready to file your taxes by the normal deadline your tax professional can file an extension for you. This will allow you some extra time but don’t wait to get things in order. In most cases, hiring a bookkeeping services company to get your receipts out of the shoebox and into an organized system will be more cost effective then having your tax preparer do it. If you do have to file an extension get help as soon as you know this is what’s happening. Waiting will keep you in the same spot you’re in now and possibly lead to penalties and more taxes if you miss the extension filing deadline. 

  3. Waiting Until the New Year to get started – Most people procrastinate about things they don’t enjoy doing and bookkeeping and taxes are high on that list. Waiting to get your books up-to-date in order to have your taxes prepared will cause a domino effect and in some cases more taxes and penalties that can be avoided. Employing a bookkeeping services firm early on will ensure you some peace of mind and you’ll be able to do some intelligent planning before the end of the year that may help you in the next year.

  4. Keeping meager records – Of course an outsourced bookkeeping service can help you keep better records, like keeping track of itemized receipts to explain those charges on the credit card statement. A good service will also recommend efficiencies for the business that you may be too busy to research on your own. Having the business run more smoothly and efficiently will save valuable time and money.

Avoiding tax filings will catch up with you eventually so it’s important to stay on top of your record keeping to ensure you can get this task done on time. That may mean hiring someone to do the bookkeeping for you. Spending money on a bookkeeping service now can save you big money in the long run.

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Bookkeeping Services 101 | Understanding Off Balance Sheet Financing

March 2, 2016 / by John Gleason posted in Metrowest, MA, North Shore, Bookkeeping Services

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John-Gleason-for-web.jpgMany of the clients who come to me for bookkeeping services ask me about Off Balance Sheet Financing.  What is it?  Why use it?  How does it work? The answer to the question, “What is it?” is deceptively simple.  Off Balance Sheet Financing is financing that will not appear as a liability on your balance sheet.  The answer to the other questions, however, is a little more complex.

Off Balance Sheet (OBS) Financing can be a desirable strategy for many businesses that don’t want their balance sheet to reflect an overly high debt-to-equity ratio.  That sort of thing will scare off investors.  But the use of OBS Financing is limited to certain contexts to protect those investors and make sure that they’re not missing out on information that they need to know.  You should check in with your bookkeeping services providers to find out exactly which uses of OBS Financing are allowable under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).  

Common uses for OBS Financing are Partnerships and Operating Leases.  Let’s start with Partnerships.  When a company is part of a partnership, it is not obliged to show the partner company’s liabilities on it’s own balance sheet.

Using OBS for Partnerships is a common practice.  It also happens to have been Enron’s infamous strategy for concealing its liabilities.  This is another reason why you want to work closely with your bookkeeping services providers when it comes to OBS Financing to make sure you’re staying well within the boundaries of acceptable and ethical practices.

OBS Financing is also widely used for Operating Leases.  If your company is in need of a car or another piece of equipment, you have the choice of leasing or renting (and then buying at the end of the lease period) or buying outright.  Both situations have the same result, which is you owning this equipment, but arrive at this point in different ways that will be reflected in the books differently.  With an operating lease, you can record only the rental expense and not the full cost.  If you were to buy the equipment outright you would be obliged to record the asset (your new equipment) and the liability (it’s price) on your balance sheet.  Going the path of the Operating Lease, then, will show much less liability on your balance sheet than buying outright.

If you’re looking to clean up your balance sheet for potential lenders, OBS Financing, accurately practiced, can be a great option to reduce your debt-to-equity ratio.  Additionally, it can be important when seeking additional funding as your previous funding may have involved a lender covenant specifying that your leverage ratios remain at a certain point.  Go to your bookkeeping services providers to get even more details on how it can work in the specific context of your own company.

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Bookkeeping Services 101:  Speeding Up and Staying Organized with Customer Management

February 25, 2016 / by Christi Todd posted in Santa Monica, Bookkeeping Services, Los Angeles

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christi-todd-for-web-square.jpgAs a bookkeeping services professional, I’m always looking for that balance between streamlining processes and keeping good controls.  Being highly efficient and accurate is the name of the game when it comes to bookkeeping services – and you don’t want one to come at the expense of the other.  If you’re like me and looking for ways to optimize your bookkeeping efficiency without losing that attention to detail, here are some great tips from a great book, Just-In-Time Accounting, by Steven Bragg:

1.  Preapprove Customer Credit: This is a simple way to be proactive and efficient.  Have your credit team review the credit of potential customers before your sales team ever makes the first call.  This way, by the time that call is made, the customer already has an assigned credit rating.

