How AI Is Changing Accounting

Artificial intelligence (AI) has arrived in the accounting profession in a big way. The good news is it’s streamlining accounting tasks, finding patterns in data you can take action on, and generally making things better. Here are just a few places we’re seeing AI and machine learning impact accounting.

Transaction Coding

Most systems have incorporated some form of machine learning into transaction coding. When bank feeds are imported, each transaction needs to be coded to add the account code in the chart of accounts.  Class, tracking codes, and other custom data may need to be added as well. Rules can be set so that the accounting application can pre-code the transactions; in this case the accountant simply approves or corrects the entry.

Invoice Fetching

It starts with a picture of a receipt. Invoice fetching applications can turn pixels into data using sophisticated OCR (optical character recognition). The data is then turned into a business transaction that can be imported into an accounting system.

Auditing

The books of many government agencies, nonprofits, and large businesses need to be audited on a regular basis. Auditing is an expensive process. Smart programs can review a company’s data and assess where the risks and anomalies are so that the audit program can be modified to focus on the more important parts. This reduces risk and cost for everyone involved. 

Accounts Payable

Artificial intelligence can help to speed up the matching of purchase orders, packing slips, and invoices so that accounts payable tasks are streamlined.  It can also automate approvals and look for duplicate invoices to avoid overpayments. 

Accounting Tasks That Are Clerical

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a platform that allows users to create automation without involving the IT department. Think Excel macros or Zapier on steroids. Any workflow with a mind-numbing set of clerical steps is a candidate for RPA. 

AI allows accountants to spend less time on routine tasks and more time on higher-level analysis work. As AI becomes more affordable for small businesses, everyone will benefit from this long-term trend.

Posted in Accounting, Cool Tech Tools | Leave a comment

Buying a Car or Truck for Your Business?

When you purchase a new vehicle, you get the fun of riding around in a new car with the new car smell! Our job has just begun – to get your new asset recorded properly on your books. We thought it’d be fun to give you a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at our part. 

Sales Contract

The first thing we’ll ask you for is the sales contract.  It will give us the payment price of your car, and we’ll use that number to record your new asset on your balance sheet.  If you paid cash with no trade-in, the journal entry we’ll make is:

Debit: 2019 Toyota RAV4

$25,500

Credit: Cash

$25,500

Then we’ll decide on a depreciation method and book depreciation monthly or at year-end.

Debit: Depreciation Expense

$5,100

Credit: Accumulated Depreciation

$5,100

Trade-in

If you traded in a vehicle that is on your books, we’ll need to make an adjustment to your books. Effectively, your old car will be eliminated from your balance sheet. If this asset had a book value and it was not fully depreciated, the net value would be compared to the trade-in value and a gain or loss on the asset sale would be recorded on your income statement. 

Let’s say the balance sheet value of the three-year-old car you traded in was $10,000 and you got $8,000 on the trade-in. Here’s what we would record:

Debit: 2019 Toyota RAV4

$25,500

Debit: Accumulated Depreciation

$15,000

Debit: Loss on Sale of 2016 Car

$ 2,000

Credit: Old 2016 Toyota RAV4

$25,000

Credit: Cash

$17,500 ($25,500 – $8,000 trade-in)

We’d also start the depreciation for the new car.

New Car Loan 

Most often, a new car purchase will be financed, so we have a new liability to record too.  We’ll need to get a copy of the loan documents from you and an amortization schedule of the payments. Let’s say you made a ten percent down payment with no trade-in.  Here’s how that would look:

Debit: 2019 Toyota RAV4

$25,500

Credit: Cash

$2,550

Credit: Toyota Loan

$22,950

Then, each time you make a monthly payment, the amount will need to be split between principal and interest and those amounts will need to change each month.

