Is Your Business Sailing Along Without a Map, Drifting?

Is Your Business Sailing Along Without a Map, Drifting?

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.

Why?

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.

Don’t Have a Budget? QuickBooks Online Can Help

Don’t Have a Budget? QuickBooks Online Can Help

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.

Budget QuickBooks Online

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.

Budget Monthly Numbers

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.

Preparing for 2017 Taxes: 5 Things You Can Do Now

Preparing for 2017 Taxes: 5 Things You Can Do Now

Your income tax obligation needs to be on your mind year-round. Here are some ways you can get a jump on your 2017 taxes.

Summer’s over. The kids are back in school. And soon, there’ll be only three months left in 2017. If you haven’t started thinking about how to minimize your income tax obligation for this year, there’s still time.

Whether you’re a small business or an individual taxpayer, year-round tax planning is more than just a way to make tax preparation an easier, faster process. By keeping taxes in mind as you go through every 12-month period, you’ll be able to see where you might take specific actions early that will have an impact on what you end up owing. Make it a habit, and you’ll find that it just comes naturally to consider the tax implications of purchase and sales decisions.

Create a System

Effective tax planning requires more than just saving receipts and organizing tax-related documents in physical or digital file folders – though that’s a good start. Create a system in early January that you can maintain throughout the year (of course, a lot of your information will be stored in your accounting or personal finance application, if you use one). But you should be saving statements, receipts, sales forms – anything related to your income and expenses that will eventually feed into IRS forms or schedules.

Evaluate Your Expense-Tracking

Businesses: How do you—and your employees, if you have them—keep track of daily expenses? You may have forms like purchase orders and bills for the big ones, but you probably buy things on occasion that are just documented by paper receipts. How do you categorize and organize these so you won’t miss any when it’s time to complete a Schedule C? Is there a better way?

Do any of your employees make trips on behalf of your business? You really should consider subscribing to an online service that automates the process of creating and approving expense reports. If you’re not aware of these options, ask us.

Know Your Tax Forms

Individuals and businesses file some of the same forms and schedules, but some, of course, are different. Your previous years’ tax returns can be good resources for you. Refer to them occasionally as you go through the year and do some comparing, especially if you must pay quarterly estimated taxes. You may not remember from year to year what’s deductible and what’s not. Revisiting your returns will jog your memory and remind you.

 

Consider Generosity

Are you having a good year? You’ll have an idea of how your financial health is if you’re keeping up with income and expenses. You don’t have to wait until the end of the year to do any charitable giving that you’re going to do (although it’s usually best to hold off until the fourth quarter).

Learn How Changes Will Affect Your Taxes

This is so important for individual taxpayers. Did you get married or divorced, or have a child? Did you move? Buy or sell a home? Get a raise or, conversely, lose regular income for some reason? Did you have educational expenses? All these life events—and more—can change your income tax obligation.

Businesses often experience major changes, too, and your financial state at the end of the year is way harder to predict than it is for an individual with W-2 income. Stay on top of the impact of deviations in income and expenses created by events like the introduction of new products (or the loss of existing ones), personnel fluctuations, and major acquisitions.

Comprehensive Planning

Tax planning should be an element of your overall financial planning. If you have a business or household budget, you’re way ahead of the game. You can compare your actual income and expenses every month to those you built into your budget. A budget can be a tremendous tool as you plan for the current year’s taxes. If you’ve never created one, or if you’ve never stuck to one successfully, we can help you with this.

We’d also be happy to work with you periodically throughout the year on taxes. We can get you set up with financial software if you’re not already using it and advise you on ways to work toward minimizing your 2017 obligation now.

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Better Budgeting Using QuickBooks Online Plus

Better Budgeting Using QuickBooks Online Plus

Everyone groans when budget time rolls around. QuickBooks Online Plus offers tools that simplify the process.

Budget. The word evokes a sense of dread in most small business managers’ minds. Large corporations have entire teams of accountants that work on this critical element of financial planning. You, on the other hand, must go it alone – or with the help of other staff if your company is big enough.

Why is this chore so difficult? Several reasons. The biggest stumbling block is probably the sense of uncertainty. How do you know what your income and expenses will be for the coming year?

QuickBooks Online Plus can’t tell you how to plan the next year in terms of numbers, but its tools can make the mechanics of building a budget easier.

Your Fiscal Year Start

Finding the start of your fiscal year in QuickBooks Online Plus

Do you know exactly when your fiscal year starts? You’ll need this information before you can get started on your budget. Click the gear icon in the upper right next to your company name, and then select Account and Settings | Advanced. The first entry here tells you what the First month of fiscal year is.

Creating a Framework

To get started building your budget, click the gear icon again and select Tools | Budgeting. Click New Budget to open the mini-interview wizard (if it didn’t open automatically). QuickBooks Online Plus creates what are called Profit and Loss Budgets. This kind of budget tracks the numbers in your income and expense accounts.

There are three ways to create one, as you’ll see when you click Next on the first page of the interview. You can:

  • Work from historical amounts by copying last year’s data into the spreadsheet,
  • Start from scratch, or
  • Copy data from an existing budget.

You can choose from these three options to create your budget in QuickBooks Online Plus.

Click in the button in front of No amounts. Create budget from scratch, and then click Next. QuickBooks Online Plus’s budgets consist of a table divided into months (columns) and accounts (rows). You can break this down into even greater detail by subdividing your budget and tracking accounts separated by Territories, Classes, or Customers if this kind of information is important to you. For now, click the button in front of Don’t subdivide.

When you click Next, you’ll be asked to select the fiscal year for your budget. Click the down arrow to the right of Select fiscal year and choose the appropriate year. Type an easy-to-remember name for your budget in the box below and click Finish. The mini-interview will close, and your budget spreadsheet will open.

Entering the Numbers

QuickBooks Online Plus defaults to a monthly view when you first open it, but you can change this at any time to Quarter or Year by clicking the arrow in the field next to View by in the upper right corner.

If you had copied income and expense data from the previous year, or from an existing budget, those numbers would appear in the corresponding cells and could be changed to create a new budget. You opted to start from scratch, so the table is empty. You can just start entering individual numbers – not within the spreadsheet cells themselves, though.

Look down to the bottom left corner of the screen. If you’ve highlighted Discounts given, for example, by clicking on that label in the spreadsheet column, you’ll see a line directly below that last row that reads Edit – Discounts given.

This area is where you’ll do your actual data entry. If the drop-down list to the right of Enter by is set to Month, you’ll see 12 boxes below labeled with the months of the year. If you anticipate that every month will contain a different figure, enter the numbers in the correct boxes and click Save & Next. QuickBooks Online Plus will copy your numbers into the actual budget spreadsheet.

If the number will remain the same for each month, you can enter it in the Jan box and click Copy Across, then Save & Next (click this button after every row change). Your cells for that account will be automatically populated.

Entering quarterly budget data

If you think more in terms of quarterly income and expenses, you can highlight the correct account and select Quarter from the drop-down box next to Enter by (see above image). Fill in your quarterly totals, and QuickBooks Online Plus will divide those evenly between each set of three-month periods. The result would look like this:

QuickBooks Online Plus can divide quarterly totals into monthly budget numbers.

And of course, if you select Enter by: Year, you’ll only enter one number that QuickBooks Online Plus will divide evenly into 12 months.

When you’re done with your budget, click Finish.

This is a lot of information to absorb all at once, and we imagine you may have some questions on budget projections and on the actual mechanics of creating a budget using QuickBooks Online Plus. As always, we’re happy to hear from you. Call us at (844) 424-9637.