by Chris Borba
By the end of 2017, I’d been in business for almost four years. There was plenty of work, but things were not coming together the way I thought they would. I let go of some employees because they cost us money and clients; I was writing monthly checks to pay off marketing expenses that didn’t produce a return; I was spending too much time correcting employees’ mistakes; and I found myself working constantly and putting little money in my pocket.
The stress of running a business was getting to me. So when I came across an opportunity to work for a large insurance company, I took it. Relieved of the pressures of keeping my business afloat, I had the time to look back on all the mistakes I made.
It wasn’t the stress of running a business that got to me; it was the stress of improperly running a business.
I came to the realization that the business had failed, and it was no one’s fault but my own. It wasn’t the stress of running a business that got to me; it was the stress of improperly running a business.
A year of looking back really put things into perspective. Here’s what I learned:
1. Don’t overspend on startup costs.
In this industry, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make money. Count on some startup costs and some basic marketing materials, i.e. business cards, brochures. But overall, it doesn’t take much.
2. Change the math.
The equation of (revenue – expenses = profit) is better said as (revenue – profit = expenses). If you get paid a thousand dollars, pay yourself a percentage, save a percentage for taxes, and save the rest for expenses. One way to do this is 60% to yourself, 30% to taxes, and 10% for operating expenses.
3. Don’t buy gear until you can afford to.
Have a budget and stick with it. If you want to buy a new camera or laptop and don’t have the money in your budget, then don’t do it. Unless you are experiencing massive growth, there is no reason to spend money you don’t yet have.
4. Be strategic about fees.Charge the right rate.
Establishing your billable hour is not as easy as it seems. Find out what others are charging, and then charge accordingly. What I mean by “accordingly” is are you equal, below, or above their level?
Be honest with yourself. Are you aservice business or a professional service business? There is a difference. Are you the investigation equivalent of WalMart, Macy’s, or Neiman Marcus? They all make a lot of money.
The hourly rate where my business is located is between $50 to $75 per hour, but I charge more. Presenting yourself as Neiman Marcus and charging a WalMart rate is a quick way to lose a client, and advertising to WalMart shoppers with a Neiman Marcus rate is a quick way to go out of business.
5. Do one thing, and do it well.
Specialize in one area of service. I see a lot of investigation firms offering everything they can possibly offer. I am sure they get business. But if you need heart surgery, would you ask your family doctor to perform the surgery? Of course not.
Limiting your services also prevents you from wasting time on less profitable work. With us, those time-consuming less-profitable services were process serving and pre-employment screening.
6. Specialize in the work you like best.
Make certain the services you offer are something you enjoy. If you hate surveillance, you will waste time and energy on it and be miserable and stressed. If you love doing surveillance, do that and not much else. If you are in business doing something you don’t enjoy, you won’t be in business long.
7. Define your customers.
Know your market. I remember starting off and being asked what my target market was. My answer was always, “Anyone is a potential client.”
If this is your answer, it is wrong. Do you provide surveillance? Litigation support? Or something else? Your market could be married people who think a spouse is cheating, businesses for background checks, insurance companies, criminal defense attorneys, personal injury attorneys, family law attorneys, etc.
8. Don’t fall prey to B2B marketers.
If you weren’t looking for it, you don’t need it. A lot of people will call, email, and reach out on sites like LinkedIn to sell you something (usually marketing), but do you really need it? Most likely not. I’ve had many, many people call trying to sell advertising (which I wasted money on) and others selling items like printer ink.
Do not buy into it. If you want to pay someone to run an online marketing campaign or anything else, ask around for a referral.
9. Hire with care.
If you hire employees, hire slow and fire fast. Employees are rarely in it for anything more than a paycheck, and there is no bigger headache in a business than managing employees. It’s not fun firing someone, but it’s even less fun closing your business.
10. Remember the mission.
The most important thing to remember is that you are in business to make money. I know this should be obvious, but sometimes it’s easy to forget: You are not in business to run free background checks for friends and family or give clients a break because you feel bad for them. It’s a privately-owned business, not a nonprofit or charity. If you are not making money on a project, don’t do it.
In case you’re wondering, I did go back into business for myself. Fortunately, after almost a year, my clients returned. I now work from home. I have little-to-no overhead, and no employees to take up my time and energy. I’ve increased my rates, and I am devoting all my efforts to one particular service.
I’m happy to be back, equipped with much more knowledge — and more motivated than ever to make it work this time around.
About the Author:Christopher Borba owns Emissary Investigative Group, a Roanoke, Virginia investigation firm specializing in legal investigations.
By Kat Boogaard
In 2016, Wasp Barcode Technologies asked more than 1,100 small business owners what the biggest challenges were as it related to running their business.
Unsurprisingly, money management issues topped the list.
That’s why today we’re looking at the top 13 money management mistakes small business owners make, along with some suggestions on how to solve them.
1. Spending Too Much Too Soon
“You need to spend money to make money.” It’s true investing in your business is necessary.
However, investing too much too soon is often cited as one of the top reasons for business failure.
In those fragile first years, it’s more important to focus on acquiring new customers and proving your business model works than it is to over invest in your endeavor.
How to Solve This Money Management Mistake:
Much like over investing in a new hobby by buying gear just to lose interest in 3 months; many new business owners overspend, buying more equipment and tools than the business can sustain.
Unfortunately, this means starting with more debt and eroding your profit margins before the business has a chance to prove itself.
Before investing too much at once, scrutinize your business model and ask, “Am I creating a sustainable plan that’ll generate profit that can be reinvested over time?”
Start small to validate the business, and scale only when necessary and sustainable.
2. Overestimating Future Sales
It’s easy for a sense of optimism to replace practicality with positivity.
But conservative sales forecasting is necessary to determining reasonable growth and profitability.
A positive outlook is important, no doubt, but you also need to be realistic with your sales projections.
How to Solve This Money Management Mistake:
Get a grasp on your cost per customer acquisition.
A formula you can follow is: X money spent on generating leads divided by sales made.
For example, if a company spends $500 on marketing in a year and acquired 100 customers, the cost per customer acquisition is $5.00.
It’s important to understand this metric, because if the formula holds true, you can better estimate your future sales by saying, “If I spend X more, I should get Y more customers.” This must be constantly monitored because the law of diminishing returns is inevitable.
Your historical data, repeat customer rate, and market trends should also be considered when predicting your future sales volume.
3. Failing to Manage Cash Flow
82% of small business failures are due to poor cash flow management.
Understanding how much money is going in and out of the business seems like a simple concept, but it becomes complicated when you don’t have solid sales projections or when several clients doesn’t pay on time.
How to Solve This Money Management Mistake:
Closely monitor your accounts payable and accounts receivable, know when a client isn’t going to pay, follow up with late paying clients, cut costs where you can, and monitor your cash flow.
