Year-End Review and Planning

By now you probably have a good idea of your year-end numbers.  As you look back over your year, take the time to list what worked – and what didn’t. Here are a few recommendations to help you review 2018 so you can plan for 2019.

  1. Profitability: Where were you most profitable? Where were you least profitable?  I would look at
    • Service line or division or department – You should easily be able to compare your different divisions. Total sales is not your only indicator! You want to compare AFTER your job expenses including field labor (cost of goods). If you use the Class tracking in QuickBooks, which I highly recommend, comparing divisions will be easy!
    • Type of customer – If you review your customer list and start looking for patterns as to the type, you may find you really like some and would love to drop others and your numbers support your decision. Some ideas for type could include residential, commercial, builder, HOA’s, property management, government, age or other demographics.  QuickBooks can help you track this easily. Identifying the type of customer(s) you like (besides those who pay quickly ;-) will also simplify your marketing.
    • Location – Are you finding a certain municipality or county or subdivision or… hasn’t been profitable? Or maybe it’s been a gold mine for you. Perhaps it’s time to consider moving to a new location so you’re more centrally located or it’s been so profitable it’s time to consider a second location.
    • Type of jobs – Over time you’ll find that there are certain types of jobs you enjoy, are more profitable, easier to estimate.  Maybe you decide certain types of jobs you will no longer do because you lose money on them or you just really don’t want that type of work or that they’re too small – or too large.  I know many are often afraid of turning away projects, but if you underestimate your costs or the crews are inefficient, you aren’t helping your business.  When you narrow the type of work you do, you’ll find it will be easier to estimate and your crews will be more efficient.  It will also be easier to market to the types of clients and jobs you prefer!
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  2. Overhead: Have you reviewed your overhead costs lately?  If not, maybe it’s time!
    1. I find it’s easy to forget about payments that are automatically paid by credit card or deducted from your bank account. I know I made changes in a couple subscription plans that saved money in my own business.
    2. Some areas I sometimes see clients paying more than needed in areas I can help would include:
      1. Software
      2. Payroll
      3. Credit card processing
      4. Checks

I’m often able to get discounts or get clients upgraded to newer accounts that can save money so it’s always worth checking with your office.  Doesn’t cost you anything and if we can find a better deal, you save 😊.
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  1. Staffing: Were there changes in staffing? Consider both out in the field and in the office. Sometimes a new employee could be a reason to add or drop something. For example, a new employee with certain skills may suggest you’d like to use more of those skills, which could mean different jobs or different clientele.
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  2. Time: Many of you are conscious of time out in the field, but what about office time? I find few companies clock how long it takes to do office tasks and often there are inefficiencies.
    • Are you still doing paper time sheets or using the old punch time cards for employees to clock in/out? I know from personal experience just how consuming that can be. Maybe it’s time to go mobile – there are lots of good products out on the market – of course some better than others!
    • Are you entering data in one place and then some version of that same data in a second place (like a spreadsheet and then in QuickBooks – or vice versa)? Could there be a way to integrate the data so you don’t have double-entry resulting in saving time?
    • Are you doing work-arounds? Maybe it’s time to re-assess – can it be done in QuickBooks or will an add-in product solve your problem?
    • Are you running reports in Excel? If so, is that because you can’t get that information from QuickBooks? I frequently find that setup and lack of training are key reasons you’re not getting some of the reports you want/need from your software and hence using Excel to generate the report. I’m happy to help you take a look.
    • Are reports taking a long time to run? Perhaps there’s some file maintenance that needs to be done or upgrade in computers or networks. Slow computers add to your labor costs as people sit and wait – including you!
    • Are there faster ways to get your work done? Unless you live and breathe QuickBooks like I do, you might find there are features and/or “tricks” to get the information you want that you don’t know about.
    • Sometimes it pays to talk to a professional and I’m happy to take a look and discuss your situation.
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  3. Software: Is your current software solution still a good fit for you?
    • QuickBooks Whenever I’m working with clients I start with discussing what version of QuickBooks you’re using and your pain points. Sometimes QuickBooks can do what you want – you just didn’t know it could or how to get the results you wanted.  If your current version won’t do all you want, we discuss pros/cons of keeping what you have, upgrading and/or getting an add-on product.  I recommend having a needs list and a wish list.  Most times, you won’t find something that fits all of your needs and wishes so you have to decide what’s most important – and that’s unique to your business.
    • Add-ons –Is it time to add a 3rd party product to solve for one or more of your pain points? Add-ons come in 2 “flavors”
      • Task specific – these often solve 1 issue – e.g time tracking, payroll, estimating, CRM, etc.
      • Industry specific – these products typically solve for more than one pain point within your industry and will use your lingo because they “understand” you. You’ll find that add-ons have differences so there’s no “one-size fits all” solution – you will still have to decide which one best fits your business.
      • And of course, I always want to know how the products integrate with QuickBooks; that’s one reason why I like the Intuit add-ons because I know the integration will be good. If job costing is important, there are better ways than others for those job costs to come in to your QuickBooks if you want to maximize the reporting in QuickBooks.

