Accounting

Is Hosted QuickBooks Right for You?

If you are currently using the popular QuickBooks desktop software, you now have a fairly new option available to you:  hosted QuickBooks.  In this article, we’ll talk about what it is, what type of businesses it’s right for, and how to get started if you decide it’s for you.

A Host of Opportunities

Hosted QuickBooks changes the location of your QuickBooks company file from your local computer to one of the dozen authorized QuickBooks hosting companies.  You then access your QuickBooks file through a secure Internet connection.  The good news is you continue using the exact same QuickBooks software, screens, forms, and reports that you are comfortably familiar with, so the additional learning curve is extremely low.   The two biggest differences are:

  • You access your QuickBooks differently; instead of accessing your local software, you will access the same version of QuickBooks software via the cloud on a secure server provided by a hosting vendor.  You will most likely access your QuickBooks by clicking on a desktop icon or accessing a screen and entering your login information.
  • The pricing is different.  Instead of paying a large software fee at the beginning and then optionally paying for annual upgrades, you pay monthly, like a lease.

There are a few other very minor differences, such as how you back up your file, how you print checks, invoices, and other forms, and how you interface with other software such as Microsoft Outlook® or Word®.  At most, the learning curve for each of these minor changes is five minutes top for any user.

Who Benefits

You will benefit from hosted QuickBooks if any of the following are true:

  • You, your team, your bookkeeper, or your CPA needs to be able to access your QuickBooks files from multiple locations.
  • You are spending at least one hour per month restoring the file from one location to another.
  • You have experienced errors in the past from backing up and restoring the company file or the Accountant’s Copy because of passing it back and forth among people who need to update it or to get information from it.
  • You prefer to save the time it takes installing QuickBooks and applying the upgrades to QuickBooks software.  With hosted QuickBooks, the hosting vendor takes care of all of that.
  • You do not have a recent backup of QuickBooks and forget to take backups on a regular basis.  With hosted QuickBooks, backups are a routine part of the process.
  • You’re great at working on the core items of your business, but want to reduce time spent on IT-related tasks.
  • You dislike or feel inadequate when it comes to technology, and you agree it makes sense to outsource as much as possible.

Any Concerns

Hosted QuickBooks is great, but it’s not right for everyone.  If you feel “safer” with no one having access to your QuickBooks, then hosting it may not be right for you.  Although the data centers are far more secure than the PCs in most people’s homes and offices because they have to undergo a rigorous security audit to become a hosting vendor, some people are simply uncomfortable passing their financial data to others.  If you want to consider hosted QuickBooks and wonder about security, we’ll be happy to have a conversation with you about that.

Hosted QuickBooks is also not right for people that are using very old software versions because you may be forced to upgrade to a newer version.

Hosted QuickBooks is also not right for people who have much more free time than budget.  Although hosted QuickBooks is not particularly expensive, there is a cost outlay that will buy you time savings.  If the free time you gain (that you can apply to completing more important priorities in your business) is not valuable to you, then hosted QuickBooks may not be right for you.

Getting Started

Before moving to a hosted QuickBooks solution, your accounting professional will want to ask you questions about how you are using QuickBooks, if they aren’t already familiar with your requirements.  Selecting the right hosting solution means evaluating:

  • What version and line of QuickBooks you are currently using because this has to be exactly matched with the hosting vendor.
  • What other applications access QuickBooks, such as online banking and payroll.
  • What add-ons you are using with QuickBooks, if any.
  • What printers, Microsoft software, email software, and other peripheral needs you have when using QuickBooks.

Once those answers are gathered, your accounting professional can provide you with some hosting solutions, costs, and implementation plans.  Most accounting professionals partner with one or more hosting companies so that you can get a seamless one-stop shop experience.  You may also be able to benefit from volume or package pricing through your accounting professional.

If you are thinking that hosted QuickBooks might be right for your business, please email us or give us a call so we can talk more about it.

What Is Cloud Accounting?

One of the most exciting changes in the accounting industry is cloud accounting.  The concept is easy to grasp:  cloud accounting simply puts your accounting system in a private space online so that it is fully accessible to you via a browser or a secure remote connection.

