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Boost Your Accounting Know-How with These Terms
The field of accounting has its own vocabulary, which can sound like a foreign language to some people. Your financial savvy will increase by learning a few new accounting terms. You’ll be “speaking accounting-ese” in no time, and you’ll become a smarter entrepreneur too.
A trial balance is an accounting report that simply lists the current balances of your accounts in your chart of accounts as of a certain date. It can also be called working trial balance. Another way to look at the trial balance is it’s a very informal version of a balance sheet.
Entity is a generic term for a company or organization. There are many types of entities: nonprofit, corporation, partnership, and sole proprietor.
Going concern is an accounting principle. An entity is a going concern if it’s expected to continue operations in the near future.
A double entry bookkeeping system means that when a transaction occurs, two accounts are impacted. For example, when an invoice is generated, entries are made to both the sales account and the accounts receivable account. It was invented in the 1400s and is widely used in modern accounting today.
Retained earnings is an account in the equity section of the balance sheet. It’s the amount of earnings that is reinvested in the company after dividends are paid out. It’s computed by taking the retained earnings beginning balance, adding income or subtracting loss for the period, and subtracting any dividends paid.
A business transaction has many stages. It starts with an idea, may progress to a promise, then it actually happens. Accountants need to figure out when it becomes “real,” when to record it on the books. This is the concept of realization. A transaction is realized and put on the books when there is a contract, a legal obligation, an exchange of products or services, or an exchange of cash. There are many complicated principles and rules to help accountants determine this timing.
The cost principle is a foundational accounting principle. It means that when a transaction is booked, it is booked at cost and not market or current value. So even though an asset may have gained in value after you bought it, your books will still reflect the cost of the item, not the current value.
A client portal is a software application where client files can be stored and retrieved securely. Both the accountant and the client have access to the portal.
An engagement letter is the contract that defines the relationship between the client and the accountant. It is typically signed before the work starts and can be renewed once a year. It can also be changed if the scope of the work changes.
The matching principle is another basic accounting principle. It says that for any particular transaction, all aspects should be booked in the same accounting period. For example, let’s say you incurred expenses on an order in November. The order wasn’t delivered or invoiced until December. To meet the matching principle, the expenses should be deferred until December when they can be matched with the revenue that relates to the expenses.
An adjusting journal entry is made when account balances need to be corrected. An example is depreciation expense, which is typically booked with an adjusting entry. Accountants will make several adjusting entries like this at year-end.
A reversing entry is a form of adjusting entry that is made in the period following an adjusting entry. It reverses the adjusting entry. One example of this is a cash basis taxpayer that is tracking accounts receivable. The accounts receivable balance is adjusted to zero prior to year-end and reversed on January 1.
How many terms did you already know? Now you can talk with your accountant about these concepts.
Five Fun Customer Perks to Set You Apart in the Marketplace
It’s always fun to surprise and delight your customers. This puts a smile on your client’s face, boosts loyalty, and is fun for your employees too. Here are five ways to surprise and delight your customers with inexpensive perks.
- Handwritten thank you note
Email and social media have all but killed the handwritten thank you note. So when you send yours to your top customers, it will really stand out.
- Promotional items
Promotional items are frequently handed out at trade shows, but they can be used in other settings too. These are items where your logo is typically imprinted and you purchase them in quantity. Items that are useful and popular include coffee mugs, t-shirts, fidget spinners, screen cleaners, webcam covers, keychains, note pads, calendars, and more.
Choose an item that is similar to or a reminder of your business or product. An IT consultant might choose a screen cleaner, while an accountant might choose a piggy bank.
- Coupon bag.
If your business is located in a strip center, shopping mall, or office building with other businesses around, go door to door and ask for coupons that you can put in a coupon bag to give to clients. Clients will be delighted to get a coupon for the dry cleaners, florist, and hair salon in your center no matter what type of business you’re in.
- Random prize.
If your business has a stream of clients coming in a physical store or a virtual one, you can award prizes randomly to customers. If customers are grouped together as in a classroom or lecture hall, it’s easy – you can hold a drawing for a prize. Or you can select a random number and the customer assigned that number wins a prize.
Choose a prize from one of your services or products, or give something away that’s universal and “hot,” such as an Amazon Echo Dot.
