DIY Accounting Is Costing Your Small Business

Accounting is critical to your business’ success. Timely, accurate accounting keeps your business organized, tax compliant and allows you to plan for current and future needs. Managing your own accounting needs can be tempting, especially as a small business owner. Often, it’s difficult to justify putting a large (or any) amount of money towards something you can do yourself—especially in the early days of a business. Odds are, unless you have a background in accounting or finance, you aren’t properly tending to your books.

Luckily, you have options! Here’s how DIY accounting is wasting your resources, and how you can find the perfect solution for your business:

Accounting (Really) Requires Expertise

Accounting is very technical. There are many rules and processes associated with accounting, and they vary from business to business. There are federal, state and local requirements to also consider. Understanding a business’ accounting, tax and finance requirements is essential to keep the business healthy, tax compliant and growing.

For many people, navigating these rules and regulations can become overwhelming very quickly. These technical requirements are very important, but it’s easy to overlook or minimize them if you aren’t a financial expert. Worst of all, these mistakes can be exceptionally costly for your business in the long run by way of fines and cash flow issues.

Your Time Is Valuable

As an entrepreneur, you’re attention is pulled in different directions 24/7. At the end of the day, you aren’t doing yourself any favors by devoting some of this precious time towards managing the books. How many hours do you spend on accounting tasks per month? Now, imagine what you could be doing with those hours instead—engaging with customers, designing new products or spending time with family and friends.

Your time isn’t free, even if it seems like it. It can be difficult to recognize costs associated with your own time, especially when you can’t directly see the impact on your bank account. Your hours are very valuable to your business and there is a cost associated with how you spend them, so spend them doing what you’re best at!

Small Business Accounting Solutions

So, you want to save your time and money and have top notch books. How do you do it? The first, and perhaps most obvious, option is to hire an expert. A financial expert, such as a CPA, can manage your monthly accounting needs, take care of your tax requirements and assist with cash flow and financial planning, if necessary. Additionally, an expert can save you money by identifying cost saving opportunities.

Perhaps hiring an expert is still too costly. Cloud accounting solutions, such as Xero and QuickBooks Online, are affordable and scalable, making them great small business solutions. Cloud software offers pay-as-you-go plans and allows you to save time and streamline processes to increase overall efficiency. Smart accounting solutions work with cloud accounting software to manage tasks for you, such as expense categorization, instantly.

At the end of the day, unless you have a firm understanding of accounting and finance, DIY accounting is costly and demands a large amount of your time. Finding your accounting solution depends on your business structure and needs. Take some time to assess your current situation. How many hours do you spend on your books per week or month? Can you put an hourly rate on your time? Are there accounting solutions that cost less than your hourly rate? No matter what solution you choose, make sure it fits your business!

The Small Business Guide to FinTech (Infographic)

Financial Technology (FinTech) innovations are transforming almost every aspect of the financial sector. In today’s digital age, people demand quick and easy ways to manage their banking, make transactions and run their business using online and mobile technology platforms.

What The Heck Is FinTech?

FinTech is short for Financial Technology. It refers to the technologies used to support or enable banking and financial services. FinTech companies are leveraging technology to disrupt traditionally slow and complex industries to create better financial solutions for individuals and businesses.

FinTech is transforming when, where and how people are doing business. As a business owner, it’s important to pinpoint the FinTech solutions that will increase your business’ efficiency—such as smart accounting and payroll solutions—as well as the technologies that will enhance your customer’s experience, such as a portable card readers.

Check out our Small Business Guide to FinTech (below)!


Build Your Marketing Foundation In 3 Steps

Marketing is constantly evolving, especially with the rise of digital marketing. As a small business owner, it’s easy to get lost in the endless opportunities of the web. Establishing a few key marketing elements when you launch your business will save you the headache of playing catch up down the road. Because eventually, you’ll need them! Here are three essential tips for establishing your marketing foundation.

