Ten Most Common Bookkeeping Mistakes Small Business Owners Make

bookkeeping mistakesAt the outset, many small business owners lack knowledge about basic accounting concepts and procedures, which can lead to bookkeeping mistakes during the early years of an operation (and, potentially big problems down the road). 

So what are the 10 most common bookkeeping mistakes small business owners make?

1. Blindly Following a DIY Approach

It’s not rocket science after all, right? Many small business owners make the mistake of thinking they can handle all the bookkeeping aspects of the business. And that may be a good strategy in the very early stages of a start-up when operations are a bit more simple and bootstrapping is the name of the game. But as the organization grows, business owners often miss the point at which the DIY approach isn’t working until it’s too late and big mistakes show up. These mistakes can affect the financials used to make strategic decisions, which can ultimately put a dent in the bottom line. Garbage in, garbage out. 

And that’s not to mention the hazards of accidentally misreporting financial information on tax returns. 

Finally, it can end up being far more expensive to pay a professional to come in and untangle these mistakes than it is to hire one at the outset. 

2. Price Shopping for a Bookkeeper

No, bookkeeping isn’t brain surgery. But just as you wouldn’t perform your own brain surgery or choose a brain surgeon solely based on price, you shouldn’t choose your accountant or bookkeeper using only price as a benchmark. 

Because the adage is true: You get what you pay for. Some bookkeepers are just better, more experienced and more qualified than others. And those bookkeepers don’t generally come with rock-bottom prices.

Focusing exclusively on price isn’t the same as getting the most value for your dollar when it comes to engaging the services of an accounting professional. In fact, in many cases, pinching pennies in this area of operations can ultimately cost the business money. 

3. Misreporting Payroll Taxes

Woe to the business owner who either purposely or accidentally misfiles payroll tax information. The IRS has little tolerance for error. 

While it may be tempting to skip the administrative fees and run payroll yourself, it’s an excellent investment of resources to use a payroll tax specialist instead. Tax laws are constantly in flux, and the rules and regulations can be complex. It’s far better to pay a professional than to pay huge fines and interest in the event your information is misrepresented on returns. 

4. Failure to Keep Complete and Accurate Records

If you don’t have good data (and documentation to back it up) you’ll likely end up paying for it in the long run. 

For example, lost receipts can mean expenses don’t get booked properly—or at all!—which can mean a higher tax liability. Plus, incomplete records mean your books are likely also incomplete, so strategic financial decisions get made on faulty information, costing your business in cash and opportunities. 

5. Not Backing Up Data

This seems like a no-brainer, and yet many small business owners make this mistake. If you haven’t backed up your data and accounting systems, you’ll be in a world of hurt in the event of a catastrophic failure. 

And it’s a good idea to maintain redundant systems. For example, if you’re using a cloud-based accounting program and keep digital copies of things like receipts and invoices there, consider keeping secondary copies on your hard drive or external backup drive. 

6. Failing to Capitalize Equipment

Many business owners make the mistake of expensing an entire piece of equipment during the year in which it was purchased. But watch out, because tax law stipulates that in some cases, you must book the purchase to your balance sheet as a capital asset and write off depreciation over its useful life. 

7. Mistaking Advertising for Charitable Donations

Many small businesses choose to support nonprofit organizations by donating dollars for things like signage, sponsor recognition or logo placement in a program. While it’s important to be a good corporate citizen, don’t make the mistake of thinking these dollars count as charitable donations from a tax perspective. 

Again, if you’re uncertain how to book a transaction of this nature, it’s far better to consult with a tax professional now than to have to provide an explanation to Uncle Sam later. 

8. Failing to Negotiate Terms

Particularly for vendors from which you buy goods and services on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to create personal relationships with them. Then you’re better able to negotiate more advantageous terms, which can save money and improve cash flow over the long haul. 

9. Failing to Review the Books

If attempting a DIY solution can be hazardous at one end of the spectrum, a total lack of involvement can be hugely problematic on the other. There’s a difference between delegating bookkeeping duties to a professional and completely handing over the reigns to them. 

As a business owner, it’s incredibly important that you review the books on a regular basis and work closely with your bookkeeper to go over financial and managerial reports so you have a solid grasp on how well or poorly your business is doing. 

