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.
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.
If you’re in the financial position to buy your business premises outright, it may seem like a no-brainer to do this instead of getting a mortgage. However, there are some things you need to consider:
You’ll lose liquidity on the assets in your property, which means you won’t be able to tap into any equity in the property, unless you take out an equity loan against the property.
You’re tying all your cash to one asset class, which may limit your ability to make other investments and prevent your business from expanding. This could run counter to your reasons for making the property purchase in the first place.
You’re spreading the payments over many years, which ties you to paying down that asset for the foreseeable future.
You’re paying interest, which although it’s a tax deduction, will significantly inflate the price of the property.
Work out the best way in Excel
Using the data from your Xero accounting software package, Microsoft Excel can help you determine whether your business will be financially better off buying its premises outright or getting a mortgage.
Lots of businesses avoid buying premises for their businesses, because you’ll need to have a large capital injection right off the bat, and you may also incur land tax obligations, building insurance, and also be liable for maintenance and repairs.
Renting gives businesses, especially new ones, flexibility, as you’re only locked into a short term lease — not a multi decade mortgage. And if you decide to move or find new premises before your lease term is up, you can often minimise the costs by subletting the premises.
You’re also afforded greater freedoms and stability when you own your business’s premises — in particular, protections from rising rents — than you would have if you rented your premises. If you outgrow the space, you can always access the equity and may be able to buy adjacent premises, or rent out your existing ones while you upgrade, providing another valuable income stream.
Industrial units are a good pathway into ownership for your business. If you don’t need to be right in the heart of the city or major town centre, you can often purchase an industrial unit for under $100,000.
In Newcastle in the Hunter region of New South Wales, you can purchase an industrial unit called a Cubbyhole, which can be used as a workshop, storage unit or office space for tradespeople, small and online businesses. These come with amenities such as toilets and showers, car parking (including visitors’ and disabled) and CCTV security, among other things and are worth checking out if you want to buy and only need a smaller business space.
The sales spiels of many of the notable online accounting software packages like QuickBooks, Wave Accounting, Outright, Kashoo, LessAccounting, Clearbooks and even Xero, claim that this feature will save you time and effort as it imports your bank transactions. The truth is, this is not foolproof and won’t work 100 percent of the time (even if it’s just a matter of not being able to get your software and your bank to “connect” just as your mobile phone connection inexplicably doesn’t work sometimes).
Therefore, always double check your bank transaction data has been imported accurately. This said, importing your bank statement into Xero (or whatever accounting software you use) is a really important step in the bookkeeping process that a lot of business owners forget or don’t know how to do. And the technology is only going to get better!
Using the correct format
To import your bank statement into Xero, you must ensure it’s in the correct format. Xero can only work with a CSV file of your bank statement. Depending on your bank, you might be able to download your bank statement as a CSV file from your internet banking, or you will have to create one from scratch.
Creating one from scratch isn’t too difficult. If your bank doesn’t give you the option of downloading a bank statement as a CSV file, you can create one yourself in Microsoft Excel.
You can download an Excel template from Xero. It includes the recommended fields and is already set up as a CSV file, so all you need to do is add in your data.
Setting rules for recurring transactions helps speed up the reconciliation process, which depending on the type of business you operate and how often you reconcile your account, can be the most time-consuming part of the process.
Importing your bank statement and creating rules for transactions that occur each week, month fortnight, year, etc, greatly speeds up this process.
No CSV? Use bank feeds
If your business has lots of expenses every week, and your bank doesn’t let you download your bank statement in a CSV format, you may find that manually creating one in Excel each month is too time consuming.
Now that virtual bookkeepers have become more common, lots of business owners have started selecting bookkeepers based on their affiliation with an accounting application. Such bookkeepers are often called a Certified Advisor (Xero), Pro Advisor (QuickBooks) or Certified Consultant (MYOB). But are they really the best bookkeeper for your business?
What are Certified Advisors, Consultants and Pro Advisors?
In a nutshell, a certified advisor, consultant or pro advisor is just an individual who has been endorsed by a software company because they’ve demonstrated a high level of knowledge and skill with a particular accounting product.
Hiring a bookkeeper who’s been endorsed by MYOB, say, means you shouldn’t have to worry about whether your bookkeeper has set up your accounting package correctly, or whether they’re using the correct codes. What it doesn’t guarantee, however, is that each consultant or advisor is a highly experienced BAS or tax agent, as the certification relates to their software knowledge only.
