Do You Spend Too Much Time on Email?

If you feel like you spend too much time on email, you’re not alone. Almost everyone feels the same way. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to be as productive as possible when it comes to handling email. Here are five tips to help you do just that.

1- Automate your emails.

If you’re sending a lot of the same emails to clients, you may be able to add them to email list management software like Constant Contact or MailChimp. Then you can automate a series of emails using the autoresponder function.

Another way to automate your emails is to set up inbox rules so that certain emails are automatically filed into the folders you’ve set up. For example, if you get a monthly email for a recurring bill payment, you could send it straight to your bills folder if you don’t want to read it. This will save time in the morning when you sort through the pile of email that’s sent overnight.

2- Set a timer.

Make a habit of checking your email only once or twice in the day. Plan those times on your calendar and set a timer to stop if you need to. This employs time batching, one of the most productive ideas in time management. It’s unproductive to stop and read each email exactly as it comes into your box, so setting times restructures the way you work with email for the better.

3- Create draft email answers of your ten most frequently asked questions.

Do you get a lot of the same questions over and over again in your email? Don’t start from scratch each time you craft an answer. Start with a draft of a previous answer, make it generic, and save it in your drafts folder. When you get that question again, copy and paste the draft and customize it as necessary.

Repeat this for your top ten (or twenty) most-asked questions or emails that you send. You’ll shave minutes off each email reply from now on.

4- Learn the email software you’re using.

Sure, everyone pretty much knows how to send, reply to, and forward emails. Most even know how to add attachments. But what else do you know and use on a regular basis?

If you are tech-savvy, then simply spend some time reviewing your email settings and functions. There may be some you discover that will make your day.

If you don’t feel very comfortable with all things technical, then sign up for a formal course, preferably in person, where you have a real human teacher that can answer all your questions. It will be a day well spent.

5- Set up folders.

Folders, labels, or categories in your email software are all good ways to segment email so that it can be processed in a particular order. Your folders might be by priority, client, service type, or something else. In any case, it’s easier on your brain to answer all questions from one client or topic at a time than it is to ping-pong back and forth.

Use folders when you are complete with an email but want to save it for future reference. That way, your inbox will stay cleaner and emptier.

6- Use the search function.

Using the search function liberally in your email software when you need to find an old email will help you save tons of time.

7- Get a new email address if your current email address is too spammy.

You may be losing the spam battle with email addresses that have been used for more than a few years or that have been hacked. If so, the best solution might just be to switch to a new email.

Choose a good email address in the first place by staying away from email addresses that hackers can guess, like webmaster@yourdomain.com, sales@yourdomain.com, or info@yourdomain.com. Instead use service@yourdomain.com or a version of your first and last names.

Try these email productivity tips to help you spend less time on email while still getting the job done.

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Cool Apps: Accounting System Add-ons

Accounting software continues to evolve decade after decade. It started out as one big massive complicated set of programs that only large companies could afford. Today, cloud accounting is the modern solution, and today’s accounting systems are designed to meet the core requirements of most businesses rather than doing everything.

Enter apps. Apps are the add-ons to accounting systems that can enhance functionality, and there are now literally thousands of them. In this article, we’ll look at some of the major categories of apps in the accounting marketplace.

Payroll

Probably the most common add-on to accounting systems is payroll. There are many payroll providers in the U.S. and Canada, including Intuit, ADP, Insperity, Paychex, Ceridian, and Nethris. In the small business space, Intuit, ADP, Paychex, SurePayroll, and Gusto are names you’ll see.

The payroll space includes other related offerings, including support for human resources functions, where you have Gusto and Zenefits, related payroll functions such as workers compensation, where you have AP Intego, and time tracking, where you have TSheets and many more options.

Selling, Collections, and Invoicing

Retail and other businesses will likely have a separate point of sale system consisting of a cash register to ring up sales and a payment collection process to take credit cards, cash, and other forms of payment.

Ecommerce businesses will have an online shopping cart connected to a gateway and a payment processor, and in turn, your bank.