4. Not Analyzing Prices
Every business owner can relate to the pain of pricing their products or services.
There is an art and a science to pricing, which means you can’t rely on intuition or pull numbers out of a hat. Overprice and the customer may not buy, underprice and you wont turn a profit.
How to Solve This Money Management Mistake:
You need to have a grasp on how others in your market are pricing their products in order to remain competitive.
For small retail and ecommerce businesses, this may be as simple as maintaining a spreadsheet of your competition’s inventory and prices. For larger organizations, a tool like Price2Spy will track pricing across the internet and notify you when prices drop or inventory is low.
Racing to the bottom on price is never a good idea. Look for other ways to stand apart from the competition, by striking a balance between price, value and a buying experience that makes you the best possible choice for your customer.
5. Mixing Personal and Business Finances
One in five business owners use the same bank account for business and personal finances.
While it might not seem like a big deal to mingle those dollars, neglecting to keep your business and personal finances separate complicates your ability to track household bills, deductible business expenses, and revenue generated by the company.
How to Solve This Money Management Mistake:
First, decide on whether you want to pay yourself a salary or draw.
Then, open a separate checking account for your business. A separate account comes with numerous benefits, such as the flexibility to connect different payment services (including debit and credit cards) to the business account, and a simplified bookkeeping process.
Setting boundaries forces you to view you and your business as separate entities which gives you a more accurate read on your businesses financial health.
This will come in handy later on if you ever audit your business, raise capital, or sell the equity.
6. Confusing Profit With Cash
Here are two accounting terms you don’t want to confuse: profit and cash.
Believing that all cash is profit, paints an inaccurate picture of your business finances. This can lead to overinvestment in certain areas, while being unable to cover standard operational expenses.
How to Solve This Money Management Mistake:
Cash is the amount of money your business has readily available at any given time, due to the influx and outflow of money.
Profit is what’s left after covering all necessary expenses.
When in doubt, keep in mind this basic calculation: Cash – Expenses = Profit
7. Mismanaging Business Deductions
One of the biggest perks of owning your own business is the ability to write off business expenses.
However, a surprising number of business owners overlook deductible expenses they’re entitled to.
One 2015 survey indicated that 21% of small business owners claim less than half of their small business expenses. Even more alarming, 10% said that they claimed “hardly any” or none of their expenses.
How to Solve This Money Management Mistake:
This goes back to advice from earlier; open a separate business account.
A separate account will bring additional clarity around your accounts payable and business expenses during tax season, making it easier to write off the appropriate expenses.
Create a system for keeping receipts. Tools like QuickBooks Mobile simplify expense tracking by allowing you to attach a picture of your receipts to the corresponding transaction within your QuickBooks account.
8. Skipping Tax Payments
Intentionally or not, many business owners forget to pay their estimated quarterly taxes.
Neglecting to do so can wreck your financial projections, saddle you with penalties and fees, and further complicates filing taxes at the end of the year.
How to Solve This Money Management Mistake:
Calculate and pay your quarterly taxes.
Paying your taxes quarterly helps set manageable tax savings targets, and minimizes the temptation to tap into a tax savings account.
Plus, by staying on top of your quarterly taxes, you minimizing the risk of losing deductions along the way, helping you stay on top of your overall cash flow.
9. Neglecting to Re-Invest in the Business
We’ve discussed the dangers of overspending early in you business life cycle. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t invest money back into your operation. Reinvesting funds will be key to your growth and success.
It’s wise to commit some dollars to improvement for your business—whether that’s additional employees, new equipment, or whatever else you need to keep your business moving forward.
How to Solve This Money Management Mistake:
Determine what percentage of your profits you’ll set aside every month to re-invest in your business.
Set benchmarks and savings goals to start investing in new tools, equipment, marketing… or anything else that helps you reach the next milestone.
To make this even easier, set up a separate savings account with an automatic transfer of that percentage every day, week, or month depending on how often you get paid.
10. Underpaying Yourself
Not only does shorting yourself have a negative impact on your personal finances, it also gives you an unrealistic understanding of your profitability.
Obviously, your company will appear more successful on paper if you aren’t paying yourself a reasonable salary.
The problem is, underpaying yourself warps your perspective on your business finances, and undermines your ability to improve your quality of life.
How to Solve This Money Management Mistake:
How much money do you want to make?
Pay yourself first, then cover the expenses. According to this article on Entrepreneur.com, after your salary and expenses, you should also pay yourself an additional 3 to 4 cents for every dollar your business earns.
This may seem uncomfortable at first, it’s important to remember that your business is supposed to pay you a living wage. If it isn’t currently, you need to figure out why and adjust your models accordingly.
11. Operating Without a Budget
Predictability is the dream for most business owners, but that can be hard to come by in the world of entrepreneurship. With so many ups and downs, many business owners take more of a “fly by the seat of your pants” approach to money management.
A budget is the financial road map for your month, quarter and year. Without a clear understanding of your financial responsibilities you may end up making a wrong turn into a financial pitfall. A detailed budget is the best tool for understanding the destination of every dollar.
How to Solve This Money Management Mistake:
Dissect a dollar.
For every dollar you make, know where every penny is going, Each dollar coming into your business needs to be accounted for. Determine ahead of time what needs to be set aside for accounts payable, savings and taxes. A clear budget will help you understand your profits and let you know when cuts need to be made to avoid losses.
12. Not Building a Financial Cushion
The world of business ownership can be fickle. Which is why you need a safety net. Yet, far too many business owners neglect to build a financial buffer for themselves.
Having a reserve will help you address any unexpected expenses, while also giving you the peace of mind that you aren’t running your business so close to the bone.
How to Solve This Money Management Mistake:
This goes back to the previous advice of budgeting and dissecting a dollar. You should also consider what to do when you come into unaccounted for cash.
Whether it comes from beating your sales targets, increasing profit margins or reducing operational cost. You should have a plan for saving a percentage of this unbudgeted money.
13. Forgetting About Retirement
Here’s a rude awakening: One third of entrepreneurs don’t have a retirement savings plan. Many blame insufficient income for the lack of a nest egg.
Not planning for your own financial future inevitably leads to the realization that you will either work forever or be forced to sell everything you have worked for.
How to Solve This Money Management Mistake:
When mapping out your budget, make sure you have a plan in place to set aside funds for retirement.
If you’re self-employed without employees, you may choose to contribute to an Individual 401(k), Traditional or Roth IRA, or SEP IRA. With or without employees you should consult a financial advisor to determine what plans best me your long term goals and those of your company.
Don’t Make These Same Money Management Mistakes
There are plenty of challenges that come along with business ownership, and managing your finances is definitely one of them. That makes it easy to fall victim to many of the common money pitfalls we outlined above.
