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Category: BLOG



May 12, 2017

The PB&J’s of Designing A Workflow

in BLOG, Workflow 0 comments

Tell me how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Seriously.  Write it down.

Pretend I’m an alien from outer space, and I’ve never made one before.  I’ll wait…


If you are like the vast majority of humans, your instructions probably went something like this:

  1. Grab some bread, peanut butter, and jelly.
  2. Spread the peanut butter on the bread.
  3. Spread the jelly on the bread.
  4. Eat.

Now, if I were following those steps literally, some of my alien questions might be “where do I get bread, peanut butter, and jelly?”  “How do I spread peanut butter and jelly on bread?”  “These plastic containers do not taste very good.”

This seems so silly, doesn’t it?  We inherently understand that you need to buy these items at the store, bring them home, open the containers, remove two slices of bread, use a butter knife to spread each condiment onto each separate slice of bread (or both condiments on one slice of bread…you monster), put the slices of bread together with condiments facing and then take a bite.  We could even go more granular if we needed to.

So, why didn’t we include these additional instructions?  We didn’t include them because we are all familiar, as humans who feed ourselves, of many of these steps without needing an explanation.

But an alien from outer space is not a human.

Your client is not an accountant.

Your staff is not in your brain.

You need to approach your internal and external workflows as if you were an alien trying to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

  1. Start with the assumption that your staff cannot read your mind and your clients don’t understand accounting AT ALL.
  2. Handwrite your main steps for each task (this is one of the few times I’m going to recommend using a pen and paper, but a blank Google Doc will suffice).
  3. Then look to fill in the spaces in between.  Ask yourself, “What is missing?  What is lost in translation?”
  4. Walk away from your list and then come back and try to follow your instructions as literally as possible with live client data.
  5. Review, revise and test again.  Leave no room for doubt.
  6. Try giving these steps to a willing friend or family member and ask them if they could perform the task without (much) help.
  7. After implementation, ask for feedback and keep communication lines open and clear.
  8. Repeat for any and all processes you intend to pass on to staff or clients.

Developing an easy-to-replicate workflow will not only benefit your business by creating consistency and efficiency, it also becomes a value-add to your clients and eliminates most of the guesswork from the office.  Best of all, now your firm will be able to scale!

 

April 24, 2017

Top 10 Tips for Vetting Applications & Accounting Software

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So many apps, so little time!  How do we make the best use of our time while also learning about new technologies that will allow us to become even more efficient?  It’s a balancing act for sure.  Below I’ve outlined the steps I take to find, research, try and implement new apps.  Enjoy!

 

Top 10 Tips for Vetting Apps

 