Field service businesses may have a mobile point of sale system connected to a field service system like Jobber or ServiceTrade that lets them create quotes, present invoices, and collect payments.

Service businesses may use an invoicing system that may or may not be connected to time tracking if hourly billing is used. A calendar system might be connected in the case of coaches, hair stylists, massage therapists, and the like.

There are micro apps such as one that will connect your accounting system to Stripe, and major systems that do several of the above functions.

Cash Flow

There is a multitude of cash flow and accounts receivable collection apps that hep you get paid faster or start collection processes when you don’t. This category also contains lending apps in case you need a business loan.

Accounts Payable and Expense Management

On the expense side, there are apps to help you with entering, matching purchase orders, invoices, and shipping documents, approving, and paying bills. For businesses with a large volume of expense reports submitted by employees that need approval and payment, apps like Expensify, Concur, and Tallie are available.

Inventory

For businesses with inventory, there are several inventory apps that will manage the inventory and ordering process. Other apps will help with bar code functions, labels, and shipping.

Data Entry and Document Management

Apps like AutoEntry, ReceiptBank, and HubDoc will transform a cell phone photo of a receipt into a transaction in your accounting system with very little human intervention. Document management apps will help you stay compliant with the document requirements of the IRS, CRA, and other tax authorities.

Other apps like ScanWriter and Transaction Pro Importer can bring transactions into your accounting system from paper documents and other files.

Connectors

Apps like Zapier are available simply to connect one accounting app to another. For example, A2X brings Amazon data into QuickBooks.

Reporting

Dozens of apps are available to help you enhance your reporting, create a dashboard of metrics, plan a budget, or present a graphical view of your financial and non-financial key performance indicators. These include Fathom, Corelytics, LivePlan, Spotlight Reporting, and Qvinci, to name a few.

If you have a function in mind that you wonder if your accounting system can meet, give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options. There’s an app for just about anything these days.

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How to Read Your Income Statement

The income statement of any business is probably the most important report of all. It is a snapshot of the financial performance of your business over a period of time, such as a month or year. You might also hear it called the Profit and Loss Statement, or P&L.

The income statement can give you all kinds of insights as to whether you are bringing in enough sales, if your prices are generating enough profit, and how your expenses are running. Let’s take a look at the report, step by step.

Revenue

The report starts by listing the revenue for the period of time covered. Revenue includes all sources of income, including sales from operations, interest and investment income, revenue from insurance claims, sales from assets or other parts of the business, and any other source of revenue. In most small businesses, sales will be the largest part of the revenue, if not all of it. In some countries, the term used for sales is turnover.

If you sell more than one item or have more than one location, it might be a good idea to be able to view the sales detail from these categories. This may or may not be on your income statement depending on how formal it is, but you should be able to get a drill down report on your sales detail.

Look for exceptions to what you expect to see. There can be some decisions you can make and actions you can take from the insights you discover.

Cost of Goods Sold

This section of the income statement includes costs you incur directly on items you sell. If you maintain an inventory, it’s the cost you paid for the inventory items that you sold during the period. If your business is a manufacturer, cost of goods sold, or COGS, will include costs of materials and labor to produce the items.

If you own a service business, COGS will typically be zero. As a service business, you may incur direct costs when providing services, and these costs can be booked in a variety of expense accounts, including supplies.

Gross Profit

Some income statement formats will include a gross profit number which is sales minus cost of goods sold. This number is important for businesses with inventory.

Expenses

The expenses section of the income statement is the longest part. It includes all of the expenses you incurred in your business, including advertising and marketing, rent, telephone, and utilities, office supplies and meeting expenses, travel, meals, and entertainment, payroll and payroll taxes, and several more.

You might also hear the term overhead. Overhead is a subset of expenses that have to be met whether you sell zero items or millions. They include items like rent and utilities, management payroll, and office supplies.

To review your expenses, check line by line to see if anything looks out of sorts, and take the appropriate action.

Net Profit or Loss

The final number on your income statement represents whether you made or lost money in the period the report covers. The formula is simple: revenue less COGS less expenses equals net profit or loss.