10. Failing to Keep Current

If a set of books isn’t kept up to date, important data like cash balances can be over- or understated, which can mean overdraft fees, angry vendors and finance charges. 

It pays to reconcile bank, credit card and liability accounts each month so your financial reports are accurate. And failing to keep your books current can mean a mad scramble to get up to date come tax time, which can produce not only headaches but lots of errors made in haste.

Adding It All Up

Most business owners don’t go into business with an in-depth knowledge of generally accepted accounting and bookkeeping principles, and so keeping the books can be a challenging task. 

And even if an owner has some background in bookkeeping, it’s very often a much better use of their time to pay a professional to keep the books for them. When a DIY solution no longer makes sense, it’s time to ask for help. 

Steiner Business Solutions helps small business owners save time and avoid costly mistakes by offering convenient and affordable bookkeeping services.  Our certified bookkeeping experts keep accurate records so business owners have the right information to make the best, most strategic business decisions. We’d love to talk!

What’s the Difference Between Bookkeeping and Accounting Services?

Many people use the terms bookkeeping and accounting interchangeably, and both are equally important in terms of running a business organization. 

It’s easy to understand why both appear to perform the same function, since they are interrelated and require many of the same skill sets. For example, both require knowledge of the dual entry accounting system, and both deal with financial transactions.

But there are some important differences to understand, especially when searching for a service provider. 

The Basics

In very general terms, bookkeepers are responsible for keeping an accurate record of all transactions in an organization, while accountants (sometimes referred to as Controllers or CFOs) are responsible for interpreting, analyzing and reporting the financial data. 

In some cases—usually at a smaller business—one individual can perform both functions. In fact, with the advent of more sophisticated accounting software, many bookkeepers are taking on roles more traditionally associated with accountants.

There are many ways bookkeeping and accounting services are different, and here we’ll cover just some of the ways they are distinct from one another.

Boots-on-the-Ground vs. 30,000-Foot Overview

As a rule, bookkeepers help business owners with the details and the process of keeping the company’s books on a day-to-day basis. Accountants typically provide a broader perspective and deal with more technical transactions.

For example, a bookkeeper manages the day-to-day financial transactions of a business, and that means recording transactions in accounting software (with QuickBooks being the most popular among small businesses), updating financial spreadsheets, processing payroll, and reconciling bank and credit card statements to cash. 

An accountant may supervise the handling of the company’s financial operations and can interpret reports to recommend strategies for growth and the overall health of the organization. 

Year-End

At the end of the year, bookkeepers are responsible for things like preparing 1099-MISC forms for contractors, assisting clients with preparing W-2s and verifying that quarterly payroll returns tie to W-2s. 

An accountant will review the general ledger and make any necessary adjustments, usually through journal entries, before closing the books and sending financial statements and other reports to the CPA for year end tax prep.  

The Bottom Line

If a business owner has a complete picture of their finances, they’re better able to make the best, most strategic decisions to help them grow and be more profitable. The bookkeeper and accountant serve different purposes, but they work hand in hand to deliver the most current and accurate information about the organization to decision makers. 

Most business owners find they need help with their bookkeeping and accounting functions when it becomes too burdensome to do it themselves. At that point, it’s generally a better leverage of time to call in the skilled experts so they can avoid costly mistakes and get back to doing what they do best: running their business. 

Do you need bookkeeping or Controller/CFO services for your business? 

The experts at Steiner Business Solutions can provide a free consultation to discuss your needs and provide the right financial services for your business. Let’s talk!





Bookkeeping Fundamentals for Small Business Owner

Undoubtedly, bookkeeping is one hugely important aspect of business ownership. Without it, business owners can’t generate the reports they need to make strategic decisions or properly organize the documentation they need to build a solid audit trail. 

While often used interchangeably, it’s important to understand the difference between bookkeeping and accounting here since they’re two related but very different functions. Very generally: 

  • Bookkeeping involves day-to-day record-keeping, proper categorization of transactions and the reconciliation of accounts. Bookkeepers also typically handle all accounts payable and receivable activities. 
  • The accounting process involves taking the data recorded accurately by the bookkeeper and building financial reports to facilitate good business decisions. 

