Muir & Associates Announces Partnership with LMN

Muir & Associates Announces Partnership with LMN – the Top Landscape Business Building Software.

As an Elite QuickBooks Solution Provider, I’m excited about the collaboration of QuickBooks and LMN! Both of these products help landscapers monitor and grow their business. When used together, the integration of the two saves landscapers valuable time and money.  Syncing estimates, timesheets and invoices also eliminate double-entry and costly mistakes.

QuickBooks Enterprise allows for more users, more reporting functionality, more customization, reduced payroll costs, priority support and much more!  LMN Pro offers unlimited invoices, invoices, file and photo storage in addition to the budgeting, CRM, scheduling and timesheets found in their lower products.

We also have an exclusive deal for those new to QuickBooks Enterprise and LMN.  Those new to Enterprise can save up to 40% off their first 12-month subscription and those new to LMN can receive 33% off a 12-month subscription of LMN’s premier Pro subscription!  Definitely an amazing deal This is a limited time offer, so take advantage of the savings and harness the power of QuickBooks Enterprise and LMN Pro!

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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.  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 or triple 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.  Even 5 minutes a day over 50 weeks is over 20 hours – then multiplied by the number of employees – it adds up!

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

Software

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

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

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

If you are interested in software that integrates with QuickBooks, here are some links:

Add-ons page

Apps that work with desktop QuickBooks and

Apps that work with QuickBooks Online.

There are also many industry-specific apps that work with QuickBooks and typically do more than one function and they are more in tune with your needs.

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 at a great price, customize settings and features to fit your business better, train staff to use it correctly and effectively, streamline your QuickBooks workflow, set up custom reports and more – just ask!

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5 Ways to Lower Overhead Costs

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

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

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

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New and Improved Inventory Features for Platinum Enterprise 2020

Over the last few years, Intuit has made a concerted effort to beef up their inventory functionality in Platinum Enterprise and this year is no exception. Check out the new features!

Cycle Counts – (counting inventory in smaller “batches” instead of in entirety).  Cycle Counts make tracking inventory status much more manageable. If you’ve never tried it, I encourage you to check this out! While this isn’t new to 2020, it “sneaked” in during the year in 2019, so many of you may have missed it.  From the menu: Inventory>Cycle Count. Cycle counts can be done via mobile devices if you want.  Just send the selected Items to the mobile devices in the warehouse or wherever you store your inventory.

Alternate Vendors: I know this one is long overdue.  Many of you can buy a product from more than one vendor. In the past there were a variety of work arounds.  Now you can look at an item and see who else you can purchase from if you want to order from someone other than your preferred vendor or compare pricing.

In the Vendor section you’ll now see a tab for Items. You can list the item(s) that you can purchase from the particular vendor and QB will also keep up with the pricing history.

When you’re working on a Purchase Order, you can look up the Vendor’s pricing (see above). You can also look up alternate vendor pricing as shown below

From there, you can see the list of vendors and their pricing as shown below.

Landed Cost – If any of you have to factor freight, duty, import fees or other miscellaneous costs involved with buying inventory, you have had to devise workarounds in QuickBooks (or Excel). Now you can track Landed Costs through the Advanced Inventory feature available in the Platinum version of Enterprise.

  1. Create an Other Current Asset account for Landed Costs (or however you refer to them)
  2. Create an Other Charge Item from QuickBooks to select the freight, etc. and assign it to your landed cost other current asset account
  3. When entering bills, use other charge item for the additional “landed” costs

You’ll see the product cost increase accordingly and then you can adjust sales price as needed.

When you sell the item, you’ll see both the landed cost asset and inventory asset accounts reduced accordingly.

Express Pick Pack –Enterprise keeps beefing up the remote activities for getting inventory sent to customers (i.e. picking, packing and shipping).  In 2019, you could do both PO and SO’s wirelessly but each part of the process involved a different worker; not always efficient. Now you can have one person do both the picking and packing, streamlining your workflow.  Starting from the Sales Order Fulfilment worksheet, you can select to have one or more items express pick/packed.  You can either have these items sent to a mobile device or printed.

Notice there is a new, separate tab for the Express pick-pack so the picker can see all the items/orders in one place and update from that page.

Once done, the worker can update the sales order from the Express pick-pack tab (as shown above).

I would love to hear from those who try out these new features what would think of them!

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Save Time and Get Paid Faster with QuickBooks 2020

This year, a few of the new features in QuickBooks 2020 are meant to help you get paid faster and save time.

