There’s a saying in business, “You can go broke making a profit.” And another, “Cash is king. Profit is theory.
As you know only too well, you don’t pay rent, meet payroll or pay your bills with profit.
You pay them with cash.
A business can make a lot of sales, have a book full of orders, have delighted customers and clients, have a great reputation, be growing, and yet still go broke.
Why? Cash flow.
The business might be profitable on paper, but have no money left in the bank. They become insolvent.
A growing business is often hungry for cash … hungry for inputs so it can make the business’ outputs, be they physical products, services or a combination of both.
The tragedy in this is that cash flow crises can often be averted. They can be predicted, planned for, and then contingency measures put in place.
For example, if a business has seasonal effects where some months are busier than others, or if a business knows it has some jumps in expenses or fixed costs approaching—such as moving to a larger premises or hiring more staff to cope with growth—then these expenses can be planned for and compared with the planned income in those months.
Which would you prefer to do?
(A) Call your bank manager and ask for a short-term loan or increase in overdraft when you are urgently in need of the cash (and therefore stressed, and desperate, and not in a great frame of mind to negotiate good terms), or
(B) Call your bank manager 6 months in advance and meet with him or her to explain the coming cash crunch, the reasons behind it, and plan for the funding in a calm, relaxed, totally-in-control manner?
Not only would you get the loan, you’d impress the bank manager and strengthen the relationship for further funding, should it be needed to support your growth.
The bank manager would see you are a professional operator with a planned approach to your business, not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operator. (They see a lot of those. They don’t like doing business with them.)
Apart from the relationship with your bank, there’s the immediate effect of sleeping better at night.
We all seek a level of certainty to comfort us. Knowing what lies ahead in business and planning your cash flow gives you a peace of mind and confidence in your day-to-day work that will rub off on those around you…
…in your workplace and at home. It’s a good feeling.
This is one of the reasons we are so passionate about helping our clients put together cash flow forecasts, to help them keep their business on track and to avoid any stressful, unpleasant surprises in the coming months.
It doesn’t matter whether a business is a one-person hairdressing or lawn mowing business, or a 10 person, 20 or 200+ person business.
Every business needs a cash flow forecast.
Running your business without a cash flow forecast is like driving a car at night along a dark country road with only your normal headlights on. It’s hard to see what lies ahead. Some wildlife might come right out in front of you, leaving no time for you to react. CRASH!
On the other hand, a cash flow forecast is like driving along that country road with high beam on. You can see so much more. You can drive with much more confidence. Less stress. And avoid the CRASH!
Another thing we often find in helping our clients build realistic cash flow forecasts, is that we can spot problems and make suggestion that help improve the business’ cash cycle. This puts money in your bank account.
For example, a combination of negotiating better terms with suppliers, tightening up or at least clarifying and enforcing your business’ own credit terms, and reducing stock holding and waste can have a powerful positive effect on your cash flow.
So, if a cash flow forecast is so crucial, why do many businesses not have one?
Simple. Business owners get busy. Busy pleasing customers or patients. Busy dealing with staff. Busy paying suppliers. Busy generating sales.
Also, it’s easy to get ‘too close’ to your own business. “You can’t see the forest for the trees,” as the saying goes.
Having an independent and fresh pair of eyes come in and look at your business—especially cash flow which is its life blood—allows opportunities for improvements to be identified. Things that are there, but difficult for the business owner to see amidst the ‘busy-ness’ of it all.
So, what should do about it? Call us. Take action. A cash flow forecast costs less than you think.
It’s time to turn those high beams on!
Your next step … Call us at 844-424-9637 or email us at email@example.com to make a time to meet and discuss your options. We’ll then outline the costs so you know exactly what lies ahead.
For many, the word ‘budget’ is about as appealing as the word ‘diet’.
It seems to imply what you will go without, rather than what you will achieve.
To a successful business owner, however, the word ‘budget’ has a very different meaning.
It’s more like a map than a diet. It’s an outline of where you want to take the business, and what you need to achieve to get there.
Running a business without a budget is like a ship’s captain setting off on a voyage without a map. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it. Who would do that?
Yet this is, figuratively speaking, what many business owners do.
Successful business owners, on the other hand, not only set clear targets and budgets each year, they monitor them closely each month, even each week, and adjust them as they go throughout the year.
Here are 3 compelling reasons your business needs a budget, now:
One: If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know you’re not already there?
If you’re not satisfied with how your business is performing, unless you set clear goals for where you want to take it, it’s probably as good as it is ever going to get. At best, it will just wander along, subject to the whims and quirks of the economy and general market conditions.