A good bookkeeping system is invaluable since it allows business owners to keep an accurate historical record of every transaction that makes up the financial reports. 

So what are the basics of bookkeeping for small businesses? 

Choosing the Right Software

Some businesses start off with the “shoebox” method, meaning all receipts and documents are kept in one place and (sometimes) tracked in a spreadsheet application. 

Obviously, as the business grows and becomes more complex, this system becomes problematic and requires the use of a more formal accounting system.

There are many desktop or cloud-based software packages available to small businesses, and the nature and size of a business have a lot to do with choosing the right one. 

If you aren’t sure which option is the best fit for your business, ask your accountant or CPA for a recommendation. 

Understanding Accounts

In the language of bookkeeping, the term “account” doesn’t always refer to bank accounts. Rather, an account is a “bucket” of sorts, which captures all transactions of a certain type. 

There are five basic types of accounts:

  • Assets: These can be short- or long-term and can include things like furniture and fixtures as well as equipment and vehicles.
     
  • Liabilities: These also can be short- or long-term and reflect the business’ obligations and debts owed, such as loans or accounts payable.

  • Revenue: These accounts capture all business income from sales to interest dividends.

  • Expenses: These capture all business cash outflows for everything from salaries to office supplies.

  • Equity: These represent the owner’s held interest in the business. 

Understanding each of these types of accounts and how they relate to the financial statements is an important bookkeeping fundamental. 

Setting Up Bank and Credit Card Accounts

Many small business owners make the mistake of co-mingling their personal and business bank and credit card accounts. 

Not only does this make record keeping much harder, but it also makes it more difficult to prove to the IRS that business income and expenses are separate and distinct from personal ones.

When setting up a bookkeeping system, business owners should not use existing personal accounts but should create separate accounts under the business name for checking, savings and credit card accounts. 

Tracking Expenses

A foundational principle of bookkeeping is the retention of accurate records for all business transactions. 

So it’s important not only to track expense transactions but also to record what kind of expenses are incurred. This helps tax accountants understand which expenses are deductible and which aren’t. 

Expense accounts should be set up in a Chart of Accounts (a master list of all accounts, including expenses, income, assets and liabilities) and tracked by type. 

Examples of some common expense accounts include:

  • Meals and Entertainment
    • Pro Tip: Receipts should be kept indicating who attended and the purpose of the meal or event.

  • Business Travel
    • Pro Tip: Keep a good paper trail since the IRS has strict rules around what’s considered business travel and personal travel.

  • Vehicle-related
    • Pro Tip: Keep detailed mileage records and the purpose for which the vehicle was used.

Paper expense receipts may be kept in hanging files or folders but in an increasingly paperless world, many businesses use software packages that capture and store digital images of receipts in the cloud. 

Tracking Income

Business income should be tracked in revenue accounts. There are as many different kinds of revenue accounts as there are business types.

Manufacturers may have income from the sale of widgets, while consultants may have income from the fees they charge their clients.

A business can have more than one revenue account to track different types of income. 

For example, a business might sell tangible products and also charge consulting fees when they train a customer on how to use the product. Each type of income would then be tracked in separate revenue accounts. 

Asking for Help

Most business owners don’t go into business with an in-depth knowledge of generally accepted accounting and bookkeeping principles, and so keeping the books can be a challenging task. 

And even if an owner has some background in bookkeeping, it’s very often a much better use of their time to pay a professional to keep the books for them.

When a DIY solution no longer makes sense, it’s time to ask for help.

Steiner Business Solutions helps small business owners save time and avoid costly mistakes by offering convenient and affordable bookkeeping services.

Our certified bookkeeping experts keep accurate records so business owners have the right information to make the best, most strategic business decisions. We’d love to talk!

How to Find the Best Virtual Bookkeeping Service

In his groundbreaking book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman talks about how globalization and technological innovation have evened the world’s playing field and changed core economic concepts as well as the way we do business. 

In this new paradigm of a technologically ‘flattened’ world, more and more businesses are turning to virtual, outsourced solutions for important functions like bookkeeping. 

With tools like cloud accounting and virtual meeting software, virtual bookkeepers can provide services on par with onsite consultants and in-house staff from anywhere in the world, and usually at a lower cost.

