Blockchain is a term that has been bantered about quite a bit when referring to the future of accounting technology. While its impacts are primarily long term in nature, let’s take a brief look to see what everyone is talking about.

Blockchain is a technology that can store transactions. Some people have referred to it as a digital ledger. Unlike your current accounting books, transactions recorded using blockchain technology are public. This digital spreadsheet of transactions or records is copied across thousands of servers so that there is no single point of failure. It’s a decentralized, distributed, and public digital ledger.

The blockchain ledgers are updated constantly as new records are added. They are also reconciled constantly. Once added, the records cannot be altered retroactively.  This feature has many implications for auditing in that many records won’t need to be validated the old-fashioned way because blockchain is self-auditing.  Auditors will still need to validate the non-digital components of a transaction such as physical inventory counts.

Prior to 2016, blockchain was originally referred to as block chain, where the blocks are the list of records or transactions.  While the records are public, they are protected through cryptography.  Each block includes cryptographic code from the previous block that keeps the entire chain of data safe and verified.

Blockchain is then a way for two parties to safely record their transaction permanently and with verification.  While bitcoin is the most common current use of blockchain technology, many developers are working on new applications. Development started heavily in 2017, so it remains to be seen which applications will take off and which will die.

Blockchain’s uses in the future will be many:

  • Banking is the most obvious application, and right now the focus is on international transfers.
  • Stock trading.
  • Smart contracts. This concept is a huge part of what blockchain could be used for. Smart contracts are economic actions using blockchain that can be recorded without human interaction. They could initiate bill payments after goods have been received and after checking that there are funds available.
  • Elections.
  • Legal transactions, such as land titles.
  • Medical records, so that there is no more filling out of forms in each doctor’s office.

Blockchain in the future may eliminate the double-entry bookkeeping system that we have now.  Instead of each person keeping their own set of records, companies will write their transactions into a public blockchain ledger. This will reduce the cost of bookkeeping in the long term. But for this to happen, much development must be done to standardize and optimize the financial system. Many accounting professionals are working today toward that goal, which is many years away.  

For now, the biggest implication to realize for a blockchain future is that personal reputation will become incredibly important.  Blockchain systems eliminate the intermediary so that you are doing business with other people in a peer-to-peer environment. Identity protection as well as reputation will become essential.  Blockchain is also likely to take off first in countries where there is a lot of corruption and/or corporations are not trusted.

Blockchain may not impact your life today, but it’s definitely something to watch on the horizon.

How well do you love the way you spend your typical workday?  What would a typical workday look like if you had absolutely no constraints?  Here’s a fun exercise to get you thinking about your future and how you can make small changes in your current day to move it toward your ideal day. 

Get comfortable and begin jotting out what your ideal day looks like.  Start with what you do before you get to work.  How do you start your day?  With a workout or breakfast or something else?  What does breakfast consist of?  Where are you eating?  What do your surroundings look like?

How do you get to work? What is your commute like? List the sights, sounds, smells.  Once you get to work, what do you do first? Will you spend time on the phone?  With whom?  At the computer?  Do you go somewhere?

Do you get a nice break for lunch? Write it all down in detail, and continue until your post-workday routine.  Who are you with?  Where are you?  What do you do?

Here’s a partial sample:

“Lunch with my two friends at our favorite Mexican restaurant on the beach. We laugh a lot, share stories, and part with hugs and handshakes. After lunch, I work on my favorite work project, which challenges me to think about how to help my employees gain new skills. While I work, I listen to my favorite music CD.  In a few hours, I am ready for a stretch break and walk outside to water the plants. After break, I return calls, talking with my clients and catching up on how to best serve them.   …”

OK, now it’s your turn.  Here are some questions to consider while you do this exercise:

  • What’s important to you to spend time on?
  • What’s enjoyable that you would really like to have as part of your daily routine?
  • What activities will give you a nice balance of accomplishment, relaxation, and socialization, even during work?
  • What do you need to include in your ideal day to get your needs met?

Change One Thing

Getting to your ideal day can take time.  Don’t try to change your whole routine all at once.  What one or two things can you pull out of your ideal work day description that you could bring into your current work day to brighten it with happiness?  In the description above, this person might block out time to find employee training, go out for lunch instead of eating at her desk, make a new playlist, delegate tasks that are not part of her ideal day, or take more time when returning client calls.

Make gradual changes in your current day to improve it.  With each change, you’ll be moving toward the realization of your ideal day. And if your ideal day doesn’t include bookkeeping but your current day still does, we’re here for you.

While “fetching” might be what some trained dogs can do, accounting systems are getting into the act too. This relatively new feature is called “receipt fetching,” and it’s when an app can retrieve documents directly from the vendors that you do business with so you don’t have to spend so much time on paperwork retrieval. 

Apps that can perform receipt fetching can integrate with your accounts and pull invoices into their system.  For example, if your business has an account with a utility or telecom company, the receipt fetching app can pull the electricity, water, or telephone bills into your receipt fetching app account and consolidate them. 

