If you want to save time and money, you need to automate. A good, effective automation allows some tasks to happen automatically, improving the customer experience and cutting the cord that has you at your computer all day.
<CCT: If you want to save time and money, you need to automate.>
But automation also takes time and some tech know-how. Sure, you can pay someone to do it for you, but that defeats the “saving money” part of setting them up in the first place.
I recommend starting small and building from there. Automate some of the most essential functions in your business and then add on as you have time. What are those essential automations you need to set up now?
How often do you exchange emails with a client that look like this:
You: Let’s get together to talk about your monthly bookkeeping. I’m free on Tuesday from 3-5 p.m. and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Let me know what works for you.
Client: Great! Unfortunately, I’m not free during those times.
You: Okay, how about Friday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.?
Client: I’m heading out early on Friday. That won’t work.
You: Have a nice long weekend! Let me know when you are available.
Then, crickets. Which means you have to follow up with the client and go through the whole process again. It’s frustrating for both you and the client and it’s a colossal waste of time.
Instead, the email exchange should look like this:
You: Let’s get together to talk about your monthly bookkeeping. Here’s a link to my calendar. Find a time that works for you in the next two weeks and I’ll talk to you soon!
Client: <books appointment>
It’s easy, painless and you just saved a few days of bouncing emails back and forth. Plus, quality scheduling software like Calendly will automatically add the appointments to your calendar, send reminders to the client and allow you to set up multiple appointment types.
You’ve probably sent a payment reminder email 100 times to 50 different clients. Or a request for documents–every time you onboard a new client. If you don’t have automated emails that request information from clients or prospective clients, it’s time to build some email templates and automate them.
If you don’t have automated emails that request information from clients or prospective clients, it’s time to automate them. Click To Tweet
Within your client relationship management (CRM) platform, you can create templated emails that are sent out at designated times or after specific milestones in a project. Often, you can also customize these templates for specific types of clients so they never really feel like templates.
A lot of business owners rely on DocuSign for contracts, which I believe is an unnecessary expense and a good way for these important documents to get lost. When housed outside your CRM, contracts and other forms tend to get clunky and easy to misplace and add an extra step to save them to your internal client folder. Not only that, but many business owners build new contracts from scratch for every client. I agree that many projects have special stipulations, however it’s not necessary to start from a blank slate every time.
I recommend creating standard contracts within your CRM, such as 17hats or Dubsado, and customizing those templates as needed and when needed. You can also set up the automation so when the client signs the contract, they automatically receive their invoice or another form.
Setting up these and other automations within my business has saved me so much time. Because I worked in the industry for so long prior to branching out on my own, I knew exactly where to start and how to add new automations and workflows to help my business run even more smoothly.
If you’re struggling with getting your automations set up, I have a workflow template shop that can get you started. The Business Workflow Template Shop has templates and automations for those in the bookkeeping and accounting industry as well as other small business owners. Check it out today and start saving yourself some time! And if you need some help getting started, check out my Case Study for the Solopreneur and watch my free webinars on creating your own step-by-step Lead or Onboarding workflow.
There’s a big difference between coaching and consulting, and both are vitally important to the success of your business–no matter what stage you’re in.
A coach is a good investment when you’re looking to jump a mindset or business hurdle, like getting to the next income bracket or overcoming a challenge with pricing your services. They’re often certified in coaching and work with businesses across a wide range of industries. A coach will talk you through decisions and then help you come to an outcome that feels right for you.
But a consultant is different. They’re still a good support system in your business, but they’re truly an expert in their industry. A consultant has had measured success in what they do and can look at your business and really analyze the steps you need to take to meet the goals you want to reach.
A consultant isn’t going to help you decide what feels good. A consultant is going to tell you what you need to do to get where you want to go. It’s more strategic and it’s more definitive.
A consultant isn’t going to help you decide what feels good, they’re going to tell you what you need to do. Click To Tweet
If you’re feeling stuck in your business because you’re not reaching the goals you defined for yourself, you may need to invest in a consultant. Especially if you want to be in a growth phase of your business.