Brand Identity

Building your brand identity in the early stages of your company will help you to grow and scale in line with your vision. If you only invest in one marketing item, make it your logo. Hire a professional to create a high quality logo that is unique to your business and in line with your vision. This is important—your logo will be on everything. Ask your designer for the hex codes, and make a note of the font and color codes so you can always have them on hand. This will be very helpful for any communications you send as a company.

It’s important to have a framework of your brand identity. Create a company fact sheet to outline your mission, background, products and services and value proposition. Make this fit your business! If you have a tagline, introductory video or a list of interesting facts, add them to your fact sheet. You can use this sheet as a guide as you begin to grow (or start) your marketing endeavors. Additionally, you can share it with new team members to welcome them to your company culture on day one!

Company Website

You need a company website, and it should be responsive. Today, purchasing decisions are largely made online, including on mobile devices. To stay relevant, you must have a company website. You can build a simple website with your (high quality!) logo, a brief description of your business and your contact information. Adding company information, such as an About Us page, is an easy way to further personalize your site.

Responsive layouts automatically resize when viewed on a tablet or mobile device. It’s annoying to manually zoom and scroll on a mobile device. More importantly, an unresponsive layout can cost you potential business if users leave and opt for a competitor’s site. Still not convinced? Take it from Google: “responsive design is Google’s recommended design pattern.”

There are a number of excellent CMS website builders that offer intuitive drag and drop functionality and fully responsive templates. These builders allow you to quickly and easily build, publish and maintain your website.

Building A Digital Presence (Beyond Your Website)

The digital market is larger than ever, and expanding every day. As a business owner, it can be overwhelming, and difficult to discern where to market your business. Take a step back and think about your business. Which social networks do you visit, and which ones naturally align with your brand? How can social media support your business? For example, if you’re selling products, put your business on Facebook and Instagram. Share images and videos of your new products and happy customers. Revisiting your brand’s foundation and identity will allow you to focus on mediums that will support your business’ growth and goals.

Bottom line, consistency is key. Use your logo and defined color scheme across your company’s digital presence. Build a website that is clear to the user and aligned with your brand identity, and leverage social networks that naturally fit your business. Most importantly, have fun with it!

Contributed By:
Amy Furr
Senior Digital Marketing Associate

5 Ways Great Leaders Motivate Employees

No matter the size of your company, having a team of motivated, hard-working employees is crucial to your business’ success. It’s also a lot more fun. Keeping your employees engaged is a demanding task but thankfully, it doesn’t have to be painful. Check out these five leadership tactics that will ensure your employees are inspired to succeed and ready to go the extra mile for your business.

Lead By Example

Great leaders inspire and motivate their peers through their actions. Leaders should set an objective and work with every team to ensure the organization is achieving its goals. Team members need a path and a plan to know how their work fits into the bigger picture. Continue to work with your team to push the bounds, try things and learn what works best to guide them along. As the business leader, your emotional intelligence and actions have an important influence on your team, directly impacting your company culture. Ultimately, most people learn by experiencing a situation, especially millennials. Lead and guide are the key words here.

Communicate Respectfully & Regularly

It’s important to build a relationship with your team members. Notice, I didn’t say employees here. Your team is your most valuable asset. It’s likely you’re communicating on a cadence that is not often enough. Communications don’t always have to be about work related topics and don’t have to be formal in nature. Chat with someone in the hallway, at the company event, or just at their desk. Your team members are people with their own unique situations, and giving them this attention is important to understanding how you can adapt your style to their needs. Ask respectful questions and take a genuine interest in their lives outside of work. Who knows? You might just learn something interesting and worthwhile.  

Challenge Your Teams

Employees must be challenged to grow both personally and professionally. Highly effective leaders help employees reach their full potential by acknowledging what they are capable of and pushing them to go the extra mile. You are a coach, not a dictator. Challenging an individual to overcome a mental barrier is one of the best parts of the job. One of the key goals is to keep your organization fluid so that there is a path forward for everyone. Humans need goals and something to work for. Make sure you are utilizing your entire team to help overcome challenging aspects of your business. When work is easy, repetitive and straightforward, humans get bored and unsatisfied.