Find a highly qualified BAS or tax agent instead
Sure, a bookkeeper who’s experienced in your accounting package is important. It’ll help keep your bookkeeping bill down because they’re able to perform certain functions quickly, while your accountant shouldn’t need to fix any errors, either. But that’s only providing that they’re as knowledgeable in Australian tax as they are MYOB or Xero or QuickBooks.
Unfortunately, however, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. So instead of focussing on a bookkeeper’s software experience, it’s more beneficial to ensure they’re qualified BAS and tax agents, with either a Certificate IV in Bookkeeping or higher.
If you don’t get a bad reference from their current and former clients, then there’s a pretty good chance they’re proficient in the major accounting packages, and if they’re not, most bookkeepers will tell you upfront.
Get the accounting package that’s best for your business, not your bookkeeper
There are lots of reasons a bookkeeper would choose to become certified with a software company, the biggest being that they get their accounting software for free and receive a commission for each new client they sign up to use the accounting package they’ve been certified with.
However, when you hire an independent bookkeeper who’s well-versed in a few different accounting packages, you’re more likely to get better advice about which accounting package is best suited to you and your business’s needs, rather than the accounting package that will generate income for your bookkeeper.
We feature our own online directory of local bookkeepers looking to add to their customers. Visit National Bookkeeping to find a suitable and experienced person available to work in your area, or able to work anywhere in the cloud. Alternatively, if you are a bookkeeper looking to expand your client list or find contract work, you can register and become part of our network for free.
MICROSOFT EXCEL IS THE most widely used spreadsheet application in modern computing. That said, it’s also one of the more difficult programs of the Microsoft Office Suite to learn, which is why we recently updated the content of our Excel training courses.
A lot of people do our Excel training courses to help them “skill up” to find a job, find a position better suited to them, or develop their career path. However, Excel is a fantastic tool for small business owners as well.
But whether you use Excel to create a pivot table or a database, there are a few things you should do each time you open an Excel document. Here we present you with three:
1. Vertical align: always centre
Always align the text in the cells of your Excel spreadsheet to the centre, or the top in certain circumstances. But never, ever align it to the bottom. It’s hard on the eyes and, when you’re looking at lots and lots of data in lots and lots of cells, it becomes difficult to know which row, column, etc, you’re looking in. Centre alignment, always.
2. Build error-checking into formulas
There should never be an instance where one of your workbooks is showing a #DIV/0, #N/A, #REF, #NAME?, #NUM!, or #NULL! error. This is especially true if you’re sharing these workbooks with your business partners or accountant or whomever.
Seeing an error in a financial report may cause the reader to doubt the accuracy of the entire workbook, so ensure your workbooks remain error free by using the simple IFERROR() error-checking function in Excel.
3. Print preview your work
Again, if you intend to share workbooks with other people, you should always ensure that your Excel workbooks can be printed nicely and easily, even if you don’t intend to ever print the document yourself. This is easy enough to do via File > Print Preview and adjusting the print margins before sharing (or printing) the document.
However, judging by the number of times I’ve printed an Excel document only to collect 87 sheets of paper off my printer to read the contents one 4×4 table, the function is seldom used by anyone else but me!
The difference between the two boils down to price and functions: The more functions you need, the higher the price tag. Businesses that require high-level reporting and forecasting tools, such as a “scenarios” function that lets you determine the impact different business decisions would have on your cash flow, before you actually make them, would need to stump up, at a minimum, between $50 and $80 a month for this functionality.
Free expense and budgeting apps would suit most contractors and sole traders who don’t require complex forecasting and reporting tools, but who do need to see when money is coming in and when it’s going out, and whether there are deficiencies.
The ATO’s tax and superannuation app
Looking into the best expense and budgeting apps for small business, we came across the Australian Tax Office’s app, simply called ATO. It works on Windows phones, as well as iOs and Android devices, and it’s updated regularly by the ATO, so you know this isn’t just a passing fling.
If these features sound familiar, that’s because they’re all the features you’ll find in a basic cloud accounting program, with the notable exception of invoicing. Electronic invoicing is not something the ATO is particularly concerned with because it’s not a requirement. Invoicing, of course, is a requirement, but how you do it — in person, by snail mail, email, etc — isn’t.
Cloud accounting still best and easiest
If the ATO app introduced a simple way to invoice customers, we’d say it was definitely muscling in on QuickBooks and Xero’s territory, since both programs appeal to the small business owner, QuickBooks in particular.