What should you look for when hiring a consultant?
Accounting and bookkeeping consultants come in all shapes and sizes, just like any business owner. I recommend doing your research to find a few consultants that resonate with you, then getting on the phone or Zoom with them to make sure that you have a camaraderie with them. The consultant you hire should have documented experience in reaching goals similar to what you’d like to do.
Any consultant you hire should have documented experience in reaching goals similar to what you want to do. Click To Tweet
Aren’t consultants my direct competition?
It’s true that consultants should have expertise in your field and in the specific goals you want to reach, but that doesn’t make them your competition. Many consultants are no longer practicing in their industry, preferring instead to help others get on their feet. And those who do still work in the industry tend to work with higher-end clients who you likely won’t pursue. Either way, you should be careful that the consultant you hire have a confidentiality agreement and non-compete clause in their contract.
What if I don’t want to do what my consultant recommends?
Of course, your business is yours to do with what you’d like. But candidly, you hired the consultant for a reason. And consultants aren’t cheap. If you’re morally or professionally opposed to the consultant’s recommendations, have a conversation about it and see if something else fits better for your business. Remember, too, that you’ll want to do a lot of research on your prospective consultant before plunking down money on a large consultation package.
What resources will a consultant bring me, aside from ideas?
Since consultants have been in their fields for many years, many have systems and workflows they’ll help you implement in your business. Personally, I have a Business Workflow Template Shop and I often share these templates with my consulting clients–so they can quickly and effectively implement the strategies I recommend.
Every expert starts somewhere. Whether it’s the doctor who first practiced on her dolls as a child or the barista who started out on his play kitchen, there’s always a first step in any passion or career.
The same goes for us in the bookkeeping and accounting industry. Some of us went to school to get a degree or certification in the field while others relied on our on-the-job training and research skills. However you got started, you learned it from somewhere.
I’ll bet money that everyone had a mentor, someone who had been there and done that to help show them the ropes in the early years. If you’re dedicated to growth over the life of your business, you’re still learning from someone–even a decade or more later.
There’s no shame in using someone else’s lessons to help you avoid costly mistakes in your own business. Case in point: Using someone else’s processes and systems to make the next stage in your business that much easier.
Using someone else’s processes and systems can make the next stage in your business that much easier Click To Tweet
I’m not suggesting that you stalk and steal from another accountant or bookkeeper. Quite the opposite. What I am suggesting is that you find the experts who you respect and find ways to work with (or for) them.
In addition to my 20 years of bookkeeping training, I learned the craft of business ownership from a dedicated mentor who I took a class from. Since then, I’ve always had another industry professional in my back pocket to bounce ideas off of and to turn to when I had questions. Candidly, I still do.
The proverb, two brains are better than one, couldn’t be more true. It’s because of my connections and mentors in my industry that I’m where I’m at right now in my business.
Sure, I believe that we need to stay in our own lanes and make sure that we’re doing our own thing in business. But that doesn’t mean we can’t (or shouldn’t) consult Google Maps to help us along the way.
Stay in your own lane, but it’s okay to consult Google Maps to help you along the way in business. Click To Tweet
That’s why I developed the Business Workflow Template Shop. Because I’ve learned so much and want to pass that information along to other business owners and industry professionals. We need to support one another as we grow our businesses and help out where we can.
Are you ready to get your workflows and systems in order? The Template Shop is exactly what you need to do just that–and it’s all ready for you! Check it out today!
Every business is different and every business owner has their own set up goals and aspirations. If you’re looking for more freedom and less time working inside your business, growing a team might be on your bucket list.
But simply hiring people to work with you isn’t going to give you any kind of freedom–especially if you’re not ready. You need to be equipped, both financially and with systems in place, if you want the freedom a team can provide.
Think you’re where you need to be in order to hire a team? Make sure before you take the plunge.
Know Your Financials
You don’t want to bring on contractors or employees without having your financials solidly in place. You need to know that you have the budget to pay for a new hire, and that you’ll be able to pay for their services down the road. There are few things worse than bringing someone onto your team, coming to depend on that role, only to find that you weren’t really prepared for the expense.
