Seven Essential To-Do’s When You Get a New Customer

Congratulations, you’ve landed a new customer! Or, perhaps you prefer the term “client.” Either way, you should be excited; in this particular climate, sparking fresh interest in any kind of business can be challenging. Yet, you did it, and now comes the next part: What to do after you have officially landed that customer/client.

The following essential list of to-do’s will help ensure you not only keep your customer happy but that you KEEP them—period! Take a look; you will discover the list can apply to everyone and anyone.

  1. Welcome Your New Customer

A simple “thank you” goes a long way. Remember, with today’s competition, it is more important than ever to stand out. Nothing will help you stand out more than by showing appreciation to any new customers. Make sure to welcome them and thank them for choosing you/your business. This can be done in person, via card, or even email. Though, written form will likely make a lasting impression. Also, reinforce all of the benefits of choosing YOU!

  1. Make a Smooth Handoff

If you think about it, this new customer has joined your family—let them know that! Introduce them to your staff (i.e. their new family and friends). Specifically, make sure they are acquainted with their person of contact and ensure it is a good fit by all involved parties.

  1. Get Them Onboarded in a Fun Way

During the initial meeting—orientation, if you will—give your customer all of the vital information they will need to easily navigate your business and get the most from your services. This information could include passwords to access certain areas, emails, phone numbers, a glossary of keywords, etc. If you could present this information in the form of a video, even better! Videos are much easier to understand and leave a lasting effect!

  1. Be Their New Best Resource (Goodies Added)

Do you have a new client kit? You should! This kit can include anything pertinent to the relationship with your new customer (i.e. relevant paperwork, files, contact information, etc.). Spice up this kit with some goodies, though! Everyone loves goodies. Make sure to properly read your customer to get a better understanding of their likes, but in general, these goodies could include candy and sweets, candles . . . You get the idea.

  1. Connect with Them on Social Media

Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, almost everyone is on at least one social media platform. Connecting on social media will not only allow you to know your customer/client better but is also a great way to network with “friends” of your customer.

  1. Meeting with the Customer for the First Time

There will come a point when you have that first review meeting with your customer. Be sure to deliver value and explain the service you’ve performed so far. The most essential take away from this step is that your customer feels comfortable and knowledgeable. This is a perfect time to verify any information that may seem unclear or complicated; encourage questions during this meeting.

  1. Ask for a Referral or a Review

The best way to drum up more business is word of mouth. You can ask immediately or want until your relationship has blossomed and become strong. Asking for a referral or a review (or both!) is completely acceptable and a good business practice.

Incorporating these seven items into your new customer onboarding process will get your relationship off to a great start. By showing your customer they are important, you stand a better chance of securing their future business and attracting even more potential customers.

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Using Custom Fields in Your Accounting Software

Custom fields in your accounting software are data fields that you can define yourself. They are typically associated with customers, vendors, employees, and items, and they can help you store and categorize additional information about these stakeholders and your products and services in your business.

An example custom field that can be associated with customers is their anniversary date with you. You could also decide to store their birthday, their spouse’s name, their favorite color, or their shoe size.

Custom fields add functionality to your accounting system. Here are a few examples of practical uses for custom fields:

  • Staff contact for customer – if customers are assigned a particular staff member, you can add their name in a custom field
  • Frequency of service – daily, weekly, monthly
  • Warehouse location
  • Type of customer; for example, hospitals, pharmacies, retirement homes
  • Referring physician
  • Preferred method of contact: email, phone, fax, text, chat
  • License number

Some software allows you to choose the type of custom field you want to add. In some cases, this allows for cleaner data as the data can be limited to a certain type or certain values upon entry. Here are the most common types:

  • Free form text – this is the default type; it can come as a single line or paragraph
  • Check box – choose one or more values from a limited number of choices
  • Radio button – choose only one value from a limited number of choices
  • Drop down – choose a value from a dropdown list
  • File upload – add an attachment
  • Image upload – upload an image that will be displayed
  • Date/time – enter a date or time
  • Number – enter a number; it can be currency, integer, or another mathematical type of number

Custom fields allow you to meet your company’s unique needs over and above what the software provides by default.  It’s a great way to make your data more meaningful. If you have some ideas for custom fields in your accounting software and want help setting them up, feel free to give us a call anytime.

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Protecting Clients’ Credit Card Numbers

Does your business ask your customers for their credit card numbers at any time during the sales process?  If so, it’s essential that you honor the privacy of your customers’ private data as well as stay in compliance with the Payment Card Industry rules.

