Tools for Your Cash Flow Arsenal

All businesses have ebbs and flows in their business and depending on your business, sometimes there’s a big difference between the highs and lows.  Today I want to discuss two products that might be useful in navigating through the fluctuations.

Cash Flow Tool

The first is Finigraph’s Cash Flow Tool. I’m excited about this add-on product because the cash flow reports and graphs don’t do enough for projecting out in your business and lots of my peers are using this both in their business and with their clients.  Cash Flow Tool works with both desktop and online versions of QuickBooks. You can track daily cash balance, easily determine the best time to pay bills or get on the horn to get invoices paid.  Cash Flow Tool can even alert you to day(s) when you’re out-of-cash (hopefully you won’t need that alert).

cash flow

You can see a bird’s-eye view of your historical cash flow for the last 12 months and with their patent-pending CashLearnTM (artificial intelligence), Cash Flow tool can forecast your cash flow for the next 6 months.  Predictions improve as the AI gathers historical data.    You can also easily run “what if” scenarios.

There are customizable dashboards so you can review what’s most important to you; They have over 30 business metrics, so you might use different dashboards depending on who needs to know what.  And if that’s not enough, you can export out to Excel using pre-formatted templates to customize even more.  There’s even a mobile companion app.

cash flow

If you want to learn more or see videos, go to www.cashflowtool.com.  You can sign up for a demo/free trial or purchase a subscription. Receive a 10% discount on your first year when you enter Monica10 on the billing page.

CollBox

While most businesses have a few slow pay clients, did you know that once an invoice goes beyond 90 days past due, your chances of collecting it drop by 40-80%?   Unfortunately, many have had invoices go unpaid – and that definitely hurts your bottom line!  If you’re a sizable company, perhaps you have a collection agency that assists you on occasion.  But small businesses either can’t find a collection agency or don’t have the time to find one.

CollBox simplifies debt collection.  CollBox works with QuickBooks – both desktop and online, although the process is slightly different since the two products have different software coding.  You select the past due account(s) you want help and then answer a few questions, such as whether your customer has filed for bankruptcy or what’s the minimum amount you’ll accept to settle the account.  Collbox matches you with a reputable vetted collector for your industry.  You are shown the collector’s offer.  You owe nothing unless they collect.   Below are some screen captures from the demo I watched.

cash flow

You are also able to monitor progress and leave messages for the collector.

cash flow

cash flow

Of course, it’s to your advantage to monitor almost or past due invoices so you can hopefully avoid collections, but in case the need arises, you might want to check this out!

If you try either of these products, I would love to hear how they work for you.

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Cash Flow Tools in QuickBooks

If you have a seasonal business, then you know some months are fabulous and some months – aren’t. You have also noticed (I hope) that your profit from your Profit and Loss doesn’t match your cash balance.  That’s because loan payments, payroll tax liabilities, sales tax and more, don’t show on that report, but they definitely affect your cash balance!   Here are 5 tools in QuickBooks that can help you monitor your cash flow.

  1. Cash Flow Forecast (Reports>Company & Financial) – This assumes your customers pay timely as do you. While that may not always be the case, this is a quick tool.  If you don’t enter your payables, this report will give you a very lopsided projected balance!
    cash flow
  2. Cash Flow Projector (Company>Planning & Budgeting). Most businesses find fluctuations in their cash flow, so this tool lets you account for known income or expenses you expect in the 6 weeks that might be out of the norm (e.g. quarterly insurance payment, big deposit for a new job starting…).
    Cash FlowCash FlowCash Flow
  3. Balance Sheet Ratios – I find many businesses ignore reviewing their balance sheet and think it’s not useful, but it can very helpful in many ways, including warnings about heading into tough financial situations if you’re not careful! You can take a quick look to see how your cash balance and receivables compare to payables and debt.    a link to two ratios you can easily get from your balance sheet that are worth reviewing.
  4. Trackers – These trackers are meant to give you a quick visual as well as a way to filter and/or take appropriate action.
    1. Income Tracker – What I like about the Income Tracker is the ability to see open Estimates and Sales Orders in addition to Open Invoices and Overdue Invoices – all with total dollar amounts! Starting with 2015, they added unbilled time and expense. Seeing those numbers will get some people moving!
      Cash Flow
    2. Bill Tracker – New in 2016 was the Bill Tracker. Like the Income Tracker, you can do 1 action on multiple transactions at one time
      Cash FlowClick here to see how you can customize the trackers and take action
  5. The Company Snapshot – Still one of my favorite features in QuickBooks. You can check on payables (very important for cash flow), receivables, account balances, reminders, trends in income and expenses and much more – all in one You can choose from 12 possible reports, organize them any way you want and choose the time frame from the drop-down menu (no custom dates). Past due invoices and bills show up in red, making it easy to pick them out.  You can even print the snapshot.  You can also click on the payments tab to see who’s paid you recently.  If you don’t see this on your toolbar, you can find it in the Company menu.
    Cash FlowClick here to take a closer look at this feature.