If you need help either getting this data or wondering how to adjust your setup and/or procedures, let me know – I’ll be happy to work with you

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Determining Your Most Profitable Sales

It’s time to review your sales to see where you were most profitable in 2018 and see what changes, if any, you’ll make for 2019.  When looking at profitability, there are a few different factors you can review using QuickBooks.  So here are 5 areas to consider.

  1. Identify Your Most Profitable Division/Service Line: If your divisions or service lines or departments are classes, this can be simple to evaluate. Run your P & L by Class, then customize the report.  % of Income lets you compare profit margins and % of Row lets you see which division is bringing in the most revenue.  Then not only will you have a comparison by dollar amount, but the percent of your business income AND expenses. If you take the time to allocate your overhead (either on a monthly or quarterly basis), you can get an even better picture.
  1. Identify your Most Profitable Products/Services – If your Items are double-sided, AND you use the items tab when you receive your bills, then the Item Profitability Report can be helpful as well. Choose Year to date or Year to last month for your date range. Is it time to drop a service or product?  Or maybe you want to sell more of a particular product or service line.

Note: If you haven’t been good using Items in your job costing this is an area that may not reflect true profitability. If so, put it on your list to improve for 2018 ;-)

  1. Identify Your Most Profitable Customers: Look at the Job Profitability Summary It will run on an accrual basis only, so you could have some unpaid invoices in there.  But hopefully your customers will be forthcoming with payment.  The default date range is all, since some jobs cross over years, and in some cases, multiple years.  If that’s true for you, then you may want to keep that setting. But for most of you, the jobs tend to be shorter, so I would recommend running it just for this year.  For the purposes of identifying the top customers, you can collapse the report so you just have the customer names. Export the report to Excel and then you can sort for the Difference column which should be your profit.  Of course, this assumes you’ve been good about costing all your labor and materials to the job ;-). For those of you who outsource your payroll, you may find that not all your labor costs are in.
  2. Identify Your Most Profitable Types of Customers: When you look at the top customers above, do you see a pattern as to the type of customer? Perhaps they’re commercial or government or residential or landlords, or …. You get the picture. (I use industry for type).   You can also use subtypes.  If you want more top customers, it’s helpful to have a better picture of just who they are.

If you use the Customer Type field, you can create a Custom Summary report with Customer Type for column headings. (Click on Reports>Custom Reports>Summary).   You can also turn on % of Row if you’d like.

  1. Identify Your Most Profitable Jobs: Click on Reports>Jobs, Time & Mileage> Job Profitability Summary. You can export this out to Excel as is or filter on the customers you identified above.  Unless all your jobs have unique names/numbers this will take more work before you can easily sort in Excel. Perhaps the quickest way is to copy the customer name down so it is with the job name and then sort by Difference (your profit). You can use the Auto Filter feature in Excel to remove the rows with blanks in the job column.

Also look to see if there is a pattern in the type of job you do for that customer.  Some types of jobs are more profitable than others. Makes more sense to stick to the more profitable jobs!

As you go through these steps, you might also want to take note of which ones are the bottom of the list. Perhaps it’s time to drop those customers, jobs, products or services.

When you can identify your true top customers and jobs, then you have a better idea of how to market, and you can focus on more profitable customers and jobs, which will boost your bottom line rather than trying to be everything to everyone.

If you need help getting this setup in QuickBooks, contact our office.

Would love to hear if you had any “a-ha’s” as you look at these reports!

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What’s In Your Top 20?

