Having the ability to process your accounting, payroll, CRM, etc., on any computer (PC or Mac) is all within reach now for any business starting out.  And since we’ve helped many businesses setup cloud-based processes, naturally we’ve done a lot of trial and error on what applications work.  These are many out there, but we’ve narrowed it down to our top 5 favorites for most small businesses.

1.  Google Mail (Gmail):  Since email is the center of most business, we figured that it should be #1!  Google mail, aka “Gmail”, has been the go-to mail app for a lot people.  And rightfully so.  It’s spam filters are superb, and you can customize it how you like to read/process emails.  Google even offers a business class version called Google Apps.  And while this version is not free, it offers no advertising and increased storage amounts.  The learning curve is very short.  Some of our favorite features:

  • Gmail is FREE (Google Apps is $60 per user per year)
  • Excellent spam filters
  • Good mobile app
  • Free access to Calendar
  • Free access to Google Drive (cloud file storage)
  • Free access to Docs, Sheets, and Slides (Google’s equivalent to Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint)

 

2.  Google Calendar:  A sister app to Gmail (above), let’s you keep track of your schedule using a number of tools.  Integration between Gmail and Calendar is tight, and has a host of solutions to run many types of businesses.  Some of our favorite features:

  • Meetings are easy to setup and invite attendees
  • Visibility into who has accepted/not accepted meetings
  • Can schedule recurring calendar events (i.e. once per month, week, every 2 weeks, etc.)
  • Can create calendar events directly from an email in Gmail
  • Can create and share different calendars for different purposes (i.e. calendar for each team member, company wide vacation calendar, personal calendars, etc.)

 

3. Xero Accounting Software: Designed to give the small business what they need within a few clicks, is our top choice.  With solid functions like invoicing, bills, quotes, and real-time bank feeds, you can manage your business from your computer, iPad, or any iOS or Android device.  One of the things we love about Xero is it’s add on ecosystem.  Want to see if your client paid you, from your CRM?  You can do it with their add on’s.  You can build out really smooth business processes this way.  We really like:

  • Online invoicing
  • Connect to payment services like PayPal and Stripe
  • Customer/Vendor Management
  • Bank transactions directly imported from bank
  • ascetically pleasing and just looks good
  • Reports exportable to PDF, Excel, and Google Sheets
  • Easy to collaborate with your accountant or other people

 

4.  Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll):  Designed for just one person, or scales up to several employees, this payroll has direct integration to Xero and QuickBooks Online.  With it’s great feature list, and straightforward pricing, it’s hard to beat.  Here’s a few of it’s valuable features:

  • Direct Deposit
  • Employee self on-boarding
  • Simple and easy to use interface
  • Full service payroll – they process all the payments and file all the returns for you
  • Can pay contractors along side employees
  • Integration with Worker’s Comp Insurance and soon, Health Benefits
  • Integration with Xero

 

5. Evernote: We’ve come to use Evernote every day here at the firm.  Mainly because we can access it from any device we’re on.  No matter where we are, we can get to our notes!  Evernote is great for just jotting down a simple note, or connecting to other services like Uber Conference to keep track of phone calls, meetings, you name it.  You can build out folder and tag structure, or just starting taking notes that are searchable.  Some of the best features are:

  • On any device (windows, mac, android, iOS)
  • Can create any type of note (meeting, to-do list, etc.)
  • Can set due dates for notes (great for to-do lists)
  • Can add attachments like PDF’s
  • Can email a note directly into Evernote
  • Can share and chat about notes, directly from within Evernote

 

Believe me, we could go on and on about other apps and the great things they can do.  But for any one looking to start, or run their existing business more efficiently, these apps are more than adequate to get you started.  We love talking to folks to help them make their business run smoother and get you back to doing what you love.  So feel free to leave us a comment, or give us a ring if you if we can help.

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Here at iAccounting Solutions, Xero is our first choice in helping small businesses keep better track of of their finances.  That’s why when Xero announced the Business Performance Dashboard, we were pretty excited.

What Is It?

In short, the Performance Dashboard is a simple way to check the health of your business.  By using simple formulas, you can measure Key Performance Indicators, aka KPI’s, to know how your business is fairing.  However, instead of running complex spreadsheets or doing it by hand, in true Xero fashion, they have built them in so you can find and use them easily.

Xero   performance db

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do They Mean?

That’s really the important question isn’t it?  In the world of Financial Analysis, there are thousands of ratios.  But here are the top 4 that we think are most useful to small businesses.