What Is A Virtual Bookkeeping Service?

Under this model, a bookkeeper works with her or his client remotely using accounting software that allows multiple users to access an account. 

With this type of cloud account, you— and your CFO or CPA or whoever else you want to grant access — can see financial transactions posted by your bookkeeper and the numbers underlying various financial reports at any given time.  

But just as with any bookkeeping or accounting service, trust is the main thing. Without it, there’s no foundation for a solid working relationship. If you don’t trust that your bookkeeping service is ethical, experienced and competent, it should be a nonstarter.

Why Should I Consider Using a Virtual Bookkeeper?

One of the biggest benefits is that virtual services often come with a lower cost than hiring in-house staff or a pricey CPA firm. 

And the bookkeeper or service can be treated as a contractor, which provides a huge amount of flexibility since you can expand or contract services as necessary. 

With a virtual solution like this, services can often be customized to your unique circumstances, whether you need them to act as an entire accounting department or as support to existing staff members. 

And there’s an efficiency component as well. 

Meaning, you don’t have to meet with your bookkeeper face-to-face, which can save you travel and scheduling headaches. (That can be especially helpful in larger marketplaces like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago where heavy traffic is a way of life.) 

What Questions Should I Ask?

One reason some businesses shy away from leveraging a virtual service is the issue of trust, as we mentioned above. Despite a technological revolution, some businesses still hang on to the old ways, believing only an onsite bookkeeper can deliver the services they need. 

They’d be wrong. Virtual bookkeeping services are very common these days, and businesses who don’t consider using them might just be handing an advantage to their competitors. 

But not all virtual bookkeeping services are the same. So how do you go about finding the best, most experienced and trustworthy virtual bookkeeping service? 

Start by asking some basic questions that will give insight into whether a service is right for you.

What Software Do You Use?

You need to know which accounting software they use because if it’s different than the one you use currently, you may be looking at a migration that can be complicated if not done by an experienced professional. You’ll need to know that ahead of time.

Many services offer a variety of accounting software platform options, but perhaps the most popular is Intuit’s QuickBooks. It’s pretty much the 800-pound gorilla in the accounting software realm. If they use this software, ask if their bookkeepers are certified QuickBooks experts. 

Equally important is to ask questions about their software application ecosystem. Is it compatible with how you do business? Ask questions like: 

  • What file and document management system do they use? Is it in the cloud? 
  • How will they transfer documents to and from you securely? 
  • How do they use tech to keep the lines of communication open with their clients?

How Will We Communicate and When?

Because you will be working virtually, you’ll need to know how you can reach a professional, and when. 

Do they use an online conferencing system like Zoom or Skype? And what instant communication methods do they use (like Slack or Google Chat). 

Ask what their average response time is for both urgent and routine matters. For urgent matters, will they respond with an email, phone call or some other method of communication?

You need to know you have access to your bookkeeper when you need it and a virtual service should offer reasonable response times for both routine and urgent matters. 

What Services Are Included and How Do You Charge Your Clients?

Obviously, cost is an important consideration but context is helpful here too. What deliverables can you expect for what you’re paying? Do they offer customizable plans?

While you should ask about specific items your business needs, at a minimum the virtual service should offer assistance with basic functions like:

  • Payroll
  • Bank and credit card reconciliations
  • Financial and management reports
  • Sales tax reporting
  • Loan reconciliations; and
  • Bill payments

Also, beware the accounting service that tries to lock you into an annual plan. Ideally, you want a company that offers month-to-month plans so you have recourse in the event you aren’t happy with the service. 

Adding It All Up

Asking these types of questions will help provide insight into the experience, efficiency, competence, and trustworthiness of a virtual bookkeeping service. 

Once you find the right fit, this solution could be a gamechanger. Because, in a nutshell, you can work remotely with a virtual bookkeeping service, generally at a lower cost than hiring staff or a CPA firm, without compromising the communication that makes for an excellent working relationship. When you add it all up, it just makes sense. 