The good news is that your business doesn’t need to wander along.
The first step in charting a clear course for growing and developing your business is objectively measuring ‘where it’s at’ right now.
And the numbers do tell a story.
For some, they act as a wake up call. For others, they just confirm the journey’s starting point.
It’s paradoxical that a large part of the value in a business budget is not in the numbers themselves. It’s in the realization and acceptance of where you are and where you want to be.
The numbers are just the signposts for the journey.
A factual look at the numbers that describe where your business is right now takes away all the subjectivity, opinions and ‘reasons’ (often excuses, disguised as reasons).
This is the naked truth.
In fact, it is like standing on the scales, naked, looking at yourself in a full length mirror. That may or may not be a pretty sight!
For your business, these factual numbers are the sales, the variable costs, the margins, the overheads, and, lastly, the profit. After all your work, this is the reward you’re left with.
Then comes the first of a series of ‘hard questions’…
- Are you happy with that profit?
- Is it worth it? Or are you dissatisfied? Then …
- What do you want those figures to look like?
Answer those questions, and you’ve just described where you want to be. Congratulations! You have charted your course, which is the first step to ensuring your success.
Two: What’s more important to treat? Symptoms or causes?
As you well know, sales don’t just happen. Costs don’t drop just because you want them to. Sales and costs are a result of other underlying factors. Put another way, they are symptoms of causes.
The business budgeting process quantifies the symptoms, and by asking a series of ‘What leads to this number?’ questions, it also identifies the underlying causes.
For example, underlying factors contributing to a sales (revenue) figure could include:
- the number of active patients,
- the number of Hygiene re-appointments,
- the percentage of pre-appointments, the dollar value of the average production per visit, or simply
- where your marketing is targeted.
These are all called drivers. The sales figures are simply a result of these drivers. Costs are no different.
For example, the advertising paid may be a result of a new marketing strategy. Staff wages may be blowing out as a result of overtime paid but underlying that there may be inefficient staff. Or a lack of clear processes. Or both.
So in reality what came first was not the sale or the cost, but their underlying drivers. The budgeting process forces you to name and to quantify these underlying drivers.
That’s one of the most valuable aspects of preparing your budget. Not the budget itself, per se, but identifying your business’ drivers.
Because then you can focus on improving them.
That’s what will produce the improved results in your business. Not focusing on last quarter’s figures. That’s history.
It’s more fun to create history. And that is, in essence, what you are doing when you are in your own business. You are captain of your own destiny, and you can steer it in any direction you want.
Note that word … direction. A key point is to have one.
You will enjoy how effectively the budgeting and planning process will get you crystal clear on your direction.
Three: Budgeting is not about accounting. It’s about being accountable.
Once you are clear on the handful of drivers that creates your business’ results, the next question is…
What are you going to do about it?
Your budget won’t just give you a monthly sales target, for example, it will help you quantify the drivers that will produce the result.
For example, if next month’s sales target is $120,000, that end-result figure is not your focus. Not on a day-to-day basis. Knowing the underlying drivers, your focus will instead become, for example:
- 25 patients per day (Driver No.1)
- At 80% Hygiene re-appointment rate (Driver No.2), with
- An average of $500 in Production per Patient Visit (Driver No. 3).
Now you and your staff have a clear focus and are 100% accountable.
That’s good for them, and good for you and your business.
People in a business want a clear scoreboard and a ‘game to play’ so they know whether or not they are winning. Research has found that a lack of measurement in a job is demotivating to a staff member. Patrick Lencioni’s book ‘3 Signs of a Miserable Job’ gives some great examples of this.
Knowing these drivers, and quantifying a target for each you can then ask questions like:
- Have the 25 re-appointment follow-ups been made today?
- If not, why not? Is the target realistic?
- Does the team need training?
- Do they need better telephone equipment or dialing software?
- Or just more focus?
- Or guidance on what their task priorities should be?
- Or a combination of these?
- Are we being effective and converting 80% of the calls?
- Again, if not, why not?
You can then decide to improve skills, or systems, or attitude, or all three!
As you can see, the power of the budget is in the process of preparing it, and then the budget itself is a tool to hold you accountable to the measurable indicators you’ve chosen.
An added layer of accountability is… us.
We work with a number of clients where, on either a monthly or quarterly basis, we act as a sounding board and independent party to ask you the hard questions about the drivers and the results. This focuses your mind, allows you to form a clear Action Plan to improve results, and then increases your chances of success because you know you need to report in to us next time.
