One of the scariest things about working remotely or learning remotely is that you’re more of your own boss. With no one glancing over at you or engaging with you face to face there are more of those moments when you think to yourself, “what will I do now, then?”
The bigger question is what do you expect to achieve by the end of the week!? There are a couple tools that I use and here are some of the tips that I use to stay on track each week.
AN OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR, or administration officer, will provide an array of general administrative tasks for a business or organisation.
These include filing, archiving, calendar & project management, reporting and customer service. Some office administrators carry out basic bookkeeping tasks, such as creating and recording invoices and expenses and the more skills you have the more valuable you become.
THERE IS A FAIRLY SIGNIFICANT gender imbalance for executive positions in the corporate world. Sure, there are notable exceptions, but men in managerial positions in the workplace still outnumber women two-to-one.
But when you look at some industries, like Bookkeeping, the numbers are massively swayed towards the female gender and one of the reasons is it can be the perfect business to run from home.
Quickbooks now providing superior options for filtering and scheduling bookkeeping reports
ONE OF THE BEST THINGS about cloud accounting software is that your data is live, which means, providing your reconciliations are up-to-date, you get a complete snapshot your business’s performance and financial health regardless of the day, week or month you run those reports.
That’s all changed now that the reporting features in QuickBooks have been given a major upgrade, giving business owners more power and flexibility to monitor their business’s performance. Here are just a couple of the things you can — and should! — do with the updated reports feature in QuickBooks.
Filter sales by services / products
If you’re like a lot of businesses, you probably offer a couple of different products or services, and, like a lot of businesses, there are certain products or services that are more profitable to your business — and, therefore, should be a major focus — to sell.
Now that QuickBooks offers the ability to customise and save any of its reports into your management reports tab, you can filter your customer sales reports by services or products, and also run them across multiple periods. If you have multiple sales people, you can also filter your reports by sales people, too.
Schedule email reports
In addition to being able to customise and save your management reports, so you don’t have to keep filtering out the data you don’t need and adding in the stuff you do, you can also setup a schedule so your preferred reports are automatically emailed to you (and your business partners or other stakeholders) as required.
QuickBooks gives you the option to select which reports you’d like to see, and the frequency at which you’d like them — daily, weekly, monthly, twice a month, or custom. This’ll mean you won’t have to keep asking your bookkeeper to run them for you, nor will you need to go in to run them manually yourself. It’ll also give you a better idea of whether or not your bookkeeper is really paying close attention or not!
Maybe you haven’t taken a good look at the capabilities of Quickbooks for a long time — check out the options available with our Quickbooks online training courses to take you up to speed. Alternatively, you can ask your bookkeeper, and they should be able to customise, save and schedule a report that suits your needs to a tee.
Usually, these bookkeepers will work on a casual basis, once or twice a fortnight, at the business’s premises, which means they’re provided with a desk, computer, and desk chair.
Unfortunately too many business owners don’t make their casual bookkeepers a priority; often relegating them to a desk piled skyhigh with un-filed documents, old or broken technology, ergonomically unsound chairs, and probably a thick layer of dust on nearly every surface.
Think about your bookkeeper’s health
Aside from sending a clear message that your casual bookkeeper’s contribution to your business isn’t valued, it can also play havoc with their health, particularly when it comes to unsteady or broken office chairs.
Over time, sitting incorrectly on an office chair that’s broken or not adjusted correctly can contribute to back problems and muscle pain, because it places large amounts of pressure on your back muscles and the spinal discs. Poor posture and slouching can overstretch the spinal ligaments and strain the discs, which can damage the spinal structures. It’s also pretty hard to produce your best and most accurate bookkeeping work under these conditions.
Consider hiring remote bookkeepers
If you’ve been guilty of shoving your casual bookkeeper off to a workspace in the corner, with the wonky office chair and desk lined with dust, or even if you do just some of these things, it’s time to think more about how much you value your bookkeeper’s contribution to your business. This leaves you with a couple of options: invest in new office equipment — desks, technology, and ergonomic chairs — which could set you back a few thousand dollars, or hire remote bookkeepers instead.
A remote bookkeeper will cost you less, as they don’t require workspace in your office, so you won’t have to provide the office technology and furniture. And remote bookkeepers only bill you for the time they spend working on your accounts, not the time they spend making cups of tea and chatting around the watercooler.
Want to find a professional, reliable bookkeeper to work for your business, remotely?