Don’t bring someone onto your team & depend on them if you can’t afford them in the long run. Click To Tweet
Brain Dump Tasks
Before you decide to hire someone, you need to know what role you’re looking to outsource. It’s hard to take an objective look at what you want to let go of until you know exactly what it is you do in your business on a day-to-day basis.
Brain dump every role you take on in your business, categorized by topics–sales, marketing, networking, bookkeeping, client work, etc. Then write the tasks that you take care of in each of these categories. Even the tasks that seem unimportant, write it down.
Evaluate Your Tasks
If you want to start outsourcing to team members, you need to do so strategically. Let go of the tasks that are better served by someone else. Ask yourself: What are you not good at? What do you never seem to find the time for? What do you hate doing? Answering these questions will help you to identify the roles you should outsource first.
Know what you’re good at and not before deciding what to outsource. Click To Tweet Outline Processes
Bringing someone new onto the team requires training, even when you hire someone with expertise in their field. As the business owner, it’s up to you to let team members know how to do something inside your unique business. You have a certain way you want things done, whether it’s a client assignment or something to help you market your business.
I make a list of the steps for a certain task, then record a video of me actually doing the task. This helps me ensure that the entire process is complete from beginning to end, and gives the team member a visual–which helps to improve comprehension and lowers the chances of error.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Your team members will come to you with their own unique ideas and ways of doing things. While you can teach them your processes, they are not you. Even when following your systems, your team members will not do the task exactly how you would. Sometimes, they do it better. Other times, you may need to course-correct a bit. But always keep lines of communication open and give feedback often.
It’s difficult to grow a business if you’re the only person inside and doing the work. A team can help take things off your plate so you can do what you do best. You just need to be able to do it right, with the right systems in place and the finances to back up your hire.
There’s so many options available for the business owner who wants to take care of their own books. For some users, it’s a matter of price while others look more toward functionality and integrations.
I think it’s important to look at it all, especially what you need within your own business. Because no two businesses are created equal.
Let’s take a look at the difference between Wave and QBO, and you can decide which is the best bet for you. (Can you guess which is my go-to pick?)
I know a lot of business owners are price-shoppers. While I don’t blame you, it’s important to still do your research. I believe you get what you pay for, which means that “free” isn’t always the best bet if you’re looking to cut costs. It just might cost you more in the long run if it doesn’t offer all the features you ultimately need.
QBO: Three pricing plans, depending on the features you need, starting at $10 a month
Wave: Free, with additional paid services for payroll and online payments
I know a lot of business owners are price-shoppers. While I don’t blame you, it’s important to still do your research. Click To Tweet Integrations
How well does your bookkeeping software “talk” to other systems? In today’s ultra-connected world, your systems need to speak to one another to be more efficient–saving you time and money and ensuring that human error isn’t part of the equation.
QBO: 1,000+ with both Zapier and stand-alone integrations
Wave: Three – Etsy, Shoeboxed and Paypal only
You’re dealing with bank feeds and log-ins that needs to be secure. Having something you can depend on, without the risk of your sensitive information falling into the wrong hands, is important.
QBO: Data encryption, backups and physical security
Wave: Data encryption, backups and physical security
This is the most important step, besides making sure the accounting program has all the features that you need based on your business type. If the program isn’t set up right from the beginning it will affect the accuracy of the data on your reports.
QBO: Setup in QBO is intense but straightforward if you watch the training and setup videos or have a professional help you. Expect to spend anywhere from 1 to 3 hours setting up QBO the first time. Another option is to have a professional set up your file. Then, purchase a block of training hours for particulars in the beginning.
Wave: Easier setup than QBO but still a learning curve. It might be best for a professional to help you set it up and give you some training. It will take roughly 1 to 2 hours for setup depending on the level of detail in how want to categorize your income and expenses. Wave has a great help section of webinars, videos, and guides.
