Drones were considered fun when they first came out, but they are far from toys. Drones have surprising benefits with extremely high return on investment to certain business owners.
A drone is a robot that can fly and that is controlled by a remote device. The technology includes GPS (global positioning system) and built-in sensors. There are many benefits to using drones:
- They can go places where it might be dangerous for employees to access, improving employee safety.
- They increase efficiency and productivity while decreasing workload and costs.
- They can improve accuracy.
A drone can be used in the following ways:
- To gather information for pricing estimates, such as roof repair
- To inspect items, such as a tree’s disease progression
- To monitor systems or the status of certain items, such as landfill fire risks
- To photograph items from an aerial view
There are many industries that have begun to routinely use drones, such as:
- Waste Management
- Disaster Relief Services
- Real Estate
- Event Planning
- Highways, Traffic, and Road Safety
Rules for Drones
Before you fly your new drone, there are rules you’ll need to follow. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has put into place the rules for flying drones safely. There may also be rules passed at the state and local levels that you’ll need to check on.
When using drones for commercial purposes, you’ll need to register your drone, familiarize yourself with the operating rules for your type of drone, and pass a pilot’s test. Find out more here: https://www.faa.gov/uas
Cost of Drones
Drones can cost anywhere from $50 to $25,000 and more. A beginner recreational drone can cost under $100, while a beginner commercial drone can range from $300 to $500. A commercial drone typical starts at a $1,000 price tag. Drone prices will vary depending on their size, features, and intended usage.
If your industry is one that is adopting drones, it might be a good time to start researching them for your business.
Video creation has gotten so easy that just about anyone can do it. You no longer need professionals. You don’t even need video editing software with the long learning curve and high price tag. All you need is an app and your imagination.
There are many reasons to create a video:
- Web pages that include video rank higher than those that don’t have video.
- People love to watch video; it’s more interesting than text.
- Video is often the best way to educate people.
- Your message comes more alive when you use more senses: sight and sound
The first step is to figure out what you want to say. Here are a number of video topic ideas for your business:
- A customer service tip
- Your company mission, vision, and values
- Your company’s origin story
- Why you’re in business
- A product, event, or service promotion
- A sale
- An employee spotlight
- A customer spotlight
- A how-to
- A deadline reminder
- A new product or service announcement
The next thing you need is a rough script of what you want the video to say, as well as graphics you can use to illustrate your points.
The final thing you need is a video creation app. Animoto is a great example of an easy-to-use video creation app. Just open your browser and go to https://animoto.com/. There are free and paid plans to choose from.
With most video creation apps, you have hundreds of templates that can get your started fast. Choose the template that is closest to the type of message you want to start with. You can easily replace your text, graphics, and sound with your own items, or ones that the software provides.
Options besides Animoto include Adobe Spark, Magisto, and several others.
Don’t be afraid to try your hand at video creation. It’s an easy way to impress your customers.
If you’re unlucky enough to have a car without GPS navigation maps, the next best thing to use is your smartphone. This article will take a look at apps that help to get you from point A to point B.
Google Maps is the all-around favorite, whether you own an iPhone or an Android. The default navigation system on the iPhone is Apple Maps, so you will need to download Google Maps to get it.
The database is robust, mostly up-to-date, and shows not only places but also traffic congestion.
Waze is a crowd-sourced app that is good for current traffic conditions. It has some fun features, such as the speed limit of the road you’re on. You can even set it to warn you when you’re speeding. Waze users let others know where local police are checking for speeders, although this is a bit of a controversial use of the software. Other user reports include the locations of construction, road hazards, gas stations, and toll roads. A carpooling feature is also available.
At this writing, Google Maps and Waze, both owned by Google, are the only apps available for Auto navigation on the Android.
Do you prefer to cycle or hike? If so, Komoot’s AllTrails app maps all of the hiking and cycling trails around your town. It lets you know the distance, elevation, and suggested fitness level of each trail so you can plan accordingly. You can set routes and save them as well as favorite your local trails.
