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 quick glance is all you need to check your fuel gauge, speed limit, engine temperature, and RPM when you’re driving down the road. Your car’s dashboard is designed to focus you on what’s important and what you need to know to have a safe trip.
Your car’s dashboard items, if they applied to business, would be called key performance indicators or KPIs. Unlike a car’s, the KPIs of your business vary depending on your business goals and what’s important to you. Common ones might include your cash balance, how fast you get paid, how much revenue is coming in, and whether you’re making plan. There are literally hundreds of them to choose from, and many of them are not derivable from your financial statements, such as number of orders, client satisfaction levels, and employee turnover.
Would it be useful to have a dashboard of KPIs for your business so you can know what’s working and get alerted to what needs focus? Here are the steps to creating a dashboard for your business:
- Decide on the KPIs you want to track. Selecting 6-10 to create and track is a good place to start.
- Select a tool that will provide you with the KPIs in the format you desire. There are many great add-ons to your accounting software that will instantly crunch the financial KPIs for you and present them in insightful formats, including charts, graphs, dashboards, and reports.
- Create any new processes to calculate the new KPIs and get them entered into the dashboard app.
- Hold a review meeting to go over the KPIs and determine any action based on the review.
There are many great KPIs available right in your accounting system, which might be plenty to get started with. And there are some real gems outside your accounting system that will take a bit of work to calculate. In any case, we can help you through this process. Feel free to reach out to us any time to discuss the possibilities of having a dashboard in your business.
If you have employees, you have the distinct honor once per year of being part of a worker’s compensation audit. You likely receive a form in the mail, an email request, or a phone call that will ask you about your payroll numbers and employees for the prior year.
Worker’s compensation is an insurance program that covers employees in the case they get hurt on the job. Each employee receives a classification code that describes the type of work they do, and a rate is figured based on the classification and its risk factors.
If you’ve hired anyone throughout the year, you might need to get a new classification by contacting your provider. If you have employees working in different locations (especially different states), that matters too.
The audit form will typically ask for gross payroll numbers by employee or by category or location of employee. That’s easy enough, but seldom does the policy run along your fiscal year, so the payroll figure needs to be prorated to match the policy period.
Your numbers need to tie back to the numbers reported on your quarterly payroll reports for both state and federal. The provider may also want copies of your 941s and your state payroll reports.
Once you’ve submitted your numbers, the insurance provider will calculate whether they owe you or you owe them additional fees.
The worker’s compensation audit happens every year (even if you pay worker’s comp premiums each pay period, some companies still request an annual audit). It’s not difficult, but it is time-consuming. If this is something you’d like our help with, please feel free to reach out.
Fixed assets are special kind of assets in your business. They include land, buildings, equipment, furniture, and vehicles that your company owns. While we frequently look at expenses to cut costs, fixed asset management is another place we can look to find ways to better utilize our resources and, in some cases, improve our profits.
Fixed asset management is a discipline that requires keeping good records of the assets a company owns. In the case of furniture and equipment, many businesses place an asset tag on the item and assign it a number that goes in a spreadsheet where data is kept about the item. There are also software apps more sophisticated than spreadsheets that track all of the fixed assets for a company, including original cost, depreciation method and history, and tax treatment.
You never know how many of an item you might have until you record and count them. How many computers (and computer parts) do you have lying around your office? Extra desks and chairs? Maybe you even have extra office space or extra land.
Part of being a great entrepreneur is fully utilizing all the resources you have at your disposal. Where can you put to better use the extra assets you have? Could you sell the surplus items? Or donate them for a write-off? Do you have extra room to rent out to a tenant, earning rent?
Sometimes we’re so focused on operating the core of our business that we don’t see what else is a money maker right in front of us. In addition to focusing on income and expenses from operations, consider the resources you have in your fixed assets.
At the very least, consider developing a spreadsheet that tracks the major items your business owns. Or reach out to us, and we’ll help you develop a fixed assets schedule and tracking process for your business.
And if you do sell some of your fixed assets, be sure to reach out to us so we can help you book the transactions properly.
Social security is one of those topics that seems to be minimized by statements like, “You can’t count on it,” and “By the time you reach retirement age, it won’t matter.” Those statements are not only incorrect; they contribute toward a lack of education on what’s possible.
Social security is still a large part of how most seniors will be able to fund their final 20 to 30 years of life. The options we take toward claiming the benefits that are rightly ours are often permanent and can affect our lives and our finances significantly, often by tens of thousands of dollars.
No matter your age today, here are three things you’ll want to dive deeper into when the time is right for you.
For retirement purposes, most people will claim their social security payouts any time from age 62 to age 70. It’s your choice to decide when you make the claim and start your benefits. But, and it’s a very big but, the amount you get each month will vary depending on your claim date. Generally, the later you wait, the higher your payout will be.
The federal retirement age for social security purposes depends on when you were born and creeps up a little each year. If you were born in 1954, your retirement age is 66 years old. If you file your social security claim on your retirement age, you’ll get 100 percent of your benefit. If you claim at 70, you’ll get 132 percent of your benefit, which can make a huge difference in payout over your lifetime: tens of thousands of dollars of difference. If you claim early at age 62, you’ll get far less.
Your social security income may be taxable if you earn income in the same years you are collecting social security and if you surpass an earnings threshold. This takes many seniors by surprise. There are ways to plan for this, and they are so specific to each family circumstance and often so complicated that software has been developed to calculate all of the situations.