2. Review Your Customers’ Credit More Than Once: I recommend doing this two or three times a year.  Your customers' financial situation may be in flux – and you’ll avert potential issues if you keep an eye on their credit and stay ready to eliminate credit if need be.

3.  Don’t Delay Your Invoicing: I’ll never understand why so many professionals who deliver their products and services with such great consistency and efficiency are so disorganized when it comes to invoicing.  This is your moment to get paid!  And no one is going to remind you to do it but you.  That’s why you should deliver the invoice at the same time the product is delivered and just get it over and done with right away.  Make this part of your product delivery protocol.

4.  Call on Your Customers' AP Departments: Now that you’ve sent your invoice, don’t forget about it.  Make a follow-up call to the AP department as part of your routine to make sure that the invoice has been received and approved.

5.  Match Payments Against Accounts Receivable…Now:  Like invoicing, updating your Accounts Receivable is best to do at one specific time: right away!  If you just got a payment, match in A/R right now.  Don’t delay!

6. Forgo Sending Those Month-End Statements: this takes up valuable time, which would be better spent making collection calls.

Of course, there are countless strategies that bookkeeping services professionals use to streamline business-as-usual.  Those are just some of my favorites, but you should consult with your own bookkeeping services team to hear theirs.

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Bookkeeping Services | A Bookkeeper's Guide to Payroll

February 23, 2016 / by John Gleason posted in Metrowest, MA, North Shore, Bookkeeping Services

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John-Gleason-for-web.jpgWhen looking to outsource, payroll services are usually one of the first operations that business owners send out-of-house. This is no surprise. If you’re not an experienced accountant who knows all the ins and outs of the tax code, doing your own payroll can become a nightmare, and hiring a fulltime in-house employee to do it is simply not an option or a necessity for many small businesses. As a bookkeeping services provider, my clients often come to me asking just what they should be looking for in a payroll services provider. Here’s a few things I tell them to keep in mind:

Know What Services to Look For
Your first job as an informed consumer when shopping for payroll services is to understand exactly what payroll services are. There are a lot of great online and cloud-based payroll services out there and it can be hard to keep all the details straight. Make sure that any option you’re considering can handle all basic operations like:

Paying all employees and contractors via paycheck or direct deposit.
Tracking paid time off (PTO) as well as sick days and vacation days for all employees.
File payroll taxes
Process earning and deductions such as reimbursements, commissions, tips, garnishments and bonuses
Deduct for 401(k), as well as FSA, HSA and IRA contributions.

Know What It All Costs
Most outsourced payroll firms offer their services for a fixed subscription fee, with a small fee added (generally $1- $5) per month, per employee. These fees can range in size from $15 to more than two hundred/month. This will of course depend on how big your business is and what kind of services you need. Discuss options with your bookkeeping services provider to get some perspective on which payroll firms offer the best value for your money.

Make Sure it Works for You
Most online payroll services will offer a free trial online. This is a great chance to see if their interface and services work for you. When you get set up with an account, go to their website and add employees. This is an interface you will be dealing with a lot so you want to make sure that it’s user-friendly, functional and compatible with you. Your employees also should be able to access personal portals to check on their PTO and see time stubs. Also, make sure you test-drive their customer service. There’s nothing better than having fast, efficient and reliable customer service when you need it.

Ask About Taxes
Tax services that should be handled by payroll include process employee W-2 forms and end of year 1099 forms. This should come standard and any company that tries to charge extra for tax compliance services pertaining to payroll are probably not the best option for your business.

Scalability
Like your bookkeeping services, you should make sure that your payroll services can be scaled easily and effectively. They may be the right fit for your company today, but will they be the right fit for you in a year? Ask about how they would handle scaling up your services over time, and what it would cost to grow with them?

