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Plan the most Efficient Bookkeeping Meetings C2online

Meetings are vital to the success of your bookkeeping business.  Making sure you have a well planned agenda and good follow up will make your job as a bookkeeper easier and instill confidence with your client.  Here are some tips to help you:

Plan and Execute an Agenda

Once you’ve deemed the bookkeeper meeting necessary, lay out a clear purpose. Write down an agenda or “to-do list” for the meeting. Make a list of points to be discussed or followed upon, and then next to each item, mention who will have to address the issue. This helps you keep track of everything and everyone, and saves you a lot of time; there’s nothing worse than a manager who loses track of things mid-meeting. 

Distribute the copies of the agenda in advance. If everyone who is going to attend the bookkeeper meeting knows what they’ll be held accountable for, they can get prepared too. This helps you wrap up the meeting on time, which makes everyone happy.

Start and Stop on Schedule.

Once you’ve set a time for the meeting to begin and a time for it to end, stick to it strictly. Nobody likes meetings that run late unexpectedly, messing with their plans. Start at exactly the time you’ve mentioned to everyone and don’t wait for anyone who’s late. There’s no point in making the people who are on time suffer while waiting for someone who’s tardy or might not even show up. Remember everyone time’s is money.

Many offices even lock the conference rooms once a meeting has begun, or their office door if the meeting is online. Enforcing strict rules like this will eventually curb tardiness and increase overall efficiency. When people realize that if they’re late, they’ll not be allowed for the meeting, they’re more likely to be on time. (however, if your meetings are notoriously bad, people will “accidentally” be late, so this tactic could backfire! “oh, darn… I was late for the meeting and now I can’t get in. Rats!” )

Prioritize Discussions

Before you call for a meeting, make a list of priority topics to be discussed. Put them in order of importance with the most pressing issues lined up first, and the topics that can still be pushed to another day at the end. Stick to this order when you’re speaking in the meeting. That way, if you happen to run out of time, you can drop less important topics for next time. This helps you stick to your schedule and wrap up the meeting on time.

Summarize the Session

At the end of the bookkeeper meeting keep a few minutes aside to summarize all the points discussed. Make sure that each person present has their action items to be worked on before the next meeting. Another important thing is to make sure that every topic is concluded before moving on to the next one. Wrap up everything and make sure that everyone is clear. Take minutes of the meetings and prepare relevant notes so that you can distribute them to those present there.

Action items encourages people to work harder so that they have something to share in subsequent follow up meetings. It makes sure that everything discussed in the meeting is implemented correctly, making your bookkeeper meetings more productive and useful. A good bookkeeper can balance their follow up tactics so that employees don’t feel hounded, but encouraged and supported.


An Inspirational Story of Connections C2online

Many people think that networking is something that you do, rather than a way that you live. Networking is a life skill, rather than something you do only when you want something. I recently read Dragon - Jim Treliving’s book, Decisions.  His book inspired me on so many levels but it also compelled me to write this article.  In his book Jim said ‘the story of my life is a story of connections, each one bringing me to where I am today.’  Jim Treliving, Decisions: , Jim Treliving Media Ltd, 2012 p.251. “Always leave something on the table.” Jim Treliving, Decisions: , Jim Treliving Media Ltd, 2012 p.129

If you have not learned that most successful entrepreneurs live their life by giving without expectation than you are more likely to not have achieved success.  I learned early in my career that giving to my relationships required effort, the willing to give, share and support.  I also learned that in the process of not expecting anything in return I was rewarded with relationships that became best friends that were once a perfect stranger.

Most people intuitively know that people who are well connected have an advantage. You are far more easily able to tap the wisdom and network of your friend because you have built a trust and a level of respect that has been mutually beneficial.   That perfect stranger, now my best friend also has a life story of connections.

 You also build a story of connections by always leaving something on the table.  That perfect stranger across the table that you have only met for the first time, whether you are buying something or selling something; if you don't let greed drive your motivation and you leave something on the table your story has a foundation to build from … Remember, that perfect stranger also has a life story of connections.

