In small business, accounting refers to a set of tasks that revolve around maintaining a general ledger – your books — and preparing financial statements. Beyond small business accounting, there are many more aspects to accounting. In this article, we’ve prepared a glossary of accounting terms so you can discover the larger world of accounting.
Cost accounting. This type of accounting looks at the cost of items for sale. It’s especially useful in manufacturing, construction, or even restaurants where dozens or even hundreds of components are purchased and assembled to make the items that are for sale. Cost accountants account for and evaluate these costs to determine when they are too high or low and need to be repriced or purchased in a different way.
Cost accounting can be applied to small businesses to help them with pricing, determining breakeven points, controlling costs, and budgeting.
Government accounting. Government accounting is simply accounting that’s done for government entities. Government accountants are concerned with maintaining government regulations as well as learning a different way of keeping books.
Nonprofit accounting. Nonprofit accounting is unique to nonprofit organizations in that they often need to track and mark specific donations, manage grants and meet reporting requirements, fulfill public disclosures and reporting, and maintain a fund accounting process.
Financial accounting. Financial accounting is the preparation of financial reports for external use and includes providing financial statements.
Attest. Attest accounting is where a CPA goes through a process of verifying financial reports of a business to interested third-parties, such as banks and the public. The three main services in this area include compilations, reviews, and audits. Only a CPA can perform these services.
Fraud or forensic accounting. A specialty role in accounting, forensic accountants can help a company that has been the victim of fraud. There are also services available to help reduce the possibility of fraud.
Tax accounting. Tax accounting can be many things: the preparation of federal and state income tax returns for businesses, individuals, and other entities like estates and trusts; state and local tax assistance with collection, filing, remittance, and compliance; franchise tax support; and payroll tax collection, filing, and payment. There are more, but these are the big ones.
Budgeting. Making a revenue and spending plan is an important accounting function.
Internal auditing. Large companies have internal audit departments that maintain checks and balances for the company. In small companies, having someone in charge of monitoring internal controls would be the equivalent function.
Accounting systems. Some accountants are technology-savvy, and this type of accountant can help solve technology issues, integrate accounting system modules, and streamline workflow.
Fiduciary accounting. A fiduciary is someone legally responsible for financial responsibilities in an organization. Fiduciary accounting typically refers to accounting for trusts, but can have a much broader meaning.
Public accounting. Public accounting is practiced by employees in a public accounting firm, which is one that serves many businesses with varying accounting needs. This is opposed to private or industry accounting where an accountant goes to work for one company in their accounting department. Public vs. industry accounting is really referring to an accountant’s career experience.
Managerial accounting. This type of accounting focuses on internal numbers and how the organization can reach its goals. It’s broader than cost accounting, but there is an overlap. Accountants who serve in an advisory capacity to businesses will focus on this area.
Did we get all of the terms you might be wondering about? If not, ask us, and we’ll add it here.
One of the biggest challenges for small businesses is managing cash flow. There never seems to be enough cash to meet all of the obligations, so it makes sense to speed up cash flow when you can. Here are five tips you can use to get your cash faster or slow down the outflow.
1. Stay on top of cash account balances.
If you’re collecting money in more than one account, be sure to move your money on a regular basis when your balances get high. One example is your PayPal account. If money is coming in faster than you’re spending it, transfer the money to your main operating account so the money is not just sitting there.
2. Invoice faster or more frequently.
The best way to smooth cash flow is to make sure outflows are in sync with inflows. If you make payroll weekly but only invoice monthly, your cash flow is likely to dip more often than it rises. When possible, invoice more frequently or stagger your invoice due dates to smooth your cash balances.
Take a look at how long it takes you to invoice for your work after it’s been completed. If it’s longer than a few weeks, consider changing your invoicing process by shortening the time it takes to send out invoices. That way, you’ll get paid sooner.
3. Collect faster.
Got clients who drag their heels when it comes to paying you? Try to get a credit card on file or an ACH authorization so you’re in control of their payment.
Put a process in place the day the invoice becomes late. Perhaps the client has a question or misplaced the bill. Be aggressive about following up when the bill is 45, 60, and 90 days past due. Turn it over to collections quickly; the older the bill is, the less likely it is to get paid.