Every business that has an account with a merchant services vendor is required to follow PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance when collecting and storing credit card data. There are many different levels of compliance depending on the technology you use to capture and store credit card data.  These levels depend on whether you use a point of sale terminal, the customer hands you their card, orders are entered through an online shopping cart, or a combination.

In all cases, there are several no-no’s that you’ll want to share with your staff to make sure they are properly trained:

  1. Never ask a client to send a credit card number via unsecure email.
  2. Never take down a credit card number over the phone on paper before entering it into your system. If you do, you need to shred the paper immediately.
  3. Don’t ask clients to take a photo of their credit card to send to you.

If you need to use credit card authorization forms in your business, you’ll need to consider the proper collection of these forms as well as the proper storage. Storing a credit card outside any system requires you to follow further PCI compliance steps.

  1. After a client has signed and completed the credit card authorization form, you will need to provide a secure, encrypted email connection for them to send it back to you. Alternately, you can set up a private client portal for them using Box, DropBox, ShareFile, or another generic portal or file transfer app.  Just sending a pdf via email is not a great idea unless the PDF is password-protected and the password is sent via secure, encrypted email.
  2. Once you’ve received the form on your end, you’ll need to keep it in a secure place. If you print or download it, you’ll need to follow physical building security protocols to stay in compliance with PCI as well as to protect the customer data.

It’s not a surprise that so many credit cards get hacked each year.  It’s inconvenient to customers and vendors when their credit card gets compromised, and much of this can be prevented through proactive and safe measures. Respect your customers and help them keep their credit card data safe.

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Avoiding Accounts Payable Errors: What to Watch Out for

When you pay a bill in your business, are you 100 percent comfortable that the bill payment is correct and justified? Is there ever a chance that that bill is fake or fraudulent? What about duplicates? With so many fake bills being mailed to businesses these days, it makes sense to think about controls you can put into place to reduce the risk that you might write a check out of your hard-earned profits that should never be written.

Accounts Payable Controls

In the accounting profession, the term “internal controls” refers to processes, procedures, and automations you can put into place to reduce errors. In accounts payable, there is a specific subset of rules and controls you can put into place to reduce risk in this area. Here are just a few ideas.

1. Approvals

All bills should be approved by the appropriate level of staff in your business. Sometimes a bill gets approved that is fake or shouldn’t be approved, especially in areas where the approver doesn’t have technical knowledge of what they are buying. Be sure to read the fine print on the bill and make sure you know what you are paying for.

2. Segregation of duties

The person who pays the bill should be different from the person who submitted the bill. These people should be different from the one who signs the check. This reduces employee fraud.

3. Receipt confirmation

A packing slip or other confirmation of receipt of the goods or services should be matched to the invoice, line item by line item.

4. Math check

A prudent step is to check an invoice’s math, at least for reasonableness.

5. Duplicate payments

If a vendor emails their bill as well as mails a hard copy, controls should be put in place (usually automated) to avoid duplicate payments on the same bill.

6. Reconciliation

If there are a significant number of transactions between you and a vendor, an accounts payable reconciliation should be performed each month via a statement.

7. Missing check numbers

Most systems provide a missing check numbers report that you can use to make sure all checks are accounted for.

8. Bank reconciliation

A bank reconciliation is a sure way to see exactly what checks cleared your bank account.

9. Coding

Coding each transaction to the correct expense account, inventory, asset, or cost of goods sold account is an essential part of the process.

10. Income statement review

Each month, a review of the balances in your expense accounts as well as a disbursements ledger review for reasonableness can provide added peace of mind.

11. Purchase order

Requiring purchase orders is another control you can add to your process. Purchase orders should be matched to packing slips and invoices before payment or approvals are made.

12. In-depth knowledge of your business’s numbers

The more you get to know the numbers in your business, the greater chance you’ll have of accurate accounts payable handling.

And if you’d like to discuss your accounts payable function with us and how it can be improved, we’re happy for you to reach out any time.

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Does Your Business Have a Safety Net?

One of the most important parts of managing a business is making sure there is enough cash to keep the business going. As a business owner, you probably have a very good idea how much cash you have in the bank at any time. The smaller your business is, the more likely you are to keep a close eye on cash.

Checking your cash balance is a daily function you should be on top of. Yet there is another often-overlooked responsibility that many business owners don’t spend enough time on, and that is managing your future cash, especially in light of unplanned situations. Looking ahead helps reduce your business risk and allows you more time to correct any upcoming dip in your cash balance.