Fortunately, awareness is the first step to effectively overseeing your business finances. Keep an eye out for these frequent traps, and you’re far less likely to become another statistic.
Do you write on them carefully so they can be allocated to the right budget?
Do you send them by recorded delivery so they don't get lost?
What a pallaver
Most of us don't like admin and if books are not your thing the last thing you want to do is spend time doing the books. You could be out selling or creating and making money rather than counting it!
Then there's the good old spreadsheet option
Do you put it all on a spreadsheet?
Or pay someone to do that for you?
Then someone puts it in your accounts?
Is your bookkeeper pushing you to change?
I see a lot of business friends saying they are being pushed towards cloud accounting
My book-keeper wants me to convert to cloud based accounting in real time
There's a lot of uncertainty and concern about whether this means less work for the bookkeeper with no reduction in fee and whether this really is the way to go.
The government is changing the rules
Most bookkeepers will be forcing their clients onto a cloud-based package
Some will still do carrier bags and spreadsheets but the chances are it will cost extra!
It's not all heavenly working in the cloudThere is a dark side to working in the cloud and you don't hear a lot of talk about it.
Most bookkeepers and accountants are encouraging you to sign up on their group packages.
They get a cheaper license for you than you can get for yourself.
Some will pass the lower cost onto you and others will make a small profit on the subscription.
Don't let your bookkeeper set you up on their account
What no-one is telling you is that if you are not the 'master' user then you will need your bookkeeper or accountant to agree to transfer your books to your next service provider.
You will also need them to do more than agree - you will need them to activate the process
The transfer can takes weeks and I hear horror stories of months even a year!
That's not funny if you need access to your financial data to submit one of those new quarterly updates, or a VAT return, or even your end of year accounts
Digital bookkeeping needs digital agreement
If you are moving your bookkeeping into the clouds you need to have secure log-ons that aren't shared, primary data access (so you can turn off your bookkeeper not the other way round) and a lot more than that.
March 7, 2016
by Basis 365
Accounting is an essential part of any business, so it is important to find an accountant that fits your company’s financial needs. In order to do so, you must first weigh the costs of either outsourcing or hiring a full-time accountant in-house. For that to be accurate, we want to make sure you understand the true cost of each option.
In order to calculate the cost of hiring a full-time accountant, there are four things to keep in mind: wages, benefits and taxes, overhead, and time and effort. Wages are the most straightforward costs, but they do vary, depending on where the business is located and whether you will need a controller-level accountant or a bookkeeper.
Benefits—including health insurance, vacation, payroll taxes and retirement—are commonly used to compare your company against another when a job seeker is deciding to take a job. Though it could be difficult for a small business to compete in this area, many companies use a straight percent applied against an employee’s wages ranging from 20%-30% as part of their compensation packages.
Overhead costs are comprised of equipment, office space, supplies, and other items needed for the employee to perform their job. All this, with the addition of the time and effort it takes to hire, train, and manage the accountant, ultimately amounts to a hefty sum. Say your new accountant has a $34,029 yearly salary. With all the extra costs, as mentioned above, that increases the amount your business is actually paying up to $82,372, according to our calculations.
When you decide to outsource, you will recognize that there are no hidden costs. The client simply pays a predetermined monthly fee depending on the decided plan. Here at Basis 365, for example, we can reconcile the accounts at the end of the month, do all of the accounting, or find an alternative customizable plan fit for your business.
In that, there is no need for the client to provide benefits, pay overhead costs, or devote the extra time and effort necessary to hire and manage a new employee. Outsourcing can cost anywhere from $1,000 a month to $5,000 and above, depending on the extent of the plan. It truly is up to the client to decide which option is the most effective and cost efficient, whether that calls for an accountant, a controller, or a CFO.
While outsourcing may not be right for every business, it is worth noting there are clear, upfront costs that will not be altered by unforeseen variables. We will always discuss with you any need for additional work and the pricing for the work. We will always seek your approval before starting the new work.
If you do decide to outsource your business’ accounting, be prepared to experience long-term financial satisfaction, as well as have the upper hand amongst competitors.
Why Do Private Investigator Businesses Struggle or Fail?
12 Oct 2016 Adam Visnic
Investigator Adam Visnic polls PIs and does an accident investigation/post mortem on why PI companies go bust.
If you go to the recovery room at the hospital, you’ll see a lot more people with gunshot wounds in their legs than in their chests. But that’s not because people don’t get shot in the chest; it’s because the people who get shot in the chest don’t recover.
As private investigators and business owners, there’s an important parallel: Autopsies done on the patients who made it back to the ER aren’t worth as much as those who never made it back. Likewise, learning from successful companies may not be as important as learning from failed private investigator firms. Understanding what fatal mistakes led to failure is as important, if not more, than what made successful companies great.
So, what are those mistakes? How did specific PI companies go out of business? And more importantly, what can we learn from those mistakes?
For valuable insight on this topic, we polled private investigators from across the nation for insight into how their colleagues had failed, or, how they themselves had failed and learned. Nearly a dozen PIs chimed in to help. And, though the resulting stories may be grim, they are telling.
Here are some of the insights they shared, along with a few of my own:
1. Failure to Become a Businessperson
Brian Willingham, from the Diligentia Group, gives insight into the value of making this major shift: “Most private investigators I know are simply not good businesspeople. Some of the best investigators that I have ever met are the absolute worst businesspeople. They are two very distinct skill sets.”
2. Failure to Market Your Business
“The biggest failure I’ve seen is a lack of marketing skills. A majority of private investigators are former or retired law enforcement officers. While these individuals are highly skilled and experienced investigators, they typically have no marketing ability or sales skills.” says Brian C. Muhlbach, vice president of Resource Investigative Services in Fort Walton Beach, FL.
Getting your name out there is crucial to the life of your business, and adapting to today’s style of marketing is equally valuable. As Ruben Roel, from InvestigatorMarketing.com says, “Your website is your neon sign.”
Christopher A. Borba, principal of Emissary Investigative Services, shares a story of how this translates in the real world: “About a year ago, someone reached out to me on LinkedIn to discuss business growth and marketing. He had started his own PI firm six months before and had not received one call for business. His website was a free website, and the only advertising he had done was on Craigslist. That same business failed quickly afterward.”
3. Failure to Answer the Phone
Communicating with your clients is fundamental. April Higuera, owner of ADH Investigations, maintains that investigators often fail because of poor customer service. “PIs must be available, diligent, reliable, and comprehensive, and [they need to] communicate frequently and effectively with people,” she said.
As Utah private investigator Scott Fulmer (founder and principal investigator at Utah Gumshoe) points out, a key business failure is “waiting for the phone to ring and then never answering the phone or returning phone calls if it does ring.”
Francie Koehler, host of PIs Declassified and owner of Special Circumstances, says simply: “Lack of timely follow up with clients” is what leads to failure.