You’re probably familiar with the Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your work. Have you ever stopped to look at the Top 20 in your business? You can identify the top 20% of your customers, types of customers, products/services, sales reps, expenses, etc. in QuickBooks.  While it won’t always be an 80/20, you can still see what floats to the top and bottom.

The company snapshot can at least begin to give you a visual. (Here’s a video if you aren’t familiar with it). But here are some reports/graphs that might be helpful.

  • Profit & Loss – Choose whatever date range you want, then select Customize Report. In the lower right- hand corner, you’ll see an option for % of income and % of Choose one or both – could be an eye-opener!

  • Sales by Customer Summary – Again, choose your date range then select Choose % of column and Sort by Total
  • Sales by Item Summary – Choose your date Percent of Sales is already an option. If you don’t want some of the other information, then select Modify and get rid of any columns you don’t want to see. In the report screen, you may also want to click on collapse if you have numerous subitems – it’s sometimes easier to read with fewer items listed.  If you just want to see % of Sales and Gross Margin, you’ll need to export to Excel and hide the unwanted columns
  • The Income and Expense graph can be customized (Reports>Co & Financial>)- you can look at account, customer or class, and choose income or On the right, you’ll see the percentages of income and expense plus a pie chart for a visual. As they say, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words!
  • The Sales Graph can also be You can see sales by item, customer or sales rep and again you’ll see percentages and a pie chart.

Some of these reports don’t address actual profit from customers, i.e. perhaps sales were high, but so were expenses or perhaps you’ve invoiced, but have yet to be paid or paid in full. You can run a P & L by Job and customize so you just see Income and Job Costs (Cost of Goods) and use % of Income if you want to compare Profit Margins and % of Row if you want to see who brought in the most dollars.  This is a report you may decide to export to Excel so you can do more with the data.

So, with these tools, you can now focus 80% of your time on the 20% that is most productive and profitable for your business. You can email me if you have problems with these reports.

I would love to hear if there were surprises when you ran these reports.

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Using QuickBooks to Find Your Niche

In our last article, we discussed the benefits of specializing versus generalizing.  So let’s take a look at how QuickBooks can help you.

Decide what you want to track.  Obviously you want to look at profitability but here are some ways you could look at where you are most profitable:

  • Geographically – region of the country, state, county, city, subdivision…
  • By division/department – maintenance, construction, irrigation, remodeling, painting…
  • Type of customer – general contractor, homeowner, retiree, young family, property management co., HOA, government agency…
  • Type of Project/Job – retaining wall, outdoor kitchen, kitchen remodel, new home…
  • Service/Product – mowing, painting, framing, designing…

When you can narrow down within each of the above, you’ll have a better picture of the type of business you want.

Use Your QuickBooks Tools

  • Classes – Classes can really help you easily compare different aspects of your business. Many use divisions or departments as classes, but some use states or type of project (e.g. new construction vs remodel), project manager, partner or a combination. If you have not been using this feature, you will love it – you can easily compare profitability with side by side comparisons. You can also use sub-classes, although the reporting is a little more cumbersome.
  • Customer Type – This under-utilized tool is found in the Additional Info section of your “edit customer”. How do you describe your customers? Retirees, singles, young families with pets, government agencies, non-profits, service businesses? Work up your list – you can even do sub –types.  So for me, I have contractor as a type, but my sub-types are the different kinds of contractors. You can even have a type for the customer and a different type for a job for the customer.  Below is a custom report comparing profitability of Customer Types.

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  • Job Profitability – Run a P & L by Job, click on Customize Report and add the sub-column for % of Income (% Profit Margin). You can compare the profitability of different jobs and start to look for patterns. You might even want to take a look at the Gross Profit and divide by the number of hours on the job (found in the Time by Job Summary) and see how jobs compare.
  • Job Type – You will find over time that certain types of jobs are better for your business than others, so use job type to help you refine. While you can’t run a P & L by Job Type (definitely on my wish list), you can filter a P & L for a specific job type or you can export out to Excel and take a closer look.

Items: – These are your products and services.  Most of you have several (maybe many), but if you have them setup as double-sided Items and enter your costs using the Items tab, then the Item Profitability report may be eye-opening.

