Author Archives: Jody Seibert

Don’t Delay Your EMV Credit Card Compliance

The United States is the world leader in credit card fraud. EMV or Europay, Mastercard, and Visa is the new credit card standard going into effect October 2015. The new credit cards will have an embedded microchip that will make payments more secure than the traditional magnetic stripe. You’ve probably already received your replacement card from your credit card company.

ChipCard_Blog-newI’ve written a prior blog post about this and hopefully your merchant service company has been in touch with you about the changes you need to make. In spite of all the attention, I see many small businesses still using the old card readers.

Using the new cards means inserting the credit card into a new type of card reader instead of swiping the magnetic stripe. That means if you accept credit card payments in person, you need a new card reader by October 2015. What happens if you don’t get a new card reader by then? If you continue swiping cards via the magnetic stripe or do not purchase a new card reader, you could be liable for fraudulent charges on any cards compromised after being swiped on your machine. Considering the United States lost over $5 billion to credit card fraud in 2013, spending up to a few hundred dollars on a new credit card machine is a small investment.

Oddly enough, PayPal has yet to announce the availability of an EMV compliant card reader. Square has had a new mobile reader available for months, but their register hardware hasn’t been updated. You can learn more here as well as purchase your new reader.

If you use a traditional merchant service company such as Authorize.net or Paymentech contact them to learn about your options to upgrade your equipment. Another option you may want to consider is Apple Pay and other contactless payment systems. Either way, please don’t delay. Waiting until the last minute to upgrade your equipment could mean the readers go on back order due to the last minute demand, not having as many equipment choices, and paying more for a new card reader.

Square has a website dedicated to the new EMV standard. Learn more here.
Authorize.net has an EMV FAQ here.

The option you choose depends on how you accept payments from customers and how your customers prefer to pay you. If you need some help navigating this process, please get in touch.

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Get Out and Expand Your Mind

About a month ago I attended the Xerocon conference in Denver, Colorado. It’s the annual conference for Xero, beautiful accounting software. And I am so glad I invested in me and my business to attend this conference. It’s easy to get lost in the day to day rush of running our businesses. However, it’s important that we never stop learning because investing in our continuing education as a business owner will help us to be better business owners and provide more value to our clients. At Xerocon, I spent three days with other accounting professionals, attending presentations, meeting add-on partners to Xero, and, of course, networking. A month later, I’m still trying to digest and apply all of the information and following up with people I met. One of the biggest benefits of traveling to attend a conference is sharing and learning from others in your industry. None of us is an island, but running a business can feel isolating at times. One of the things I learned at the conference is how others found solutions to challenges I also face.

Never Stop LearningThe biggest takeaway was spending three days with other modern accountants and seeing how the accounting profession is evolving. The accounting profession has changed over the last five years, and I’ve been embracing that change since starting my business in 2010. How has the accounting profession changed? Accounting is no longer just about data entry, managing piles of paper and crunching numbers. With automated bank feeds, invoicing and bill pay, paper handling can be virtually eliminated from the daily operation of many businesses.

Accounting is no longer about retroactively reporting the financial results of a business. You can know right now which quotes for services have not been accepted. Are your expenses are under control? What are your best selling (and most profitable) products and services? And most importantly, are you making a profit? Business decisions happen faster, possibly saving your business from a financial loss.

In the past, customized business software was cost prohibitive to many small businesses. Those days are gone. There are numerous cost-effective add-ons to accounting software that allow you to streamline and simplify the day-to-day operation of your business. Collaborating with clients, employees, and independent contractors is a breeze. You really can grow your business from anywhere. And that’s what I want to help my clients accomplish. If you want to grow your business from anywhere, please get in touch.

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The Hidden Cost of Free

As business owners, we try to control costs as much as possible. As an accountant, I’m all for controlling costs. However, there is a fine line between running your business lean versus cheap. In the long run, cheap can cost you more. This is true when selecting software tools to support back office operations. I see many businesses fall into the trap of limiting themselves to only using free software to run their business. Don’t get me wrong. Free software can be a great place to start and solve an immediate problem. However, when your business starts to grow that free software usually can’t grow with you. And when that happens, daily operations can be impacted in sudden and painful ways.

When it comes to accounting software, there are a couple products out there I don’t recommend. And it’s not because they are free, and I want you to spend a lot of money on software I like. It’s because I believe they are inferior products and, in the long run, will cause more problems than they solve as has been my experience with Wave Accounting. When the software first came out, I joined their accountant network. And then I started seeing problems with the software that had a negative impact on the accuracy of the numbers. When Wave chose not to correct the issues, I requested to be removed from their accountant network. At best, Wave does only the most basic of bookkeeping akin to keeping a spreadsheet; at worst, the accruacy of your financial information is in question. And forget about exporting any data from Wave. It’s difficult at best which means changing to another accounting software is time consuming and expensive. GoDaddy Accounting (formerly Outright) is another software I don’t recommend.