Hopefully your cash flow is in good shape, but these tools can be very useful.  I’d love to hear which one(s) you like best!

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Have You Been Hacked? How to Minimize Your Risk

Just about every day, we read in the news that another company has been hacked – including the big companies, like Home Depot and others. Perhaps you might have had your own social media account, email, website, network, or computer hacked. I know some who have been victims of a ransomware virus. 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.

Practice Safe Habits

Be careful before opening attachments or clicking on links. Realize that friends sometimes unknowing forward malicious emails or attachments. Also beware that malicious emails are looking more realistic nowadays so look the email address sending the email or hover over a link to see where it will take you before you actually click the link.

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 if 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, streaming music, 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.

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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, and most never recover all the lost money.  There’s also 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 will feel it most between the headaches, extra expenses at a time 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 a 35% discount) 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
    • Are all the vendors in your QuickBooks legit (i.e. Sometimes names are made up)
    • Pay bills electronically
    • Setup automatic payments
    • Is an expense going up more than anticipated?
    • Have approval processes for paying bills
  • 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
    • Separate bank reconciliations from bill payments
  • 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, reimbursements 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.

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Is Your QuickBooks File “Insured”?

Computers and software are great when they work. But if your computer crashed or your QuickBooks file was corrupted and unusable, do you have a recent backup of your QuickBooks data file? 

Recreating data is not fun, easy or fast. I can’t emphasize this enough: Losing your financial data can be the beginning of the end of your company. You won’t know what you’re owed, so you’ll be unable to collect. You’ll miss vendor payments. Payroll will be challenging to reconstruct, and you won’t be able to submit payroll taxes. And how will you know what your income tax obligation is?

You definitely want a backup off site; in case of fire, flood, theft or some other problem, you still have your data. But I always like to have one or more quickly accessible (like an external drive or thumb drive). And, when you have more than one backup, you’re still protected. I’ve had backups not work (bad file or bad media) but if you have multiple backups, your chances are much better.

How often do you backup?  How much data entry do you want to recreate???!!  Weekly is good for some, while daily is a must for others – just depends on the amount of activity in your data file.

I recommend that at least monthly you use the regular backup feature in QuickBooks (and use the verified option) for a couple reasons:

  • This traditional (verified) backup method will look for problems with your data file – an offsite backup won’t do that.  This way you can fix the problem before it goes too far.
  • This will reset the log file(*.tlg) QuickBooks creates. When the log file gets really large (and I’ve seen it get larger than the actual data file), you may find your QuickBooks is not so quick!

Note: it’s great to have servers backed up and hosting companies keep backups of your files as well. However, these are simply copies or your QuickBooks data file, so there is no “check” on the integrity of your data file.

QuickBooks provides two ways (actually, three) to create a copy of your QuickBooks data file. When is each appropriate, and how do you proceed?

The Critical Traditional Backup

Click File > Backup Company>Create Local Backup… You’ll be asked whether you want to back up locally — to a network folder or thumb drive, for example – or to the cloud, using Intuit Data Protect (fees apply, unless you’re using QuickBooks Enterprise or QuickBooks Pro Plus or QuickBooks Premier Plus). If you select the local preference, click on Options to designate a location in the window below.

Click OK, then Next. QuickBooks will ask when you want to save your backup copy and offer scheduling options. When you’re done, click Finish.

To schedule a backup, click on New in this screen below and then choose the day(s) time and where you want the backup to be stored.  The stored password is your Windows password, not your QuickBooks password. 