Steiner Business Solutions provides expert virtual bookkeeping services to small and mid-sized companies, allowing clients to stop worrying about backroom operations and helping them focus on what they do best. If you’d like to learn more about us and the services we provide, we’d love to talk

Steiner Business Solutions Voted in Top 3 for RTD The Best, Local Accounting Firm 2019

Richmond, you have voted for the fifth year in a row, and the winners are in. After tons of votes, you have selected your favorites in 100+ categories, from The Best Brunch to The Best Furniture Store to The Best Auto Repair.

The votes are in – Steiner Business Solutions was voted in the top 3 as Second Runner Up for Best Local Accounting Firm in Richmond!

 

Our staff is thrilled to be voted in the top 3 from the RTD. We share this honor with all our clients, friends, family and business partners. We love all of you! We’re keeping our foot on the gas and making a difference in the small business community. #RTDTheBest

When Is It Time To Hire A CFO?

If you’re a business owner, then you’ve likely experienced a sleepless night or two (or let’s be honest, many more). It comes with the territory, even if you’re wildly successful.

But when you’re losing sleep over unrelenting cash crunches (despite showing a profit on your P&L!), or whether to purchase a struggling competitor’s assets, or why your best selling product seems to be a drain on the bottom line, it might be time to hire a CFO. 

It’s a CFO’s job to be at the heart of your company’s financial systems, to help you understand the stories behind the numbers and provide you with key insights that are necessary to make the best, most strategic decisions. And that can go a long way towards giving you a good night’s sleep. 

There are any number of different circumstances that justify hiring a CFO depending on what’s keeping you awake at night, but let’s look at three common ways a CFO can be an invaluable resource to your company.

#1 Understanding The True Cost Of Doing Business With Customers

Not all customers are good customers, but many business owners make the mistake of accepting any and all new business that comes through the door. They think that more business always correlates to bigger profits. And that just isn’t true. 

Generally there are costs associated with onboarding new customers, and some customers can actually be a drain on profits. A CFO can help you evaluate existing models for profitability. 

If, for example, you’ve got a customer who purchases goods or services regularly, but they dispute most invoices or are frequently dissatisfied with your products and insist on returning them for a full refund, they could put a serious dent in profits.

A CFO can help you analyze your company’s profitability by customer and by product or service lines so you can identify which ones are actually helping— or hurting — your bottom line. Then you can work together to form a solid strategy for resolving these types of issues.

Similarly, a CFO can help you best structure deals with new customers at the outset so you know you’re charging a competitive price that’s also good for profit margins. 

#2 Raising Capital

Just because you’re generating a lot of revenue doesn’t mean you’re immune from cash crunches, especially if you’re investing in assets to grow the business or have a lot of long-term receivables on the Balance Sheet.

That’s when many businesses look to lines of credit or bank loans or even in some cases, taking on equity investors.

A CFO can help you understand which might be the best solution based upon how much and how quickly you need a cash infusion. And they can put together solid reporting packages so you’re more likely to get the financing you need. 

And a CFO should be well versed in standard interest rates and bank loan terms and how to structure a deal with an equity partner that protects your stake in the company and your role going forward. 

#3 Acquisitions And Strategic Alliances

If you’re considering an acquisition or strategic alliance, it’s safe to say you’re probably experiencing a dramatic shift in how you do business, and that’s precisely when a CFO can be an invaluable resource. 

Whether you’re buying an entire company or just its assets, you’ll need to understand the valuation process. And some might say valuation is more an art form than a tactical skill set, so again, a CFO can be a huge asset when you’re deciding whether to acquire or form a strategic alliance with an organization. And they can help ensure you don’t overpay.

Fractional CFO Solutions

The good news is that, particularly if you’re concerned about adding to headcount, you don’t necessarily have to hire a full-time CFO. Many consulting firms now offer CFO services on a part-time basis. 

Fractional CFOs act as part of your finance and strategy team to help you manage cash flow and growth, and can unpack things like how pricing structures and customer behaviors affect profit margins. They can provide oversight as well as strategic recommendations based on a deep knowledge of your company’s structure and finances. 

If you’re losing sleep over business-related finances, it’s a good time to consider hiring a CFO. For more information on fractional CFO solutions, click here to connect with the experienced professionals at Steiner Business Solutions.

How To Choose the Right CEO Peer Group for You

Turns out that old expression is true: it is lonely at the top. 