There’s no fee to use the above apps. The following apps require a fee to use.
Bird and Lime
Don’t have your own ride? You may have seen people riding on motorized scooters or simply seen scooters parked on sidewalks scattered here and there. Welcome to the new field of micromobility. If you need to get somewhere that’s too short a distance for a car but too long to walk, you can unlock one of these rides with an app and hop on. A couple of companies in this space include Bird Rides Inc. (bird.co) and Lime (li.me), and Lyft.
Uber and Lyft
Of course, if you want a car, you can get a quick ride via Uber or Lyft as well as rent a car at all the traditional places.
Try out these apps so you can get where you want to go.
If you agree that “there’s no place like home,” then you may also have a wish to work from home more often. In many cases, you can, and here are some tools you need to get started.
If the products and services your business sells can be sold or delivered digitally, then you’re a candidate for working from home most of the time. If you have a storefront where customers visit to purchase your products and services, you can still perform some of your business duties remotely or rely on staff to greet and serve the customers.
You may also be able to be proactive about moving more and more of your business online. Some examples include:
- Hold more business meetings online instead of face to face.
- Encourage employees to work from home if their presence does not require face-to-face customer meetings.
- Provide online training for clients who cannot travel to an onsite course.
- Move your scheduling online by providing an app for clients to book their own appointments.
- Move your products online by using a shopping cart.
- Provide a delivery option in your business. (This may have you or your staff traveling more and not less unless your items can be delivered via a shipping service.)
Meeting with Customers
The next best thing to greeting customers in person is using video-conferencing. You can easily start with FaceTime (for iPhone users). Android users have it a little tougher, but many use Facebook’s Messenger, Google’s Duo (both parties need to download the app), or imo (ditto on both parties).
If you have more complex meeting needs, software like Zoom is perfect to get you started. Hardware-wise, you’ll need a webcam, and a microphone is preferred. If you have a cell phone, you can use the mic and speakers in the headset provided.
Simply create your account at Zoom, and set up a meeting. Invite people by emailing them a link to join you. Join the meeting at the set time, and conduct your business with your customer. You can hide your webcam if you’re shy, and you can share your screen in case you want to go over a report or something else with your client. Zoom has a free account option and can be found at https://zoom.us.
And remember, if you’re a little too shy for videoconferencing, you can always conduct business with clients using the good old-fashioned telephone or email.
Sharing Documents with Customers
If you have documents to share with all of your customers, you can post them online on your website. If you have private documents, you can use portal software to securely create a private section of the portal exclusively for that client. Apps that can do this and that are not accounting-specific include Citrix ShareFile and Box.com.
You can also share documents that don’t have sensitive financial or company information with clients using Google Drive. Simply create them, then share them using the email addresses of the appropriate clients.
Receiving Client Communications
Already customers are reaching out to businesses via all of the social media platforms as well as the messaging platforms, such as Messenger and WhatsApp. Your virtual team can easily track all of these incoming messages by watching for notifications from anywhere in the world.
You might also be using an industry-specific app for customer interactions. For example, if you’re in the wellness space, MindBody apps are ubiquitous. If you’re an attorney, you’re likely using Clio.
Keeping in Touch with Your Team
You can use the same tools mentioned above to connect with your team members, but you will probably want one or two more apps – a private messaging app for when urgent things come up that need an immediate answer, and in some cases, a task management system.
Software like Slack is perfect for you to stay in touch with your team and keep communications private. It provides messaging functionality and more.
For task management, there are literally hundreds of apps to choose from. The simplest is something like Todoist, and typical small business options include software such as Asana and Monday.com.
If you want a Swiss-army-knife suite of tools that perform many of the above functions and are deeply integrated, Microsoft Teams fits the bill by providing a full collaborative platform for businesses of all sizes.
