Protecting Your Business From Fraud

How safe is your business from fraud?  While many worry about someone hacking into their systems, you’re more likely to experience embezzlement by a trusted employee.  About 28% of small businesses have this unfortunate experience, including a few of my clients over the years. And one client learned that her trusted bookkeeper of 15-20 years had been stealing from her for many years.  Let’s face it- most who embezzle have your trust – otherwise it would be much harder to steal from you.

Embezzlement is costly on many levels.  It’s not just the dollars lost, which can be significant, but it’s also the dollars to fight it (legal, accounting, staff time), the dollars to pay penalties and interest on unpaid/underpaid taxes/bills, the time to fight it, and the emotions of learning a trusted employee/friend has stolen from you.

This happens more easily in a small business because there are fewer resources to segment work and often, owners are unaware of controls they can put in place.  The generally accepted rule of thumb is 10 percent of people will never steal no matter what, 10 percent of people will steal at any opportunity, and the other 80 percent of employees will go either way depending on how they rationalize a particular opportunity.  So it’s the 80% that you direct your energies for prevention.

There are 3 factors, that when combined, lead to fraud. (1) Pressure (often a financial need such as medical bills, divorce, debt; (2) opportunity (i.e. how easy is it for them to steal) and (3) their rationalization for stealing from you.  While you can’t affect their perceived need or rationalization, you can direct your energies towards lowering opportunities.

As business owners, we want to delegate and bookkeeping is frequently one of the first tasks to be delegated.  While you may want to delegate the books completely, remember that the buck stops with you, the owner. You’re the one who will get assessed penalties and interest for missed tax payments, and you feel it most when your bottom line is less because of theft.

So here are some checks and balances you can put into place both in procedures and in QuickBooks to limit opportunity for theft or discourage most employees from even trying.

  • Run a background check on employees (I had one client who unknowingly hired someone as her bookkeeper who was out on parole from embezzling!)
  • Have separation of responsibilities as much as possible. i.e. use different people for Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, and Payroll
  • Checks and Payment Safeguards  – Check fraud is more prevalent than credit card fraud. In fact, 4 out 5 fraud attempts are committed through checks.
    • Use secure checks, i.e. checks that are more resistant to fraud.  The Intuit checks you can order through us (at discounted pricing) were developed with the assistance of  Frank Abagnale (of Catch Me if You Can), now a fraud consultant for over 40 years.
    • If someone other than you can sign checks then have a policy that all checks over a certain dollar amount require your signature or 2 signatures
    • Don’t sign blank checks
    • Keep blank checks locked away.
    • Review Reports: Voided/Deleted Transactions, Missing Checks, Audit Trail
    • Pay bills electronically
    • Setup automatic payments
  • Customer Payments
    • Give customers the opportunity to pay you online via ACH or credit card – then you remove a temptation
    • Use check scanners or Intuit’s e-check so checks go straight into your bank account.
    • Make deposits yourself
  • Bank statements
    • Have bank & credit statements mailed to your home so you can review before delegating
      • If you are paperless, make it a point to review
    • Reconcile bank and credit card statements regularly – either yourself (you can pick up on problems more easily) or have one person review the reconciliation done by another
  • Close the books after certain periods (monthly, quarterly, or annually), so changes can’t be made except by authorized personnel and run the Closing Date Exception Report periodically
  • Monitor
    • Accounts Receivable (Open Invoices),
    • Accounts Payable (Unpaid Bills) and
    • Payroll (timesheets, wages, overtime, deductions and commissions)
  • Other security measures
    • Every user should have their own login, including the business owner, who should also be the administrator of the account
    • Don’t keep your QuickBooks open when you walk away from your desk or office
    • Limit user access – (e.g. they can create & print, but not delete or change)
    • Upgrade to Enterprise Solutions for its advanced security features –NO comparison between Enterprise and the other Intuit products.  Our video will let you see the difference and we have the lowest Intuit-authorized pricing on Enterprise.