As just about every CEO knows, it’s easy to feel siloed in what seems like an echo chamber, even after you’ve carefully considered feedback from talented managers, customers and staff.

Because no matter how you cut it, the buck stops with you and ultimately, big decisions rest on your shoulders.

Which is why CEO peer groups are an effective way to break out of the echo chamber and get feedback and advice from peers who understand your situation— because they’ve been there themselves. 

Who Can CEO Peer Groups Help? 

In general, CEO peer groups help business owners and managing partners capitalize on opportunities, kick-start growth, and accelerate the learning curve in a structured environment designed to foster the “cross-fertilization of ideas.”

More specifically, they help:

Time-Crunched CEOs and Business Owners

Business owners and CEOs often say they’re so consumed with day to day challenges they don’t feel they’re spending enough time focusing on long term strategy.

Peer groups give you the opportunity to use uninterrupted, focused time to brianstorm strategies that have the potential to increase revenue and solve big problems.

Seeking New Perspectives on Challenges and Opportunities

CEO peer groups can help you see new perspectives on a problem with the goal of finding alternative solutions. And often, frank feedback from other members not beholden to them can help adjust their own perspectives and managerial and organizational approaches.  

Seeking Support and Advice from Other CEOs and Owners

The support and advice of peers is invaluable for CEOs who are rethinking their role and vision for the company. Because these peer groups meet regularly, members get advice consistently from peers who are familiar with their stories and the challenges unique to their circumstances. And there’s value and peace of mind in knowing a variety of solutions have been considered from several perspectives before making a big decision. 

What Does A CEO Peer Group Do?

CEO peer groups generally meet monthly and provide a kind of corporate think tank where qualified, like-minded individuals discuss and provide opinions on issues from a variety of perspectives and industries. Members are encouraged to hold their peers accountable and to sharpen their own skill sets and techniques against those of their fellow members. 

Because peer groups provide an arena for sharing a wide variety of perspectives, members often find they become more creative problem solvers as they hear about and process solutions for other CEOs and owners, who are running companies in industries very different from their own.

Peer groups also strengthen networks and increase social capital that’s so crucial and valuable to CEOs.

Many members view the peer group as their very own, exclusive Board of Advisors who are genuinely invested in their company’s growth and success.

What’s The Process For Choosing A CEO Peer Group?

Seek Like-Minded Individuals

Look for peer groups that focus on growth and that only attract CEOs committed to excellence in their companies. 

Reasonable Requirements

Some peer groups ask that members meet certain revenue requirements to qualify for membership. (And membership fees are usually steep for these groups.) However, don’t let that discourage you if you don’t meet the prerequisite. There are many excellent CEO peer groups with reasonable fees that don’t have revenue requirements. Many only require that members be a decision making authority and have the ability to implement change in the organization. 

Discretion

Beware the peer group that does not require you to sign an NDA (non disclosure agreement). To have candid, frank discussions, group members must have assurance that their conversations will be kept private. 

Member Limits

It’s a good idea to ask if there is a maximum limit for members of a particular group. In general, groups that allow more than ten members can mean you won’t get sufficient time to focus on your specific issues and challenges. Even better if the group limits the number of members in a particular industry. 

Accountability

Finally, be sure you’re prepared to join a group that emphasizes accountability. Unless you’re truly committed to action and change, you’re probably wasting your— and everyone else’s — time. 

The right CEO peer group can provide a huge return on investment. If you’re looking for the kind of peer-driven feedback, support and advice that can kick-start revenue, foster creative problem solving and generate more opportunities, we should talk!

5 Questions You Should Ask Your Accountant

small-business-accounting

Most people make an annual appointment with their accountant on or before April 15th each year, and then don’t see them again until next tax season. Others never even bother engaging an accountant, preferring to use cheap or free accounting tools to save a few extra bucks in the short term. 

But the reality is, an accountant can and should provide you with so much more than a completed tax return. A good accountant can help you make informed business tax planning decisions as well as advise against decisions that could be detrimental (and maybe even irreversible).  

To determine how your accountant can best serve you, begin by asking a few questions. To help you get started, we’ve put together a short list of questions everyone should ask their accountant.

#1 Do You Offer Tax Planning Services?