In absence of that, the ATO app is a great tool for contractors and small business owners to use to keep track of their expenses and deductions, and especially to calculate their tax rates (so as to properly keep money aside for tax, rather than being hit with a tax bill you have to pay off). For contractors with a very simply business model, it’s even useful for lodging your tax return.
But otherwise, cloud accounting applications are still the best and easiest way for businesses to run an efficient, compliant business. At the end of the day, for many small business owners, they’re not drawn to Xero or QuickBooks because they want to stay compliant, it’s because they want to be able to easily invoice customers and track their income — compliance is just an added bonus.
Our online Xero training courses meet all skills levels for ONE LOW COST. We will show you how to record deductions, invoice customers, run financial reports, and lodge activity statements and tax returns. Visit our website for more information about our range of online accounting, media and general business courses.
What’s a cash flow app, if not a program that tracks your expenses and income and then tells you how much money you have left in the bank? That’s what FUTRLI and Spotlight, the apps we reviewed recently would do, and then also let you do other things, like create scenarios to determine the particular outcome of a business decision.
But there are other expense apps that sole traders and contractors can use for cash flow forecasting:
Pocketbook, the Australian personal finances app recently acquired by ASX-listed ZipMoney, is free to use, although a recent deal with 1300HomeLoans means it may analyse your spending data to make commercial suggestions around your personal finances. (For the record, I have been testing it for months and hasn’t been subject to any such suggestions.)
Pocketbook lets you connect your bank account to the app so it can import your income and transaction data. Once you get some initial housekeeping — categorising your expenses and income — out of the way, you can then set up a safety spend limit based on Pocketbook’s analysis of your spending vs. income.
Pocketbook also learns from your transaction history, meaning it can predict upcoming income and bills. It’s very nifty for contractors or freelancers who have more than one income source that doesn’t always run through your accounting software — if you’re working on your TFN and ABN, for instance.
This free app, by ASIC MoneySmart, lets you connect your bank account to the app, categorise your expenses, nominate a spending limit, and create expense reminders that can be sent to as text messages ahead of their due date.
Like Pocketbook (but without the commercial overtones), TrackMySpend will also learn from previous trends in your income and expense data to predict future income and expenses. Best of all, TrackMySpend can be exported as an Excel file or connected to your accounting software. The iOS app is a bit out of date, though, so it won’t work on more recent Apple devices.
If you didn’t know it already, the Australian Tax Office has its own mobile app. It allows you to access the ATO’s online services, lodge and track your tax return (yes, right from your mobile phone), work out key tax dates and access tools and calculators.
Its most handy functions: being able to enter your expenses (including a photo of receipts and bills), track mileage, and record your income. It’s not automated, but it does propagate that info directly into your tax return, so you don’t have to do it later. It also accurately calculates your tax liabilities.
The ATO app’s best function, however, is its “business performance calculator”, which, using the data you input, will give you an indication of your business’s ability to pay its debts, as well as a comparison of its performance based on the ATO’s “small business benchmarks” data. Over time, it’ll also show whether your business has improved or declined since you last used the tool.
Understanding your business’s cash flow is critical to its ongoing financial health, and to your ability to make sound business decisions. Use one of these tools in conjunction with your accounting software to ensure your business is running on all cylinders.
Our Xero training courses, which provide training in EVERY LEVEL for ONE LOW COST, will show you how to run financial reports, including cash flow statements that you can use to create forecasts in Excel. Visit our website for more information about our online training courses.
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.
That’s not to say there are no expense apps that integrate with MYOB. There are. Receipt Bank is one, Squirrel Street is another, and there are probably a lot more on the MYOB marketplace (or add-ons page). Probably the best expense tracking application we found is ExpenseManager, and it only integrates with MYOB. Continue reading Why are there More Expense Tracking Apps for Xero than MYOB?
WE’VE TALKED IN THE past about what a life saver daily reconciliations can be, and why some businesses could benefit from reconciling their account daily, twice weekly, or at least, on a more regular basis than once a month.
The expenses your business incurs form deductions that reduce your taxable income, so making sure you’re recording them accurately — and then storing them securely too — is an important part of your business remaining compliant.
But supposing, for whatever reason, you don’t want to use an Excel database as your pivot table’s data source? Well, there are some other options to create a pivot table without manually entering the information into Excel first. Here are a few more data sources that you can use to create a pivot table in Excel.