Two Ways to Be in the Clouds

There are primarily two ways to have your accounting system in the cloud.  First, it can be “hosted.”  This means that the current software you are using on your desktop, such as QuickBooks or Sage, does not change.  Neither does your company file.

The only thing you do differently once it’s set up is click a different icon to start the software.  Once you log in, most everything else is the same.  There are a couple of differences in printer access, Microsoft Excel® access, and some of the other interfaces, but it’s essentially the same experience.

So if it’s the same, why would you want to move to the cloud?  Because it completely eliminates the passing back and forth of the file among you, your CPA, your bookkeeper, and anyone else that needs to update or access your accounting file.  No more restores.  No more DropBox or YouSendIt downloads.

Hosting saves a ton of time because the people you grant access to can login to your file from anywhere.

The second way to have your accounting system in the clouds is to switch to an online accounting system.  In industry jargon, this is called SaaS, which stands for Software as a Service.  Examples of online accounting systems include QuickBooks Online, Xero, Wave, and Kashoo.  These systems have fewer features and will only be right for a client with a need for a simpler accounting system.

When you switch from desktop accounting software to SaaS, it will likely require conversion, setup, and training.  It’s a major change.

Benefits

There are many benefits to moving to the cloud; here are just a few of the more common ones:

  • Anywhere, anytime access to your accounting system.  Companies with multiple locations will benefit significantly from a hosted solution.
  • No more worrying about who has what version and whether the changes the accountant made were updated or applied.  There is one central file, and multiple people can be accessing it at the same time as long as you have the right number of user licenses.
  • No more software updates that you have to apply yourself or wait for.  This is done by the hosting provider or the SaaS.
  • Tighter security for your data.  The data centers typically have multiple state-of-the-art data security controls and must pass a rigid audit, which is far more protection than any small business can afford to provide for their own data.
  • Automatic offsite backup for disaster recovery purposes.

Concerns

Clients’ two major concerns include security, which is covered above, and costs.  When it comes to costs, the most important thing to look at is return on investment.  Will the time you save be of greater value to you than the costs of hosting or moving to a SaaS?  That answer varies for each client.

Curious About the Cloud?

If we’ve piqued your curiosity about cloud accounting, please feel free to reach out so we can continue the conversation.

Five Ways to Protect your Cash

As entrepreneurs, we work hard for our money, and the last thing we need is to have it disappear due to fraud, hackers, or identity theft.  Some people have called 2013 the year of the hacker, which is worrisome.  But you’re far more likely to experience risks with disgruntled or financially desperate employees and contractors.  Mistakes happen, too, and when they do it can be costly to get them corrected.

Here are five ways to increase your financial controls so that you can lower your business risks when it comes to the handling of cash and cash equivalents.  As you read the list, check to see where you can tighten up controls in your business.

Checking for Checks

Do you have blank checks lying around?  If so, reduce the temptation and get them locked up.  You can also go a step further and have your accountant run a report each month (or week) of missing check numbers.  If any checks are unaccounted for, take action by processing Stop Payment orders at your bank.

Bank on It

If you are still getting your bank reconciliation on paper, where does it get mailed?  The business owner should always see the bank reconciliation before anyone else does.  Also, make sure the person that performs the reconciliation is not the same person that deposits the checks.  Segregation of duties is essential to improve cash controls.

Today, it’s a good idea to do all your banking online, if possible, so that nothing gets mailed.  In that way, you have some reduced risk over identity theft.

Some banks offer multiple-user access to your banking account, so that bookkeepers can get the information they need.  Lock that user ID down as much as possible, so that the user can only get to what they need to.  If they’re honest, they will appreciate the reduced level of responsibility and consider it a smart financial move.

PayPal Protection

If you have a PayPal account, keep the balance low by transferring funds frequently to your bank account.  You can also restrict access to reduce your risk.