  1. Determine what problem you are trying to solve.  Do you need an app or are you looking because your colleague has a new toy?  Do you just need to sit down with a pen and paper to map out the process?  Knowing the purpose of the app will be the best use of your time and resources.
  2. Set aside time to research and vet the app.  Good vetting isn’t one and done – it’s important to spend a few hours researching, narrow down the field, and then spend another 1-2 hours vetting each app to make sure it’s right for you.
  3. Know how to look for the app you need.  Once you’ve set aside time and determined the type of app you need, it’s time to go hunting.  No need to reinvent the wheel here, reach out to folks/groups within your industry to see if they have an app they like that solved the same problem.  If you’re looking for an app that integrates with your accounting software, check out www.apps.com for intuit-approved apps (many of which have reviews by current/former users).  If you’re still stuck, it’s time to make Google your friend.  No need to dream up keywords, just ask Google the question or tell it what you’re looking for.  “I’m looking for an app that integrates with QuickBooks online and will automate invoicing.”
  4. Check out its security.  You’re looking for the apps security and/or compliance pages.  The easiest way to find these pages is to Google “[App Name] Security.”  For all things accounting, you should be looking for SOC (Service Organization Control) Reports.  More about SOC reports here from the AICPA.
  5. What are your deal breakers?  Have a budget in mind when looking for apps.  Are you going to pass the cost onto your clients or pay for them yourself?  If you find an app you love that is too expensive, continue the hunt.  There are typically others that will do the same or similar for less.  Is user interface or navigation important?  Make sure what you’re looking at makes sense to you (and your client, if they will also be in it).  Know what will stop the process dead in its tracks prior to spending too much time in an app and look for those things first.
  6. In*te*grate – verb. combine (one thing) with another so that they become a whole.  Do you need the app to integrate with something else?  If so, make sure you look at how it combines with your current apps/processes to complete the picture for you.  Many times software doesn’t really NEED to merge with another software to be everything you need it to be (even though it would be handy).  If there’s not a lot of info about how the app you’re vetting “talks” with your current software, use that handy “Chat Now” function at the bottom of most web pages to ask someone who helped make the app.  If there’s no chat feature, look for the “contact us” link.  Every page has one!
  7. Test, test test!  Put the app through its paces.  Use real data whenever possible so you can witness how the app “acts” in a real-life scenario.  If it’s not doing what you need it to do, SCRAP IT.  No harm, no foul.  If it is, see if a colleague or staff person can take a look at it with you and give you some scenarios you aren’t currently thinking of in order to work through as many angles as possible.
  8. Onboard your clients little by little.  Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to move everything over in an afternoon or weekend.  One client at a time will do the trick.  As you get to the next client’s work, onboard them slowly and deliberately, making sure all pertinent data makes its way over to the new software from the old. Use the new and old software simultaneously for a month or so to ensure everything is working the way it’s supposed to.  If you find during this step the software is not ideal for some reason, you haven’t invested a ton of time moving everything over and can feel better about letting it go without too much thought.
  9. Dealing with setbacks.  Even after we spend all of this time making sure an app is the perfect one for us, inevitably we run into a situation where it’s just not working the way we wanted or needed it to.  KNOW THAT THIS IS NORMAL.  No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Reach out to your networks to see if and how they’ve overcome the problem.  Think outside the box.  Maybe the app works for 99% of clients and you have to do things a bit different for the remaining 1%.  I’d still call this success.
  10. How’s their support?  When you run into your #9’s, reach out to the app’s tech support.  They have a vested interest in helping you make their app succeed.  I regularly ask questions via the “Chat Now” box or by email so that I’m not sitting on the phone and can work on other things simultaneously.  Give them feedback to help make their product better.  If you find Tech Support difficult to deal with or you feel like you’re not a priority when asking for help, determine how important this app is to you and if you’d like to continue to support the company with your hard-earned dollars.  By and large, they will bend over backward you make their creation work for you.

 

Want a free, quick reference infographic to help you remember these steps?

Click here to download!

February 22, 2017

It Takes a Village to Run a Business

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I need to get this blog post out.  I need to finish an accounting project, schedule two phone calls, send out a quote for new services, and create a new graphic for a web page idea that’s been floating around in my noggin for months.

My kids are on Midwinter Break.  In between journal entries, I’m making sandwiches, starting movies, kissing ouchies and moderating arguments.

How in the world do I juggle all of this?  How do I take care of my kids, my house, my clients AND attempt to grow my business?  Where do I find the time to stay on top of business trends, new apps, changes to the tax code and changes to my kids’ shoe size?  Does this sound familiar to anyone else?

I don’t pretend to have the answers to the age old question of making work and life balance.  I don’t believe anyone does, truly.  I remember searching for clues at the beginning of this journey.  At a conference held by my local tribe of accounting warriors called The QuickSource, a very successful business owner (cough…Matt Rissell of T-Sheets) said (paraphrased), “you have to know when to fire yourself.  It’s important to recognize those tasks you aren’t good at, those things that you don’t have time for, and those things you wish you could hand off to someone else.  That’s when you fire yourself from those duties and hire someone who IS good at the tasks you aren’t, who DOES have the time you don’t and finds joy in the tasks that you would love to give away.”