- Free samples.
The cosmetics industry has been giving away free samples and gifts with certain purchases for decades. Grocery stores often have free samples of food at a little booth staffed by a host at the end of an aisle. You might be able to apply this idea to your business with a little bit of creativity.
Think of how you can “sample” your service or product and package it up in a free gift or sample. If you offer a service, you may have to get extra creative. A consultant can offer a book that’s related to the service offered, a spa can have healthy treats while clients wait, and a divorce attorney can offer stress balls or fidget spinners.
With customer service declining in many businesses, try these five things to wow your customers and set your business apart.
How to Evaluate Your Marketing Spend
One of the most important success factors of small businesses is the ability to generate revenue, and to do that, most businesses need to market their services and products to bring in new customers and sales. The challenge for small business is how to make their marketing dollars work the hardest, and this requires careful tracking and measurement. Here’s one way to get started tracking your marketing spending so that you can find out what’s paying back the most.
List your sources of revenue
First, determine where your sales are coming from by making a list of all the ways you are currently attracting customers. Here are a few:
- Website via search
- Social media
- Google ads
- Referrals from existing customers
- Ad in local magazine
- Article on Huffington Post
- Board membership on local nonprofit
- Chamber of Commerce membership and participation
Track your expenses by source or method
Once you have your list, it’s time to look to your accounting system. Create accounts or other types of tracking codes in your system to track expenses for each of these marketing methods. If you need our help, please feel free to reach out.
The goal of this step is to be able to get all costs associated with each of these marketing methods so that you have a total cost over time by method. Don’t forget labor: if an employee spends three hours a week updating your social media accounts, this should be included in your costs.
Determine the source of your sales
To the extent you can, match the sales that come in with the marketing source or method. In other words, if a customer knows you from the Chamber and spends $500 with you, match the $500 revenue with the Chamber marketing source. Do this for every sale you can. If you don’t know or can’t attribute the sale to any one method, then code it to an Unknown tracking code or account.
This step can be difficult, depending on your business type, especially if your customers are anonymous, as in retail or restaurant sales. However, every business can do better by asking “how did you find out about us?” to each new client that comes in and recording that answer.
For online sales, you can use tracking apps such as Google Analytics to help you measure digital marketing methods.
Do the best you can on this step, and implement procedures to capture this information as accurately as possible for future sales.
Analyze and adjust
This is the fun part. Once you’ve done all the hard work, you should be able to match sales to costs and determine the volume of sales that are coming in for each marketing method. Let’s say you found out that you are getting no sales from your nonprofit board membership, the Huffington Post article, and social media. You now have some decisions to make.
If you are doing these things solely for the purpose of marketing, you could cut them out and focus on the remaining methods. It could also mean that you need to redo your social media strategy; it’s not working now, but another strategy might. Or just one article in HuffPost is not enough, but three articles could start paying off.
At any rate, you have far more information than you did before you started, and now you can make smarter decisions about your marketing. If we can help you code and crunch all of these numbers, please reach out any time.
Making Deadlines Can Save You Big Bucks in Your Business
There are a lot of deadlines that come with running a business. Missing some deadlines can have serious financial implications to the health of your business. Let’s take a look at how much you’ll save by being on time with the following deadlines.
One of the toughest deadlines of all, making payroll, is essential to keeping employees happy. Making payroll tax deposits on time is even more crucial. You’ll save the following in penalties by staying on time with payroll deadlines:
- If you’re 1-5 days late with payroll tax deposits, the penalty is two percent of the payroll.
- If you’re 6-15 days late, you’ll pay five percent in penalties.
- If you’re more than 15 days late, the penalty goes up to 10 percent.
And that’s just the federal penalties, not your state penalties.
Everyone knows about the April 15th deadline to file your taxes. Some people file an extension and have until October 15th. However, we need to remember that the best estimate of your tax liability needs to be paid by April 15th even if an extension is granted. Failure to correctly estimate and pay income taxes leads to a penalty that is calculated by multiplying the number of days the tax is late by the effective interest rate.
If we’re slow to make our accounts payable payments, our vendors may tack on a penalty, but the larger consequence is the effect on our credit score.
