"We need to stop meeting this way"; Why cloud accounting builds better relationships.

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Here's one of the most interesting comments we hear when we are speaking with clients new to cloud accounting: 

"I  absolutely need someone to come into my office to keep my books up to date".

Now is that really true?  

Don't get the wrong message.  We love to see our clients.  Nothing beats a face to face interaction to build relationships and understanding.  The myth however is that by having your bookkeeper in your office, you will have a better relationship, more accurate information and get more work done.

The reality is that for almost all small businesses and organizations, this simply isn't true.

Let's take a look.

Timing -

Having your bookkeeper complete the work in your office means that you need to have all the necessary materials and people on hand to make the trip worth while.  If a bank statement or receipt is missing, if a key manager is out for the day, or if a computer is down and out, suddenly you have a useless trip and a day of work that needs to be rescheduled. 

We automate the document collection process so that bank statements, bills and expense reports are constantly being updated.  Your bookkeeper is then able to update the books more frequently and more efficiently.  As well:

  • Automated payments can be approved online eliminating the need for signing and sending cheques
  • Reports can be shared in the cloud.
  • Online meetings can happen spontaneously, quickly and as often as necessary.   And frequent regular contact is the key to a good accounting relationship.

Materials -

Who has extra space in their office?  Do you really want to have an extra computer sitting around for your bookkeeper to use ?  Do you want to maintain that computer and back up that desktop file?  Do you have a passion for storing paper? Enough said.

Accountability-

Accountability is usually the issue that keeps clients asking for in-person contact..   What most people mean when they say, "I want you to come into my office" is really "I want to know that you are doing a good job".  The outcomes of accounting are compliance (paying your taxes on time) and reporting (accurate, timely information that helps you make decisions)

At the beginning of your relationship with your bookkeeper you will identify all of your tax filing requirements and determine what information you need to be receiving on a regular basis.  These are the milestones you use to measure the work completed by your bookkeeper, eliminating the water of in person management.

Additionally, the option of online meetings means when you have a quick question, a change or an emergency, you can jump on a call and talk to your bookkeeper right away.  There's no need to wait until the next visit.  The virtual relationship encourages regular contact and open communication.

So keep that extra spot for a potted plant, grab a coffee, get comfortable and let's meet online.  You won't look back.

 

So, what do you do for me anyway?

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Here’s a question we get asked a lot:

“Should I be talking to you about this? Or should I speak with my accountant?”

It’s a good question.

There is a degree of overlap between the work that accountants and bookkeepers complete, and both play a key role in the accounting process, of course.  But there are important differences.

 

 

An accountant will generally provide high level review and discussion such as:

  • offering tax strategy and planning

  • preparing your corporate tax return

  • advising on key management decisions around growth, product planning, hiring, etc.

A bookkeeper helps keep your granular financial data up to date.  You can use this information to make the key decisions described above.  This can include services such as:

  • keeping your general ledger, and accounts payable and accounts receivable sub ledgers current

  • processing payments to vendors and payroll for staff

  • completing your sales and payroll tax returns

  • providing suggestions and tools for making your accounting process as efficient as possible

  • preparing reporting that helps both you and your accountant make key decisions and prepare your corporate tax return

The degree to which a bookkeeper is involved in your organization varies based on your industry, how much internal support you already have in your organization, and the services that your bookkeeper provides.

So how do you maximize the work that your accountant and bookkeeper do for you and take advantage of each of these services?

1.       Make introductions

Your accountant and bookkeeper should be working together.  Information should flow back and forth.  Questions should be answered together.  A quick introduction and clarification of roles will help avoid silos and duplicated work.

2.      Ask questions

Your bookkeeper can tell you a lot about your business.  They understand the roles and responsibilities in your organization - they have to in order to get the info they need! They see how information flows through the organization.  They see where the money comes from and where it goes.  Ask your bookkeeper question about what is working in the flow of information, what can be improved, and where they see opportunities for efficiencies.

3.      Stay in touch

The key to maximizing the value of your financial data is to return to it over and over.   Only by returning to this information can you build skill, understand changes and make projections.  If the reports you are receiving don’t provide the info you need, then let your bookkeeper know.  And if you aren’t sure what you need to know, then talk to your accountant and bookkeeper together. 

65% of failed business owners blame financial mismanagement for their downfall.  So if you aren’t getting what you need to manage your organization, ask questions, engage your players, and take charge!

