What Does Popeye Have to Do with Accounting?

You might have heard the terms “cash basis accounting” or “accrual accounting.”  Your net income number can change depending on which method your books are set up for.  Here’s a simple explanation of the difference, with a little help from one of the most famous cartoon characters in history.

 

Popeye and Wimpy

 

You might recognize Popeye the Sailor Man from the television cartoons or other media.  His sidekick, Wimpy, was the one who was always hungry and always out of cash.  One of his favorite sayings was, “I’ll gladly pay your Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

 

It’s All in the Timing

 

Let’s make today Thursday.  If Wimpy wants to pay us Tuesday for a hamburger today, here’s how it would be done for a restaurant on cash basis:

 

Cash basis recording Wimpy’s hamburger purchase

 

Both the sale and the receipt of cash would be recorded on Tuesday.  Companies on cash basis only record the transaction when the cash is received.

 

But, if the restaurant’s books were on the accrual basis, it would be a different story:

 

Accrual basis recording Wimpy’s hamburger purchase

 

Wimpy’s hamburger sale would be recorded on Thursday, the day he ate the hamburger.  The receipt would then be recorded on Tuesday, assuming Wimpy made good on his promise to pay.

 

You might be asking why a few days is such a big deal.  Outside of cartoon life, a couple of extra twists can happen.  It can be far more than a few days from the time you do the work to the time you get paid for it.  And often, these dates span different months and even years, affecting the amount you have to pay in taxes to various agencies.  Manipulating these dates (legally, of course) is one of many tax planning strategies that we can help you with.

 

Choosing for Your Business

 

In many cases, the government has chosen which method you must use when it comes to sales tax, payroll taxes, and income tax.  That’s part of the reason we make the required adjustments to your books at year end.

 

To help you run your business in a forward-thinking way, the accrual method is best.  You can record invoices for work you’ve done even though you haven’t received payment yet.  You can enter bills you need to pay before you pay them to forecast cash requirements.  Using accrual accounting, you can budget for cash flow needs as well as see more accurately what your revenue and income is looking like.

 

For clients who remain behind in their bookkeeping and just want to catch everything up once a year, the cash basis is adequate.  However they lose out on all the good information they could have had throughout the year to run their business better.

 

For other businesses, a hybrid approach between cash and accrual accounting can be the most cost effective.

 

A Little Help from Popeye the Sailor

 

What would Popeye say about all this accounting talk?

 

“That’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands n’more!”

 

Budgeting Breakthrough

When you hear the word “budget,” what do you think about?  Most people would say something similar to “Ugghh!” If you would rather do just about anything besides create a budget, you’re not alone.  The word “budget” brings up connotations of endless numbers, constraints, the opposite of freedom and creativity, and hard work, none of which are very desirable.

 

Yet, the benefits of a budget are huge.  Budgets can help you with cash flow improvements, keep you on track for higher profits, and alert you to items that need further action.

 

From “Budget” to “Profit Plan”

 

To be successful with budgeting, we need to get rid of all of the connotations that go with the word.  Perhaps it might work if we rename “budgeting” to “profit planning.” And then, rather than focus on how little we should spend, let’s start with how much revenue we’re going to make.

 

Revenue Clarity

 

It’s simple to create a revenue plan if you go backwards.  What revenue goal would you like to hit this year?  Just like we would never get in a car without a final destination, a revenue plan gives us a number to aim for in our businesses.

 

Once you know your number, then we can use averages to come up how many sales or clients we need to generate in order to meet our revenue goal.  Here’s a quick example:  Let’s say you want to reach $5 million in revenue this year.  If you average order is $10,000, then you need 500 sales.  If you have multiple products and services, then you’ll need to sum the product of the average sale times the needed number of sales for each line.

 

From there, you can make marketing and production plans based on the number of sales or clients you need.

 

Protecting Your Profit

 

Think of the expense side of your “profit plan” as protecting your profit margins so that you can ensure financial gain from all the hard work you do.  Setting budget limits on spending will allow you to control overhead and other items so you can keep more of what you make.