1. Current Ratio

This ratio (also sometimes called the “Quick Ratio) measures your ability to pay your liabilities.  A healthy range is 1.5 to 3.  Any score below 1.5 means that you may have a problem paying your debts.  And anything above a 3, means that you may not be using your assets wisely.

Xero   Business Performance   Demo Company  US

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Gross Profit % (or Gross Profit Margin)

This is where the numbers get fun!  This percentage tells you the amount left over, after you’ve paid for all your costs that are associated in making that revenue, or Cost of Sales.  Healthy Gross Profit % generally changes from industry to industry.  If you don’t know what your standard should look like, reach out to us, we can help you with that.  Comparing it to industry standards can help you determine if you’re paying too much in costs, charging enough for services/products, and a whole range of indicators that show how the health of your business.

Xero   BD Gross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Net Profit % (or Net Profit Margin)

Perhaps one of the most popular metrics–this tells you how efficient your business is when comparing your expenses, to your net sales.  Although, this number varies from industry to industry, 10% or better is considered to be good.  You can gauge your overall business success with this %.

Xero BD Net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Accounts Receivable Days

This measures how fast you collect on your invoices.  Knowing this allows you to plan around your cash flow very effectively.  Knowing this can even prevent cash flow disasters from happening to your business.

 

Xero BD AR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the end, these ratios and percentages are only as good as the information you put into your accounting system.  Good reporting is the backbone of any business that wants to grow and succeed.

 

What Does This Mean For My Business?

Want to have a more in depth conversation about these topics and what they mean?  Just fill out our “Contact Us” page and we’ll get in touch.  Or, give us a ring.  We can explain of these topics common language so you can understand them.

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QuickBooks giving you a headache?  Or maybe you’d rather listen to nails on a chalkboard rather than do your accounting.  Either way, switching to Xero Accounting will set you on your journey to an easy, and even enjoyable way to get your accounting done.  Even if you are paying an accountant to do this for you, it will still require some input from you, the small business owner.  We’ve worked with lots of small businesses in converting from QuickBooks to Xero.  So we decided to post some useful tips on how to start, and carry out this process.

Step 1: Clean up your QuickBooks company file

Ok, so if you’re not an accountant, and you’ve been doing your own bookkeeping, chances are that you’ve made some “boo boo’s” in your books.  QuickBooks is a very forgiving program.  Meaning that it allows you enough freedom to hang your self…so to speak!   DON’T WORRY…Even if your QuickBooks is a mess, you can still get useful information out of it and get it in shape to transfer to the easiest online accounting tool: Xero Accounting.

Here’s what to do:

Clean up your contacts, vendors, and other lists.  Go through and merge, or archive the ones you don’t need.  Whittle your  customer and vendor lists down to only what you use now.

Next, go through your chart of accounts and do the same thing.  Make sure your chart of accounts is up to date, accurate, and that there aren’t too many accounts that you’re not using.

Lastly, make sure all your transactions are entered into QuickBooks BEFORE  you get the file converted.  Whether that’s bank transactions, credit card transactions, or whatever else, just make sure they’re all in there.  If you want the “extra credit”, reconcile your transactions with the “bank reconciliation” feature.  This is not absolutely necessary, but will make future steps a bit easier.

Once you have done these things, go to Step 2 blog post (coming soon).  If you need help along the way, just reach out to us and we’ll be  happy to help!

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Although Intuit did a great job of giving QuickBooks’ home page a fresher, more “open” look in its 2013 versions, maybe some of your screens have become unnecessarily cluttered. Perhaps your QuickBooks company file needs some attention as well. By taking a few minutes to do some “spring cleaning” you’ll have a tidier workspace, and you’ll save time and frustration. The following suggestions will help you to do just that.

Make a Clean Start

One simple way to take care of cluttered screens is to do the following:

  • Minimize icons. That pretty graphical process map on the home page is great for quick access to frequently-used actions. Some of them must remain there if they’re related to activities you do (i.e., Invoices has to stay if you use Estimates), but you can remove some of the ones you don’t use. Go to Preferences | Desktop View | Company Preferences. You’ll see this:


Figure 1: You can turn off some of the feature icons on your home page.

Some of the options have been grayed out because they support other processes. To remove an active feature icon like Inventory, click on it. In the window that opens, uncheck the box next to Inventory and purchase orders are active (you can also modify options here).


Figure 2: Clicking the checkbox next to Inventory and purchase orders are active grays out the other options and removed related feature icons from the home page.

