There is no single, perfect guide on building a successful business. Much of the job of starting and running a company is trial and error. If something works, celebrate and keep doing it. If it doesn't, hope the damage isn't too bad and change course. However, there are certain areas where most business owners could use some focused energy: not just serving their customers but making their business more efficient, especially when it comes to financial efficiency.
Could you be wasting your hard-earned revenue on things your business doesn't need?
Paying for too Much Space
Space is the biggest and most common waste of money in the small business world. Of course you want your business to have room to grow, but if you are renting that massive suite of offices right from the get-go, your huge space might be a huge waste of money. Get just what you need for where you are, with just a bit of growing room if you can't stop yourself. But rest assured that if you experience enough growth that you need to move into a bigger space, you will probably also have built a customer base that will move with you.
Chasing Around Customers on Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool, but it can also take up a lot of money and time (which, as we know, is money). Social media marketing campaigns are great if they're getting you results, but just publishing for the sake of publishing, without understanding the returns, is wasting your business's hard-earned revenue. Engaging with followers and customers is important, but make sure you know what customers you're going after and whether your efforts are working.
New business owners may be tempted to bring on a lot of staff quickly in the hopes that many hands will lead to many customers. Unfortunately, hiring a full staff early on is a big mistake. When you are still developing a young business, you need to do as much as you can to make it profitable, and this may mean working those long hours doing many jobs yourself until you have the revenue to support a larger staff.
Doing Tasks You Have No Experience In
Yes, over-hiring can be a big money waster, but a bigger one business owners make is trying to wedge themselves into roles that they are ill-equipped to successfully complete. Taking on tasks you don't understand may not only waste money, it could also cause dangerous mistakes. Sometimes hiring or outsourcing is the right choice.
Luckily, if you need help where most entrepreneurs do, in the accounting department, you can contact us today to see how we can support your growing business.
Managing payroll is probably on most business owners' list of tasks they least enjoy. Keeping track of even a few employees can quickly become complicated. A busy small business owner or entrepreneur has a couple options to ease the strain: outsource payroll or keep it in-house and opt for a software program like Quickbooks.
Keeping Payroll In-House
Keeping payroll in-house could be the more affordable option in terms of direct cash out the door, as long as a business owner limits software purchases to just one or two. But any decision to keep a bookkeeping or accounting function in-house must come with an understanding of the opportunity costs. For some owners, the time managing payroll is well-spent because they want to stay closely connected to the books. However, hours pouring over payrolls documents are hours no longer available for other tasks, like brainstorming new product ideas or figuring out how to create more efficiencies in your operations. An in-house system could also become difficult if problems or questions arise, and the business owner doesn't have an expert to call.
Outsourcing payroll is likely to cost more up front than keeping payroll in-house, though the opportunity costs will probably be lower. A small business owner or entrepreneur who outsources will have more time for other business activities and will be less likely to spend frustrated hours wrangling the numbers and trying to understand the tax code. For business owners who are not as adept at accounting, outsourcing also provides a level of comfort that the company is complying with relevant tax laws.
Both outsourcing and keeping payroll in-house have benefits, depending on a business owner's particular needs and abilities. If you are looking for accounting options to help handle your payroll and other business accounting needs, contact us today.
In today’s digital economy, technological advances allow many of us to do our jobs from anywhere in the world--as long as we have a laptop and an internet connection. And that lifestyle is appealing to everyone from digital nomads who want a different view for every day of the week to stay at home parents who are looking for the flexibility to make an income in between wrangling kids.
The concept is most associated with freelancers, who work for themselves and set their own rules. But what if you’re a business owner looking to employ a team of people who don’t come to an office? How do you make them feel like part of a team if they never see the other players?
These are the questions that I’m confronted with each day as I build out our team here at Reconciled It. As the founder of a technology-based company, I love that we are not bound by geography. Cutting those ties gives me the power to hire the best people for the job, no matter where they are.
They’re also the face of my business, so our company culture needs to cultivate the types of work relationships that lead to excellent customer service even when I rarely see my employees.
So how do you create that culture?
First, figure out what you want your company culture to be.
