• QuickBooks Tip: Receiving Customer Payments

    5 May 2017
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    We’ve put together step-by-step instructions of how to receive payments from a customer using your QuickBooks account:

    QuickBooks was designed to make your daily accounting tasks easier, faster, and more accurate. If you’ve been using the software for a while, you’ve probably found that to be true. Some chores, of course, aren’t so enjoyable. Like paying bills. Reconciling your bank account. Or anything else that has the potential to reduce the balance in your checking accounts.

    The process of receiving customer payments is one of your more enjoyable responsibilities. You supplied a product or service that someone liked and purchased, and you’re getting the money due you.

    Depending on the situation, you’ll use one of multiple methods to record customer payments. Here’s a look at some of your options.

    A Familiar Screen

    If you’re like many businesses, you send invoices to customers to let them know what they owe and when their payment is due. So one of the most commonly used ways to record payments is by using the Receive Payments window. To open it, click the Receive Payments icon on the home page or click Customers | Receive Payments.

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    You’ll use QuickBooks’ Receive Payments screen when you record a payment made in response to an invoice.

    The first thing you’ll do, of course, is choose the correct customer by clicking the down arrow in the field to the right of RECEIVED FROM. The outstanding balance from that customer will appear in the upper right corner, and invoice information will be displayed in the table below. Enter the PAYMENT AMOUNT and make sure the DATE is correct. (The next field, REFERENCE #, changes to CHECK # only if the CHECK option is selected.)

    Next, you’ll need to ensure that the payment is applied to the right invoices. If it covers the whole amount due, there will be a checkmark in every row in the first column of the table. If not, QuickBooks will use the money received to pay off the oldest invoices first. To change this, click Un-Apply Payment in the icon bar and click in front of the correct rows to create checkmarks.

    Several Options

    You’ll then want to tell QuickBooks what payment method the customer is using. Four options are displayed. The possibilities that are visible here are:

    • CASH
    • CHECK
    • CREDIT DEBIT (A specific card type may be shown here if you’ve indicated the customer’s preferred payment method in his or her record.)
    • e-CHECK

    If the desired payment method isn’t included in those four, click the down arrow under MORE. If it’s still not there, click Add New Payment Method. This window will open:

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    The New Payment Method window

    Click OK. When you choose your new payment method from the list, a window opens containing fields for the card number and expiration date. Click Done after you’ve entered it, and you’ll be returned to the Receive Payments screen. If you’re satisfied with your work there, click Save & Close or Save & New.

    Haven’t gotten set up to accept credit and debit cards yet? We can get you going with a merchant account to make this possible. You’re likely to find that some customers pay faster with this option. Your customers will be able to click a link in an emailed invoice and make their payments.

    Instant Sales

    Depending on the type of business you have and its physical location, there may be times when customers will come in and buy something on the spot. You’ll need to give them a Sales Receipt. Click Create Sales Receipts on the home page or open the Customers menu and select Enter Sales Receipts to open this window:

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    The Enter Sales Receipts window

    You’ll complete this form much like you entered data in the fields of the Receive Payments window. As you can see, you can print the mail for the customer and/or email it.

    After all the hard work you’ve done to make your sales, the last thing you want to do is record a payment incorrectly so it isn’t processed and you don’t get paid. Though QuickBooks makes the mechanics of receiving payments simple enough, you still should understand the entire process involved in getting income into the correct accounts. Dagley & Co. is available to help with this and any other areas of QuickBooks.

     

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  • Using Custom Fields and Classes in QuickBooks Online

    22 February 2017
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    QuickBooks is perfect for many small business accounting departments. There are so many ways within the program to customize for your clients, customers, location, vendors, etc. to really make it your own. “Custom Fields” and “Classes” are two items Dagley & Co. recommends customizing on your QuickBooks Online account.

    Start from the Beginning with Custom Fields

    You can start working with custom fields and classes at any time. They’re most effective, though, when you build them in as you’re just starting to use QuickBooks Online.