  • Custom Fields – I love Custom Fields! In fact, mine are all used up! You can use Custom Fields to track demographics, source of lead, and information about the property or the different services they use. Wouldn’t it be nice to really identify who your ideal type of customer is?!  Not just their name and location, but something about their age, family status, pets, size of yard, type of yard, whether this is a historic property or size of the business. What I also like about Custom Fields is you can pull them into invoices, filter on them, and use them reports – that’s sooo much better than using the “other” field (which you can’t pull into a report or filter on) or having some of this info in the notes or descriptions.
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  • Templates – Once you have your lists and fields setup, next is to use them! There will be a Class field on all your transactions, so you simply click, from the drop-down. If you want to track sales by sales rep or crew or foreman or source of lead, you will need to have sales rep on the invoice, too. That’s true for custom fields as well. The screen shot to the right shows how to add these to your invoice templates. Keep in mind they don’t have to print out on the customer’s copy, but will provide valuable information for you.
  • Reports – Once you started to collect the data, the next step is to look at your reports. You’ve already seen a few in this article that you can create to review. Seeing the numbers or seeing it in a chart of graph form will help you evaluate your business so you can refine it.  You will get some interesting aha’s” when you review these reports with new information.

Contact our office if you have questions or would like assistance.

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Are There Riches In Niches

In the beginning, we all take whatever business we can get. But after a while, you can start to identify who you like working with, the types of work you do, where you’re more profitable, your ideal customer, ideal division, ideal service… Many worry that if they niche, they will lose out on business because they won’t reach as many people. But actually it’s often just the opposite. Remember, you often purchase materials for your jobs from different suppliers because the suppliers specialized. When you take the time to niche, you’ll find that it simplifies your business and increases your profitability. Here’s why:

It’s Easier

When you serve a niche, you will see the same customer challenges over and over again.  As you become good at identifying the challenges of your niche customers, you can anticipate their needs making it easier to estimate. There is less to learn, so you’ll also be able to focus on solutions specific to your audience, increasing your effectiveness, instead of not having the time because you’re serving such a diverse clientele.

You’ll Save Time   

When you are constantly dealing with similar customers, jobs and issues, you’ll find that not only is it easier, but you’ll be able to create a systematic process, streamlining your workflow.  Your employees will have less to learn and become more efficient in getting their work done. So “same old, same old” will equal savings in time.

You’ll Build a Better Reputation

As a result of this deeper knowledge that you’ve learned from serving multiple customers with similar needs, you will develop the reputation as the go-to for this particular type of service or for working with this type of customer.  That means better testimonials.  Not only will you develop a reputation, but it will develop faster within the niche than you would in the general world.  And that means your referrals will speed up!  You and a “competitor” may even refer to each other – I have QuickBooks consultants who refer work to me and vice versa.

You’ll Have Less Competition

When you specialize, it’s easier to stand out because there are fewer competitors!  Not only that, but think about when you look for a particular service.  Did you ever reach out to people in your industry association to find out who they used – someone who would “understand you”?  Your customers are happy to have someone who specializes in them!

It’s Easier to Market

It’s easier to market to a specific audience than the general audience.  You’re able to tell them what you do well that addresses their unique needs and wishes instead of the generic “we do quality work and are insured” you tell the general public.  Not that those aren’t important aspects of your business but when you can be more explicit, you’ll have better results. Marketing to a young family with kids and pets is different than marketing to retirees. Marketing to government agencies is different that marketing to consumers or commercial businesses.

You can Increase Your Profitability

Here’s why:

  • With better estimating, you’re less likely to underestimate, so you walk away with more profit.
  • When your employees are more efficient, your labor costs are down, so you increase your profit.
  • When your employees are more efficient, you can often get the work done faster and take on more jobs, so you increase your profits.
  • And because you specialize, you can often charge more. Remember, the specialist you visit charges more than your family doctor.

Depending on the size of your company or seasons, you may find you develop more than one niche.  The key, is having that niche defined making it easier to market, estimate and execute more effectively

So start thinking about how you can get a clearer picture of your idea customer, ideal job, preferred geography, etc.   Let us know if you would like assistance in getting some of that data from QuickBooks.

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Enterprise Adds More Mobile Capabilities To Sales Order Fulfillment

In addition to the new features mentioned in my article discussing new for all desktop QuickBooks (Pro/Premier & Enterprise), Intuit added a couple for Enterprise customers only with a big push on mobile warehouse (storage) functionality.

For those of you who run payroll in-house and have multiple employees with access to QuickBooks, in many cases it’s important to be able to restrict who can see payroll and who can NOT!  While there are a myriad of ways to restrict permissions, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with some of the more crucial areas like payroll.  QuickBooks now helps in that area.

