Category Archives: small business

Are You Working on All the Wrong Things?

Are You Working on All the Wrong Things?

Have you ever gone through your list of things to do and looked for the easiest thing to knock out first? Have you ever been moody when you’ve looked through your tasks and said to yourself, “I don’t feel like doing that one, that one, or that one?” Do you have some items on your to do list that have been there for a while (like months)?

If so, you’re not alone. Maybe we’ve been working on all the wrong things first! Check out the time management idea below that I recently read about.

One of the top time management secrets that smart business owners implement is to prioritize their tasks in a very special way: by the highest payback, and not the biggest sense of urgency.Time-is-money-29387-300px (1)

 

 

 

The truth is we may not be able to get to every single thing we want to do, especially those of us who are creative business owners who have an idea every minute! You may have a lot of them captured on your to do list, and some may still be swimming around in your head. Keeping you awake even!

One of the ways that you can choose your opportunities and slim down that ever-growing to do list is to understand the concept of return on investment. For each task, how much money could it bring you if you did it? Some of the items that are not urgent but incredibly profitable are often the items we’re too exhausted to do once we complete all the required client and compliance work we need to do.

The successful business owner will make time for those profitable but not urgent activities. In fact, they will do them first thing in the morning before checking their email or returning calls.

Here’s an exercise to try on your own to-do list. Assign a dollar value to each task on your list in terms of revenue potential or cost savings. If you got to that task, how much could it save you or make you?

Then the fun starts. Sort your to-do list by this new dollar value column you just added. Sort the highest payback tasks to the top and the lowest payback tasks on bottom.

What’s jumping out at you on the top of your list that you’re not getting to? Can you find a time on your calendar to do it this week?

When we step back, become more proactive about insisting that we get a return on our time for what we’re doing, we can make a really huge difference in our bottom line. It’s as simple as assigning some values to the tasks on our to-do list, and then re-sorting them by that value.

However you identify them, the goal is to bring to our attention our highest potential revenue opportunities so we can act on them. Even if you only get to one more per week than you are currently doing, you’ve made wonderful progress.

It may take some discipline to resist tackling the urgent tasks. When we accomplish our urgent tasks, we feel needed. We love rushing to the rescue of clients that need us. When we attempt our high-dollar tasks, it may be a little uncomfortable, even scary. So that’s why we avoid them.

Prioritizing is something we all have to do, since we live in a world that competes for our limited time. Prioritizing by highest dollar return on investment is something the most successful business owners do, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone.

When we do the serious work of choosing what is really going to move our business forward, we will see the changes in our revenue.

Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with. Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Budgeting for Business & Pleasure


A few weeks ago on Business Darlings I wrote about how important it is to have a budget. I think it’s important for both your business and your own personal finances.

According to an article I read recently a good rule of thumb for where you should be spending your money is as follows:

25-30 percent on housing

15-18 percent on transportation

16 percent on food

The remainder to be divided between discretionary spending and savings

Do you know if your spending is in sync with this breakdown? Have you ever prepared a budget to see where your money goes to? Creating a budget helps you spend responsibly and achieve your goals. It also helps eliminate stress. Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to stress over money! You’d also be able to avoid that “money” argument because you’d always have the answers!

If you’d like to read the rest of the article, hop over to Business Darlings and read it here.

Have a great day and remember to smile, life isn’t so bad :)

Tips for working with QuickBooks

If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been? I apologize; I’ve been doing all my blogging over in the financial section of Business Darlings. Which is great, I love the site, but I also know that I should be posting over here on my own blog too. I should be at least sharing with you what I’ve been writing about over there.

So with that said, here’s a bunch of links to all the different articles I’ve been writing about QuickBooks.  I’m sure you’ll find them helpful for setting up or working with QuickBooks in your own business.

Getting Started with QuickBooks

Paying Bills with QuickBooks

Invoicing with QuickBooks

Customer Payments and Deposits with QuickBooks

Past Due Reminders with QuickBooks

Reconciling your Bank Accounts with QuickBooks

Customize your QuickBooks Invoices, make them your own!

If you have any questions or comments on any of the articles please leave a comment or contact me at deb@gemsvirtualoffice.com  Thanks for reading and have a great day.