 

 

The THREE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS

Three questions that can powerfully inform your vision of the coming year.

As December rolls around, most business managers turn their gaze optimistically to the new year.  Dreams of fulfilled goals, excellent sales, and extreme organization fill our heads.

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And why not?  The end of something old and the start of something new is a good chance to reflect on what’s working and what’s not - to break down the big picture and come up with a clearer, brighter vision of the future.

So how do you breakdown financial successes and challenges to access the information that will powerfully inform your decisions about the future?

Here’s a guide. 

There are three questions that you should be able to answer, not just at the end of each year, but at the end of each month.

1.      Are we profitable?

2.      When is our money coming in and when is it going out?

3.      Are our clients happy?

The degree of detail in the answers of each of these questions will be dictated by the size and complexity of your operation.  Some organizations need to review the profitability of each individual service or product, while others simply need to understand that their gross income exceeds their gross expenses.

Some businesses need a very complex cash flow report that should be reviewed each week.  Others just need to know that their payables come in 15 days before their receivables, and they need to secure an interim cash source.

Some businesses need complex metrics around their customer experience, while other just need a face to face meeting with their clients once a year to get the info they need.

But here’s the magic word: numbers. 

As a business manager, you should have a number associated with each of these metrics.

It’s not enough to say, “Yes, we made a profit” or “I think our cash flow looks pretty good”.

How much profit are you making?  How does that number vary over each month?  What are the components that make up your net profit?

How much of a cash gap will you have and when?

How happy are my clients?  Do they refer other clients?  Have we increased their sales value with our company?

The numbers you come up with will help you make decisions about your business model, your financing and your client base.  Those decisions will help you build a business that is profitable and sustainable. 

And that’s a good start for a new year!

Cash Flow Reporting: The key to your future success

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It’s difficult to achieve long term goals without some thought to cash flow.  Most managers can use emergency measures (personal cash infusion, holding back vendor payments etc.) to cover smaller blips in their bank balance.  But it’s harder to achieve stability in the long term without a plan. 

Cash flow reporting allows managers to look down the path and predict what lies ahead and make sure that they have the cash to create the vision they have in mind. 

If you were setting off across Atlantic Ocean in a sail boat and really, truly wanted to make it to the other side, you likely wouldn’t grab a pair of binoculars, your rain jacket, jump in the boat and say “I’m all set to go!”  You would gather information about seasonal weather patterns, previous used routes, and other traffic you might encounter.  You’d have satellite images, and a hotline to weather Canada.

It’s no different planning the future of your business.  Don’t count on your personal credit and some back of the napkin calculations to get you through!

Even in a highly profitable business, cash can be an issue.  You might have a big client who pays their bill late.   There can be planned or unplanned periods of expansion and contraction in your revenues due to seasonal changes in business, rollover in staff, economic factors or any of the other many variables.  Maybe you are hit with a broken piece of equipment or an unexpected legal issue. 

The result is less money in the bank.  And less money in the bank means it can be hard to pay staff and vendors, jump on opportunities and handle unexpected problems. 

So how do you create a cash flow analysis that will let you prepare and plan with confidence?

1.        Start with good information – The most powerful tool in understanding the future is using data from the past.  Financial information that is accurate and up to date is your best friend in helping you plan what’s next. 

2.       Just do it – You don’t get a perfect cash flow report the first time out.  It will take a while to develop a process and understanding that will give you the information you need.  If you’ve never done a cash flow review before, ask your bookkeeper to help you develop a one month forecast.  When you have a handle on that, move to three months, six months, a year, etc.  It takes time and consistent effort.

3.       Ask for insight – No one knows your business or organization better than you do.  But someone else might see things you don’t.  Review your numbers with your accountant, coach, colleagues to get their perspective on issues and patterns.  

4.       Stabilize – Once you have some insight into your cash flow from ongoing analysis and outside perspectives, start exploring how you can stabilize the numbers so that your cash balance allows you to act on opportunity and move towards your vision.  Do you need to grow sales, ask for shorter terms with clients, longer terms with vendors, or develop new streams?  This is where the real business visioning starts.

 

Cash flow reporting is an evolving and imperfect process.  You can’t predict the future with 100% certainty.  But the information you garner from returning over and over to your numbers will be powerful partner in growing your performance.

 

At STAR Company we have lots of tools for getting you started with cash flow or for improving and refining your process.  Drop us a line – we’d be happy to chat!