It’s so easy to let internal deadlines slide, but they may be the most important of them all. To move your business forward, set goals with deadlines so that you can measure your results.
Here are a couple of tips to master your deadlines so you can avoid the above consequences:
- Keep a list of deadlines, or hire someone to help you with them.
- Make a mental commitment to yourself that the deadline is important to your business.
- Set aside the time you need to prepare for the deadline. Block time on your calendar and stick to it.
- Remind yourself of the consequences of missing the deadline.
- Try not to overcommit. Delegate other tasks when possible.
- If possible, automate or systematize the processes around the deadline so that it’s met automatically.
- Stay up late if you have to in order to meet your deadline.
- Celebrate when you meet your deadline!
Do you want a happier workforce?
Attracting and retaining talent in your small business can be a giant step toward growing into a mid-sized business. Beyond attracting new employees with salary and benefits, here are several perks, policies, and benefits to consider when recruiting employees to your workforce.
- Flex work hours.
Everyone likes regaining control over their workday, and offering flex hours can be one of the lowest cost policies to implement. Flex hours support work-life balance and are especially important for employees who have school-age children who can plan work around their children’s day.
- Wellness initiatives.
Large companies are able to offer a wellness program, but small companies can take small steps to reach the same result. Find a local gym to partner with for a membership discount. Bring in the occasional yoga teacher. Or hire a nutritionist to speak once a quarter to your employees. All of these small initiatives demonstrate to your employees that you honor a culture of wellness.
- Maternity and adoptive leave.
Do you have a policy about time off for new parents? And more importantly, you’ll need a process to re-integrate the employees into the business when they return.
- Child care support.
Even if you can’t afford to provide onsite child care, you might be able to partner with a local child care facility to provide reduced or subsidized rates.
- Gender hiring goals and metrics.
Do you have a balance of men and women in your workplace? If not, do you have goals in place to adjust the ratios when possible? If you have a disproportionate number of one gender making all of the hiring decisions, you may want to consider the effects of implicit bias on your hiring processes.
One way to speed the growth of employees is to provide mentoring. All employees will benefit from strong role models.
- Opportunities for promotion.
Both men and women will perform better when there is a clear path to promotion as well as leaders in current positions who demonstrate leadership.
- Dress for your day.
One of employees’ favorite perks is to be able to dress casually when no customer meetings are scheduled.
- Paid time off.
Paid time off, which used to be called sick pay, is a favorite. But now, with most employers, you don’t necessarily have to be sick or explain your reason for wanting to take a personal day from work.
- Company events.
Many companies create events for employees and sometimes customers to enjoy and mingle. This can include the company Christmas party, lunches, and happy hours. It can also include sports events such as golfing and attending baseball games.
These benefits are a great start to attracting top talent, boosting employee morale, and maintaining a happier workforce in your business.
Three Super-Easy Ways to Boost Your Revenue for 2018
Every business has a gold mine in its current customer base. But not all business owners remember to mine this gold because they are too busy trying to attract new customers or developing new products or services. This is the perfect time of year to step back and remember the three easiest ways to grow your business revenue using your existing customer base.
- Upsell current clients.
Offer steady customers a product or service with more features than they usually purchase. Examples include moving a client from coach to first class, from a budget vacation to a luxury one, from a standard model car to a luxury version, from an off-the-rack suit to a designer suit, from the standard service to an all-you-can-eat version, and from a regular meal to a super-sized one.
Some customers simply need to be given permission to splurge on themselves, so why not by you? Others have outgrown the standard package but find it hard to break routine. With a gentle nudge from you, a percentage of your clients will purchase the upgrade, therefore boosting your sales with little effort on your part.
- Cross-sell current customers.
Restaurants practice this the most, asking us if we want appetizers, dessert, or fries with our entrée, and you can apply this to your business too. If you offer two services and a client is only participating in one service, make sure they know about the other service you offer, and find out if they have a need for it.
This is called cross-selling, where you offer a current customer a service or product that they don’t already purchase from you. For example, an attorney that does trademark work for clients might also let clients know that they do wills, too. A pool builder who also offers maintenance service will want to follow up with the new pool owner once the pool is built. A real estate agent who also manages properties will want to let rental property investors know about this service.