I will be happy to assist in showing how to set up these controls in QuickBooks, discuss Intuit services that might be helpful, and help you with the reports.  Hopefully you will never have to deal with embezzlement.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

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Better Business Decisions by Customizing QuickBooks’ Reports

Whether you’re a contractor, wholesaler, non-profit or some other service professional, reports are crucial to monitoring your cash flow and profitability.  When I work with clients, I often recommend changes in their setup and changes in their data entry.  While part of this is to help them save time, the other reason is to help them get the reports they need in QuickBooks instead of using data from a variety of places and then using Excel or a calculator to get their final numbers.  Once changes are made, then there are reports in QuickBooks that are just a click or two away. And, these reports can help them make better estimates and business decisions going forward.

filtersOften, to get the information you need, you need to customize an existing QuickBooks report.  One of the aspects I like about QuickBooks is the ease of customizing reports. (And having dabbled in Microsoft Access years ago, I’m amazed at how easy QuickBooks makes this!)  You’ll find that the more you customize, the more tricks you will pick up helping you get all sorts of reports you didn’t know you could get!

Types of Reports:

There are two basic types of reports –

  1. Summary (i.e. has totals like your Profit & Loss, A/R aging summary) and
  2. Transaction detail (which shows the detail behind the totals such as P & L Detail).

If you’re new to customizing, don’t worry if you think you’re not ready to differentiate.  Just realize that will explain some of the differences in which display options you’ll have.

When you run a report, then click on Customize Report, you’ll see 4 tabs

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  1. Display options let you specify the columns you want to appear in your report. Note that you can add subcolumns, and change your sorting. If you’ve never done much more than change your date range, take the time to change the columns across the top, try some of the subcolumns, and be bold and even check out the Advanced button (trust me – it’s not too advanced for you)! Other options here include how your data should be totaled. Some reports let you choose between cash and accrual basis.filters
    This screen capture above is from a “summary” report while the one below is from a detail report.  Notice you have more columns from which to choose in a detail report.filters
  2. Filters let you be more selective as to which data you see (i.e. they filter for only what you want to see).  This is the tool that will provide the most insight. You can pick & choose classes, types of transactions, names, types, Items, etc.  If you’ve never really taken a look at the different filters, I encourage you to do so; you’ll be amazed at what all is in that list.  If you use the “multiple” feature, you can then choose more than one (e.g. class as shown below).filters
    Another way to begin to be more comfortable in this screen is to take a look at some of the reports that come with QuickBooks and see how they’ve used filters. The more you try some of the filters, the more comfort you’ll have in this screen and you can then start to really tweak reports.
  3. Header/Footer  What I like best about this section is that I can name my report so that when it prints, it’s not using the name QuickBooks gave it – which can be very helpful if you’ve customized your report much.  And even more so it’s a report you need to give someone or memorize.filters
  4. Fonts & Numbers This section is probably used more often by my accounting friends, but if you’ve never looked at this screen, do take a quick look to see if you want to make any changes, like how negative numbers appear or whether or not you see cents.filters

Memorize!  If this is a report you will want to run again, then memorize it so you don’t have to recreate what you did and you can get your information faster next time! One tip on memorizing, as much as possible, use the dates from the drop-down date menu; this way, the report will “roll forward” with you. When you key in the actual dates and memorize, QuickBooks thinks you always want to see those same exact dates, and unless you do, you’ll always have to redo the dates.

With your custom reports (and other QuickBooks reports), you can spot cash flow problems, see which jobs are the most profitable, compare your estimates to actual costs, and maintain the right inventory levels. You’ll also be able to identify your best customers and your most sought-after products and services. Customizing your reports and analyzing your data will make the answers to your questions about your company’s future direction much clearer. Let us know if you need help customizing your reports.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filter to Find What You Want

QuickBooks makes it easy to find information with their Filters.  A filter simply limits what you see (i.e. filters out what you don’t want) so you see only what you want to see.   Both the Find Feature and reports in QuickBooks use Filters. So once you know how to use filters in one place, you can use them  elsewhere.

Perhaps you’re having problems reconciling the bank account and you’re off by a $500. Click on Edit>Find

Don’t let the word Advanced scare you off!  Click on Amount, then click the circle by = and type 500 in the box.  Notice on the right, QuickBooks is listing your current Filters/choices.  (Posting status refers to whether or not it affects your financial statements.  Estimates, Sales/work orders, Purchase Order are “non-posting”, i.e. they don’t affect your P & L or your Balance Sheet or other financial reports.)  QuickBooks very quickly finds all the transactions that meet your criteria.  It’s great when you see only a couple transactions.  But sometimes you’ll get a long list and will want to narrow it down some.