Having enough cash is akin to having a safety net for your business. It can sometimes even mean the difference between staying in business and going out of business. To plan how much you might need for your safety net, you can use a few different methodologies.

One way to plan your safety net is to prepare for the worst-case scenario. How long would your cash hold out if no revenue were to come in but all expenses kept going out? Some questions you might ask:

  • At what point will your cash run out? How many weeks or months of cash do you have?
  • Do you have a line of credit you can tap at a bank?
  • Do you have other loans or sources of cash that you can tap quickly in case of emergency?
  • What expenses could you shut down without hurting your business if you had to?

Another way to plan your safety net is to do what the average business does: acquire the amount of cash you need for two to three months’ worth of operations and keep it on hand. Alternately, you can make a plan to liquidate that much cash on a very fast basis and only put your plan in place if it’s needed.

An easy way to get these numbers is to look at your bank statements in conjunction with your average accounts receivable and accounts payable balances. If that’s all Greek to you, no worries. Feel free to contact us and we can help you figure out a safety net number that you’ll feel comfortable with and that will keep your business risk low.

Once you have a safety net in place, you’ll gain peace of mind for your business. It’s one step in an overall disaster preparedness plan that you can make for your business.

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Why Having a Budget Is Important

As an entrepreneur, you likely place a high value on freedom. When the word “budget” is mentioned, you might cringe and feel like it hampers your freedom. But it’s really the opposite. Here’s why.

According to a 2019 article in Small Business Trends, “Startup Statistics – The Numbers You Need to Know,” 82 percent of businesses that fail do so because of cash flow problems. Even if your business is no longer a startup, the failure rates for businesses started in 2014 were as follows:

  • 20 percent failed to make it to their second year,
  • 30 percent failed to make it to their third year,
  • 38 percent failed to make it to their fourth year, and
  • 44 percent failed to make it to their fifth year.

Many of the reasons for business failure can be prevented with good budgeting and planning. Here are some benefits of making a budget and managing to it.

  • A budget helps to control spending by seeing what’s available beyond your cash balance at the time.
  • Impulse spending can be curbed by avoiding spending on anything that is not budgeted for.
  • If a loan is needed to finance the business, you have a better idea of how much you need and how to best schedule the loan payments.
  • Your chances of business success increase with a budget.
  • You can see future revenue shortfalls so that you can take proactive steps to boost sales.
  • You can better manage growth.
  • You have a better idea of your profit level so you can make pricing changes, tax predictions, appropriate compensation, and other strategic changes.
  • You can plan for large expenditures such as asset purchases and time them better for cash flow, loan acquisition, and other considerations.

Getting started with a budget is easy. If you’ve been in business for more than one year, you can start with last year’s actual figures and then adjust for the growth and changes you want. The numbers can be input into your accounting system so that you can get reports that measure actual progress versus the budget numbers. You can then make good business decisions based on your variances.

When you take a little bit of time to create a budget, you really can enjoy the freedom of knowing you’re on track to make your numbers. If we’re not already working with you on your budget, feel free to reach out to find out more.

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Cool Tech Tools: Zoom

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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Is There Still a Marriage Tax Penalty?

The term “marriage penalty” in taxes refers to the situation that two people with the same income would pay more tax if they married and filed a joint return (MFJ) than if they stay single and file separately as single taxpayers.

In order to avoid a marriage penalty, the tax bracket income thresholds for married couples must be exactly double those for single taxpayers. With the tax bracket reorganization, taxpayers with a taxable income of $0 to $200,000 for filing single and $0 to $400,000 for MFJ pay the same percentage of tax at each level as you can see in the tables below.

Brackets* – Single

TCJA (2018-2025)

$0 – 9,525

10%

$9,525 – 38,700

12%

$38,700 – 82,500

22%

$82,500 – 157,500

24%

$157,500 – 200,000

32%

$200,000 – 500,000

35%

$500,000** and up

37%

 

Brackets* – Married Filing Separately

TCJA (2018-2025)

$0 – 9,525

10%

$9,525 – 38,700

12%

$38,700 – 82,500

22%

$82,500 – 157,500

24%

$157,500 – 200,000

32%

$200,000 – 300,000

35%

$300,000** and up

37%

 

Brackets* – Married Filing Jointly / SS

TCJA (2018-2025)

$0 – 19,050

10%

$19,050 – 77,400

12%

$77,400 – 165,000

22%

$165,000 – 315,000

24%

$315,000 – 400,000

32%

$400,000 – 600,000

35%

$600,000** and up

37%

Under the TCJA, if a couple is married filing jointly and has the following attributes there is a very low chance of any marriage penalty:

  • Neither partner can claim children as dependents.
  • Neither partner qualifies for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Neither partner qualifies for food stamps or any other welfare program.
  • The combined income does not exceed $600,000.