There’s No Place Like Home
We hope these apps provide you with the ability to stay in touch with your customers and your business while working from home, sweet home.
That’s right: The future is here! Now that it’s officially 2020, it may be time to jump on that accounting app bandwagon if you haven’t already done so. The exciting news is you can actually do a lot of your accounting tasks from your phone instead of your computer.
Here are just a few examples of accounting things you can do on your phone.
Are you still trudging to the bank to make your deposits? If so, there is a better way! Simply download your bank’s mobile app, login, and look for the Make Deposit function. Get the check you want to deposit, write “For Electronic Deposit Only” on the back and endorse it. On your phone, enter the amount, then take a picture of the check. Presto! Hit Deposit and the money will be in your account in no time.
Shoeboxes of receipts are a thing of the past. (Thank goodness, we say, as we wipe our forehead!) Send your receipts to your accountant simply by taking a picture of them and sending them via email or through a document entry system like Receipt Bank or AutoEntry. You’ll need to set this up to connect with your accounting system, but once it’s set up, it’s a real time-saver.
Wondering how much income you made last month? Download your accounting app on your phone and login to get many of the features that you have on your computer onto your phone. You’ll need to be on a cloud system like QuickBooks Online or Xero, or possibly have a hosted desktop solution in order to have this functionality.
There’s no need to be tied to your desk on payroll day if you can submit or approve payroll from your phone. Many payroll systems have apps you can download so you can be free of your computer.
There’s a mobile app for almost any add-on you might need, such as TSheets for time tracking or Square for taking payments.
There are even some apps where you can talk in plain English and get a plain English answer back. These apps are using artificial intelligence which is exploding in the accounting space. You can ask questions about your cash flow or check a metric that you like to follow.
Feel free to reach out to us if you’d like to find out more or get help moving some of your accounting functions to your mobile phone.
If you find yourself on the go more often than not, having constant access to your business accounts and these features will be beneficial.
Did you know that you can add apps to help increase the functionality of your core accounting system? The process will save you time and frustration. It is because every business is different that you may—and likely will—need these add-on features that aren’t already included in the accounting system you currently use. That’s where the apps come in: They provide a deeper functionality in the areas you need them. Take a look below at some examples we’ve put together.
Payroll apps help to simplify how you pay your employees. These payroll apps were created to help you implement an easy and automated method of managing payroll and all things HR-related.
Popular payroll options include Intuit’s many options, Gusto, ADP, OnPay, and Patriot. Explore the different features of each app and find which one works best for you and your needs.
- Time Tracking
The best and most accurate way to keep track of an employee’s time is with an app. A wide range of apps can make not only tracking but scheduling your employees’ time simple, too. These apps include:
- Time Tracker
- And more!
Again, each app will offer different features. For example, most have timers, but only one might offer geofencing, so find the one that’s best for your business. Regardless of which one you choose to use, though, you will quickly discover how much time and energy you save without having to do time tracking manually.
Need more functionality to better manage your inventory? If you run an ecommerce, retail, or wholesale operation, you may need an inventory app to give you more features. Back order functions, drop ship handling, and recall functionality may be required depending on what you sell. Here are some popular apps for inventory:
- SOS Inventory
There are also many ecommerce apps in this space: WooCommerce and Shopify, to name a few.
- Cash Flow
Dozens of apps exist to help you manage your cash flow as well as get funded:
- Cash Flow Frog
- Blue Vine
- And too many to list
Managing your cash and debt are important areas and ones that are easy to find to help you get quicker answers to your questions.
Now that it’s 2020, try working smarter, not harder. Add-on features can help! Remember, the examples listed above are just a few apps currently available. Determine what you need for your company to make better decisions, and then look around for the perfect app.
And, if we can help you implement your ideas faster, feel free to reach out to us anytime.
If your eyes glaze over when you’re presented with financial statements for your business, you’re not alone. Many entrepreneurs benefit greatly when they can see their financial results in graphical and chart formats. Fathom is the perfect tool to help your numbers come alive so they can become meaningful for you.