 

Exceptional Reporting

 

A great “profit plan” report will provide several things.  You can compare budget to actual, or better yet, just be alerted to the accounts showing exceptions.  You can also get an income statement that compares the current period with the prior year period so you can see how far you’ve come.  One last option is a benchmark report which provides industry averages so you can measure how you fare compared to other companies in your industry.

 

A “profit plan” is a great tool for your business.  If we can help you with the process or provide you with custom reporting, please give us a call.

Five Cash Leaks to Avoid

Cash flow improvement is a hot issue for small businesses; in many businesses, it seems like there is never enough cash when you need it.  The last thing a business owner wants is to reduce their cash balance unnecessarily.  To help you preserve or increase your cash, here are five cash management leaks to avoid.

 

1. Bloated Bank Fees

 

Some banks are more business-friendly than others.  We recommend you assess the fees you are currently being charged to see if you can discontinue any unnecessary services.

 

  • Could you maintain a cash balance to avoid monthly fees?
  • Are you being charged online banking fees and bill pay fees, and are these still necessary?
  • Are you being charged for a high volume of transactions or cash drawer services, and are these competitive with other banks?

 

Banks, including national brands, that have not kept up with technology and have not automated a significant amount of their transactions are inefficient and must charge higher fees to cover their processing costs.  If your accounts are located at one of these costlier banks, you do have a choice.

 

2.   Overtaxed

 

Are you sure that you are paying the lowest amount of taxes you legally owe?  There are several places to look to make sure you have not overpaid taxes anywhere in your business or personally:

 

  • Payroll taxes
  • Sales and use tax
  • Franchise taxes
  • State and local income taxes
  • Property taxes
  • Federal income taxes
  • Taxes that are specific to your industry

 

In preparing income taxes, a few of the easiest items to overlook include carryovers from prior years and new deductions you become eligible for.  If you received a large refund this year, congratulations, but that means you gave Uncle Sam an interest-free loan on your money.  You can do better next year by estimating your tax payments and paying only what’s due.

 

3. The Check Is in the Mail

 

Customers who take too long to pay you are big cash drains in your business.  Consider changing your terms, asking for deposits, or becoming more aggressive with collections to bring your DSO (days sales outstanding) down.  When you do, you’ll get an instant, permanent cash flow improvement.

 

4.  Sweat the Small Stuff

 

You may have an eagle eye on your largest bank account, but what about your other cash stashes?  PayPal, petty cash, and business savings accounts are among the places that may not get daily scrutiny.  Make sure those accounts are properly reconciled and have the proper controls in place so funds don’t go missing.

 

5.  It’s in Your Interest

 

A nice problem to have is when your bank balances get too large and you don’t need the money immediately.  Make sure that money is still working hard for you by putting the excess in an interest-bearing account.  It’s not much these days, but every little bit helps.

 

Make a Dash to the Cash

 

If we can help you plug any of these cash leaks in your business, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know.

Seven Strategies to Put the Spring into Your Sales

Spring is here and that’s the perfect time to try something new in your business to make things fresh.  Here are seven ideas to try in your business; pick the one that’s most likely to put the spring in your sales.

1. BOGO

“Buy one, get one” or BOGO deals are always hot and never grow old.  Even if it’s not common in your industry, see if you can adapt and create a deal like this.  The best thing about a BOGO strategy is it spreads more of your product or service around to a wider customer base, which can spur referrals or word-of-mouth, the best kind of sale.

Here’s an example of a BOGO applied to a service: Purchase a seat at a training workshop and bring a co-worker at no extra charge (or charge the price of materials and lunch to cover costs).  You can also offer one month free (cheaper than offering 10 percent off on an annual basis) if you have a service that is performed over time.

 2.Weekend Sale

Sales can move a lot of people to action.  The key is to limit the time that they can get the discount to a very small window.  Hold a time-limited sale when it is slow for you (could be during this month when people are hit with tax bills) to boost your volume.

 3.Freshen Up Your Displays

If you have a storefront, when is the last time you’ve freshened up your look?  Retail businesses work hard at this, but even if you aren’t in retail, take a look at what the customer sees.  Is it inviting?  Fresh?  Pleasant?  If not, do some spring cleaning!