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Perhaps you know that it’s from last month or you know it’s a payment and not an invoice. So if you scroll through the list of filters, you’ll see Date (in image below  and TransactionType (in image on the right).

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So in this example, I selected last month for Date and Bill Payment for Transaction Type.  Now my list is much shorter.

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Other filters I frequently use in the Find feature are Account, Class and Entered/Modified.   Perhaps I entered or modified a transaction today, but dated it the beginning of the month or some other date. This way I don’t need to know the actual date of the transaction – simply the date I created it!

I’ve used the Find feature to create reports, and if you go to modify a report, notice you’ll have access to the same set of filters!   So maybe I want to see a list of bills that I clicked to pay but have not printed the checks yet.   Here’s what QuickBooks found. Notice you can click on Report or Export on the right.

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So now that you’ve seen Filters, here are the filters to some common reports you run:

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Now it’s your turn!  What do you want to find?

 

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I Need a Product That Does…

Perhaps you’ve been complaining about a problem and don’t realize that a solution exists.  Sometimes it’s helpful to know what’s out there.

I put add-on products in 2 categories –

  1. Industry-specific and
  2. Task-specific

Typically you’ll find predominantly industry-specific products at the conferences and trade shows you attend.  Industry specific solutions understand you and your industry so there are some great products out that that handle a variety of issues you have, integrate with QuickBooks – and you need only 1 product.

Scaling New Heights, the conference I recently attended, was for accountants, bookkeepers, consultants who all work with some version of QuickBooks. So we saw accounting/bookkeeping solutions. Many of these would be considered “task-specific” for you.  My personal favorites– Bill & Pay, Method, NetSpend and TSheets

Here are several great task-specific products (you can also see most of these plus others on my website)

  • Cash Flow –
    • Bill and Pay – Speed up invoicing, payments and collections with automatic reminders, auto-pay invoicing, automatic credit card expiration reminders, and auto-sync with QuickBooks. Click here for more info – Be sure to use MuirAssoc for your invitation code
    • Fundbox – Quickly and easily get an advance on an unpaid invoice when you need the cash. No application, funds in your account the next business day! No fee unless you use it.  Quick and easy to sign up, quick and easy to advance the funds!  Click here for more info:
  • CRM – MethodCRM – The top-rated CRM for QuickBooks and a product I both use and love.  Track your leads, correspondence, sale opportunities for leads or customers, and real-time sync. Web-based, highly customizable and very powerful. Originally also promoted as remote access for QuickBooks so you’ll find you can use this for many of your QuickBooks tasks in addition to the CRM. Click here for a free 30 day trial and an hour of Method assistance.
  • Expense tracking – Expensify – take a picture of a receipt with your phone, it’s transformed to expenses and integrates with QuickBooks. No more lost receipts or hours of data entry.  Can import to Accounts, Items, Customers & Jobs, Classes and Locations. Click here for more info
  • Paperless – Neat Tired of all those pieces of paper and in different places? Or maybe workers “lose” receipts? With Neat, you can snap a picture with your phone, scan, or email all to a central place for easy cataloging/organization. For desktop QuickBooks, you can retrieve those documents and attach to transactions, customers, vendors, etc. With QB Online, documents can be read and converted to transactions!.  Click here for more info
  • Payroll – NetSpend – For contractors with employees who have no bank account, this is a great solution: employee paycheck goes on a prepaid debit card! They can use it for “check” cashing, paying bills and at ATMs (free at the MoneyPass ATM’s). No fee for card – just the Intuit direct deposit fee (unless you use Enterprise Gold or Platinum in which case there is no direct deposit fee). Click here for special deal
  • Sales Tax – Avalara. Simplify and automate sales tax.  If you have to keep track of what’s taxable, who’s taxable and where, you might want to take a close look at Avalara – especially when you work with multiple state/tax jurisdictions. Avalara keeps up with all the rules, can remit the tax forms and payments and even file and keep up with all your sales and use tax forms! Hands down, this is the recommended product for those who have to track and report on multiple sales tax jurisdictions. Click here for more info
  • Time tracking & scheduling – TSheets – A highly-rated easy scheduling time tracking product for employees of all levels that syncs easily with QuickBooks. It fills in the timesheets with task & customer! Good for a wide range of service industries including those who need job costing, like contractors, landscapers, and even government contractors who need DCAA compliance. Also has GPS tracking, crew tracking and a Hispanic option. Click here for a free trial and a 10% discount on your first year if you sign up. Be sure to use MuirAssoc for the coupon code!