The benefits are simple. You save time, certainly. But the bigger benefit is you no longer have a monthly deadline to get your documents to your accountant  —  at least for all the documents that can be automated in this way.  This reduces stress and eliminates minutiae from your day.

Accountants benefit too.  No accountant likes to spend their time asking clients for documents over and over again.  We know you have better things to do with your time, and we know you probably hate doing the paperwork.  Receipt fetching is an easy way to get the job done.

To take advantage of receipt fetching, the first step is to select a receipt-fetching app. A few of the apps to select from include LedgerDocs, ReceiptBank, HubDoc, and Greenback. Some of these apps do receipt fetching only, and others have many more functions.

The second step is to detemine which vendor accounts are supported, and to connect with them. Generally speaking, the connection is based on your account credentials, so if those change, the connection will need to be updated. When many of your documents can be pulled into one place, you don’t have to spend time logging into each vendor portal to pull receipts. 

If you’re curious about how to benefit from receipt fetching in your business, please feel free to reach out.

Internal control is a very special phrase in the accounting profession. Tactically, it’s the set of processes that help a company produce accurate data throughout the organization, follow reporting requirements and laws, and maintain consistency and accuracy in its operations. Strategically, it’s an entirely new way of thinking and doing business.

Internal control helps to reduce organizational risk. A blunt way of putting it is internal control is what you put in place to avoid mistakes, intentional or accidental, and to control accuracy and quality. It impacts every aspect of an organization.

As a small business, you’ll want to be familiar with the concept because it can help you reduce risks you might not realize you have. Here are some practical examples of good ideas that support internal control:

  • When data is private and secure, provide access only to employees who need to know the data and restrict access of others. 
  • Have someone check that your bank balance matches the reconciled amount in your books, and that someone should be different from the person who does the reconciliation.  This is an example of what’s called segregation of duties. 
  • Lock up paper checks and use the missing check number report to make sure none of the stock could be used for nefarious purposes.
  • Have employees sign in and out equipment that they take home.  This is part of asset management.
  • Write and enforce a hardware and software use policy that includes items like employees should make sure their anti-virus software is active at all times, they should not bring in disks or CDs, and they should not download games or other unauthorized programs.  This protects from computer viruses and helps to avoid catastrophic network failures.

There are literally hundreds of internal control procedures that should be implemented in small businesses as they grow into larger businesses. 

Internal control is typically a big part of an audit or an attest function in accounting; it determines how many additional procedures an auditor needs to do in order to provide assurances about the reliability of the financial reports.  But it’s also just good plain common business sense to implement as many internal control processes as are cost-effective for your business to protect it at the level of risk you’re comfortable with. 

If you’d like to discuss the idea of internal control further, please feel free to reach out any time. 

A great entrepreneur will always be on the lookout for ways to improve their business. Efficiency is a goal everyone wants to achieve when it comes to business because it can translate into less work and more profits. Here are five ways you and/or your staff can become more efficient in your business.

1-     Get software-savvy.

Do you use the same software apps day in and day out? If you do, ask yourself how well you really know them? Are you able to just get by or are you a whiz with deep knowledge? If you’re just getting by and spending a lot of time wandering around or undoing things, you may want to take a course in that software. 

The deeper our knowledge is in the apps we use every day, the more proficient we can be.  This is true of all of your staff as well.

2-     Reward new suggestions.

Your staff will be the first to know where there are bottlenecks and hiccups in your processes. Encourage them to speak up when they find something that could be improved. Listen to their ideas and reward the good ones. Implementing ideas from your business’s “front line” will increase its overall efficiency. 

3-     Watch your time.

How do you spend the bulk of your day? Working on new strategic projects, fighting fires, or a little of both? An honest evaluation of how you spend your time can yield many ideas about what’s going right and what needs work in your business. 

Allocate at least an hour a day to work “on” your business instead of in it.  That time is the only way your can move your business to the next level. If you’re the CEO, the focus should be more external than internal, more proactive than reactive, and more strategic rather than operational.  

4-     Avoid “bright shiny object syndrome.”

Are you easily distracted by an email (that you didn’t realize waylaid you into an hour of unproductivity), a web link, or a conversation?  It’s crazy-easy to get sidetracked right in the middle of a task these days. It’s also easy to purchase something that looks great without doing your homework.

One way to avoid unnecessary purchases is to get three bids from potential vendors on all major purchases for your business.  Make it a procedure so that you’re not lured into fancy marketing and items you might not ever use once you see the fine print. 

5-     One person’s trash is another’s treasure.

When you start to look around your office, you might be surprised at all the things you haven’t used in a while. Laptops that have been replaced, office supplies that were accidentally double-ordered, those folders you were going to use two years ago for a marketing campaign, even extra desks and chairs that are now empty: all of these items could be recycled to not only free up space but also get you some cash. 

Which idea do you like best?  Try it next week to improve your business efficiency.