So what accounting software do I recommend? My first choice is Xero. It is fully functional accounting software with several subscription levels to grow your business. The clean interface makes navigation and understanding your numbers much easier. Also, the dozens of add-ons allow you to customize the software to streamline and automate the back office operation of your business. Your valuable time should be spent on your clients and growing your business, not on the back office operations.

My second choice of accounting software is Quickbooks Online. While Intuit has been dumping significant money into developing the online software, it can be buggy. The interface is very cluttered causing frustration for business owners who just want to create an invoice or write a check. Quickbooks Online is also known to go down at inconvenient times. Xero has a much better record for uptime. The subscription levels are different from Xero. Quickbooks Online subscriptions are priced based on functionality. That means the basic subscription does not allow you to customize reports, create 1099s, or even create a budget among other things. In a nutshell, the Quickbooks Online subscription model is all about the upsell. Personally, I find that annoying. The Xero subscription model relates to transaction volume and grows with your business accordingly.

Notice that Quickbooks for Windows does not rank among my top accounting software choices. Gaining access to the company file makes it difficult to collaborate with clients. There are cloud hosting options, but they are not cost effective. The risk of data loss with the Quickbooks desktop editions is high. Few businesses have reliable data backup and recovery plans in place. If your file should become corrupt (and it eventually will in my experience), data loss could severely impact your business.

Are you using the right accounting software for your business? Is it time to make a change? Please get in touch.

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7 Ways to Put Cash in Your Pocket Right Now

Need some cash? Who doesn’t, right? Here’s a list of ways to get some cash in your pocket fast.

1. Review software subscriptions.
Get out those bank and credit card statements and look for recurring software subscription fees. Which ones can you cancel because you don’t need it? Are there any subscriptions you still use but can go to a less expensive subscription level?

2. Cancel magazine and newspaper subscriptions.
Are those magazines and newspapers always piling up because you don’t have time to read them? Maybe it’s time to cancel. Like right now.

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3. Pay your bills on time to avoid late fees and interest.
Make a regular appointment with yourself to pay your bills on time. When you open the mail, always put bills to pay in a special box or bin, so they don’t get lost.

4. Make your coffee instead of going to the coffee shop.  

At $5 bucks a pop, you could save at least $20 a week.

5. Reach out to a client who owes you money.
You should be doing this weekly via email or a quick phone call. You’re not a bank, and you shouldn’t be financing your client’s business by allowing them to pay late. Be politely firm about getting paid according to the terms of the contract your client signed. You may even consider making the payment terms shorter, like ten days instead of 30.

6. If you have a decent sized email list or social media following, consider offering a flash sale on your product or service.

7. Sell your old electronics and books on Amazon.
Gather up those electronics and books you haven’t looked at in ages and head on over to http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=amazon+trade+in&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=35012723244&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=9438273619257570956&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_wsm0a9p6d_e to see how much Amazon will give you for them. Amazon credits your account with a gift card, so it isn’t technically cash in your pocket, but a gift card still spends.

Do you have more ideas of how to put cash in your pocket right now?

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Creating Opportunity by Delegating

delegate to success

 

When I started my business, I did everything myself. My first foray into delegating happened when the paper started piling up on my desk because I had less time to scan and organize my receipts and other documents. I chose to delegate that task to Shoeboxed.

The next task I delegated was organizing the various tasks I had to complete for clients. I delegated this task to task (project) management software.

Following that, I took a bigger step at delegating. I hired a virtual assistant to help with my newsletter, social media, phone calls, and even travel arrangements.

Why did I delegate these tasks? Because there is a limit to how many productive hours I have in a day. When I delegate tasks, I am more organized and able to accomplish more in a day. I also have more time for client work and even for myself instead of spending time on administrative tasks. I mostly delegate tasks because of time limits, not my inability to perform them. However, there are skills such as graphic design, copy editing, and web design that I do not possess and choose to delegate to an expert. An expert who will accomplish the task at a fraction of the time that I could and with a much better result. Oh, and let’s not forget the reduction of stress at not constantly trying to cram too much into too few hours.

I’ve come to view delegating as something more than outsourcing tasks I cannot or choose not to do myself. Whether I am delegating tasks to software to automate them or paying an expert to perform those tasks, I am paying forward my success. My business reached the milestone of not being able to go it alone. By delegating tasks to an expert, not only am I able to use my own time more efficiently, I am providing the opportunity to an expert to grow their own business. What’s better than giving back?