If you work from home or have a virtual office, your website is your storefront.  See if it needs some spring cleaning so that you look more attractive to your prospects and clients.

4.Introduce New Features

Make a slight change to your existing product by adding a new feature, offering it in a new color, or something similar.  It will feel a little fresher to your clients, which may cause an increase in perceived value.

 5. Start a New Niche

Once you’ve gotten a couple of clients from a new industry, you’re off and running.  You will be able to learn from working with this new industry, and then you will be more valuable to others in that space.

Take a look at your client list, and see where you have just a few clients in the same industry but would like more clients like them.  Then go for it!

6.Flavor of the Month Club

Baskin-Robbins used to have a “flavor of the month” so that customers would be enticed to come into their ice cream shops over and over again.  You may be able to have an “item of the month” or even a VIP club where your customers get something new each month.  Your VIP Club could also include priority treatment with specials or discounts.  VIP clubs done right are especially effective in restaurants and retail, but can work in other industries too.  The goal is to increase the frequency of visits to your business by enticing clients to become regulars.

7.The Biggest Opportunity of All

We often overlook the top opportunity that’s under our own noses:  our current and past clients.  They trust us the most, which is the highest hurdle to new business.  If you haven’t contacted your top clients in a while, make a point to reach out.  More sales could be just a phone call away.

Now it’s time to spring into action on the one idea that resonates most for your business.

Five Ways to Protect your Cash

As entrepreneurs, we work hard for our money, and the last thing we need is to have it disappear due to fraud, hackers, or identity theft.  Some people have called 2013 the year of the hacker, which is worrisome.  But you’re far more likely to experience risks with disgruntled or financially desperate employees and contractors.  Mistakes happen, too, and when they do it can be costly to get them corrected.

Here are five ways to increase your financial controls so that you can lower your business risks when it comes to the handling of cash and cash equivalents.  As you read the list, check to see where you can tighten up controls in your business.

Checking for Checks

Do you have blank checks lying around?  If so, reduce the temptation and get them locked up.  You can also go a step further and have your accountant run a report each month (or week) of missing check numbers.  If any checks are unaccounted for, take action by processing Stop Payment orders at your bank.

Bank on It

If you are still getting your bank reconciliation on paper, where does it get mailed?  The business owner should always see the bank reconciliation before anyone else does.  Also, make sure the person that performs the reconciliation is not the same person that deposits the checks.  Segregation of duties is essential to improve cash controls.

Today, it’s a good idea to do all your banking online, if possible, so that nothing gets mailed.  In that way, you have some reduced risk over identity theft.

Some banks offer multiple-user access to your banking account, so that bookkeepers can get the information they need.  Lock that user ID down as much as possible, so that the user can only get to what they need to.  If they’re honest, they will appreciate the reduced level of responsibility and consider it a smart financial move.

PayPal Protection

If you have a PayPal account, keep the balance low by transferring funds frequently to your bank account.  You can also restrict access to reduce your risk.

Credit Card Control

If you use credit cards in your business, you’ll want to maintain tight control over them.  For each employee or contractor that needs to charge items on a credit card, here are a couple of points to consider:

  • If the credit limit on the current card is sky-high, then ask the bank to lower it or set up a new card with very low credit limits just for employee use.
  • Contact your credit card company and get a card in the employee’s name.
  • Make sure you can access the credit card transactions online.  They are immediate, and if necessary, you can closely monitor what’s going on.
  • Insist on a receipt brought to you for every purchase.
  • Create clear procedures, limits, and approvals before the spending occurs.
  • Don’t let the employee “keep” the credit card during off hours.  Keep it locked up on your premises instead.

Safeguarding Payroll

One of the biggest cash outflows for small businesses is payroll.  Here, segregation of duties comes into play again.  The person preparing the payroll should not be the one who approves it and actually runs it.

You can do this by having different user accounts and controls within your payroll system.

Hopefully, you already have a lot of these ideas in place.  If not, add the ideas you like to your to do list so that your business risks will be reduced.

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