Author Archives: Jody Seibert

Budget is not a bad word

Just say the word “budget” and people change the subject. Their eyes glaze over.

Budgets are useful for personal and business purposes and don’t have to be some giant detailed document that rules your life. It’s a guide; a plan; and it’s certainly not cast in stone. A budget reflects what you think/hope/want to happen. It can help you make decisions – whether to spend or not your money, look for another or additional job, or raise your prices.

Let’s create a quick budget. Grab a piece of paper.

Write down all your fixed expenses for the month. Examples would be rent, insurance, utilities, software subscriptions, loan payments, etc. Include amounts put aside for equipment purchases and taxes.

Now write down your best estimate for your variable monthly costs. These would be merchant and/or bank fees, independent contractor fees, continuing education, office supplies, salaries and travel expenses.

Total up all those numbers you just wrote down. That’s your “break even” point; how much you have to sell just to keep the doors open. Now add in how much the business should be paying you each month (if not already added in above).

If nothing else, just writing down a quick budget like this can quickly streamline and prioritize your to do list.

Take a look at your accounting software to see if it has a budget feature. If it does, enter the numbers from the budget you just created. This will allow you to run budget versus actual income statements which can be very helpful. And don’t be afraid to change your budget. It’s a tool, not a ball and chain.

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Using your personal vehicle for your business

One of the most commonly asked questions I get is regarding the business use of a personally owned vehicle. There are several ways this can be treated on your tax return and I don’t really want to get into all that. What I do want to help you do is track the right information to provide to your tax professional. This information will help determine which method will give you the best results on your tax return.

1. Mileage: There are a couple ways to do this. There are apps you can download on your phone to track your business miles. Personally, I bought a small weekly calendar I keep on the console of my car in plain sight. I found I needed the visual reminder of seeing the calendar for writing down my mileage. On January 1, (or the day you start using your vehicle for business), write down the odometer reading. Then for each business use of your vehicle, write down the beginning and ending odometer reading along with a few words stating where you went (i.e. meeting with client at ….). At the end of the year, write down the odometer reading again and total up your total business miles. Provide the beginning and ending odometer reading for the year along with your total business miles to your tax professional.

2. Vehicle expenses: This includes fuel, repair and maintenance, insurance, and registration. I like to put this information in a spreadsheet. Remember to look in all your bank accounts for this information.

Once your tax professional completes your tax return, they should tell you what information to track for next year. If you happen to buy another vehicle, start from step 1 of this article for tracking mileage and expenses until your tax professional determines the best method to handle the vehicle on your tax return.

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Travel and Work from Anywhere

Do you ever read about business owners that travel the world and work from anywhere? Wonder how they did it (and feel a bit jealous)? Here’s how I did just that.

I live in Arizona while my family resides in Pennsylvania. This past holiday season, I flew to Pennsylvania in December and returned to Arizona in January. I did not ship anything ahead for my business nor did I pay any excess baggage fees.

How did I do it? My business has been paperless from the start. What I don’t scan and file myself, Shoeboxed does for me. Clients share documents with me via Dropbox and any paper that does come my way is scanned and shredded (mostly). This eliminated carrying piles of paper with me.

So what did I carry with me?
• MacBook Pro
• iPad
• wireless mouse
• wireless keyboard
• 3-4 folders with documents that I needed hardcopies of
• 2 wire-bound notebooks
• Calendar/Planner
• assortment of writing utensils
• iPhone
• bluetooth headset
• and of course the chargers for all of the above

And it all fits in this Mobile Edge laptop backpack.

I like this laptop backpack because of its slim design, but the best feature is it is TSA friendly. That means I just unzip the laptop compartment and send my bag through the scanner without taking my laptop out of the bag.

While using my iPad as a second monitor to view documents, I was able to work very efficiently. And with my Bluetooth headset and Join.me screen-sharing, meetings were a breeze.

I will admit to some trepidation at traveling so far away for so long. What if I forgot something important? Having the right tools made all the difference. In the end, there was nothing I had left behind (documents or other) that caused any sort of panic and I had a pleasant stay with my family.

*Note: Links may be affiliate links and I may earn a few coins if you clink the link and buy something.

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Paperless Freedom in Flagstaff, Arizona

Shoeboxed is an awesome service that scans my documents and helps me stay paperless.

With Shoeboxed there has never been one “best” way to use our service to stay organized. And after processing over a billion dollars of expense data since 2007, we say that from years of firsthand experience!

Shoeboxed takes enormous pride in serving clients from around the country and across the globe, all of whom use our service in a myriad of ways to fulfill a whole host of organizational needs in both their personal and professional lives.

Read my interview here

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People don’t buy what your business does; they buy why you do it.