Debit: Interest Expense

$390

Debit: Toyota Loan

$60

Credit: Cash

$450

We left out a few trade secrets just to keep it intriguing. There are a lot of other numbers on a car purchase: taxes, licenses, warranties, add-ons, fees, and more. Some of these can be directly expensed, while others need to be included in the value of the asset. So if you’re happy that we’ll take care of this for you, we’re happy to do so. 

Let us know if you purchase an asset this summer so we can get it booked right for you. 

Posted in Accounting, Bookkeeping Tips | Leave a comment

Your New Hire Checklist

Hiring a new employee is a big accomplishment in any small business, and there are a lot of steps involved, too. Here’s a handy checklist to help you stay organized when you bring that new hire on board. 

First things first, the legal and accounting items:

  • Signed employment agreement, typically an offer letter. There may also be a supplemental agreement outlining employee policies.
  • Payroll documents include:
    • IRS form W-4
    • Form I-9
    • Copy of employee’s government-issued ID
  • Most states require a new hire report to be filed; sometimes your payroll system vendor will automatically file this for you.
  • Notify your workers comp insurance carrier.

Next, it’s time for employee benefits enrollment:

  • Health insurance
  • 401K
  • Any other benefits you provide
  • Provide the employee with the holiday schedule
  • Explain their PTO and vacation if not already explained in the offer letter

Set your new employee up for success with the right equipment:

  • Desk, chair, lamp, other furniture
  • Uniform
  • Tools
  • Coffee mug, refrigerator shelf
  • Phone
  • Truck, keys
  • Computer, monitor, mouse, keyboard, power strip, floor mat
  • Office keys, card entry, gate remote, parking assignment
  • Filing cabinet, keys
  • Tablet
  • Forms
  • Office supplies
  • Cooler, other supplies

Your new employee may need access to your computer software systems:

  • Employee email address
  • Any new user IDs and password for all the systems they will need to access
  • Document access

How will your new employee learn the ropes?

  • Set up training
  • Assign a buddy

Hopefully, this list will give you a start toward making your employee onboarding process a little smoother.

Posted in Business Tips, Management Tips, Time Management Tips | Leave a comment

Beyond the Books: The World of Accounting

In small business, accounting refers to a set of tasks that revolve around maintaining a general ledger – your books — and preparing financial statements. Beyond small business accounting, there are many more aspects to accounting. In this article, we’ve prepared a glossary of accounting terms so you can discover the larger world of accounting.

Cost accounting. This type of accounting looks at the cost of items for sale. It’s especially useful in manufacturing, construction, or even restaurants where dozens or even hundreds of components are purchased and assembled to make the items that are for sale. Cost accountants account for and evaluate these costs to determine when they are too high or low and need to be repriced or purchased in a different way. 

Cost accounting can be applied to small businesses to help them with pricing, determining breakeven points, controlling costs, and budgeting.

Government accounting. Government accounting is simply accounting that’s done for government entities. Government accountants are concerned with maintaining government regulations as well as learning a different way of keeping books.

Nonprofit accounting. Nonprofit accounting is unique to nonprofit organizations in that they often need to track and mark specific donations, manage grants and meet reporting requirements, fulfill public disclosures and reporting, and maintain a fund accounting process.

Financial accounting. Financial accounting is the preparation of financial reports for external use and includes providing financial statements. 

Attest. Attest accounting is where a CPA goes through a process of verifying financial reports of a business to interested third-parties, such as banks and the public. The three main services in this area include compilations, reviews, and audits. Only a CPA can perform these services.

Fraud or forensic accounting. A specialty role in accounting, forensic accountants can help a company that has been the victim of fraud. There are also services available to help reduce the possibility of fraud. 

Tax accounting. Tax accounting can be many things: the preparation of federal and state income tax returns for businesses, individuals, and other entities like estates and trusts; state and local tax assistance with collection, filing, remittance, and compliance; franchise tax support; and payroll tax collection, filing, and payment. There are more, but these are the big ones.

Budgeting. Making a revenue and spending plan is an important accounting function.