4. Failure to Develop Relevant Skills
Early in his career, Warren Buffet felt he needed an important business skill: public speaking. Despite having a lifelong fear of it, he signed up for just one public speaking course and overcame his fear. If public speaking isn’t your thing, writing well-researched and compelling articles can help you become an expert on a specific subject while communicating your business vision.
“Taking the time to organize my thoughts and stand up in front of a crowd has gotten me in front of a lot of people I needed to meet,” said Hal Humphreys, executive editor of PursuitMag and founder of FIND Investigations. “And number two, it’s caused me to think about what it is we do in an organized way. It gives me a clarity for what we do and why.”
5. Failure to Work With Good Talent
Not investing in a professional team of investigators, assistants, or even a business partner could end your business. Trying to do it all yourself is a quick path to failure. As C. W. Sellers (director of education & training for the California Association of Licensed Investigators) says, “Knowledge of how to build a team of supportive colleagues ready to help and get their hands dirty” is an area where investigators have too often fallen short.
6. Failure to Manage Finances
Years ago, an investigator I managed told me a story: “I once had a company with six investigators underneath me,” he said. “We did well for years. But where it went south was when I spent all the profits. Every dollar that came in went right out the door.” He readily admitted that he handled his finances poorly and failed to put money back into the business.
“Instead of reinvesting the $12,000 windfall they got from their first case, they go on vacation and spend it all,” says Ruben Roel. “Seven to eight months later, they’re out of business.”
7. Failure to Find a Niche
Trying to be everything for everyone is another route to failure. “To be a successful private investigator, you must have a niche and understand your demographics and whether that niche will work for your area. Whether it’s local, statewide or national, that needs to be determined before you open your business,” says Jay Rosenzweig , owner of J R Investigations.
8. Failure to Charge the Right Price
How much do we charge? Some companies charge too little. Some charge too much. Failed companies don’t know what they’re worth. And failure to charge enough leads to reduced profits and thereby, reduced growth. Instead of throwing out lowball numbers, help your clients understand the value of your services. Show them that a small investment, in the form of your services, up front can reap huge savings down the road.
“We’ve got to value ourselves,” wrote Amy Lynn Burch in a PursuitMag article last year. “One of the greatest challenges we face as professional investigators is communicating the value of our services to clients in a marketplace glutted with mass-market information providers.”
9. Failure to Deliver Quality Work
Your work product needs constant pruning. It’s one thing to put out a subpar product or service, but to never fix it is bad business. You’ll find that if you don’t develop your services, you’re not only wasting time, money, and effort on products and services but you’ll be putting out a product that customers don’t want or need. Iteration is key – make small, incremental changes with every report you write.
10. Failure to Abide by the Law
The sad fact is that the perception of private investigators sometimes wavers between a used car salesman and a shady lawyer. Want to know why? Many private eyes creep over that invisible line – breaking the law. It’s the surest path to failure. Alberto Paoletti, owner of Informark S.R.L in Florence, Italy, said that he knows of some investigators who failed because they didn’t abide by the law and went bankrupt as a result.
He told me the story of an Italian PI (Emanuele Cipriani) involved in an illegal wiretapping scheme from 1996-2006: (*We’ve edited his comments.) “The Italian judges were able to prove that executives of the main telephone company in Italy had asked his investigations agency to gather information about prominent people in politics, journalism, sports, etc. The investigator came by the information illegally and with the help of the police and other public employees, the judges found. The investigator was arrested and his earnings (about 20,7 million euros) were confiscated.”
11. Failure to Maintain Certification and Education
Many investigative companies squander growth opportunities “by not joining state organizations, national organizations, listening to audiobooks, or seeking out continuing education. So many PI’s just keep doing what they’ve always done and so they get what they always got,” says Scott Fulmer.
12. Failure to Find Repeat Clients
Philip A. Becnel IV, partner at Dinolt Becnel & Wells Investigative Group, explains the importance of finding clients that pay, and pay more than once. “Successful private investigation companies tend to have a benefactor. This could be an insurance company or a law firm—some larger company that gives them stability and lets them weather the crowded market of companies chasing what I refer to as transactional cases. These are one-off cases where, for example, some random dude hires you to follow his wife.”
* * *
Many private investigators enter the industry with dreams of solving tough cases and running a successful business — one that thrives on innate curiosity, diligence, and effort. But in order to keep a business, you’ll have to make the necessary investment into the areas listed above. Otherwise, you’ll be just another “gunshot victim.”
If you can make the transition from top-notch investigator to top-notch businessperson, you’ll be on your way towards achieving your goals.
5 REASONS TO OUTSOURCE ALL OF YOUR BOOKKEEPING PROCESSES
September 19, 2016 by Veronica Wasek
As a CPA and owner of a modern accounting company you would think that I love working on my bookkeeping. Actually, no I don’t! I discovered early in my business journey that my time is best spent growing my company and taking care of clients than working on my own bookkeeping. I made the decision a year ago that one of my very qualified bookkeepers would take care of 100% of my company’s internal bookkeeping. All I do now is make remote deposits, approve payroll, approve vendor bills electronically, approve one expense report, and review invoices. I freed up at least 2 or 3 hours a week! I’m going to share with you 5 reasons to outsource all of your bookkeeping processes.
A FAMILIAR STORY
Does this sound familiar? You, your spouse or relative, or your administrative assistant spent hours a week working on your company’s bookkeeping. You don’t know if you’re doing right, you feel out of control, and you don’t have the patience to work on it. Worst yet, you don’t do your bookkeeping – nobody does! It’s been months since you did any bookkeeping other than prepare invoices and pay vendors. Yikes! This is an all too familiar story.
Why do you hesitate to delegate your bookkeeping? It’s because you think you should be able to master it because you’re smart and educated, or you think you can’t afford it. You may be driving your company into the ground if you don’t free up your time and trust a qualified professional to take care of your company’s bookkeeping processes.
BUSINESS PROCESS OUTSOURCING
Have you heard of business process outsourcing? Business process outsourcing (BPO) is becoming the norm. Basically, you subcontract business-related tasks to a third-party service provider. In the past, a company had to hire a whole bunch of employees to create an “accounting department”. With technology and the cloud, you can outsource the entire accounting function to a qualified team of professionals.
REASON #1 – FREE UP YOUR TIME SO YOU CAN GROW YOUR COMPANY
Remember when you decided to start your business? You had a great business idea and you thought you would change the world. You envisioned yourself as a successful entrepreneur making a difference in the lives of your customers. Did you think about the long hours you would spend setting up your QuickBooks, trying to figure out what a chart of accounts is, running payroll, paying the bills, or reconciling accounts? Of course not! I bet you were in for a surprise when you realized how much administrative work you would have to do as a new entrepreneur.