We provide digital bookkeeping and other financial services for entrepreneurs. Handing over your finances to someone is a big risk. Our clients like that they’re working with a real person that can call up on the phone, build a relationship with. Creating trust and authenticity are key to our business, which means they are at the center of our company culture.
Next, find people who match that culture.
Since trust and authenticity are critical to our brand, I look for certain qualities right away in the interview process. I seek out general honesty, but I focus in specifically on the ability to admit weaknesses. I ask two questions during an interview that really get at the root of it for me. I ask applicants to tell me about a time when they were given a task they didn’t know how to complete and the specific steps they took to complete it. I’m not interested in people who know how to do everything. Technology is changing too fast for anyone to stay ahead of it all the time. Instead, I want employees who admit that they don’t know how to do something and jump into figuring it out.
I also ask applicants to tell me about a big mistake they made and how they resolved it. We all make mistakes. I’ll admit it when I make a mistake, and I need employees who will do the same. My clients demand it.
Finally, cultivate that culture by communicating it to your employees.
You might think cultivating a company culture around trust and authenticity is impossible if you never stand face to face with your employees. But it’s not.
The key is showing the value of your culture by modeling it and communicating it to your employees. I give all of my employees a lot of freedom and autonomy to express their personality with our clients. I give them a high level of trust, which is a risk I take on because I think people step up to the challenges placed before them. I express my own personality, and I share when things are challenging so that they know they can do the same.
In an office setting, staff members get to know each other through interactions over the course of their days. I work to create spaces for that to occur outside the office setting. We have biweekly Google Hangout staff meetings, which give the team the opportunity to see each other’s faces, even if we’re not in the same space. On those calls, I ask my employees to share an insight, a victory, or a challenge. Sometimes the discussion is more focused on work; sometimes it’s more personal--the two are often intertwined. We also have quarterly in-person gatherings that give an even better opportunity for employees to connect.
Because my employees don’t come into an office, it’s especially important that I check in about how their work life is going. I connect regularly with all my employees through Slack and do a somewhat formal quarterly meeting, often over video. I want to know if they’re sick or if their workspace isn’t working for them and they need some assistance with a better laptop or a new phone or just to talk through a problem.
A remote workforce allows for keeping overhead costs low and hiring great employees who may not otherwise be able to work for you because of a long commute or a need to remain in the home. But ensuring that employees outside the office stay invested in the company culture requires connection and the thoughtful use of technology to keep everyone on the same page.
If you want to work shorter hours, then starting a small business probably isn’t your best choice. Small business owners often work nearly twice as long as employees at larger companies. Of course, there's a bigger dream at stake, and the desire to grow and thrive is a big driver. But even the most determined entrepreneur can't work nonstop. Inefficient use of time is one crucial mistake that can leave a small business owner working way longer than they actually need to. So what can a small business owner do to shave a few hours off their endless week?
Let Go of Control
Often small business owners think they need to do everything. Perhaps the thought is justified because they can’t afford to hire someone to do it for them. But often there's an employee available, and letting go of control has simply proved too difficult for the owner. Good small business owners need to know how to delegate tasks and trust their workers with the work they are given. Vetting employees well during an interview process to make sure they can be trusted with the necessary tasks is critical to handing over control.
Embrace Time Management
Poor time management is about more than personal distractions. There are so many items on a to-do list that a small business owner could easily get distracted organizing their filing cabinet when they need to be sending out invoices. An entrepreneur that wants to cut down on their hours needs to examine how they spend their time and prioritize tasks that are aimed at making money and improving the business rather than more menial jobs, which can be delegated to employees.
There is the old way of doing things, and then there's the new way. These days administrative tasks like accounting don’t need long hours with a calculator and a pencil. Instead, there are hundreds of different programs out there designed to make administrative tasks easier and faster for small businesses. Find the few that will make your days easier.
If you want to learn more about how you can save some of those precious hours spent working on your small business's bookkeeping and accounting, contact us today.
Creating a successful start-up strategy is one thing all successful entrepreneurs must do to put themselves on the winning side of business. Is there a single, cookie-cutter approach that applies to all start-ups? No, not really. But there are basic elements that are proven building blocks for a successful strategy that is uniquely shaped to the particular characteristics of a specific business.