Internal auditing. Large companies have internal audit departments that maintain checks and balances for the company. In small companies, having someone in charge of monitoring internal controls would be the equivalent function.

Accounting systems. Some accountants are technology-savvy, and this type of accountant can help solve technology issues, integrate accounting system modules, and streamline workflow.

Fiduciary accounting. A fiduciary is someone legally responsible for financial responsibilities in an organization. Fiduciary accounting typically refers to accounting for trusts, but can have a much broader meaning.

Public accounting. Public accounting is practiced by employees in a public accounting firm, which is one that serves many businesses with varying accounting needs.  This is opposed to private or industry accounting where an accountant goes to work for one company in their accounting department. Public vs. industry accounting is really referring to an accountant’s career experience. 

Managerial accounting. This type of accounting focuses on internal numbers and how the organization can reach its goals. It’s broader than cost accounting, but there is an overlap. Accountants who serve in an advisory capacity to businesses will focus on this area. 

Did we get all of the terms you might be wondering about? If not, ask us, and we’ll add it here.

Posted in Accounting | Leave a comment

5 Ways to Speed Up Your Cash Flow

One of the biggest challenges for small businesses is managing cash flow. There never seems to be enough cash to meet all of the obligations, so it makes sense to speed up cash flow when you can. Here are five tips you can use to get your cash faster or slow down the outflow.

1. Stay on top of cash account balances.

If you’re collecting money in more than one account, be sure to move your money on a regular basis when your balances get high. One example is your PayPal account.  If money is coming in faster than you’re spending it, transfer the money to your main operating account so the money is not just sitting there. 

2. Invoice faster or more frequently.

The best way to smooth cash flow is to make sure outflows are in sync with inflows. If you make payroll weekly but only invoice monthly, your cash flow is likely to dip more often than it rises. When possible, invoice more frequently or stagger your invoice due dates to smooth your cash balances. 

Take a look at how long it takes you to invoice for your work after it’s been completed.  If it’s longer than a few weeks, consider changing your invoicing process by shortening the time it takes to send out invoices. That way, you’ll get paid sooner.  

3. Collect faster.  

Got clients who drag their heels when it comes to paying you? Try to get a credit card on file or an ACH authorization so you’re in control of their payment.

Put a process in place the day the invoice becomes late. Perhaps the client has a question or misplaced the bill. Be aggressive about following up when the bill is 45, 60, and 90 days past due. Turn it over to collections quickly; the older the bill is, the less likely it is to get paid. 

4. Pay off debt.

As your cash flow gets healthier, make a plan to pay off any business loans or credit cards that you have. The sooner you can do this, the less interest expense you’ll incur and the more profit you’ll have. 

Interest expense can really add up. If you have loans at higher interest rates, you might try to get them refinanced at a lower rate, so you won’t have to pay as much interest expense.    

5. Reduce spending.

You don’t always have to give up things to reduce spending. Look at your expenses from last year and ask yourself:

  • What did you spend that was a really great investment for your business?
  • What did you spend that was a colossal mistake?
  • What do you take for granted that you can cut?
  • Where could you re-negotiate contracts to save a little?
  • Where could you tighten up if you need to?

Managing cash flow is always a challenge, and these tips will help give you a little cushion to make it easier. 

Posted in Business Tips, Profitability Tips | Leave a comment

A Report Card for Your Business Financials

Do you remember the days when you got a report card from school? Now that you have a business, your business has grades as well. But it’s up to you to calculate them.  Here are some grades you can compute for your business to give it a report card of its own.

Financial Grades

How successful is your business from a financial standpoint? These financial ratios can help you give yourself a grade. 

Return on equity

This ratio measures profitability as it relates to the investment or money you have tied up in your business. The formula is net income / average equity. An ROE of 15 percent or more is an “A” for your business report card.

Return on assets

This ratio measures profitability as it relates to your business assets. The formula is net income / total assets. An ROA of five percent or more is an “A” for your business report card.