Net profit/loss can go by many names, depending on the size of your business and your accountant’s vernacular. You may also see EBITDA: Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. Earnings is another word for net profit.

Perspective

It’s a good idea to compare your income statement numbers to other periods in your business. Common comparisons include last period, last several periods, and same period last year.

It’s also a great idea to have a budget that sets goals for your income statement numbers. Then you can compare budget to actual numbers and take action on the variances.

If your business falls into a standard type of business, you may also be able to see how it is doing compared to others in your industry. This is called benchmarking, and the income statement is a very common format that’s used in benchmarking.

Do spend some time each period reviewing your business’s income statement. It can help you make a faster course correction in your business so you can be even more successful than you already are.

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Boost Your Accounting Know-How with These Terms

The field of accounting has its own vocabulary, which can sound like a foreign language to some people. Your financial savvy will increase by learning a few new accounting terms. You’ll be “speaking accounting-ese” in no time, and you’ll become a smarter entrepreneur too.

Trial balance

A trial balance is an accounting report that simply lists the current balances of your accounts in your chart of accounts as of a certain date. It can also be called working trial balance. Another way to look at the trial balance is it’s a very informal version of a balance sheet.

Entity

Entity is a generic term for a company or organization. There are many types of entities: nonprofit, corporation, partnership, and sole proprietor.

Going concern

Going concern is an accounting principle. An entity is a going concern if it’s expected to continue operations in the near future.

Double entry

A double entry bookkeeping system means that when a transaction occurs, two accounts are impacted. For example, when an invoice is generated, entries are made to both the sales account and the accounts receivable account. It was invented in the 1400s and is widely used in modern accounting today.

Retained earnings

Retained earnings is an account in the equity section of the balance sheet. It’s the amount of earnings that is reinvested in the company after dividends are paid out. It’s computed by taking the retained earnings beginning balance, adding income or subtracting loss for the period, and subtracting any dividends paid.

Realization

A business transaction has many stages. It starts with an idea, may progress to a promise, then it actually happens. Accountants need to figure out when it becomes “real,” when to record it on the books. This is the concept of realization. A transaction is realized and put on the books when there is a contract, a legal obligation, an exchange of products or services, or an exchange of cash. There are many complicated principles and rules to help accountants determine this timing.

Cost principle

The cost principle is a foundational accounting principle. It means that when a transaction is booked, it is booked at cost and not market or current value. So even though an asset may have gained in value after you bought it, your books will still reflect the cost of the item, not the current value.

Client portal

A client portal is a software application where client files can be stored and retrieved securely. Both the accountant and the client have access to the portal.

Engagement letter

An engagement letter is the contract that defines the relationship between the client and the accountant. It is typically signed before the work starts and can be renewed once a year. It can also be changed if the scope of the work changes.

Matching

The matching principle is another basic accounting principle. It says that for any particular transaction, all aspects should be booked in the same accounting period. For example, let’s say you incurred expenses on an order in November. The order wasn’t delivered or invoiced until December. To meet the matching principle, the expenses should be deferred until December when they can be matched with the revenue that relates to the expenses.

Adjusting entry

An adjusting journal entry is made when account balances need to be corrected. An example is depreciation expense, which is typically booked with an adjusting entry. Accountants will make several adjusting entries like this at year-end.

Reversing entry

A reversing entry is a form of adjusting entry that is made in the period following an adjusting entry. It reverses the adjusting entry. One example of this is a cash basis taxpayer that is tracking accounts receivable. The accounts receivable balance is adjusted to zero prior to year-end and reversed on January 1.

How many terms did you already know? Now you can talk with your accountant about these concepts.

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Five Fun Customer Perks to Set You Apart in the Marketplace

It’s always fun to surprise and delight your customers. This puts a smile on your client’s face, boosts loyalty, and is fun for your employees too. Here are five ways to surprise and delight your customers with inexpensive perks.

1. Handwritten thank you note.

Email and social media have all but killed the handwritten thank you note. So when you send yours to your top customers, it will really stand out.