The # 1 reason to outsource all of your bookkeeping processes is to free up your time and free yourself from mental clutter so you can focus on growing your business. Why spend your time on a task that generates no revenue for you when you can devote those hours to growing and scaling your business?
REASON #2 – GAIN CONFIDENCE AND PEACE OF MIND
Most of the business owners I talk to tell me that they are worried that they’re not doing their bookkeeping correctly or that they may get in trouble with the IRS. I don’t know how long the average business owner spends worrying about their bookkeeping – either because they’ve made a mess or because they’re not working on it. When you outsource all of your bookkeeping processes to a qualified accounting professional, you can be confident that your bookkeeping is being handled timely and accurately. It’s amazing how much more you can accomplish when you rid yourself of worry and mental clutter that worry brings.
REASON #3 – MODERNIZE AND INTEGRATE YOUR COMPANY’S OPERATIONS
Whether you want to admit or not, your entire company’s operations revolve around the accounting and financial aspects of your business. With QuickBooks and integrated software applications (apps), you can implement solutions for your entire company’s operations, including:
REASON #4 – PROTECT YOUR COMPANY
The average business owner delegates way too much responsibility to inexperienced support staff. That includes sharing banking credentials, giving administrative access to QuickBooks, processing the payroll, signing checks, and handling the company’s purchases. You might as well hand over your wallet to that person!
By outsourcing all of your company’s bookkeeping processes, you retain full control while qualified professional work securely with your data. A professional and reputable accounting firm should never ask for any sensitive information such as your banking credentials and they should never sign any checks with you. With QuickBooks and integrated solutions, you are in control and you still make all key financial decisions – such as when a payment will be released to a vendor. Just imagine, with a tool such as Bill.com, your vendors email their invoices directly to your e-mail box at Bill.com. Your bookkeeper assigns the correct accounting category to the transaction and sets up the vendor bill for approval. You receive an email notifying you that you have bills to approve. You view electronic images of your bills and approve each one for payment. Bill.com sends a check to your vendor after you approve and release the payment. Wasn’t that easy? No paper and no checks. Nice!
REASON #5 – GET THE POWER OF FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE REPORTS AND DASHBOARDS
When you outsource all of your company’s bookkeeping processes, you can now get meaningful and timely reports. Did you know that you can go a step further? Now that you have clean data in your QuickBooks, you can integrate it with a financial intelligence app to get dashboards, key managements reports, and insights to help you manage your business. Really? Yes you can. I bet you thought that the only reason for maintaining your bookkeeping is so you can file your taxes. Actually, the true reason for having clean, timely, and meaningful financial data is to get the reports and insights you need to manage and grow your business. That is the most important reason and well worth the investment.
WHO IS A GOOD CANDIDATE FOR FULLY OUTSOURCED BOOKKEEPING SERVICES?
A service-based company is an excellent candidate for fully outsourcing their bookkeeping processes. That includes professional services, law firms, creative agencies, technology firms, marketing firms, and consulting firms.
WHAT IF YOU’RE NOT READY TO OUTSOURCE EVERYTHING YET?
No worries. If you work with a professional accounting firm, they will help you to identify which bookkeeping processes you can easily outsource. They will work with you to customize a package that fits your needs.
I have shared with you the 5 reasons to outsource all of your bookkeeping processes. You will free up time, gain peace of mind, streamline your operations, protect your company, and gain powerful financial insights to take your company to the next level.
5 REASONS A BOOKKEEPER CAN SAVE YOU MONEY
BY JANICE BANDICK
POSTED:APRIL 7, 2016
UPDATED:OCTOBER 26, 2016
If you’re a small business owner, chances are that you’re a fan of the do-it-yourself lifestyle. After all, you went into business for yourself. But while many small business owners love the freedom that owning their own business brings to them, it also means that expenses need to be kept to a minimum.
This frame of mind is certainly important in ensuring the success of your small business, as 30 per cent of small businesses are estimated to fail within 24 months because of increased expenses and low profits. However, there are times that being frugal can do more harm than good.
Owning and running your own business means handling an ever-increasing number of tasks, but putting off managing your finances has real repercussions. Come tax season, what started off as small molehill of paperwork can turn into a mountain of unbalanced ledgers.
But while many small business owners feel confident with payroll and bookkeeping software and that they can’t afford to hire a bookkeeper, the reality is that this attitude can do more harm than good.
Here are five reasons why hiring a bookkeeper may be the best choice for your business.
1. Makes Managing Your Profit Margin Possible
Owning a small business often means working with razor-thin profit margins, and a professional bookkeeper can keep track of these margins while offering insight on how to leverage them into larger returns on operating expenses.
A bookkeeper can also manage your monthly transactions, handle payroll, take care of government remittances and ensure that bills are paid on time, freeing you up to concentrate on growing your business.
2. Lets You Take a Load Off
Running a small business, especially in its early years, is no easy task. In fact, the first few years are often the most difficult, and many small business owners struggle to make ends meet. This often means juggling multiple tasks at once, which can translate into neglecting administration, a task that bookkeepers can help with.
3. Alleviates the Stress of Taxes
The collective panic of business owners across Canada that comes during tax season is no laughing matter. We would all like to avoid it, but taxes are a necessary part of business. Employing a bookkeeper, even on a temporary basis, means accurate and timely reporting of your expenses, write-offs, salaries and budgets.
4. It’s Only Temporary
The majority of small business owners can get away with outsourcing their bookkeeping operations, which allows you to save money. And unless your business employs over 30 employees or your revenues exceed $1 million annually, it’s unlikely you will have enough work to employ a full-time bookkeeper. Calling in the help of a bookkeeper for tax season can be a beneficial and temporary solution to this.
5. Peace of Mind
Beyond the tangible benefits to your business, bookkeepers can also provide you with peace of mind. Jacquie Johnston, VP of the Canadian Bookkeepers Association, recalls receiving countless end of fiscal year phone calls from frantic small business owners. On the benefits of hiring an external bookkeeper, she says, “Flexible scheduling and hourly rates allow you to pay for only what you need—nothing more, nothing less.”
While employing a bookkeeper may be a difficult decision for a small business owner, the decision may be worth it, as it could save you time, money and reduce some of the stress of running your small business.
THINGS WE CAN DO FOR YOU
Thinking of case management development? CROSStrax immediately removes the inevitable unknown and large costs involved with ancillary IT projects.
CROSStrax integrates chat and email correspondence, saving your organization significant time re-entering already available information. Automated case creation saves additional time and administrative burden.
CROSStrax maintains integrated relationships with leading online data solutions. Download database reports and create professional invoices to get paid faster with dynamic billing features through Quickbooks.
CROSStrax maintains a defined workflow process, allowing you to organize critical case information that will ensure best practices, ownership by involved stakeholders, accurate metrics, and overall better results.