If a role, area or activity has access to payroll, QuickBooks now has an asterisk * or two (**) to indicate there is unrestricted access to payroll data.  This makes it much easier to review roles and tasks to keep some out of payroll.

Last year Intuit introduced mobile sales order fulfillment to the Advanced Inventory features found in the Platinum Enterprise only.  This year they expanded on those wireless options for warehouse and other storage types by adding packing and shipping to mobile sales order fulfillment.  For those in the office, you remain updated on the status of the sales order all the way from picking to packing and shipping (taking advantage of the QuickBooks Shipping Manager) in real time.

Advanced Inventory is found in the Inventory section of the company preferences. Once you turn it on, the newest features are found in the Site Operations.

The Sales Order worksheet here is different than in Premier or Enterprise silver and gold and the Purchase Order Worksheet is also unique to Platinum Enterprise.

Notice that there are now 3 tabs (dashboard, pick, and pack) on the Sales Order Fulfillment Worksheet so you can choose which part of the process you’re working on or monitoring.  And also note how you can see the status of the various sales orders

From the Warehouse App on your Android, you can see the picklists assigned to you, fill a specific order and pack (this could also be 2 different people if one picks and someone else packs).

The PO Fulfillment actually slipped into 2018 mid-year with one of the updates for Platinum customers but I doubt few were aware. Afterall, how many of us read all the details of what’s new in an update?!

While many of you may not have warehouses stocked with widgets, perhaps you have yards with plant material, pavers, accessories for yards and homes, or other materials that you inventory, so these might be helpful.  If you’re not currently in 2019, you can always download a trial version to take a closer look at these features from our site.  And when you’re ready to upgrade, let us know so we can be sure you get the best deal on pricing!

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Increase Efficiency, Accuracy and Cash Flow with QuickBooks 2019

This year, Intuit worked on improving some existing features in QuickBooks as well as adding some new features.   They focused on increasing efficiency in getting work done, added tools to help ensure accuracy of the accounting data as well as the actual data file, and provided tools to assist with cash flow.  Should you upgrade?  Check out what’s new and improved!  The features mentioned in this article apply to QuickBooks Pro, Premier and Enterprise.

Speed up cash flow, help collections with the new Invoice Status Tracker.  Now you can have real-time visibility on the status of an invoice from when you created the invoice, emailed the invoice, to when it was viewed, to being paid and then seeing it deposited. In the example below, the invoice was not paid in full so the history shows partially paid and that partial payment was deposited.

Transfer Credits Between Jobs of the Same Customer – Ever need to move credit from one job to another? In the past, QuickBooks didn’t make it easy.  But in 2019, it’s very simple!  Find the invoice you want to apply credit, then click on Apply Credit.

The first time you do this, QuickBooks will create an “Other Current Asset” account called “Account for Credit Transfer”, but will make that account inactive so someone can’t select it during normal data entry.

You can’t transfer credits between companies – only jobs for the same customer. This feature can’t be undone!!!  If you need to fix, you’ll need to do it manually.

Prompt for Bill Payment A common problem in the past has been users entering bills and then writing checks instead of using the Pay Bills feature (which is actually faster and easier). While it may seem like the right thing to do (since you are paying your vendor by check) and your vendor is happy, the “write check” feature doesn’t clear your payable(s).  Now QuickBooks will bring up a prompt, to help ensure the bill is paid correctly. Note, too, that the Go to Pay Bills is the default selection to help you use the Pay Bills feature.

Once in the Pay Bills screen, QuickBooks shows only the vendor you need to see

Improved Sick and Vacation Pay Tracking – A concern by many has been accurately tracking sick and vacation time. That’s become even more important with changes in state legislations. Intuit has made it easier to monitor.

You can view both available and accrued time.  And even better – you now get a warning if you going to exceed the amount to time available!

Speaking of payroll, a feature that slipped in the R3 maintenance release patch for 2018, that you may not have seen, is the Employee Pay Adjustments History report found in the Employee & Payroll reports.  Now it’s much easier to review when employees have received raises.

And while we’re on the subject of reporting, a long overdue improvement, is the Show Inactive Inventory Items when running the Inventory Valuation reports. There are many times inventory items have been made inactive, yet they had values which were included in the Inventory Asset account on the Balance Sheet.

