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.
Since then, however, a number of cloud-based accounting applications have entered the market — QuickBooks Online (now distributed by their US-based parent company Intuit), Reckon One, Saasu, Zoho, and so on.
Even though Xero was hailed as a breath of fresh air when it first entered the market, it is still a little more complicated to use when compared with other cloud accounting apps, like QuickBooks and Reckon One. For instance, the purchase orders feature is still hidden behind bills, when it could easily be access via a dropdown menu. But it’s not a major quibble.
Xero’s contact profile misses a beat
Although Xero allows you to assign customer numbers for your suppliers or customers in the contact profile, it doesn’t have the functionality to record customer numbers assigned by supplier or customer.
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.
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.
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!
If, after paying your suppliers, employees, making loan repayments, cash outlays, and so forth, you don’t have any money in the bank (or you can’t make all of your obligations) this is negative cash flow.
Negative cash flow indicates a problem. There’s either a failing in one or more of your processes — your credit management procedures, for instance — or you’re simply spending more money than you’re making.
This Xero-Excel method for creating a cash flow forecast report can be time consuming, however. It also requires a good knowledge of Excel so you can set up formulas that will allow you to forecast 12 months ahead.
For smaller businesses or sole traders — or even large businesses that just want to glance quickly at their cash flow — a dedicated cash flow app is a good way to track and forecast your business’s cash flow — and in real time. In our last blog we covered some of our favourite expense apps and why we like them.
At $79 a month for a basic (or “medium”) plan, Float is on the pricier end of cash flow apps, but its many features — in particular, the ability to create “scenarios” that allow you to determine the outcome of a particular business decision, such as employing two staff members instead of one — make up for it.
Float quickly learns trends in your business and will be able to anticpate upcoming payments, bills, etc. It also integrates with Xero, QuickBooks and even FreeAgent, the free cloud-based accounting app for small businesses.
Formerly known as CrunchBoards, this British app, which has expanded into Australia and the U.S., features predictive alerts, KPI dashboards, tax forecasting (so you can accurately estimate your tax bill), trend indicators, forecasts for the next ten years (if you want), scenario planning, and a heap more.
It doesn’t, however, learn from your business, so it can’t predict upcoming payments and bills. FUTRLI will set you back $59 a month, regardless of whether you’re a startup, growing business or established enterprise. It integrates with Xero and QuickBooks.
A lot simpler than FUTRLI, but with fewer features (although you could argue, it’s a spotlight on the *only* features you need), Spotlight will let you import all your budget data, create scenarios, and create KPIs for your business, making forecast reporting a cinch, but it doesn’t learn from your business.
This means it can’t anticipate upcoming payments from clients or bills coming due, leaving you to create forecasts based on past trends, rather than upcoming ones. Spotlight integrates with Xero.
Understanding your business’s cash flow is critical to its ongoing financial health, and to your ability to make sound business decisions. Our Xero training courses 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.
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.
No amount of data is too big for Excel’s pivot tables
WE’VE RECENTLY BEEN UPDATING the content for our Excel training courses and were reminded of just how useful Excel is for small businesses. In Excel, you can easily create and manage client databases and then export part or all of that data into a Word document, your accounting software, an email marketing service, or use it in other Excel documents, such as a pivot table.
A pivot table is Excel’s signature, and most powerful, feature — Microsoft trademarked the words ‘pivot’ and ‘table’ in their compound form PivotTable back in the 1990s. So if you intend to use Excel in any meaningful way for your business, knowing how to create and work with pivot tables is an essential skill, one which we cover in our newly-updated, advanced Excel online training courses.
What are pivot tables used for?
A pivot table is a way to quickly summarise and analyse large amounts of data, and the pivot tables you can create in Excel are especially designed for:
Subtotalling and aggregating numeric data
Summarising data by categories and subcategories
Creating custom calculations and formulas
Expanding and collapsing levels of data
Drilling down on details from summary data
Filtering, sorting, grouping and conditionally sorting data
Presenting concise, attractive, and annotated reports
Moving rows to columns and vice versa (‘pivoting’) to see different summaries of source data.
Pivot table data sources
There are a few ways that you can create a pivot table, though the most common way is to use an existing Excel worksheet — a database, for example — as a data source. Here are a few ways to create a pivot table in Excel:
Excel tables: Excel tables are already in list format and are good candidates for pivot table source data. When you refresh the pivot table report, new and updated data from the Excel table is automatically included in the refresh operation.
Using a dynamic named range: To make a pivot table easier to update, you can create a dynamic named range, and use that name as the pivot table’s data source. If the named range expands to include more data, refreshing the pivot table will include the new data.
Create a database in Excel first
The 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.
IF YOU’RE AN INDEPENDENT contractor, or you’re a full-time employee about to start up a side business, then you need to be able to keep a good track of all your income streams. There are a couple of reasons for this and both of them relate to tax.
Basically, income is income, regardless of how you earned it, and you’ll pay tax on the total amount. As an employee of another business, you’re likely to be earning money through your tax file number. Each week, your employer will withhold tax commensurate with how much money your employer has paid you. But this doesn’t take into account any other income.