To reduce the number of feature icons even more, go to the Finance Charge, Jobs & Estimates, Payroll & Employees, Sales & Customers, Sales Tax and Time & Expenses. QuickBooks removes the related icons and reroutes the process map on the home page.

More Time-Saving Tweaks

  • Don’t allow multiple windows to open in your work area. Tired of seeing all of those overlapping open windows on your desktop? Open the View menu and select One Window. All of your open windows remain active in the background. To return to one of them, open the Window menu and select the one you want to move to the front (Window | Close All returns you to a blank work area).


Figure 3: Your Icon bar can be your fastest route to often needed screens–if you modify it to only contain the functions you use, in order of importance. You can also change the labels to make them more meaningful to you.

    • Trim down your icon bar. Seems like a minimal change, but it’s one of those things that can add unnecessary moments of frustration throughout the day (“Where’s the Calendar!”). Click View | Customize Icon Bar.

 

  • Customize columns in Lists. You probably work in QuickBooks’ Lists often, but are you spending too much time tracking down the right information? Customize their columns so your registers contain only what you usually need (and add additional ones if it’s helpful). Open a list, right-click anywhere within it and select Customize Columns to modify the display (re-size column widths by placing your cursor on the vertical set of dots between labels and dragging).


Figure 4: When you customize your columns in Lists, you’ll find what you’re looking for faster. 

  • Hide inactive items. Highlight an item, right-click and select Make Item Inactive. Open the Item menu in the lower left and click Hide Inactive Items (this action won’t delete them).

Internal Cleaning

These may all seem like cosmetic changes, but you will save time and frustration over the long run.

The most critical spring cleaning task is company file analysis and maintenance. We can handle this for you. QuickBooks can slow down and start generating error messages when the data file becomes unwieldy and sloppy. Preventing file corruption before it crashes your system is a lot faster and less expensive than a reconstruction project.

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You chose QuickBooks for a variety of reasons, a major one being its simplicity and usability.

But the software is more than 20 years old now, and hundreds of features have been added over the years. QuickBooks looks old, tired and in need of a makeover.

Not anymore. Intuit has totally redesigned the program’s interface and navigational tools, providing a more consistent, streamlined, state-of-the-art look and feel. For the first time in a few years, there’s a compelling reason to consider moving up.


Figure 1: The QuickBooks 2013 home page.

Clean, Efficient, Customizable

What Intuit heard from customers was that they wanted a clean, simple experience. They wanted QuickBooks optimized for efficiency, and they wanted to be able to customize quickly.

So Intuit built a brand new interface, one that offers:

  • An across-the-board, consistent look and feel
  • A minimal learning curve, aided by familiar software conventions
  • A clearer, more obvious workflow

QuickBooks’ 2013’s dramatic changes are evident from its first screen. The home page has been cleaned up, and many icons removed (with their functions available elsewhere). But the interactive flowchart graphic is still there, along with icons for other commonly-used features.

You can still use the software’s standard drop-down menus. But you now have a choice between the old horizontal Icon Toolbar and a new vertical navigational panel (or neither of the latter two). You can customize the new panel to give you quick access to the functions and reports you use most often, saving time and unnecessary clicking.


Figure 2: The new vertical navigational panel can be customized to display the icons you want. 

Familiarity, and Clear Signals

Whether you just handle a subset of your company’s financial data or you’re the only one working with QuickBooks, your workflow will be faster and more intuitive.

QuickBooks 2013 uses colors and other visual cues to provide helpful hints and speed up your work. If the same option occurs within more than one screen, it’s always the identical color. When you’re completing an invoice, for example, the Save & New button is a bright blue color, as it is on many other screens. The Save & Close and OK icons are the same shade within the forms and records where they occur.

Color is also used to signify related actions in the new navigational Ribbon, a familiar interface convention that replaces the mismatched icons that used to be displayed at the top of transaction forms. In QuickBooks 2013, the icons for related tasks are the same color, and the graphics themselves are much cleaner and well-positioned.


Figure 3: 2013’s new navigational Ribbon is designed to accelerate workflow. 

A Pleasure to Use

No area of QuickBooks remained untouched in this massive overhaul. Every screen has been modified to enhance readability and speed. Fonts look larger and clearer, and the overall design is more aesthetically pleasing.

So besides making your accounting chores zip along faster, the new look and navigation have a positive psychological effect: It’s simply more enjoyable and less frustrating to interact with QuickBooks 2013. Its more modern, attractive look has a lot of appeal.

