Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Lysistrata Approach (Spanish Style) to Encouraging Bank Lending to SMEs

Aristophanes would be extremely proud of the women in Madrid. Not so much for their profession as what they are currently doing with it. Long story short (full article can be found here), the trade association representing escorts in the Spanish Capital have declared a general strike against bankers until they start lending to SMEs and families again.

The approach these ladies are taking is quite similar to those conjured by Lysistrata in the ancient play where she gathers a group of women from the various Greek city-states and launches an effective campaign to end the Peloponnesian War by withholding sex from the men.  Soon after the commencement of the campaign some of the elder women take control of the Acropolis which housed the state treasury thus limiting the ability of the men fighting the war to fund it.

While the Spanish Ladies intentions are admirable I am not sure how successful they might be.  If the amorous ways of the bankers in Spain are to be fulfilled, then I suppose they will have to begin lending again to small businesses and families to continue enjoying their asuntos de amor.

If you have not read the Lysistrata, I highly recommend it.  Very funny and insightful as to the ways in which women can often times be the better leaders in the affairs of man.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Quick Guide to QuickBooks: 12 Advanced Features You Should Be Using

A friend of mine, Richard Levychin, from KBL recently wrote the following about features in Quickbooks companies should be using.  Richard runs an accountancy firm in New York City and is a trusted advisor for many businesses.  If you have any questions for him, or want to receive guidance/advice for your company, please contact him at:

More than 4.5 million companies use QuickBooks, making it by far the most widely used accounting system in the world. However, many users frequently overlook or underutilize the product’s strongest features. The following is a list of 12 QuickBooks intermediate and advanced features that you should be using.
1. Custom Data Fields

Custom fields is one of the most powerful features in accounting software. QuickBooks Premier provides 20 generic custom data fields, and QuickBooks Enterprise provides more than 50 content-specific custom data fields. Using these data fields one can overcome many shortcomings in an accounting system. For example, a boat marina might use custom fields to track the name of the customer’s boat and slip number and to create a data field indicating whether the customer subscribes to the monthly cranking service (see screenshot below).
Further, QuickBooks allows users to filter reports using those custom data fields. For example, the boat marina could filter a list of customers to display only those who subscribe to the monthly cranking service, thereby producing a list of boats that need cranking each month. To use the tool, go to the Customer Center, select a Customer, click the Edit Customer button, then under the Additional Information tab, click Define Fields.
Custom Data tip. Information entered into custom data fields can also be included in financial reports, on invoices and in all QuickBooks documents.
2. Memorize Transactions

For every company, a significant number of transactions recur regularly, and QuickBooks accommodates this by enabling you to memorize recurring transactions. For example, suppose a company makes the same monthly rent payment, bills clients for recurring monthly services or records the same monthly depreciation entries. In these cases, QuickBooks can memorize the transactions and automatically enter them for you at regularly scheduled intervals. This feature can help save time, reduce mistakes and increase accuracy. You also can use this feature to memorize complex journal-entry templates, such as detailed allocations, and enter the actual amounts later. To access the tool, type Ctrl + M.
Memorize Transaction tip. Memorize Transaction will generate electronic payments or paper checks but it does not automatically send or print them. Once a check is created in QuickBooks, you can send or print the check using the File menu’s Send Documents or Print Documents menu options.
3. Process Multiple Reports

Often, bookkeepers who do a good job of keeping the books fail to consistently produce and distribute the necessary financial reports each day, week or month for company personnel to use in managing the business. In many cases, the process of preparing and printing dozens of reports is too time-consuming. QuickBooks provides a solution called Process Multiple Reports, which enables users to group together dozens of reports (using the Memorize function) and print them all in a single step, as shown below. To access the tool, go to the Reports menu, Process Multiple Reports.
Multiple Reports tips. When memorizing each report, include the recipient’s name in the report title to make distribution a little easier. In addition, re-sorting the reports in the Memorize Report window will ensure that the reports print in collated order.
4. Prevent Prior-Period Changes