Cost Structure: It takes money to make money in business. You need to know exactly what your fixed costs, like rent, are as well as the variable costs that occur for manufacturing and promoting your product.
Key Activities & Resources: Outline activities that must be executed in order to successfully get your product or service from point A (conceptualization) to point B (in a customer's hands). This might include things like labor, marketing, printing, packaging and shipping, etc. Listing activities allows you to further breakdown components into a detailed fixed and variable cost analysis.
Revenue Streams: Identify your revenue streams. You may have more revenue sources than just sales. For example, will your enterprise rely on funding partners? Map out all of these streams and the details of where your profits originate.
Revenue Offset: Once you identify revenue sources, there may by some streams that will be offset by expenses like processing fees for credit cards or third-party fees for online sales through a platform like Amazon or eBay.
There is no one-size-fits-all start-up strategy. However, an accurate financial map makes the winning difference for all entrepreneurs. To get it right, contact us and trust your numbers to professional bookkeepers. We have the expertise to make your start-up success even easier to achieve.
You don't have to search far to find successful entrepreneurs to look up to. Some got generous startup capital that lead to their success. Others turned pennies into millions. However they got started, most successful entrepreneurs have a few common attributes.
Successful entrepreneurs are life-long learners. Even if your business is a big hit, there is always something new to try, some way to change processes or seek improvements. Embracing that growth and continuing to learn about the world and your industry will go a long way toward ensuring that you go far.
We have all met successful people who are less than gracious. Perhaps other factors helped them climb to that position. However, so many entrepreneurs who climbed their way up from the bottom are the most gracious people around. Vendors, partners, and customers all appreciate it and come back for more.
Until your new business is well-established (and even then), entrepreneurs will take on a lot of the work just to make sure everything goes perfectly. From engaging with customers to looking over the accounts, an entrepreneur needs the stamina and the focus to be able to go the distance. After all, the glamorous vacations only come after the 14-hour work days.
A Positive Outlook
Looking at everything in a negative light may not destroy your chances of success, but you will only go a fraction of the distance that your positive friends go. Even if you don't believe in things like the power of attraction, other people are definitely attracted to positivity, and any entrepreneur knows that they will need the help of others to be successful.
Cultivating these qualities can go a long way to your success. Of course, every entrepreneur knows that they need more than a good attitude to rise to the top. To find out more, contact us today.
Millennials aren’t interested in separating their work lives and their personal lives. Why shouldn’t they be themselves at work just like they are at home? As a fairly young business owner myself (Sometimes I think more like a millennial; sometimes, more like a Gen Xer), I understand that.
My online bookkeeping company employs eleven people. 10 are millennials. What they want from a job and what they want from their employer aren’t the same as previous generations. That’s worked out great for me because the things they value - authenticity, technology, flexibility - are the same things my clients (mostly millennial entrepreneurs) value.
Of course, everyone from the age of 18 to 35 can’t be boiled down to a few defining characteristics, but I’ve structured my company in a way that works for me and for my young employees.
The key for my millennial employees is flexibility. Many companies create dynamic workspaces with lots of amenities, but I knew that I wanted to be entirely digitally-based. My employees work where they want and how they want--with some parameters--and that’s very attractive to younger employees. They don’t need to be in commuting distance of the office. They can work from home and organize their schedules in a way that works for them.
We have both full and part-time employees, but I’ve found that most millennials--including my employees-- aren’t interested in working more than 40 hours a week, and most of my staff is part-time by choice. They’re willing to work fewer hours for more flexibility and less compensation so that they can enjoy life now. They’re not all that interested in building wealth for some unknown future. They want a job that allows them to participate in their community and their family life today.
We work with a lot of millennial entrepreneurs and see a changing understanding about the line between personal and private. For instance, our clients don’t care if your kids are in the background of a video call. We know we’re hiring people who are at home watching their kids. As long as they’re not distracting, there’s no problem.
We’re not just a bunch of robots who work in a call center. We actually have personalities, and they come out in our clients’ interactions with us. Our clients really appreciate that, so I cultivate it as part of our work lives.
