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Seven Strategies to Put the Spring into Your Sales

Spring is here and that’s the perfect time to try something new in your business to make things fresh.  Here are seven ideas to try in your business; pick the one that’s most likely to put the spring in your sales.

1. BOGO

“Buy one, get one” or BOGO deals are always hot and never grow old.  Even if it’s not common in your industry, see if you can adapt and create a deal like this.  The best thing about a BOGO strategy is it spreads more of your product or service around to a wider customer base, which can spur referrals or word-of-mouth, the best kind of sale.

Here’s an example of a BOGO applied to a service: Purchase a seat at a training workshop and bring a co-worker at no extra charge (or charge the price of materials and lunch to cover costs).  You can also offer one month free (cheaper than offering 10 percent off on an annual basis) if you have a service that is performed over time.

2.Weekend Sale

Sales can move a lot of people to action.  The key is to limit the time that they can get the discount to a very small window.  Hold a time-limited sale when it is slow for you (could be during this month when people are hit with tax bills) to boost your volume.

3.Freshen Up Your Displays

If you have a storefront, when is the last time you’ve freshened up your look?  Retail businesses work hard at this, but even if you aren’t in retail, take a look at what the customer sees.  Is it inviting?  Fresh?  Pleasant?  If not, do some spring cleaning!

If you work from home or have a virtual office, your website is your storefront.  See if it needs some spring cleaning so that you look more attractive to your prospects and clients.

4.Introduce New Features

Make a slight change to your existing product by adding a new feature, offering it in a new color, or something similar.  It will feel a little fresher to your clients, which may cause an increase in perceived value.

5. Start a New Niche

Once you’ve gotten a couple of clients from a new industry, you’re off and running.  You will be able to learn from working with this new industry, and then you will be more valuable to others in that space.

Take a look at your client list, and see where you have just a few clients in the same industry but would like more clients like them.  Then go for it!

6.Flavor of the Month Club

Baskin-Robbins used to have a “flavor of the month” so that customers would be enticed to come into their ice cream shops over and over again.  You may be able to have an “item of the month” or even a VIP club where your customers get something new each month.  Your VIP Club could also include priority treatment with specials or discounts.  VIP clubs done right are especially effective in restaurants and retail, but can work in other industries too.  The goal is to increase the frequency of visits to your business by enticing clients to become regulars.

7.The Biggest Opportunity of All

We often overlook the top opportunity that’s under our own noses:  our current and past clients.  They trust us the most, which is the highest hurdle to new business.  If you haven’t contacted your top clients in a while, make a point to reach out.  More sales could be just a phone call away.

Now it’s time to spring into action on the one idea that resonates most for your business.

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.

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.

105 Ways to Speed Up Cash Flow in Your Small Business

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