And since many of you are contractors, here’s a short list of industry-specific products (in alphabetical order) you might want to check out- I have clients using most of these.  They all have a QB desktop and a QB Online option with the exception of Jobber and Knowify which are for QBO only

Clip – strength is lawn maintenance

Hindsite strength is irrigation

Jobber – – best for field services (short, repetitive)

Knowify – strength is construction (including AIA) and integration w/QBO (desktop not as robust) – most work is in Knowify, not QB

LMN – strength is landscape construction. They gave a great time app too.

Check out the 4’oclock 4 phone app – it’s free!  4 questions to ask at the end of the day – great for those in the contractor world.

Let me know if you have questions on these or other products or needs.  Would love to hear if you try and/or use any of these and your opinion.

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A Few of My Favorite Features in QuickBooks

There are many features I like in QuickBooks, guess that’s why I support the software!  But I find when I’m with new clients who have been using QuickBooks for a while or clients who are upgrading, I always like to share a few of the features I like either as a business owner or from a timesaving bookkeeping perspective.  So here’s my list:

The Company Snapshot – it’s all here in 1 place!  My account balances, payables, receivables (in red if late so it jumps at you), upcoming (like sales tax), and graphs.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. I love the ability to see trends for this year or compared to previous years, or visually see the percent of sales from a product or service or where the biggest chunk of my expenses is.  For busy business owners, you can look at this quickly and then move on with your day.  Doesn’t mean you ignore your other reports, but you aren’t going to run lots of reports daily, so it’s a great 1-stop page.

QuickBooks

Find – Doesn’t matter who it is – a client or my own books. I can’t tell you how often I use the Find feature and it searches sooo much faster than I ever could.  And because I’m a keystroke person, Ctrl-F quickly puts me in the Find screen (but you can get there by Edit>Find or putting it on your toolbar). I keep finding additional ways to filter what I’m looking for.  I use Amount, Account, Class, TransactionType frequently, but another one I use often is Entered/Modified; this is great when you gave the transaction one date other than today’s date).  By using today’s date for Entered/modified, you can find the transaction no matter what date you gave it.  I could do a whole session on nothing but different ways I search when I’m looking! 

Keystroke Shortcuts – Maybe it’s because of my DOS days, but I still use keystrokes to get around quickly – and I’ll bet I can move faster than those of you using the mouse ;-).

The Esc key closes whatever window you have open

Invoice: Ctrl-I

Find:  Ctrl-F.

Pop-up calculator – Hit an operator (+,-,*,/) when you’re in a numeric field and voilá – up pops a calculator –  now you don’t need to copy & paste your answer!

Date Shortcuts – I find the date shortcuts are frequently faster than using the calendar (e.g. t for Today). If you keep pressing the same key, it continues in the same direction (i.e. hitting the + multiple times keeps moving forward in time, pressing M multiple times keeps taking you to an earlier month). The letters are not case-sensitive, either.

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Memorized transactions – This is a great timesaver for some businesses and there are so many types and reasons for memorizing; even (or especially) somewhat complex transactions – just change the numbers if you need, but the hard part’s been done.  Between clients and myself, I’ve memorized estimates, invoices, sales receipts, journal entries, bills, automatic deductions/charges and probably more.

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Groups – This is a very powerful feature. You can create a group item or a group of memorized transactions or a group of reports.  A group Item quickly pulls multiple items onto an estimate, invoice, sales/work order, purchase order, bill… Groups in Memorized transactions and in Memorized reports  can help you stay organized.  But you can also double click on a group to create invoices or run multiple reports, saving you lots of time.

QuickBooksType – I have been using types for quite a while now. It started when I was filling out surveys and applications with Intuit and they were asking me the percentages of my clients in certain industries. So, as you might imagine, I track industries and I use the Customer Type (and subtypes) to do that. Then it’s real easy to get a Sales by Customer Type report; I can even create a P & L by Customer Type to see which Types are most profitable!