Financial decisions made today can mean the difference between significant savings and a huge tax bill in April, so it’s important to know whether your accountant can advise you on these types of decisions.

Using an accountant to plan ahead can often help reduce your tax liability. He/she will be current on all the latest tax laws governing everything from asset purchases to expense rules so you can take advantage of every deduction available.

These are decisions that can ultimately affect your individual, family and organization’s finances, so it’s well worth asking if your accountant can provide you with guidance along the way.

#2 Do You Offer Business Consulting Services?

Some accountants or firms offer this type of service which often includes things like risk analysis, cash flow forecasting and strategic planning. And these can be a small business owner’s best friend. 

If just starting out, an accountant may be able to advise you on the different types of entities, whether a sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership or LLC, and which would most benefit you and your organization.

Accountants well versed in this type of service can help small business owners understand how and when to expand, whether to add employees or use contractors, and how to position themselves in the marketplace.

Even better if the accountant or firm has developed a strong network of relationships with partners who can help (like insurance and investment professionals), and has experience in multiple industries so they’re better able to advise you on challenges and issues specific to your business.

#3 What’s The Best Way to Contact You, And How Frequently Should We Touch Base?

Communication Is Key

This may seem like an obvious question, but the fact is, the advice you get is only as good as the information you give your accountant. And that means keeping the lines of communication open and consistent because, as we all know, situations can pop up throughout the year and circumstances arise that can significantly affect your financial and tax position.

Frequency

After reviewing your financial situation, ask your accountant how often they recommend you meet. For some business owners, a quarterly pow-wow is sufficient while others may need to touch base with their accountant monthly or even weekly. Technology like Google Hangouts, Skype and Facetime offers a convenient option when meeting in person isn’t possible, so ask your accountant whether they use them.

Finally, confirm how quickly you can expect to receive a return call or email. Some accountants are able to respond more quickly to an email than a phone call, and visa versa.

#4 Does Your Firm Offer Bookkeeping Services?

Some accountants offer bookkeeping solutions in addition to tax preparation services. This is helpful to know for a couple of reasons: 

Investing in Bookkeeping Services Now Can Mean Big Savings Later

If business or personal financial transactions reach a certain level of complexity, it’s a good idea to consider using a skilled professional to mind the books. Why? Because hiring a bookkeeper up front is much easier— and far less expensive — than untangling a mess created by someone who isn’t familiar with accounting and hasn’t kept up with the most current software. Even better if the practice offers month-to-month bookkeeping contracts rather than forcing you to commit to an annual contract. 

Who Provides The Bookkeeping Services?

If your accountant offers this service, be sure to ask who will be doing the bookkeeping. If a CPA or tax preparer says they’ll do all the bookkeeping as well as the taxes, you could get hit with a huge bill at the end since a tax specialist typically charges a much higher fee than a bookkeeper. 

Bookkeepers should work closely and in conjunction with tax specialists, and using a firm that offers both can streamline the process, which often makes for a far more cost effective solution.

#5 Do You Offer Accounting Software Training Solutions?

If you’ve already got the capacity to handle your own bookkeeping yourself or in house, ask if the accountant offers software training. (Hint: Intuit is the hundred pound gorilla in the marketplace, so it could be hugely beneficial if they offer Quickbooks training.)

Even if you’ve got lots of experience using accounting software, it’s a good idea to keep abreast of the latest releases and features which can mean better security and increased efficiency.

If training is offered, be sure to ask whether the instructor is certified and can provide training on all versions of a particular software.

Connecting The Dots

From tax planning to business consulting to bookkeeping and training services, asking the right questions can help you understand which accountant is best able to meet your needs. 

Steiner Business Solutions is an outstanding resource for all of these services and more, right here in Richmond, VA. Connect with us today to find out how we can help you connect all the dots, from planning to execution. 

QuickBooks 101: How to Make Accounting Software Work for You

quickbooks_accounting

If you own or work for a small business, chances are high that you’re using QuickBooks software. And with good reason. Intuit’s line of accounting products are user friendly, cost-effective and they allow small business owners to leverage countless features that deliver greater efficiency and powerful insights.