Combine Emails: Currently when you invoice and email customers, if you have more than one invoice for a customer, you have to send multiple emails. Now, you can send one email that for all those invoices.

Easily Add Customer PO to Subject Line If you deal with commercial customers, they often have a PO for the work you’re doing for them. While you’ve been able to show the PO on the invoice, the customer has had to open the attachment to see which PO (if they have more than one with you). With QuickBooks 2020, the PO is referenced in the subject line. You’ll need to add or edit your email template (Edit > Preferences > Send Forms > Company Preferences). Place your pointer on the subject line where you want the PO number, then click on Insert field to add the PO to the subject line

QuickBooks 2020

Schedule Payment Reminders Having to call customers for invoices past due can be very time consuming, depending on the number of customers you have and how many are slow to pay. Now you can schedule payment reminders (for almost due and past due) so you don’t have manually do this each time (and I’m all for automating work!) You can send reminders for almost due and past due

Click on Customers>Payment QuickBooks 2020

 

QuickBooks 2020

QuickBooks 2020

QuickBooks 2020

Speed up Payroll Setup Process with Employee Self-Setup
Ever have to ask an employee more than once for their contact info or W-4 or state withholding information or have to decipher their handwriting? Now you can email your employees and they can enter their address, withholding themselves. Currently this is for those who are new to QuickBooks payroll, but in future releases, the rest of you will be able to use this feature.

QuickBooks 2020

You can also check the status of employees going through their setup

QuickBooks 2020

Direct Deposit Status – Ever wonder about the status of direct deposit? You can either click on Employee> View Payroll Status or from the Pay Employees tab in the Payroll Center (near the bottom) you can Now you click on Employees>. The Payroll Status window will display the status of the Payroll such as ‘Sent to Intuit’, ‘Sent to Bank’, ‘Payroll Process’ or some error. Currently this is for those who are new to QuickBooks payroll, but in future releases this will be available to those already using Intuit Payroll.

“Small” but definitely helpful (has been on wish lists)

Smart Help: With the help of artificial intelligence (AI) the QuickBooks help is now trying to help you even more with the task or question you have with Smart Help (wasn’t all help “smart”? lol). Type in your question and QuickBooks will give you options including chat

Find a Company File: Ever “lose” your QuickBooks data file? Now QuickBooks can help you find it! Click on Find a Company File and then QuickBooks will pull up a list for you (if you have more than one)

QuickBooks 2020

QuickBooks 2020

FINALLY…!
Collapse Columns This new feature, has been on my wish list for a few years now. In the past, you’ve been able to collapse rows in reports (you just see the parent account or item), but you couldn’t collapse columns (e.g. just see class and not sub classes or just see customer and not all the jobs). Now you can! You can either click the menu button at the top of the report or click on the “-“ sign (shown next to all the columns)

QuickBooks 2020

QuickBooks 2020

So, are these new features worth the upgrade? I leave that to you to decide. My general rule of thumb is if these have been pain points and/or will save you lots of time, then it may well be worth the upgrade. If you are in 2017, you will need to upgrade before the end of May 2020. Should you decide you want to upgrade, let us know so we can be sure you get the version that’s best for you at the best price.

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Insights Into Your Business

There are lots of ways to stay on top of your business when it comes to reports and metrics.  Personally, I have reports and tasks on my toolbar so they’re one click away and I’m frequently in the Company Snapshot because I can easily see so much in one screen.  But I find there are charts and graphs and metrics not in the Snapshot and many are unaware they even exist! So today I’d like to share a few.

First, have you looked at the Insights tab foinsightund next to the Home Page tab?

There are two graphs I like in the Company Insights I don’t get from the Snapshot that I think you might like as well – Business Growth and Net Profit Margin.  You can customize which reports you see on your screen by clicking on the Gear icon in the upper right-hand corner.

insight

I know many of you run a Profit & Loss report compared to last year to see how you’re doing.  And while you can pull in dollar and percent change (shown in this report below), you won’t get the business growth and net profit margin comparisons that you get in the Insights.

insight

If you have not customized the Insights Page, then you’ll need to click one of the arrows located on the right and left side of the screen (unfortunately for some like me, in very light grey!) to get to the desired report.