You can also do Vendor Types. You might want different types of subcontractors or suppliers so you can easily get a list.

Custom Fields – I used to overlook this feature, or not do much with it, but after working with a business coach, I find there is more I want to track about my clients, products, and services, so custom fields help me do that.  If I pull them in on the invoice, I can get sales information – great for refining niche areas to pursue – or drop.  If information is in a custom field, I can pull it into a transaction, onto a report, sort, or filter – much more useful than buried in notes or descriptions. I work in Enterprise, so you can customize even more as shown on the right-side of the screen shot below outlined in red.  I love the ability to create custom drop-down lists in Enterprise. This makes the data entry faster and more uniform so whether I’m filtering or sorting on a custom field, it’s much easier. (Just think how many different ways there are to enter dates – that gives you an idea of why controlling the information is helpful).

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I could go on with features that I like and use frequently, but I’ll stop here ;-).  I’d love to hear what our favorite feature is!

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Commonly Overlooked Features in QuickBooks Pt 2

Last time I wrote about useful features that many don’t know exist.  So, today’s article takes a look at more features you might find helpful.

Workers Comp – If you use Intuit Payroll, you might like the Workers Comp feature – this can simplify those workers comp audits!

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You can setup your various codes (see below, left) and either assign a workers comp code to an employee in the employee record, or if they change tasks, you can use them in the timesheets (see below, right).

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Note that you can also set your experience mod factor and just look at the reports you can run!QuickBooksQuickBooks

QuickBooksBatch time sheets – Speaking of timesheets, if you’re still manually entering timesheets in QuickBooks and you have crews (even a 2-man crew), you can enter the time, work etc. just once instead of for each person on the crew. That can be a huge timesaver for some of you.  The “trick” is to scroll up to the top of the list where you have the option to click on Multiple names

Sales/Work Orders –  For those of you who use work orders and are doing it on paper, you might find the Sales Order feature in QuickBooks Premier and Enterprise an option. You can customize a sales order to be a work order (e.g. hiding pricing, adding instructions). You can create a sales/work order as a stand-alone or create it from an estimate.  You can create PO’s and invoices from sales/work orders and there are Sales Order reports.

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Collection Center – For those of you who have to deal with collections, you might like the collection center. One feature it has that the Income Tracker does not is a place to write notes, which is often helpful for documentations purposes as well as other reasons.  Once you turn it on, you’ll find it in the Customer Center

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QuickBooksBillable vs Unbillable

  • Billable in QuickBooks means you will invoice based on the actual cost of the time or materials with a markup. If you mark something unbillable but use the customer:job, the item or expense WILL show in your job cost reports
  • The default setting in QuickBooks is to make time and expenses billable any time you use a customer job in the transaction (e.g. bills and timesheets). If you invoice for time and materials, then I would leave this as is, even if you don’t always invoice that way.  Better to have to uncheck the billable, than find out later you missed it and now can’t go back and invoice the customer! However, if you always use fixed pricing, then by all means turn “billable off!!

I’d love to hear which of these you found most useful. And, as always, if you have questions or want some assistance with any of these, contact our office.

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Four Areas Where Spending More Pays Off

It’s generally a good idea to keep overhead costs low so that your business profits will be higher.  This is especially true with items that are fairly standardized, such as utilities and rent.  But there are times when increasing expenses pays yields nice dividends like investments. Here are four areas to consider so you can reap the rewards.

Training   

Whether it’s for you or your staff, good training can pay back for years to come. Having untrained staff, whether office or field, impacts

  • Getting work done on time (slow can be costly)
  • Getting it done well or correctly, (incorrectly can be expensive) and
  • Your reputation. You definitely don’t want that to suffer!!

While QuickBooks is user-friendly, I’ve lost count of the mistakes I made in the past as well as those I see my clients make.  When I do my assessments, I cover a wide range of areas and it gives me a good idea of just how much (or how little), those using QuickBooks know.  And then we can tailor training that addresses both the “how-to” as well as ways to get work done more efficiently.

You might get training to increase your skill in your profession.  I know many of you need to maintain certifications; that provides both opportunities and impetus for training.  Not only do you learn new “tricks or tools” of the trade, but it provides another benefit when marketing your business – especially if you are compared to those without your credentials.

