ACCOUNTANTS DO GREAT WORK for their clients (so be sure to see our EOFY checklist and our EOFY series of blogs for tax preparation for how to keep ’em happy). Accountants find ways to help them save money, make money, and improve the profitability of their businesses. But too many accountants spend too much of their time on compliance work, when they should be focussed on the kind of work that will help their clients grow successful businesses.
When cloud accounting software entered the market, many accountants thought it signalled the end of the bookkeeping profession. However, plenty of bookkeepers have in no way lost out to accountants (and we’ve given reasons as to why and how in previous blogs) but, rather, have found myriad ways to stay relevant.
As an accountant you understand numbers and what a business needs to do to grow. These are insights many business owners lack because they’re too close to their business to see that there are different ways of doing things. Instead of providing run-of-the-mill compliance services to your clients, offer services that will help them to focus on the ways they can grow their business, whether it’s by focussing on different KPIs or by establishing new processes.
Your role, here, is to work out the projects to be implemented and tested, then setup the systems to measure the results. It’ll be up to you to monitor the results and hold the client accountable. Think of it as being a personal trainer, except for businesses not people.
Can you make real money by selling stuff on Amazon?
NOW THAT AMAZON has launched in Australia, one of the hottest work-at-home opportunities is to become an Amazon seller, especially if you become part of the “fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program”, which is due to launch in Australia in 2018, along with Amazon’s “fresh” program.
In the FBA program, there are no upfront costs, and sellers don’t hold any stock or have to worry about shipping products to customers — they just have to find items to sell on Amazon.
How the FBA program works
Amazon collects products from sellers and stores them at their fulfillment centres (currently, just one centre based outside Melbourne, with another planned for Sydney). When a product is sold, Amazon ships it to the customer.
Amazon fees and charges are subtracted from the sale (sellers only pay Amazon to collect items and bring them to the fulfilment centre, not to ship to customers) and the remainder is deposited into an escrow account for a few weeks before it’s released to the seller.
Amazon vs. eBay
The Amazon FBA program is unlike any offering on rival marketplaces. Besides, not dealing with the logistical side of selling products online, Amazon sellers don’t create product listings and don’t deal with customers in any way.
By contrast, people who sell items on eBay are not just responsible for holding their own stock and shipping it to customers, but they also deal with customers every step of the way — from questions about the product through to shipping and disputes. It’s a time consuming process.
It’s similarly time consuming for buyers, who have to navigate a minefield of listings and seller pages; checking prices, shipping and seller ratings to make sure they’re getting the best deal. On Amazon, you search a product, click on the listing, and decide to buy. It’s as though you’re buying directly from Amazon.
Will the Amazon model work in Australia?
Amazon’s FBA program (and its marketplace in general) has been extremely successful in the United States (Amazon’s share price is trading above $1,100 U.S., after all), but the U.S. is a huge and very different country to ours. Each state has different sales taxes; prices for simple household items like toothpaste can vary state-to-state, and there are hundreds of large- to -medium department stores that operate in some states, but not in others.
The Australian market is far more homogenous. We have one national sales tax (GST), prices are fairly uniform across each state and territory, we have a half dozen department stores, and they operate nationally; we’re also a much smaller market.
Since Amazon’s launch in December (it’s FBA program hasn’t launched yet, though there are plans to), most shoppers reported being underwhelmed by the offering — it was limited, expensive, and shipping times too long. Items were often more expensive on Amazon than to purchase elsewhere. This could just be teething issues, due to the rushed launch, but it could be illustrative of how the Australian retail market had prepared for Amazon’s impending launch by tightening up their own offerings, and making it a lot harder for Amazon sellers to compete.
How to find goods to sell
People go to Amazon to find items they’d traditionally find at a department store, only much cheaper. That’s Amazon’s game: cheap. If you’re going to sell goods on Amazon and be successful at it, you need to be really good at procuring items that are in high demand, but can be sold far cheaper than anywhere else.
Amazon is the place you go to for books, music, DVDs, household appliances, shoes, clothing, toys, and so on. It’s not the place for unique one-offs — you want that; go to Etsy. Or if you want it secondhand, then eBay, Facebook Marketplace or good old Gumtree. On Amazon, you sell anything, whether you have a personal interest in it or not; if there’s a margin that’s favourable, sell it.
