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

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.

A Match Made in Heaven

July 4, 2013 · Posted in Accounting, Cloud Accounting, Xero · Comment 

Traditional accounting systems have you enter your data in a ledger format where there is a debit and a credit.  Accountants have done this for hundreds of years; the first evidence of a double-entry bookkeeping system dates to the year 1300 (Source: Wikipedia).

What’s different in Xero is that one side of the debit/credit entry is already handled for you when it comes to banking and credit card transactions.  You have three choices for each transaction:

  • Match
  • Create
  • Transfer

Match

In Xero, you use matching when the transaction has already been entered in Xero, such as an invoice that is awaiting payment or a check you are waiting to clear the bank.  When the transaction comes in via the bank feed, all you have to do is accept the match that Xero presents to you automatically.

The beauty of matching is it’s at least twice as fast as most other accounting systems.  Your bookkeeper will save considerable time.

Create

If there is no matching transaction in Xero, you can choose Create, which will record the new transaction.  In this case, you’ll need to enter the customer or vendor name plus the account that you want the other side of the bank transaction coded to.

For example, if a transaction comes through that is a bank charge or bank draft that is not previously recorded, then you can use create to enter it. In the case of the bank charge, you’ll enter the account Bank Fees and the bank name.

Transfer

The third choice is a transfer.  This is when money is moved from one bank account to another.  All you’ll need to do to record the transaction is to select the bank account.

Look Ma, No Data Entry

These three coding options are at the heart of how Xero saves business owners and bookkeepers so much time.  Since the bank feed side of the transaction is taken care of, all you have to do is code the transaction.

If you keep your books via the accrual basis where you enter your invoices and bills ahead of when they are received or paid, then you will use matching most often.  If you wait for the transaction to hit the bank, which is similar to cash basis bookkeeping, then you will be using the “create” function most often.

Game. Set. Match.

If you haven’t seen this part of Xero, you’re in for a treat.  Give us a call, and we’ll set up your free demo today.

 

Receiving Inventory With or Without Bills in QuickBooks

When your goods come rolling in, be sure to document them correctly.
 
You’re probably happy to see couriers delivering inventory items you’ve ordered since it means you can ship to customers, but recording the new stock means yet another repetitive task. 
QuickBooks’ tools can help with this, but you need to be sure you’re using the right forms. There are two different ones that you’ll use, depending on whether or not you’ve received a bill.
Bill in Hand
Either way, you’ll get started by opening the Vendors menu (or clicking the arrow next to Receive Inventory on the home page). If you do have a bill, select Receive Items and Enter Bill(Receive Inventory with Bill on the home page). The Enter Bills screen opens; select your vendor from the drop-down list. If you had entered a purchase order, you’ll see something like this:
 

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Figure 1: If any purchase orders exist for that vendor in QuickBooks, you’ll see this message.

Click Yes. The Open Purchase Orderswindow will open displaying a list. Select the PO(s) for the items received by placing a checkmark in front of it/them and click OK.
 
Tip: If you accidentally click No, the vendor’s information will be filled in on the Enter Bills screen, and you can click the Select PO icon in the toolbar.
 
Now the PO item information has been entered in the window. Check the form for accuracy, then save it. 
 
Of course, if there was no purchase order, you’ll enter the information about the items you received (descriptions, prices, etc.) in the Enter Bills screen.
 
Delayed Billing
 
If you receive items without a bill, you still need to document the shipment. Open the Vendors menu and select Receive Items (or click the arrow next to the Receive Inventory without Bill). 
 
The Create Item Receipts window opens. Select the vendor by clicking the down arrow next to that field. If a message about existing purchase orders for that vendor appears, click Yes orNo, and either select the appropriate POs or enter the information about what you received.
 
If the items were already earmarked for a specific customer on the purchase order, the Customer column will have an entry in it, and there will be a check mark in the Billable column. If there was no purchase order and you’re entering the information, you can complete those two fields manually. 
 

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Figure 2: If a purchase order was already assigned to a customer and is billable, that information should appear in this window.

