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3 Can Accounting Reports Really Be Beautiful?

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Tyler Nay – Enjoy!

AccountingAs a small business owner, what is more rewarding than focusing on the area of your business that you are most passionate about?  To invest your uninterrupted attention in doing the things that pushed you to start your own business in the first place?  Closing a big sale, writing a book, designing a new product, understanding expenses . . .

Did I lose you with the last one?

What about controlling cash flow or understanding which products generate the most profit? Accounting is frequently an overlooked area in small business as it does not hold the flash and appeal that some other areas of owning a business hold.

The good news is that the days of simply relying on old, stuffy, boring spreadsheets with confusing terms and data have come to end. Software app makers have given accounting reporting and analytics a whole new face making understanding the numbers that drive your business a powerful competitive advantage. (Oh, and they keep the accounting, payables, receivables, banking and tax folks happy too!)

Below are examples of 4 tools that any small business can employ to help stay on top of its bookkeeping and better understand its financial position.

Xero

Billed as the company that makes “Beautiful Accounting Software”, Xero is standing at the forefront of the cloud based accounting software revolution. After playing around with the software, it’s easy to understand why people refer to it as “beautiful”. The easy-to-navigate user interface removes a lot of the pain out of finding different tools, booking entries, and negotiating through the site. In fact, its overall design has been credited by some with making accounting “fun”. Another major benefit is the ability to sync your business bank accounts and credit cards with Xero. It saves loads of time, removes some of the redundant data entry from the accounting process, and reduces the likelihood of key strike error.

Zoho Invoice

The speed at which a small business gets paid for services rendered is vital to health of that company. Zoho Invoice strives to improve cash flow by making invoicing easy and payment receipt faster. I really enjoy the entire invoice conversion feature offered by Zoho. You can issue an estimate to a customer and once approved, turn that estimate into an invoice and email it directly to them. The invoice design is also highly customizable which allows you to add company logos and your own unique style to the layout.

QuickBooks for PC

A mainstay in small business accounting software, QuickBooks still offers a PC version of its small business accounting solution that is ideal for a small business that wants an on-premise accounting solution with few users who need access to it. The array of features offered by this product and how it can conform to almost any small business is an important element. As a past QuickBooks user, I would recommend purchasing additional reading material to help navigate all the features. The software offers a lot of reporting capabilities that can be difficult to navigate.

Square

Producer of the little white reader box that sits atop your Apple or Android device to complete credit card transactions, Square’s point of sales system allows users to complete payment for service transaction anywhere, anytime. Square allows users the ability to integrate with their small business accounting software programs like Xero or QuickBooks – a highly attractive feature.  Through this integration, your accounting software automatically creates the accounting entries necessary to record your daily Square sales, in turn, leaving a small business owner more time to focus on the more enjoyable aspects of his or her business.

By implementing any of these four products, small business owners will see immediate dividends paid in their accounting and bookkeeping department. I personally enjoy the direction in which Xero is moving. Its cloud-based accounting software seems to be the direction that small business accounting is moving and the simple, easy-t0-use interface is attractive for users who may not have a lot of accounting experience.

If you liked this post, check out our Guide to Managing Your Small Business Finances.

Tyler NayTyler Nay is presently a senior operations accountant at Watco Companies, LLC, a transportation company based in Pittsburg, Kansas. Over the course of his career, he has spent time in both the public and private accounting sector, where he developed the passion for streamlining accounting information systems for any business, regardless of size. If you would like to connect with Tyler, please do so on LinkedIn.

 

1 Show Me Your Calendar and Your Checkbook, and I'll Show You What’s Really Important in Your Life

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is John Rydell – Enjoy!

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photo credit: Panpote

My brother and I run a family of software companies, each with their own unique products. Over the past year, we’ve been lucky enough to experience a pretty big spike in growth. Suddenly, our simple time-tracking methods just weren’t enough to capture how all our resources were allocated between our different products.  After some discussion about how it might affect the culture of the company, we decided to have our team start tracking their time.

As you might expect, we learned a lot from a business perspective, and it also got me thinking about a quotation I heard about 15 years ago: “Show me your calendar and your checkbook, and I’ll show you what’s really important in your life.”  Times have changed (“show me your Outlook and Mint.com account”?), but the message is as relevant as ever. No matter what you claim to be important to you, your calendar and checkbook will tell you the truth.

2014 is upon us, and now is as good a time as any to take stock of how you’re spending your time and money.

What is most important to you?

Before you continue reading, please take a few minutes to jot down what is important in your life.

You might have a hobby that’s important, or perhaps religion. Whatever your list is, keep it handy so you can refer back to it later.

