Author Archives: Jody Seibert

Improving your Collections Chances!

I recently had an unfortunate experience with collecting payment from a client.  I would like to share some information with you so that you will, hopefully, not have to go through this as well…

I had an unresolved invoice from a client and after many attempts on my part to collect the debt, I had to turn to a collection agency.  This is not an avenue that any business owner relishes, however, I was able to receive some sound advice through the generosity of the collections agency. It was suggested to me that I add a “Personal Guaranty” to my standard business agreement. They even provided me with the proper verbiage!  I would love to share this with you so that you may also take advantage of the great advice that I received.

PERSONAL GUARANTY

In consideration of [COMPANY NAME] its subsidiaries or affiliates, extending credit, I/we jointly and severally do personally guarantee unconditionally, at all times, to [COMPANY NAME], its subsidiaries or affiliates, the payment of indebtedness or balance of indebtedness of the within named firm. I understand that this could include remedies up to and including reporting on my personal credit and responsibility for any and all collection or attorney fees associated with the recovery of any past due balances.

 

By adding the “Personal Guaranty” to your service contract, you may increase your chances of being able to collect if you should find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having an “noncollectable” account!!

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Tame your software subscriptions

Software subscriptions out of control?

Tame them with these simple steps

Online software subscriptions are all the rage. They’re pretty much how I run my business, and there are some great tools out there. But the phrase “buyer beware” applies as much here as it does elsewhere, and I have to say I’ve learned some hard lessons over the years. Here are a few things I do to save money and make sure I’m in control of my subscriptions, not the other way around.

Set calendar reminders 

We all get busy, and whether you have just one subscription or several that automatically renew, it can be hard to keep track of renewal dates. Creating calendar reminders that alert you a few days ahead of a renewal date gives you a chance to review the subscription before your credit card is charged to see if you need to:

Cancel because you no longer use it. Sometimes subscription use falls by the wayside, so periodic review is always a good idea. Only a few companies offer a partial refund when you cancel a subscription in the middle of a billing cycle, and there’s nothing worse than paying for something you don’t use or need.

Review your subscription level.  If you still need the software but aren’t using all the bells and whistles, you can often downgrade to a less expensive option.

Beware the annual subscription

Many software companies offer discounts when you pay for a year in advance, even throwing in a couple of months for free. Don’t be in a hurry to do this. Many companies are reluctant to issue mid-year refunds, so if you have to cancel mid-year, you can lose a lot of money. And sometimes, you have no choice but to cancel. Companies can make changes to their software during the course of a subscription, and what began as a useful tool for your business can suddenly become a handicap. This happened to me with my project management software recently, and I was forced to stop what I was doing midstream and find different software because it had such a negative impact on my productivity.

Watch the webinar

Before subscribing to online software services, take the time to sign up for a free trial and the free introductory webinars. Webinars are usually 30-60 minutes long and go a long way toward helping you decide if a product is right for you. In addition, if you decide to subscribe, you’ll already be a step ahead of the game since you’ll already know how to put the software to work for you.

Time taken to research and review your software subscription plans is time wisely spent.  Just like the old saying goes, “Short-term pain, long-term gain.”

Tame your software subscriptions with these simple steps.

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Estimated Tax Payments Made Easy

Since estimated tax payments sent through the mail include your tax ID number, they can put your business at risk. Why mail your estimated tax payments to the IRS when there’s an easier – and safer – way?

Register your business at www.EFTPS.gov to make tax payments easily and securely.

If you are a sole proprietor or single member LLC filing a Schedule C for your tax return, register as an individual.

If you are a corporation, or if you don’t file Schedule C with your tax return, register as a business.

The registration process only takes a few minutes.

You just need:

  • Business Name
  • Business Address
  • Tax ID
  • Bank Account Information

When you’re done, save your confirmation number. The IRS will mail your logon information, which will usually arrive in two weeks.

Once you’ve received your logon information, simply log into www.EFTPS.gov to schedule your tax payment by the due date.

Estimated tax payments are due on:

  • April 15, 2014
  • June 16, 2014
  • September 15, 2014
  • December 15, 2014 (corporations)
  • January 15, 2014 (individuals)

Accurate, up-to-date financial records and consultations with your tax guru can also help you make timely estimated tax payments and avoid a surprise tax bill.

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How I Use Automation in My Business

I’ve been asked to share how I automate some of my business processes. However, I will start by saying that what works for me, may not work for you. But I do hope you can apply my example to your own business situation. Remember, it’s all about choosing the right tools to best serve your ideal client.