National Bookkeeping is our online directory of bookkeepers and includes data entry clerks, BAS agents, accountants and CFOs. These people are trained and qualified bookkeepers willing to work all over Australia and ready to help you now.
TAX TIME IS NIGH and it might be a good time to think about whether there are any assets your business may need, and try to get them in before June 30 rolls around. Whether it’s new computers, tablets, office furniture, a new car — as long as each item costs less than $20,000, you can deduct it immediately, rather than depreciating it over time, as was the previous method for assets over $1,000 in value (depreciation still applies for asset purchases above $20,000) — but only until and including 30 June 2018.
The small business tax breaks were introduced by the Abbott-Hockey government, but having already been extended, they will cease on 30 June 2018. Following this date, any big ticket assets for your business (and of course there are some exceptions) can be used to reduce your taxable income immediately.
Pick an asset, any asset…
There are a lot of items you can deduct, with the exception of some small items, such as horticultural plants, software that’s allocated to a software development pool and some capital works, which have special depreciation rules. If you’re not sure of what you can claim, it’s wise to ask your account or financial adviser first, particularly if you have a penchant for horticultural plants (perhaps try artificial ones?), otherwise make sure to keep your receipts!
After 1 July 2018, the asset threshold will reduce back to $1,000. After then, any asset purchase you make that’s greater than $1,000 will have to be depreciated, using the traditional methods of depreciation, which you can read about in this blog post.
Australia is a services nation
While you’re thinking about starting a business, don’t forget to consider starting a business within the leading four service groups, identified by Australia’s Chief Economist Mark Cully:
Professional and support services
Information and communications technology (ICT) and the digital economy
Trade, transport and logistic services
Professional and support services, in particular, is currently experiencing a phase of high growth, largely because starting a business in this sector is both low risk and cost. Most businesses operating within the professional and support services sector are home-based, providing vital services to other businesses located across Australia and, sometimes, the world.
Starting Your Own Bookkeeping Business
One such profession currently in high demand is bookkeeping, specifically BAS and tax services. As more and more Australians start their own businesses, there becomes a greater demand for bookkeeping, BAS and tax services. EzyLearn recently partnered with National Bookkeeping to help registered BAS and tax agents to start, growth and develop their business, by becoming National Bookkeeping licensees.
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.
When the downside of cloud accounting becomes apparent
IF YOU FOLLOW XERO in the news, then you might already be aware that since the cloud accounting giant’s migrated over to Amazon Web Services (AWS), the technology arm of the e-commerce company, Xero’s servers have gone offline a number of times — twice this March alone.
Two weeks later, Xero had server issues again. This time an upgrade to its database server to improve performance resulted in issues that prevented some Xero users from logging into their account or to experience issues using the service once they did log in.
No options for offline access
Unlike some MYOB products, most cloud accounting programs, like Xero and QuickBooks, don’t allow for users to access their accounts in an offline mode or to download a copy of their own data to store locally on their computer or tablet.
MYOB, for example, allows users to access and work on a local desktop version of their accounts, which they can then sync with the cloud when they’re finished. This means, that even if the MYOB server is down, MYOB users can still work on and access their accounts, and sync later when the server is back online. (Or, conversely, when the user is back online, which handy in case of internet access issues.)
Xero, QuickBooks MYOB and AWS
Amazon Web Services provides either partial or complete cloud hosting to all three of the top cloud accounting programs — Xero, QuickBooks and MYOB — yet only Xero appears to have been significantly impacted by the AWS outage this past March.
While QuickBooks is mostly hosted by parent company, Intuit’s, own servers; some features and functions of the QuickBooks service have been developed on AWS as well, though it’s not totally reliant on the Amazon service and may have been spared from the Amazon outage.
But two key cloud-based MYOB products — MYOB Essentials and MYOB Advanced — have operated on AWS since 2011. Because users can access their MYOB products offline, however, any interruption to their service appears to have been minimal.
For what it’s worth, Amazon Web Services is the largest cloud hosting company in the world. It’s used by Netflix, Spotify and Apple Music, none of which went offline during the AWS outage.
Xero to learn from AWS issues
A Xero spokesman promised a “post-mortem” to learn what happened to cause their service to go offline on March 1, admitting that the company didn’t realise “it was entirely reliant on a United States storage facility operated by AWS until it crashed.”