It’s a powerful process that you’ll enjoy due to the focus it creates and, in turn, the results that focus achieves in your business.
To take more control of your business and its performance, get in touch to make a time to come in and see us. Depending on the size of your business, we might work out that a quarterly process might work best (and be the most feasible, cost-wise), or your business might be at a point where monthly or even weekly guidance would be ideal.
Either way, we’ll outline your options and your costs so you know precisely what’s involved.
We look forward to helping you chart your course, helping to get a clear direction, and then keeping you and your business on course.
After all, you won’t end up at the ideal destination by drifting.
There are numerous QuickBooks Online reports that you should be consulting at regular intervals. But you need these five at least every week.
QuickBooks Online’s Dashboard, the first screen you see when you log in, provides an effective overview of your company’s finances. It contains at-a-glance information about your recent expenses, your sales, and the status of your invoices. It displays a simple Profit and Loss graph and a list of your account balances. Scroll down and click the See all activity button in the lower right and your Audit Log opens, a list of everything that’s been done on the site and by whom.
You can actually get a lot of work done from this page. Click the bar on the Invoices graph, for example, and a list view opens, allowing you access to individual transactions. Click Expenses to see the related Transaction Report. Below the list of account balances, you can Go to registers and connect new accounts.
Other Pressing Questions
The Dashboard supplies enough information that you can spot potential problems with expenses and sales, accounts, and overdue invoices. But you’re likely to have other tasks that require attention. How’s your inventory holding up? Are you staying within your budget? How about your accounts payable – will you owe money to anyone soon?
QuickBooks Online offers dozens of report templates that answer these questions and many more. If you’ve never explored the list, we suggest that you do so. It’s impossible to make plans for your company’s future without understanding its financial history and current state.
QuickBooks Online has many reports that can provide real-time, in-depth insight into your company’s financial health.
Comprehensive and Customizable
When you click Reports in your QuickBooks Online toolbar, the view defaults to All. The site divides its report content into 10 different sections, including Business Overview, Sales and Customers, Expenses and Vendors, and Payroll. Each has two buttons to the right of its name.
Click the star, and that report’s title will appear in your Favorites list at the top of the page. This will save time since you’ll be able to quickly find your most often-used reports. Click the three vertical dots and then Customize to view your customization options for that report (you’ll have access to this tool from the reports themselves).
You can, of course, run any report you’d like as often as you’d like. Most small businesses, though, don’t require this frequent intense scrutiny. But there are five reports that you do want to consult on a regular basis. They are:
- Accounts Receivable Aging Detail. Displays a list of invoices that haven’t yet been paid, divided into groups like 1-30 days past due, 31-60 days past due, etc.
- Budget vs. Actuals. Just what it sounds like: a comparison of your monthly budgeted amounts and your actual income and expenses.
Warning: Some reports let you choose between cash and accrual basis. Do you know the difference and which you should choose? Ask us.
You can customize QuickBooks Online reports in several ways.
- Unpaid Bills. Helps you avoid missing accounts payable due dates by displaying what’s due and when.
- Sales by Product/Service Detail. Tells you what’s selling and what’s not by displaying date, transaction type, quantity, rate, amount, and total.
- Product/Service List. An accounting of the products and/or services you sell, with columns for price, cost, and quantity on hand.
Customization, Complex QuickBooks Online Reports
Note that there’s a category of reports in QuickBooks Online named For My Accountant. That’s where we come in. The site includes templates for reports that you can run yourself, but that you’d have difficulty customizing and analyzing. These standard financial reports—which, by the way, you’ll need if you create a business plan or try to get funding for your business—include Balance Sheet, Statement of Cash Flows, and Trial Balance.
You don’t need to have these reports generated frequently, but you should be learning from the insight they provide monthly or quarterly. We can handle this part of your accounting tasks for you, as well as any other aspect of financial management where you need assistance. Contact us, and we’ll see where we might help provide the feedback and bookkeeping expertise that can help you make better decisions for the future of your business.
The hardest part of creating a budget is getting started. QuickBooks Online provides tools that can jump-start the process.
You know you should have a budget. You’re aware that it can help you stay on track with your company’s income and expenses throughout the year. Maybe you’ve even tried to make one before, but you got discouraged by the mechanics or by the difficulty of estimating money in and out for the next 12 months.
June may not be the beginning of your fiscal year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a serious effort to start building a budget that can help you rein in expenses and set revenue goals.
Here’s a look at QuickBooks Online’s budgeting features.