The contact request form on my website adds a contact record to my CRM (contact relationship manager) software as well as QuoteRoller, the software I use to prepare proposals for prospective clients. The proposal is emailed to the client and another application, RightSignature, is used for electronic signature acceptance of the proposal.

The next step is to have QuoteRoller create an invoiceID-100157962 in Freshbooks, the time and billing software I use. The invoices and payments automatically go to Xero, my accounting software.

Did you notice no printing of paper was involved in this process? Even better than that, only a minimal amount of typing was involved.

By narrowly defining the services I provide, I was able to set up a catalog of services in QuoteRoller so that preparing a client proposal is done with a few mouse clicks and minimal editing.

By choosing software tools that integrate AND understanding how that data is shared, I set up a reliable and accurate business system that supports my business process.  If client information changes, I update ONE system and the rest automatically get updated.

Where should you start building your business system? Start with documenting your business processes and then think about what tools you need in order to support and automate those processes. Please do not over think this. Keep it simple! Focus on the tools and processes you need in order to best serve your ideal client. I wrote about software integration here.

By the way, most of the links in this post are affiliate links which means I may earn a few coins if you sign up via my link. It is no way effects the price YOU pay for the subscription. I only support software that I firmly believe are solid products. This is also not an all inclusive list of the tools I use for my business. If you peruse my blog, you can read about some of the other tools I use.

If you’d like help with this process, get in touch. I’d be happy to assist.

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The Accounting Puzzle

For the first time in years, I bought a jigsaw puzzle to put together. While some see it as a tedious, frustrating task, I found the process of assembling the puzzle very satisfying and somewhat relaxing. Sort of like accounting. What some see as pointless and frustrating I find satisfaction in assembling the puzzle of your financial records. At least most of the time.

photo-1While a jigsaw puzzle may contain 500 pieces to assemble, your business systems (email, marketing, accounting, etc) does not necessarily need to contain that many pieces. Adding complexity to the way you do business makes it that much harder for customers to do business with you and prevents you from really knowing the financial health of your business. This complexity will also cost you in extra time and effort to maintain complex systems.

Do you really need 50 product/service names for the 15 products or services you sell?  No, because too many choices likely means the customer chooses nothing.

Do you really need an income account for every product or service you sell? No, because consistency in recording transactions becomes almost impossible and your financial reports impossible to gain usable financial insight about your business.

On the flip side, do you really need an expense account for every conceivable type of expense your business has? Again, no. Too much detail makes it almost impossible to be consistent in recording your financial transactions.

Unlike a jigsaw puzzle that contains upwards of 500 pieces, you can choose to keep your business model (and the accompanying business systems) as simple as possible. Keep it simple is the best advice I can give to any business. Life has its own way of adding pieces to the puzzle of our businesses without us adding to it.

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How to Protect Your Debit Card

The debit card hacking debacle at Target was unraveling as I was traveling across country to visit family for the holidays. Being so far from home, canceling my debit card was not really an option. During a phone call with my bank I learned a lot about how to protect my debit card.

Most banks allow you to change the pin for your debit card by calling the number on the back of the card and using their automated system. It’s a good idea to do this periodically and takes only a few minutes.

Your bank will automatically set a daily spending limit on debit purchases. Not only was I not aware this limit existed, I was shocked to see how high my bank set this limit on my behalf. Call your bank to set this limit to match your spending habits. That way if your card is hacked, you can limit the damage.

Just as there is a daily debit purchase limit, there is an ATM withdrawal limit that is separate from the limits set by the ATM machines. Again, I was surprised to see how high the bank set that limit. When you call your bank to change the daily debit purchase limit, change this one as well.

And don’t forget about your online banking password. When is the last time you changed it? I know, it’s another password to remember but it’s for your own protection. And while you are at it, if you have the option of choosing different security questions, do that as well.

Finally, log in several times a week to review your transactions and immediately contact your bank regarding any questionable transactions, no matter the dollar amount.

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Resolve To Go Paperless Now!

Shoeboxed is one of my favorite tools because it helps me stay organized and paperless for a minimal fee. My business has been paperless from the start. In fact, I scanned all my own documents for a while. And then the paper started piling up. So did my stress level every time I saw those piles of paper.

Enter Shoeboxed. Now I stuff everything I need scanned into an envelope (provided by Shoeboxed) and drop it in the mail. Problem solved.