    Let’s look at custom fields first. When we refer to “fields,” we simply mean the rectangular boxes in records and forms that either already contain data or that can be filled in by you, either by entering the correct word or phrase, or by selecting from drop-down lists. Most of these are already named. On an invoice, for example, there are fields for information like Invoice date and Due date.

    But you can add up to three additional fields to sales forms. To do so, click the gear icon in the upper right corner of the screen and select Account and Settings, then click Sales in the vertical navigation bar on the left. The second block here contains Sales form content. Click Custom fields, and you’ll see something like this:

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    Click the word Off if it appears, and it will change to On and display three blank fields. Think carefully about what you would like to appear here, as this isn’t something you’ll want to change. If you haven’t yet met with us about how to set up QuickBooks Online, let’s schedule some sessions to go over all your setup procedures, including custom fields.

    Enter the words or phrases you want displayed on sales forms in the three fields. Then decide whether you want them to be visible only to you and your accounting staff or to your customers, too. Click within the Internal and Public to create check marks. When you’re done, click Save.

    Additional Categorization with Classes

    QuickBooks Online’s classes provide another way to categorize transactions. You can use them to differentiate between, for example, departments or divisions. If you’re a construction company, you might have different classes for New Construction and Remodel. Unlike custom fields, you’re not limited to three classes.

    You can filter many reports by class. QuickBooks Online contains report templates designed specifically for reporting by class, like Sales by Class Detail, Purchases by Class Detail, and Profit and Loss by Class.

    Here’s how you create your own list. Click the gear icon in the upper right of the screen and select Account and Settings. Then click Advanced in the left vertical navigation toolbar. Under the fourth heading, Categories, you’ll see Track classes. If the word “Off” appears to the right, click in the box to turn this feature on. A box like this will appear:

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    Even if you’ve defined a number of classes, they’re not required on transactions. If you want to be reminded should you forget to classify one, click in the box in front of Warn me when a transaction isn’t assigned a class. You can also choose to assign one class to an entire transaction or to each individual row. Click the arrow to the right of One to entire transaction to drop the option box down and make your choice. When you’re done, click Save.

    You can create classes as you’re entering transactions by clicking the arrow next to Class over to the right of the screen and selecting +Add new. We recommend, though, that you think this through ahead of time and make at least an initial list by clicking the gear icon in the upper right and choosing All Lists, then Classes, then New.

    Great Flexibility

    These are two of the customization tools that are built into QuickBooks Online. Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been using the site for a while, Dagley & Co. can introduce you to all the ways that you can make QuickBooks Online your own.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Ringing Out 2016 in QuickBooks

    29 November 2016
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    It’s that time again! One year is coming to an end, and a new year is quickly approaching. At Dagley & Co., we urge you to start your end-of-year QuickBook tasks now, before time runs out. We have 4 things we suggest you fit into your busy schedule sometime this month:

    1) Create and send year-end statements.

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    As your customers wrap up 2016, too, it’s good to send statements to past-due accounts.
    In an ideal world, all of the invoices that are currently due would be paid off by the end of the year. We all know that that’s not usually the reality. Two reports can help you here: the A/R Aging Summary and Open Invoices.

    Give everyone a chance to clear their accounts before December 31 by sending statements. Click Statements on the Home page (or Customers | Create Statements) to open the window pictured above.

    You have multiple options here that are fairly self-explanatory. The screen above is set up to create statements for all customers who have an open balance as of the date you select, but not for inactive customers or those with a zero balance or no account activity. That way, no one who’s paid in full to date will receive a statement. Of course, if you didn’t want statements created for anyone who’s less than 30 days past due, you’d click in the box in front of Include only transactions over and enter a “30” in the following field. Questions about all of this? Give us a call.

    Tip: You can also find out who’s overdue by clicking on the Customers tab in the left vertical pane to open the Customer Information screen. Click on the down arrow to the right of the field just below Customers & Jobs. QuickBooks provides several filters for your list.

    2) Reduce your inventory.