Portable Company File

Portable company files are more compact than backup files, so they can be, uploaded faster with file transfer sites or copied onto another computer. But they don’t contain everything that regular backups do. They lack, for example, letters, logos, attachments, images and templates. Don’t use this option if changes will be made, since they can’t be merged back into the file.

To save a portable company file, click on File > Create Copy (you can do this to copy any kind of file, actually). This window opens:

Select Portable company file and click the Next button. In the following window, you’ll browse to a location for your file. QuickBooks will already have entered the name and will save your data in .qbm format. Click Save, then OK when QuickBooks tells you it must close and reopen your file first. Click OK again when you’re told that the file has been created.

 

Restoring Your Data

Should you need to restore a backup, click File > Open or Restore Company… In the window that opens, select the type of backup you’re using (traditional *.qbb or portable *.qbm).  The Open Company File window opens; make sure that the file’s location is displayed in the Look in: field. Click Open. QuickBooks then asks where you want to restore the file.

The following step is critical. Rename your file unless you want to overwrite your current company file. You can add a date or some other identifying information like a version number.

Click Save. QuickBooks will convert your backup file to a standard company file with a .qbw extension.

QuickBooks makes it easy to create copies of your data, but an error here can threaten your company’s future.  So take the time to “insure” your QuickBooks.  Contact us if you need assistance.

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Are You Prepared If Disaster Hits Your Business

Hurricane Barry making landfall in Louisiana, the Mississippi flooding in multiple states, and the earthquake in California this year are painful reminders that disasters happen.  And we haven’t reached the peak of hurricanes on the East Coast or forest fires in the west and southwest. What would you do if you could no longer get to your office, access your computers, files,…….. Would you have to close your doors or do you have a backup plan so you could get back to work sooner, rather than later?

I personally think you should have both local backup and off-site backups, whether that be cloud-based or flash drives.  The local backup is in case you lose internet access for an extended period (many of us have experienced that) and off-site in case your system gets hacked or fire or flood damage. Good companies who provide hosting solutions also have backups in other locations – just in case of disasters.   There are many reputable cloud-based backup systems and you might find some of you have access to offsite backups but were either unaware or never set it up.

Stop and make a list of what all you would want backed up.  Here’s a list to get you started – some of these are obvious, but some are often overlooked.

  1. Accounting Software

Especially in tough times, you want money to continue to flow in, so that means being able to invoice or at least collect on receivables.  But you also need to keep up with payables. You wouldn’t want to learn the hard way that a vendor cut off your phone or Internet or would no longer sell materials needed for jobs.  (I know some of the QuickBooks line of products include offsite backup – but it does need to be setup!) 

  1. Online Calendar

Do you use an online calendar?  If you use a calendar such as Google Calendar, then it’s a good idea to keep a backup in case something happens to it that’s out of your control. 

In Google, go to Settings from the Settings menu, click the Calendars tab, and Export your calendar to get your backup. 

  1. Website

It’s common for business owners to rely on their webmaster to have a backup of their website, but this is often not within the scope of the webmaster duties.  Check with your webmaster to get a backup of your website files so that you are protected against hackers, hosting problems, and more.  Fortunately, my webmaster does provide backups. So, when my site was compromised a few years ago, I was back up and running in just a couple of hours.

If your blog is in the same place, make sure you have a backup of it as well.  You may also want to preserve any online profiles you have in the same way. 

  1. Your Email

We are all so dependent on our email these days that we should consider backing this file up daily, if not hourly.   The location of your email file varies, and some people have more than one.  It’s worth double-checking to see if this file is included in your regular backup routine. I learned one year that my email was not being backed up – you can be sure it is now and with the recent power outage, my backup came in handy.   You may also want to create a separate, more frequent backup routine for this critical file. 

If you have an online email account, make sure you have a backup of all those emails in case something goes wrong.

  1. Browser Data

Browser-related data, such as your bookmarks, history, toolbar, and saved passwords are all stored in files, but they can be hard to find and recover.  If something happens to your browser data, it may or may not be a big deal.  If it is, include these files in your regular backup so you can recover what you need more easily. 