Competition Awakens The Spirit

Humans have been competing since the beginning of time. I find that naturally the best way to get the best out of people and have fun at the same time is to inspire healthy competition. Make everything a game. Photo challenges, trash can basketball, fantasy football, best idea, most ideas, naming something that's impactful...the list goes on. When you involve your team in things where they can express themselves and then win for doing it, you’ll create an amazingly creative and collaborative atmosphere. Incentives are a great way to encourage your employees to overcome challenges and reach important goals, but so is good ol’ fashioned competition and championship status. Winning is a primal instinct and it's very effective to motivate your team.

Don't Micromanage

Consider the difference between leaders and managers. Highly effective leaders are not micro-managers. In fact, great leaders don’t need to manage at all. They understand that employees thrive when they are empowered to do their job without constant guidance and control. The key is to build a work environment where people seek accountability for their mistakes and take pride in their work. Do not punish employees when they are wrong. Instead, help them learn from the mistake and move forward with their new knowledge. To make this a reality, clearly articulate expectations and create a culture of ownership.

At the end of the day, your team is your most valuable asset. As a leader, your team should always be among your top priorities. Lead by example to set the bar for success in your company, take a genuine interest in your team members and understand their personal and professional goals. Don’t waste your energy micromanaging your team—lead and guide them to grow, learn and succeed!

Contributed By:
Kurt Rathmann
CEO & Founder

5 Important Tips For Startup Success

Startup businesses come in all shapes and sizes. There’s a certain type of vibe associated with the startup scene, namely, flexible hours, open office spaces and a casual culture. These are common (and great) traits of startups, but any entrepreneur will tell you that it’s not all fun and games. Running a startup is risky, stressful, and just plain hard. There are some important things entrepreneurs can do to avoid failure and charge ahead toward success. Here are five essential tips that will go a long way to ensuring your startup succeeds.

Be Resourceful

While it’s great to achieve your startup's critical objectives for growth, doing so by using as few resources as possible is the real key to success. New businesses lack resources, so maximizing your company’s time and money can be the difference between success and failure. To save time, use outsourcing tools that will dramatically increase your efficiency. Although you may think that outsourcing tools are a waste of money, they can deliver real cost saving and help you avoid burnout.

Build a Learning Culture

Create a positive learning culture where leaders and employees are continually encouraged, challenged and given opportunities to learn new skills. The key to building a learning culture is to encourage your team to learn new skills regularly, and support them along the way. It’s important to offer support without micromanaging, which can actually be unproductive. There are many ways to facilitate a learning culture. Invite guest speakers monthly or quarterly, establish an office hours system, or set a shared goal for the quarter. Find the cadence that works best for your business and stick to it. Companies that fail to develop a positive learning culture will not only experience high employee turnover, but they will also struggle to keep their customers and, ultimately, fall behind the competition.

Create Memorable Experiences

Create experiences that deliver beyond what your customer expects from your competitors. If you’re a services based company, you can do this by providing expert services, timely deliverables and excellent and creative customer service. If you’re a CPG company, invest in creative packaging and develop clever digital media strategies. If you’re offering a technology product, invest in UI/UX and technical product team members that can deliver an outstanding user experience. There is a lot of competition out there. Delivering your customers a memorable experience will ensure loyalty and increase the likelihood that your clients will tell their friends!

Remove Barriers

Instead of the traditional “push” model of sales and marketing, make it easy for your customers to engage with you and your products without them feeling the pressure of commitment. Make sure your business is easily found through several channels, both on and offline. Create an approachable environment that encourages browsing. Make it easy for customers to learn about your services or products, and build relationships with potential customers by offering real value and genuine help. Delightful customer support can go a long way.

Concentrate On Your Core

Instead of trying to take over the world all at once, commit your resources to achieving a few high-level objectives that establish and strengthen the foundation of your business. To ensure you focus on the right thing, brainstorm and write out your top goals. Anything below your top three should be put on the backburner until you’re able to achieve your top goals. Keep the list nearby; you might find that some of your lower level objectives directly help you meet your top three goals.