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    Want to discount all or selected items in your inventory by the same percentage or amount? Open the Customers menu and click Change Item Prices. Dagley & Co. can work with you on the whole item pricing process.
    The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day might be a good time to sell excess inventory by having a sale. If you only sell a few products, you probably know what hasn’t sold well in 2016. If your stable of products is larger, you can run QuickBooks reports like Inventory Stock Status by Item and Sales by Item Detail to identify your slow-sellers and discount them. You may need to filter your reports to see the right data. Talk to us about customization options if you’re unsure of this.

    3) Clean up your contact lists.

    If you don’t maintain your customer and vendor lists, you’ll eventually start wasting time scrolling through them when you enter transactions. So this would be a good time to designate those contacts that you’ve not dealt with in 2016 as Inactive (you can delete their records entirely, but we advise against that). Simply open a Customer record, for example, and click the small pencil icon in the upper right to edit it. Click on the box in front of Customer is inactive.

    4) Run advanced reports.

    Here’s where we come in. If we’re not already creating and analyzing QuickBooks’ advanced financial reports (found in the Accountant & Taxes submenu of Reports) monthly or quarterly, talk to us about it. They’re important, and they give you insight that you can’t get on your own. This is another activity that can spill into January.

     

    We hope these few things help to get you started with your year-end QuickBook tasks. Give Dagley & Co. a call at 202-417-664 if you have any questions, or would like us to go through these steps with you one-on-one. Remember: even though we are located in Washington, D.C. are clients are around the country!

     

     

     

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  • Can’t Keep Up with Bills? QuickBooks Online Can Help

    7 November 2016
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    How does your company keep track of its bills? A lot of small businesses are still dealing with a lot of paper. It’s probably pretty clear to you that this isn’t the best system. You could possibly miss payments because a bill was lost in transit or  didn’t make its way to you. QuickBooks Online can help keep bill-payment running smoothly and your relationships with vendors on the up-and-up.

    Two-Step Process

    Before you can start paying bills, you have to enter them into QuickBooks Online. This will entail a bit of extra work the first time you deal with a particular vendor, but there are numerous benefits to handling your accounts payable in this fashion, like:

    • Speed. Once you’ve created a framework (template) for a bill, it will take minimal time to pay it in the future.
    • All of your bill payments will be recorded in QuickBooks Online, so you won’t have to hunt through checkbook registers or file folders to see if a bill was paid.
    • QuickBooks Online will always remind you when a bill must be paid (if you’ve set it up correctly).

    To enter a bill, click the plus (+) sign at the top of the screen and click on Vendors and then Bill. This screen opens:

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    You’ll enter information about each bill on a screen like this. There are fields not pictured here that you’ll sometimes have to complete. So let’s start a conversation about the whole process.

    Looks pretty simple, doesn’t it? It is – if you have a simple bill like the one you receive for gas and electric. You select the vendor by clicking on the arrow next to the blank field in the upper left and choosing from the list that opens. The Mailing Address and Terms should fill in automatically if you’ve done all of your initial QuickBooks Online setup. If not, you can add and edit this information.

    Bill date refers to the date of the bill itself, not the day payment is due to the vendor. That goes in the Due date field. Select your Account from the list that opens when you click in that field, and enter a Description and Amount. If that’s all that’s required for that bill, you can save it and proceed to the next. It’s now recorded as a bill that needs to be paid.

    Recurring Payments

    Some of your bills are just one-offs, but others arrive on a regular basis. So QuickBooks Online has tools that will minimize the time required to process them after you’ve entered the basic information once. After you’ve completed a bill, click Make recurring at the bottom of the page to see this screen:

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    QuickBooks Online lets you create templates for bills to use in future payments.

    This screen is self-explanatory. You simply tell QuickBooks Online how much notice you want before a bill’s due date so you can process the payment. Take care with this screen to avoid paying bills too early, which affects your cash flow unnecessarily, or too late.

    You have three options when you’re creating a Recurring Bill template. You’ll choose one from the list that opens when you click the arrow in the Type field:

    • This is best used when the details of a transaction don’t change, like rent or a loan payment. You don’t have to do anything for the payment to be dispatched; it’s done automatically for you at the interval you set. You can, however, ask to be notified every time this occurs.
    • You could use this for periodic payments that will require editing before they’re sent. For example, you’ll probably need to change the amount on your utility bills every month. QuickBooks Online will place a reminder in your Activities list on the home page.
    • If you have bills that contain a great deal of detail but aren’t due on a set schedule, you can save the template and call it up when you need it by clicking the gear icon in the upper right and selecting Recurring Transactions.