Organize your bills! A few simple suggestions.

Does the thought of organizing and paying your bills make you cringe. You might have receipts everywhere, in the car, crumbled in your purse or wallet, and the invoices that need paying are probably buried in the papers on your desk or email box. Does this sound like you? Here are some suggestions in how to organize all that paperwork and handle the accounts payable side of your bookkeeping.

1. When you receive invoices that need to be paid, immediately place them in a folder, either in a file drawer or the in-box on top of your desk, labeled invoices or bills to be entered . Set aside some time at least once a week to enter them into your bookkeeping software. After you’ve entered the invoices, file them in a to-be paid folder. Depending on how many invoices you have, you can file them all in one folder or alphabetically by vendor. If you are going paperless, scan the invoices into your computer and file them the same way, in a file folder for Vendor invoices to be paid on your desktop.

2. Before you can enter any of these invoices and bills you’ll need to create a chart of accounts. Keep your chart of accounts simple. The chart of accounts is a listing of all your balance sheet accounts(assets and liabilites) and your income statement accounts(income and expenses). You’ll use these accounts when entering your transactions. Most accounting software packages will suggest a basic chart of accounts for you to start with. You can then add or delete accounts as you see fit.

3. At the same time your entering invoices to be paid, briefly look at any unpaid invoices you’ve already entered to make sure they aren’t due to be paid this week. Instead of looking at the invoices manually, run a quick unpaid bills report. You can then either print any checks needed using your software or pay them using on-line banking. On-line banking is a free service with most major banks, and you can enter the amount of the invoice and schedule it for payment before the due date. And with many accounting software packages you can accomplish this right within the software itself. The benefits of online bill pay is that it saves on postage and also by scheduling before the due dates you’ll avoid any late fees. Just remember if you pay the bills directly from your bank website, you will also need to enter those payments in your accounting software.

4. Reconcile your bank statements monthly. Try setting up time on your calendar the week the statement is received. You don’t want to put this task off because the longer your accounts stay unreconciled the harder it will be to find errors. If you have been disciplined in entering your transactions each week, it shouldn’t be a time consuming process and can easily be accomplished using your software’s reconciliation function.

5. Don’t forget your credit card purchases. If you’ve set up your credit cards as accounts they will need to be reconciled on a monthly basis the same way you reconcile your checking account. So be sure that you’ve been entering the charges daily or weekly. Credit cards statements can also be treated as regular bills, where you enter the bill for payment just like the rest of your monthly bills. If done this way you obviously won’t have an account to be reconciled every month.

6. If you use PayPal, you also need to set up this account similar to how your checking account is setup. And it will also need to be reconciled each month. With PayPal you can download the monthly reports for reconciling. To keep yourself current though I would also recommend doing this on a weekly basis to record any deposits and payments, and then reconcile on a monthly basis.

We’ll talk about handling your accounts receivable another time. We don’t want to forget that. You have to be invoicing customers and making deposits to pay all those bills we just talked about. Are you feeling frustrated and flustered with the thought of bookkeeping? Don’t worry, your not the only one. I think most business owners consider bookkeeping a dreaded task and put it off as long as possible. Unfortunately it’s not something that can be put off altogether unless you decide to outsource to someone that actually enjoys bookkeeping. Even then you shouldn’t ignore it completely, to effectively run a business you need to know what’s going on in every corner of it.

How do you stay organized? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Introducing Business Darlings!!

Are you thinking of starting a Virtual Business or looking for some new strategies to help build and grow your current business? Then be sure to check out Business Darlings. A new business magazine focusing on Virtual Businesses. There are sections with tips and tricks dedicated to Marketing, Social Media, Software, Technology, Business Coaching, Finance and more!

Business Darlings is set to launch tomorrow, February 14th, and I’m very excited and honored to have been asked to offer my advice, opinions and idea’s in the Finance section.

Here’s what Christina Nelson, owner of VOS Team and Vital Office Solutions, and the creator of Business Darlings has to say about the launch.

I am so excited to be able to give back to the industry that has been so good to me. Business Darlings is a labor of love and I am very proud of what we have accomplished so far.