 I wrote this article not to tell you I have a network but to share with you an inspirational story for me and to thank Jim for guiding me on my path to how I define success – a life of a story of connections.  Someone once told me if you measure your success with money, remember ‘you can buy a house but you can’t buy a home ….’ So, thank you Jim.

Lisa Patrick


Choosing Business Partners (Part 2 of 2) C2online
How do you choose a partner(s) for your business?


As I wrote in the first installment, setting up a business partnership is like getting
married—you need to carefully choose your partner.

Here’s the second of two installments to help you make the right decision in considering
a business partner(s).

4. Financial Capacity and Shares – every business needs capital to run. Are you
clear how much money you need to get the business up and running? Are you
sure you want to have equal shares? Or do want to retain control by having
majority shares? Is he putting in money as well? It’s also crucial to know if the
partner you are considering is financially stable or is carrying a great deal of
debt. If you are taking on a partner, you need to ensure the partner is able to
be responsible financially and can handle any losses. It’s essential you protect
yourself financially when entering into a partnership.

5. Chemistry – do you have at least one common passion or hobby to tie you
together? Do you both want to make a difference in the world? Or does working
in the outdoors energize you both? Whatever that bond may be, it’s important to
have something in common so you enjoy working together over the long-term.
Trust your intuition—if it is telling you this is not the right person, then don’t enter
into the partnership.

6. Exit Strategy – once you’ve considered everything, it’s important to create an
exit strategy before signing on the dotted line. There may come a point where
the partnership is no longer working or valuable. An exit strategy, which has
been agreed to and signed off on by all parties, should be part of the partnership
agreement.

There are no hard and fast rules in choosing a partner but these are six areas
you should consider. If you are going to be working with someone closely on a
day-to-day business, do your homework first and ensure you’ve chosen the right
person.

How do you choose a partner(s) for your business? (Part 1 of 2) C2online

A business partnership is like a marriage; in both cases, you need to make the right choice in a partner. Once you’ve made that choice, it needs to work or you will both end up unhappy.

Here’s the first of two installments to help you discern whether or not the person you are considering is a perfect fit to be your business partner:

  1. Relationship – is he your friend, your in-law, a close family member, a relative, or just a buddy? Are you willing to risk your relationship with this person in the event that something goes wrong with the business? If you are concerned about risking your relationship with this person, the wise choice is not to enter into a partnership. A personal relationship can cloud many aspects of your decision-making. If you are not 100 percent confident the connection can withstand being in business together and that your decision-making will still be objective, it’s better to safeguard the relationship by not entering into business together.

  2. Expertise – is this person adding value to the business? Carefully consider the reasons you are bringing him on. Partnering with someone who brings something to the table can be valuable for the growth of your business. Partnering with someone for the sake of having a partner can lead to disaster.

  3. Past collaboration– have you worked with this person before? Working successfully together in the past is important, especially if you are working with someone you have a close relationship with. Someone who is fun to socialize with isn’t necessarily as enjoyable to work with. Working on a pilot project together first to determine whether you are a good fit can be valuable, before entering into a partnership.

    Photo Credit: Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Loved Customers are Loyal Customers C2online

One of the main reasons companies succeed is because of high sales volumes; conversely, companies fail because of low sales. A sale takes place when an able and willing customer pays for your product or service. Most businesses make the mistake of thinking they need to find more customers to increase their sales. That’s where they go wrong.

One key to success is to provide a highly satisfying experience to customers so they become repeat customers and then go onto become loyal, committed customers who will spread the word about your company.

How do you do that? The answer is simple: Love. Let’s talk about love and how you can translate it to your customer experience, creating fiercely loyal customers and a highly successful business.

We all know how love happens; you’re attracted to someone, you date, you date more, then you commit, and you develop a long-term relationship in which the two of you are loyal to each other. In many cases, the relationship begins to deteriorate when one or both of you stops caring about the attraction factor, the two of you spend less time together, stop doing nice things for each other, communication begins to break down and so on.