A lightbulb appeared in the darkness and it occurred to me I wasn’t following this advice.  Could I manage my website?  Sure, but it would take me 5 hours where it would take a webmaster or tech company 30 minutes.  What could I be doing in that 5 hours?

I could finish this blog post, the accounting project and send out that quote.

Could I turn this chicken-scratch drawing of mine into a responsive graphic that would look great on said web page?  Not a chance.  Is it worth it to see my idea become a functioning reality by hiring a graphic artist?  Someone with the talent, passion and know how?  You bet.

Could I find someone to schedule those phone calls, respond to emails, and help me get more organized so I could find my files?  Absolutely.

Managing our businesses by doing what we do best (and outsourcing the rest) should be viewed as an investment in the growth of our companies.  With the time saved by handing off the tasks that I don’t love or am not great at, I can focus more energy on the parts I love and the reason I went into business. I’m thankful every day to my village who provide me with the time and space to make my dream a reality.

And cuddle my kids.

February 15, 2017

The Benefits of Cleaning Up Your Books

in BLOG, Uncategorized 0 comments

In continuing with our Clean Up theme, we’ve interviewed a client who made the right decision to clean up his books.  See his Q & A below:


Q: How did you calculate income or make financial decisions before you cleaned up your books?

A: On the fly.  The scariest part was that I never knew if I had enough money to pay myself or HOW to pay myself.  The whole setting aside money for taxes was nothing more than a crapshoot.  Almost every financial decision I made was made on a hope and a prayer.  

I never knew what I could really afford, never knew if I could invest in projects for the business.  Every decision became a life and death struggle.  It always came down to asking myself if I actually did this business thing, this thing I knew I needed to do, would that leave me without enough money to pay my mortgage?

Q: What made you decide to clean up?  What was the straw that broke the camel’s back?

A: That uncertain feeling.  After two years in business, I screwed up my face and got enough courage to reach out and ask for help.  Up to that point, I had a mixture of homemade invoices and though I started using QBO last year, I didn’t know the power.  Frankly, I was afraid of the power.  

I finally decided that was just too much.  It was time to start acting like a real business, to put on my big boy pants and be “real”.  Besides, how could I even attempt to grow my business if I was always running in fear of a house payment?  I simply had to know how much money I was making, and how much money I could reinvest in the company.  

Q: During the process -what was it like? Easy? Difficult?  Pain in the butt?

A: The process was simple.  I turned everything over and gave access to my bank accounts.  Giving “everything over” was simple.  I sat back and let the expert do her job.  I am good at what I do, but I am not good at what she does.  

I did get this email the first month that scared me a little…”ASK THE OWNER”.  That was the hardest part.  I had to answer my bookkeeper’s questions about what certain charges were for, were business or personal?  That first month, I felt like I had to explain every receipt.  Once she got the initial set of responses, I was told I could chill out, relax, and wait for the next list.  I was waiting for the big judgmental call, where I was called and asked to JUSTIFY my expenses.  That call never came.  Now I know what info to give when I make a charge, and honestly, LIKE MAGIC, she knows the answer most of the time before I say anything.  I keep forgetting that she knows more than me and that I am paying her to do a service.  And for her experience.  

Q: What insights were you able to make afterward?

A: Actual business decisions. The biggest and most important decision was “could I actually hire this person to help me grow”?  How much was MY time was really worth and how much I needed to buckle down.

Q: How is your financial management different now that you have accurate finances?

A: I have a hands off approach.  I let the professionals do their thing.  I do go over the reports I am given and I ask questions when I need to.  For most things, I send an email with either my request or question.  I now KNOW that things are being handled better than if I handled them myself.  MY CPA is so happy.  I am also saving a lot of money because I am not spending so much time making sure that I have enough money to pay my bills.  I am also proud to say that my business has grown wildly this last year, and I feel good about the decision to spend the money to do so.


Are you still doubting how treating your business like a real business and cleaning up your books is going to help you grow and make business decisions?  Contact Dynamic Bookkeeping today to discuss your unique needs and how we can help.

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