Enter a reference number if you’d like. The Memo field should already be filled in with Received Items (bill to follow), and the Bill Received box should not be checked. 
 
Warning: Be sure that theItems tab is highlighted when you’re recording physical inventory. If there are related costs like freight charges or sales tax, click theExpenses tab and enter them there. 
 
Paying Up
 
When the bill comes in for the merchandise that you’ve already recorded on an Item Receipt, you’ll use this procedure to pay it:
  • ClickVendors | Enter Bill for Received Items, which opens the Select Item Receipt window.
  • Select the vendor, then the correct Item Receipt.

Note: If the bill corresponds to more than one Item Receipt, you’ll need to convert each into a bill separately. You can create a new bill if some items received were not accounted for on Item Receipts.

  • Click the box next to Use the item receipt date for the bill date if you want to match it to the inventory availability date. 

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Figure 3: You’ll select purchase orders that you want to create bills for in this window.
  • Click OK. The Enter Bills screen opens, which can be processed like you’d handle any bill.

Though it may seem like extra work, this last procedure is important, since it prevents you from recording the same inventory items twice.

It’s easy to get tangled up on these procedures. We hope you’ll consult us when you being implementing inventory management in QuickBooks, or when you’re taking on a new task there. It’s a lot easier to prevent errors than to go back and fix them.

 

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.

 

How to Create a Progress Invoice from an Estimate

Not using progress invoices? Maybe you should be.
 
The U.S. economy may be picking up, but your customers are probably still being very careful with expenditures. If your company’s finances will allow it, you can help them out on sizable jobs by using progress invoicing, also known as partial billing or progress billing.
 
You could, of course, simply create invoices for smaller chunks of the job as they come. A smarter way is build estimates for the entire job or sequential phases so your customer can see the big picture. You can still use progress invoicing to start collecting funds one segment at a time. 
 
How to Proceed
 
First, be sure you have progress invoicing turned on. Go to Edit | Preferences | Jobs& Estimates | Company Preferences and make sure theYes button is filled in next to the questions about estimates and progress invoicing.
 
Now create your estimate (these instructions are for QuickBooks Premier 2013; your steps may vary slightly). Go to Customers | Create Estimates. When you’ve entered all of the items you want to include in this phase of your project, click the Create Invoice button. This window will open: 
 

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Figure 1: You can decide how many of your estimate items will be included on your progress invoice.

By clicking one of these buttons, you can bill the customer 100 percent of what’s due on the invoice or just a percentage. But let’s say you and your customer have agreed that payment will be due in pre-defined states, so click the third button and select one or more of the line items. Click OK. QuickBooks will display a new window that lets you select items and/or percentages of amounts due.
 
In our example here, we’re going to invoice the customer for two items, the blueprints and floor plans. So we selected the button next to Show Quantity and Rate and entered the full estimate quantity for each item in the QTY columns (if you chose Show Percentage, new columns would appear). It would look like this: 
 

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Figure 2: You can select specific items or percentages for you progress invoice.

Click OK. QuickBooks will return to your progress invoice, which you can save and print or email to your customer. Your original estimate will remain unchanged.
 
Tip: If you don’t want any of the zero amounts to appear on the progress invoice, go to Edit |Preferences | Jobs & Estimates| Company Preferences and make sure there’s a check mark in the box next to Don’t print items that have zero amount.
 
Following Up
 
When you want to bill for another set of items on this estimate, simply repeat these steps.
 
Here’s an easy way to determine how much (if any) of the estimate has been invoiced. Go to the Customer Center and select the customer. Click the arrow next to the Show field and selectEstimates. Any estimate that has a zero in the OPEN BALANCE column has been completely billed. 
 
QuickBooks provides a report that tells you where you are with all of your progress invoices. Go to Reports | Jobs, Time &Mileage | Job Progress Invoices vs. Estimates. Your report will include the progress invoice you just created: 
 

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Figure 3: You can see what percentage of each estimate has been included on a progress invoice in this report.