Single filers receive an extra $200,000 each at the lower 35% rate while married couples filing jointly must pay tax at a 2% higher rate (37%) for the first combined $400,000 they make over $600,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $8,000 marriage penalty, increasing income taxes for married couples by up to 2.59%.

The IRS published that the reason the marriage penalty was imposed at the top tax rate was to help raise more revenue and enable Congress to fund other tax reductions in the TCJA.

For married taxpayers, it makes sense every year to calculate tax liability both ways:  MFS and MFJ to see what’s optimum for the couple. 

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Five Key Reports for Your Business

Each month, your accounting system yields actionable information for you to run your business better. Here are some key reports that all business owners should review every month.

Balance Sheet

A quick review of the balance sheet can tell you the balances of your current assets and current liabilities. Current assets should always be larger than current liabilities; if it’s not, you may have liquidity issues.

You can also take a look at these accounts: cash, accounts receivable, and accounts payable. They should look reasonable to you based on your business history.

Accounts Receivable Aging

Your gaining report can alert you to who has not paid their invoice, so that you can take action to collect that money. Any balances over 30 days should trigger a collection process since the older the receivable gets, the less likely it is to collect.

Accounts Payable Aging

Hopefully, this report is clean and you are able to pay all of your bills on time. If you have an unusually large amount in this account, you’ll want to make sure you have the future cash to pay the bills.

Income Statement

The first number most entrepreneurs look at on the income statement is profit. It’s a good idea to review every account balance on this report to see if it is what you expected. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  1. Did I generate the amount of revenue that I expected? If not, should I ramp up marketing for the next few months?
  2. Do all of my expenses look reasonable? Are there any numbers that look too high?
  3. Are my payroll expenses in line with what I was expecting?
  4. Which accounts caused me to generate more or less profit?
  5. What I can I do next month to improve performance and increase profit?

Sales Reports

There are many excellent sales reports to dive deeper into your revenue so you can see what sold and what didn’t. Sales by Item and Sales by Customer are two good options for you to get more detail about your revenue balances. By analyzing your revenue, you can see what promotions worked and how you might take action to increase sales.

These five reports are very basic, but they are also very key to your business. To profit from these reports, it’s up to you to take action in your business to improve your success.

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Understanding Cost of Goods Sold

The account on your income statement called Cost of Goods Sold can be confusing to non-accountants. In this article, we’ll attempt to de-mystify it and explain how it works.

Cost of Goods Sold is an account in your Chart of Accounts that is a very special type of expense. It is the amount of direct costs of items that were sold by the company. It is related to inventory, and it helps to see the flow of transactions to understand the big picture.

When you purchase an inventory item for sale, it’s considered an asset (not an expense yet) in your company. When you sell an inventory item, the asset is reduced and the Cost of Goods Sold account is increased, moving the item from an asset to an expense. It’s no longer an asset once it’s sold, and the cost of the item sold reduces your profit and is expensed into the Cost of Goods Sold account.

Some accountants will abbreviate the Cost of Goods Sold account to COGS, and you might hear them call it that.

In the case of wholesale and retail businesses, the cost of goods sold is the amount that was paid for the inventory items to be sold. In the case of a manufacturer, the costs can include the cost of raw materials, labor to produce the item, and sometimes additional allocations of other related costs. Construction businesses may have a Cost of Construction account or Contract Costs instead of COGS. Service businesses will typically not have a balance in the Cost of Goods Sold account. If they do have direct costs, the costs are often coded to a Supplies account under expenses.

At any point in time, the cost of items you purchase are in two different accounts:

    1. The unsold items are reflected in the asset account, Inventory, on your Balance Sheet report.
    2. The sold items are reflected in the Cost of Goods Sold account, on your Income Statement report.

It’s important that the Cost of Goods Sold balance is accurate, because there are many good things you can learn from it when you compare it with inventory. You can learn how fast your inventory is selling, and you can determine your gross profit margin.

If your inventory purchases have not been coded correctly, you can take inventory and arrive at the correct cost of unsold items. If your physical inventory does not match your books, your accountant can make a correcting entry between Cost of Goods Sold and the Inventory account so that both of them are accurate.

If you have further questions about the Cost of Goods Sold account, feel free to reach out any time.

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