Love happens the same way in business, your customer walks in to your shop, or sees your attractive advertisement and was impressed by your sales presentation (attraction), so they’ve decided to try you (dating), they were satisfied with the experience so they tried you again (dating more), then they finally committed to your product or services and they declare their loyalty by making your business their product or service provider (long-term relationship).  Now it is really up to you if you want this love story to continue to a happy ever after story.

How can you keep your customers committed and loyal to you?

  • continue to make your business attractive (store ambience, good packaging, fresh new products, updated marketing materials),
  • check-in with your customers to ensure their experiences are always positive and satisfactory,
  • ongoing and regular communication with customers to show you care,
  • consistently keep them attracted to you by developing new products they may need; create easy ways to them to reach you and continue to purchase your products and
  • say sorry when you make a mistake and recommit to providing satisfaction in the future.

Continue to captivate your customers and create loyalty, so they commit to you and share your love story with others, leading to more loyal customers and more success for your business.  

Image Credit: fakhar


Removing stress by hiring a bookkeeper C2online
We’ve talked about guidelines on how to choose a bookkeeper, but perhaps you are still not convinced
you really need one. Let’s review your situation.

Not that long ago, starting a business and fulfilling your passion was your dream.

You’ve taken that step—you’ve created your own business. It’s beginning to take off and you’re looking
to expand. There’s a lot on your plate—you’re testing the market, looking for a new location, meeting
with potential customers, interviewing, training and hiring new employees, setting up the office, and
purchasing inventory, among many other tasks.

The business is starting to make a profit; the day-to-day running of it keeps you busy full-time. Tracking
inventory records, accounts payable, accounts receivable and other transactions needs to be done.

Instead of having that extra time to play with your kids, spend time with your partner or pursue personal
interests, you are now swamped with receipts and records at nights and on weekends. You can’t sleep
soundly because you are worried about inventory, cash flow and the myriad of other items a business
owner needs to stay on top of. Financial record keeping just keeps getting put on the back burner.

As an entrepreneur, you need devote your energy to growing and running your business. You need some
personal time; everyone does. It’s also critical to stay on top of your finances. How do you achieve all of
that?

The best way to accomplish that is by hiring a bookkeeper, freeing you up to manage the running and
growing of your business. You can reduce your workload and stress, focus on things you are good at—
the reason you started the business in the first place--and have a bookkeeper handle the tracking and
recording of your finances.

Taking this step will allow you to breathe easier. Simplify your life—hire a bookkeeper. If you need to find one check out the North American Bookkeeper Directory and if you are a bookkeeper get listed for Free.

Image Credit: bizior 


How to Open the Door - It's About Them Not You! C2online

Part of being a successful entrepreneur is being able to develop your business. It is not just about running around trying to drum up new business. You need to be creative, have a thorough understanding of the company’s product, technology, market and competition. You must be highly focused and have the ability to not only open doors but also close deals. Lets talk about opening that door.

 

When I look at a product or service that I am going to be involved in and I need to focus on the business development strategy I research what companies would benefit the most from the offering.  Once I have analyzed the potential JV’s, VC’s and alliances, I build a road map in my mind and duplicate it on paper.

 The road map is very much like your typical road map but instead of the cities, and towns being locations they are companies.   Analyzing the vision in my head on paper allows me to see how everything is interconnected and visually your target business development opportunities appear before your eyes.

Now that's the easy part!   Now you know who to contact but how do you get that door open to talk to them. Now you need to focus all about them, who they are as a company, an executive and how they can benefit from your offering.

Making contact with the right person is key, and your first attempt once you decide who that should be may fail.  That’s ok cause you are determined.   First, look at the executive staff and ascertain if anyone you know in your rolodex may have a connection to that particular person or someone in the company that can provide you an introduction.  If the answer results in a no, you then need to contact them directly.  Keep it simple, explain who you are, why you are contacting them and then make sure you make the introduction all about them and how you can help them.

If that attempt fails, try another executive or perhaps maybe an employee that may be able to provide that introduction that cracks that door open for you.  Never give up and be persistent but don't be a pest. 