- Raise prices on current customers.
If your costs have gone up but your prices have remained the same, you’ve accidentally given yourself a pay cut. No one wants that, so raising prices is an option that will restore your profit margin to the way it was before costs went up.
If it’s been a while since you’ve raised prices, it might be time to make an adjustment. Review your price list for your services and products and determine what you need to do to bring the numbers back in balance. Let us know if we can help with some profit margin or breakeven calculations to help you make this decision.
Raising prices requires careful consideration and timing. Customers do expect periodic price adjustments, so don’t let procrastination or fear hold you back from making a good solid business decision here.
All three of these strategies will help to raise your average revenue per customer and boost your overall revenue without a lot of additional work on your part. Try these strategies so you can enjoy a more prosperous 2018.
Five Tips to Make Tax Time Painless
Tax time is probably not your favorite time of year, especially if you have to pay the government your hard-earned dollars. Here are five tips on how we can make it just a bit less painful.
- Have patience.
Practicing patience will go a long way when you’re dealing with taxes. Keep in mind that for tax professionals, the months of January through April are as crowded and hectic as a shopping mall in December. Parking is scarce, the sales clerks are doing the best they can, and customers are all trying to shop for presents, party items, and decorations in a very compressed time period.
Be patient with yourself as well. You have the skills to manage your business and do well at your career, but it may not be at organizing paperwork or dealing with numbers. That’s where we can help.
- The tax stack.
Set aside a permanent place on your desk to be the tax stack. When you receive something in the mail that is tax-related, place it in the tax stack. You’ll save valuable time later not having to look for documents you need.
Similarly, create a folder on your computer for tax items. Under Documents, create a folder called Taxes. Within that folder, create a folder for the tax year, such as 2017 for the year just ended. Move all of your tax-related computer documents into that file.
At your leisure, scan in a picture of the paper documents in the tax stack and place the digital file in the Tax folder. Now you’ll have everything in one place and you’ll be so organized that your tax accountant will be surprised!
- Catch up.
If your books or records are behind for 2017, get them caught up now to beat the rush. If you wait until the first week of April, you’ll need to file an extension. Keep in mind that an extension only grants a paperwork extension; it doesn’t delay any tax payments that are due. If you wait too late, you’ll have the stress of waiting until the last minute, the stress of paying estimated taxes, and the stress of waiting until your return is finally filed.
- Early bird.
Connect with us or your tax professional early to agree on what services will be offered and to get your documents turned in as soon as you receive them. Getting your things in early will mean less waiting time for preparation and filing. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to say that you’re done with your taxes in February? Your stress will be less, and your energy can be redirected to new projects.
- Avoid a large tax payment.
The worst thing about tax time might just be writing a big check, possibly with penalties, to the government in April. Instead, plan ahead and spread out your payments for next year by adjusting your payroll withholding or making quarterly estimated tax payments. Spreading your tax payment throughout the year will have you writing a smaller check, if any, in April.
Try these five tips for tax time, and you’ll have more energy for other, more important things in your business.
Happy new year! January is the month of new beginnings and a perfect time to strategize about projects that will boost your business prosperity. Here are five ideas to get you thinking about new beginnings for your business in 2018.
- Learn new technology.
Every year, tens of thousands of new online software applications are invented that will save us time and money. Learning at least one new app will keep us sharp and hopefully improve our business. There are many to choose from, and one way to narrow it down is to find one that will help you do your job better.
Look for an app that supports your administrative work, such as a new phone system, video conferencing, scheduling, cloud storage, shipping, document management, or data entry automation. Or you might have a need for apps in marketing and sales, such as social media, customer relationship managers, email list management, or web applications. If you’re not sure where to look, ask your friends what has saved them the most time.
- Upgrade your accounting system.
If your accounting system is not updated to the current version, it may be time to perform the upgrade. Check with us for advice on the current version and any new features that you can benefit from.
- Develop your 2018 prosperity plan.
The word “budget” has somewhat of a negative connotation, but a prosperity plan sounds like fun. They are the same, of course, and the idea is to determine what goals you want to reach so that you have a clear path to making your desired prosperity a reality.
- Create a theme or mantra.