A common issue with QuickBooks is how easily users can (intentionally or unintentionally) enter or edit transactions in prior periods. To prevent unauthorized prior-period entries or changes, set up a unique username and password for each user and set each user’s preferences to prohibit him or her from bypassing the closing date. Thereafter, by establishing a password-protected closing date and moving it forward each month as review and adjustments are completed, you can lock down the prior-period data as the year progresses, as shown in the screenshot at the bottom of the previous page. To access the tool, go to the Company menu, Set Closing Date.
5. Batch Invoicing

QuickBooks versions 2011 and higher enable users to create a batch of invoices in a single process. For example, a company that needs to invoice 500 customers each month for a $20 Webhosting fee can generate all 500 invoices in one step. The batch invoice feature also allows users to search for customers according to custom data fields and then invoice the resulting group. For example, this would empower the boat marina’s bookkeeper (as mentioned above) to invoice in a single step each customer who subscribes to the monthly cranking service. To access the tool, go to the Customers menu, and select Create Batch Invoices (see screenshot atop the next column).
6. Remote Access

QuickBooks Remote Access is a Web-based service (go to that allows users to securely log in to their QuickBooks systems. Remote Access grants them entry only to their QuickBooks application and data and prevents them from viewing other data, such as Word, Excel and email files, on their computer. The service takes only a few minutes to set up and, thereafter, they can log in to their QuickBooks to train users, be trained by outsiders, review their books and, if appropriate, enter corrections and adjustments. Remote access is priced starting at $3.95 per month.
7. Attach Documents

The Attach Documents feature enables you to attach electronic documents throughout QuickBooks to achieve a paperless environment. As documents are processed, you can save them locally on your computer network or to a cloud-based storage facility accessible by all users, even those in remote locations. Some of the advantages to maintaining a paperless accounting system are:

a. Electronic documents can be available to all users, even remote users;

b. You can locate electronic documents quickly via indexed searching;

c. Electronic documents are easier to include when preparing reports or email messages, reducing the costs associated with making copies and sending paper documents;

d. Electronic documents can be easily backed up off-site for better data protection; and

e. Electronic documents reduce costs related to paper documents such as filing cabinets, file rooms and archiving efforts.

There used to be a charge associated with this feature, but the new QuickBooks 2012 Pro offers Attach Documents with free local storage, as Intuit is phasing out the cloud option. To use the tool, click the Attach button with the paper clip icon in any document or template. This option is grayed out until setup is completed.
8. Imported Credit Card Transactions

Typing a lengthy credit card statement into your accounting system is time-consuming and difficult to accomplish without making transposition or keypunching errors. By contrast, in most cases, credit card transaction data can be imported directly into QuickBooks in just a few seconds, and QuickBooks’ built-in logic can automatically match the expenditures with the appropriate vendor and account number for more efficient processing. This feature is included for free. To access, go to the Banking menu, Enter Credit Card Charges and click the Download Credit Card Charges option at the top of the page. Your specific setup and monthly procedures will vary depending on the credit card company you use.
9. Stratifying Reports

QuickBooks provides a Columns tool that can stratify financial reports by numerous column configurations. This functionality is valuable for analyzing and scrutinizing a company’s financials. For example, a single column profit-and-loss statement can be quickly transformed into an 81-column profit-and-loss statement—with a separate column for each of 80 customers and a total column at the end. Likewise, that same report could be restratified to display a column for each inventory item, thereby reporting the profit (or loss) for each item (or group of items). Other options include stratifying columns by month, quarter, year, departments, sales representatives and more (see screenshot below). Surprisingly, many popular, high-end accounting systems and enterprise resource planning applications fail to provide this type of beneficial reporting. To access the Columns tool in any financial report, click on the Columns dropdown menu above the report.
10. Using Account Numbers