Although AWS is the largest and, probably, most reliable cloud hosting service in the world, it’s not immune to problems. The challenge, then, for companies, such as Xero, is to learn from and about the potential issues that can arise, and implement measure to mitigate the impact to their customers.
In Xero’s case, a simple offline mode could have prevented much of the ire its outage caused bookkeepers, accountants and small business owners trying to access their service on a time limit.
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!
Fast forward a decade, and Xero is now the preferred accounting software in Australia and New Zealand, with 692,000 subscribers compared with MYOB’s 585,000 paid users. (Overall, Xero claims 1.2 million subscribers worldwide.) In the 2016/17 financial year, Xero’s revenue increased 43 percent year-on-year to $295.4 million NZD ($271.7 million AUD); during the same period, MYOB’s revenue increased 13 percent to $370.4 million AUD.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice Xero has more paid subscribers than MYOB, but its revenue is about $100 million AUD behind. That’s largely due to differences in the price of both products.
So you can’t tell which one of Xero or MYOB is the true market leader — yet.
How Xero is growing their subscriber base
Basically, they’ve reached an impasse. There’s not much opportunity left in Australia and New Zealand (there are other players, like Intuit’s QuickBooks and Zoho competing the same space, too) to grow your subscriber base — unless you’ve a carrot to dangle under their noses that’ll lure them away from your competitor.
[Xero has lured people away from competitors via their] suite of apps, plug-ins and integrations [they’ve] added to their offering through acquisitions and partnerships — anything that would make Xero a one-stop-shop for small businesses…
Meanwhile, MYOB’s strategy for market share
To its credit, MYOB has pursued a similar strategy, acquiring payment firm PayCorp last year, which followed the launch of the company’s PayDirect Mobile and PayDirect Online payments service in 2014 and 2016 respectively, as part of MYOB’s push into payment processing technology.
MYOB also acquired Reckon’s accounting practice software last November for $180 million AUD. The company said the acquisition was part of MYOB’s strategy to see accountants become business advisors, rather than tax and compliance experts.
MYOB chief executive Tim Reed sees automation as being critical to the company’s ongoing success, as it pursues a “connected practice strategy,” which brings transaction processing, compliance and business advisory together and sees accountants become more like business coaches.
“They will be like personal trainers in the gym, but for business,” he said. “This is starting today. Accountants are already working down this process and what I’m seeing is the pace of change start to increase.”
And unlike Xero, which is simultaneously pursuing overseas markets (the U.K., North America, Southeast Asia), MYOB is content to stay focussed on its home market — Australia and New Zealand. (It’s also pushing deeper into big businesses with its enterprise software Greentree, acquired in 2016.)
Accountants and the cloud accounting ecosystem
With Xero pursuing code-free accounting, MYOB pushing into “connected practices,” and Intuit beefing up its own ecosystem of apps and integrations to simplify the bookkeeping and accounting process for small businesses, where does that leave accountants and bookkeepers?
Better off, actually.
Bookkeeping is a necessary step in the overall accounting process. But it’s the most time intensive one. There’s reconciling bank accounts, entering receipts, coding transactions, invoices, and so on. Small business owners don’t — or won’t — do it, so they outsource it to a bookkeeper or accountant, who has a preferred or in-house bookkeeper.
Despite being a time intensive task, it’s lower skilled work — like untangling a jumble of coat hangers; almost anyone can do it. And so it commands a lower rate of pay than other tasks, like financial forecasting, business planning and filing activity statements.
Automating elements of the accounting process, in particular the coding of transactions, eliminates inefficiencies and time wastage. Bookkeepers and accountants can charge their clients the same hourly rates, but they’ll spend much less time doing it.
More apps, more services
And with access to more apps — like a payroll plug-in — they can begin offering more services.
Just as QuickBooks, MYOB and Xero have become more valuable to their customers, by positioning themselves as a one-stop-shop for small business, accountants and bookkeepers can do the same.
Why would a business need to engage a data entry bookkeeper, a tax or BAS agent, and a payroll company when they can hire just one individual to manage all of these tasks efficiently in one cloud accounting program?
Food for thought: Why would a business need to engage a data entry bookkeeper, a tax or BAS agent, and a payroll company when they can hire just one individual to manage all of these tasks efficiently in one cloud accounting program?
And just as MYOB boss Tim Reed stated: Accountants and bookkeepers have already cottoned onto this.