A few other features are more technical, but very useful:

  • Intuit Data Protect Email Notifications: If you use Intuit’s Data Protect (free for Enterprise users), you now get an email notification if the backup doesn’t run. Important to know!!  It would be frustrating to think your file was getting backed and then find out when you need to restore a backup, that you don’t have one to use!  (Of course, I’m a big proponent of having multiple backups, so if one fails you still have another one or two.)
  • Move QuickBooks Desktop with Intuit’s Migrator Tool. Click on File>Utilities>Move to another computer

This tool copies the files needed to install your QuickBooks and files on a new computer; this includes your QuickBooks software, license details, attachments, templates, etc.  Here’s an article that gives you more detail.

  • Condense File by Removing the Audit Trail Only. If you’ve ever wanted/needed to reduce the size of your data file, QuickBooks has a Condense feature. Now there’s an option to remove only the audit trail leaving the rest of the transactions intact.
  • Improved IIF List and Data Imports – For those of you using add-on products that create an IIF file (Intuit Interchange Format), you can now get a summary of the import. If some transactions failed, you can find out which ones so you can fix and try again.

So, is it worth the upgrade? (Enterprise users check the Enterprise article before deciding).

  • I always recommend reviewing the new features to see if there are any that would be really useful to you. If that’s the case, then yes, it’s worth the upgrade.
  • If you purchased QuickBooks 2018 between July 16 and September 16, you can get the 2019 version for free (with proof of purchase), so take advantage of your deal!
  • If you’re using QuickBooks 2016, realize that by the end of May 2019 you’ll need to upgrade. It’s up to you as to when to upgrade.

As for timing, unless you need 2019 now, I generally recommend waiting either until the R3 or R4 patch comes out or after you’re done with 1099’s and W-2’s.

I’d love to hear what your one or two favorite features are!

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QuickBooks Desktop vs. QuickBooks Online

If you’re in a desktop version of QuickBooks (Pro/Premier/Enterprise) you may be wondering if it would be better to move to QuickBooks Online (QBO) so you have remote access. With the new products just rolling out, I thought this would be good to discuss pros/cons – and my opinion ;-)

Yes, Intuit has put a heavy emphasis on QBO, but they still have many more desktop customers than online (and those customers bring in more revenue), so they aren’t going do desert them!  While Intuit is spending a lot to continue to develop this product, they realize that their current online product doesn’t yet meet the needs of many of their customers, so they are still committed to adding new features and improvements for their desktop products.

If you’re on the fence as to which way you go, it’s wise to look at what the products have to offer BEFORE deciding.

So here’s the deal. Even though QuickBooks is part of the name, the online version of QB is VERY different from the desktop (2 different development teams) – just ask anyone who’s moved from one to the other! The look is definitely different as is some of the terminology, so anticipate a learning curve. Some have loved it, but I’ve had a few clients tell me they tried QBO and went back to desktop!

QBO offers 24/7 access, no worries about updates or upgrades, automatic invoicing and bank downloads and a growing number of add-on apps.

However, with QBO, you pay a subscription PER company.  For some of you, that can add up!  And, Intuit raised their QBO prices again this year, so this may cost you more, rather than less.

If you’re in QBO or considering QBO, mobile access is probably a key enticement.  While easy to access, QBO is not nearly as feature-rich as the desktop product – and may never be. In fact, Intuit (at least for right now), seems happy to focus mostly on accounting in QBO and letting apps solve for the additional features/functionality you need.  In particular, a couple areas that are limited are job costing and inventory.  So you may need to subscribe to additional apps – which means additional costs and having to learn another product – or 2 or 3 or ….

Intuit is aware that QBO is still NOT a good fit for those who need job costing.  However, they have added a few job cost features in the Plus level, albeit limited compared to desktop.