     

    If you are interested in starting to use QuickBooks Online, and you begin to enter bills and find that you’re having trouble completing the fields required for more complex bills, give Dagley & Co. a call to schedule a session or two.

     

     

     

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  • January 2016 Tax Due Dates for Businesses

    7 January 2016
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    Yesterday, we covered the January 2016 tax due dates for individuals.

    There is only one deadline for business owners to remember: on January 15, your Employer’s Monthly Deposit is due. If you are an employer and the monthly deposit rules apply, January 15 is the due date for you to make your deposit of Social Security, Medicare and withheld income tax for December 2015. This is also the due date for the nonpayroll withholding deposit for December 2015 if the monthly deposit rule applies. Employment tax deposits must be made electronically (no more paper coupons), except employers with a deposit liability under $2,500 for a return period may remit payments quarterly or annually with the return.

    If you are a small- or medium-sized business owner, and you don’t have a CPA lined up for the upcoming tax season, we would love to take you on as a client. Dagley & Co. specializes in businesses like yours, and we have a stellar track record. You can find our information at the bottom of this screen. We look forward to working with you!

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  • Dagley & Co’s Six Best Practices in Billings and Collections

    5 November 2015
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    Get organized, and get paid! Image via public domain

    Have a small business? One area where you can improve cash flow is in billings and collections. Getting paid late can often hurt a business, and there are ways to get paid faster so you can keep growing. Here are six best practices that can make a real difference in your cash balance at the end of every month.

    1. Get it right.

    One legitimate reason for nonpayment is a confusing or inaccurate invoice. Make sure your invoices spell out in clear, plain English what was purchased, the price, when payment is due, the customer’s PO number, when it was shipped, to where it was shipped, and any tracking number. We highly recommend QuickBooks for all of our clients for easy invoicing and payments.

    You may also want to tighten your sales process. Don’t start work without a formal PO from your business customers—many companies won’t pay against a verbal PO. When you receive a PO, make sure that it matches your quotation. Companies often put their payment terms on their paperwork, so if your customer tries to play this game, resolve any discrepancies before you start work.

    Finally, make certain every shipment and invoice is 100% correct. Set up processes to assure the customer gets exactly what was ordered and that invoices are equally accurate.

    2. Get it out.

    See that four-day-old pile of shipping papers waiting to be invoiced? That’s a pile of cash you can’t collect.

    Set a goal to issue all invoices within one working day of the ship date or completion of work. If your team struggles to meet this, give them the tools and/or manpower to make it happen. And if an invoice gets held up internally, make sure your supervision is immediately notified so the problem can be quickly resolved.

    To further speed payments, try to invoice your customers by email. Some won’t accept emailed invoices, but getting even a portion of your billing done electronically will help overall cash flow.

    3. Get it to the right person.

    How many times has one of your employees called about a past-due payment and been told “we didn’t receive your invoice” or “that needs to be approved by the department manager”? It’s another game, one that can take weeks to play out. As part of getting an accurate customer PO, make sure your sales staff gets a valid address for invoicing.

    Large sales deserve special attention. Where applicable, have your salesperson get the contact information for the customer employee that will approve payment. This might be a department or plant manager and maybe even the business owner. Also get the contact information for the customer’s finance-side people (accounting manager, accounts payable clerk), who will cut and approve the check. When your invoice goes out, make sure they all get a copy.

    4. Get it sooner.

    Offer a discount for early payment—for example, 2% off for payment within 10 days. Not all of your customers will take advantage of this, but it’s a great way to pull cash in.

    5. Get friendly.

    The best way to get paid on time is to build a positive working relationship with your customer before the money is due.

    Have your salesperson call his or her customer contacts shortly after the invoice goes out. Confirm the product has been received or affirm that your assignment is now complete. Ask them if they’re satisfied with your work, what you can do better to improve, and if they’ve received your invoice. This communicates (in a nice way) that it’s time to start the payment process. If these calls uncover problems, it’s an opportunity to address them on the spot as opposed to when payment is past due.