There are a few new things under the hood in this new version — it’s not just an interface update. For example, customer and vendor records are more flexible and thorough. You can attach to-do’s to them, assign multiple contacts and store more contact options, like Facebook addresses and Twitter handles.


Figure 4: Contact records in QuickBooks 2013 are more readable and thorough. 

Starting Fresh

There are other changes that will make your work life easier, like one-click access to both the Intuit App Center (where you’ll find hundreds of integrated QuickBooks add-ons) and your most often-accessed reports.

The last few versions of QuickBooks have been rather ho-hum in terms of new usability and functionality. But we encourage you to seriously consider upgrading to QuickBooks 2013. We’d be happy to help you get it up and running. Together, we can take a fresh look at your workflow to see if you and QuickBooks can build a better accounting experience.

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Figure 1: Clearly-defined items result in precise reports. 

Obviously, you’re using QuickBooks because you buy and/or sell products and/or services. You want to know at least weekly — if not daily — what’s selling and what’s not, so you can make informed plans about your company’s future.

You get that information from the reports that you so painstakingly customize and create. But their accuracy depends in large part on how carefully you define each item. This can be a laborious process, but it’s a critical part of QuickBooks’ foundation.

QuickBooks’ Item Lineup

You may not be aware of all of your options here. So let’s take a look at what you see when you go to Lists | Item List | Item | New:

Service. Simple enough. Do you or your employees do something for clients? Training? Construction labor? Web design? This is usually tracked by the hour.

Inventory Part. If you want to maintain detailed records about inventory that contain up-to-date information about value, quantities on hand and cost of goods sold, you must define these items as inventory parts. Before you start creating individual records, make sure that QuickBooks is set up for this purpose. Go to Edit | Preferences | Items & Inventory | Company Preferences and select the desired options there, like this:


Figure 2: QuickBooks needs to know that you’re planning to track at least some items as inventory parts. 

Inventory Assembly. Just what it sounds like; it’s sometimes referred to as a Bill of Materials. Do you sell items that actually consist of multiple individual products, services and/or other charges (though you may also sell the parts separately)? If you’re planning to track the compilations as individual units, then you must define them as assemblies.

Non-Inventory Parts. If you don’t track inventory, you can set up items as non-inventory parts. Even if you do track inventory, there may be times when you’ll want to use this designation. For instance, you might sell something to a customer that they asked you to obtain, but you don’t plan to stock it. In that case, QuickBooks only records the incoming and outgoing funds.


Figure 3: The New Item window looks a bit intimidating, but it’s critical that you complete it thoroughly and correctly. We can help you get started. 

Other Charges. This is a catch-all category for items like delivery charges or setup fees. You can’t designate a unit or measure here; they’re just standard costs.

Groups. Unlike assemblies, these are not recorded as individual inventory units. Use this designation when you sell a combination of items together frequently but you don’t want them tracked as one entity.

Discount. This is a fixed amount or a percentage that you subtract from a subtotal or total.

Payment. Normally, you would use the Receive Payments window to record a payment made. But if your customer has made a partial or advance payment upfront, use this item to subtract it from the total when you create the invoice or statement.


Figure 4: Use the Payment item to record an upfront remittance. 

Sales Tax Item. One sales tax, one rate, one agency.

Sales Tax Group. If a sale requires two or more sales tax items, QuickBooks calculates the total and displays it for the customer, but the items are tracked individually.

Additional Actions

The Item menu provides other options for working with items. You can:

      • Edit or delete
      • Duplicate
      • Make inactive
      • Find in transactions and
      • Customize the list’s columns.

Let us know if you’re not confident about items you’ve already created or if you’re just getting started with this important QuickBooks feature. Some extra work and attention upfront can save you from hours of back-tracking and frustration–and from reports that don’t tell the truth.

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Most of us have heard of QuickBooks, and probably even use it for our day-to-day tasks in our businesses.  But believe it or not, and Intuit would never you tell you this, but there are some areas in which it lacks.

That’s where 3rd-party Apps come in.  We all know “Apps”, a popular buzz word made famous by the iPhone and mobile technology.  But Apps have crossed over from just being mobile, to being part of our everyday lives.  With the right combination of software, using Apps with QuickBooks can make your business processes a breeze!

Check out this article for more and tell us what you think!

http://www.inc.com/christina-desmarais/5-apps-that-make-quickbooks-better.html

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