4. Pay off debt.
As your cash flow gets healthier, make a plan to pay off any business loans or credit cards that you have. The sooner you can do this, the less interest expense you’ll incur and the more profit you’ll have.
Interest expense can really add up. If you have loans at higher interest rates, you might try to get them refinanced at a lower rate, so you won’t have to pay as much interest expense.
5. Reduce spending.
You don’t always have to give up things to reduce spending. Look at your expenses from last year and ask yourself:
- What did you spend that was a really great investment for your business?
- What did you spend that was a colossal mistake?
- What do you take for granted that you can cut?
- Where could you re-negotiate contracts to save a little?
- Where could you tighten up if you need to?
Managing cash flow is always a challenge, and these tips will help give you a little cushion to make it easier.
Do you remember the days when you got a report card from school? Now that you have a business, your business has grades as well. But it’s up to you to calculate them. Here are some grades you can compute for your business to give it a report card of its own.
How successful is your business from a financial standpoint? These financial ratios can help you give yourself a grade.
Return on equity
This ratio measures profitability as it relates to the investment or money you have tied up in your business. The formula is net income / average equity. An ROE of 15 percent or more is an “A” for your business report card.
Return on assets
This ratio measures profitability as it relates to your business assets. The formula is net income / total assets. An ROA of five percent or more is an “A” for your business report card.
This ratio measures efficient use of your business assets. The formula is sales / total assets. This number should be high for low margin businesses and low for high margin businesses.
How profitable is your business? You might know your bottom line number, but there’s more to it.
Gross profit margin
This ratio measures the financial health of a company as it relates to how much money is available to cover overhead. Calculate it as follows: (revenue – cost of goods sold) / revenue. The value will be different depending on what industry you’re in, but some say a range of 25 to 35 percent is normal for small business.
Net profit margin
Net profit margin measures how profitable your business is in relation to the amount of sales you have. As an example, a business that can make $50K in profits on $500,000 in revenue is more healthy than one that can make $50K profits on $3 million in revenue. The formula is net income / total sales, and although it depends on the industry, a net profit margin over 10 percent is considered an “A.”
Report cards were important in school, but they’re even more important in business. If you’d like us to set up one for your business, let us know.
One of the biggest things that can cause fights in a marriage is money. No matter where you are in a relationship, it’s a good idea to discuss these major money topics so you’ll know where you stand.
Show me the money: Combine or keep separate or both
One of the best ways to avoid conflict is to put your money into three separate piles: yours, your spouse’s, and a joint set of accounts. In this arrangement, each of you has control over some money that is all your own. The household spending will then come out of the joint account, and you both will make contributions to it on a regular basis.
As a couple, you’ll need to discuss who will pay for what as well as what your regular contribution will be to the joint account. This is no small discussion. The more thorough you are, the less conflict you’ll have over money.
One spouse or partner will normally handle the joint finances, and it’s typically the person with the most accounting knowledge. However, you both should have access to this account in case of emergency.
Savings and future purchase goals
Do you have goals about upcoming large purchases? These might include:
- A home purchase or improvement
- Children’s education
- Health care needs
- Saving for retirement
- A car purchase
- A second home purchase
- A vacation
- Another item such as a boat, furniture, technology gadgets, a plane, or something else
- A nest egg or cushion
If so, calculate how much you need and make a plan to set aside the money you need in the time frame you agree on.
Do you like to spend more than your spouse? Or is it the other way around? When money is flowing, there is usually no problem. When money is tight, that’s when the problems come in.
When there are conflicts in the area of spending, the best course is to focus on priorities. If you can agree on your priorities and goals, it can often shift spending habits.
You may want to set a budget to stick as close as possible to expected spending limits. Start by recording current spending in these areas, and then agree on the amounts you want to spend in the future.
- Rent or mortgage payment
- Utilities, including electric, gas, water, garbage, phone, internet, cable
- Food and supplies, including grocery, kitchen items, liquor, and eating out
- Entertainment, including travel, vacations, local events, holiday decorations, Netflix subscriptions, tech gadgets, books, etc.
- House maintenance including repairs, cleaning, lawn care, appliances, and decorating
- Automobile, including gas, insurance, licenses, and maintenance
- Clothing and accessories, including dry cleaning
- Health care, including pharmacy, doctor’s visit, and HSA contributions
- Personal care, such as haircuts, nail care, etc.