On Amazon, you sell anything, whether you have a personal interest in it or not; if there’s a margin that’s favourable, sell it.
Most people who sell on Amazon in the U.S. make money by engaging in retail arbitrage (an Amazon app lets sellers can scan the barcodes of items in retail shops to see whether it’s worthwhile reselling them on Amazon), but this would be hard to replicate in Australia.
Retail stores in Australia have higher prices due to the cost of employing staff. We have a national minimum wage remember, and the U.S. does not. In some U.S. states, the minimum wage is as low as $6 an hour, while others may be as much as $12 an hour. In California, where people earn $12 an hour, goods in shops cost more than in a state where people earn $6 an hour. This presents an opportunity for Amazon FBA sellers in the U.S. that is unlikely to ever exist in Australia.
How do you make money?
There are lots of online training courses promising to train you in the ways of Amazon’s FBA program. Some even promise to help you find inventory that’ll always be profitable — typically private label items, rather than via retail arbitrage — and teach you the dark arts of Amazon promotion — so you’re one of the top sellers on the site. (This has nothing to do with seller ratings, which don’t exist on Amazon.)
Starting out with private label items can be dicey, and it’s probably only a good idea if you’re already selling your own items on eBay, but you’re looking for an easier alternative. Again, Amazon is a good place to sell books, video games, clothing, toys, etc; handmade jewellery, clothing or furnishings: not so much.
IT’S NEVER REALLY a good idea to work for new client or potential new clients for free, particularly if you’re an established business. But it’s also difficult getting a client to feel comfortable that you’ll do a good job for them, when they don’t know you from the proverbial bar of soap.
Aside from making you look professional and organised, it’ll also make your job easier because you’ve clearly outlined how you operate, what’s expected from the client in order for you to do your job, and what happens after you’ve finished your work.
For example, is BAS lodgement included in your fees, or is that additional? Do you follow up late payers on your client’s behalf or is that additional?
It’s a good idea to look at how much knowledge your new clients have of bookkeeping and the software you’ll be using (Xero, MYOB, QuickBooks, etc). Carry out some quick needs analysis during your consultation, so that if there are any areas they are unfamiliar with you’re both prepared and able to give them a quick overview. Further, in-depth training is a potential source of additional revenue, so be careful not to spend too much time here. All of this will help you form your bookkeeping business strategy and, in particular, ensure your rates are competitive, yet sustainable.
If you’d like to start a bookkeeping business, then visit our online bookkeeping directory, National Bookkeeping. You can find information about how to start your own bookkeeping business, promote yourself through our directory or become a licensee.
TSheets is a cost effective way to manage and track your time
TSheets, THE TIME MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE, is a great way for independent and remote contractors to manage their client’s projects. It’s especially useful for contractors who are collaborating remotely with other contractors and businesses on one project.
But back to TSheets. TSheets was recently acquired by Intuit, the parent company of QuickBooks. Both TSheets and QuickBooks shared 12,000 customers in common and the time management system had been developed to work specifically with QuickBooks. Deeper integration with QuickBooks can be expected now, following the acquisition.
If you were to think about the top three cloud accounting apps in terms of the types of businesses they appeal to, QuickBooks would appeal most to micro businesses and independent contractors. Check out an earlier blog post where we assess two main factors: User Experience & Ease of Use, and Reporting Tools in a comparison between MYOB and Quickbooks for small businesses.
In the past, most industry associations would refer BAS agents to a number of partner training organisations that provided relevant training courses. However, industry associations, such as the ICB, have increasingly started running their own training courses, both online and in-person.
CPA’s conflict of interest
Although the TPB provides guidelines for the types of training courses that will be accepted as evidence of CPD, industry associations still possess a considerable amount of oversight. If a BAS agent is a member of an industry association, the TPB doesn’t question their CPD training because it’s supposedly been approved by the industry association.
Recently, questions have been raised about CPA Australia’s potential conflict of interest as the organisation also operates a financial planning business, CPA Advice, as an affiliate of the industry body.