Security
Now this is one that really can’t be overstated. Your payroll services providers, like your bookkeeping services providers, will be handling important and private financial information regarding your business and your employees. Data security is highly important in situations like this. Before signing on ask about how many layers of security they have for online information, as well as what kind of security is offered at data centers.


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Bookkeeping Services 101 | Crucial Financial Reports for Your New and Growing Business

February 17, 2016 / by John Gleason posted in Metrowest, MA, North Shore, Bookkeeping Services

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John-Gleason-for-web.jpgIn my perspective as a bookkeeping services provider, when it comes to getting your new business up and running, organization and proper reporting are key. A lot of my clients, when they’re just getting started, are focused on other new business priorities like staffing, training, and marketing. But keeping an eye on the numbers will keep you connected to what’s going on with your business, and will become your greatest tool for maximizing growth as you move forward.

So where do you look for the numbers? There are many ways to examine your business and you should consult with your bookkeeping services provider about the reports that will be most important to you. That said, there are three main reports that will be crucial whether you are selling shoe polish or operating a traveling circus: these are your income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement.

1. Income Statement
Your income statement will show you your business’ earned revenue, expenses, and profits over a fixed period. Basically, this document tells you if you’re making money or losing it – definitely something you want to be aware of. At the very least, you should be going over your Income Statement every month with your bookkeeping services team.

2. Balance Sheet
The Balance Sheet will show you your business’ liabilities, assets, and capital on a specific date. This can be a very important document for sharing with potential investors, as it reveals what your company actually owns, and what your company owes as well. Check in with your balance sheet on a monthly basis at the least.


3. Cash-Flow Statement
The Cash-Flow Statement is of particular importance for small, newly started and growing enterprises, as these are the businesses that might have the most trouble getting their hands on the cash they need. You’d be well served by taking a good look at your cash-flow statement on a monthly basis. Unlike your income statement (which will show you revenues even when they have yet to be collected) your cash flow statement lets you know how much cash you have, in actuality, at your business’ disposal.


4. And the Rest
The above are the three main financial reports to look at, but there are many ways to examine a business. It may be an analysis of the percentage of new leads that become clients, or a look at how your clients are finding you (by word of mouth? By internet search? Through your advertisements?) Your bookkeeping services provider can help you come up with a strategy, figuring out which metrics will be relevant for you to examine and preparing them for you.


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Bookkeeping Services | How Sharp is Your Axe?

February 15, 2016 / by Jeff Orchard posted in Tampa Bay, Bookkeeping Services

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Jeff-Orchard-for-web-2.jpgAbraham Lincoln has been credited with the following quote: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Regardless of the context, the premise holds true, especially in business.  To a business owner, the tool isn’t an axe but can include technology, people, capital, knowledge, experience, and yes… actual tools. I find that many of my clients have very valuable tools at their disposal, but they often aren’t as sharp as they should be or they aren’t being used correctly.  Based on my experience providing bookkeeping services for small businesses, I’ve seen three ways that tools are being underutilized.  Here’s what they are and how to avoid it.

1.  Even the Greatest Hammer Won’t Cut Down a Tree
You’ve got to put your tools to the right use, otherwise they’re useless.  I often see this kind of misallocation when it comes to a company’s people.  Your team is your most valuable asset.  Take the time to hire the right people for each job, and make sure your employees are given the freedom to focus on their areas of expertise.  Don’t slough off the bookkeeping services onto the office manager, for example.  When each task is handled by someone competent, trained and enthusiastic – morale and efficiency skyrocket.  

2.  You Don’t Know Which Axe to Buy
Sometimes our tools are software solutions or outsourced firms that provide us with payroll or bookkeeping services.  These kinds of services can be a boon to your business, bringing it valuable outsider experience and great new technologies.  But you won’t get to benefit if you don’t know what you’re looking for.  As a provider of bookkeeping services, I often see clients struggle to decide between QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Desktop.  They also may be overwhelmed in the search for the right Payroll Services Firm.  Because of this, it becomes incredibly important to become an informed buyer.  Read reviews online, speak to other business owners about their choices, and call in your trusted advisors, be they your bookkeeping services team, your grandma, or any other consultant you confer with.