If you’re also earning money from a side business, using an ABN, there’s no one to withhold tax on your behalf, so you need to keep a close eye on your income to ensure you have enough money in the bank to pay your tax bill — which you will get, I’m afraid — after your tax return has been filed.
Two tax returns? Use Excel
Although income is income, you will still have to file two tax returns, one for each income stream. That’s why you need to keep an eye on your accumulative income, and not just the money earned through your business.
There are lots of personal finance and budget apps that help you to track and manage your income, but the easiest, most flexible and most straightforward way to do this is to create an Excel spending or expense sheet, which our Excel training courses will teach you how to do.
Reasons why people have two income streams
It’s not just full time employees who are starting their own side business that have two income streams. Plenty of freelancers and independent contractors earn money through their ABN and TFN.
There are some businesses that prefer to put contractors on the payroll, usually because they’ll be working on a regular basis, onsite, and it’s just easier for the business to employ them as casuals. Often for insurance purposes, but it’s also because the work involved doesn’t conform to the definition the ATO uses for an independent contractor.
Other times, it’s because the contractor or freelancer is working in an entirely different industry on the side — hospitality or retail, for example — to supplement their freelance income, which is how a lot of people get businesses off the ground.
Focus on how to earn money
The main take away from all of this, is that when you’re tracking your income, focus on the ways to earn more income. If you discover that each month, you have a week where your income is lower, there’s an opportunity to fill that gap with another job or other income stream.
Case Study: Costs for starting up a second, related business
A LOT OF BUSINESS OWNERS branch out into related fields when their flagship business becomes successful enough (just look at Jim’s Mowing). However, this can be a bit dicey if the business owner doesn’t properly forecast all the start up costs. Not doing so can not only have an adverse impact on the new venture, but also on the existing business.
In this case study, we’re going to look at the start up costs associated with starting a real estate sales business.
Meet Jerry, our budding entrepreneur
Jerry is a male in his 40’s, currently working as an agent for a local asbestos removal company, earning a commission for helping the company make sales. In this role, he works as an independent contractor, invoicing the asbestos removal company at the end of the month. Because of the work he does, Jerry meets with lots of homeowners (and business owners too) who are renovating their home in preparation to put it on the market for sale or rent out.
Because of the client contact base Jerry is always developing, and knowing that there is no conflict of interest, Jerry decides he’d like to branch and become a real estate salesperson.
Budgeting for a new business from home
Jerry decides to operate his real estate sales business from home, as he plans to operate it as a side business, at least initially. Jerry won’t need to lease office space, but there are the following costs he will need to budget for. The costs he foresees are approximate:
Real estate license training course: $2,250
Website setup costs: $300 + training (if required)
G Suite account: $5/month upwards + training (if required)
Mobile phone: $55/month upwards
Business cards, flyers, other marketing materials: $99 upwards
Jerry’s ad-hoc operational costs
Although the majority of Jerry’s operational expenses will be reimbursed by the vendor once the property is sold — property marketing, auctioneer costs, etc. — Jerry will need to ensure he has enough capital to cover these operational costs. Property marketing costs are determined based on a percentage of the property’s value, usually 1 percent but sometimes lower. The median price of property in Jerry’s area is $440,000.
Because Jerry is already working as an independent contractor, he doesn’t have to incur any other operational costs (office furniture, internet, information technology, etc.), however his bookkeeper may apportion these costs differently now that Jerry is operating an additional business.
Determining upfront capital required
Jerry already has two homeowners who are thinking of selling their home in the next 12 months. He estimates that based on the value of each property, he will need to spend $5,000 each on property marketing. Therefore, he’ll need at least $13,370 in startup capital to fund his new venture for the next 12 months — although he knows that the initial $20,000 in property marketing will be reimbursed to the business within 6 months.
How Jerry will measure his success
Jerry is located in Newcastle in the Hunter region of New South Wales. Clearance rates in this region hover around 70 percent and properties spend an average of 50 to 70 days on the market, as property is typically sold by private treaty rather than auction. These two metrics will be used to determine Jerry’s success. Price is not a good indicator, as the nature of property sales means Jerry should be valuing property accurately with only a 10 to 15 percent difference in the final sale price.
Jerry should also research other real estate agents selling similar property in his local area to determine how many sales they are writing each calendar year. This can become another benchmark for Jerry’s success, although only a peripheral one, as Jerry is still only operating his real estate business on the side.
You can use Excel to work out a budget for the start up costs for your second business, and use accounting software like Xero, MYOB or QuickBooks to forecast whether your existing business will have the capital to fund your new venture.
Successfully promoting your business products and services to clients these days requires a sound knowledge of how to spread the word via social media. Whatever your field, we can teach you the online marketing techniques to stand out from the crowd and build your customer base! Check out what’s included in our comprehensive Social Media and Digital Marketing online training courses.
Depending on how many employees work for you, the repayments on a business loan are typically smaller than all of your payroll obligations — this includes superannuation and PAYG — combined. If you get a loan to fund 12 months of your business, payable over a 24 or 26 month period, the repayments will be far easier to manage each month.