Good Luck

Lisa Patrick
CEO Co-Founder C2online.ca


Business Alert: Is your Bookkeeping taking a Backseat? C2online
It happens all the time, especially with small business owners.



“Why hire a bookkeeper when I can do it on my own?”


The best of intentions….


We understand—bookkeeping is tedious. It often requires a lot of time and mental effort.
Time that is needed to put out fires or to grow your business, which is why it gets put on
the back burner.


But crucial business decisions should be based on how well the business is doing
financially…and you can’t know that without good bookkeeping records.


And without proper record keeping, your company’s financial statements can be put into
question.


These are some of the common ways business owners run into problems:


Delayed record keeping


This tops the list. Falling behind on bookkeeping has a snowball effect. Small expenses
that seem insignificant at the time aren’t recorded—and because they are small,
business owners disregard them. But over time, they can add up, having an impact on
the company’s financial situation.


Improperly allocated expenses


This can have serious implications for your tax return. Possible scenarios are:


Significant amounts are wrongly assigned as non-tax deductible expenses.
Advances to suppliers and other business entities are not converted to
expenses when the contracts are fulfilled. Your assets will look good, but your
expenses will be understated, potentially leading to business decisions based on
misinformation.
Incorrect classification of salaries to employees and payments to consultants
and/or contractors—which fall into different categories. When these aren’t
classified properly, expense claims and tax deductions can be lost.
Sales Tax. This is an often-neglected bookkeeping task. When a business has
sales, the usual reporting method is to acknowledge sales in the books, and cash
received or update the receivables. But Sales Tax? It has to be declared, but
many business owners forget or neglect to do this.


Advice? Hiring a good bookkeeper will save you money over the long-term and free you
to do what you do best—grow your business.


Don't Overestimate Your Emailing Skills - Time to Brush Up On Your Email Etiquette C2online

We've talked about how important communication is in bookkeeping in one of our previous blogs, Stand Out as a Bookkeeper: 10 Tips for Superior Communication Skills. If you're operating your bookkeeping business out of the house (or anywhere, really) email is most likely your most common form of communication with your clients. 

Email is like an old and faithful friend; it certainly hasn't gone anywhere and doesn't seem to be fading away. But because it's been a common tool for so long now, have we forgotten our etiquette? Are we so focused on tweeting that email has fallen to the back burner? We thought a refresher on email etiquette wouldn't hurt - especially if it's your dominant communication medium.

Your Professional Email Address

It all starts here since there isn't much emailing without it. Your email address is like a first impression so it should be professional; a branded email account linked to your business. Something like, imaproudsoccermom_97@hotmail.ca, won't do you any favours so keep the cutesy stuff for your personal account. If you have a website with your own domain, use that for your email. If not, you may want to consider paying for domain name registration and hosting. Or use Google Apps for Business which allows you to use an email address with a domain, as well as other business tools.

To, Cc, Bcc - Who Goes Where

'To' is the direct recipient(s). Seems simple enough but there are still some tips to keep in mind. If you're sending to a group, don't put your entire address book into one email. It's an eye sore to have an endless string of email addresses in your message. As well, if you're sending out to a group who don't know each other, they may not want their email being shared with the masses. Consider sending separate emails or use bcc.

Cc is carbon copy for recipients who are involved yet the email is not directed towards them. Consider who is being cc'd and if they need to be included in the email. 

Bcc is blind carbon copy. The direct recipient won't see the bcc so it's a bit sneaky. Basically, this is used to keep someone in the loop. They're not involved in the conversation and it's not necessary for the recipient (for whom the email is directed to) to know.

Subject - A Strategically Chosen Few Words

This needs some good content so don't leave it at "Hi." For business purposes, ensure the subject is meaningful and reflects the content of the message. A lot of people rely on the subject line to look for past emails and for filing them.