Sometimes that training includes helping to run your business, such as general business skills, new technology, marketing, finance, and leadership.  And just about everyone can benefit from learning more about project management, communications, and negotiations, to name a few more.

Tools

For many of you, that’s the tools and equipment while out in the field as well as the tools in the office. Old or cheap equipment often affects how quickly work gets done as well as your maintenance costs. The last thing you want is to have to postpone work because you don’t have working equipment!  I know some companies lease lots of their equipment so they can easily get replacements when something stops working and they can easily upgrade to a newer/better model.

In the office (and for some field staff), it’s a great idea to provide your employees with the most powerful computers and software on the market.  The cost of labor outweighs the costs of the computers, so it makes sense to load employees up with the best tools you can.  An employee with a slow computer, through no fault of their own, is not giving you their best, and that will cost money in lost productivity.  One of the reasons they went to larger monitors and dual monitors was they found the cost of an employee having to scroll or wait for something to load affected productivity.  While it may seem small, multiplied over the day/week and year, it definitely adds up.

Personally, because I know I’m going to load new software every year that won’t care about the age of my computer, I get plenty of RAM and go with a faster computer (not the top, but definitely above the middle).  If you’re the owner, you can spend your time fighting with a machine or getting a ton of work done.  I’m pretty sure the latter is more profitable.     

Software

With software, there are two areas to consider: your existing software and software that solves for a pain point.

In the case of existing software, I often see businesses fighting upgrading software, such as their QuickBooks. I always recommend looking at what the new version offers.  If there are features that help you get your work done faster, or being able to do something you’ve wanted for years, it usually makes sense to upgrade so you and your staff can get work done more easily.

In the case of software that solves for a pain point, you have to ask what’s the cost of doing it the “long, slow” way compared to the new way.  While you may not need software with all the bells and whistles, you may find that some version will streamline your workflow, which will save you money in the long-run.  It may even help you make more money because you can get more done!  Some examples include estimating software, CRM (lead and opportunity tracking), time tracking, inventory, reporting, etc.

If you are interested in software that integrates with QuickBooks, this page has a few.  But there are many more, including industry specific, so let me know – there are many I know of that aren’t my Add-ons page.

Your Books

The most successful companies invest in accounting technology, accurate bookkeeping, thorough reporting, tax minimization, and professional consulting.  When business owners cut corners in any of these areas, it usually costs them more money in the long run to clean up the problems that result.   I certainly see this with users who set up poorly (because they didn’t know better) and missed out on tools in QuickBooks to help them get their work done faster.

An up-to-date version of QuickBooks minimizes maintenance and troubleshooting costs.   Making sure the bookkeeping and reconciliations are done properly is essential for compliance reporting (such as payroll and income taxes) and decision-making.  Reports easily accessible help a business owner make smart decisions about running their business, and minimizing taxes helps you keep more of what you make (yeah!!).

Since accountants see thousands of financial reports in their careers, they have developed an eye for opportunities that a business owner may not see.  Bringing an outside perspective into your business is a good investment that can help you discover great opportunities in your business.

Measuring the Payoff

Your accountant can help you measure return on investments in many of these areas. If it involves QuickBooks we can help in a variety of ways – obtain a version of QuickBooks that suits your needs, customize settings and features to fit your business better, train staff to use it correctly and effectively, streamline your QuickBooks workflow, set up custom reports and more – just ask!

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5 Ways to Lower Overhead Costs

Many focus on saving time out in the field – watching hours spent on jobs, looking for ways to improve productivity.  But how often do you look at saving time in the office?  So often, time on office tasks, time on sales tasks, time spent working on estimates,  (to name a few)  isn’t tracked – perhaps just the total hours worked for the day/week – or not at all for those who are salaried.  But the profit from your jobs needs to cover your overhead and leave you a profit.  So it’s a good idea to review what gets done and see if there is a more efficient way to get the work done. And that leaves you with more profit J.  Here are 5 ways you can lower your overhead costs.