    Your employee responsible for collections should also make a call—in this case, to the customer’s finance-side people. Your employee should confirm the receipt of your invoice, remind them of any discounts for early payment, and check whether there are any administrative problems with the document. They should not ask for a payment date. If possible, they should also try to get to know their counterparts. A simple “How’s the weather where you are?” is a great opening that can lead to a long conversations about, well, everything. Your customer’s payables team can be your best friend later in the collections process, but it won’t happen if you have not built a working relationship.

    There’s one other person who needs to get friendly: you, the business owner or general manager. As your company develops large customers make sure you get to know your customer counterparts. A phone call from you asking “How’s my team doing?” is a great way to initiate a conversation and assure customer satisfaction. For very large projects, make a face-to-face visit. It will pay off later. If the time comes when a payment problem needs to be escalated, you will have an established relationship on which to call.

    6. Make it fun.

    Some companies take the “get friendly” notion to the next level. From putting silly “Thank You!” notes on their invoices, to handing out promotional swag, to sending little stuffed animals for on-time payment, it’s amazing how these goofy gimmicks can change the atmosphere around the collection process.

    You want your customer to smile and shake his head as he signs the check to pay your bill. And if the day comes when your customer needs to decide whom to pay and whom to put off, chances are he will pay you first.

    In Closing

    What about the actual collections process? Good companies contact their customers if a payment is more than five working days late. You should do the same.

    What’s different is that you’ve laid the foundation for a successful endgame. Any excuses for non-payment have been addressed. Your people know whom to call, and you have working contacts who will give you straight answers. Above all, you’ve strengthened the relationship with your customer and have built a basis for future business.

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  • October 2015 Tax Due Dates for Businesses

    5 October 2015
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    Last week, we covered the October 2015 tax due dates for individuals – and now we’re giving you the deadlines for businesses this month. Be sure to get in touch with us at Dagley & Co. if you need any of these deadlines clarified.

    October 15 – Electing Large Partnerships

    File a 2014 calendar year return (Form 1065-B). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 6-month extension. March 16 was the due date for furnishing Schedules K-1 or substitute Schedule K-1 to the partners.

    October 15 – Social Security, Medicare and withheld income tax

    If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in September.

    October 15 – Nonpayroll Withholding

    If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in September.

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  • September 2015 Tax Due Dates for Individuals

    31 August 2015
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    A fresh month means a new list of deadlines. Here are the upcoming tax due dates for individuals for September 2015. Check back later this week for September deadlines for businesses.

    September 1 – Tax Planning

    Tax season is around the corner! Contact Dagley & Co. to schedule a consultation appointment. You’ll find our information at the bottom of this screen.

    September 10 – Report Tips to Employer

    If you are an employee who works for tips and received more than $20 in tips during August, you are required to report them to your employer on IRS Form 4070 no later than September 10. Your employer is required to withhold FICA taxes and income tax withholding for these tips from your regular wages. If your regular wages are insufficient to cover the FICA and tax withholding, the employer will report the amount of the uncollected withholding in box 12 of your W-2 for the year. You will be required to pay the uncollected withholding when your return for the year is filed.

    September 15 – Estimated Tax Payment Due
    The third installment of 2015 individual estimated taxes is due. The United States’ tax system is a “pay-as-you-go” system. To facilitate that concept, the government has provided several means of assisting taxpayers in meeting the “pay-as-you-go” requirement. These include:

    • Payroll withholding for employees;
    • Pension withholding for retirees; and
    • Estimated tax payments for self-employed individuals and those with other sources of income not covered by withholding.

    When a taxpayer fails to prepay a safe harbor (minimum) amount, they can be subject to the underpayment penalty. This penalty is equal to the federal short-term rate plus 3 percentage points, and the penalty is computed on a quarter-by-quarter basis.