How do you actually spend your time?

Now that you have created your list, I challenge you to truly look at your calendar for the past day, week, month, and year. Where has your time actually gone?

Are you taking the time to give back to your community and your church? Do you take the time to exercise and spend time with your friends and family?

Consider the following question: “How would I spend my day if time and money didn’t matter?” That usually gives you some clues about what is most important to you.

How do you actually spend your money?

Next, let’s look at your money. Go back through your expenses for the year and be honest about where your money went. It doesn’t have to be precise, but you can quickly get a good sense about your spending.

I know it is easy to think that this exercise would be a lot simpler and more fun if you were rich. But the truth is that if you are reading this blog, it is likely that you are in the top 1% of all earners on the planet. In fact, you may even be in the top 10% of all earners in the United States. No matter what you think, you do have choices about how you spend your money.

What financial goals are important to you? You need to ensure that you have a real plan for funding all of these things in a manner that you can be proud of.

In my case, my wife and I have worked hard to get to the point where we set aside 15% for savings and 10% for charity. That isn’t easy to do and it didn’t happen overnight.  We started with smaller percentages and built up. Another thing that helps us is that we automatically put money into separate accounts for things like charity, taxes, and savings to ensure that the money is set aside.

Decide what is important to you strategically and stick with it. Don’t keep spending money on something just because it is what you’re used to doing.

So what can you do about this in 2014?

Find one area in your life where you can make a small change in your time and money. Perhaps you need to commit to spending 2 extra hours per week on your health and nutrition. Or you need to save an extra 1% of your money for retirement. Make one small change and commit to it in 2014.

2014 is around the corner. Now is the time to take a careful look at your time and money and make sure you are spending it in the right places next year. Your health, your family, your business, your charitable community, and the world will all be better if you do.

JohnJohn Rydell is a seasoned entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience starting and growing technology and telecom companies. John currently spends his time as president of Networx Online, a CRM-in-the-cloud business that provides online marketing solutions for network marketers. John is also president and co-founder of the sales automation tool PhoneBurner.com as well as the popular free online meeting provider MeetingBurner.com.

15 Your Marketing Organized

One of the most difficult tasks for small business owners, when it comes to marketing, is organization. Until you start to look at marketing as one of the core systems in your business it will always feel like a disjointed and disconnected thing that you know you must do when you can get around to it. And that’s no way to build momentum.

I find that it’s helpful for many people to look at marketing in the traditional org chart fashion. See, here’s the deal, even if it’s just you and Louie, he does this, you do that, you need an org chart for your business. Here’s why. No matter how many actual people you have in your organization, your business has many functions, it’s just that they are being done – or not being done – by just you and Louie.

By creating an organization chart, and acknowledging all the functions, you stand a far greater chance of developing individual systems and strategies to make sure the work in each area is organized and done. Not to mention the fact that you are laying the foundation for growth if and when you have bodies to put in more of the boxes on your chart.

To keep you org chart simple for now I like to start with the top as Marketing, Money and Management or Marketing, Finance and Operations.

For the purpose of this post I’ve created what I think is the ideal Marketing organization in the graphic below. (This is a smartart graphic that new versions of MS Office can create and save as an image – click on the graphic to see full size and feel free to borrow for your organization.)

If you can begin to realize that your company’s marketing system does indeed need to perform all of the functions listed above, you can more easily grasp how to create processes that assure you are accurately moving each and every customer logically along the path to becoming a hyper-satisfied referral machine.

And that’s the way to build marketing momentum!

27 Hourly Thinking is a Recipe for Disaster

If you provide a service, and you charge for your service by the hour, you’re headed for trouble. You are essentially selling a product with a limited supply. The only way to increase your business is to raise your rates. But even that will catch up with you because at some point the old apples to apples comparison with a competitor will check your growth.

The answer is to sell a result for a fee or sell a package for a fee, much like you might sell a product. See when you sell a product, nobody says “I’m not paying you $5000, it only costs you $10 to make it.” You price it and they decide if they value it enough to buy it.

But, that’s precisely what they say when you charge by the hour isn’t it?. “I’m not paying you $5,000 for that, it only took you 3 hours to do it.” See, the thing is, it may have only taken you three hours to produce this one result but it’s taken your 10 years of your life to get good enough to do it. Don’t think hours, don’t sell hours, don’t devalue your experience and expertise and ability to bring massive results to your customers by selling yourself short.

Have you ever delivered an incredible, six figure kind of result for a customer only to return to the office and fire off a $500 invoice? Have you ever felt a customer back down because they didn’t believe you could actually deliver the results you promised that cheaply?