  1. Delete! – How often do you find you’re doing something that no longer needs doing or no longer important? Look around and see if any tasks can be eliminated. Or perhaps there are costs you can eliminate. While auto-pay is a nice feature, it’s easy to forget to review expenses that are paid monthly.  So take a look and see what can be eliminated.
  1. Delegate First, can this task be delegated so you can focus on tasks more in line with your position in the company? If you’re the owner, that could be focusing sales or revising your vision for moving your company forward. In some cases, hiring someone to do lower-level tasks will actually save you money because then you’re free to work on tasks that will help move your business forward – or maybe enable you to work less.  I know this can be tough – I’m guilty of just working on lower level tasks when I should delegate.  I’ve told my assistant she has permission to remind me to let go so I can focus sales, marketing, and strategizing.  And this is something to review at least once a year if not quarterly – or even monthly if your business is rapidly growing.
  1. Systematize – Many get caught in the trap of “this is how we’ve always done it”. But, have you asked recently if there’s a better way?  Or have you found steps get overlooked?  If you can systematize, you ensure steps don’t get overlooked, thereby preventing problems. This may mean having a checklist or procedure.  In some cases this may mean you can drop a few steps.  It never hurts to review. Perhaps the place to start is what tasks take the longest or which tasks are really critical?  It could be a checklist for hiring – not just the payroll information but perhaps usernames, logins, permissions etc. need to be established. A checklist will keep you on track.
  1. Automate – This is one of my favorites! Automating gets tasks done for you, saving you time, money and preventing mistakes from human error. In the case of QuickBooks, it can be monthly, quarterly or even annual charges – automatic bill entry or deductions from bank accounts or charges on credit cards – or even monthly billing to customers if the bill is the same amount every month. A popular one is to automate time entry.  So mobile apps that integrate with QuickBooks saving the bookkeeper LOTS of time.  In some cases, automation may mean an initial investment of a tool or software, but the ROI is often big.  So look around, what can be automated? Even lots of little tasks add up. 
  1. Training – This is another area that involves investment but can have big pay-offs. Training shortens learning curves, can prevent costly mistakes, and in some cases offer time saving tips and strategies. When working with clients I almost always find mistakes in setup or data entry.  In many cases, features aren’t being utilized either due to not understanding the feature or not even being aware that feature even exists.  That’s true for long-time users as well as “newbies”. And I always find ways to get work done faster; guess that comes from my own impatience with computers ;-).  While I think of QuickBooks training, this is open to a wide area, including HR (lots of new regulations this year), project management, sales and marketing, just to name a few.

So look around. What takes a long time or is costly?  Perhaps there’s a better way or it can be eliminated completely. If you’d like help in reviewing your QuickBooks setup and/or procedures, let us know and we’ll schedule a time to discuss!

Image courtesy of tiramisustudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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Commonly Overlooked Features in QuickBooks Pt 1

As I work with clients, I frequently see that there are features that can be useful but my client was unaware.  So, today’s article takes a look at several features you might find helpful.

QuickBooksFirst, whether or not you have admin privileges, it is worthwhile looking at the preferences. As a user, the My Preferences lets you customize QuickBooks in a way that you prefer.  As the admin, you can turn features off/on in the Company Preferences for the company file. Most the items on this list come from the Preferences. (Edit>Preferences).  Personally, I recommend going through the list any time you have a new version installed.  You never know what might have slipped in there that you could use!

Don’t save the desktop – For some unknown reason, the default setting in QuickBooks is Save the Desktop. That means, every window, report you had open, has to open and/or run before you can begin working in QuickBooks.  It can also impact other users if you are in a network environment.  So, either select Don’t save the desktop, or if you have a few that you need to see as soon as you open QuickBooks, then leave those windows open, and then select

QuickBooksColor!-

  • While we’re in the desktop preferences, if you like a top toolbar, like I do, I find color makes the icons easier to see, then check Switch to colored icons.
  • And if you work in multiple company files, I highly recommend making each company a different color so you know which one you’re in. Would be disheartening to realize you entered transactions in the wrong company file!

QuickBooksTop Toolbar – And since I mentioned icons on the top instead of the side, click on View and you can switch from the left icon bar to the top if you’d like.

Open Windows – And, if you’re like me and keep lots of windows open, I like the Open Window features. Then I can quickly move between screens by locating the desired one in the Open Window box that appears on the left.

