If you’re like most small business owners, you understand that accounting is:
- important in providing accurate financial information so that you can make timely decisions about cash flow, marketing and expansion decisions, tax planning, etc.
- a non-revenue-producing activity
- not nearly as much fun as, say, 18 holes on a golf course.
These pages will give you tips, tricks, and Best Practices to make having your accounting done for you a simple and painless process.
It helps to first understand that what you are doing is delegating the work of having your books kept to someone else. The key to effective delegation is clear, consistent communication.
So the essence of these pages is about simple ways you can communicate the financial information your accountant will require.
Methods of Communication
While old school methods, such as fax and snail mail, will do the job of getting us your information, the preferred methods utilize current technology.
All the way back in 1995 (a long time by technology standards) the 104th Congress passed the Paperwork Reduction Act. Now one can debate whether the motive was saving trees or saving money on storage space, this Act started a trend that has since been adopted by numerous industries.
Have you noticed that everyone from your bank to your phone company to the IRS is encouraging you to go paperless? View that canceled check online. View and pay your bill online. File your taxes online.
Best Practice: Invest in a Commercial Scanner
So what’s the difference between a Personal scanner and a Commercial scanner? In general, two things:
- Commercial scanners have an automatic sheetfeeder on them, like your fax machine.
- Most commercial scanners can scan both sides of a piece of paper at once.
While these things can get up into the thousands of dollars, there are some good ones to be had fairly cheaply.
Fujitsu ScanSnap S300, for example. Weighing only 3 pounds, the S300 was the world’s smallest duplex ADF scanner when it was released a few years ago. We have several of them and have never had a problem. It has been replaced by the ScanSnap S1300i. If you shop around, you can find either one for less than $250. Click here to watch a product tour of the S1300i in action. And if you know of a better commercial scanner for the money, let us know!
Do you ever find yourself looking for a scrap of paper, document, invoice, or whatever in a stack of papers on your desk? Do you find filing things away to be a chore you would be happy to live without? You can now replace your office filing cabinets with virtual file folders. And with all the powerful desktop search functions offered free from Microsoft, Google, and a host of others, finding stuff in your virtual filing cabinet is quick and easy.
That same scanner, by the way, is the easiest way for you to get us all your expense receipts, invoices, statements, checks, time cards, and anything else that isn’t already in digital format. Just put your papers in the scanner and push the button. We’ll send you a link you can use anytime to upload all of your data. We’ll enter everything into the right places in QuickBooks and send you an email if we have any questions.
Be warned! It’s going to feel weird the first couple of times you scan some receipts and then crinkle them up and throw them in the trash… but you’ll get used to it.
Don’t Get Behind!
Whether it’s sending out invoices, paying bills, or keeping track of those pesky little cash receipts, the best way to make things easy on yourself is to not let the molehill turn into a mountain.
You get documents in the mail, by email or by fax. A bill from your vendor is an example of a document. You simply scan or fax them to us. If you’re scanning them you can put them in the trash. If you’re faxing them you can put them in a box. No need to file them by vendor since we will have a digital copy. The scanning/faxing is done each day as the bills arrive. Online purchases generally provide you with an invoice by email. When you get them, simply forward them to us. Phone bills, credit card statements, bank statements, all are downloadable in some form, usually PDF or QuickBooks format. Again, just forward those to us.
Best Practice: Separate Personal and Business
For sole proprietors, having your business and personal transactions on the same credit card or bank statement is just messy. If you do that with a corporation or an LLC it’s a problem called commingling. While not a crime in most cases, commingling is the first attack used by attorneys when piercing the corporate veil, i.e. removing your liability protection. Click here to read a thorough article on the subject. It will teach you the 19 things you should avoid if you want your corporate veil intact.
Having separate accounts makes keeping track of business expenses so much easier, for us and for you. Just make sure you use your personal credit card on the trip to Costco and the business card on the trip to Office Depot. Then all you have to do is download your monthly bill or statement and email it to us.