More Options

What if you determined that you won’t have one or more of the items on the estimate? QuickBooks lets you quickly generate a purchase order. With your estimate open, click Create Purchase Order to select the item(s) needed and generate the form. You can also click Create Sales Order if one is necessary.
Estimates provide a useful way to fine-tune your bookkeeping and inform your customers about impending costs. They can also be confusing if you don’t keep up with them. We can help you determine when they’re a good idea and how to keep them organized. QuickBooks provides good tools here, but they require some administrative control.

Mobile Marvel

May 23, 2013 · Posted in Accounting, Business Tips, Cloud Accounting, Xero · Comment 

It’s common now to get alerts from your bank on your smartphone.  It’s even fairly easy to find a good app where you can take credit card payments from your cell.  But how about the rest of your mobile accounting needs?  Finally, the whole enchilada is here with Xero Touch for the Android, iPhone, and iPad.

Once you have your Xero accounting system in place, you can perform most of the major daily accounting functions from your smartphone.  Xero Touch allows you to enter a four-digit pin so that the login process is easier.  From there you can do the following:

At-a-Glance Balance Summary

You can check your real bank account, PayPal, and credit card balances.  While banks allow you to see your bank balance, this balance does not take into consideration uncleared checks, so the balance can be misleading.  Balances in Xero should be more accurate as long as you are caught up with your accounting.

Invoice Functions

You can create, approve, and send invoices.  One way this feature can be utilized is to have your bookkeeper enter the invoices as drafts in Xero.  Once they are entered, you can review and approve them via your smartphone.  You can also email them directly from your smart phone.

Expense Features

Let’s say that you just used your credit card to make a purchase.  You can take a picture of the receipt and enter it right in Xero Touch so you’ll be up-to-date and paperless.

Reconciling Transactions

What Xero calls reconciling is quite different than what you might be used to.  Much of Xero’s functionality is based around bringing banking data into the system and then either matching it with bills and invoices already entered or coding it to the proper income statement account.  The smartphone app allows you to do matching, coding (which they call creating), transferring between accounts, or adding comments.   These are the same four functions you have available online, and we’ll go into these in more detail in next month’s article.

Contacts

Are you visiting a client and need to make a note?  You can do so right on your cell phone in Xero Touch.

Jazzed About Mobile Accounting?

We know, it might be a bit of a stretch to have the words “jazzed” and “accounting” in the same sentence, but we’re jazzed about Xero Touch and the future of mobile accounting.

It will only get better from here, so be the first to join us for the ride.  Give us a call so we can see if Xero is right for your business.

Have You Been Hacked? How to Minimize Your Risk

Just about every day, we read in the news that another company has been hacked.  You might have already been directly affected by the password thefts at LinkedIn last year or Evernote this year.  Or you might have had your own social media account, email, website, network, or computer hacked.  Worse, many of you have been hacked but don’t even know it.

So how can you minimize the damage and risk of hackers?  Here are several tips, some familiar, some not so familiar.  As you go through the list, check off the ones you’re already doing and make a list of new ideas to implement to protect your business and personal assets.

Signing Your Life Away

Your signature might look great in a graphic in your email signature line, your website, or your newsletter, but it’s a huge risk.  You’re giving away your handwriting, and forgers can easily replicate, master your handwriting, and impersonate you.  To reduce identity theft, don’t publish your real signature anywhere.

Money, Honey

Implement strong passwords on all of your financial accounts:  banks, credit unions, PayPal, credit cards, and your accounting system.  We know it’s painful, but do not use the same password for your financial accounts anywhere else, especially social media!  If possible, use a different password for each account to reduce risk further.

What’s Your Password?

Here are some quick password tips:

  • Do not use your name, your pet’s names or your kid’s names in your passwords.  There’s just too much information available publicly to do that safely anymore.
  • Mix up letters, numbers, capital letters, and special characters, if they are allowed.
  • The longer, the more secure; most apps require at least 8 digits.
  • Change passwords quarterly to be on the safe side.