Creating the Framework
Before you begin, you’ll want to make sure that your fiscal year is set correctly in QuickBooks Online. Click the gear icon in the upper right, then click Your Company | Account and Settings | Advanced. If the First month of fiscal year isn’t correct, click the pencil icon over to the right and change it. Then click Save and exit out of this window.
Click the gear icon again and select Budgeting, then click Add budget in the upper right.
QuickBooks Online asks you the questions that need to be answered before you start filling in your budget grid.
The first thing you’ll do is give your budget a descriptive name by entering it in the Name field. Next, open the drop-down list under Fiscal year and select the correct 12-month period. You can create your budget in one of three intervals: Monthly, Quarterly, or Yearly. If you want to populate your budget with numbers from this year or last, make that selection in the Pre-fill data? field.
There’s one more option at the top of the Budgets Grid screen that’s not shown in the image above. You can Subdivide by Customer, Class, or Location. This can be useful if you want to view budget data specific to a subset of entries in each of those categories. You could, for example, choose three customers and view only their numbers in the grid individually, one at a time.
Providing Your Numbers
Once you’re satisfied with the selections you’ve made, click Create Budget in the lower right. The screen will refresh and display a grid that you can edit.
Let’s say you’re working on a budget for the second half of 2018. QuickBooks Online brought in your numbers for January-May. You see that the numbers don’t vary much from month to month on one specific line item, so you’re going to assume that they will continue to be true (unless you know something that will affect it after May). You could enter a rough average of the first five months in the JUN field.
Hover your cursor over the arrow to the side of that field, and this sentence appears in a small bubble: Click to copy the value across on the row. QuickBooks Online will then enter that number in the JUL through DEC fields.
QuickBooks Online can save you some time as you enter data in your budget grid fields.
When you’re done entering data in all of the fields relevant to your business, click Save in the lower right and close the window. Your budget will now show up in the list.
Tip: If you have multiple blank rows and don’t want them to be displayed, click the gear icon in the upper right corner of your budget page. Click in the box in front of Hide blank rows to create a checkmark.
The Hard Part
QuickBooks Online simplifies the mechanics of creating a budget, but it’s up to you to supply the numbers. There’s lots of common-sense advice that experts offer for this process, like:
• Remember seasonal upswings and downswings.
• Make your goals as realistic as possible. You might want to create separate budgets for “needs” and “wants.”
• Track your expenses carefully for a period of time so you can estimate more confidently.
• Create reports regularly that compare your budget vs actuals.
QuickBooks Online can help you with that last piece of advice; it offers a report called Budget vs. Actuals. You’ll find it in the Business Overview group.
We can help, too. Once we understand a little more about your business structure and goals, we can take a look at your income and expense history and make some personalized recommendations. Connect with us soon, and we can start you on the path to a more focused financial future.
Last month, we created QuickBooks Online service items. This month, we’ll explore how they’re used on the site.
If you ever did your accounting manually, you probably remember how tired you got of writing or typing the same things over and over. You may have had your customers’ addresses practically memorized, and your product price list was always close at hand, though you knew that by heart, too.
QuickBooks Online eliminates that duplicate data entry, saving time and reducing errors dramatically. Because of the service records you’ve created, completing sales and purchase forms can now be an easy, accurate task. You’ll also have fast access to information about your inventory levels and the profit you make on items. You’ll know what’s selling and what’s not, and when it’s time to reorder.
Much of your accounting work probably consists of filling out forms. Whenever you create one of these invoices or sales receipts or purchase orders, you already know that you can open a drop-down list and select the name of a customer or vendor. QuickBooks Online lets you enter data about what is being bought or sold in the same way.
To see how this works, open an invoice form and complete and/or verify the fields at the top (customer, date, terms, etc.). Click in the first PRODUCT/SERVICE field, and then click the down arrow to see the list of items and services you sell.
When you create a sales or purchase form, you’ll be able to select the appropriate service item from the drop-down list – or add a new one.
When you select an item, the description and price will fill in automatically. You’ll have to add the quantity and click in the box below the column labeled Tax (if applicable). QuickBooks Online will calculate the total cost of the service item on that line. If you need to enter additional sales, proceed to the PRODUCT/SERVICE field in the second line and repeat those actions until you’re done and can save the transaction.
Working with Items
What do you do when you need more information about a specific product than just its description and price? Do you have to return to its individual record?
No. QuickBooks Online includes a great tool that provides real-time updates on your inventory items and lets you work with them. Click the Sales tab in the left vertical menu, and then on the Products and Services tab at the top. The table that opens displays numbers for every item’s quantity on hand and reorder point. Look at the end of each line, and you’ll see a drop-down list labeled Edit that looks like this:
QuickBooks Online’s Products and Services page provides real-time inventory updates, as well as item-management tools.