  1. Online Bank and Vendor Account Information

If you get audited by the IRS, it’s almost always for a year in the distant past.  Digging up invoices you might have had online access to but no longer do can be time-consuming and painful.  Most banks and vendors have made it super-easy to download PDF versions of your invoices and statements, so be sure you do that before your access to them expires or becomes an extra charge. 

  1. Local and Cloud Drives

Every business’s technology setup is different.  If you have a server, chances are you’re getting it backed up regularly.  If you have employees, make sure each of their hard drives are backed up so they don’t lose any files that are not on the server.  If you have multiple drives, are all the drives being backed up or just the c drive?  If you have your files centralized in the cloud, make sure you have a backup of those files as well.

  1. Desktop

One additional place that may not be backed up is your Desktop.  It depends on your operating system; sometimes desktop files are excluded if you have your backups set to copy only “My Documents” files and subfolders. 

Bonus Tip

Periodically check the accuracy and effectiveness of your backups and see if you can recover a file or two.  If not, you’re back to the drawing board, and it’s better to find out in a non-emergency situation that you have some work to do on your backup and recovery strategy.

Reducing Risks 

Being a business owner is all about taking calculated risks.  Having all your important business data backed up helps you reduce your risks and protect what’s perhaps your most important business asset.  

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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/year and then number of employees, it definitely adds up. Ten minutes a day is almost an hour a week.

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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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 almost 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 (which I would rarely take the time to view).  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 Features

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.  I even use this feature to help me build custom reports.   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, Transaction Type 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.

QuickBooks Features

Memorized transactions – This is a great timesaver for most 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.

QuickBooks Features

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.

QuickBooks FeaturesType – 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 very 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. One idea might be to have 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 marketing coach, I realized 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. With Enterprise, 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).

QuickBooks Features

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

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Secrets to Monitoring the Health of Your Business in QuickBooks

How healthy is your business?  Many businesses just look at their profit & loss statement (aka income statement), but you could be missing out on some helpful information.

Have you ever heard of accounting ratios?  The first time I even learned of them was when I somehow stumbled on them in the help in QuickBooks (it’s no longer in there).  But they explained why I was struggling financially even though I had money in my bank account and my P & L showed a profit.

Banks often use ratios to analyze your financial statements as part of the loan approval process, so it’s helpful to know in advance what they’ll see.  Acceptable ratios can vary by industry, so you might find that your accountant or trade association may have those numbers.  This would also let you know how you compare to those in the same line of work.

In my article on the Profit & Loss report,  I discussed 2 key metrics – Gross Profit Margin and Net Profit MarginIn this article we’ll take a look at two ratios that are easy to get, but often ignored – Current Ratio and Debt Ratio. To calculate these ratios, you need to run your Balance Sheet (I know many of you do not), and that the Balance Sheet is in good shape.

Current Ratio – This looks at how easily you can pay your debts. For a true picture, you will want to include the “current portion of long-term debt”.  In other words, if you have 4 years left on a loan, move 12 months of principle from long-term liability to current liability.  (Your accountant or lending institution could help you determine this number if you need assistance.) This can be a substantial dollar amount depending on the number and size of your loans.  But even if you don’t do this, it can still be a good eye opener.  Simply divide your Total Current Assets by your Total Current Liabilities.  In this example (in blue), you would take 302,185 divided by 54,690.  Keep in mind that if you have credit card accounts in your Chart of Accounts, QuickBooks considers these current, which is fine unless you don’t plan on paying the card off within 12 months.

Debt Ratio – What percentage of your business is financed by debt? To get this ratio, divide Total Liabilities (debt) by Total Assets.  For Quality Built Construction, you would take 68,675 divided by 374,142 (highlighted in red).

So take a look at these ratios for your business and see what you get.  If you want to know if they are good or bad, your accountant can help you determine how you are doing for your industry.  I would recommend that you look at these at least quarterly if not monthly.  You may find that for your industry, these ratios will fluctuate seasonally. 

And, if you’re not sure if your balance sheet is in good shape, your accountant can give you a quick yes or no – hopefully you’ll get a yes. If it’s no, we’ll be happy to see what may be going wrong in your QuickBooks.

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Have You Checked These Balances Lately?