Fathom is a company based in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and founded in 2011. The product is also named Fathom and is a cloud-based software application that crunches accounting data and provides multiple views that make analysis easy. In accounting terms, we call this type of software by many names: Financial Dashboard; KPI software, where KPI stands for key performance indicators which are metrics that help you measure your business results; and Business Intelligence (BI) software.
Fathom can present your accounting data in multiple insightful views:
- KPIs – Popular KPIs are pre-loaded, plus you can create and calculate your own. Fathom handles financial KPIs like the current ratio or debt-to-equity ratio, and you can also enter non-financial data such as number of employees and customer satisfaction scores.
- KPI explorer – This display takes on a wheel shape where green is good and red indicates room for improvement.
- Profitability – This line graph shows your business’s breakeven point.
- Cash flow – This bar graph shows in red and green your cash balance fluctuations.
- Trend – This line graph allows you to see at a glance the direction account balances are moving over time.
- Goalseek – This chart allows you to perform what-if analysis, set goals and measure your progress.
You can also generate predefined or custom reports in Fathom. The reports can be scheduled as well as exported to Excel.
Fathom does require a setup process. It integrates with QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Desktop, Xero, and MYOB (which is popular in Australia). It’s included in the Advanced version of QuickBooks Online. The steps to set up Fathom include:
- Updating the data, which is mostly done through integration setup
- Adding your company profile
- Mapping Fathom to your Chart of Accounts, which is a very common setup step
- Selecting your KPIs, which requires some strategy work on your part
- Setting targets
- Enabling alerts if desired
There’s a lot to like about Fathom. If you feel like you’d like to start digging deeper into your business’s financial results to find opportunities for more growth and profit, then please contact us anytime.
More and more small businesses are finding virtual meetings useful. Virtual meetings have many advantages:
- No travel time is needed for participants, so you’ll save on gas and auto maintenance.
- They create an ability to visually connect with remote employees, customers, vendors, partners, job candidates, and other stakeholders.
- They are better than a phone call because of the visual element.
Before you climb into the car or book a flight, think about whether a virtual meeting could save you time and deliver the same result. It’s a very big change in habit to get used to, but when you do, you’ll find it saves you time and money.
To hold a virtual meeting, you’ll need a software app that works in your browser. There are many choices available, and one popular one is called Zoom. You can find them at https://zoom.us/.
It’s easier than you might think to hold a virtual meeting. The learning curve is more psychological than any skill or equipment needed. You’ll need a computer, and you can use your phone or your computer for audio. If you use your computer for audio, you’ll need a microphone and speakers.
For best results, you should also have a webcam built in to your computer, or you can purchase one separately and connect it. Everyone is camera-shy, or webcam-shy, but don’t let that stop you! You can always host a meeting without video.
Zoom has a free account that you can use to try out virtual meetings. Once you’ve set up your account, you can schedule a meeting or host a meeting on the fly. Setup choices include whether you’ll use computer or phone audio, whether you want the video to be on or off, and whether you want to record the session, which can be very handy. You can also mute and unmute participants, so that it can be used for classes as well as meetings.
Here are a few tips to make sure your virtual meetings go off without a hitch:
- Treat a virtual meeting with the same importance as a face-to-face one: be on time, have an agenda, and make sure everyone is heard.
- Audio quality is probably more important than visual quality. If you are new to the software, do a test run before you start inviting clients to meetings so you can get through any learning curve. Consider using a microphone headset for higher quality sound. Apple EarPods work great if you have an iPhone.
- For good video results, face a window or light source so that your face is not in shadow. The brighter the better; everyone looks better with more lighting because the light erases wrinkles! If possible, the webcam lens should be at eye level or above. You can use books under your computer to raise it if you need to.