Interest is usually a tax deduction
Businesses are able to claim the interest from any business loan as a tax deduction, so even if the annual percentage rate (APR) adds a few additional thousands of dollars to your capital amount over the period it takes to pay the loan back, the interest will still go towards reducing your taxable income.
This is a more favourable option to delaying payment to your employees (illegal) and delaying payment of PAYG and superannuation withholdings, which could incur a Failure To Lodge (FTL) penalty, plus a general interest charge (GIC). Note: Fines and penalties cannot be claimed as a tax deduction and are therefore dead money.
Do your sums first
Don’t forget that, while a business loan to cover payroll for 12 months will be easy to repay initially, your business’s profits will need to improve substantially over the next year so that you can continue to meet your loan repayments AND your payroll obligations for that year.
Using Excel to work out your PAYG and super obligations is a great way for small businesses, with a small number of employees, to save money. It saves you having to purchase this extra module in MYOB or Xero, for instance, when you may rarely use it. Saving money for small business is crucial as often it’s these same small businesses that have trouble making payroll payments each week, fortnight or month — and then wind up incurring further fees from the ATO when they’re late with their reporting and payments. It’s a vicious cycle.
Get financing. There are lots of ways to do this, but a common method, particularly if you need access to funds quickly, is to get a short-term business loan. Many short-term business loans don’t require businesses to have a great credit score, and will offer funding of as little as $5,000 right up to $500,000.
You’d have between 3 and 36 months to pay back the loan, but you need to be aware — the annual percentage rates (APR) are usually high. Most lenders require the business to have been active for a minimum of 9 months, and have revenue of more than $75,000 per annum. However, if paid off quickly, these can be an alternative to incurring penalties — it will obviously depend on your business’ individual circumstances.
Keep on top of bookkeeping
If you stay on top of your bookkeeping, you’ll either reduce the likelihood that you won’t make payroll, or as a worst case scenario, be able to foresee the periods when you won’t be able to, and be able to arrange finance in time to cover it.
You Can Use the Calculation Fields in our Excel Exercises as Often as You Like!
DESPITE THE POPULARITY OF cloud-based accounting software applications like Xero and MYOB, Excel still remains one of the most indispensable software programs for businesses and individuals alike. That is why we always make it a priority to constantly update our Microsoft Excel Training Course.
You can apply Excel to so much
Accounting software, even robust packages like MYOB, only allow you to perform a finite number of functions that relate to business accounting. However, Excel can be used for a multitude of different purposes — both business and personal, merely one of which is to develop a financial forecast for an investment.
But even though, with the current property booms in our major cities, granny flat construction has become more common, it is not so common that every person taking our Excel courses is planning to build a granny flat for their next investment. That’s why we decided not to lock our course content.
What does this mean? It means that all the calculation fields in the exercise files of our Excel training courses are unlocked, so that your education remains unlocked too. You’re free to play around and replicate them as you need, so you can get a proper handle of how to use Excel in business or for work.
Visit our website for more information on our Microsoft Excel Training Course, with its new granny flats case study. We provide a range of online Excel training courses for beginners’, intermediate and advanced students.
For businesses that only withhold up to $25,000 each year, you’re supposed to make PAYG payments and file a withholding report each quarter. You have 28 days from the end of the quarter to do so, after which time, you may incur a Failure To Lodge (FTL) penalty.
As with PAYG payments and reporting, you can also incur a FTL penalty for not lodging or paying your employees’ superannuation contributions in time. All businesses, regardless of size, have to make superannuation payments each quarter — the ATO sets out the due dates for each period on their website.
Lodging late PAYG and super payments
The ATO only applies penalties for failure to lodge reports or make payments for each period of 28 days (or part thereof) that a document or payment is overdue. Each period incurs one penalty unit for each document, up to a maximum of five penalty units.
From 2015 onwards, the value of a penalty unit is $180 (previously it was $170) for small businesses, which are defined as entities with an assessable income or GST turnover of no more than $1 million a year.
The maximum penalty a small business will pay is $900 for each document or payment that is overdue. Note too that FTL penalties will also incur a general interest charge (GIC), applied on top of the penalty.
Managing late PAYG and super payments
Use the Ad Hoc Payroll Guide, a new case study that is included in our Intermediate Microsoft Excel Training Coursesto determine the rate of PAYG tax to withhold and the required super contribution amounts in Excel. Once you’ve worked out the required amounts (visit the ATO website for tax tables prior to 2017), lodge the necessary PAYG payments and reports to the ATO; pay super contributions using the SuperStream super clearing house.
The ATO will write to you if you are required to pay a penalty — sometimes they are waived for first-time offences, or if the amounts are small.
Create brilliant presentations and graphics for all kinds of business purposes.
Gone are the days of excruciatingly dull PowerPoint slide presentations. Nowadays PowerPoint is the hidden gem used to generate animations, videos, movies, advertising and graphics. It’s a great ally to the marketer or social media person in your organisation.