Business Darlings is an online magazine/blog focused on providing tips, inspiration, direction and motivation for YOU to start and build a Virtual Business.The Virtual Industry is BOOMING and it’s time you got your piece of the Internet. Having a Virtual Business has some unique challenges and we want to help you get the answers you need to face, and overcome, them (or beat them into submission, whatever works lol).Business Darlings has been blessed with (so far) 8 wonderful experts (7 Darlings & a Dude) who have agreed to volunteer their time each week to bring you the information you need to be successful. Plus, we are always looking for more experts to add (email me to see if we need someone with your skills contact@businessdarlings.com). Pop over to http://businessdarlings.com and bookmark us for the launch on FEBRUARY 14th (yep Valentine’s Day)


How to Network With Other Business People

By Scott Cardinal

There is no doubt that throughout your life you have heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s whom you know.” The simple fact of the matter is, no matter how talents or gifted you are, and how many fantastic ideas you have, how much hard work, and energy, and ambition, and drive you have bubbling inside of you, it does not and will not matter if no one knows you exist. The times have not changed. It has always been like this. You need to get your name out there. You need to meet people. You need to network.

A lot of people consider networking to be a “dirty” business because they feel it seems insincere, or manipulative, or that people come across as self-centered, but you should not approach networking with that mindset, and if you have well-developed social skills you should be able to spot those who have the same motives that you do. Networking is about building genuine, mutually beneficial relationships.

The best excuse in the world for people not to network is their claim that they are shy or introverted. The easiest way to overcome this is to network with people who share the same common interests as you do. After all, what brings you out of your shell, and to life, and fills you with adrenaline more than talking about something you are interested in? So start off going to networking events where you are certain there will be others that share your interests. This should not be difficult to do. Of course another piece of advice to give that is easier said than done is, “get over it. Be bold. You have ambition. You want to succeed. You need to overcome obstacles in your path. If being shy and introverted are two obstacles, than tackle them right away.

Networking is an ongoing process. It is not something you can do once or twice and then never do ever again. It will take you a lot of time and effort to build a network of people you can call, count on, depend on, and reach out to if you want or need something. At the same time, you want to be able to let as many people as possible know about you so they can do the same. After all, networking is a reciprocal game. It takes two to tango. Put on your dancing shoes.

Be interested in other people. If you want other people to be interested in what you are doing then it would certainly help if express interest in what they are doing. To warm up your engines you should begin by contacting distant relatives and old friends and let them know what you are up to. They may be interested in what you are doing, and may know others who are interested, too.

Always remember that networking is an investment in you, your business or organization, and in other people. Think about how much time you can and will save in the future if you know the right people to call when you need advice or need to hire someone, as opposed to tracking down the information you need cold.

Whenever you network, find out what your new friends and acquaintances do for a living and for fun, and, if possible, find out the same about their spouses or significant others.

Invite people out. Don’t just limit your networking to events, conferences, trade shows, etc. if you really hit it off with someone then meet them socially, perhaps for coffee. Establish a bond. Connect. Be a friend. Everyone could use another friend. Be a good listener. Be as generous as you can with your time and any constructive advice you can offer.

One of the best things about Face Book is it allows people to stay connected all the time, and not lose touch. You can see when their birthday is and touch base then. You can send them private messages concerning a topic they may be interested in.

As you meet people, focus on spending your valuable time with those who are the best fit for you. There is no doubt that you have a lot of ideas and a lot of potential and a lot to offer. Network as often as you can, but choose quality events and quality people because your time is valuable, and so is theirs.

Remember to make networking fun. Meeting other people and finding out what they do for a living and fun can be incredibly interesting. And if they can help you or you can help them in the future, well that makes networking an extra benefit for all.

The Earth Savers Institute is the Official Training Affiliate of Green Earth Corporate Kindness Organization (GECKO), which is a 501(C) 3 (tax-exempt) non-profit corporation dedicated to helping businesses & non-profits become better stewards of the environment. GECKO is perhaps the only Non-Profit organization in the United States with the sole mandate of helping companies & non-profits improve their environmental practices. Their collective MISSION is to help companies & non-profits improve their environmental practices and address the remarkable need for affordable environmental education & change assistance. For more information, visit Earth Savers Institute.com or GreenBusinessUniversity.com.

