Taking the First Step

The other day my twenty-three year old niece called me to tell me she’s starting a business. She and her partner are quite serious about it; they have reserved office space and hold weekly meetings to discuss their business plan, developing it well beyond the “wouldn’t it be a great idea” stage. They have begun work on a website and are moving forward in many directions. The one area they are most concerned about, because they know the least about it, is how to handle all the official things — like filings, and formations, and EINs, licenses and taxes and all that.

Because they do not live here in Marin County, or even in California, I wasn’t able to tell her exactly what she needed to do. However that didn’t stop me from offering advice (because this is what we older people have to offer the next generation). My advice was twofold:

First: Not to let the fear of documentation stymie them. Read More …

Bookkeeping the Old Fashion Way

In my first job, I was required to provide the boss an income statement and balance sheet for the business at the end of every month. We wrote checks by hand, with carbon copies of all checks and deposits. At the end of the month I would enter the month’s check in the general ledger in the appropriate expense category then total the categories on an adding machine. I always ran a tape, and had to keep running it until I had two with the same totals. I stapled the tapes to the general ledger for proof that the totals were right. I did the same for all deposits, recording the customer’s name, check number, and the check amounts in one of two income categories.

At least, this is how I was trained. Very quickly I grew tired of all that hand entry and began to use a spreadsheet — PlanPerfect, I think it was. Read More …

Recon101

A couple of days ago I had a call from one of my QuickBooks for the Mac users. Patty is a terrific lady who took the reins of her family business and finances when her husband retired. Over 5 or 6 sessions together we set up the books in QuickBooks on her new Mac and I taught her how to get around in the program and how to run the reports I had created. It was pretty basic bookkeeping — cash based, no invoices, no inventory, everything straight forward. Patti got a handle on things and was meticulous about entering everything into the books, and enjoyed doing it.

She had been running her books on her own (flying solo) for a couple of months when she called and left a message saying that she was having problems with reconciliation of the bank statements. She said there were duplicate checks in the register, and wanted me to drive up to her office and help her figure it out. Read More …

Putting The Kid To Work

I am not a CPA and don’t do taxes, so talk to your CPA before you follow my example here. If you don’t have a CPA and you have a small business, stop what you’re doing and get one. Now.

O.K. now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about why you might want to employ your child. I know CPAs that have encouraged clients to employ their kids to clean the office and their spouses to file and run errands. What’s the advantage of this? For one, there are tax savings for the business when paying a family member as an employee. If the family member is under the age of 18 (presumably a child, not a spouse) you don’t have to withhold or pay FICA or medicare, nor do you have to pay FUTA or SUTA. (If you don’t know what those are, make sure your payroll processor does.) If you decide to employ your children, you have to comply with child labor laws and the amount you pay should be reasonable for the work performed. Read More …

Grace

As a bookkeeper, I learn from my own experience, as well as that of my clients. I’ve seen that one of the advantages of being a small business owner is the opportunity to interact directly with clients, vendors and others in our community. Unfortunately, these dealings are not always easy. We all know there are difficult people out there — the customer who demands the impossible, the employee who takes advantage, the contractor who does not fulfill a commitment. The normal response — defensiveness, curtness, exasperation — too often does not lead to a comfortable resolution. These are situations that call for grace.

I’ve thought about grace in the business environment ever since a friend explained how he admires people who conduct themselves with grace– not just under pressure, but in all situations. When I asked him what he meant by “grace” he wasn’t able to define it, but mentioned several mutual acquaintances as examples. Read More …

The Right Fit

I recently met with someone looking to change bookkeepers. Before taking on a new client, I try to determine if my services, experience, and style of interacting are appropriate for the business and the owner. After almost twenty years working with a variety of businesses and CPAs, I have a strong background and a lot of knowledge. But that doesn’t mean I am right for every job that comes along. Thus, an in-depth discussion of the client’s business, needs, and expectations is the first step in establishing a working relationship.

The first thing I ask is what bookkeeping or accounting system is being used. I specialize in QuickBooks, and although I have used other programs, I won’t do books on any other system these days. I have several reasons for this — the main one is that I’m good at QuickBooks and feel I can offer real value in every area from implementation and training, to data entry and reporting. Read More …