We’ve been in a pandemic for what seems like five years now, right? All joking aside, if you’ve been lucky enough to work from home this past year, then it’s possible that you are in the process of going stir-crazy. Or maybe you’re simply ready to shake things up a bit.

Working from home has its benefits. Yet, if you are someone who enjoys going to the office every day, chatting with co-workers in person, attending meetings that aren’t all virtual, and having a little spontaneity each week, then we’re here to help. Here are five tips to boost your WFH (working from home) environment.

  1. Take Short Breaks

Taking regular breaks throughout the day is so important, and more so now than ever before! Without a doubt, these breaks will help you mentally (that is, keep you from going stir-crazy), but they can also help your work productivity and quality. These breaks don’t need to be—and shouldn’t be—long or strenuous.

Walk the dog. Stand up and do some light stretches. Run up and down your stairs. Go outside into your backyard. Dance to a song. Do a quick chore, like emptying or loading the dishwasher. Call a friend. Or choose your own favorite break activity.  The goal is to get the blood flowing and the fog cleared from your mind.

  1. Switch Up Locations

Get creative and switch up your location. If you have a yard or patio of some sort – and good weather — that allows you to sit outside and work, perfect! If not, try working from the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, even the bedroom. The idea here is to change your surroundings a couple of times a week so that you don’t feel stuck or get lost in the monotony of a daily routine.

  1. Treat Yourself with Lunch

Everyone needs something to look forward to, and what is better to look forward to than food? Depending on your budget, treat yourself to a special lunch once a week, every other week, or monthly. Consider trying new restaurants, different foods, places that you’ve always wanted to eat at but haven’t had the opportunity to do so. Not only will this be fun for you, but you will also be supporting small, local businesses. Win-win!

  1. Dress for Success

We can probably all agree on one thing: sweatpants are comfortable! As such, it can be difficult to trade in the sweats for jeans or dress pants every day. After all, if you’re working from home and there’s no dress code to enforce, it can be hard to dress for success. Yet, doing so can give you a little burst of inspiration to get through the day. You can keep your outfits casual just as long as you have fun getting dressed. For example, you could have Sandal Mondays or Blue Shirt Fridays. Again, just have fun with it!

  1. Create a New Playlist

Does music motivate you? Are you able to work and listen to music at the same time?  If so, create different music playlists to listen to throughout your day. Try listening to various genres or new artists, anything that keeps you alert and stimulated, even excited about your workday. Depending on the type of music you enjoy listening to, you can even get up periodically and take dance breaks (Tip #1)!

Keep your day fresh, and boost your productivity and mood by using your imagination and trying the tips above.

Many small business owners focus on generating more revenue every year, and that’s a wonderful goal.  But not all revenue is created equally since some items are more profitable than others.  If you sell more than one product or service in your business, then you may benefit from looking at your revenue mix.

While it’s fun to watch revenues grow, your business profit is what really matters.  If your expenses grow faster than your profits, then you have a lot of activity going on, but you don’t get to keep as much of what you make.

An insightful exercise to try is to take a look at your revenue mix.  Then you can ask “what if?” to optimize your profits.

Your Revenue Mix

Let’s say you offer three different services: Services J, K, and L. Your revenue pie looks like this:

J:  $700K or 70% of the total
K:  $150K or 15% of the total
L:  $150K or 15% of the total
Total:  $1.0 million

In this example, Service J is clearly the service making you the most revenue in your business.  But is it making you the most profits?

The profit you receive from each of these service lines is as follows:

J:  $80K
K: $10K loss
L:  $30K
Total:  $100K

While Service J is generating the most profit volume for your business, it’s actually Service L that’s the most profitable.  Earning $80K on $700K yields 11.4% return on Service J, but earning $30K on $150K yields nearly double the return at 20%.  Service L generates the most return.   And if possible, Service K may need to be discontinued or turned around.