Credit Card Control

If you use credit cards in your business, you’ll want to maintain tight control over them.  For each employee or contractor that needs to charge items on a credit card, here are a couple of points to consider:

  • If the credit limit on the current card is sky-high, then ask the bank to lower it or set up a new card with very low credit limits just for employee use.
  • Contact your credit card company and get a card in the employee’s name.
  • Make sure you can access the credit card transactions online.  They are immediate, and if necessary, you can closely monitor what’s going on.
  • Insist on a receipt brought to you for every purchase.
  • Create clear procedures, limits, and approvals before the spending occurs.
  • Don’t let the employee “keep” the credit card during off hours.  Keep it locked up on your premises instead.

Safeguarding Payroll

One of the biggest cash outflows for small businesses is payroll.  Here, segregation of duties comes into play again.  The person preparing the payroll should not be the one who approves it and actually runs it.

You can do this by having different user accounts and controls within your payroll system.

Hopefully, you already have a lot of these ideas in place.  If not, add the ideas you like to your to do list so that your business risks will be reduced.

Planning for an Awesome 2013

For businesses with fiscal years that coincide with the calendar year, the slate of revenues and expenses will be wiped clean on New Year’s Day.  Starting with a clean slate gives us a chance to reflect on our 2012 results before we enter 2013 and experience the hope that comes with a new year.

Hindsight is always valuable, and we can learn important lessons from our past mistakes that we can now more objectively look back on.  We can take those lessons and incorporate them into our plans for the new year so that we can continue to learn, grow, and prosper.

To create your plans for an awesome 2013, here is a list of questions and documents to consider in your business.

Revenue Plan

We can make budgeting more fun by looking at the revenue side first.

  • Are you happy with your 2012 revenue levels?
  • What new product or service lines can you roll out in 2013?
  • Are there any product or service lines you should close in 2013?
  • Should you raise prices?

A revenue plan is useful because it can feed into your annual budget as well as drive your marketing plans.

Staffing Plan

Business is more fun when you have the right team to support your vision.

  • Is your current team sufficient to support your business goals for 2013?
  • In what areas do you need more help?  Should you hire or outsource?
  • Are there any team members that are not pulling their weight?
  • Was there a turnover that you would have rather not had?  How can you retain your best talent?

Master Budget

Your revenue plan and staffing plan can feed into your master budget, which can be loaded into your accounting system.  Tracking actuals against plan and prior year numbers will help you determine how you’re staying on track throughout the year.

Special Projects Plan

What special projects should you consider for 2013?  This might include a move, new fixed assets, or replacing systems and processes that you are outgrowing.

Disaster Recovery Plan

Each year, we watch the news and see people and businesses that were affected by extreme weather events, fires, theft, or other disaster.  Are you protected?

  • Is all of your data backed up to a remote location that is away from your local area?
  • Do you have the necessary insurance coverage for all areas of your business?
  • Are you comfortable with the risks you are taking in business and are you prepared for the worst-case consequences of those risks?  If not, take action to reduce your risks.

Planning for Awesome

Planning helps you become more successful, and it reduces the risks of doing business.  There are many more types of plans, and it’s up to you to decide which ones will benefit your business.  If we can help out in any way, please reach out and give us a call.

Five Hidden Talents of Your Accountant

When you think of an accountant’s duties, you might think about traditional tasks, such as tax preparation, bookkeeping, and financial statement preparation.   Here are five additional tasks that accountants can help with that you might not think of.

1. Evaluating Current Accounting Employees

How can you know if your accounting employee is a star that does everything right, is organized, and is fast or if you’ve accidentally hired someone who talks a good game but is doing everything wrong, takes way too long based on your size company, or is making unnecessary and costly mistakes?  Your external accountant can often help you objectively evaluate your current staff and point out their strengths and weaknesses so you can create the right training programs for them, communicate the right message at review time, or take the proper HR steps you need to.  Your accountant can also help to train your bookkeepers so that they are more efficient.

If your bookkeeper is not performing at the level of pay you are providing, it can be an inefficiency in your business.  Your accountant can help you make sure you are not over- or underpaying your current staff.

2. Hiring a Bookkeeper

For businesses that have full or part-time accounting staff, your accountant can help you test candidates for technical skills so that you can make a wise hire.