But new rules that will come into effect in 2024 stipulate that to provide financial advice, you must be a member of a monitoring body or professional association (such as CPA Australia), but that the professional association cannot be an Australian Financial Services licensee or an affiliate of a licensee.
Is providing and overseeing CPD training a conflict?
EzyLearn, until very recently, used to be an ICB partner. When the ICB started offering their own training courses, their promotion of partner training providers, like EzyLearn, reduced considerably in favour of promoting their own training courses and seminars.
In other words, in many ways, the ICB started competing with their partner organisations. Our return on investment (ROI) had never been great anyway, so EzyLearn decided to cancel our corporate sponsorship as it seemed the ICB had a conflict of interest. Although the TPB may not see it that way.
What about the Business Support Program?
For $396 a year, the ICB also offers businesses that do not have a bookkeeper doing their books, access to training materials and information on how they can manage their own bookkeeping on their own without a bookkeeper.
That’s despite charging BAS agents and bookkeepers as much as $480 annually in membership fees, which they promise will help them to get clients — and the sponsorship fees to partner training providers that provide the same or similar services.
Membership with an industry association is not compulsory
Joining an industry association can be incredibly useful, but membership is not compulsory. And as industry associations try to find new ways to extract revenue from the industry — through paid memberships, sponsorships, training courses and even undercutting their members and sponsors by directly offering services which help businesses do their own bookkeeping — they stop being a critical resource for professional bookkeepers and BAS agents working in the industry.
Instead, bookkeepers and BAS agents can complete their CPD training anywhere. For $175 a year (or $15 per month), EzyLearn offers a membership called the Bookkeeping Academy, which gives members access to a complete library of content, including instructional videos, on how to carry out common bookkeeping tasks in MYOB, QuickBooks and Xero. Visit the Bookkeeping Academy website for more information.
Will your business be able to stand up without an earnings guarantee?
WHEN YOU START A NEW franchise business, you may be offered what’s called an “earnings guarantee” or “income guarantee” for a period of time after you first start the business. It usually lasts the first six months but it could possibly last as long as a year.
Earnings guarantees are designed to help people transition from having a salary to being self-employed, by providing them with a top-up payment each month if their sales fall short; peace of mind for those would-be business owners, concerned about all the “what if’s” that come with starting a new business.
Most franchisors offer some kind of an income or earnings guarantee, though the amounts and thresholds for when they kick in can differ business-to-business. It’s important to note than an income guarantee is merely a promise of sales revenue for a particular period of time, based on the average amount other franchisees earned in the past. And it in no way reflects what your business will earn in the area you’re looking — you may well earn more, but you may also earn less — nor is it a customer guarantee, as some franchisees may be required to carry out promotional work or make-good work for other franchisees in the event there are no leads available.
Consider the following earnings guarantees at these businesses:
Reliance Roof Restoration: A roof restoration, replacement, painting and guttering services business based in Brisbane, and became a franchise in 2011 after nine years operating throughout Queensland. It offers new franchisees a $75,000 (net) income guarantee for the first 12 months.
In other words, if you only earn $45,000 in the first year, they’ll kick in the additional $30,000. It’s not clear how frequently payments are made to franchisees — whether they’re fortnightly, monthly, quarterly, or annually — though the director of the Franchise Advisory Centre Jason Gehrke told Franchise Business that “profit guarantees tend to be assessed at the end of 12 months or at the end of the financial year.”
Cafe2U: The mobile cafe business developed a “Cafe2U Acceleration Package”, which provides new franchisees with a two-week income guarantee of $500 a day (or $2,500 a week). It’s paid to franchisees at the end of the two week period, but the business claims hardly any of their franchisees ever end up claiming it because their daily sales always exceed the $500.
Hire-A-Hubby: Australia’s largest handyman business, Hire-A-Hubby implemented an earnings guarantee for certain franchise packages it offer — there’s gold, silver and bronze packages available. The business offers new franchisees a $125,000 per annum gross earnings guarantee for the first 12 months.