As you can see, there are a number of actions you can take here on individual products.
Warning: If you think there’s a reason you should Adjust quantity or Adjust starting value, please talk to us first. Your inventory records need to be precise. We can schedule a session to go over this and other concepts you need to understand in order to keep inventory counts accurate.
You can take some of these actions on multiple items simultaneously. Click the down arrow in the Batch actions field above this Edit menu. Click the boxes in front of the products you want to work with and select the desired activity (unavailable ones will be grayed out in the list). Take extra care with this mass modification tool.
QuickBooks Online contains templates for numerous inventory-related reports that you can customize.
QuickBooks Online’s Product and Services screen may be all you need in your daily work, but there will be times when you need more analytical assistance. You can turn to the site’s specialized reports for more in-depth scrutiny. Click the Reports tab in the left vertical pane. Make sure the All Reports list is active and select Manage Products and Inventory to see what’s available, including:
- Inventory Valuation Detail.
- Sales by Product/Service Detail.
- Physical Inventory Worksheet.
Reports are easy to run but can be difficult to customize correctly and interpret. If we’re not working with you already on the complex standard financial reports that should be reviewed monthly or quarterly, talk to us. The more you understand about the financial status of your company, the better your decisions will be.
You can start using QuickBooks Online the first time you sign in. However, your tasks will be easier and faster, if you customize it for your company.
QuickBooks Online was designed to be used by a variety of business types; that’s one reason why it’s such a popular small business accounting website. It was built to be versatile. That is, whether you sell hard drives or you service HVAC systems, you can customize it to “fit’ your company.
This is why your first order of business when you start using QuickBooks Online should be to click on the small gear icon in the upper right corner. The window that opens displays links to all of the site’s options – a collection of choices that’s called “Preferences” in desktop QuickBooks.
When you click on the small gear icon in the upper right corner of QuickBooks Online, this window containing the site’s many options will open.
The first screen you should visit is Account and Settings. This page is divided into five sections, accessible by clicking on one of the tabs below:
Company – Your company’s name and contact information appears here, as well as identifying details like the tax form you file, as well as your industry.
Sales – You can do a lot of customizing here that will affect your company’s selling activities. For example, you can specify preferred invoice terms and delivery method, and indicate whether to turn on features like:
- Custom fields and transaction numbers
- Quantity and price/rate
- Inventory quantity on hand
You can also access the site’s tools for customizing the design and layout of your sales forms (invoices, receipts, etc.).
Expenses – You’ll toggle expense-related tools on and off here. You can choose to, for example, track expenses and items by customer and make them billable. Will you be using purchase orders? What will your default bill payment terms be?
Payments – Here, you’ll be able to set up a merchant account so you can accept credit cards and bank transfers from customers through QuickBooks Online. If you already have a merchant account, you can connect it here.
Advanced – There’s a good reason why this section is named “Advanced.” You may not be familiar with some of the concepts here, like “closing books” and specifying default accounts for items like Markup. We can go over these things with you and help you make decisions.
Other entries in this list are easier to complete, though you may still want some guidance. Will you support multiple currencies? Automatically apply credits and invoice unbilled activity? Make individually-tracked time activities billable to customers?
There are many other areas in this window that you’ll want to explore before you start processing a lot of transactions in QuickBooks Online. If more than one person will have access to the site (we’ll assume you’re the Administrator), you must click on Manage Users. Here, you can set limits of what other employees can access. Click New on the screen that opens to launch this mini-interview, and follow its instructions:
You can restrict users to specific areas of QuickBooks Online.
Other preferences you should look at include:
- Chart of Accounts – only to familiarize yourself with the accounts that make up the backbone of your accounting data. You’ll use these in transactions. Please do not make any changes here without talking to us.
- All Lists – to see what’s available here, like Classes, Recurring Transactions, and Payment Methods.
- Products and Services – to start building records for the items and services you sell. If you carry inventory and have never worked with a website that helps you manage it, please let us go over these concepts with you.
- Budgeting – if you plan to create a budget. QuickBooks Online contains a tool that will accommodate this critical task.
- Audit Log – if multiple people will be using QuickBooks Online. It tracks all activity by date and user.
QuickBooks Online is easy to use, but there’s a lot to learn upfront about customizing it to meet your company’s accounting needs. It’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed at first. Let us help you get through those early days of use. Connect with us, so we can walk you through the basics.