  • Projects (in the customer section) – I will admit this has the potential to be a nice feature (you can see both costs and revenue for a project). If you use and add-on product, it may work for sub-customers but not projects – so you should ask before you turn on this feature. Once you turn this feature on, you can’t turn it off.  There are still a few issues (like getting the project name and/or address on an invoice), so you might wait before moving forward with this feature.
  • Estimates -you can create an estimate for Revenue, but not costs
  • You can have now both a cost side for a product or service as well as an income side (especially useful if you invoice for time and materials).
  • You can finally progress invoice customers but I haven’t seen a way to customize a progress invoice.
  • There is no Estimated vs Actual so you use budgets for projects. Budgets use your Chart of Accounts, so, you would need to run a Budget vs Actual – and you might find you have to put more detail in the chart of accounts since you can’t run an estimated vs actual using your items (products & services)
  • You can’t job cost your labor. This is huge for many of you. Even if you can get the hours by job from a 3rd party product, QBO uses total hours only.  Nor can you “burden” your labor with payroll taxes, etc.   So you can’t run a report on a job, drill down the work done and find your true cost of labor (which is sooo easy in desktop QB).  Instead, you will have to find a way to get the information from your add-on product
  • You can’t run a job profitability detail report (which lets you see all the different services and materials), – but you can customize the Item Profitability report. There is a Job Profitability report which pulls from your Chart of Accounts
  • You can’t see open PO’s totaled by customer:job

I’m not sure just how much Intuit will add for job costing vs letting 3rd party apps solve for issues, but will continue to monitor.

Some other areas to consider:

  • Sales Orders There is no sales order feature (which you can also use as a Work Order in QBDT). In QBO, you can use an estimate template as a sales order, but you can’t track back orders.  Also in QBDT, you can create sales orders from your Estimate, obviously not an option in QBO
  • Fixed Asset List – QBDT has a nice Fixed Asset List (gives you detail without expanding your Chart of Accounts)
  • Price Levels – In QBDT, you can have automatic pricing based on customer or type of customer, but not in QBO
  • Reports – Currently there’s no group of job cost reports like you see in the desktop products. Not only are there fewer reports (65+ in QBO vs 100+ in QB Pro/Premier), there are fewer ways to customize reports. And as I mentioned above, since the subscription is for only one company, you can’t run a combined financial for multiple companies.
  • Permissions aren’t very strong – an employee able to do payroll can also see your financial reports – yikes! When you start having 3-5 people or more in your books, you definitely want to restrict who can see and/or do what.  Enterprise is by far the best at controlling access.
  • Backups – Intuit does keep your QBO backed up, but you can’t select a specific backup to restore if there are any problems. Likewise, you can’t manually backup QBO and have your own copy or decide to restore a backup.  So if there was a major problem that happened as a result of an incorrect integration with a product or a bookkeeper making a massive mistake (either accidentally or deliberately), you don’t have a backup to restore like you do with the desktop product. While you can export the data out, it’s not in a ready-to-go format that you could use in desktop QB.
  • While you get the ease of remote access, you miss out on some other time-saving features available in desktop QuickBooks. Here’s a chart comparing the availability of some time-saving features in QB.

For a more complete list, you can download my QB Feature Comparison Chart from this link.

So what are your options?  Personally, I still recommend the desktop versions of QuickBooks for anyone who wants job costing.  For remote access, here are some options:

  • You can use a product like GoToMyPC, LogMeIn or TeamViewer and remote into your computer – and you have access to your entire computer. If you choose this option, I strongly recommend a Windows password and turning off your monitor(s) when you’re out of the office.
  • QBox is a way to share a QuickBooks data file. It locks the file allowing only 1 person to work in it, so not a good fit if you need concurrent users, but for just a couple people, this might be a viable option.
  • There are Intuit-approved companies who will “store” (host) your QuickBooks and data; this gives you remote access plus the ability to use QB Pro/Premier or Enterprise. You pay per month per user to access the remote server in addition to your software.
  • Many 3rd party products work remotely, solving for your “need” and integrate with desktop QuickBooks. They tend to be either task-specific (e.g. time tracking) or industry-specific. Method is probably the product that gives you the most flexibility for remote access without being industry specific.
  • Enterprise can run in a “Remote Desktop” environment. In this setup, both the software and the data are on the server, so you just log into the server.  In a traditional network environment, the software is on your computer and the data is on the server.  The Remote Desktop servers have to be more powerful than traditional servers because everyone is using both software and data, but they can be really nice when you have people working remotely or in different locations.

If you still opt for QBO, just realize that you may need to find one or more products to integrate with QuickBooks or have work-arounds so you can do all that you need or maybe decide to do without.  Contact me if you want to discuss more or would like to see our discounted pricing on the QuickBooks products.

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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, 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
    • 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.

Posted in Business Finance, Cash Flow, QuickBooks | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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, 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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