Entrepreneurship can be daunting. It’s easy to (quickly) feel overwhelmed, confused and frustrated. It’s important to stay clear about your vision and goals to define what success looks like for your company. Be resourceful as you focus first on goals that develop and support your foundation. Create delightfully positive experiences for your customers, and support your employees to learn and grow. The residual effects of happy customers and happy employees will directly impact your business for the better.

Contributed By:
Brian Simmons
Director of Products

3 Reasons To Automate Your Accounting

Technology is changing every aspect of our lives. Smart phones and social media have changed how we interact with one another. Wearables have changed the way we exercise and manage our health. Our work habits are no exception. Cloud technology, automation and machine learning are improving how we work by creating more efficient processes, reducing human error and making it possible to work from anywhere, at any time.

Accounting is an essential part of any successful business. When properly managed, accounting gives you a way to understand how your business is doing and identify important requirements to keep your business running. Unfortunately, accounting often becomes a dreaded chore and, ultimately, a time suck for business owners. This is where automation can be a game changer.

Save Time & Money

Many entrepreneurs and freelancers go into business to fulfill a passion, share an experience, solve a problem or share a product or service they feel is valuable. All too often, business owners realize the technical requirements of the business—things like accounting, tax and inventory needs—after it’s up and running. Many business owners try to manage their own accounting only to find themselves frustrated and confused hours later.

Sound familiar? Automating simple, necessary, accounting tasks gives you this time back so you can focus on your customers, products and brand. Automated solutions and cloud technologies are scalable and affordable, especially compared to hiring full time help.

Avoid A Cash Flow Crisis

Mismanaged cash is the #1 killer of small businesses. It's a result of unhealthy accounting that ultimately prevents you from making the right decisions to grow your business. So cash flow problems are rooted in deficient bookkeeping.

By automating certain accounting tasks, you can quickly get a full picture of your company’s cash flow without the effort of manually sorting through all your transactions. Automating tasks like bill pay and expense transactions allows you to easily see your cash balance, how much you're spending, where you’re spending the most and when cash is scheduled to enter or leave your accounts. This visibility empowers you make smart business decisions on the spot.

Reduce Human Error

Let’s face it, humans make mistakes. Even the brightest accountants are susceptible to typos, which can drastically impact your accounts. By automating these functions, you ensure your transactions are tracked, reconciled and managed the same way every time.

If you have an accountant or bookkeeper, they'll benefit from automating these tasks as well! By automating tedious accounting tasks, your accountant can skip the hours they typically spend housekeeping and devote their time to your more complex financial needs.

Bottom line, automated accounting is a scalable way to keep your finances healthy so you can focus on your business and passion. Technology has proven it’s here to stay, and the FinTech industry is growing quickly. Use technology to grow your business while saving yourself time, money and stress.

Contributed By:
Bass Bauman
Technical Product Manager

2017 Tax Filing Guide: Deadlines, Tips & Scams [Infographic]

Tax season is in full swing! While the first round of deadlines has come and gone (we’re looking at you, March 15th), there is still plenty to do this tax season. Taxes can get confusing quickly with the various forms, deadlines and compliance requirements specific to your business, location and revenue. Plus, some of the deadlines changed this year!

To help, we’ve outlined important filing dates, helpful tips and some of the most common scams identified by the IRS. If you’re unsure about your compliance requirements, reach out to a tax professional. This will save you from potential tax penalties in the long run.

Without further are our Tax Tips for 2017!


3 Tips To Preserve Company Culture As You Grow

Small businesses come in all shapes and sizes, from mom-and-pop shops to tech-focused startups, and everything in between. While they vary in industry, mission and goals, one thing many small businesses share is an outstanding company culture. There’s something about the small business culture that often gets lost as companies grow.

Sure, your company will change as you grow, but you don’t have to lose your unique culture along the way! So, how do you preserve your culture as you scale? With some thoughtful planning, you can make it happen.

(Re)Define Your Values

As your company grows, it’s easy to get caught up in the business side of things. All of the sudden you’re developing new products, meeting with potential investors, fundraising, adding new departments and other important business moves. It’s crucial keep your company values in mind. Take some time to define your company values. If you’ve done this in the past, revisit your values to make sure they still apply, and that you’re still living up to them as a company.