But it means bookkeepers and accountants need to become more skilled at what they do; they need to possess a greater understanding of a wider array of softwares and systems in order to remain competitive.
And even though Intuit, MYOB and Xero have all acquired or partnered with companies that offer payroll platforms, there are still plenty of third parties businesses can choose to connect to their accounting system — that’s democratised accounting for you — so you need to watch the market, and keep your skills up-to-date.
Where to from here?
The cloud accounting space is certainly in flux. There’ll be more acquisitions, more technologies, and definitely more automation. There’ll also be more global companies, as more businesses export their goods and services overseas — and more fintech companies pursuing growth outside Australia.
KeyPay is one such company. It’s based in Wollongong in NSW, and last December announced it would expand its services to the U.K. — a pre-release was slated for January this year, with a full launch due in April.
According to CRN, the company grew 53 percent last year (though it didn’t specify what or how that “growth” was calculated; as a private company, it doesn’t disclose financials or its share of customers). And KeyPay’s co-founder Richard McLean said the company decided to enter the U.K. market because 60 percent of businesses there outsource their payroll to a third party company.
The company intends to rollout its automated payroll system in the U.K. first, with an Australian launch due later in year, and also plans to expand to New Zealand and Southeast Asia.
And how bookkeepers and accountants can become a “one-stop-shop” for those needing help with their finances (Part 1 of 2)
EARLIER THIS YEAR, Intuit, the parent company of cloud accounting system QuickBooks, announced it had acquired U.S.-based time-tracker platform, TSheets, in a deal worth $340 million U.S.. This was part of Intuit’s strategy to expand its offerings to small businesses and the self-employed. (In the U.S. and Canada, Intuit also operates a cloud software package called TurboTax, which lets individuals file their own federal taxes.)
What the TSheets acquisition means
The TSheets acquisition makes a lot of sense, and provides a good guide to the kinds of businesses cloud accounting firms look to acquire. For example, TSheets and QuickBooks already shared 12,000 customers worldwide, and TSheets had been developed to integrate specifically with QuickBooks (though it also works with Xero and Reckon). It also brings Intuit and QuickBooks in line with one of its competitors, Xero, which acquired a similar project management system WorkflowMax back in 2012.
For TSheets, being part of a big global brands means it’ll be able to innovate faster, with access to the Intuit technology and product team; for Intuit, it’s an additional source of revenue and market share. (Although a privately held company prior to the acquisition, TSheets had been valued at around $40 billion US.)
The cloud accounting ecosystem
Intuit’s TSheets acquisition signals that both Xero and QuickBooks intend to push further into the cloud accounting ecosystem, by partnering with, acquiring, or developing integrations that simplify the accounting process and expand their product offering.
Intuit’s TSheets acquisition signals that both Xero and QuickBooks intend to push further into the cloud accounting ecosystem, by partnering with, acquiring, or developing integrations that simplify the accounting process and expand their product offering.
Xero’s latest suite of products
In 2017, Xero introduced a new suite of products — Xero Expenses, Xero Projects, Xero HQ App Suite, Xero HQ Ask, and Xero Discuss — all aimed at providing SMEs with the technology generally reserved for big enterprises, only far cheaper.
Xero already has an app ecosystem of more than 600 certified app partners and 40,000 developers. And since Xero migrated its platform to Amazon Web Services, the subsidiary of Amazon that provides cloud-computing platforms to companies, Xero has been developing its machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities in a push towards completely code-free accounting; in March 2017, Xero released a code-free invoicing and bank transactions feature. (MYOB previously released a similar feature called SmartBills two years earlier.)
Xero has been developing its machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities in a push towards completely code-free accounting.
The company’s chief executive Rod Drury said that the move towards automation “will be bigger than the move to the cloud.” He also said the company was working on a feature that would automate invoices entirely.
What else has Intuit acquired?
On Intuit’s part, it’s Asia Pacific arm of the businesses has made a number of acquisitions over the last few years to beef up its product offering, some of them you might not even be readily aware of — like the 2014 acquisition of Invitco, which created a product called Invitbox that extracts data from PDFs, and operates behind the scenes to extract data from bills and receipts uploaded to the QuickBooks system.
Intuit Asia Pacific also acquired the document management company Fifo in 2013.
Next blog: We look at how the cloud accounting ecosystem has paid off and how and why bookkeepers and others working in the accounting space must continue to up-skill.