Balance SheetThe Balance Sheet is an important report in your business’s financial statements. Unfortunately, I find that many small businesses never look at this report.  Usually it’s either because they don’t understand the report or they think it has nothing to show them in terms of profitability. 

However, this is an important report for several reasons.

  • If you’re the owner, these are your numbers. If you don’t understand them, you want to, so it’s to your benefit to ask someone.
  • This report often shows me some mistakes people are making in QuickBooks. 
  • This report shows the overall health of your business and can warn you of problems that may not be apparent in your P & L.  Wouldn’t you like to know?!
  • Lending institutions may take a hard look at this report when determining whether or not they will lend to you and /or how much they will lend.  So it’s beneficial for you to know
    • first, that it’s correct and
    • secondly d what they will be seeing and using to determine your loan.

A Summary of Balances

A balance sheet is like a snapshot – it represents one date in time, for example, 5/31/19.  The numbers represent balances, and since the balances change daily, a balance sheet only represents one point in time versus a range (as found in your Profit & Loss report).  There are three parts to your balance sheet

  • What you own (Assets),
  • What you owe (Liabilities) and
  • Your net worth (Equity)

 

Balance Sheet1. Assets

You will most likely find three major types of assets

-Current (usually means 1 year or less)

  • Most balance sheets start off with cash balances, and these typically represent what you have in the bank minus any uncashed checks that could reduce your account once they come in
  • If you invoice customers, but have not been paid, that is considered an asset because it’s owed to you; this is typically known as your Accounts Receivable.
  • Employee advances or other loans payable to your business are also frequently listed here.
  • If you stock and sell products, the cost of those products you haven’t sold yet would be in your Inventory Asset account

-Fixed – If you own equipment, furniture, cars or trucks or something similar that lasts for years, you will have a balance in Fixed Assets. If it’s been a while since you’ve purchased them, you probably have an Accumulated Depreciation (the total you’ve depreciated over the years). When you subtract your accumulated depreciation from your original cost, you get a net value for your Fixed Asset

-Other– Here you may find security deposits, prepaid insurance, etc.

You will also have a total for all your Assets

2. LBalance Sheetiabilities

Liabilities, the second of three major sections of a balance sheet, are monies you owe others, such as taxes, vendors, or employees,

-Current (due in one year or less). Here you see

  • Accounts Payable- Day to day money you owe to suppliers, independent contractors, phone bill, etc.
  • Credit Cards – if you set up Credit cards as an account in QuickBooks, they are listed here
  • Line of credit (if you owe)
  • Payroll taxes you owe
  • Sales tax
  • “Short-term” loans (due in less than a year)

-Long-term (more than 1 year)

If you have bank loans, they usually each have a separate account like a bank account does.   Each bank loan account represents the principal due on a loan (the interest you pay goes to an expense on your Profit & Loss report).

3. Equity 

Balance SheetThe final section of the balance sheet is Equity.  It is the section that will vary the most depending on the type of entity your business is set up as. 

  • For example, if your business is a corporation, then there will be a common stock account which will represent the original amount of money you put into the business; it will match the Articles of Incorporation that you drew up when you incorporated.  This amount will rarely ever change for the life of the business.
  • If your business is set up as a partnership, the equity section will include an account for each partner that represents their balance in the firm, which is the net amount of money they have put into the business over the years plus or minus the business income or loss through the years
  • There is often an account called Paid-in Capital which is how much additional money you’ve put in or taken out of the company beyond the common stock balance. 
  • You will also have a Retained Earnings account.  This reflects accumulated profit (or loss) through the years of operation. 
  • The Net Income figure is the bottom line from your Profit and Loss. 

Balanced Balance Sheet

Balance SheetIf you take a closer look at the balance sheet, here’s another concept. If you take your total assets (what you owN) and subtract your total liabilities (what you owE), you are left with your Equity (or net worth as I sometimes say).  The way it’s presented on the balance sheet is your assets equal your liabilities plus equity – ALWAYS.

If you run this report, and it’s not balanced, then check the following:

  1. Did you run this report on a cash or accrual basis?  A cash-basis balance sheet may not always be balanced, but this article walks you through the steps to correct that. 
  2. If this is an accrual-based balance sheet, then there may be issues with your data file and you’ll want to reach out to tech support.

So take a look at your balance sheet and see what observations you notice about your business.

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