I recently watched a Ted Talk given by Simon Sinek called ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’.

The main point Simon made was that people don’t buy what your business does; they buy why you do it. That got me to thinking about why I do what I do.

I accidentally started my business in early 2010 after losing my full time job two weeks before Christmas. As that was in the midst of the recession and I live in a small town, there were no jobs to apply for. So I started responding to ads on Craig’s List posted by small businesses needing occasional help with their bookkeeping. I also stumbled on an opportunity to serve as a mentor at Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET) that brought in clients as well. Work also came along in the way of part-time jobs, mostly temporary. Somehow I made ends meet. And suddenly I had a business. I made mistakes along the way of course, and learned many things along the way. Continuing education is something I engage in every week in the form of podcasts, webinars, and lots of reading. My business slowly evolved from just wanting to earn a living to looking for the best ways to serve my clients.

Child with learning difficultiesMy goal is to take the confusion and frustration out of small business accounting by providing training and ongoing accounting services. Small business accounting isn’t just about QuickBooks any more. Cloud based software offers many tools for running a business. I believe in choosing just the right tools, balancing necessity and cost, to streamline all of the administrative tasks (including accounting) of a business.

As I continue on the journey of being a business owner it is my hope that I find more and better ways to serve the small business community.

Why do YOU do it?

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Software Integration – What is It?

LaptopHandshake-copyIn the age of “there’s an app for that”, most software manufacturers proclaim their product’s ease of software integration. But what does that mean? In short, it means one software program shares its data with other programs.

Now, does software integration matter to you? Don’t get caught up in the hype. Think about how YOU and YOUR BUSINESS will benefit by integration. Does this save time in your workflow and help keep your data consistent or does it create new problems?

Before running off to check which of your software programs will integrate with others that you are using, a few things need to be considered:

1. Not every program integrates with every other program out there. If integration between products is something you feel will benefit your business, keep compatibility in mind when choosing software solutions.

For example, you have contact relationship management (CRM) software (Highrise, CapsuleCRM) that you use to track sales leads. What happens when one sales lead becomes a customer who just placed an order? Wouldn’t it be nice if information for that new customer (no longer just
a sales lead) would automatically go into your accounting software to create an invoice? That’s where integration comes in.

2. Not all integrations are well written. Sorry, but it is a fact. Realize whether the integration is in beta testing and also look for reviews on how well the integration works. Some can cause errors and a lot of inconvenience on your part.

3. Know what data is shareable and how often. This could be minutes, hours, or daily and can impact your workflow.

4. Understand which direction the data is shared and whether it’s a one-way or two-way operation. This will impact which program you enter updates into first.

Continuing our example above, if the CRM can send data to your accounting software but cannot receive it, you now know all changes to customer data must be entered into the CRM first, because the CRM will share the information with your accounting software.

Software integration can be a great timesaver. Do your homework and learn the facts before setting one up.

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avoid falling behind with your accounting and go paperless

Slay the Paper Monster

paper-monsterLook at your desk. Too much paper? It’s time to take control.

The key to banishing the paper monster from your life is to choose a simple document management system that works for you. That can be something as low tech as taking an envelope, writing the name of the month on the outside, stuffing all the relevant receipts inside and filing the envelope in a file cabinet. Just be consistent. Set aside time each week to handle the papers. Set a timer if you have to. Be consistent.

Considering the ink on many receipts disappears in a short period of time, going paperless might be a better option in eliminating the paper monster factor. If you shred the documents after scanning, your business records will take up more space on your hard drive than physical space. There are many solutions to choose from so consider these things before choosing a system.

1. Choose a system that matches your work style.
2. Choose a cost effective but easy to learn and use system.
3. Necessity of sharing the scanned documents with others.
4. Consider how important your document management solution is to be integrated with other software you are currently using (email, finance, CRM, project management and such).

One solution is to use the scanner on the all-in-one printer in your office to scan and file each document. This is the option I used until my business picked up and I fell far behind. Then I looked for another solution. You could also purchase a scanner such as Neat Receipts or Scan Snap that come with their own document management software and integrate with other applications as well. I considered purchasing a mobile scanner by Scan Snap but decided the real issue was, not having time to do the scanning.
If you are away, the camera on your phone will do a great job taking photos of receipts and other documents. You can add those photos directly to Evernote, Shoeboxed, Dropbox, and many others.

Ultimately I chose to use Shoeboxed for my document management. I stuff my documents in a prepaid envelope and they do the scanning. I use their integration with Evernote to organize my documents (receipts, business cards, etc.) into various notebooks. I also use DropBox for document sharing. Except for documents of a legal nature (business licenses, etc.), I shred everything after it’s been scanned. This works for me. For now.