Imagine having a mobile app where your investigators have access to case information, subject photos, and first-party GPS software so you know where and when your investigators are working and onsite. CROSStrax has it!
CROSStrax client metric reporting ensures consistency of reporting with actionable data on each individual case ensuring accountability and enabling informed decisions.
With CROSStrax, you and your investigative staff have the luxury of generating investigative reports with one click, allowing you and your management staff to easily analyze performance to improve your agency.
With CROSStrax, you’ll never miss another important event with interactive and shared calendars – you, your investigators, and your clients are now always on schedule.
The CROSStrax dashboard allows users to easily navigate assignments. This will allow your staff the ability to easily identify current tasks, potential client problems, or assignments that require special attention and visibility.
With CROSStrax, your investigators will now upload video, audio, and photos that you can share with your clients and codec maintains the date and time stamp with no need for costly video production programs.
Integrates with QuickBooks
A professional bookkeeper actually saves you money through less human error and the bills that get paid on time.
Co-founder of Hostt
MARCH 21, 2017
Consider a scenario where your startup is on its way from idea to formal business. There are many, many things to think about and consider.
And one of them may just include that all-important decision of when to bring in outside experts to assist you with some of the operational functions that go into running a business.
Those functions almost certainly include the financial aspect of your business. While you may not need -- or want -- an accountant, you could at least consider a bookkeeper to help with the various financial aspects. Your only other alternative is to become a bookkeeper yourself so that you understand every aspect of your business! And that's just not realistic.
So, returning to the bookkeeper option, here are 10 reasons why you should definitely consider hiring one:
1. Keep your focus on core business needs. A startup needs the attention of its founder, including his or her attention to growing the idea into a viable product or service. That means that, as that founder, your time should be devoted to strategy, marketing, funding and other key areas that require your focus over the daily operational tasks of a business.
2. Stay out of what you don’t really know or understand. Not many founders have backgrounds in finance or even a working knowledge of accounts payable, accounts receivable and taxes. It’s better that a professional who took courses and was certified in these areas handle those aspects of the business.
That way, mistakes will be less likely, as well as issues that could cost you more money. Remember, if you miss a bill or forget to pay something important, this will significantly impact your business credit.
3. Calibrate a work-life balance. While you could focus on core business needs and handle everything else in your startup, the problem is you’ll have no time left at the end of the day or week for yourself or your loved ones. Therefore, you’ll be missing that balance every person needs in order to stay healthy and not burn out on what you are doing.
4. Get a different perspective on the business. Although you may believe you have a good idea about the state of your startup during the development phase, it helps to have another pair of eyes on this.
Your bookkeeper can put the financials in order and run reports showing how you are doing each month, where the funds are going and how your efforts are paying off (or might need improving upon). He or she will give you that "big picture" through the numbers being crunched.
5. Escape the tedious aspects of business. It’s hard to imagine that the financial aspects of your business make you excited. You likely have no passionate feelings about tallying up payroll or writing checks to pay the bills.
However, your bookkeeper may enjoy those tasks, so it makes sense to hand over these areas to someone who does them -- and does them well -- because of that motivation.
6. Make sure everything is paid on time. Between traveling, keeping the startup moving forward, putting out the daily fires that pop up and staying balanced, something most likely gets left out along the way. And that often ends up being the bills that need to get paid.
You don’t want your credit impacted by late or forgotten payments, so put a bookkeeper in charge to give you the confidence that everything has been handled on time.
7. Ensure correct tax filings. The last thing you want is to get audited or have the taxman after you just because you forgot those quarterly or annual tax filings. Depending on the type of business structure you’ve created for your startup, you will have various tax requirements, including estimated tax payments, corporate tax payments, 1099s for contractors or freelancers and other filings.
It’s ideal to find a bookkeeper who can handle taxes a well as payroll and other financial issues.
8. Maintain cash flow. Because you are so busy, you may not realize that there are outstanding payments from your client base. Any late payments here could infringe upon the cash flow you need to keep your startup humming along.
With a bookkeeper working for you,he or she can stay on top of this and send out reminders to make sure your cash flow remains optimal. This will also look good when it’s time to seek another round of funding because you can show positive cash flow you might not have been able to show without that assistance.
9. Resolve conflicts of interest with any business partners. With more than one founding partner, issues could arise where each partner has some idea of how the money should be spent and how to easily access it. Otherwise, conflict could arise that could impede the progress of your startup.
That's why a bookkeeper should be the gatekeeper of the money, creating the necessary approval processes that stop partners from just withdrawing money.
10. Reduce the cost of financial obligations. Although you may think you save money by doing everything yourself, the fact is that a professional bookkeeper actually saves you more. That’s because there is a reduced level of risk for human error, lack of knowledge, missed payments and tax obligation due dates and delayed accounts receivable.
Plus, your time is money that you could be using toward getting your new business running and bringing in the revenue to move to the next level.
From the time and money savings, to the focus on expertise and greater cash flow, a bookkeeper makes good business sense for your startup. So, go start the hiring process today.
Posted by Bill Gerber on March 7, 2017
We talk a lot about the importance of having solid accounting processes and procedures in place to govern your bookkeeping. We discuss how bookkeepers, controllers and CFOs can be strategically aligned to produce advanced insights into even the most complex accounting structures. But we don’t often spend a lot of time on the downsides in the accounting department—partly because the topic is often pretty negative in the grand scheme of things. After all, the vast majority of our clients end up coming to us only after experiencing some of the worst problems in accounting and bookkeeping.
While there may be something to be said for experiencing “the bad” in order to fully appreciate “the good”, we would always prefer our clients avoid hardship if possible! So we compiled that many varied reasons that clients have sought our services in the past so that you can learn from their previous mistakes and problems—and hopefully avoid them in your own business.
Lack of bookkeeping processes & proceduresThis is a classic and the most common among our prospective clients. It is not easy to setup and maintain a comprehensive list of all the bookkeeping tasks, accounting processes and administrative procedures required to ensure your bookkeeping runs smoothly and on time. After all, we have a 10-person team solely dedicated to this job when onboarding a new client—trying to do this with limited staff lacking experience in process management is likely going to be nearly impossible.
Wondering if a lack of bookkeeping processes is your problem? If you answer “Yes” to one or more of the following questions, it may very well be.
11 Expectations to Set for Your BookkeeperBefore you bring someone on board to handle your books, check their skills and lay the ground rules to ensure you're getting the right person for your business.
JULY 17, 2006
As business owners, we like to think we can learn any skill it takes to run our companies better. But can just anyone learn to do their books? That's like saying anyone can learn to be an artist. Is it true? Maybe. However, some will learn the skills easily and others will work at developing the skills for years and still only be "average."