2. Promotional items.

Promotional items are frequently handed out at trade shows, but they can be used in other settings too. These are items where your logo is typically imprinted and you purchase them in quantity. Items that are useful and popular include coffee mugs, t-shirts, fidget spinners, screen cleaners, webcam covers, keychains, note pads, calendars, and more.

Choose an item that is similar to or a reminder of your business or product. An IT consultant might choose a screen cleaner, while an accountant might choose a piggy bank.

3. Coupon bag.

If your business is located in a strip center, shopping mall, or office building with other businesses around, go door to door and ask for coupons that you can put in a coupon bag to give to clients. Clients will be delighted to get a coupon for the dry cleaners, florist, and hair salon in your center no matter what type of business you’re in.

4. Random prize.

If your business has a stream of clients coming in a physical store or a virtual one, you can award prizes randomly to customers. If customers are grouped together as in a classroom or lecture hall, it’s easy – you can hold a drawing for a prize. Or you can select a random number and the customer assigned that number wins a prize.

Choose a prize from one of your services or products, or give something away that’s universal and “hot,” such as an Amazon Echo Dot.

5. Free samples.

The cosmetics industry has been giving away free samples and gifts with certain purchases for decades. Grocery stores often have free samples of food at a little booth staffed by a host at the end of an aisle. You might be able to apply this idea to your business with a little bit of creativity.

Think of how you can “sample” your service or product and package it up in a free gift or sample. If you offer a service, you may have to get extra creative. A consultant can offer a book that’s related to the service offered, a spa can have healthy treats while clients wait, and a divorce attorney can offer stress balls or fidget spinners.

With customer service declining in many businesses, try these five things to wow your customers and set your business apart.

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Cool Apps: Food Delivery Options

If you haven’t looked recently, there is a whole new world out there designed for our convenience. One of these conveniences is food delivery. This industry has changed so much that it deserves a fresh look.

No longer do you need to go out for lunch if you are having a busy day or just need to stay in the office for any reason. You can simply order lunch on your cell phone, and it will be delivered approximately 45 minutes later to your door.

There’s an app for that

It used to be that you could only get pizza or Chinese food delivered, but those days are over. Some restaurants will deliver directly, but there is an easier way. Food delivery apps such as GrubHub will let you order from hundreds of different restaurants in your area while they send a driver to collect it and deliver it to your door.

How much will it cost me?

First, ask yourself how much you are worth per hour to your company. Or, if you will get home earlier because you don’t have to go out for lunch, ask yourself what the value of spending more time at home or with your family is worth to you.

Besides the cost of food, you’ll pay a delivery fee of $0 to $5 and a tip for the driver. When you factor in the cost of your time, gasoline, and wear and tear on your vehicle, using a food delivery company is a no-brainer. Not only will you be helping yourself, you’ll be helping a hard-working driver, too.

What are my options?

The specific options in your location will vary, but some of the companies that are offering food delivery services include:

  • GrubHub and Seamless
  • DoorDash
  • Eat24
  • Postmates
  • Caviar
  • UberEats
  • Delivery.com
  • Amazon Prime Now

All you need to do is download the app, set up an account, choose a restaurant, and order your food. You can also order from your PC or Mac using a browser and visiting their website.

Try these food delivery apps, and while you’re at it, treat the entire office to a meal.

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How to Evaluate Your Marketing Spend

One of the most important success factors of small businesses is the ability to generate revenue, and to do that, most businesses need to market their services and products to bring in new customers and sales. The challenge for small business is how to make their marketing dollars work the hardest, and this requires careful tracking and measurement. Here’s one way to get started tracking your marketing spending so that you can find out what’s paying back the most.

List your sources of revenue

First, determine where your sales are coming from by making a list of all the ways you are currently attracting customers. Here are a few:

  • Website via search
  • Social media
  • Google ads
  • Referrals from existing customers
  • Ad in local magazine
  • Article on Huffington Post
  • Board membership on local nonprofit
  • Chamber of Commerce membership and participation

Track your expenses by source or method

Once you have your list, it’s time to look to your accounting system. Create accounts or other types of tracking codes in your system to track expenses for each of these marketing methods. If you need our help, please feel free to reach out.