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The Elements of Living Lightly!

This makes so much sense! The Elements of Living Lightly from ZenHabits. If you haven’t seen and started reading this blog, I highly recommend you start today. This particular article struck close to home, because it’s how I try to live my life today. Some would say it makes no sense, but in my mind they’d be wrong.  I’ve found that by treating different situations like this, it reduces alot of stress, and makes me more relaxed.  I’d be interested in your opinion after you read.

I hope you enjoy reading The Elements of Living Lightly:

Today I’m going to suggest a small change in mindset that could change your life.

I won’t keep you in suspense. Here it is: think of nothing that happens as either good or bad. Stop judging, and stop expecting.

It’s a tiny change — all you have to do is say, ‘That wasn’t good or bad, it just happened, it just is.’ It’s tiny, but it takes practice, and amazingly, it can knock you on your ass.

Why? Because with this little change, you will no longer be swayed up and down depending on whether good things or bad things happen to you, whether people (and their actions) are good or bad. You will learn to accept things as they are, and move within that landscape mindfully.

You will no longer expect good things to happen (or bad things), but will just take things as they come, and be content with whatever comes. This means you’ll no longer be disappointed, or unhappy.

Please continue reading this article here, believe me you’ll be glad you did.

12 Ways to Control Costs in Your Business

12 Ways to Control Costs in Your Business
By Tabitha Wellman

Incurring expenses is usually the focus of many business owners. Generally because it’s the easiest and most visible thing to look at. However, there are other considerations for controlling costs. The first one is to look at how you manage the flow of money overall. By this I mean your budgets.

I want to reiterate that if you spend the time upfront defining your budgets, then it’s a lot easier to manage the costs that are incurred down the track. It also allows you to then delegate the management of this process to the bookkeeper or financial controller.

1) TOP TIP: IMPLEMENT A SYSTEM THAT YOU ONLY PAY ON PURCHASE ORDERS

One of the most effective ways to control costs is once you have your budget defined, is to then implement a system where you ONLY pay invoices on purchase orders. This will stop employees ordering willy nilly in its tracks. Because as soon as you issue the edict to staff, you make sure that the accounts people ONLY pay where a purchase order is quoted.

For staff to spend money, this means that they have to request a purchase order from the accounts person. They would then check the budget to make sure that the amount is allocated, and that the person ordering the goods is authorized to make the order. If the answer is yes to both of these, then the accounts person would issue a purchase order which the person ordering the goods when then quote.

So when the invoice is received by the accounts person, they would then check that the goods have been delivered and that there is no outstanding issues to resolve. They would then prepare a cheque or online transaction for payment.

If there is no purchase order assigned, then they would refer it back to the supplier and/or the staff member who ordered the goods to resolve. I suggest being tough here – if its not assigned, then you don’t pay. It’s then up to the employee to settle the account – well essentially you probably would, but when there’s a perceived consequence, it usually puts the fear of god into them! They usually don’t spend your money again after that scare!

2) VALUE FOR MONEY

One of the areas that most business owners are usually fairly comfortable with is controlling costs. But let’s just go over the basics again. As a business owner, you should set a key performance indicator for your financial controller to be responsible for value for money. This means continually looking for different and innovative ways to control costs as a way of impacting your business’ profitability. A dollar saved as a cost, goes directly to bottom line profitability. Some businesses find that by implementing tight cost controls and questioning the need for all spending has achieved the same profitability improvement that would otherwise have had to come from a substantial increase in sales.

Now I’m about to briefly go through a checklist that is available in the ‘Essential Financial Management Templates’ workbook which you can purchase from our website.

3) SHOP AROUND FOR DEALS

The first rule of thumb is to shop around. No matter who I’m dealing with, whether it’s a good friend or colleague that’s providing the service, I always compare it against two other quotes. Now, I usually don’t go straight for the cheapest option, but it does allow me to then go back to the original person and have an open and honest discussion about reducing the original cost. I always think about a comment one NASA astronaut once made when being asked about his feelings about being in space on a new space shuttle for the first time. His reply was, “how would you feel if you were about to fly in craft millions of mils into space, where your shuttle safety is completely reliant on our governments policy of sourcing the cheapest part possible.” Point well taken. It’s not always about going for the cheapest option, but it is about ensuring that you’re getting value for money.