Try virtual meetings in your business, and invite us to your next meeting.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has arrived in the accounting profession in a big way. The good news is it’s streamlining accounting tasks, finding patterns in data you can take action on, and generally making things better. Here are just a few places we’re seeing AI and machine learning impact accounting.
Most systems have incorporated some form of machine learning into transaction coding. When bank feeds are imported, each transaction needs to be coded to add the account code in the chart of accounts. Class, tracking codes, and other custom data may need to be added as well. Rules can be set so that the accounting application can pre-code the transactions; in this case the accountant simply approves or corrects the entry.
It starts with a picture of a receipt. Invoice fetching applications can turn pixels into data using sophisticated OCR (optical character recognition). The data is then turned into a business transaction that can be imported into an accounting system.
The books of many government agencies, nonprofits, and large businesses need to be audited on a regular basis. Auditing is an expensive process. Smart programs can review a company’s data and assess where the risks and anomalies are so that the audit program can be modified to focus on the more important parts. This reduces risk and cost for everyone involved.
Artificial intelligence can help to speed up the matching of purchase orders, packing slips, and invoices so that accounts payable tasks are streamlined. It can also automate approvals and look for duplicate invoices to avoid overpayments.
Accounting Tasks That Are Clerical
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a platform that allows users to create automation without involving the IT department. Think Excel macros or Zapier on steroids. Any workflow with a mind-numbing set of clerical steps is a candidate for RPA.
AI allows accountants to spend less time on routine tasks and more time on higher-level analysis work. As AI becomes more affordable for small businesses, everyone will benefit from this long-term trend.
Blockchain is a term that has been bantered about quite a bit when referring to the future of accounting technology. While its impacts are primarily long term in nature, let’s take a brief look to see what everyone is talking about.
Blockchain is a technology that can store transactions. Some people have referred to it as a digital ledger. Unlike your current accounting books, transactions recorded using blockchain technology are public. This digital spreadsheet of transactions or records is copied across thousands of servers so that there is no single point of failure. It’s a decentralized, distributed, and public digital ledger.
The blockchain ledgers are updated constantly as new records are added. They are also reconciled constantly. Once added, the records cannot be altered retroactively. This feature has many implications for auditing in that many records won’t need to be validated the old-fashioned way because blockchain is self-auditing. Auditors will still need to validate the non-digital components of a transaction such as physical inventory counts.
Prior to 2016, blockchain was originally referred to as block chain, where the blocks are the list of records or transactions. While the records are public, they are protected through cryptography. Each block includes cryptographic code from the previous block that keeps the entire chain of data safe and verified.
Blockchain is then a way for two parties to safely record their transaction permanently and with verification. While bitcoin is the most common current use of blockchain technology, many developers are working on new applications. Development started heavily in 2017, so it remains to be seen which applications will take off and which will die.
Blockchain’s uses in the future will be many:
- Banking is the most obvious application, and right now the focus is on international transfers.
- Stock trading.
- Smart contracts. This concept is a huge part of what blockchain could be used for. Smart contracts are economic actions using blockchain that can be recorded without human interaction. They could initiate bill payments after goods have been received and after checking that there are funds available.
- Legal transactions, such as land titles.
- Medical records, so that there is no more filling out of forms in each doctor’s office.
Blockchain in the future may eliminate the double-entry bookkeeping system that we have now. Instead of each person keeping their own set of records, companies will write their transactions into a public blockchain ledger. This will reduce the cost of bookkeeping in the long term. But for this to happen, much development must be done to standardize and optimize the financial system. Many accounting professionals are working today toward that goal, which is many years away.
For now, the biggest implication to realize for a blockchain future is that personal reputation will become incredibly important. Blockchain systems eliminate the intermediary so that you are doing business with other people in a peer-to-peer environment. Identity protection as well as reputation will become essential. Blockchain is also likely to take off first in countries where there is a lot of corruption and/or corporations are not trusted.
Blockchain may not impact your life today, but it’s definitely something to watch on the horizon.