But what many business owners don’t realize is that they’re probably not maximizing QuickBooks’ capabilities. This is most likely because they’re not aware of all the features available or what it takes to use those features and functions most effectively.

The good news is that with the right training, business owners can take full advantage of this powerful, industry-leading accounting software. And even better news is that there are excellent local options to get you connected with the best QuickBooks training resources in Richmond, VA.

But let’s start by taking a look at some of its most popular features and functions, and how, with the right training, you can make QuickBooks work for you.

Controlling Cash Flow

A huge number of small business owners report regularly losing sleep over cash flow concerns. That’s where QuickBooks can be a life (and sleep) saver.

When properly configured and regularly updated, QuickBooks can provide business owners with up to the minute stats on metrics like sales, payables liabilities and bank balances, taking the guesswork out of earmarking sufficient funds to cover things like payroll or loan payments.

QuickBooks also offers a budgeting feature which allows users to input data (and even copy prior year budgets) to create reports displaying budget versus actual numbers once a period has been closed out.

Customer Invoicing and Receivables

QuickBooks has a powerful accounts receivables function. When configured and used to its full potential, it can help close the gap between when a customer is invoiced and when payment is received on that invoice. This ensures there’s cash available for financing and other vital activities.

Business owners can use QuickBooks to email invoices directly to customers from within the software— gone are the days of snail mail, paper invoices and window envelopes. Users can see exactly when it was sent and even whether a customer has viewed the invoice or not.

With QuickBooks, businesses also have the ability to accept online payments thanks to embedded links that make it easier than ever for customers to pay your bills.

The QuickBooks receivables function even has some light CRM capabilities so you can stay on top of customer relationships and can personalize communications when sending or following up on invoices.

Maximizing Accounts Payable Features

QuickBooks makes cash planning easy, allowing users to input purchase orders, bills, and payments. You’ll know exactly what’s due when and how each payment will affect cash flow.

Users can input vendor bills at the time of receipt, then use the reporting or ‘pay bills’ function to identify which checks should be cut during a particular check run with eyes on how that run will affect account balances. Owners can keep vendors happy with timely payments, while ensuring cash flow stays positive.

If a vendor contacts the payables department to follow up on an invoice, users can pull up a complete history on that vendor including payments made on a specific invoice with the click of a button.

QuickBooks also allows users to attach supporting documentation, creating a robust audit trail and providing other users with complete history and information for a given transaction.

Another huge value to using QuickBooks’ payables function is its vendor management system, which among other things allows users to flag independent contractors, so all qualifying payments are captured when it comes time to prepare and issue annual 1099-MISC forms. This feature also allows users to filter for payment totals that meet IRS reporting thresholds.

Leverage the Power of Automation

QuickBooks allows you to directly connect bank, loan and credit card accounts to the software so transactions are downloaded in real time, and held in suspense until a user codes them to the proper account. Users no longer have to enter all transactions manually which eats up valuable time and resources and increases the likelihood of keying errors.

Within the account connect feature, QuickBooks can be configured to recognize vendors and customers and automatically assign the appropriate coding, creating even greater efficiency.

When downloading vendor payment transactions, QuickBooks will suggest outstanding bills which the user can then match to the appropriate payment, so payables that should be closed aren’t accidentally aged and overstated in the system.

QuickBooks can be configured to pull up historical data when users are entering transactions, saving them the time and hassle of having to look up codes or key in descriptions for repeat transactions.

Users can configure journal entries to book automatically according to a set schedule, again saving time and mitigating user error.

These are only a scant few of the near infinite ways QuickBooks can be configured to automate transactions and accounting functions, saving time, reducing user error and increasing productivity.

Making QuickBooks Work for You

Without a doubt, QuickBooks is a user friendly workhorse. But like so many other potent business software packages, QuickBooks requires a level of training and expertise to make it sing— training and expertise most business owners don’t have when they start using it.

So to fully maximize the benefits of running QuickBooks, many businesses are investing in online or in-person training for themselves and their staff.

And that’s why, for the best QuickBooks training resource in Richmond, VA, more and more business owners are turning to Steiner Business Solutions for help. Our certified instructors are experts in all versions of QuickBooks, so we are prepared to teach all the functions and features that can positively impact your business.

We invite you to connect with us today to set up a free consultation!