You may be a successful business owner with a multitude of skills, but if bookkeeping is one of your weakest links, you should probably hire a bookkeeper to help you out. But before you bring someone on board, you need to make sure they know what to do, and you'll want to set expectations for them in order to get what you need.
Here are 11 expectations you should establish for your bookkeeper to ensure that they're going to provide the service your business needs:
1. Your bookkeeper must have a basic understanding of bookkeeping/accounting terms. They should have a basic understanding of the difference between the five basic types of accounts (assets, liabilities, equity, income and expenses).
2. They must be detail oriented. You need someone who's going to be able to focus on the little things: This will enable the big things to take care of themselves. You don't have time to babysit them; they need to be able to take charge and take care of all the little things that need attention when it comes to your basic financial operations.
3. They must have an understanding of the big picture. If you buy a piece of equipment, are they going to understand the concept of setting up the asset and liability accounts? Do they know how to allocate the payment to interest expense and liability principal reduction?
4. They must have a willingness to follow through. You want someone who'll ensure that projects and questions are followed through to completion. They need to be responsible for the follow through because you're just too busy to be the one in charge of project completion. You're there to assist with questions, but the financial projects have to be something they're in charge of.
5. They must have monthly financial statements available by the 10th of the following month. The three basic financial statements include the balance sheet, the profit/loss statement and the cash flow statement.
6. They must understand how to do proper job costing. It's important that they are tracking all the costs by item and job detail. Job costing is critical to the success of knowing how much your projects are truly cost. You have to be able to depend on their information to be reliable.
7. They must have a basic understanding of your industry. While this is something that can be learned, you'll be miles ahead on the learning curve if the person you hire has a general understanding of your industry. And while bookkeeping for a retail store, hair salon, internet service business and many others have the same basic bookkeeping fundamentals, it's not exactly the same. Each industry has different terms and insider aspects that can only be learned on the job, so be sure to look for someone with experience in your industry.
8. They must have good communication skills. If your bookkeeper doesn't understand something, they've got to be willing to ask for clarification or help. Communication is critical so that you'll have a good understanding of what's taking place in the office without you having to be the one doing the day-to-day work.
9. They must be computer literate. The days of doing almost anything by hand are long gone. You must have a computerized bookkeeping system to be able to get quality reports. Your bookkeeper should not only know the basics of your bookkeeping software but should also be familiar with Word, Excel, e-mail and the internet.
10. They must be interested in continuing their education. They should be committed to enhancing their skills with additional classes or self-study to ensure that they're staying up to date with the accounting skills your business demands.
11. They must be willing to make a strong commitment to your business. If you're hiring a part-time bookkeeper, it's essential that you find someone who will make your business a priority. Don't let your part-time bookkeeper "squeeze" their responsibilities to you into their personal life. This is one of the biggest issues I see with many small businesses. The owners allow their bookkeepers to do their work whenever they have time. But by doing this, you're enabling them to put your business at the bottom of their "priority" list. You need someone who's focused on ensuring things get done.
If you want your company to truly function in a profitable way, it's critical that you set expectations for your bookkeeper before you bring them on board. Good financial records are fundamental to the success of your business. If you can't rely on your books--or your bookkeeper--then how are you going to know where your business is headed? Set these expectations for your bookkeeper so they'll be a successful part of your team. You'll be setting your business up for success.
At last, the argument of whether a small business should or shouldn’t be operating in the cloud has been put to bed. The cloud has won.
Running a business these days almost hinges on cloud computing. According to the annual Vanson Bourne cloud computing study, some 78% of UK organisations have already adopted at least one cloud-based service.
Everytime you update your Facebook status, Tweet an article or check your bank balance online you’re pulling data from the cloud.
Deciding to adopt cloud technology has helped small businesses, right around the world, transform into more agile entities with the ability to take on giants in their sector.
Moving to cloud is helping small businesses act like giants. Size no longer matters. Many tech advances which were once available only to big businesses are now ubiquitous. That means small businesses are better equipped than ever to compete with multinational powerhouses in their sector.
PR agency, firstlight, is one small UK business which has used its size as an advantage to help it compete with some of the largest firms in its field.
“I thought our size was our weakness,” recalls firstlight founder, Paul Davies. “But I soon realised it was our strength.” That realisation gave him the confidence to take on big agencies head on, vying for the biggest brands… and winning.
He remembers one momentous land grab: “We beat some of the biggest agencies in the world for a global retail business – which was amazing for a small business. We were invited to the shortlist, no-one knew who we were… and we won the business.” After a major scalp as a start-up agency, they went on to add LinkedIn as another household name on an increasingly prestigious client list.
Despite growing turnover and an enviable client list, Davies knows lean businesses mean business.
And although his days as a jack of all trades – fulfilling bookkeeping, IT support and day-to-day management – are over, Davies still wants to keep his team agile and efficient. Xero helps him to do just that. When Davies hired a Financial Director, Xero allowed him to make that role part time, just one day a week. Without Xero, Davies estimates that would increase to three days. It’s a small but meaningful difference.
Small businesses now have a grip on what’s going on, before it happens. For other small businesses, cloud technology helps them better forecast peaks and troughs and plan accordingly.
For Darren Rook, Founder of The London Distillery Company, his busy period is September – that’s when his Christmas rush begins. Crafting fine London gin in time for the festive season means he needs a robust inventory system to help keep an eye on stock and invoices and manage his cashflow.
“After some trial and error on different software platforms we settled on Xero. It’s simple interface and range of useful tools helped us plan for all the extra costs at Christmas including extra bottles, storage space and base ingredients,” Rook said.
“The problem with running a distillery is managing stockist expectations. Fortnum & Mason’s, for example, want their Christmas stock delivered in September, so we have to work months ahead of Christmas to be ready for the trade orders. We use the financial control system on Xero as it’s perfect for collecting, storing, analysing and monitoring stock figures.”
Having all this data available enables Rook to plan for the slow periods and ramp up for the busy times.
Big company resources for small businesses
Being a small business means you usually have limited resources. You don’t usually have a full security, HR, sales, finance or PR team. Usually the owner plays each of those roles, either all at once or switches between them throughout their day.
All this juggling means many small business owners spread themselves wide but not deep. However, cloud technology is helping fill those gaps by enabling small business owners to implement some muscle in spots they may not be able to tend to.
Take security, for many small businesses protecting data can often slip down the priority ladder. It’s not that it’s not important, it’s usually a resource issue – owners usually focus their energies on hitting primary business goals. However, for cloud platforms keeping data safe and secure is a business critical task. This means but implementing a cloud solution for web hosting, storage, data backup or even email, many small businesses benefit from big business grade tech, without the huge outlay.
As a financial platform, Xero is making many little, yet significant, impacts across the business; from allowing employees to track expenses easily, to cutting down report production to a few clicks, and billing effortlessly through an accounts receivable email address – it all adds up.
