Category Archives: Get Organized

Do You Have a Backup Plan?

I was hanging out in a coffee shop working the other morning, and the internet connection went down. As was my habit, I was working from the hotspot on my iPhone, so it wasn’t an issue for me. I overheard the staff tell customers they couldn’t take credit card payments because the internet was down. Could the customer pay cash? Then I overheard the internet provider wouldn’t have the problem fixed until about four p.m. that day. Considering how many people don’t carry cash, I would imagine a lot of sales were lost that day.

As a society, we depend on technology each day. What’s your backup plan if the technology you use fails you? What happens if the hard drive on your computer fails? What happens if the internet goes down? Your web host gets hacked? Power goes out? Fire? Flood? How will your business continue?

If that coffee shop had a backup plan, the staff wasn’t aware of it which is the same as not having a backup plan at all. What could this coffee shop have done? They could have installed a second internet connection from a different provider. Or they could have switched over to the mobile app on their phones from their credit card processor or point of sale company. There are options available, but planning is required. Hopefully before something happens. Can you afford to lose a day (or more) of sales?

Using cloud-based backup services to backup your hard drive, multiple internet connections, generators, a full-scale disaster plan, or many other options could mean survival of your business. Need some help getting a backup plan in place? Get in touch.

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Systems, What Systems?

You hear and read it everywhere; you need systems in place. But what does that mean? It means developing procedures, processes, and routines to manage your business. For example, what is your process when you receive an email or phone inquiry from a prospective new client? How do you keep track of this person and their contact information? Another example is keeping track of clients who owe you money.

There are dozens of tools out there to help you manage the information and transactions for your business. Deciding which tools are best for you can be time-consuming. I spent hours reviewing, researching and trying out various tools before settling on those I use now. I also continue to re-evaluate the tools I use as well as new ones to make sure I am using the best tools to run my business. Choosing the tools to help you run your business is the easy part. Developing the daily habit of using those tools can be a challenge. Sticking with those daily habits, well, let’s just say I fell off the wagon and paid the price.
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During my recent move from Arizona to Colorado, I was reminded of the value of the systems I had in place. Mostly because I stopped using some of them. I immediately became scattered and disorganized. Balls got dropped. I became stressed because I couldn’t find the information I needed or forgot something I was supposed to do. The paper was everywhere because I didn’t take the time to sort and process my notes each day. When I sort and process my notes from the day, items are added to my task management system, client notes, calendar items set up, etc.

A long distance move is stressful enough, becoming stressed over little things because I didn’t stick with my systems made it worse. As I’ve worked to re-establish the habit of following my systems, I found there is still much satisfaction in shredding paper and banishing it from my life. My stress level has gone down to whatever is considered normal for me. And to the pair of scissors that went missing during my move, I hope you found a happy new home. You’ve been replaced.

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Leverage Technology to Grow Your Business

I meet many business owners whose businesses are growing but are stuck because there’s not enough time in their schedule to work with clients and take care of the administrative side of things. There are a couple ways to get beyond this challenge.

One way to serve more clients is to outsource. What do you outsource? Your weaknesses. You know, those tasks you dread doing. Phone calls, cleaning, marketing, accounting, copywriting, etc. Outsourcing tasks to an expert not only frees up your time to work with more clients, that expert will get the job done faster and better than you because they are the expert. How to find those experts? Ask at networking events. Ask in your online groups. Look at Upwork.com. Post something on Craig’s List. Look at Fiverr.com.

Streamline and automate to grow your businessAnother way to free up time in your schedule is to streamline your business processes with technology. In the not too distant past, technology was something only affordable to big corporations with big budgets. Those days are gone. A great example of technology you can put to use right now is scheduling and booking software. How many sales have you lost because you didn’t follow up fast enough (or not at all) with a client to get an appointment scheduled? Online scheduling software such as TimeTrade, Acuity, and Booking Bug allow you to set appointment times for your clients to choose. Some of this software even allows your client to pay when they book the appointment. This type of software costs between $10 and $30 per month. If you make even one sale of at least $30 during the month, the software will pay for itself. Think of it. No more phone tag. No more lost opportunity. And since you are spending less time on the phone, you have more time to work with clients and grow your business. And that’s what you want, right? If you’d like some help putting technology to work for your business, 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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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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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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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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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 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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