Office data connection files
The office data connection (ODC) file extension was created by Microsoft and contains properties to connect to and retrieve data from an external data source. It contains a connection string, data queries, authentication information and other settings. Microsoft recommends that you retrieve external data for your pivot tables and reports using ODC files.
External relational databases
If, for instance, you’re using another relational database program, like Microsoft Access or Filemaker Pro, you can also import data directly from these programs into your pivot table, rather than manually entering the data into an Excel worksheet. In the case of connecting data from an MS Access database, you can do this quite simply by selecting Access from the ‘data source’ dialog box. For all other external databases, you would select the ‘from other sources’ dialog box and follow the steps in the data connection wizard.
Using another pivot table
Each time that you create a new pivot table, Excel stores a copy of the data for the report in memory, and saves this storage area as part of the workbook file. To use one pivot table as the source for another, both must be in the same workbook. If the source pivot table is in a different workbook, copy the source to the workbook location where you want the new one to appear. Keep in mind that when you refresh the data in the new pivot table, Excel also updates the data in the source pivot table, and vice versa. When you group or un-group items, or create calculated fields or calculated items in one, both are affected.
Create a database in Excel first
The easiest and most efficient way to create a pivot table is to create a database in Excel first. Here, you can update and manage as much information about your business — including customer data and financial data — and then use that as a data source for a pivot table.
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.
It’s not the most detailed financial report, probably because the company itself is still in its early stages — there’s actually a good argument against early stage ventures listing on the stock exchange, but that’s fodder for another post.
Revenue vs. losses for the period
The good news for BuyMyPlace is that its revenue increased 129 percent on the prior comparative period (PCP) to $1 million for H1 FY16/17, up from $133,518 in H1 FY15/16.
That’s an impressive leap in revenues in just 12 months, however, the BuyMyPlace financial results also reveal that the business made an even greater loss of $1.7 million, an increase of 1205 percent on the PCP.
A closer look at the report shows that, while the losses increased more than a thousand percent, it was due to an increased investment in marketing and advertising — principally on TV spots which totalled $517,723 compared with $98,578 the year prior.
This resulted in an 80 percent increase in the number of listings on the site (that is, the number of people using BuyMyPlace to sell their home), while order value increased 27 percent (people who were choosing more expensive packages).
BuyMyPlace is in good health
Although this business recorded losses that outweighed its revenue, BuyMyPlace is still in good financial health.
The report also shows that it has over $4 million in cash and cash equivalents, and only a little over $600,000 in liabilities. Although the liabilities have increased, it’s not due to taking on any additional debt — indeed, BuyMyPlace has paid down all of its loans — but was instead due to a 786 percent increase in staff salaries and, as a consequence, an increase in staff provisions and benefits — i.e., sick and annual leave.
Strategy for future growth
Not many homeowners actually want to sell their properties themselves — one estimate puts it at around 7 percent of the total number of homeowners. However, most people do want greater clarity around how the process works (including fees and commissions) — even if they still want assistance selling their homes.
Perhaps realising this, or perhaps in response to increased competition in the fixed-fee real estate services (see: Purplebricks, Settl, etc), BuyMyPlace also launched its own full service package, giving homeowners access to a real estate agent to sell their home for a fixed fee.
This will enable BuyMyPlace to capture a greater volume of homeowners, who are looking for a low cost alternative to sell their homes, but who don’t want to do it entirely themselves.
The other strategy for growth: increasing listing depth revenues.
At some point, BuyMyPlace will stop growing its market share. Or, in other words, the market of people looking for a low-cost option to sell their home will be tapped out.
But as a business, and as a publicly listed one, BuyMyPlace will need to keep growing its revenue, not merely keep it steady. It’ll need to do as other real estate services, such as REA Group and Domain have done, and increase listing revenue depths, by selling more expensive packages to customers.
BuyMyPlace will need to find additional value it can sell to customers, without necessarily increasing its own expenses to do so — or putting up its prices, which a business can usually only do once it’s cornered about 65 percent of the market, and BuyMyPlace is a long way off that yet.
That’s a lesson for every business owner out there. And it’s something we cover in our online Business StartUp Course.
You’ll learn how to run and understand the financial reports for your business in our Xero and MYOB training courses. You can also learn about strategies for business growth in our Business StartUp Course. Or for more information, visit our website.