Since our employees are remote, we have biweekly calls. On those, I try to have a component that’s personal - share something that you’re participating in or an insight that you’re learning, a victory, whether it’s personal or work-related so that we can get to know each other and create a company culture even if we’re not in the same room.
Authenticity is a also big part of building trust, which fits within the value systems of millennials and also helps us provide better service. I am authentic as a leader, and that helps my employees be authentic as well. I’m honest about my weaknesses and my failures, and because of that, my employees own up to mistakes pretty quickly - both to me and to the clients. Everyone makes mistakes, so it’s the honesty that I appreciate. Our clients are refreshed that they have a service that’s willing to say hey, we made a mistake and here’s how we’re going to resolve it. And we don’t try to make excuses around those mistakes.
Though there are definitely some retro flip phone folks out there, for the most part, millennials enjoy using the most up-to-date technology, and they expect to in the workplace. We’re not asking millennials to use old email or old desktop-based systems that would slow them down. They can use relevant software programs--just like they do in their personal lives.
Even five years ago, this type of work couldn’t be done remotely because the technology wasn’t there. But technology has gotten to a place where we can do that, and it continues to improve. We check in digitally on a day-to-day basis with Slack. We have a biweekly staff call on Google Hangout, and I do a quarterly check-in with each employee, which can also be a video call. Technology is a component of everything we do.
Mission and Brand
I was working as a freelance CFO when I started Reconciled It. I could’ve started Michael Ly Consulting - a business tied to me - but I didn’t want to run just a traditional consulting business. I wanted to create something bigger, and that appeals to millennials.
Most millennials value contributing to a broader cause or mission instead of just going to the office everyday to make the owner rich. The work they do is meaningful, and they know that it is because they see how it impacts the clients that they work with. Bookkeeping is a big pain point for entrepreneurs, so my employees’ clients are ecstatic with what they’ve done. They can see immediate results.
Everyone wants to see the results of their hard work, but this seems especially true for millennials. Bookkeeping is especially good for that: you analyze someone’s books, and there’s an end point. There’s a cycle for what’s expected - every month, every quarter, every year. Our employees feel very accomplished when they get to that point and their work is done.
Freedom and Autonomy
I find that most people respond positively to great opportunity. So I give the chance to represent Reconciled It pretty early on. That’s a big risk for me and the company, but we take that risk seriously, and our employees appreciate it and are up to that challenge.
Because all of our bookkeepers work directly with their clients, they get to structure their own relationships and celebrate their own successes. I give them some direction, but I don’t hold them back, and they respect that.
There’s a benefit for me too, of course. I get a more dedicated, efficient workforce, where everything doesn’t have to pass through me as a central filter before getting to the client.
I enjoy working with millennials, in part because it’s such a great time for them to be starting out in this field. In every generation, there are people who enjoy numbers and enjoy analytical work, and it’s a career with a lot of longevity. There is always a need for accountants and bookkeepers. And, particularly right now, not enough millennials are getting into it. Baby boomer CPAs and partners at CPA firms are retiring, and there’s only a small group of Gen Xers that went into accounting, so they have to replace the baby boomers at the partner level. But there aren’t enough of them, so they’re supplementing with high level millennials. It’s a great time to be in the profession if you’re a competent, bright millennial.
At the end of the day, I want employees who value the work they do and, in turn, feel valued by the company and their clients. I think that’s what every generation wants. Now it’s the millennials’ turn.
These days, more people have the chance to become entrepreneurs with the advent of the software as a service business model. However, while starting a SaaS company can be rewarding and lucrative, as with any venture, there are potential mistakes you'd be wise to avoid. These are top on the list for SaaS startups:
Your software can never have too many features, right? Oh, how very wrong. It is easy to get recommendations from customers on what you should add, and these individual features could take very little time to develop. However, if you implement every recommendation, your software can become so bogged down with different elements that it becomes hard to use. Know what your software's primary purpose is, and be conservative with your features.
Try to Solve Every Problem With One Program
You can't foster world peace and solve world hunger with one program, so don't even try. Know a specific need your software should address and just focus on that. If you realize that you could potentially address another problem, don't try to cram it into your current software. If anything, consider its viability as a separate piece of software.