Optimizing Profits

Your strategy for a more optimum revenue mix might be to sell as much of Service L as possible, while eliminating or fixing the problem around Service K.

It’s fun to experiment with different revenue mixes.  And of course, there are many more variables besides profit, such as:

  • What services/products do you prefer to work on/sell?
  • Are you able to sell more of the most profitable service or are there marketing limitations?
  • Is one service a loss leader for the others?
  • Are you able to adjust price on the lower margin services to increase your profits?

There are many more questions to ask and strategies to consider to make you more money, which is why we love being accountants.

A New Mix

We hope you’ll spend some time analyzing your revenue mix and having fun asking yourself “what if?”   If we can help you expedite the process or add our perspective, please reach out anytime.

Do you have a lot of customer service inquiries in your business? If so, it can be a challenge to manage them all. Being responsive with customer service can make all the difference in your company’s success, so it makes sense to take a look at some tools that can streamline the process.

The most common solution to automating customer service inquiries is to implement a ticket management system, which is also called help desk software. Some of the things that are important to consider include:

  • How fast you can respond to a customer
  • How well you solve the customer’s problem
  • How to track a customer’s issue if it has to be open for a while before it can be solved
  • How to do all of this in a cost-effective and efficient, yet friendly, manner

These days, an inquiry can come from a multitude of places:

  • Phone calls and voice mails
  • Emails
  • Text messages
  • Social media accounts, for all the platforms you have a business presence
    • Posts, replies, and comments
    • Messaging
    • Any other methods you have set up in your social accounts
  • Chat feature on website
  • Snail mail

That’s a lot of inputs to organize. When they can all be fed into the same system, you have just unified your messaging input and taken a giant step toward organizing all of these moving parts.  A good ticketing system will accomplish this, and the feature you want to ask for is multi-channel accessibility.

Keeping your customer service costs low is another factor, and one way to accomplish that is to help users self-serve and solve their own issues when they can. This requires a robust knowledge base feature. A knowledge base is a set of how-to articles and videos of the most frequently asked customer service questions.

Here are a few very basic topics to consider including in your knowledge base:

  • What forms of payment do you accept?
  • What is your shipping policy?
  • How can I get help if I need it?
  • What is your return/refund policy?
  • What is your privacy policy?
  • What is your guarantee?
  • Is my data secure with you?
  • How do I update my credit card/address/phone/email?
  • When will my items arrive?
  • What licenses do you have?
  • What are your hours?
  • Do you have hours for seniors?
  • How do I login?
  • How do I access my digital items?
  • What are your covid-19 policies for your employees? For customers?
  • Are you hiring? How do I apply? What are your employment policies?

A good ticket system will also have the ability to customize the ticket, the customer service agents, the customer records, and the other important parts of the system. For example, you may want to set up your own status items for each ticket.  Open, assigned, active, hold, and complete are typical status types, but you may need another one.

The workflow must also be considered in a ticket system.  How does a typical ticket flow through your business, and can the system replicate that flow.

Other important features of a ticket system include:

  • Support for multiple languages
  • Customer response to tickets, as well as customers can view status of their tickets
  • Uptime of system – service-level agreements
  • Tracking, such as number of open tickets, tickets on hold, and the like
  • Reporting metrics, such as wait time, ticket servicing time, and number of tickets handled by each agent
  • Ticket tagging and categorizing
  • Feedback loop for customer suggestions of product improvements
  • Ease of use for customers and agents
  • Notifications

A few of the most popular ticket management systems include:

  • Zendesk
  • Freshdesk or Freshservice by Freshworks
  • Zoho Desk
  • HubSpot Service Hub
  • Salesforce Service Cloud
  • LiveAgent

There are literally hundreds of technology options for any size business.

If you want to take your customer service to the next level or just want to get more organized, consider looking into these ticket systems.