To receive the earnings guarantee, the franchisee must work a minimum of 45 hours per week (a minimum of 8 hours a day), and must accept whatever leads are provided via head office. If no leads are available, the franchisee must perform whatever marketing or promotional activities that are assigned to them by the Hire-A-Hubby head office; franchisees may be asked to perform “rectification work” to other franchisee clients. The income guarantee is paid each fortnight. The business also offers a “buyback” guarantee to franchisees whose businesses are never profitable, despite following the franchise agreement to the letter.
After the income guarantee ends
Jason Gehrke from the Franchise Advisory Centre cautions potential franchisees against selecting a business based on the income or earning guarantee provided, which he says can provide a false sense of security.
“If franchisees are conditioned to receive top-up payment from the franchisor when sales are low,” he told Franchise Business, “they might not understand just how financially self-reliant they need to become.”
“A person who is used to clearing $1,000 per week may not realise that the promised sales turnover of $1,000 a week will not have the same spending power … Business expenses such as taxes could leave them with less cash for their mortgage repayments and other fixed living costs than they were expecting.”
A franchisee consistently claiming their top up payments each fortnight for the duration of the income guarantee indicates a couple of things: a) they underestimated how much work is involved in generating new business and sustaining it; or b) the territory they operate in isn’t going to generate enough leads to be profitable.
If it’s the latter, that’s often the franchisee’s tough luck. Many franchisees who bought Dominoes and 7Eleven businesses found that the franchise model would never be profitable enough to pay them a living wage, never mind cover the costs of employing staff. That resulted in one of the Australia’s biggest and most systemic instances of worker exploitation, which led to a Senate inquiry that subsequently found the company was liable to pay workers a total of $4.3 million in underpaid wages.
Do your due diligence!
At the end of the day, earnings guarantee or not, you’re still buying a business. Prospective franchisees should look around at two or three franchise models and do their due diligence — research the market, test how much demand for the business there may be. Just because a business says there are franchise opportunities in a particular area doesn’t mean the business will be viable there.
And look beyond the earnings guarantee to what the rest of the franchise agreement offers. Remember that an income guarantee is usually built into the upfront franchise fee, so a business that doesn’t offer an income guarantee but has lower entry costs might be a better option.
“I call [income guarantees] a ‘capitalised form of working capital’ and you might be better off keeping the money and controlling it yourself,” Gehrke said. “My recommendation is to make an assessment of any income guarantee as part of the overall decision-making process, but not the deciding factor.”
There’s never been a better time to start your own business!
I RECENTLY SPOKE WITH the owner of a hairdressing salon who’s been in business for over 18 years (at various different businesses). This woman has ALWAYS used a manual wages timesheet system.
Our team are exploring typical rosters and problems which occur in the payroll processing, and as such, we’re also exploring all the different ways that wages are managed.
The manual wage processing that this hairdressing salon owner uses is very similar to this timesheet tracking system from the late 1890’s and she seems to be quite efficient at it. When I explore the process she uses I can see why business owners would prefer not to spend the money, but if things got busy or tricky and staff numbers are high and hours varied, then a computerised system is definitely more “systemised”.
Computerised Time Sheet Software
I wrote recently about popular time-tracking apps for Xero (also QuickBooks Online) and how they help you manage the time that you spend on various work projects as a professional service provider (like website design, marketing and even bookkeeping) and in the next couple weeks we’re going to explore time sheet management software like Tsheets and Deputy. Not only are they good for scheduling your staff but they can help you keep track of when they sign on and sign off for work.
I was recently talking with someone who uses Deputy as an employee and they described the experience like signing in on a bundy clock! The particular person I spoke to didn’t enjoy the regimen of doing it but it makes perfect sense from the business owners perspective so they have a very tight record of time worked.
Announcement: MYOB Payroll Course recently beefed up
If you’re an existing EzyLearn student who is interested in learning more about the more advanced, more complex areas of Payroll you’ll be pleased to learn that we’ve created and implemented the Advanced Payroll Course (Level 2) into the MYOB AccountRight Payroll Course package.
