Follow-Up Friday: The Most Wonderful Tools for Managing Action Items

You need to have all the pieces in your workflow to follow-through completely. Here’s how to do it by reducing bottlenecks in your business.

The success of your company hinges upon doing the right things in the most productive way. It requires knowing what resources are available and how to effectively use them. This is going to force you to assess your business routine and pinpoint the steps that are involved.

Create a Paperwork Flow With Multiple Access Points 

Now we all have to process paperwork for one reason or another. The goal is to spend the least amount of time doing it. Saving time is a factor of productivity that you can improve by making documents simple to access and find. Not every document that crosses your desk is going to be important but many of them are. Examples include banking, credit card, insurance, loans, and legal information. Online storage resources like Dropbox makes it extremely convenient to access files while at your desk and when you are on the road. Another time saving resource is Myfax.com which frees you up to send and receive faxes by email and on your cellphone.

Stock Up on Supplies

Nothing says, “stop the presses” like running out of supplies. Stay productive by being prepared with what you need on hand. For example, keeping an adequate supply of checks, stamps, and envelopes can help you stay on top of managing finances. Be sure to check your stock on a regular basis. Know how much time you need to allow for re-orders so that you are always well stocked with supplies.  Rather than making the trip in person consider saving time and money by ordering online and by phone.

Simplify Contact Management

Stay in touch with contacts by keeping your list up-to-date. A simple way to do this is by adding contact information in one place and syncing to a shared platform. Services such as Plaxo, for example allows you to duplicate contact information between on and offline software so that you can access contacts on your computers, tablets, and cell phones. Check out Plaxo’s video below.

Backup to Reduce Loss and Downtime

Now after doing the prep work and completing the tasks the final step is to have a way to protect and store your files. Believe me as someone who has seen hard drive failure on more occasions than I care to count, I realize how important this is to keeping your business running. One of my favorite tools is Carbonite  because it automates the process. Simply set the location for backup along with the date and voila! Like magic, it does the work for you.

So as you go through your action items today consider how to be more productive and efficient.

Remember that a little planning now saves a lot of time later.

I’d love to hear what tools make your workflow smoother. Share your tips with other readers by leaving a comment below.

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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Tax Advice for Late Filers

taxesOctober 15th wraps up another successful tax season!

What? You thought the last day to file was in April? Well, there are many people who are just getting their taxes in and for various reasons they needed to have more time. So in honor of the Tax Filing Extension, here are six tips to help late filers get ahead and beat next year’s deadline.

1. Schedule a ton of reminders.

Running a business is a big responsibility that can make you strapped for time. Before you know it a year has passed and another due date has come and gone. To never miss a tax deadline again try setting up alerts. Ones like this free email reminder prompts you for upcoming dates. Another tip is to write it in bold letters on your calendar so that the date stands out. Not good with calendars? Set up a monthly alarm on your cell phone until you have the taxes complete. 

2. Organize your financial files.

Make sure that all source documents are there. You should keep hard copies of customer invoices, bills, and payment receipts (click here to learn how many years to keep paperwork). After the hard-copy files are in order, put your bookkeeping on auto. If you have been putting off doing this yourself consider hiring someone else to do the job.   

3. Have an accountant review your work.

This is especially relevant if you have little to no bookkeeping background and manage the books yourself. This will ensure that transactions are in the right place and that you get every deduction that you are legally entitled to take.

4. Forecast the taxes that you expect to owe.

Depending on the complexity of your business, you may be able to estimate the tax amounts on your own. If you are not comfortable with do-it-yourself forecasting, ask someone who is good with numbers and tax rules to help you out. This benefits you by reducing the anxiety of not knowing if you will owe a hefty amount.

5. Set aside savings.

When you estimate how much you owe it prepares you to build up a cash reserve. This is money specifically for paying estimated taxes each quarter and any remaining taxes that are due. Be smart and keep tax funds separate from other accounts so that you are not left scrambling to make the payment.

6. Review your tax return from the previous year.

Look for savings that you missed. Since tax rules frequently change, be sure to keep up to date by reading and listening to the news to find out what deductions and credits are available. If you are not sure what applies to you prepare questions for your tax adviser before the year is out.

So remember when you track what you do on a regular basis, analyze your results, create a line item for taxes in your budget, and set savings aside to pay them, you can go confidently into the new year and file your taxes on time!

Entrepreneurs Ask : How To Spend Less Time On Invoicing

timesaverecordkeepingQ: I am a licensed builder who has been in business over fifteen years. What is the easiest way to make the switch from pen and paper invoices to computerized books? I find it easier to do estimates by hand and simply write customers a receipt but it makes financial reporting and tax time a mess. Not to mention that it drives my partner nuts.

A: First of all, kudos to you for considering change. I know how much courage it takes to try something different especially after running a business the same way for years. The good news is going from paper-based to computerized accounting is much less intimidating as it seems. You just need to know what options works best for you. Not every program is going to be the right fit so here are some tips to consider before buying:

  • Meet with the people on your team to review the financial activities that you do on a daily basis. Use this input to create a checklist of the features that you need.  The goal is to streamline the process. Look for software that lets you automate as much of the routine as possible so that it saves you time. Compare your checklist to the features each program offers as you consider choices.
  • Do a test run to see how the program works before investing money and time. Many software providers offer trial periods to first-time users that allows you to either download a past version or sign-up for the current one with limited functionality online.
  • Consider asking for expert assistance. An accountant, for example, may be able to assist in your selection and helping with set-up, training and support.