As an option, QuickBooks allows you to display seven-digit account numbers in addition to 31-digit alphanumeric account names. The benefits are faster data entry (using a 10 key) and the ability to control the sort order of accounts displayed in financial reports. For example, you could use this feature to dictate that the accumulated depreciation account appears below property and equipment, not above. To use the tool, go to the Edit menu, Preferences, Accounting, Company Preferences tab, and check the Use account numbers box, as shown below.
However, activating this option also includes account numbers in the financial statements and reports, which is not always desirable. To suppress account numbers, edit each account and add an account description, then set the Reports-Show Accounts by preference to Description Only. After that, only the account descriptions, instead of account numbers and names, will appear on all financial statements.
Reporting tip. The “Description Only” preference setting can be used to display customized row descriptions on financial statements; for example, you may prefer “Trade Receivables” instead of “Accounts Receivable.”
11. Fixed Asset Manager
Every company has assets, and the QuickBooks Fixed Asset Manager (included in the Accountant and Enterprise editions) can track those assets according to six methods (federal, state, book, adjusted current earnings, alternative minimum tax and other). The system incorporates many tax methods, such as the accelerated cost recovery system, the modified accelerated cost recovery system, and the IRC Sec. 168(f)(1) and Sec. 179 depreciation methods, among others. Upon asset dispositions, the system can calculate the appropriate gain or loss on sales, as well as the appropriate amounts of depreciation recapture. Although fixed-asset data can be integrated with QuickBooks, many companies tend to use the Fixed Asset Manager as a stand-alone product—which I recommend because the effort setting up integration probably takes more time than it saves during the year—and enter manual depreciation entries each month in QuickBooks. To access the Fixed Asset Manager, go to the Accountant menu, Manage Fixed Assets.
12. Intuit Data Protect

New as of QuickBooks 2011, Intuit’s Data Protect service automatically backs up your QuickBooks data (or all of your computer files, up to 100 gigabytes) daily to a Web-based storage location. The Data Protect service differs from the older QuickBooks Online Backup service in that the backup procedure runs even when your data file is open, and each daily backup is saved for 45 days. To download Intuit Data Protect, go to Once installed, choose File, Backup. Note: Prices range from $4.95 to $9.95 per month.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cash Flow: The lifeblood of any business

Cash flow and cash management are intrinsically important to the vitality and viability of a business.  Ignoring this part of management responsibility and planning can crush a business with otherwise very healthy prospects.  There are a number of methods to improve it, and one of the most effective is to make sure that any customers which you offer credit terms to are paying their bills in the agreed upon manner.  A customer who you have sold to on Net 30 terms which takes 60 days to actually pay you is hurting your cash flow - you are effectively becoming a banker and not getting paid for the short term loan.  Receivables financing or factoring can be a great help in these situations not only because this type of funding can improve your cash flow, but most factoring companies also act as a de facto collections department shrinking the average days your invoices are outstanding and unpaid.

Dunn & Bradstreet has a few ideas about how to keep this area of your finanical picture healthy:

Cash management is ultimately about cash flow -- and very few small businesses are awash in cash. Even successful, growing companies are vulnerable to cash flow problems because they tend to add employees and inventory rapidly. This may quickly deplete the company coffers and lead to cash shortages.

Because having cash at the right time is so important, entrepreneurs must pay close attention to cash management.

Here are some tips for saving money and managing cash flow:

Make financial projections. Forecast both expenses and anticipated revenues for at least the coming year. This will help you predict when you're likely to have cash and when you're likely to need it. You should also maintain a cash reserve if possible.

Create contingency plans. Have several budget projections, including best case and worst case scenarios, and think about how you might respond. In the event sales don't take off as expected or there's some unforeseen problem, you'll be better prepared.

Keep a lid on spending. One of the most common problems with new businesses is the owners' tendency to spend freely. There's no need to have lavish offices or expensive furniture. Remember, you're in this for the long haul: You should try to get as much value as possible out of every transaction, whether you're leasing office space or stocking the company kitchen.

Keep inventory low. Don't stock inventory based on your fantasy of what you think you'll be selling in six months. Instead, stock only what you know you can sell in the short term.