But how do you get out of the hourly trap? I mean everyone else in your industry is stuck with it, how can you expect to defy it?

The secret to this seemingly cavalier advice lies in putting your energy into forging one of two paths.

1) Build a brand that speaks to a narrow market so thoroughly they are willing to pay a premium to experience it.
2) Create and document results so completely that no one will ever blink when you tell them your fee for the result.

When you begin to think this way it will completely change your view of the world and quite likely allow you to more fully serve your customers while enjoying making what your expertise and unique life experiences are worth.

I had a great conversation with Alan Weiss, a consultant well known for his Million Dollar Consulting series of books and some very strong opinions on this notion of value based fees. You can click on over to listen to our chat or download the interview here.

17 Cheap Gas Makes You Lazy

With skyrocketing gas prices in the US people seem to be doing what they can to save a little gas here and there. My wife and I are hopping on our bikes for grocery runs and walking to the nearby coffee shop. Returning to good, wholesome basics is what we’re doing. Stuff we should be doing no matter what the cost of gas!

It’s funny but that seems to be the lesson we all need. In times of economic uncertainly people tend to refocus on blocking and tackling, doing the basic stuff you should always do. When the market is rockin and gas is cheap it’s easy to get lazy. Let calls go unreturned, let relationships drift, let the blog posting wither, chase the next new thing.

The best thing about a slow market is that it slaps you upside the head and forces you get back to basics.

So, instead of focusing on the external circumstances beyond your control turn your focus to the internal realities within your grasp. Hug your customers!

  • Call five customers just to find out more about how you can help them deal with a downturn
  • Reach out to five potential strategic partners and start a discussion about banding together
  • Visit a local floral shop and send five bouquets of flowers to five referral sources
  • Sit down and write five hand-written notes thanking five people for something
  • Take your banker, accountant and five suppliers out to lunch to talk about ways to cut expenses

And. . . go pump up the tires on your bike.

2 Think of July 1 as a sort of a Jan 1

This article on the AP wire is such a good reminder – mid year financial check-ups

The grade school my kids went to used to celebrate 1/2 birthdays – the 6 month date between one birthday and the next – why not celebrate 1/2 vision day for your business.

So, you sat around the fireplace in late December 2007 and made a list of goals, right? July 1 is such a great date to take a look at just how well you are doing. It’s also a great time to create some new goals, realign unrealistic goals, and create a list of action steps that will point you towards realizing your current vision for your business. While you’re at it make sure you work on personal, business, strategic and tactical goals all at the same time – there is no such thing as life/work balance – it’s just all about vision and having fun.

Oh, and don’t forget – marketing is a habit – do it every day, week, month, quarter and do it passionately.

3 What Does Cash Flow Have To Do With Marketing?

Cash flow and marketing are attached at the proverbial hip – Marketing is all about growing your business, but quite often, even when things are rocking along, you can’t grow your business without effective cash flow planning.

When the economy make a move towards uncertainty, fully understanding the relationship between strong cash flow and strong marketing becomes even more crucial.

OPEN American ExpressJoin me Tuesday, June 24 at 4pm CDT as I host Cash Flow – the Lifeblood of America’s Small Businesses. How to Manage Through Times of Economic Uncertainty with the help of Raymond Joabar, Senior Vice President of Lending and Network Development for OPEN – Sign up here

We will discuss cash flow planning, cash flow pitfalls, smart growth, maximizing cash flow, and how to effectively measure cash flow. I promise to make this seemingly boring topic engaging!

This free webinar is brought to you by OPEN from American Express®

5 Up Your Cashflow

Harvey Goldstein a no-nonsense CPA and author of several books and software programs, including UpYourCashFlow stopped by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast to spread his small business cash flow gospel.

Don't BudgetUpYourCashFlow really isn’t financial software in the strict sense, it takes your real data and tells you where you are headed and where the cash crunches are coming from. As Harvey says, most CPAs are great at telling you where you’ve been, it’s a bit more helpful to know where you are going.

Too many small businesses go belly up when they get into cash flow issues. It’s funny, but I’ve worked with companies that struggle with this concept when they grow too fast – so, it’s not just an issue of getting more sales.

Harvey also takes some shots at his own industry with this very counterintuitive free book – Don’t Bust the Budget, Toss It! – go get your copy – he’s right in line with how I feel about marketing budgets. I get the same question almost every time I speak – “How much should I budget for marketing?” My answer is always the same – as much as you need and as little as you must to meet your goals. Budgeting is guess work and it’s always wrong so why cause all the grief to begin with. Pay attention, measure and adjust based on a marketing strategy.