I recently wrote about cash vs. accrual accounting, a distinction that’s important for small business owners. Because many small businesses start with cash accounting, it’s important to have that option in your bookkeeping and accounting software. Only one of these systems does.
QBO: Offers both cash- and accrual accounting options plus a slew of reports
Wave: Only allows for accrual accounting
Reports & Features
Every business is different and a bookkeeping system should be able to grow with it. While you may not use all the features of a robust system early on, having access to inventory control, budgeting and tax support options is helpful as your business grows and matures.
QBO: Offers the above features, plus up to 75 different reports
Wave: Has 12 available reports, which are basic reports in QBO
QBO: Has an inventory option, category tracking and budgeting
Wave: Does not offer inventory, category tracking or budgeting
QBO: Has a reconciliation feature
Wave: Does not have a reconciliation feature
QBO: Can exclude transaction(s) but, not delete them
Wave: Can exclude + delete transaction(s)
Every business is different and a bookkeeping system should be able to grow with it. Click To Tweet
If you are planning on hiring a bookkeeper anytime soon you’ll want to do some research and find someone that works with the accounting system you’ve chosen, for both bookkeeping and training needs you might have. Find one to three professionals and schedule a free introductory call with them to discuss your options, what you are considering and why. They’ll also give you valuable information to consider in your decision making process as well. Keep in mind, professionals are biased as we are typically used to using certain programs and have our favorites. Here at Number Nerd we use a variety of programs for clients for various reasons. Feel free to schedule an introductory call with a Number Nerd professional to discuss your software options based on your business type.
I’m sure it’s so secret that QBO has long been my go-to favorite bookkeeping system for any client. It just makes sense to have the most streamlined options, and at a reasonable cost. Here’s a Wave comparison chart to the various versions of QuickBooks Online. Other things to consider when choosing a system is the learning curve and trainings available. And as you grow, you’ll want to know the best way to transition from one system to another. Of course, I think QBO is powerful enough to use with nearly any size business.
You started your business because you had a skill (product or service) to share with others. You wanted to take something you learned in your 9-to-5 job and grow it into something bigger than you could if you stayed in corporate.
And you were able to do just that. You spent time creating products, developing services and serving the people who needed what you had to offer.
At some point, however, you realized that you didn’t necessarily have the business acumen needed to grow bigger. Maybe you find reading those financial statements a challenge or you don’t feel you have the time or resources to plan strategically for growth.
Wherever you’re feeling the squeeze, adding a virtual chief financial officer (CFO) as a consultant might be the right next best step for your business.
As a start-up or growing business, you know what it’s like to grow your team. A virtual CFO shouldn’t be your first hire. They’re your hire once you’ve seen growth and need to know what’s coming next, down the road.
Hiring staff members is difficult–and expensive. It’s hard to know you’re making the right choice in hiring, and hiring employees (versus contractors) means a more permanent relationship. But having that consultant role, along with CFO expertise, is a pivotal part of a larger business.
A CFO has a unique skillset, making it a more expensive hire than your assistant or other team member. But hiring a virtual CFO allows you to bring someone on part time, saving you money while still having the best possible fit as part of your go-to team. Besides, while you may need a CFO’s expertise, you likely aren’t quite ready to bring on a full-timer in that role. Having a consultant on retainer who has CFO experience is important.
What can a CFO do for my small business?
First off, it’s important to note that the CFO is not the one that does the bookkeeping. However, they should work with and interact with your bookkeeper, as needed.
Think of the CFO as the financial translator and mentor for your business. She can help you and your stakeholders read your financial statements and help you make educated decisions about investments, cash control, budgeting and more. And she does this from an independent perspective–so while she’s invested in giving you sound advice, she doesn’t actually have skin in the game.
Your virtual CFO should also work with your bookkeeper, accountant and tax preparer to make tax time a lot smoother–and help you make decisions about changes for the next tax year. As an added bonus, you may even be able to outsource management of your in-house (or virtual) accounting to a virtual CFO if you have multiple financial roles in your organization. One less piece of your business you need to manage on a daily basis, so you can spend more time on the growth and development of new products and services–the things that are bringing in the money for your business.