4) COMPARE ACTUAL COSTS TO YOUR BUDGETED COSTS

Another point is to always review costs on an ongoing basis. I would suggest monthly – lets not wait until the end of the year or when we’re in strife, we should always be focused on ensuring that we’re getting value for money at all times. When you are going through your reports with your financial controller, use this as a time to look over your costs and compare them to your budgets.

5) THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX TO CONSIDER OTHER OPTIONS

Also be sure that you’re aware of what’s happening in the market place. Is there a new player who can provide competitive prices, or is there an online option available to you. Perhaps even a global possibility for you to explore. I’ll give you the example of a website. I had a friend who rung me to ask my opinion about a quote she had received on building a website. The quote was for $10,000. I referred her to a website called elance.com that has a global online bidding community. She placed a project brief for someone to build her a website and ended up getting one built for $1400. She was delighted with the quality and the end result – the only thing she did say was that she had to spend more time communicating with them (as they were overseas) but she was happy to do that to save herself $8,600!

6) CONTINUALLY REVIEW YOUR STANDARD PROVIDERS FOR THE BEST PRICES

Are there areas in your expense items that are being deregulated or additional players coming into the market. For example, electricity or gas providers, telephone providers, etc. You may be able to save money by consolidating accounts on your mobile phone bills. There are also telco providers that actually provide a free assessment service to see where they can save costs for you – use them!

7) REVIEW ELECTRICITY COSTS WITH AN ENERGY AUDIT

And while we’re on electricity costs, have you conducted an energy audit in your business to ensure that you’re not needlessly wasting money? For example, some energy reduction strategies could include turning off lights in offices that are not being used, or turning off the air condi8tioning system, photocopiers, printers and computers at the end of the day. Is there the potential to use electricity in “off peak” periods. Put timers on plant and equipment and put signs around your business reminding people to turnoff the lights and to save energy.

8) REIGN IN THE STATIONERY BILLS!

One of the biggest expense items in a business can be stationery. A lot of business owners won’t pay a $10 delivery charge to their business, but they will send an office person to pick up the stationery, at $25-30 an hour, plus allow them to purchase “whatever they need”. Have you ever tried not to buy an impulse item at a stationery store? It’s impossible – take it from someone who knows! Look also at the purchases that are being made in small quantities – can money be saved by purchasing in bulk – especially in printing. Make sure that one person only has the responsibility of purchasing stationery and ordering printing so that its not open slather of everyone in the business and they can also make sure that the items are actually required.

9) ESTABLISH A TRAVEL POLICY

Do you have a travel policy in your business? If so, it should clearly outline the class of air travel, grade of hotel accommodation and what expenses can be incurred and reimbursed. There are numerous accommodation site available now days that allow last minute bookings at a greatly reduced cost – have a look at wotif.com to see what I mean. Using this site means that you can actually book staff into 5 star accommodation at 3 star prices.

10) CHECK BANK CHARGES & FEES

Also consider bank interest, fees and charges – these should be checked regularly as banks often make mistakes in charging fees and interest. You should also maintain a record to interest rates and margins quoted by banks and shop around for the best interest rates.

11) REVIEW VEHICLE ALLOWANCES

Vehicle allowances are also another area of costs that can rack up pretty quickly when employees cotton to the fact that they can receive a nice little earner using the ATO vehicle allowance figures. If you have people using their vehicles a lot, you may want to consider whether you purchase or hire a pool car. Often the amount of money that you can spend paying vehicle allowances can actually pay off a company car – therefore building your assets at the same time. Another way to hand this is to offer to pay for all petrol costs instead. So everything an employee fills up, they just need to hand you the receipt and they’ll be reimbursed in full. This still adds up cheaper than paying a vehicle allowance – and is easier to budget for in your profit and loss projections.

Another way to further streamline this process can be to have fuel cards that link into a single account that you pay each month.

12) ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES FOR EMPLOYEE EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENTS

Always establish the boundaries for expense reimbursements in your business. Incorporate this into your induction program in your business so that everyone is extremely clear of the expectations. This is particularly relevant if you have a business development person who wants to have an “entertaining” budget. I usually empower people in this regard by providing them with a profitability target on sales made – which incorporates things like their entertainment budget. But more often, I’ll act6ually sit with them and run through ways to provide potential clients with value, without expenses “wining and dining” experiences. In fact, in my IT days, where everyone apart from me had a corporate credit card for “smoozing”. I was more effective with my sales because I would take people for a coffee.

13) MAKE SURE THE INVOICES YOU PAY ARE CORRECT

Advertising is another area where businesses can incur lots of charges. I’ve covered off on advertising in another CD in the Jump Start Your Business Series, but one thing I want to mention here is taking care with “bogus” invoices for advertising and checking that all invoices are actually for valid advertising. Now if you have a purchase order system or a centralized purchasing process, then you won’t get caught out on this one. But a few years back there was a scam where people were receiving invoices for “advertising” and then pressuring the accounts payable staff to pay them. A nice little earner made from the lack of internal systems in 99% of companies.

14) BEWARE OF OVERCHARGING!

I want to finish by talking about overcharging and the need to always check invoices against contracts or agreements. This includes rental agreements, any supplier invoices, etc. If in doubt, don’t be shy of asking the supplier to provide more details or query any inconsistencies. Errors are easily made and usually suppliers are extremely apologetic should a discrepancy be discovered.

15) ENSURE THAT YOUR PETTY CASH HAS A MONTHLY LIMIT

Despite your best planning, there will be cases when you need to have access to some petty cash – that is small amounts of cash for purchases that are fairly minor and random.

Make sure that the initial petty cash amount is realistic – if it keeps exceeding the amount each month, you need to establish where the cash is being spent and then put alternative strategies in place. However, I would strongly recommend setting a monthly limit that staff are aware of – for instance set a monthly amount of $150. Once it’s exceeded, it’s exceeded.

Taking time to reassess your costs will have a direct impact on your bottom line. However, be careful that you don’t focus more on cost minimization than opportunity creation. It’s easy to cut costs, but downright difficult to create more income. So be sure that your attention is focused in the right direction.

By Tabitha Wellman, CEO, Innova Business Momentum, http://www.innovabusiness.com

Tabitha Wellman specialises in business process development. She uses her business acumen and technology background to develop internal systems and processes that vastly improve a business’s internal efficiencies and intellectual property. These systems and operations manuals can then be used to ready a company for franchising, enhance growth strategies, assist in listing companies, or to place a business under management to derive passive income.

Nominated by her fellow board members from The Western Australian Club for being the youngest ever board member, Tabitha received one of the inaugural 40 Under 40 Business News Awards in 2002 recognising her as one of the most dynamic business leaders under the age of 40. In 2004, Tabitha was nominated for Telstra Businesswoman of the Year and her company was nominated for Telstra Small Business of the Year.

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Have you seen an Avon Brochure lately?

In these tough economic times we are all looking for ways to save money. Since I use a lot of Avon’s great beauty products I thought I could save some money by becoming an Independent Sales Representative and at least save on my own personal products.  So in addition to Gem’s Virtual Office I now also sell Avon products.

And it has become much more then just saving money on my own purchases. It was definitely the right decision for me. I’m loving it! I sell to family and friends in my local area and since Avon has also made it easy for their representatives to sell to anyone, anywhere by opening an Avon online store, I decided to go in that direction too. You can visit my store at www.youravon.com/deborahfrawley

Once at the store you can shop for great products 24/7. There are two deliver options: for a small fee you can choose direct delivery and have your order delivered directly to your home or if you live in my local area you can chose personal delivery and I would be happy to deliver your products to you. If you’d rather look at a brochure, just get in touch with me using the easy contact form and I’d be happy to send one to you. See something you like but just not sure….get in touch I’ll send you samples if they are available. And please keep in mind that if you are not completely satisfied with your Avon purchase you can return or exchange it at anytime. No questions asked! When was the last time you bought a lipstick or foundation and knew that if you didn’t like it you could just exchange it for a different shade or your money back? 

Avon has products for everyone and any occasion! So start shopping today at www.youravon.com/deborahfrawley