Monday, May 11, 2009

Four Practical Reasons to Use or Change to Online Accounting

Are you a typical small business owner that wants to be more efficient and save money and meets one of the following scenarios, then read on to learn how an online accounting system can help you save time, and make your employees more efficient, and may even streamline one of your businesses processes to save you money. These are just four common examples that may be indicative of your business. Many other examples exist, however this article will was written to solely address these four examples.

Do You Have These Business Problems ?

1. Your checkbook doesn't always balance or someone has to call the bank to get the daily balance.

2. Your bills are manually prepared in Word or Excel in the evenings and then re-entered into your computer and not promptly sent out.

3. Your estimates/proposals are manually prepared without the benefit of seemless electronic integration to your invoices.

4. You keep your receivables and payables in your head and its hard to get customer and vendor information in real time.

By having an online based accounting system, like QuickBooks, you can make changes and have real time access on your notebook computer, or access your accounting information from any web enabled computer from your home, your vacation hotel room, even your customers ‘office, or just about anywhere. Or if you choose, you can access and read some of your accounting information on your I Phone or Blackberry. Imagine if you are at a customer's office, and you or your employee finished the project or your billing arrangement allows you to progress bill,then you can quickly prepare the bill and either print it out and hand it to the customer or email it to the customer. This step in itself, will improve your cash flow for two reasons. Firstly, the bill is prepared and delivered to the customer in real time and if you can make this simple procedural change and become disciplined to carry out this new process and bill in real time, then you don’t have to prepare the invoice after the fact, in the evening or on the weekend. And secondly, given the particular circumstance, you may be able to save considerable time for yourself or save time or reduce the time required by your bookkeeper. By training field employees to bill in the field in real time, they can quickly email the bill to your designee or to you for your prior approval or better yet, you can review the bill as soon as its prepared by your employee in the field or at the customer’s office, because you have an online accounting system , taking advantage of the wireless internet or WIFI.

Now it gets better, by using the estimate feature in QuickBooks or any other online accounting system, you can have consistency, accuracy and completeness between the estimate and the final invoice. Two more important benefits is (a) cash flow improvement resulting from quicker billing and (b) the potential to improve the process , you may be able to save considerable time for yourself or save time or reduce the time required by your bookkeeper. Remember, you do not need a wired network when using an Online Accounting system, since you’re getting the information from the Internet through WI-FI. And don’t forget the time savings and fuel savings by not having to go to your office to get your accounting information when you are now able to access in online from almost anywhere.

Some small business owners do not maintain a correct checkbook balance of their cash and they often have to spend valuable time contacting the bank to obtain the current cash balance. Running a business without a properly reconciled checkbook is not a wise way to run your business. Infact, not maintaining a properly balanced and reconciled checkbook is a serious detriment to any system of internal control and could have serious ramifications including fraud,and among other things, prevents you from checking on the accuracy and completeness of your bank balance and could result in bank overdraft balances ,excessive bank service charges and could strain your banking relationship and further result in your banker terminating their relationship with you.

Unfortunately, some businesses do not have the time to use the accounts receivable or accounts payable programs included with most accounting packages or if they use it, they do not use in real time. This information is critical to effectively running your business. Among other things, an effective and operating accounts receivable and accounts payable systems gives you real time information to make business decisions and to properly understand you future cash positions. As a business owner, you can review your accounts receivable aging reports on a daily basis and make those calls for money to pay your bills. Another benefit of any online accounting system will also result in one central location or repository in real time for invoices and support for customer deposits. More importantly, when a customer says they paid, you are able to see the customer deposit and billing histories from anywhere. It also provides the business owner with a tool to make sure that all customers were timely billed. With an online accounting system you can be anywhere or even be on the go, that is traveling to appointments an you will know how much is owed to you . One quick tip, is to make sure that you are emailing your bills to your customers from the accounts receivable program. Not only is there a small monetary savings, an electronic bill helps your cash flow, because there is a time savings from not mailing or faxing the bill.

Likewise, its equally important to know what you owe, in real time. During these times, you need to have a procedure to detect duplicate, erroneous bills or fraudulent bills. As a business owner , if your accounts payable system is up to date, you can review the accounting payable reports to answer a supplier’s questions right over the phone as to why a bill was not paid or to tell the supplier when payment can be expected. QuickBooks is so easy, there is little excuse not to use these features of this software or any other comparable software, rather than making a call to your bookkeeper and waiting to get answers to your questions. Just imagine, if your bookkeeper enters the bills into an online accounting system, like QuickBooks, then you can assess that same report from wherever you are and select the bills to be sent out. It gets better, you or your designee can electronically pay the bill from wherever they are. Once again, with an online accounting system you can be anywhere or even be on the go, that is traveling to appointments and you will know how much is owed . I have only addressed three important areas i.e. cash, accounts receivable and accounts payable. I almost forgot my favorite topic and equally important, with an online accounting system, you will always be able to compare your actual monthly profit and loss statements to a budget. With proper analysis the budget tool provides you with a plan for next year and the budget is the tool that helps you see financial shortfalls before it’s too late.

Although there are limitations to online accounting when inventory is a significant component of your balance sheet, the solution is using accounting systems that have remote access. This topic of remote access will be another subject that I will write about in future blogs.

Another time savings is that your accountant can review and make necessary corrections online from the accountant’s computer in real time. So if you have a problem the accountant has easy access to your accounting information to quickly fix the information, thus avoiding the time for the accountant to schedule a visit to your office.

In summary, just like the way electronic calendars such as Outlook or Google Calendar on our Blackberrys and I phones have reduced or even eliminated the need for some secretarial skills, online accounting software should reduce or even eliminate some of your current and future bookkeeping requirements.

Sandor Lenner CPA,MBA and a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor who works as a part-time consultant with Susan Missal Lenner, P.A.

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