Forgetting the Customers You Want
When catering to customers, it can be easy to get away from the customer base that you want to work with. If you want to work with small businesses, but find yourself drifting into the accounting sector, make sure to get back to your target audience and orient your product back towards them. Yes, you want to make money, so you want to leave your software open to a wide variety of people, but catering more towards different sectors can lead to that dangerous creep mentioned above and could alienate you from the people you wanted to create software for in the first place.
If you want to learn more about mistakes to avoid and growing your SaaS business, contact us today.
If you're a small business owner already using Receipt Bank, you may see the software simply as a receipt scanning app that lets you keep track of receipts easily. While it definitely excels in that respect, this accounting app can do more than just scan in your receipts.
It’s a Mini Back Up Storage
As Receipt Bank stores all the receipts and invoices that you put into the app, you can rest assured that those documents are both safe from prying eyes and also there if your physical copies get destroyed. Receipt Bank stores all your data for 7 years according to global tax authorities, so the app actually works as a backup in case the worst happens.
It Allows for Co-Branding
Keeping your brand front and center is important in every aspect of your business. If you have clients or customers who log in to Receipt Bank to send you invoices, you can co-brand completely free. This means the first thing your clients see when they log in is your logo, so they never forget who they're doing business with.
It Sends an SMS Invite
You can invite your clients to invoice you through Receipt Bank, but you want that invitation to be as easy as possible. Receipt Bank’s SMS Invite function is coveted for its simplicity. The app sends a unique download link through text message. All your clients need to do is fill in login details, and they can easily invoice you, all while making sure that all your receipts are stored and secure.
If you want more information on what Receipt Bank can do to enhance your business, contact us today.
Running a small business is a rewarding enterprise, but it can also be a stressful one. There is nothing more empowering than being your own boss, setting your own schedule, and looking around the office knowing it's all yours. However, you may also encounter moments where payroll is due, and you're not entirely comfortable with your account balance. So the big question for business owners is: how do you keep things rolling along smoothly?
Marketing & Basic Market Research
Small businesses are not known for having blockbuster budgets that can absorb massive investments in expensive advertising methods - print, radio, or tv advertising. However, any savvy small business owner understands that the internet has provided an invaluable asset for cash-strapped budgets. Creating a Facebook page, Instagram account, or Twitter profile can increase your business visibility and showcase your quality. These channels are also relatively inexpensive and, especially with Facebook, can help you target certain demographics or geographic areas.
Performing some basic market research on your current and potential clients can also be helpful. Where did they hear about you? How were they referred? Understanding where your clients are predominantly introduced or discover your small business is the key to increasing the efficacy of your advertising methods. Don't spend money on an expensive radio ad when your best clients find you through Google searches.
Once you have managed to catch a potential customer's attention, you need to retain them. Often, small businesses lose potential long-term clients when they fail to deliver a consistent quality product or service. Quality control is comprised of two low-cost, high-return tasks: creating a brand identity for your business and developing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Developing a brand is not simply creating a logo and catchy slogan for your enterprise - it is about the entire client experience. What does the office look like? How formal or casual are the interactions between employees and clients? Do you have any perks or potential amenities that you offer clients that are unique?
Once you have sorted out your brand identity, you need to develop an SOP. An SOP is simply a set of procedures that you employ across the entire business operation, allowing for streamlined operations. Creating an SOP ensures a high level of consistency for customers and lowers the effects of employee turnover.
Accounting & Bookkeeping
Good bookkeeping means good business. Without proper documentation, you cannot effectively make decisions for your business. Can you honestly determine the success of a large business investment without fully understanding what your revenues and expenditures are? Can you identify inefficiencies without a streamlined accounting system? Probably not. Fortunately, accounting is not inherently difficult. Using an SOP and keeping consistent records will avoid catastrophe.
As your business expands, research outsourcing tasks. You will see diminishing returns on the labor spent managing your own accounts, payroll, taxes, and compliance matters. Instead, that time and energy is better spent increasing your company's revenue stream. Professional accounting services will reduce the stress, increase your security and peace of mind, and leave your business more efficiently spending valuable resources. Contact us today to see how Reconciled It can help your business grow.