    Federal tax law does provide ways to avoid the underpayment penalty. If the underpayment is less than $1,000 (the de minimis amount), no penalty is assessed. In addition, the law provides “safe harbor” prepayments. There are two safe harbors:

    • The first safe harbor is based on the tax owed in the current year. If your payments equal or exceed 90% of what is owed in the current year, you can escape a penalty.
    • The second safe harbor is based on the tax owed in the immediately preceding tax year. This safe harbor is generally 100% of the prior year’s tax liability. However, for taxpayers whose AGI exceeds $150,000 ($75,000 for married taxpayers filing separately), the prior year’s safe harbor is 110%.

    Example: Suppose your tax for the year is $10,000 and your prepayments total $5,600. The result is that you owe an additional $4,400 on your tax return. To find out if you owe a penalty, see if you meet the first safe harbor exception. Since 90% of $10,000 is $9,000, your prepayments fell short of the mark. You can’t avoid the penalty under this exception.

    However, in the above example, the safe harbor may still apply. Assume your prior year’s tax was $5,000. Since you prepaid $5,600, which is greater than 110% of the prior year’s tax (110% = $5,500), you qualify for this safe harbor and can escape the penalty.

    This example underscores the importance of making sure your prepayments are adequate, especially if you have a large increase in income. This is common when there is a large gain from the sale of stocks, sale of property, when large bonuses are paid, when a taxpayer retires, etc. Timely payment of each required estimated tax installment is also a requirement to meet the safe harbor exception to the penalty. If you have questions regarding your safe harbor estimates, please call this office as soon as possible.

    CAUTION: Some state de minimis amounts and safe harbor estimate rules are different than those for the Federal estimates. Please contact Dagley & Co. for particular state safe harbor rules.

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  • Everything You Need To Know About Balance Sheets (And Why You Need Them)

    25 August 2015
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    Alright small business owner. Let’s talk about balance sheets.

    The best way for small business owners to stay aware of their company’s financial status is to have an accurate, up-to-date balance sheet. By keeping this information up to date every quarter, you can help yourself avoid a lot of problems and surprises down the road.

    A balance sheet provides you with an at-a-glance summary of your company’s financial health as of a specific day. It is broken down into what the business’s assets are, what the business’s liabilities are, and the amount of owner or shareholder equity. The balance sheet gets its name from the fact that the assets must be balanced by and equal to the liabilities plus the equity. Some business owners have found current balance sheets so helpful that they update them every month.

    Understanding the Asset Portion of the Balance Sheet

    When entering assets onto the balance sheet, the business owner needs to include everything that is owned by the business, whether current or liquid assets, fixed assets (http://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/fixedasset.asp), or some other type of asset. Current or liquid assets include:

    • Cash that is immediately available
    • Money that is owed to you (Accounts Receivable)
    • Products currently in stock (Inventory)
    • Expenses paid in advance, such as insurance premiums
    • Money-market accounts, investments and other securities
    • Additional monies owed to you

    Fixed assets are items that can’t be easily sold or moved, including equipment and furnishings, buildings, land and vehicles. In most cases these assets depreciate, or decrease in value. Beyond current and fixed assets, items that are intangible, such as goodwill, copyrights and patents, are also considered assets on a balance sheet. It is important to note that money that is owed to you that you expect will not be paid is classified as a Reserve for Bad Debts, which decreases the amount of the Accounts Receivable on the balance sheet.

    Understanding the Liability Portion of the Balance Sheet

    When entering liabilities onto the balance sheet, the business owner needs to include all of the business’s debts, both current and long term. Current liabilities include accounts payable, sales and payroll taxes, payments on short-term business loans such as a line of credit, and income taxes. Long-term liabilities are those that are paid over a longer period of time, generally over more than a year. These include mortgages and leases, future employee benefits, deferred taxes and long-term loans.

    Understanding the Equity Portion of the Balance Sheet

    When entering information onto the equity portion of the balance sheet, you should include the value of any capital stock that has been issued, any additional payments or capital from investors beyond the par value of the stock, and the net income that has been kept by the business rather than distributed to owners and shareholders.