Lease, don't buy. Another good way to conserve cash is to lease equipment instead of buying it. Although leasing can be more expensive in the long run, it helps you avoid laying out a lot of capital all at once for things like office furniture, computers and copiers.

Delay hiring employees. Try to improve the productivity of current employees (without burning them out), use independent contractors and consider outsourcing certain nonessential functions. Employees are expensive, so you should put off adding permanent hires as long as you can -- or at least until you're earning the revenue to support them.

Go without a salary. Some experts recommend stockpiling a year's worth of living expenses before going into business. Admittedly, this may be difficult, but you should at least avoid paying yourself an excessive salary. Too many entrepreneurs waste cash by paying themselves big salaries without the revenues to justify them.

Speed up customer payments. Try to get customers to pay on time or early, if possible. Offer incentives like discounts or late fees, and adopt more effective collection techniques for deadbeat customers.

Don't be wasteful. Recycle and reuse what you can -- for example, boxes, computer discs and file folders. The savings may not be large on any given item, but they can add up over time.

Using Income Statement Ratio Analysis to Stay on Track

Savvy entrepreneurs track how their businesses are progressing by doing ratio analysis each month. Examining several key ratios on your income statement will reveal whether your business is in good shape or headed for a cash crunch.

Using your income statement data to figure your accounts receivable, accounts payable, and inventory ratios will tell you how fast you are having to pay suppliers, getting paid by customers, and moving products off the shelves. (If you sell services instead of goods, the inventory calculation won't apply.)

Accounts Receivable Turnover

To figure accounts receivable turnover, look at a year's worth of past monthly statements and add up the daily amount of accounts receivables (unpaid customer bills). Divide by 365 to get your average daily receivables. Next add up the total amount of sales you made that year on credit to get your total annual credit sales. Now you can figure your accounts receivable turnover rate:

Accounts receivable turnover = average daily receivables x 365 / total annual credit sales

For example, if your daily average is $25,000 and the total you sold on credit for the year was $200,000, you're taking 45.6 days to collect on an average bill. If your terms are net 30 days, slow payers are choking off your cash flow.

Accounts Payable Turnover

Next compare this figure with your accounts payable turnover rate: how quickly you pay suppliers. Ideally this figure is larger than the accounts receivable turnover rate.

To figure your payables turnover ratio, first add up your payables for each day of a year and divide by 365 to get your average daily payables. Then add up how much you bought on credit for the year to get your total credit purchases. Now you're ready to do the accounts payable turnover ratio formula:

Accounts payable turnover = average daily payables x 365 / total annual credit purchases

If your average payables are $8,000 and you purchase $98,000 in goods on credit in a year, your ratio is 29.8 days. This means you pay suppliers in just less than 30 days. Since customers aren't paying you for more than 45 days, you likely have a cash-flow problem because you need to cover the gap between when you pay for the item and when you collect the customer's payment.

Inventory Turns

The next key ratio is inventory turns. How long do products sit on your shelves before they're sold? Here's the formula:

Inventory turns = average daily inventory x 365 / total annual cost of goods sold

If you have $45,000 of average daily inventory on hand and your total annual cost of goods is $120,000, it's taking an average of 136.8 days for an item to be sold.

Now we have the story of your business: You buy an item, and on day 29 you pay for it. Then on day 137, a customer buys it on credit, taking 45 more days to pay for it. That means from the day you buy an item, it takes 182 days for you to get paid, leaving a 153-day gap during which your business has to finance that purchase. That's an important fact to know when you're figuring whether you are really selling goods at a profit because you need to include the finance cost of any borrowing needed to stay afloat.

Tracking these three ratios each month will show whether your business metrics are improving or deteriorating. Other ratios you can calculate to track important trends in your business include gross margin and net profit.

To make the most of ratio analysis, obtain industry average ratios or ideal targets to compare with your own ratios. Your industry association may have some helpful data, or tap business networking groups to find chatty colleagues with similar businesses.

Custom Search