Am I ready?
Not every business needs a virtual CFO, and bringing one on before you’re ready will cost you. I recommend waiting until you are at a pivotal point that you need a professional’s financial expertise to help you budget and plan and make decisions for your future. It’s a very high-level position for businesses that are looking to grow in big ways, and the position looks very different for product- vs. service-based businesses.
Not only does Number Nerd offer CFO services, we also work with a number of virtual CFOs. As consultants, we can help you determine whether you’re ready for this role in your business. And if you are, be sure you’re on my email list–this week I’m telling you exactly what you need to look for when hiring someone.
When you start using a new tool in your business, it takes time to learn all the ways it saves you time and money. There are often little tricks hiding in the depths of the tool that you don’t find out about until months later–because you’re really just trying to get it up and running.
This is true for QuickBooks Online (QBO) and its features, especially when business owners start to use it without taking the time to set it up and learn what it’s all about.
If you’re investing in a tool for business, set it up right so you can make the most of it. Click To Tweet
Here are some of my favorite features that often get overlooked by business owners who choose to DIY their QBO set-up:
Connecting Bank Feeds
From time to time, I meet with potential clients or new clients that are not utilizing the bank feed feature at all. Either they are stuck in the old-school way of doing things or simply are not aware that QBO has this feature and the purpose of using it.
It’s the simple task of connecting your bank and credit cards accounts in QBO. And yes, that means entering your login credentials for that site into QBO and mapping that account accordingly. It is a bit scary for the non-tech savvy business owner but, once I explain it and the amount of time it will save them, they are sold.
By connecting the bank feeds you’ll see new transactions download every time you log in. You’ll see your QBO populate with each and every transaction, saving you time and limiting the chance of error.
QBO will automatically categorize, or code, your transactions for you–if you take the time to set up the bank rules. Doing this saves you the time of manually categorizing when you reconcile your accounts. Keep in mind you will need to invest time to do this when you first setup your QBO and each time you add a new bank or credit card account.
If you’re not setting up rules in QBO, you’re losing a lot of time categorizing manually. Click To Tweet
Without rules, QBO will try to categorize your transactions for you. And while it can often do this correctly, keep in mind that QBO is not a human and doesn’t always know what each transaction is for. It’s up to you to correct the categorizations and create rules to help QBO do a better job next time. Yep, this takes time. But it’s worth it in the end!
You need to know where you stand financially at any given moment. When you connect your bank feeds and set up categories in QBO, reconciliation is a cinch. It’s a matter of verifying your month end statement bank balances from each bank and credit card at month end against what was recorded in QBO. This bookkeeping task is a must-do at the end of every month.
You are probably wondering, why–what’s the purpose?
Well, you want to ensure that the bank feed didn’t have a glitch and inadvertently download 2 of every transaction or skip a few. If that happens it means that your expenses are overstated and less profit in your business. Another common issue I see is overstated income, by recording customer payments twice. This happens when you use the receive payment feature and add the bank deposit in the bank feed. That means you’ve counted it twice and overstated your income. Whoops! Both overstated income or expenses are a problem and ultimately affect the business bottom line and the amount of tax you pay. So, it is a good idea to ensure the numbers are correct by using the reconciliation feature.
Time and time again I see plenty of clients that come to us for help and don’t understand why the numbers don’t make sense. Unfortunately, too many business owners skip this vital step–reconciliation–costing them loads of time later in the year. Hopefully, your CPA checks to ensure you have completed your bank reconciliations before they prepare your tax return. This step ensures the accuracy of the data they are using to prepare your return.
QuickBooks Online is truly my go-to bookkeeping tool of choice, and it’s simple enough for any business owner to use. But if it’s not set up correctly, you’re likely to get frustrated and turn to less intuitive and robust systems.
If you’re using QBO and want to get a better handle on how to fit it into your weekly bookkeeping tasks, grab my Weekly Workflow Template today! If you need help now check out our Support and Training packages and let’s chat.