The Crux of it All: The Message

Various aspects of the message to be aware of:

  • Tone. First, consider who the recipient is. Do you know them well? Is this a new client? This will set the tone of your email which is hard to do since this can get lost in an email. For example, if your message is too short. If you're too much to the point and don't take any time for salutations or closing, you can come across as terse. And then there's the all caps. STOP YELLING AT ME! All caps implies yelling and most times, is not well perceived by your reader. Best to avoid it.
  • Length. If it's too long, you'll appear as rambling on. Your reader may lose interest and your message will get lost in the rambling. You want to get your point across but not be terse (it's a fine line…).
  • Spelling & Grammar. Your professionalism shows in your writing. Use proper sentence structure and correct spelling. Email is not a tweet. Or a text. Avoid slang, abbreviations and acronyms that look unprofessional. Anything beyond FYI may lose your reader.
  • Formatting. This will help you get your message across. It will make it easy to read by laying it out properly with paragraphs, bullet points, etc. An organized message will also make emailing more efficient: if the recipient understands you, it pre-empts further questions and eliminates unnecessary back and forth emails.

Email Tag Alongs: Attachments

Ensure that whatever you're attaching to your email is relevant and useful. Try to limit the number of attachments by collating them, if possible. Check the file size and compress it before sending - nobody wants a 7MB incoming email bogging down their inbox and freezing up their system. And don't forget the attachment(s) when you send your email… this is where proof-reading will help you.

Following Up With Email Replies

All the same rules apply as above. When replying to an email, check that you've answered all of the questions in the original email. Don't give your client the impression that you're not interested in them or giving them the time they deserve. In their minds, if you're brushing over their emails, what else are you brushing over?

Reply All. Use this carefully and think about who needs to see your reply. Just because you were sent a message with other recipients doesn't mean everyone needs to see a reply from you. And—very important—do not hit 'reply all' when you've intended to hit 'reply.' You can accidentally send something that shouldn't be seen by someone and could get you into a lot of trouble. Always check before you hit send.

Brushing up on your email etiquette will help you maintain a good email relationship with your clients. So don't overestimate your emailing skills and underestimate the importance of good communication. 



What Makes a Good Bookkeeper…. Good? 10 Tips for Finding a Superstar Bookkeeper C2online

We've talked about it in our previous blogs because it's something that every small business owner has to think about. Do you do your own bookkeeping or look to outsource it? It's an important decision because there's no getting around having to manage all the paperwork that comes with running a business. For a lot of entrepreneurs, there eventually comes a time when you have no choice but to invest in a bookkeeper.

But what should you look for in a bookkeeper? What makes a good bookkeeper… good? Here are 10 tips for what to look for in a superstar bookkeeper. 

1. Education and Qualifications

These are some of the main factors that you need to consider when choosing your bookkeeper. There are three types of certifications in Canada:

  • The Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada (CPB - Certified Professional Bookkeeper)
  • The Canadian Institute of Bookkeeping (CB -Certified Bookkeeper)
  • The Canadian Bookkeepers Association (RPB - Registered Professional Bookkeeper)

If you want your bookkeeper to have payroll responsibilities, you will want someone who has at least a minimum certification level with the Canadian Payroll Association. 

Are they accredited by a professional association? Bookkeepers who belong to a professional organization have to abide with a code of ethics, plus you can contact the association itself in the event of a problem. 

Ask if they're doing any continuing education with additional classes or self-study. This will show their commitment to enhancing their skills and staying up to date. 

2. Experience and References

Education and training are important, but there is no substitute for experience. And even better, experience with small businesses in your particular area of business. Certain industries call for specialist knowledge and an understanding of the particular issues involved. Avoid bookkeepers who mainly work with big corporations; the issues that come up for small business are different than those that a bookkeeper would encounter with larger companies. Look for three years of full-time experience providing full-cycle bookkeeping to businesses similar to yours. 

Candidates should substantiate their claims through references. Small business clients can vouch for a bookkeeper’s timeliness, quality of service and their personality. Also ask for references from professional accountants they've worked with who can comment on their technical skills and proficiency. These accountants will know how much or how little time they had to spend cleaning up the bookkeeper's work at year end. This is also important if you already have an accountant that you want your bookkeeper to work with—check that the candidate has had good working relationships with these accountants.