Reminders –  Did you know you can choose the timing for your reminders?QuickBooks

Report Preferences – While there are many changes you can make to a report when you customize, some you might appreciate are in the company reporting preferences

QuickBooks

Batch Enter –If you find that you are downloading transactions into a spreadsheet, this might be useful.  One aspect it has that you can’t do in the bank feeds is use Items, which is very important for job costing.  This feature is available in the accountant’s edition of Premier and all editions of Enterprise.

QuickBooks

Did you find features you will begin using?  I’d love to hear which ones you found most useful!

If you need help with any of these or would like me to take a closer look at how you use QuickBooks, contact the office.

 

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Reports to Monitor Job Costs

Now that the mad rush is past and you’re just extremely busy now, this might be a time to take a closer look at your job cost reports. While QuickBooks has several good job cost reports, here are a few job cost reports to help you monitor your progress and profitability.

  • Estimated vs Actual – I’m a big proponent of some version of your estimate being in QuickBooks because the rest of your data is there. Why not be able to look at your reporting in one place?  Found in the Jobs, Time & Mileage reportsjob cost reports
  • Expenses Not Assigned to Jobs – When I was doing the books for a landscaper, bills would come in and I wouldn’t know which jobs they were for so I had to wait to ask someone. But what if I forgot to ask?? This report helps ensure that all costs that are to be costed to a job, are. (Not all expenses are job related, like rent and advertising.) The last thing you want is to find out after you invoiced your customer that some billable costs were missed. This report is found in the contractor reports in Premier and Enterprise.job cost reports
  • Billed/Unbilled Once the work is done, you want to get those invoices out the door! Here are a few reports to help you review.
    • By Person and Job (found in the contractor reports in Premier and Enterprise) –This helps you monitor your billable labor costs.job cost reports
  • Unbilled Costs (found in Jobs, Time & Mileage reports) helps you track your unbilled costs – important for Time & Material invoicing!job cost reports
  • Job Progress Invoices vs Estimates (found in Jobs, Time & Mileage reports)- When you do contract pricing, this lets you see if you are up to date for invoicing on the project.job cost reports
  • Open Work Orders (Work Orders are Sales Orders in QuickBooks, found in the Sales reports in Premier and Enterprise) – Just as you can invoice off an Estimate, you can invoice off a work order. Open Work Orders means you haven’t invoiced your customer yet.job cost reports
  • Cost to Complete – for your larger projects, this report helps you see if you will still come in at or under your original costs. YOU decide how far you are on the project – 10%, 50%, etc.  Then based on your estimate, your actual costs to date and the percentages you enter for the different tasks, this report calculates your cost to complete the job and whether you are over or under your estimate. This is a report where negatives numbers can be a good thing!  (FYI – lately there have been issues with this report.  If this report does not work for you, let us know and please click on Help>Send Feedback Online>Bug Report. Intuit is aware this report has had problems but the more people they hear from, the higher it moves up their “to-fix” list.)job cost reports
  • Committed Costs – An Enterprise report found in Jobs, Time and Mileage, this will pull in your open Purchase orders, Item receipts and unpaid wages (if you use Basic, Enhanced or Assisted Payroll), which are costs that don’t show in the Cost to Complete report. Very helpful for monitoring large projects.job cost reports
  • Work in Progress (WIP) – Many of you with larger projects track WIP. For some, you can’t invoice or run reports until you have these numbers.  If you are in QuickBooks Pro or Premier, you’ll have to run a couple reports, export to Excel to calculate (or maybe you already have some elaborate spreadsheet). Depending on the number of job, this can be a time-consuming project.  But with Enterprise, it’s just a few seconds! Found in Jobs, Time and Mileage reports.  This might even be worth bumping up to Enterprise. (We can help you price so you can decide – just let us know.)job cost reports
  • Job Profitability Detail – I prefer this to the P & L by Job because I like to keep the Chart of Accounts simple and have the detail in the Items list, which is the basis for this report. This is probably not an under-used report, but an easy one to point out a common issue.job cost reports

If you see No Item followed by a number (especially if it’s thousands or tens of thousands), then you have a data entry error and possibly a setup error as well.

If you have to rely on spreadsheets, it could be because you either don’t know about some of these reports or something in your setup isn’t right and therefore the reports aren’t providing useful information.  Our Common Costly Mistakes report covers the main mistakes people make in setup.  Let us know if you don’t have that report.

So what report(s) have you missed out on that would be beneficial?

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