The goal of this step is to be able to get all costs associated with each of these marketing methods so that you have a total cost over time by method. Don’t forget labor: if an employee spends three hours a week updating your social media accounts, this should be included in your costs.

Determine the source of your sales

To the extent you can, match the sales that come in with the marketing source or method. In other words, if a customer knows you from the Chamber and spends $500 with you, match the $500 revenue with the Chamber marketing source. Do this for every sale you can. If you don’t know or can’t attribute the sale to any one method, then code it to an Unknown tracking code or account.

This step can be difficult, depending on your business type, especially if your customers are anonymous, as in retail or restaurant sales. However, every business can do better by asking “how did you find out about us?” to each new client that comes in and recording that answer.

For online sales, you can use tracking apps such as Google Analytics to help you measure digital marketing methods.

Do the best you can on this step, and implement procedures to capture this information as accurately as possible for future sales.

Analyze and adjust

This is the fun part. Once you’ve done all the hard work, you should be able to match sales to costs and determine the volume of sales that are coming in for each marketing method. Let’s say you found out that you are getting no sales from your nonprofit board membership, the Huffington Post article, and social media. You now have some decisions to make.

If you are doing these things solely for the purpose of marketing, you could cut them out and focus on the remaining methods. It could also mean that you need to redo your social media strategy; it’s not working now, but another strategy might. Or just one article in HuffPost is not enough, but three articles could start paying off.

At any rate, you have far more information than you did before you started, and now you can make smarter decisions about your marketing. If we can help you code and crunch all of these numbers, please reach out any time.

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Making Deadlines Can Save You Big Bucks in Your Business

There are a lot of deadlines that come with running a business. Missing some deadlines can have serious financial implications to the health of your business. Let’s take a look at how much you’ll save by being on time with the following deadlines.

Payroll

One of the toughest deadlines of all, making payroll, is essential to keeping employees happy. Making payroll tax deposits on time is even more crucial. You’ll save the following in penalties by staying on time with payroll deadlines:

  • If you’re 1-5 days late with payroll tax deposits, the penalty is two percent of the payroll.
  • If you’re 6-15 days late, you’ll pay five percent in penalties.
  • If you’re more than 15 days late, the penalty goes up to 10 percent.

And that’s just the federal penalties, not your state penalties.

Income Taxes

Everyone knows about the April 15th deadline to file your taxes. Some people file an extension and have until October 15th. However, we need to remember that the best estimate of your tax liability needs to be paid by April 15th even if an extension is granted. Failure to correctly estimate and pay income taxes leads to a penalty that is calculated by multiplying the number of days the tax is late by the effective interest rate.

Paying Vendors

If we’re slow to make our accounts payable payments, our vendors may tack on a penalty, but the larger consequence is the effect on our credit score.

Business Goals

It’s so easy to let internal deadlines slide, but they may be the most important of them all. To move your business forward, set goals with deadlines so that you can measure your results.

Mastering Deadlines

Here are a couple of tips to master your deadlines so you can avoid the above consequences:

  1. Keep a list of deadlines, or hire someone to help you with them.
  2. Make a mental commitment to yourself that the deadline is important to your business.
  3. Set aside the time you need to prepare for the deadline.  Block time on your calendar and stick to it.
  4. Remind yourself of the consequences of missing the deadline.
  5. Try not to overcommit. Delegate other tasks when possible.
  6. If possible, automate or systematize the processes around the deadline so that it’s met automatically.
  7. Stay up late if you have to in order to meet your deadline.
  8. Celebrate when you meet your deadline!
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Is Your Workplace Female-Friendly?

Attracting and retaining talent in your small business can be a giant step toward growing into a mid-sized business. Beyond attracting new employees with salary and benefits, here are several perks, policies, and benefits to consider when recruiting women, and employees in general, to your workforce.

1. Flex work hours.

Everyone likes regaining control over their workday, and offering flex hours can be one of the lowest cost policies to implement. Flex hours support work-life balance and are especially important for employees who have school-age children who can plan work around their children’s day.