Here are the topics included:
Set Up Timesheet Preferences
Edit an Existing Super Payroll Category
Create a New Super Payroll Category
Add a New Payroll Category
Edit Employment Classifications to Suit the Business
Create Casual & permanent Employee in MYOB
Enter Timesheets in MYOB
Process a Pay Run
Process Payroll with Personal Leave included
Create a New Deduction Payroll Category
View Employee Leave Accrued
Process Pay including Annual Leave
Run a Payroll Entitlements Report
Run a Payroll Journal Report
Produce a Balance Sheet
Record your Bank Details
Record Employee Bank Details
Process a Pay Run
Create an Electronic Payment File
Process Final Pay
Stay tuned for updates and additions of advanced MYOB, Xero and Quickbooks training content in the coming announcements.
Employer Recognised & Trusted Course
I was going through some enrolments from recent and past students with our marketing team and realised we’ve helped thousands of students from hundreds of different companies large and small, government, not-for-profit and industry organisations which help students retrain and up-skill if they are injured at work. That’s not to mention the thousands of students who do one of our courses to help them in their career advancement or to find a job.
[box type=”info”] So, what does a student account for LIFE really mean?[/box]
When you enrol into an online training course with EzyLearn, we create a student account with a username and password so you can then log in and proceed to your training courses. A couple years ago we introduced FREE Student Inclusions as a way of giving EzyLearn students more reason to expand their knowledge and learn new things. Today’s announcement is to let you know that you get access to these free courses for LIFE!
Not just free courses, but new course samples
Free student inclusions is one reason to enrol with EzyLearn but the new LIFELONG Learning Hub will give you so much more and here’s an example.
We currently have a special offer for any new student enrolling into any of our courses where you get access to the
I WAS BROWSING THROUGH my contacts on LinkedIn and found an advertisement by a company that was looking to hire people.
They were in the AI (Artificial Intelligence) space and their headquarters were in Europe.
However, the ad looked like it could be for any company including trades, professional services etc.
Here’s what the ad contained:
Executive Assistant / Office Manager
The Executive Assistant / Office Manager will be primarily responsible for helping to keep everyone (and everything) working at peak performance. We’re a growing company, and there will be new and interesting challenges every day. Ideal candidates are curious and interested in learning more about what we do, and always interested in learning new skills and taking on new challenges.
Manage all aspects of office administration
Coordinate team schedules and events
Manage executive schedules
Handle payment of invoices and associated bookkeeping
Order supplies and equipment
Excellent verbal and written English communication skills
Strong organizational and time management skills
Ability to work with minimum supervision, prioritizing work as needed
Strong knowledge of office applications, including Word, Powerpoint, and Excel
The training you need
Apart from the soft skills like good time management, communications, speaking and writing the software skills you can learn to apply for this job are:
Why I’m sharing this ad is that I reckon it encapsulates “the perfect” administrative or executive assistant, or office manager. What I mean is that anybody possessing all the skills and capabilities listed above would be well qualified for almost any job in this area — for pretty much any type of company.
And they wouldn’t be limited to any particular industry either. Any intelligent person who is a quick learner would be able to pick up the nuances for various different industries and apply their skills as necessary.
A lot of the time, however, people enrol in an Excel online training course or Xero online training course because they need to refresh a specific set of skills for their job, which means they don’t have the time to focus on other areas that don’t have an immediate relevance for their work.
WHETHER YOU USE A contract or remote bookkeeper, it’s crucial that they keep your bookkeeping in good order. If you ever have to replace them, you don’t want to be redoing your entire bookkeeping system.
So what are some ways that bookkeepers can work, and what can they include in their bookkeeping, that makes it easier for someone new to pick up the reigns? Let’s take a look:
Use the correct codes and descriptions
According to Western Australia-based bookkeeper, Deb Crompton, you should always ensure your bookkeeper selects the correct code and account for each and every transaction. They should also include detailed descriptions or memos of the transaction in each entry.
This will allow the replacement — or relief bookkeeper, if your usual one is sick or takes holidays — to conduct a simple transaction search to see how similar transactions have been recorded.
Ensure software subscriptions are in your name
There are a lot of bookkeeping firms that include, as part of their monthly retainer, the cost of a subscription to Xero, QuickBooks or whichever accounting software you’re using. This is usually because the bookkeeper earns a small margin of the fee by holding it in their name.
Most of the time, there aren’t any problems, but there could be if, for any reason, you decide not to use the services of that bookkeeper anymore, and they still have control over your software subscription — the subscriber has to give permission for a subscription to be transferred.