- Tuition and/or education expenses
- Contribution to retirement and savings accounts
- Charitable contributions
- Taxes, including federal, state, local, school, and property
- Paying down credit card or student loan debt
What does retirement look like to both of you? Having this conversation will be enlightening. Know that dreams and goals can change over time as retirement approaches.
You’ll want to have an idea about what you’d like to spend during your final years so that you can make plans to start accumulating that wealth now. The sooner you start, the more years you have to build up your retirement assets.
Monitoring your progress
Keep an eye on your account balances to make sure everything is as it should be. Review bank and brokerage account statements and/or your budget once a month or at least once a quarter so there are no surprises or trends that sneak up on you.
When you reach your goals, reward yourself. Managing money is hard work, and you deserve to pat yourself on the back when a goal is achieved. If there is anything we can do to help you make your financial dreams come true, please reach out any time.
The start of a new year also means that it’s the perfect time to revisit old business strategies from last year so that you can maximize your revenue for 2019. If your financial numbers were fantastic last year, that’s great! Keep the strategies that worked for you and cut the ones that didn’t.
If your financial numbers weren’t amazing last year, or maybe you’re just interested to see how you can increase your revenue, we have you covered. Here are 10 ways you can boost your revenue this year:
1. Revisit your current prices and make adjustments as necessary.
Many people will tell you that increasing your prices will increase your profits, but that’s not necessarily true. Increasing your prices by a small amount might increase your profits without turning away existing customers, but make sure you research your competitors’ prices and adjust based on what makes sense in your market.
2. Bundle your services or products together.
Make your products or services more attractive by bundling them together and pricing them at a better deal than purchasing the services or products separately. Customers that only want one particular product or service should still be able to purchase the product or service à la carte, but offering different packages of increasing value makes it much easier to upsell to clients and increase your business revenue.
3. Offer free gift with purchase.
Tacking on a complimentary or free service to your products or services could be the small push needed to close sales. Even better, you could add a complimentary or free service to your highest-quality bundle. As an example, the cosmetics industry has been doing this for decades.
4. Start a new product or service line.
If you’re limited to just a few products or services, it’s time to expand. If you mow lawns, offer a leaf collection or snow removal service. If you sell shoes, add socks. If you manage a restaurant, consider offering alcohol. Expanding the scope of what you’re selling will provide you with additional revenue.
5. Expand your geographic reach.
If you’re still only offering services and products locally, consider expanding your reach, especially because the internet is so readily available nowadays. Think about which services you can offer virtually; some may require you to invest in cloud-based delivery systems. If you only sell products at a physical location, ecommerce is a huge industry and you could definitely increase revenue by having a storefront online.
6. Learn to say “no” to bad clients.
This may seem counterintuitive, but learning to turn away bad clients is really important. When clients are ungrateful, unreasonable and just take up too many of your resources, you have to realize that they are unprofitable. By turning them away, you can devote more of your attention to building relationships with your best customers and creating new, profitable opportunities.
7. Make your online presence known.
Everyone uses search engines and social media to find the right business to serve their needs, so make sure you can be found online. Create a website for your business and make sure your have business pages on social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. You’ll have to develop some marketing strategies and optimize your site to rank high, but, when done right, these channels can drastically impact the amount of revenue you get.
8. Manage your online reputation.
When you have many good reviews, your credibility goes up and your business is more appealing to potential clients and customers. If your clients leave you an amazing testimonial, it’s a good idea to ask them to post it online as well—especially on Yelp, your Facebook Business Page, and Google Reviews. On the other hand, negative reviews will look bad to potential clients and can negatively impact your revenue, so make sure you respond appropriately to the review and show potential clients that you care about getting things right.
9. Encourage customers and clients to sign up for a continuity program.
Do you have loyal customers? Reward them by offering a membership or continuity program with VIP benefits. Retail, restaurants, and service businesses can set up privileges like faster service, discounted prices, and frequent purchase rewards that many consumers will pay a small monthly fee for.
10. Encourage customer referrals by building and nurturing customer relationships.
Connect with clients and build strong relationships through effective communication, providing exceptional service, getting feedback, addressing concerns, and showing appreciation. Doing so can increase repeat customers, customer referrals and your business revenue.
If you’re looking to boost your business revenue this year, definitely give these strategies a try.