The amount of your social security payment is affected by dozens of factors, including family members’ ages, how much they paid into social security, pensions, previous marriages, and disabilities, to name a few. If any of your family members are disabled, there are payments for that in some cases.
If you are divorced and were married for more than 10 years, you are eligible for spousal benefits. And if you are married, you are also eligible for spousal benefits. If your spouse has passed away, you are eligible for survival benefits, which could increase an existing payment if your spouse earned more than you did.
Social security is clearly a topic where you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s so complex at this point that most people should work with an advisor that has software that can show multiple claiming options that optimize their lifetime payout or meet their financial retirement goals. If we can help, please reach out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 is a generic term for a company or organization. There are many types of entities: nonprofit, corporation, partnership, and sole proprietor.
Going concern is an accounting principle. An entity is a going concern if it’s expected to continue operations in the near future.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Your “Chart of Accounts” is the list of accounts in your accounting software. The accounts are listed in your reports, and the totals allow you to determine how much you’ve spent, made, own, or owe depending on the type of account.
It’s essential to create a list of accounts that you need in order to make better business decisions. Your chart of accounts needs to be designed intentionally. If it hasn’t been, it’s never too late.
Two Types of Accounts
There are two major types of accounts:
- Balance sheet accounts that tell what you own and owe. These are determined by your checking accounts, inventory, and credit cards.
- Income statement accounts that tell you about current period operating results. These, in turn, have two major categories, income and expenses. For companies with inventory, expenses are further broken out into cost of goods sold and other expenses.
A chart of accounts should meet three needs:
- Make it really fast for you to do your taxes
- Give you all sorts of “Aha’s”
- Allow you to spend far more time on revenue analysis than expense analysis because that’s where success lies for small businesses
Your accounts should be the same as (or be able to be grouped into) the lines on your tax return. You can find a copy of the tax form you fill out. For example, a sole proprietor will use a Schedule C of the 1040, and a corporation will complete an 1120.
There are a few special needs, such as meals and entertainment which are only partially deductible, that you need to pay special attention to. We can help you with that.
As small business owners, we work with a gut feel, but when you see what you’ve made or spent in black and white, it takes on a whole new level of meaning. Your income statement and other reports should do that for you. If they don’t you may not have your accounts set up right.
Think about how you want to see your revenue:
- By product line
- By major supplier
- By category of solution to the customer
- By customer type
- By service type
- By location (you can also use Class for this)
- By job
- By distribution method
We can help you brainstorm based on your industry and type of business.
If you’ve been putting all your revenue into one revenue account, it will be exciting the first time you see your new Profit and Loss statement.
If you’ve been breaking out your revenue but it hasn’t led to any actionable change in your business, then there may be a better way to break it out.
If you’re happy with the way your revenue is broken out, then think about how you can take it to the next level.
Once you see your new chart of accounts, you will likely have even more questions. The chart of accounts can be an evolving entity, designed to serve your business needs.
Before we get too far into 2017, let’s take a look back at 2016 results and five meaningful numbers you may want to discover about your business’s performance. To start, grab your 2016 income statement, or better yet, give us a call to help you compute and interpret your results.
Revenue per Employee
This number measures a company’s productivity with regard to its employees and is relevant and meaningful for all industries. If you have part-time employees, compute a full time equivalent total and use that as your denominator.
Compare this number to prior years to see if your company is getting more or less productive. Also compare this number to businesses in your same industry to see how your company compares to peer companies.
You may also want to compute other revenue calculations, such as revenue by geography, revenue by product line, or average sale: revenue by customer, if you feel these may be meaningful to your business.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
How much does it cost your business to acquire a new customer? That is the customer acquisition cost and is made up of marketing and selling costs, including marketing and selling labor. You’ll need the number of new customers acquired during 2016 in order to calculate this number.
Compare this number to prior years as well as industry peers. You can potentially do a lot to lower this number by boosting your marketing skills and implementing lower cost marketing channels.
Overhead costs are costs that are not directly attributable to producing or selling your products and services. They include items such as rent, telephone, insurance, legal expenses, and executive salaries. Although it’s not standard practice to break out overhead expenses from other expenses on an income statement, it’s valuable to know the numbers for performance purposes.
Compare your overhead costs to prior years and industry averages. You can actively manage your overhead cost by re-negotiating with vendors on a regular basis and trimming where it makes sense.
Your profit margin can help you determine which division of your business is most profitable. If you sell more than one product or service, you can compute a gross or net margin by product or service. You can also compute margins by geography, sales rep, employee, customer, or any other meaningful segment of your business.
Your accounting system may be able to generate an income statement by division if everything has been coded correctly and overhead has been allocated appropriately. Reach out if you’d like us to help you with this.
Seeing which service or product is most profitable can help you decide if you want to try to refocus marketing efforts, change prices, discontinue items, fire employees, attract a different type of customer, or any number of other important decisions for your business.
Do you know how many units you need to sell in order to start generating a profit? If not, the breakeven calculation can help you learn this information. The formula is Fixed Costs / (Sales Price per Unit – Variable Costs per Unit) which results in the number of units you need to sell in order to “break even” or cover your overhead costs.
The breakeven point helps you plan the amount of volume you need in order to ensure that you have healthy profits and plenty of cash flow in your business.
These five numbers can help you interpret your business performance on a deeper level so you can make better decisions that will lead to increased success in your business. If we can help with any of them, please give us a call any time.