A smarter idea is to subscribe to your accounting software in your name, no matter how easy it seems to go through your bookkeeper.
Need a qualified bookkeeper?
Is your business in need of a reliable bookkeeper to manage your daily or weekly bookkeeping and accounts, either remotely or in-person? Would you like to find someone with tertiary qualifications and the practical experience of having operated her own business in the past?
Our National Bookkeeping website has recently gone through a significant upgrade. Visit National Bookkeeping to find a suitable and experienced person available to work in your area, or able to work anywhere in the cloud.
IF YOU’RE ANYTHING LIKE most people, rating and reviews are how you probably make many of your purchase decisions. This can be for purchasing white goods, clothing, a holiday, or even choosing a real estate agent.
The OpenAgent example
Take OpenAgent. A core function of OpenAgent, the real estate agent comparison site and lead generator, is its customer reviews, which serve two purposes:
The first is to help consumers to make an informed decision when selecting a real estate agent
And the second is to recommend top rated real estate agents to new OpenAgent customers.
True and and real ratings and reviews for businesses, whether they’re real estate agents on the OpenAgent site or reviews for OpenAgent itself on third party review sites, are important, because they’re the basis for which many consumers make their decisions.
Check reviewers are real people
So how do you know which ratings and reviews you see online are true, and which ones aren’t? It’s something companies like Google and Amazon and TripAdvisor have had to grapple with, because there are ways that companies can game them.
Lots of review sites don’t allow anonymous reviews or reviews that are left by people who don’t verify their identity by signing in with their Gmail or Facebook account. The theory goes that people are less likely to leave false reviews if they’re using their own name, and can be easily identified.
You can test this further by checking how many reviews, and the kinds of reviews, certain individuals leave on sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor.
If the same person shows up multiple times leaving only positive or only negative reviews for lots of different businesses, there’s a good chance this person isn’t real or they’re being paid to leave these reviews.
Likewise, a good test is to see how long the account has been active for. If it’s only recently been set up to give glowing (or negative) reviews to a new business, it’s likely there’s an ulterior motive at play.
Negative feedback is responded to
Not every business will be able to satisfy every customer or do everything right 100 percent of the time. But the businesses that make an effort to respond to negative reviews and criticisms, prove they’re committed to delivering the best possible service to all their customers, and also help show some reviewers for what they really are: baseless complaints or fakes.
Also keep your eyes peeled for the language used in reviews on businesses websites. If all the reviews say mostly the same thing, mostly the same way, they’re more than likely not legitimate.
Are you in business as a bookkeeper, tradesperson, retailer, trainer or real estate agent and want to stand out from the crowd? We can teach you the online marketing techniques to help you do just this! Check out what’s included in our comprehensive Social Media and Digital Marketing online training courses.
MICROSOFT EXCEL IS THE most widely-used spreadsheet application in modern computing. It’s ubiquity means most people use Excel on a regular basis, despite never having had any formal training in its many, many, MANY functions.
With its 2013 release, Excel got a serious update, which made it the perfect application to create and manage client and customer databases. Although there are many CRMs available on a subscription that provide the same functions of a database created in Excel, just in a more visually appealing format, they often lack reporting and analysis functions, requiring you to export your data in a Excel sheet anyway.
Flat file databases
Excel’s original ‘flat file’ database still remains the easiest and most basic database to set up and manage, and depending on your business and how you’ll use your database, a flat file database may be all you’ll ever need. If set up correctly, a flat file database will allow you to easily import your customer data into Word, your accounting software, an email marketing service, and so forth.
A relational database is a database that’s structured to recognise relations among the information stored in them. Microsoft offers a relational database program, called Access, which is available with Microsoft Office Professional or higher, or can be purchased separately.
Alternatively, you can create your own relational database in Microsoft Excel, providing you have the 2013 version or newer. When Excel got its update in 2013, it became easier to link charts and cells and to perform searches — all essential features if you’re working with large amounts of business data.
Correct Excel set up is crucial
Once Excel has been set up, it’s as easy as it is powerful to use. Of course, the key is to set it up correctly, so you can avoid errors or having to re-enter large amounts of data to make the format suit another third party software application.