Asset turnover

This ratio measures efficient use of your business assets. The formula is sales / total assets. This number should be high for low margin businesses and low for high margin businesses. 

Profitability Grades

How profitable is your business?  You might know your bottom line number, but there’s more to it.

Gross profit margin

This ratio measures the financial health of a company as it relates to how much money is available to cover overhead. Calculate it as follows: (revenue – cost of goods sold) / revenue. The value will be different depending on what industry you’re in, but some say a range of 25 to 35 percent is normal for small business. 

Net profit margin

Net profit margin measures how profitable your business is in relation to the amount of sales you have. As an example, a business that can make $50K in profits on $500,000 in revenue is more healthy than one that can make $50K profits on $3 million in revenue. The formula is net income / total sales, and although it depends on the industry, a net profit margin over 10 percent is considered an “A.” 

Report cards were important in school, but they’re even more important in business.  If you’d like us to set up one for your business, let us know. 

Posted in Business Tips, Profitability Tips | Leave a comment

Money and Marriage

One of the biggest things that can cause fights in a marriage is money. No matter where you are in a relationship, it’s a good idea to discuss these major money topics so you’ll know where you stand. 

Show me the money:  Combine or keep separate or both

One of the best ways to avoid conflict is to put your money into three separate piles: yours, your spouse’s, and a joint set of accounts. In this arrangement, each of you has control over some money that is all your own. The household spending will then come out of the joint account, and you both will make contributions to it on a regular basis. 

As a couple, you’ll need to discuss who will pay for what as well as what your regular contribution will be to the joint account. This is no small discussion. The more thorough you are, the less conflict you’ll have over money.

One spouse or partner will normally handle the joint finances, and it’s typically the person with the most accounting knowledge. However, you both should have access to this account in case of emergency. 

Savings and future purchase goals

Do you have goals about upcoming large purchases?  These might include:

  • A home purchase or improvement
  • Children’s education
  • Health care needs
  • Saving for retirement
  • A car purchase
  • A second home purchase
  • A vacation
  • Another item such as a boat, furniture, technology gadgets, a plane, or something else
  • A nest egg or cushion

If so, calculate how much you need and make a plan to set aside the money you need in the time frame you agree on. 

Spending

Do you like to spend more than your spouse? Or is it the other way around? When money is flowing, there is usually no problem. When money is tight, that’s when the problems come in. 

When there are conflicts in the area of spending, the best course is to focus on priorities. If you can agree on your priorities and goals, it can often shift spending habits.  

Budget

You may want to set a budget to stick as close as possible to expected spending limits. Start by recording current spending in these areas, and then agree on the amounts you want to spend in the future. 

  • Rent or mortgage payment
  • Utilities, including electric, gas, water, garbage, phone, internet, cable
  • Food and supplies, including grocery, kitchen items, liquor, and eating out
  • Entertainment, including travel, vacations, local events, holiday decorations, Netflix subscriptions, tech gadgets, books, etc.
  • House maintenance including repairs, cleaning, lawn care, appliances, and decorating
  • Automobile, including gas, insurance, licenses, and maintenance
  • Clothing and accessories, including dry cleaning
  • Health care, including pharmacy, doctor’s visit, and HSA contributions
  • Personal care, such as haircuts, nail care, etc.
  • Tuition and/or education expenses
  • Contribution to retirement and savings accounts
  • Charitable contributions
  • Taxes, including federal, state, local, school, and property
  • Paying down credit card or student loan debt

Retirement

What does retirement look like to both of you? Having this conversation will be enlightening. Know that dreams and goals can change over time as retirement approaches.

You’ll want to have an idea about what you’d like to spend during your final years so that you can make plans to start accumulating that wealth now. The sooner you start, the more years you have to build up your retirement assets. 