Davies mulls over the biggest benefits of Xero: “Cost and time. In that order. If we didn’t have Xero we’d have to pay someone to do everything manually. That would have cost us a lot of money over six years and would have stopped us doing what we do best – working hard for our clients.”
By Andy Sowards
Many small businesses are failing to utilise some of the most important tools and services that are available to them. This includes cloud services, outsourcing and smart social media advertising. As a small company with a shorter reach, it’s difficult for a startup business to appeal to the same audience as a big corporation unless they manage to target a niche and utilise money-saving tricks to stretch their budget as far as possible.
For example, large businesses can get away with hiring entire teams to handle specific tasks such as human resources, marketing and IT maintenance. However, a small business cannot afford to hire such specialised teams in their business when they’ve only got a dozen or so staff in employment. As a result, the employees that are hired by a small business must be flexible.
Here are some examples of the most useful resources and services that a small business can utilise. In general, these things can be applied to almost any business, regardless if you run a bakery or a design company—they’re universal tips that can be applied in some way to every business.
Portability with smart devices and laptops
When assigning an employee to a variety of tasks it’s inevitable that they will have to be in several places at once. Be it attending meetings, scouting out locations, speaking with clients—they’re on the go most of the time. Because of this, it’s vital that you equip them with the necessary tools to carry out their work on the go. This includes a laptop, a smartphone or perhaps a tablet. Ensure that these are company-bought expenses and install the relevant software on them, and run your employee through a training course if needed.
Managing a business is much easier when you have less to worry about. Hardware failures, networked storage and finances are some of the few things that many startup owners dread.
When a business’s hardware fails and they lose vital information such as customer data and sales records, it can be a disaster. There’s no excuse even if it happens due to a natural disaster, a hacker attack or a freak accidental fire—you are responsible for keeping that data safe. But by using Dropbox as a backup solution, you can store your information in the cloud and keep it ready to access no matter what damage your storage solution suffers. While you’re repairing or replacing your server hardware, you and your employees can continue working without a hitch.
In addition to cloud storage, we also see regular use of cloud applications among small businesses. One of the most common examples is the use of bookkeeping software. Typically a business will hire a professional to keep track of finances, estimate sales and pay employees. But with the help of online bookkeeping and finance tracking software, you’re able to punch in a couple of numbers into a computer and have the system do the work for you. They usually cost a low monthly fee, but it’s far cheaper than hiring a specialised member of staff to do the job.
Lastly, we have cloud applications that offer collaboration opportunities. One of the main issues with software on a computer is that there’s very little support for two or more people working on the same document at once. Most of the time, only a single person is allowed to make changes to documents, but with the help of cloud applications such as Google Docs an entire team can collaborate, edit and make suggestions on a single document. This is incredibly helpful for multi-use spreadsheets with lots of complex calculations or information.
Much like cloud services, outsourcing removes the need of hiring a dedicated team member for specific tasks. For example, if you’d like someone to manage your finances for you but don’t want to use a cloud application, then you have the option of outsourcing your bookkeeping needs to a third party business that specialises in it. Outsourcing services are usually far cheaper than hiring an employee because you don’t need to worry about recruitment, benefits, pensions and salary. You hire the individual professional on a contract basis (much like a freelancer) and they do the job that you need and get paid for it.
Outsourcing is popular because it allows a small business to thrive with professional help at affordable prices. Many startups outsource design tasks such as website design, logo creation and advertisement design. They also might outsource the initial hardware setup to get computers, servers and networks built to their specification.
. If you’re like most small business owners, you started off wearing a lot of hats and performed your own bookkeeping. But, at a certain point, it makes sense to bring in a professional. An accounting professional can perform tasks more efficiently, meet compliance requirements, and convert accounting data into useful information. This allows you to refocus your time on growing and managing your business.
Bookkeepers and CPAs both extend their services to small businesses that are ready to outsource their accounting. Although you could hire just one, it makes sense to use both to keep your accounting costs low and finances in order.
Use a Bookkeeper for Basic Accounting Tasks
Bookkeepers handle day-to-day accounting transactions and issues. Most bookkeepers are able to manage accounts receivable (sending out invoices and collecting payments), accounts payable (making payments for business expenses), monitor and report on available cash, perform bank reconciliations, and run payroll. More advanced bookkeepers, sometimes referred to as “full charge bookkeepers,” can also book routine journal entries, including month-end journal entries, and prepare internal-use financial statements.
The term “bookkeeper” is not a protected title, so bookkeeper skill and experience varies. Some bookkeepers have no formal accounting education and have learned procedures on the job. Others may have an accounting degree or have completed a few bookkeeping courses. Many have a solid grasp of accounting principles and can keep your books in shape by themselves while others are limited to basic data entry.
Call On a CPA for Complex Accounting Issues
Although there are quite a few types of professional accounting designations, the CPA is arguably the most rigorous and difficult to obtain. To earn the CPA credential, an accountant must pass comprehensive exams on tax, regulation, financial reporting, audit, economic, ethics, and business topics. They also must have sufficient accounting education and work under another CPA for at least one or two years before obtaining the license.
CPAs can identify the correct accounting treatment for complex issues, perform a review to help you obtain a business loan, file your business tax return, advise you on tax planning, and offer you strategic financial advice. But just because an accountant is a CPA doesn’t automatically mean he can handle any accounting job. If the CPA earned his stripes at a large accounting firm, it’s likely that he specialized in either tax or audit from the get-go. As a result, there are some CPAs who have never filed a tax return and others who have never worked an audit engagement. Carefully review a CPA’s experience and specialties before engaging his services.
Divide Accounting Duties
The amount that bookkeepers and CPAs charge for their services varies based on experience, industry specialization, and region. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that accountants earn about twice the annual salary that bookkeepers do. Figure that the hourly rate for the average CPA for will be at least twice what a bookkeeper charges.
Since you’ll pay a premium for CPA services, it’s wise to confine their duties to high-level accounting issues. Your best bet is to find both a bookkeeper and a CPA with complementary skills that can work together. For example, you can hire a full-charge bookkeeper for basic accounting and month-end closing duties and only consult your CPA for ad-hoc accounting issues and tax returns. In this situation, it’s best that the CPA still review your books once a year or every six months to identify and correct potential accounting issues.
Find the Right Fit
CPAs and bookkeepers are accustomed to working hand in hand. If you already have a CPA, he can probably recommend a bookkeeper he’s worked with and vice versa. If your business is a little bigger (more than $1 million in revenue) but you’re not quite ready to hire in-house accounting staff, a bookkeeping or managerial accounting firm can be a good option. These firms staff a team of professional bookkeepers, accounting managers, controllers, and CFOs. By using this type of firm, your business can benefit from a cohesive team of accounting professionals without having to pay full-time salaries.