3. Detail-Oriented

It's no coincidence that this is at the top of the list. It is one of those essential traits that a good bookkeeper should have and you should be looking for. Detail-oriented bookkeepers have the level of accuracy and precision that the work requires. Someone who wants to categorize every expense item as “miscellaneous,” for instance, isn’t going to do you much good at the end of the month. Being thorough in your documentation is critical to accurately reporting your financial information. Attention to detail is a must! If they come across as frazzled or disorganized, it's time to move on. 

4. Analytical Skills

The other essential trait you're looking for is their analytical skills. Once your detail-oriented bookkeeper organizes the information, they now need to analyze it. Part of their job is reviewing and deciphering this information to help you make important business decisions. Analysis of financial documents is crucial and a good bookkeeper will be able to do this well.

5. Time Management

A good bookkeeper knows how to organize their time for optimum results. They should be able to prioritize, allow time to focus on problems and solutions, and schedule frequent reviews and updates with you. If they have good time management, they will be proactive and complete tasks with a deadline such as monthly financial reports, filing taxes, claims, etc. And if problems arise, you need to know that your bookkeeper will inform you in time to do something about them. It doesn't do you much good if you need to be constantly checking up on your bookkeeper because they don't have the time management skills required for the job.

6. Excellent Communication Skills

This isn't something that is normally associated with people who talk of debits and credits, but the best bookkeepers are more than silent number crunchers. Unless you already know the ins and outs of the finances of your business, you are relying on your bookkeeper to relay this information in a manner that you'll understand. You should be making business decisions based on your finances and you must have a bookkeeper that can communicate this information so that it's useful and meaningful to you.

7. Passion and Personality

These are the less obvious personality traits that you should also consider. First, your candidate must love numbers and have a clear understanding of math. There are no maybes in summing up totals or calculating balances. And don't underestimate personality. It's not a trait most people look for in a bookkeeper but you're forming a relationship with this person to talk about what's going on in your business and what the numbers show. It's important to find someone who you can get along with and relate to.

8. Trust and Security

You are sharing sensitive financial information so client confidentiality is crucial. It only makes sense that you trust the person you're handing over confidential numbers and bank account information to. Ask what security and privacy measures they have. Is the data that they hold for your business secure?  

9. Technically Inclined

Today’s bookkeeping is automated, even for the smallest of businesses. So it doesn’t make sense to partner with someone who is not technologically inclined. They should be familiar with Word, Excel, email, the internet and some kind of bookkeeping software. Bookkeeping software allows for much simpler, faster, and more sophisticated analysis of your company’s information. It will also improve the productivity and performance of your bookkeeper's work. (More efficient work means less hours charged to you!) The right bookkeeper will have the skills to accomplish this. And your financial data should be kept on a hard drive, not on a shelf.

10. Rates

At the bottom of our list, but hardly an insignificant question, is how much they charge. And what does this include? Rates can be a wide range anywhere from $15 per hour to $100 per hour depending on their skill level and experience… as well as the complexity and volume of work your business requires. Some bookkeepers will offer fixed fees per month. With bookkeeping, as with most other services, you generally get what you pay for. Ine
xpensive rates can turn out to be more expensive if the bookkeeper takes more hours than someone at a higher rate. Remember that this as an investment that will save you more money over the long run.

Ask about any additional costs such as:

  • Set-up fees. Setting up a new client can be a very time-consuming process so get a cost on this.
  • Retainers. Some bookkeepers charge in arrears for their services.
  • Miscellaneous charges. Ask about additional charges for photocopying, printing, files, binders, courier, faxes, etc.  

Preparation, knowing what your business' requirements are, and knowing what to ask candidates will guide you in your search. Put the time and effort into finding that superstar bookkeeper - it will benefit you and your business in the long run.

We have a new directory to assist you in your search. C2online's North American Bookkeeper Directory: www.c2online.ca/BookkeeperDirectory.aspx



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