Password Storage

Most apps that help you save time with passwords are NOT safe!  Here’s what we do and don’t recommend:

DO:

  • Password-protect your computer, even though you don’t have to.
  • Keep a separate file of your passwords on your computer, but DO password-protect that file and make sure it is not shared with anyone on a network.  Also name the file something totally unrelated like bio, letter, or goulash recipe; do not name it “passwords.doc!”
  • You can also keep a record of your passwords offline, but be sure to lock it up in a safe.
  • When you make file and disk backups, be sure those are locked up and password-protected too.  They will no longer have your PC password to protect them.

DON’T

  • Don’t give in to your browser or any website when it asks to remember your user ID and password, especially for your financial accounts or client information.  All of the major browsers have been hacked – Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and even Safari.

If you use password management applications, proceed with caution.  Be sure you have properly vetted their security claims.  Most of these are simply form fillers that are not safe.

Vulnerable Applications

Avoid leaving vulnerable PC ports open and unattended, including chat, messaging, FTP (file transfer protocol), Skype, webinars, Google hangouts, video sharing, and the like. It’s like having all the doors and windows unlocked in your house; an intruder has a lot of choices for easy entry.  When you are on these more vulnerable connections, shut the others down, and close the applications you don’t need.  Then logoff when you are done.

A Plug for Software

As soon as a hacker has found a new exploit, the software companies will learn about it and make an update available within days.  The hacker community is tight;  other hackers will look for software that is not updated and exploit the hack.  Avoid the copycat hackers by staying on top of your software updates, not just your anti-virus, but also your Microsoft and other software updates.  Doing this will eliminate a great deal of the risk out there.

New Users

If multiple team members need to access your software, consider setting up additional users rather than having one account.  If one person gets hacked, the others will likely still have access and can react quicker to the intrusion.

Stay Safe Out There

How many of these are you already doing?  Give yourself a reward, and then get busy implementing the rest so you can stay safe.

10 Tips to Perfect Check-Printing in QuickBooks

But be sure that you’ve established all the right settings and understand the process.
 
If you used small business accounting products in the early days, you know how frustrating it was to print checks correctly from your software. Pre-printed checks weren’t cheap, and you probably printed at least a few that didn’t line up right or were otherwise unusable. 
 

QBC 0513 image 1

Figure 1: The Write Checks window in QuickBooks 2013.

 

Printing checks from QuickBooks has gotten easier, and online banking has made this task less of a necessity for many businesses. But when you do print checks, precision is still required. 

So to minimize frustration, save time and money, and ensure that everything will be copacetic when your checks are processed at the bank, it’s important that you use the tools that QuickBooks offers appropriately. If you’ve been having trouble with check-printing or you’re considering attempting it, keep these tips in mind:
 
1. First, be sure your are creating standard checks, not paychecks. Go to BankingWrite Checks or click the Write Checks icon on the home page. 

 
2. QuickBooks offers a few option for check creation. Click Edit | Preferences |Checking | My Preferences. Here, you can specify a default account for the Write Checks function. ClickCompany Preferences for additional option.

QBC 0513 image 2

Figure 2: Check the boxes here to activate options.

 

3. You can customize the appearance of your checks. Click FilePrinter Setup |

Check/PayCheck. Specify printer options and check style, change the fonts in some fields, designate a partial page printing style (using the envelope feed) and add your company’s name and address, logo and signature image.

QBC 0513 image 3

Figure 3: The Printer Setup window provides access to your output options.

4. Be sure that your printer has enough ink or toner before you begin a job.

 

5. If you print a lot of checks, consider dedicating one printer to that task. But secure your blank checks. Don’t leave them in the printer.

 

6. Does your printer process pages in reverse order, last page first? This can cause problems when you’re printing multiple checks. You have several options here. You can:

  • Modify your printer’s property settings in Windows and/or consult your printer documentation.
  • Load the paper to accommodate reverse printing or
  • Alter the check numbers in QuickBooks. Go to
    ListsChart of Accounts and open the correct checkbook register to change them. (This option is the least elegant and most risky, and not something you want to do on a regular basis. Let us help you with your printer setup if you can’t resolve the problem.)