3. Selecting Better Tools

Most bookkeepers that do books for one company do not have the experience that lets them see there may be “a better way” to do what they are doing.  Your external accountant can help you find or develop systems, reports, and software to supplement your current accounting system that may save you time and money.

Since your accountant can be working on as many as ten different companies in one day, they have far more experience and expertise than bookkeepers who work at one company at a time.  Take advantage of that experience to streamline your workflow and learn lots of great money-saving shortcuts.

4. Identifying Process Inefficiencies and Irregularities

The fresh eyes that your external accountant can bring to your business can often uncover inefficiencies in accounting processes that can reduce your expenses and increase your profits.  One opportunity area is listening for the “we’ve always done it that way” answer.  When that explanation comes up, usually it means that the person saying it has lost or never knew the reason behind the process, which could now be obsolete.

External accountants have the benefit of seeing dozens if not hundreds of financial statements among their many clients.  We’ve often developed the eagle eye of scoping out expenses that are out of line based on other clients in your industry and company size.  If you are paying too much for telephone, utilities, and other common expenses, we can bring it to your attention that there may be an opportunity to re-negotiate a contract or look for some kind of error.

5. Strengthening Internal Control and Taking Measures to Reduce Risk of Fraud

Developing checks and balances in your accounting system is essential in businesses where employees handle money and have access to credit card numbers and bank account information.  Your external accountant can help you develop internal controls within your accounting system that will work for the level of risk you wish to take in your business.  They can also point out reports in QuickBooks or your accounting system that facilitate controls and that can help you review irregularities on a periodic basis.

Tapping into Talent

Next time you find yourself in one of the above situations, think of your external accountant first, and give us a call.

Seven Year-End Adjustments to Make to Your Books

Year-end is coming up for many businesses, and it’d be nice to know what your final revenue and profit numbers will be for the year.  Before we can calculate these key numbers, there are year-end adjustments that may need to be made to your books that will change the numbers. Here are seven common ones.

Bonuses

It’s great to give bonuses to employees at year-end, but it’s not so great to forget about the tax part of it. Bonus checks should always be run through payroll, but often are not, which requires an adjustment after the fact.

Retirement Plan Contributions

If cash is available at year-end, it’s a great idea to maximize the allowable deductions for the retirement plan you qualify for.  One example is a SEP IRA.  You can deduct up to 25% of your or your employee’s salary (up to $50,000 deduction maximum per employee for 2012, but please check with us or your tax professional for numerous exceptions and rules.

Withholding

If you are both the owner and an employee of your company and have not made enough tax payments throughout the year to account for all that money you’ve earned in 2012, you can adjust your last few paychecks to withhold the amount you need.  Sometimes, this also reduces or eliminates the penalty for underpayment of estimated taxes.   To find out more, please check with your tax professional.

Depreciation

If you have assets that will last longer than one year, such as factory equipment or a fleet of automobiles, an adjustment may need to be made to reduce the value of those assets.   This adjustment will reduce your profit and will also reduce your tax bill.

Amortization

If you have a loan of any type, the payment consists of both principal and interest.  Each time you make a payment, the principal and interest amounts can vary.  At the beginning of the loan, you pay more interest and less principal.  At the end of a loan, it’s reversed.  Each payment is different, and if they haven’t been recorded correctly each month, it’s time to make the adjustment so that the loan balance is correct.

New Acquisitions or Obligations

If you’ve made a significant acquisition, such as real estate, buildings, large equipment, or another company, and somehow the transaction did not get properly recorded on your books, then now is the time.   Similarly, if you’ve taken on new debt, the new liability needs to be put on the books.

Noncash Transactions

It’s easy to overlook transactions that do not require a cash outlay, but these need to be recorded as well.   For example, if you performed consulting services in exchange for a spa gift certificate, this transaction should be reflected in the proper revenue and expense accounts.

Year-End Profit

Once your books are adjusted for all of these changes, you’ll have all the information you need to find out how your business performed for 2012.  You can then use your 2012 revenue and profit numbers to set new goals for 2013.

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