    In order to be sure that all of the information on the balance sheet is correct, you can double-check your numbers by subtracting assets from liabilities – the result should equal the equity amount. For more information on how to structure a balance sheet, check out this website: “http://www.accountingcoach.com/balance-sheet/explanation/4″>sample balance sheet</a>.

    The Value of a Balance Sheet

    At first glance a balance sheet may look like an incomprehensible collection of numbers, but once you understand all of the various components and how they relate to one another, they will provide you with the opportunity to detect trends and spot issues before they become problems. Your balance sheet can alert you to:

    • Times when inventory is outpacing revenue, thus alerting you to a need for better management of your inventory and production process
    • Cash flow problems and a shortage of cash reserves
    • Inadequacies in your cash reserves that are making it difficult to invest in continued growth
    • Problems with collecting accounts receivables

    The most essential tools that are available to you as a small business owner for gauging your operation’s financial health are the balance sheet, the income statement and the cash flow statement. If you are unsure of how to prepare these documents for yourself or don’t have the time, then let a qualified professional at Dagley & Co. take over and provide the information that you need.

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  • Eight Ways to Get Your Customers to Pay On Time

    16 June 2015
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    You shouldn’t have to wrestle your customers for payments owed to you. Here are some tips for smooth invoicing. Image via public domain.

    A wise businessman once said, “a sale isn’t a sale until you’ve collected payment — it’s just a loan.”

    If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know how true this quote is. Many small businesses that were profitable on paper have gone bankrupt waiting for payments from customers to arrive.

    This makes accounts receivable (AR) collections one of the most important tasks for small business owners. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most neglected. Here are eight strategies you can implement to help boost your AR collections and improve your cash flow:

    1. Make sure your invoices are clear and accurate. If invoices are vague, ambiguous or flat-out wrong, this is sure to delay customer payments as they call to try to get things straightened out. In short, you don’t want to give customers a reason not to pay your invoices quickly. We recommend QuickBooks to our clients for clear, accurate invoicing.
    2. Create an AR aging report. This report will track and list the current payment status of all your client accounts (e.g., 0-30 days, 30-60 days, 60-90 days, 90+ days). This will tell you which clients are current in their payments and which clients are past due so you know where to focus your collection efforts. To go on our earlier point, QuickBooks is great because it automatically does this for you.
    3. Give a bookkeeping employee responsibility for AR collections. If collecting accounts receivable isn’t the main responsibility of one specific employee, it will probably fall by the wayside as other tasks crowd it out. Therefore, make one of your bookkeeping employees primarily responsible for this task.
    4. Move quickly on past-due accounts. Don’t delay taking action once a client’s account reaches the past-due stage. Studies have revealed that the likelihood of collecting past-due receivables drops drastically the longer they go uncollected. Your designated bookkeeping employee should start making collections efforts the day after an account becomes past due.
    5. Plan your collections strategy carefully. Decide ahead of time how you will approach late-paying clients. For example, a friendly reminder call and/or email from your designated bookkeeping employee is probably a good first collection step. If this doesn’t get results, you can proceed to more aggressive steps such as sending past due notices and dunning letters.
    6. Consider offering a payment plan. Sometimes, customers have legitimate reasons why they can’t pay their invoices on time. Maybe the customer is having temporary cash flow problems and wants to pay you but simply can’t right now. In this scenario, you might consider working out a payment plan that allows the customer to pay the balance due over a period of time. The agreement should be made in writing and signed by both parties.
    7. Hire a collection agency. If all of these steps fail to resolve a collection problem, you might have to turn to a collection agency as a last resort. However, this is a serious step that should not be taken lightly, since it will probably jeopardize your relationship with the customer. Decide whether or not collecting the past-due amount is worth possibly losing the customer. Also keep in mind that the collection agency will keep a large percentage of the amount collected.
    8. Hire Dagley & Co. We are here to help if you have customers that are falling behind. Sometimes it’s best to have a third party go after late bills, and we can handle the correspondence in a way that is professional so that you can keep your personal relationship with your clients and customers upbeat.

    Very few small businesses can afford not to make AR collections a top priority. Following these eight steps will help you improve your collections — and these improvements will boost both your cash flow and your bottom line.

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