7. QuickBooks supports batch printing. If you’re writing multiple checks that you’ll want to print later, click the Print Later or To be printed link (depending on your version of QuickBooks). When you’re ready, you can either selectFile | Print Forms | Checks or click the Print Checks link on the home page. Both will open this window:

 

QBC 0513 image 4

Figure 4: Uncheck any items you don’t want printed to remove them from the batch job.

 

8. Printing a batch of checks and realize that you’ve set something up wrong? Hit the Esc key to halt it.

 

9. Double-check to make sure that your numbers match before you launch a print job. Compare the number in theFirst Check Number field to the number of the first check queued up in the printer.

 

10. Ruin a check or an entire page of them? If you accounting protocol allows you to skip check numbers, just start over by changing the First Check Number so that it corresponds with the starting number on a fresh batch of check blanks. If not, you’ll have to create a check for each one that was ruined, choosing a name and account and an amount of $0.00. Then void the check(s). (Click Banking | Use Register and select the account. Highlights the transaction(s), select the edit option and void. Do not delete them.

 

Check-printing can be tricky, but it must absolutely follow the rules. Let us know if you get stuck or want some guidance upfront — or if you want to switch to online banking and bill-pay.

Seven Strategies to Put the Spring into Your Sales

Spring is here and that’s the perfect time to try something new in your business to make things fresh.  Here are seven ideas to try in your business; pick the one that’s most likely to put the spring in your sales.

1. BOGO

“Buy one, get one” or BOGO deals are always hot and never grow old.  Even if it’s not common in your industry, see if you can adapt and create a deal like this.  The best thing about a BOGO strategy is it spreads more of your product or service around to a wider customer base, which can spur referrals or word-of-mouth, the best kind of sale.

Here’s an example of a BOGO applied to a service: Purchase a seat at a training workshop and bring a co-worker at no extra charge (or charge the price of materials and lunch to cover costs).  You can also offer one month free (cheaper than offering 10 percent off on an annual basis) if you have a service that is performed over time.

 2.Weekend Sale

Sales can move a lot of people to action.  The key is to limit the time that they can get the discount to a very small window.  Hold a time-limited sale when it is slow for you (could be during this month when people are hit with tax bills) to boost your volume.

 3.Freshen Up Your Displays

If you have a storefront, when is the last time you’ve freshened up your look?  Retail businesses work hard at this, but even if you aren’t in retail, take a look at what the customer sees.  Is it inviting?  Fresh?  Pleasant?  If not, do some spring cleaning!

If you work from home or have a virtual office, your website is your storefront.  See if it needs some spring cleaning so that you look more attractive to your prospects and clients.

4.Introduce New Features

Make a slight change to your existing product by adding a new feature, offering it in a new color, or something similar.  It will feel a little fresher to your clients, which may cause an increase in perceived value.

 5. Start a New Niche

Once you’ve gotten a couple of clients from a new industry, you’re off and running.  You will be able to learn from working with this new industry, and then you will be more valuable to others in that space.

Take a look at your client list, and see where you have just a few clients in the same industry but would like more clients like them.  Then go for it!

6.Flavor of the Month Club

Baskin-Robbins used to have a “flavor of the month” so that customers would be enticed to come into their ice cream shops over and over again.  You may be able to have an “item of the month” or even a VIP club where your customers get something new each month.  Your VIP Club could also include priority treatment with specials or discounts.  VIP clubs done right are especially effective in restaurants and retail, but can work in other industries too.  The goal is to increase the frequency of visits to your business by enticing clients to become regulars.

7.The Biggest Opportunity of All

We often overlook the top opportunity that’s under our own noses:  our current and past clients.  They trust us the most, which is the highest hurdle to new business.  If you haven’t contacted your top clients in a while, make a point to reach out.  More sales could be just a phone call away.

Now it’s time to spring into action on the one idea that resonates most for your business.

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.

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