Business Growth – compares this year’s income to last year’s and you can pick your time frame from this drop-down (many of you might like the new, as of 2016, Compared to Last Fiscal Year to Last Month.)  This will show how much better (or not) you’re doing.

insight

insight

Net Profit Margin compares your Net Profit (%) between two time periods.  So while we could get the 14.2% from the P & L report above, we don’t see the net profit for the previous year in that report.

insight

A quick footnote – I know some of you run your reports on a cash basis. Insights works only on the accrual basis

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and sometimes seeing your numbers graphically gives you different aha’s into your business. While there are several graphs you view in the Snapshot, you get bigger versions from the report menus.

Income & Expense Graph: found in the Company & Financial Reports).  Notice that you can choose to view by account, customer or Class, and you can choose to get more detail on Income or Expenses.

insight

Below is a Sales Graph – you can view by Item, Customer or Rep

There are also graphs for A/R and A/P. So take a look at some of these graphs and see if you’d like to any of them to ones you view on a regular or periodic basis.  I’d love to hear if you got some aha’s that you hadn’t noticed before!

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Tracking Use Tax

If you have to collect sales tax, then chances are your report form asks you about use tax.  Use tax is a sales tax on purchases taxable in your state but for which you were not charged. An example would be if you ordered office supplies from Amazon and you weren’t charged sales tax, but if you had purchased from your local office supply store, you would have paid the tax.  You see this more often when you make out of state purchases, but you might find that a local supplier didn’t charge you sales tax, so you need to check.  I’ve had landscape clients go through sales & use tax audits and often the auditor will find taxable purchases with no sales tax so the state wants their use tax.

Check with your accountant for what’s taxable and what is not. This varies by state, and sometimes by use. For instance,

  • Downloadable software is taxable in some states, but not others
  • Mulch might be taxable when used one way (e.g. for maintenance) but not taxable in design/build projects.

It’s easier to keep up with tracking as you go along, rather than waiting until the end of the report period, especially if you pay quarterly.  So here are the steps to simplify your reporting.

  1. Use TaxSetup a Use Tax Payable account – this is an Other Current Liability account
  2. When you make a purchase (bill, credit card charge, etc.), review the purchase to see if
    1. The item(s) is taxable
    2. If sales tax was charged (you might be surprised at who charges and who doesn’t!)
  3. If the item is taxable but no tax was charged, then you want to track Use Tax
    1. Calculate the sales tax and add to the cost of the item
    2. On the next line, subtract the new cost from what you paid, and that’s your use tax
    3. In the example below, the company paid $66.50 for office supplies. These would be taxable in this particular state, but no tax was charged.  So $3.99 was added to the cost of the item and the 3.99 “deduction” puts 3.99 in the Use Tax Payable account.
    4. It’s up to you whether or not you want to add a note in the memo field letting you know if you paid sales tax or added use tax for report purposes. Personally, I do b/c it makes it easier for me when reviewing to make sure I have tax on all my taxable purchases.

Use Tax

Just like other balance sheet accounts, the Use Tax Payable account will have a running balance.

At the end of your tax reporting period, you can move the amount in the use tax payable account (for that period) to your sales tax payable account

  • If you create a journal entry,
    • Debit Use Tax Payable and credit Sales Tax Payable (and list your sales tax agency in the Name field)
    • Set the date to the last date in the report period (e.g. 9/30 for a report period that ends in September)
  • Or if you don’t like or understand journal entries, then
    • Go into the Use Tax Payable register
    • Enter your date
    • Put the amount of use tax you owe in the decrease column and save/record.
    • If you right-click on the transaction you just created, you’ll see the journal entry and you can add the tax agency in the Name column.

You can either run a balance sheet report, double-click on Use Tax Payable and change the date range or you can create and memorize a report for Use Tax.

  1. Use TaxClick on Reports>Custom Reports>Transaction Detail
  2. On the Display tab,
    1. Select your date range (e.g. Last Month, Last Fiscal Quarter)
    2. Select the columns you want to see
    3. Total by: you might want to total by Name or by Month (if more than 1 month) or just Total Only
    4. Sort by – You might want date or Name or Memo….
  3. On the Filter tab,
    1. Select Use Tax Payable from Account
    2. Choose your date range if not already done. I recommend using the drop-down dates instead of manually keying in the dates so this report rolls forward with you (otherwise you’ll always be changing dates)
      Use Tax
  4. Use TaxOn the Header Tab, name your report
  5. Run your report and then tweak as needed.
  6. Once you have the format you like, then Memorize!

Going forward, tracking Use Tax Payable will hopefully be much easier!  Let us know if you need any help with this.

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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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