As a business owner, you don’t have to do this alone! Depending on the size and culture of your company, you might find it best to pull the team leads together, or even the whole company, to do this as a group exercise. No matter your style, be sure to clearly share your values with the company.

Clear Communication

Clear communication is absolutely essential to your business, especially during periods of fast movement and growth. It’s important to communicate with your team. Company goals, team events, values and mission—make sure the team stays on the same page. In addition to communicating outwardly with your team, it’s important to have an outlet to receive information from your team. Depending on your size and growth rate, it may no longer be feasible for employees stop by your desk with an idea.

There are a ton of ways you can open the lines of communication. You can create an email list specifically for your company culture, such as Invite your team to share ideas, requests and feedback to this channel. Have a few people manage this inbox that can help answer questions and use the feedback. For example, you can add your operations manager, HR coordinator or anyone else in your company that directly manages people or culture.

Another great option is the anonymous survey. You can easily create and send a survey to check in with the team on a cadence that works best for your company, such as monthly or quarterly. You can build a simple Google Form or use a survey software. If you’re using software to manage your business operations, check to see if you can send a survey through their platform!

Embrace Your Culture

Your company has a culture that’s unique to your team. Embrace it! Perhaps you’re a small company that eats lunch together once (or a few times) a week. Maybe you have a Friday ritual to end the work week with team, such as happy hour or office games. As your business grows, you might not be able to keep all of the traditions alive. Prioritize keeping traditions that are most important to you and your team. This will ensure your employees continue to have fun at work and will help you attract new talent and customers!

At the end of the day, you need to do what’s best for your business to grow, meet your goals and reach success. Stay true to your company’s values and check in every few months to make sure your growth and values continue to align. Have an open line of communication with your employees, and take feedback seriously to ensure you continue to grow as a team!

Contributed By:
Amy Furr
Senior Digital Marketing Associate

5 Bad Bookkeeping Habits You Need To Drop

Are you managing your company's bookkeeping? If you’re not a trained bookkeeper, you might be guilty of a few bookkeeping “bad habits.” Unfortunately, these mistakes can quickly turn a booming business into a nightmare. Here are five bad bookkeeping habits that are common in many small businesses.

Using The Wrong Accounting Method

Using the correct accounting method (cash or accrual) for your business is vitally important. Ultimately, your accounting method impacts your ability to make smart business decisions. Each method provides you with information that could be important to your decision making based on your business type and industry. There are also certain features and limitations in the financial statements that differ between cash and accrual accounting. For example, the accrual method provides detailed insight into your accounts receivable and accounts payable that you can’t access with cash accounting.

Choosing the right accounting method depends on a number of factors, such as the type of product or service you provide, your revenue and the size of your business. Your accounting method also impacts your tax requirements. For example if you’re using cash accounting, your taxes must be reported on a cash basis. Sounds simple, but these technical requirements can slip right past the untrained eye!

Improperly Managing Cash Flow

Many companies have met a premature death because they didn’t properly manage their cash flow. Knowing the cash flow of your company is vitally important to maintain operations and keep the business running. By monitoring your cash flow properly, you’ll be able to make smarter business decisions in regards to tasks such as bill payments. For example, you can plan for a bill payment to be processed during a week when larger receivables come in, instead of paying when you’re low on cash.

Knowing if your company is tight on cash will help you make smarter operational decisions and limit frivolous spending. Proper cash flow management also allows you to make more complex business decisions, such as if, and when, you require fundraising. So, remember to stay on top of your aging reports, be diligent in collecting your receivables and make sure to have a grasp on your business’ cash flow status at all times!

Ignoring Opportunities For Integrations And Efficiency

Organization is key to having a successful accounting file, otherwise you’re just creating stress for yourself in the long run. Luckily, technology will organize your file for you. Automate tedious operations, such as bill pay and payroll, to increase business efficiency and save you time (and stress). Use the extra time to focus on the parts of your business that you love!