3.  Your Axe Isn’t Sharp
This is the issue Honest Abe was focused on, and I think it’s especially important to consider here.  How do we make sure our axe is sharp in business?  Well, first off one needs to realize that there’s more than one axe that needs sharpening.  To succeed in your business means putting in consistent effort, and not growing complacent.  Evolve your training processes as your business grows.  Help your employees grow and develop within the organization.  Review how operations are carried out and ask yourself if something needs to be updated.  And remember that your most valuable tool is yourself -so keep yourself sharp!

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Bookkeeping Services | Understanding and Mitigating Business Risk

February 11, 2016 / by Georgean Schmidt posted in Central Ohio, Bookkeeping Services

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Georgean-Schmidt-for-web.jpgBuying a business, or investing in one, can be risky. What are these risks? Of course some of them are physical. Could the buildings be damaged by fire? Is there a manufacturing process associated with serious financial liabilities? There are technological risks as well. How secure is a business’ data and what’s the back-up plan for when the system is down? In addition to this there are the business risks. Will consumer trends change in a way that’s favorable or unfavorable to the business? Will people be interested in this product/service at all?

If you’re in the position of selling your business or trying to interest investors in your enterprise, you need to be considering these risks before they do. Any investor or buyer is going to want to know just what kind of risk they’re buying into, and you should know what kind of risk you’re selling so that you can address all concerns comprehensively.

When putting together a business’ risk profile, it’s important to consult with management as well as owners. Not only this, but bring in your most trusted external advisors like your bookkeeping services professionals and legal advisors.

Go through your operations with a fine-tooth comb and compile potential risk factors (physical, occupational, and business) that will be of interest to investors. After you’ve put together a full list with the insight of your management, bookkeeping services providers and lawyers, it’s time to rank your risk factors.

This will be done by considering the seriousness of each risk against its likelihood. Your offices being hit by a meteor from outer space would garner a high grade on the seriousness matrix, but a low grade on likelihood. According to bizjournals.com, each risk factor should be scored (with two grades, each between 1 and 5) for both it’s severity and it’s likelihood. These two scores should then be multiplied together to provide a general risk score between 1 and 25. High priority will go to risks that rank high in both categories.

Afterwards, discuss with your bookkeeping services professionals and your other advisors, how you can best mitigate these risks, allotting resources to each risk based on its ranking.

Remember, no wise buyer or investor is expecting your business to be risk free. As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained. But showing your investors that you understand the risks, have ranked them, and have done all you can to mitigate them will build their confidence in you and your business.


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Bookkeeping Services 101 | Using QuickBooks Online For Inventory Management

February 9, 2016 / by John Gleason posted in Metrowest, MA, North Shore, Bookkeeping Services

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John-Gleason-for-web.jpgIf you have an inventory intensive business, managing your inventory can become a major component of managing your business’ finances. It’s no surprise that many business owners turn to their bookkeeping services provider for guidance in this area.

Your inventory may represent your business’ ability to generate revenue, and thus should be managed tightly. That means organization, accountability, and consistency. I’ve seen businesses with mismanaged inventory before and I always urge those clients to consider what it would be like if they treated their cash the same way they treated their inventory – storing piles of cash all over the place and failing to note where they’re kept, never jotting down just how much money there is, and forgetting to track exactly when it comes in and when it goes out of the storeroom!

I tend to recommend using clear and consistent labeling systems, short and unambiguous item numbers, units of measure, a great and accurate starting count, and a super software that tracks all your inventory’s comings and goings. I generally advise my clients to turn to QuickBooks Online. For one thing, it’s software most of us are already familiar with, and it has a great inventory management feature. While QuickBooks has, in the past, been focused on “service” oriented businesses, it has recently upped its game on inventory services. New features allow you to create inventory lists with images, enter into an SKU field, track quantity, and easily adjust the value of inventory. It seems that new inventory-based features are being added regularly. For more complex inventory management needs, there are a host of cloud-based inventory apps that integrate seamlessly with QuickBooks Online, such as Exact Online, Salespad, and Unleashed.

As a bookkeeping services provider, I highly recommend this solution as QuickBooks Online provides an inexpensive, highly accessible, and user-friendly accounting package, while providing options for inventory management from the most simple to the most complex. This allows your business to stay on top of your business' inventory from start-up and as you grow.

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