Want to stay more focused in 2018? A theme or mantra can remind you to stay on track with a particular project or goal. Brainstorm a phrase that will guide you in 2018. Here are some examples:
- Customer service excellence
- More me-time
- Enthusiastic, engaged employees
- Expanding digital presence
- Going green
- A prosperous new product line
- Delegate something that isn’t getting done.
One way to feel amazingly rejuvenated and re-energized about your business is to give someone an item that’s been on your to-do list for far too long. It magically gets done right before your eyes!
We’re wishing you a most prosperous and happy new year
Mission statements are not just for large corporations. As an owner of a small business, you can benefit from going through the exercise of writing your mission statement. It can not only re-connect you with your “why,” it can also communicate an important part of your business to all of your stakeholders.
What Is a Mission Statement?
A mission statement answers the question “What impact will you have on the world?” It’s your core purpose, your reason for being.
Here are a couple of mission statement examples from large companies you’ve probably heard of:
Harley-Davidson: We fulfill dreams through the experience of motorcycling, by providing to motorcyclists and to the general public an expanding line of motorcycles and branded products and services in selected market segments.
Darden Restaurants: To nourish and delight everyone we serve.
FedEx will produce superior financial returns for shareowners by providing high value-added supply chain, transportation, business and related information services through focused operating companies. Customer requirements will be met in the highest quality manner appropriate to each market segment served. FedEx will strive to develop mutually rewarding relationships with its employees, partners and suppliers. Safety will be the first consideration in all operations. Corporate activities will be conducted to the highest ethical and professional standards.
Ford: We are a global family with a proud heritage passionately committed to providing personal mobility for people around the world.
Levi-Strauss: People love our clothes and trust our company. We will market the most appealing and widely worn casual clothing in the world. We will clothe the world.
At Microsoft, we work to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential. This is our mission. Everything we do reflects this mission and the values that make it possible.
NIKE: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. Using our portfolio of brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world.
A mission statement differs from a vision statement because a vision statement communicates what the company wants to be.
Ask yourself what your business’s core purpose is. What is the impact you want to have on the world? Once you know, you’ll be able to write your own mission statement.
Sharing Your Mission Statement
There are many ways you can share you mission statement.
- Make sure your employees know it.
- Display it in the About section of your website.
- Add it to your marketing material where appropriate.
- Use it when recruiting for new employees.
- If it’s short, use it on promotional items such as mugs and t-shirts.
- Frame it and hang it in your office.
- Mention it in speeches you give.
A mission statement is something to be proud of and something that should make people smile. Yours should motivate and energize you. Once you’ve written yours or if you already have one, be sure to share it with us.
Year-end is just around the corner, and that means a couple of administrative tasks are necessary to take care of bookkeeping and tax chores. Here are a couple of tips to make year-end go smoother.
Things will go a lot smoother if you reach out to your vendors and employees and get their help to update your records.
- Send a notice to all employees, asking them to verify their address so they will get their W-2s without delay.
- Make sure you have the right information for vendors that you need to produce a 1099 for. Before you pay your vendors more than $600 in one year, ask them for a W-9 so that you have a current address and taxpayer ID number on file.
- Check to make sure you have any sales tax exemption certificates from vendors that you are not charging sales tax to.
It’s also time to clean up any account balances that need to be reclassified or corrected.
- Any clearing accounts, such as undeposited funds, should be zero.
- Bank reconciliations should be caught up and book balances should match the bank or be explained.
- Inventory should be adjusted to reflect accurate quantities.
- Loan balances should be adjusted to correctly reflect interest and principal allocations.
- Depreciation entries should be made.
Here are a just a few ways to maximize deductions:
- Any bad debts that aren’t expected to be collected can be written off.
- Any inventory that is not sellable or worth less than you paid for it can be adjusted on your books.
- For cash basis taxpayers, pay any large bills before year-end if you have excess profits.
- Pay employee bonuses prior to year-end.
Create a place in your home or office or a special file on your computer to store tax-related documents, such as W-2s, brokerage statements, and tax returns. Convert them to PDF format if they are not already, and upload them to our secure client portal as you get them.
With all this great preparation, you’ll find tax season easier than ever and a chore that you can mark off your to-do list early.