Let me know when you make the switch and how everything goes with the accounting program!

Have You Ever Began a Resolution Long After New Years Day?

winnersYou may have had your share of great starts and fizzled finishes as life got in the way but there is inspiration all around you. Whenever I fall short of a goal I remember that, “Winners never quit and quitters never win” because it puts situations into the right perspective. Here’s how it helps in managing your business.

Lazy hands bring poverty, but hard-working hands bring wealth.

Let’s say that you are behind in your bookkeeping and the year is almost over. Weekly calendar reminders and accounting updates flow through your Facebook stream but slothfulness holds you back. You are not alone. I polled a group of entrepreneurs who had reworked their schedules to include dedicated bookkeeping days. The results showed that even after eliminating the “I don’t have time for bookkeeping” factor, they still failed to get it done. Be sure to follow a routine so that you spot key insights and potential opportunities that only up-to-date accounting can brings.

Tide and time wait for no man.

When you do not control time it will control you. Each of us has different levels of discipline when managing business finance. Success starts by taking the first step. If you are resolving to getting the records in order, try this at your next bookkeeping session:

  • Remove distractions that compete for your attention.
  • Turn off social media, email, and take only emergency calls.
  • Come prepared with everything you need including client invoices, vendor bills, check registers, and bank statements. This will help you minimize workflow interruptions.
  • Finally, commit to a set time — maybe fifteen minutes or so and build up from there.

If you don’t get it all done in one sitting, no worries.  Just keep plugging away item by item and the next thing you know you will be all caught up. Remember, even as obstacles to staying on top of finances arise, there are far more reasons to keep trying than there are to throw in the towel.

Smile at your future!

Three Reasons to Keep Up-to-Date Financial Reports

decisionsYou want the time that you put into your business to be fruitful, right? Did you know that your financial reports holds the answer? You could be missing out on a healthier business if you do not have the right data and here are some reasons why:

So that you can stop guessing and start knowing. As a business owner there is no room to operate by the seat of your pants if you want your business to last. That is exactly what happens when concrete numbers do not exit. Fortunately, you can ensure success by keeping reliable and timely reports.

So that you’re already ready already. In other words positioning your company to respond fast makes you ready when opportunity comes. Knowing your financial  standing shows you when and how much cash reserves and future profits you can reasonably invest. Be sure that you are running a profitable venture, not an expensive hobby that’s producing a loss.

So that you’ll get the real story. Numbers on the financials are not exactly what they appear when they stand alone. When you drill down on each line item you get to see what happened during the period and why the numbers go up or down. Ask questions that give shed light on your customers buying habits and how the economy is causing sales and expenses to change. The goal is to understand what happened from one period to the next and how to keep your business moving ahead.

By having financials when you need them you are better informed and make smart decisions that’s not only make dollars–but also make sense.

Tip of the Day

To get bookkeeping done on time, create a simple checklist that includes routine record-keeping tasks.  Mark them off as you do them and be sure to add financial reports as the final items the list.

Are You a New Do-It-Yourself CFO?

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How comfortable are you with doing your own accounting? If the thought of having your tooth pulled sounds more exiting than balancing your accounts, read on. There are seven great resources that will help you become fearless as a your own home-based business CFO:

Subscribe to a newsletter or magazine. Newsletters are short and concise which is perfect for the busy entrepreneur. This allows you to digest snippets of relevant financial information in bite-sized chunks. You can start by signing up for a general accounting newsletter or one of the blogs at Inc and Entrepreneur

Attend a financial workshop. Non-profit organizations such as the Small Business Association (SBA) host free and low cost training. The workshops are designed to help the novice grow. You can learn more about these sessions by visiting the SBA website.

Get a book from the library. Another way to get money smart in business is by reading. There are many books by experts on the topic of small business accounting and finance. Take some time out to peruse library shelves. One book to keep handy is “Keeping the Books” by Linda Pinson. This is a great resource if you have very little experience in bookkeeping or records management.

Watch videos on YouTube. If you are not a reader or if imagery is more your speed, try the freebies on YouTube. There are countless tutorials by experts in the accounting field that you learn from online. It is also a great way to get added instruction to clarify the not-so-simple accounting topics that you read.

Listen to podcasts online. Similar to YouTube, you can also enhance learning by listening to internet podcasts. With this option, you have the ability to download sessions to listen to later on. These are especially good for when you want to maximize time exercising or driving in a car.

Take classes at a local college. Many universities and colleges now offer lifelong learning courses for people in business. These will take a bit more of your time and commitment but the one-on-one access to an instructor is often what you need to really understand how to manage money in business.

Invite an expert to train you in-house. Ask a business colleague if they work with an accountant who makes house calls. Some will come to your place of business or, with the use of technology, can train and answer your questions by internet or phone. On-site training is a convenient way to get up to speed on bookkeeping methods and technology. It is perfect for teams of employees and when you work alone.

Learning how to manage daily finances is key to building confidence as a do-it-yourself CFO. If you who have been in this role for awhile, I’d love to hear how you sharpen your skills in small business finance.