Monitoring your progress

Keep an eye on your account balances to make sure everything is as it should be. Review bank and brokerage account statements and/or your budget once a month or at least once a quarter so there are no surprises or trends that sneak up on you.  

When you reach your goals, reward yourself. Managing money is hard work, and you deserve to pat yourself on the back when a goal is achieved. If there is anything we can do to help you make your financial dreams come true, please reach out any time.  

Posted in Decision-Making Tips, Expense Reduction Tips | Leave a comment

10 Ways to Boost Your Business Revenue for 2019

The start of a new year also means that it’s the perfect time to revisit old business strategies from last year so that you can maximize your revenue for 2019. If your financial numbers were fantastic last year, that’s great! Keep the strategies that worked for you and cut the ones that didn’t.

If your financial numbers weren’t amazing last year, or maybe you’re just interested to see how you can increase your revenue, we have you covered. Here are 10 ways you can boost your revenue this year:

1. Revisit your current prices and make adjustments as necessary.

Many people will tell you that increasing your prices will increase your profits, but that’s not necessarily true. Increasing your prices by a small amount might increase your profits without turning away existing customers, but make sure you research your competitors’ prices and adjust based on what makes sense in your market.

2. Bundle your services or products together.

Make your products or services more attractive by bundling them together and pricing them at a better deal than purchasing the services or products separately. Customers that only want one particular product or service should still be able to purchase the product or service à la carte, but offering different packages of increasing value makes it much easier to upsell to clients and increase your business revenue.

3. Offer free gift with purchase.

Tacking on a complimentary or free service to your products or services could be the small push needed to close sales. Even better, you could add a complimentary or free service to your highest-quality bundle. As an example, the cosmetics industry has been doing this for decades.

4. Start a new product or service line.

If you’re limited to just a few products or services, it’s time to expand. If you mow lawns, offer a leaf collection or snow removal service. If you sell shoes, add socks. If you manage a restaurant, consider offering alcohol. Expanding the scope of what you’re selling will provide you with additional revenue. 

5. Expand your geographic reach.

If you’re still only offering services and products locally, consider expanding your reach, especially because the internet is so readily available nowadays. Think about which services you can offer virtually; some may require you to invest in cloud-based delivery systems. If you only sell products at a physical location, ecommerce is a huge industry and you could definitely increase revenue by having a storefront online.

6. Learn to say “no” to bad clients.

This may seem counterintuitive, but learning to turn away bad clients is really important. When clients are ungrateful, unreasonable and just take up too many of your resources, you have to realize that they are unprofitable. By turning them away, you can devote more of your attention to building relationships with your best customers and creating new, profitable opportunities.

7. Make your online presence known.

Everyone uses search engines and social media to find the right business to serve their needs, so make sure you can be found online. Create a website for your business and make sure your have business pages on social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. You’ll have to develop some marketing strategies and optimize your site to rank high, but, when done right, these channels can drastically impact the amount of revenue you get.

8. Manage your online reputation.

When you have many good reviews, your credibility goes up and your business is more appealing to potential clients and customers. If your clients leave you an amazing testimonial, it’s a good idea to ask them to post it online as well—especially on Yelp, your Facebook Business Page, and Google Reviews. On the other hand, negative reviews will look bad to potential clients and can negatively impact your revenue, so make sure you respond appropriately to the review and show potential clients that you care about getting things right.

9. Encourage customers and clients to sign up for a continuity program.

Do you have loyal customers? Reward them by offering a membership or continuity program with VIP benefits. Retail, restaurants, and service businesses can set up privileges like faster service, discounted prices, and frequent purchase rewards that many consumers will pay a small monthly fee for.

10. Encourage customer referrals by building and nurturing customer relationships.

Connect with clients and build strong relationships through effective communication, providing exceptional service, getting feedback, addressing concerns, and showing appreciation. Doing so can increase repeat customers, customer referrals and your business revenue.

If you’re looking to boost your business revenue this year, definitely give these strategies a try.