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Another Way to Protect your Data

There’s no end of articles out there telling you how to protect your data. Having strong passwords is obvious. But think about employees and independent contractors that have access to your online data.

When is the last time you reviewed who has access to your online accounts? People move on, and task assignments change. People who work for you should only have access to the data they need in order to do their job. No more, no less.

Invest the time to review and update who has access to your online accounts on a regular basis. While you’re at it, change those passwords too. Doing so could reduce your risk of damage to your finances and reputation.

Here’s a list of places to start:

*Accounting Software
*Online Banking
*Employee Benefits
*Credit cards (online access and physical cards)
*Sites you purchase from online
*Twitter
*Facebook
*LinkedIn
*HootSuite
*SproutSocial
*WordPress
*Newsletter software (MailChimp, Constant Contact)
*Online document sharing (Dropbox, GoogleDocs)

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Save Money By Filing Your Tax Return on Time

Tax day approaches. For individuals and businesses who follow the calendar year, your tax return is due by April 15, 2015. It is true you can request an extension to delay filing your taxes. Here’s why you should file your tax return by April 15:

File Your Taxes Now and Know What Changes to Make This Year

The sooner you file your tax return, the sooner you will know whether you owe taxes or will receive a refund. Filing your tax return sooner than later gives you the opportunity to start planning for the 2015 tax year by learning from what you did right or wrong for 2014. Did you pay the correct amount of estimated tax payments? What about contributing to a retirement account? Did you keep receipts for all the expenses you should have? When you request an extension, most of the next year is gone, and you lose the opportunity for tax planning and correcting things you did wrong last year.

Get Prepared, Then Meet with a Tax Professional

I recommend you have a tax professional prepare your personal and business tax returns. Partnering with the right tax professional will ensure you take advantage of tax deductions and credits to your advantage. To help you answer some of your questions and build a list to ask your tax professional, I recommend two resources:

J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes 2015 by Barbara Weltman – This book discusses everything from choosing your business entity, handling income and losses, expenses, home office deduction, tax planning tips, and much more. Use this book as a reference year round to answer your quick tax questions.

Small Business Taxes Made Easy by Eva Rosenberg – You should read this book cover to cover. The author starts with the basics of starting a business, choosing an entity, business plans, income and deductions, pitfalls to avoid, and much more. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent and shares her years of tax experience throughout the book, including downloadable book updates, checklists, and resource lists.

To make the most of your meeting with your tax professional, you need to have up to date accounting records, namely a balance sheet and income statements. Financial statements help you make timely business decisions. They also help your tax professional quickly get an overview of your company in order to provide the right tax advice for your situation.

So stop procrastinating and start gathering what you need to get those tax returns done. If your accounting records are in a bit of a mess, I can fix your accounting. Just get in touch.

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Are you a victim of fraud?

I have had the misfortune on several occasions to speak with business owners who were victims of fraud. Fraud can destroy your business by the way of ruined relationships and cash flow problems that force you into bankruptcy.

Regardless of the size of your business, you don’t have to spend a lot of time and money to reduce your exposure to fraud. Simply put, set boundaries and hold the people who work for you (or otherwise represent you) accountable. Some see these accountability measures as an accusation. (You don’t trust me! or But we’re all friends!) I call them protection. In the words of Ronald Reagan, “trust but verify.” Accounting is about financial responsibility and transparency.

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Stress and the value of time

As I write this, the holiday season is in full swing. Anyone with a product or service to sell is marketing like crazy. Just take a look at your postal mailbox and your email for proof. It takes extra effort just to sort through all that for what you need. Along with the day-to-day activity of running your business there are the year-end things to think about; estimated tax payments, retirement account contributions, health insurance, getting your books up to date, etc. Add to that holiday preparations; travel, decorating, shopping, baking, etc. Overwhelmed? The more overwhelmed we are, the less productive we are because we lose focus. The less productive we are, the more stressed we become.

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What is Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV)?

EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa. What is it and how will it affect you and your business?

U.S. banks will be switching to this new type of credit card by October of 2015. All cards will be equipped with a super-small computer chip that is extremely hard to counterfeit. Europe already has this technology in use in an effort to combat fraud. According to current statistics, the U.S. is currently the capital of credit-card fraud. Here is a link explaining the vulnerability of the U.S. to credit fraud that may help you understand the advantage of the new computer chip technology vs. the old magnetic strip technology:  – http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-12-23/why-the-u-dot-s-dot-leaves-its-credit-card-system-vulnerable-to-fraud

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