Several months ago, I became an Ambassador for Shoeboxed. That essentially means I promote them and they promote me. I had to apply to become one of their ambassadors and was fortunate to be selected. Being an ambassador also means I have my very own sign up page for the Shoeboxed service where you can get 20% off your first 6 months of the service. It also means I earn a small commission when someone signs up via my personal link. However, that does not in any way affect the price you pay for the Shoeboxed service.

This is that time of year when in between holiday preparations, we start resolving to improve various areas of our lives. So start right now. Stop feeling guilty every time you see THAT PILE of paper on your desk. No more wasted time looking for a receipt. Shoeboxed will scan all that paper for you and help you organize everything on their website.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a nice clean desk? No mountain of paper tumbling onto the floor. Imagine how happy your tax person will be when you invite them as a user to your Shoeboxed account instead of handing them a bag of paper receipts.

Invest just 5 minutes to sign up now. Shoeboxed will mail you envelopes to fill with your receipts and you will be able to see your desk again.

Go PaperlessKnow what else? Shoeboxed is running a contest among their ambassadors to see who can sign up the most people between now and January 15, 2014. Yes, I might win a prize, but I really just want you get out from under those piles of paper. If you do sign up for Shoeboxed and comment on this post, I’ll send you something cool. (Ok, so I’m suffering from a bit of holiday stress and haven’t picked a cool prize yet, but when I do, it will be cool.)

 

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When to Hire an Accountant

There are many articles written regarding when to hire an accountant, and opinions vary. Here’s my take on when and why you should hire an accountant.

Setting up accounting software

There are some tasks involved with running a business you should not attempt on your own and this is one of them. What are the most common problems I come across?

  • Adding an excessive amount of income and expense accounts (categories).
  • Not entering beginning bank and other account balances.ID-100200640

Most business owners complain about doing their own accounting but set up an overly complicated system when attempting it on their own. Be nice to yourself and keep it simple! Better yet, get professional help. Continue reading

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When to Set Up Accounting Software For Your Business

ID-10058688I am often asked when a business owner should set up accounting software for their new business. The short answer: the moment you decide to start a business.

The moment you decide to start a business you start incurring expenses; web domains, business licensing, logo design, product development, legal fees, etc. These start-up expenses must be tracked not only to get all those deductions on your tax return, but to know the financial facts about your new business.

Xero cloud accounting software has partner editions available for as little as $9 per month for start-up businesses. As your business grows there are subscription levels to grow with you. This also allows you to stay with the same software as your business grows and avoids the additional expense of converting to new software. Once you know how to use the software, your learning curve is limited to learning features newly added to the software or just now becoming important to your business.

Here’s something else to consider. The sooner you set up accounting software for your business, the sooner you build the habit of tracking income and expenses as well as building a budget and learning to read your financial statements.

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Make Online Banking Work For You

We’re surrounded by technology these days, did you notice? There are apps to do things you never knew you even needed to do. The sheer number of options when using new can be overwhelming.

I think the key is to choose apps that help you be productive and make your life easier. Select tools that automate time-consuming processes and you start feeling more on top of things right away. 

Here’s an example: are you getting the most out of your online banking? If you suspect you might not be taking advantage of basic tools that really streamline things, take a look this short list.

Mobile Apps – Use the mobile app from your bank to accomplish on your mobile device pretty much the same tasks you can do by logging in on your computer. You can do your banking anywhere there is a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Wouldn’t you rather be doing something rather than just waiting around for an appointment or the subway?

Online Bill Pay – Stop wasting time and money buying checks and stamps to pay your bills. When you use the online bill pay service, your bank will print and mail the check to the payee on your behalf, which saves you the cost of buying checks, envelopes, and stamps. Even better is the fact that your bank account number is nowhere on the check, which helps protect you against fraud.

There’s very little you can’t pay via online bill pay: utilities, rent, insurance, loan payments, credit cards, independent contractors, and much more.  Many utility and credit card companies even allow you to receive e-bills from them via your online banking service.

Don’t want your bank to mail a check to your payee? Pay them using their email address. Most banks now offer services to send and receive money simply by providing an email address. And most banks do not charge fees for these bill pay services, so why not take advantage of it?

Build Your Credit Score – Stop paying late fees because you forgot to pay a bill. Schedule recurring credit card, rent, loan payments and the like to be paid on time every month. This will help improve your credit score, too.

Invest 20 minutes and log into your online banking now and explore the options your bank has available to pay bills more efficiently and manage your cash better. Make the technology work for you.

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