Taking advantage of technology and software integrations will make your job easier and unify the organization’s operational efficiency. Many programs offer affordable monthly options so you only pay for what you need. If you’re using multiple softwares, integrate them so that they work together for extra efficiency!

Not Using Set Deadlines And Due Dates

As a business owner, your day-to-day includes all parts of the business, from generating sales to building customer relationships and taking care of bills. It’s easy to miss a deadline or fall behind when your schedule is constantly changing. However, missing a deadline to pay bills or file taxes can lead to expensive late penalties and give your business a bad reputation. Plus, your credit rating could take a hit if you miss too many payments. Make sure to set deadlines and due dates in an organized calendar, or set reminders on your phone. Better yet, use a system that will track your deadlines and send you reminder notifications. No matter which type of system you choose, make sure you’re meeting all of your deadlines to ensure success.

Failing To Understand Key Accounting Metrics

Is your business successful? How well are you managing your resources? What are your outstanding debts? To answer these important questions, you must understand your business’ key accounting metrics. These include indicators such as gross margin percentage, monthly revenue, net margin, average cash burn, cash runway and year to date revenue. You need to understand these metrics so you can provide your investors or Board of Directors with accurate reports, answer the tough questions and maintain the financial health of the company.

Bottom line, don’t make bookkeeping mistakes that could cost you in the long run! Automate tedious bookkeeping tasks so you know they’re done right, on time and are properly organized. When in doubt, reach out to a CPA to ensure your accounting file is in tip-top shape.

Contributed By:
Kate Faltin
Account Analyst

3 Reasons You (Really) Need Financial Statements

Financial statements are useful tools that will help you keep your business on track. There are many different types of financial statements, but most small business owners need only worry about the big three.

The Big Three

The big three financial statements include the income statement (P&L), balance sheet & statement of cash flows.

  1. The income statement provides a breakdown of revenues and expenses in a business, providing critical insight into profitability over a defined period of time. The income statement is a complete representation of the company’s activity for the defined time period. This statement is considered temporary as it “resets” to zero at the beginning of the new period (typically monthly).
  2. The balance sheet provides a snapshot of your business’ assets, liabilities and owner’s equity giving you an instant picture of your company’s financial underpinnings at a particular point in time. The balance sheet shows a culmination of historical activity through the company’s lifetime, essentially showing what you’ve done to date. At the end of the month, the income statement activity will be reflected on the balance sheet as increases or decreases to the account balances.
  3. The statement of cash flows gives you the ability to see all the cash going in and out of your business. It is a representation of how changes to accounts affect cash and equivalents. This statement is broken down between operating, investing and financing activities, giving you a more accurate picture of where cash is flowing.

Still not convinced you need financial statements? Here are three reasons why they’re an absolute must:

Financial Statements Are Useful Tools

Financial statements are the most useful tools you can use to understand the current and future financial health of your business. When prepared correctly and reviewed regularly, the big three financial statements provide a complete picture of your business' finances. Financial statements can seem overwhelming at first glance, but they’re actually pretty simple. Check out of our guide to understanding your financial statements in less than 5 minutes!

Financial Statements Are Scorecards

Financial statements are like a scorecard you can use to measure your business’ performance. By using financial statements, you can determine where your business is underperforming and where it is excelling. You can also compare it to industry standards, giving you a good idea of where you stand against your competitors.

Investors And Banks Expect Financial Statements

Financial statements are Business 101! They are expected by investors and required by banks because financial statements tell the complete story about your business. If you want to get a loan, keep in mind that many banks or lenders will not consider a loan application without current financial statements. If you’re serious about attracting investment, financial statements are a must. Investors need proof that you’re business is worth investing in before they give you a check. Many investors find it unprofessional and are typically unsympathetic to companies who don’t handle their finances properly!

The Bottom Line

Financial statements are too important to ignore. While they may seem complicated and intimidating, financial statements actually pretty easy to understand. If you want to achieve success in your business, attract investment or get a bank loan, you must use and review your financial statements regularly.

Contributed By:
Will Landa
Account Analyst