2. Wellness initiatives.

Large companies are able to offer a wellness program, but small companies can take small steps to reach the same result. Find a local gym to partner with for a membership discount. Bring in the occasional yoga teacher. Or hire a nutritionist to speak once a quarter to your employees. All of these small initiatives demonstrate to your employees that you honor a culture of wellness.

3. Maternity and adoptive leave.

Do you have a policy about time off for new parents? And more importantly, you’ll need a process to re-integrate the employees into the business when they return.

4. Child care support.

Even if you can’t afford to provide onsite child care, you might be able to partner with a local child care facility to provide reduced or subsidized rates.

5. Gender hiring goals and metrics.

Do you have an equal number of men and women in your workplace? If not, do you have goals in place to adjust the ratios when possible? If you have a disproportionate number of one gender making all of the hiring decisions, you may want to consider the effects of implicit bias on your hiring processes.

6. Mentoring.

One way to speed the growth of employees is to provide mentoring. All employees will benefit from strong role models.

7. Opportunities for promotion.

Both men and women will perform better when there is a clear path to promotion as well as leaders in current positions who demonstrate leadership.

8. Dress for your day.

One of employees’ favorite perks is to be able to dress casually when no customer meetings are scheduled.

9. Paid time off.

Paid time off, which used to be called sick pay, is a favorite. But now, with most employers, you don’t necessarily have to be sick or explain your reason for wanting to take a personal day from work.

10. Gender-neutral company events.

Many companies create events for employees and sometimes customers to enjoy and mingle. This can include the company Christmas party, lunches, and happy hours. It can also include sports events such as golfing and attending baseball games. For every traditionally male event, be sure to plan a traditionally female event to keep the options gender equal. Spa day, anyone?

These benefits are a great start to attracting top talent, boosting employee morale, and maintaining a happier workforce in your business.

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Three Super-Easy Ways to Boost Your Revenue for 2018

Every business has a gold mine in its current customer base. But not all business owners remember to mine this gold because they are too busy trying to attract new customers or developing new products or services. This is the perfect time of year to step back and remember the three easiest ways to grow your business revenue using your existing customer base.

1. Upsell current clients.

Offer steady customers a product or service with more features than they usually purchase. Examples include moving a client from coach to first class, from a budget vacation to a luxury one, from a standard model car to a luxury version, from an off-the-rack suit to a designer suit, from the standard service to an all-you-can-eat version, and from a regular meal to a super-sized one.

Some customers simply need to be given permission to splurge on themselves, so why not by you? Others have outgrown the standard package but find it hard to break routine. With a gentle nudge from you, a percentage of your clients will purchase the upgrade, therefore boosting your sales with little effort on your part.

2. Cross-sell current customers.

Restaurants practice this the most, asking us if we want appetizers, dessert, or fries with our entrée, and you can apply this to your business too. If you offer two services and a client is only participating in one service, make sure they know about the other service you offer, and find out if they have a need for it.

This is called cross-selling, where you offer a current customer a service or product that they don’t already purchase from you. For example, an attorney that does trademark work for clients might also let clients know that they do wills, too. A pool builder who also offers maintenance service will want to follow up with the new pool owner once the pool is built. A real estate agent who also manages properties will want to let rental property investors know about this service.

3. Raise prices on current customers.

If your costs have gone up but your prices have remained the same, you’ve accidentally given yourself a pay cut. No one wants that, so raising prices is an option that will restore your profit margin to the way it was before costs went up.

If it’s been a while since you’ve raised prices, it might be time to make an adjustment. Review your price list for your services and products and determine what you need to do to bring the numbers back in balance. Let us know if we can help with some profit margin or breakeven calculations to help you make this decision.

Raising prices requires careful consideration and timing. Customers do expect periodic price adjustments, so don’t let procrastination or fear hold you back from making a good solid business decision here.

All three of these strategies will help to raise your average revenue per customer and boost your overall revenue without a lot of additional work on your part. Try these strategies so you can enjoy a more prosperous 2018.

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