Posted in Business Tips, Profitability Tips | Leave a comment

How to Save More in 2019

Many people in their retirement years have regrets about not saving more during their earning years, but you don’t have to be one of them. All you need to do is be realistic and proactive about saving. It’s all about paying your future self.    

Circumstances can arise that can erode savings you hoped would be there for retirement. Some of those events include not being able to work due to poor health or a bad job market, unanticipated hospital bills, a divorce, overestimating Social Security benefits, bad investments, procrastination, and simply not realizing how much you need to live on. 

The good news is you can prevent future regrets by making a strong savings plan now. As a small business owner, you may not have a retirement plan, so it’s essential that you create one for yourself. You earn an income today. Put some of that income toward paying your future self, and pay that “bill” first each month or each paycheck. 

To be proactive and build as much savings as possible, take these steps:

  1. Increase your financial skills by learning how to fund your retirement, including all that traveling you’d like to do.
  2. Take care to manage your investment risk and be realistic about investment returns. In good markets, purchase rather than rent or lease so you are building an asset.
  3. Put as much aside as you can, and try living just below your means.
  4. If you do have periods where you are out of work, try living frugally until your income is back to normal.
  5. Optimize your business profits and apply some of them to your savings plan.
  6. Minimize taxes where possible so you can keep more of what you make.
  7. Make everything work twice as hard for you:
    1. Get credit cards with loyalty programs.
    2. Sign up for frequent customer programs to earn points.
    3. Make sure your bank is giving you the best deal on interest.
  8. Sell unused belongings on eBay and put the money in savings.
  9. Cancel used subscriptions and memberships for both your personal and business needs and move the saved money to savings.
  10. Periodically reach out to vendors to get a better deal on the expenses you incur. This could be for phone plans, utilities, and any other routine expense. Put the difference saved in savings.
  11. Select cars and trucks with good gas mileage and also high resale value. Consider that using Lyft or Uber may be cheaper than maintaining a car, depending on how much you drive.  Put the difference in savings.

There are hundreds more ways to save more, and these will get you started in the right direction for 2019.

Posted in Business Tips | Leave a comment

What Is Reputation Management?

Reputation management is a relatively new area within marketing.  In a way, it’s similar to digital public relations; it’s the management of a company’s reputation online. There’s also a customer service component to reputation management.

Unlike public relations workers before the internet came along, today’s reputation managers must deal with what customers and other stakeholders publish publicly on social media, blogs, directories, and many other locations online.

A large part of the reputation management function is to monitor and reply to reviews. Company reviews are available on hundreds of sites. The most common places to look for reviews are Yelp, Google Business, Bing, Amazon, and shopping carts.

If a company receives a positive review, thanking the customer in a response is a nice gesture and recognizes their time spent writing the review. It also reassures others that the company is paying attention to customer feedback.

If the review is negative, swift action should be taken to respond, to apologize publicly, and to take the conversation to a private communications channel such as email or direct messaging. Customer service should get involved to resolve the issue quickly and satisfactorily. In some cases, posting a follow-up response to ask the client if the issue has been resolved is appropriate.

 Companies should monitor more than just customer reviews. Sites like Glassdoor allow employees to post job satisfaction reviews for prospective workers.  Companies in industries with chronic talent shortages will want to allocate resources to monitor these sites effectively. 

Reputation management is not all about reviews; it’s also about mentions. Whenever your company name, CEO, or brand names are mentioned, a reputation manager should know about it.

There are now several apps that perform reputation management monitoring so that you’re alerted quickly to reviews or mentions. A very quick free option is to use Google Alerts to scour the web for company name mentions.  Many of these apps also help a business garner more reviews and optimize them to improve their reputation. 

Whether your business needs to worry about reputation management depends on many factors, but hopefully this overview will give you an idea of what’s possible in this space.

Posted in Business Tips, Customer Service Tips | Leave a comment