Just as I realized doing my own scanning was no longer practical, my current solution may need tweaking (or even changing altogether) in the future. Choose the best solution for your business now, but choose something that has a few additional features so that it can grow with your business.

This isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive guide. Will the solution that works for me, also work for you? Maybe. You and your business are unique. It’s essential that you choose a document management solution that you are willing to use consistently and get the results you want; organized business records.

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The Secret to Receiving that Big Tax Refund

Bit-tax-refundThis is the time of year when dozens of articles are published purporting to have the secret to receiving that big tax refund. Some of the articles make it sound like tax professionals are hiding the answer from you.

I’m sorry to say there is no “easy” button when it comes to that big tax refund, but want to know the real secret? Organized and accurate financial records. How could your tax professional help you take advantage of the myriad deductions out there when you can’t tell them what you spent your money on last year?

So go grab those piles/boxes/envelopes of receipts from last year and let’s get to work. There are lots of ways to get your information organized, but you want to get your taxes done now, right?

Open your spreadsheet program (Excel, Numbers, GoogleDocs, etc). In the second column, start labeling your categories – office supplies, meals/entertainment, insurance, licenses/fees, inventory, bank/merchant fees, professional fees, domain registration, start-up costs, etc. Keep the categories generic, but make a special list of large purchases like computers, electronics, equipment, etc. in the amount of $500 or more. We accountants call those fixed assets and they get special treatment on your taxes. Now start entering all those receipts with the date in the first column and the amount in the appropriate category column. Be sure to include items purchased with your credit card. The most commonly missed deductions by businesses are expenses paid from personal bank accounts, PayPal, cash, etc.

Once you think you’ve got it all in the spreadsheet, add totals for each column. Format the document to print or put it on a USB drive to take to your tax professional. Those are your total expenses. Now where are all of those invoices that make up the revenue you earned last year? Make a spreadsheet for those if that information is not already available in your e-commerce or invoicing software. While you’re at it, gather up those 1099s and any other tax documents you received in the mail. Your tax professional needs to see those too and may also require additional information depending on your situation, but this should get you off to a good start. Make a list of questions you want to ask your tax professional then make that appointment. Now. No procrastinating. This is the real secret to that big tax refund.

Next time we’ll talk about setting up an efficient system to gather this information throughout the year.

 

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Cash Flow

Cash flow.  It is the backbone of your business. If you don’t learn to manage the money coming into and leaving your business it is nearly impossible to be successful.  Just because you have a positive bank balance this week does not mean that you can afford to spend it on the latest and greatest new gadget.  You must focus on the big picture, which at times, can be difficult to do.

In order to understand cash flow you need to understand what goes on behind the scenes.  Imagine for a moment that we live in a perfect world.  In this world:

  • Using available cash, you purchase quality supplies from your vendors and turn them into your finished product.
  • Your customers purchase that product and pay for it on time.
  • The payment from your customers allows you to pay your vendors, order more supplies and pay yourself.

Unfortunately, this is more what it looks like:

  • Using credit, you purchase supplies from your vendors, not necessarily the best supplies, because hey, the vendor was having a sale & these supplies will do.  You turn them into your finished product.
  • Your customers purchase that product and don’t pay their invoice in a timely manner.
  • 30 days later, you don’t have the cash you need to pay your vendors and suppliers, but you need more product so you put the balance due to the supplier on a credit card and order more product, because you cannot sell more if you don’t have it available.
  • You know your customer is late paying but has always paid before so you put their invoice on the back burner because you don’t want to call and “offend” your customer.
  • Your late/non-paying customer comes to you and says they need more of your product.  They’ve had a bit of a cash flow problem and could you just float them on the invoice for a few more weeks.  Just add the new product to their balance.  Not wanting to lose a “good” customer, you agree.

The vicious cycle starts again.  Does this sound familiar to you?

There are many components to cash flow that I’d like to address.  I’ll be blogging about each one of these components in detail over the coming month.

  • Suppliers and vendors: am I using the best, most cost effective suppliers for my business?  Notice I did not say cheapest.  Do they ship on time?  Do they deliver what I need?
  • Customers: am I keeping dead beat customers because they are “good” customers?  Do my customers pay on time?
  • Employees and Consultants: do they understand the vision and focus of my business? Are they promoting my brand in a manner that I support?
  • Your business: do you pay your bills on time?  Are you delivering your product on time?  Are you delivering a quality product?  Are you ensuring that your employees and consultants understand the vision and focus of your business?  Are you able to take a salary?

In order to write blog posts that resonate with you, my customers, I’d like to know what issues you have with cash flow.  Please leave a comment or send me an email and I will address these concerns (anonymously, of course!)  I look forward to going into more detail about this soon!

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