If you keep any kind of digital information in your business, you have a chance of becoming a victim of a cybercrime. The odds have increased exponentially during the pandemic, with more cyberthreats and scams floating around than ever before. Here are some ways to reduce your chances of getting attacked.

Social Engineering

Social engineering is when thieves try to get your employees to provide confidential information via a phone call or email. You can reduce your risk here by developing procedures and training any employees that take customer phone calls for the business. Require them to ask for identifying information such as a pin or code, or simply prevent them from giving out any information over the phone.

Passwords

Passwords are terribly inconvenient but incredibly necessary. Almost everyone is guilty of using passwords that are simply too easy to guess. Here are some password tips:

  1. Avoid using dictionary words, even if the syllables are broken up in the password.
  2. Always use a combination of upper and lower case, and don’t just make the first letter uppercase which is too predictable.
  3. Include special characters, and don’t just use the exclamation point.
  4. Use separate passwords for everything, especially for banking apps, accounting apps, and social media apps which are frequently hacked.
  5. Make your passwords at least 12 characters.  More characters will be needed each year.

Receiving and Delivering Information

If you deliver or receive information, it should be done safely and securely. One way to do this is to use a customer portal such as Box or ShareFile, where the information is securely stored in the cloud. Another tool that to safeguard information delivery is encrypted email.

Anti-Virus

All computer users should have anti-virus software implemented and active on their devices.  Company procedures should dictate the settings as well as the brand to use.

Spam Protection for Email

Anti-spam software is also necessary to protect the device from bad links in emails.  Users should be trained to detect and avoid phishing emails.

Malware Protection

Malware can be installed on your computer without your knowledge and if you are not careful.  To protect against these threats, avoid file-sharing when possible, be careful when visiting unknown websites, don’t download software that you don’t recognize, and be careful with links in emails.

You may also need to protect your website from malware attacks by installing a firewall or other preventative solutions.

Software Releases

Stay current with all of your software upgrades. Upgrades can patch vulnerabilities, so you are safer with each new upgrade you install.

Data in the Cloud

Make sure any data that you have in the cloud is behind an acceptably secure technology solution.  Today, this generally means files are stored with AES 256-bit encryption. You can also look for SOC1 and SOC2 certifications.

Need to Know

There are many policies that need to be developed for employees with regard to data handling. One example is providing data access to employees on a need-to-know basis.  For example, an operations manager does not need the password to the payroll system, but the payroll manager does.

Reducing Business Risk

These items above are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to having good data security practices in your business. Develop an excellent set of policies, train and monitor employees, and set a great example yourself when it comes to this growing threat to your business.

Independence is a key concept in accounting, especially in the assurance or auditing area of accounting. Assurance services are services where a licensed CPA reviews an organization’s financial statements and accounting records and provides an opinion about them. This opinion takes the form of a report that can be shared with third parties such as banks and shareholders. Auditing services are one of many forms of assurance services.

Only a licensed CPA can provide assurance services; this is regulated by the states. A CPA who provides certain assurance services must be independent from the business that it is writing an opinion for. Essentially, independence means that the auditor must be able to do their work objectively and with integrity. And it goes farther. The auditor must not be perceived as having any kind of bias or connection with the business it is auditing. There must be no perception of any impropriety.

To this end, the auditor must not have a relationship with the company’s executives. A CPA cannot, for example, audit her brother’s company.  A CPA cannot be an investor in the company and also be the auditor because of the financial relationship. The audit opinion must not be influenced in any way by a relationship between the auditor and anyone in the company. The CPA must be able to provide an honest, professional, and unbiased opinion when auditing financial statements.

Being independent also means the CPA must have a healthy dose of skepticism.  A common phrase in the accounting profession is “Trust, but verify.”

Numerous rules abound to protect auditor independence. For example, an auditor cannot be paid on a contingent or commission basis. All practicing CPAs must complete ethics courses every few years, and these almost always include independence scenarios and case studies.

If you have any questions about independence, assurance, or auditing, please feel free to reach out any time.