Do you know where all of the money in your business bank account came from and where it’s going? How much income you’re missing from unpaid invoices? How much money you have set aside for quarterly taxes? What you can afford to invest in now and what you need to save for? When your financials are up to date, you can find the answers to these questions anytime. In this article, we’ll take a look at the nuts and bolts of some critical bookkeeping and accounting practices I recommend to most business owners. Once you’re familiar with these monthly financial housekeeping tasks and work them into your routine, you’ll be able to see what’s happening on the financial side of your business, be ready for tax time and make the best decisions on what to do with your money. Since QuickBooks is what I use with my clients, I’ll be giving specific examples of what you can do with that software.
If you haven’t read our previous blog on the “gut feelings” that tell you where to begin with business financial literacy, you may want to start there because it provides some context for what we’re going to talk about here. It gets at some of the reasons why business owners avoid these bookkeeping and accounting tasks and why it’s so important to get a basic understanding of them before you hand them off to somebody else.
Here are the big three stepping stones I recommend to business owners who want to get on top of their finances:
Set aside time to work on books and accounting
It may sound obvious, but one of the biggest reasons that these tasks get pushed back and ignored is that we don’t prioritize them and block out time to work on them. Most financial activities work on a monthly basis, but since there’s quite a bit to do, I recommend blocking out time every week and rotating activities throughout the month. Depending on when you send invoices, determine when it makes sense to process payments, pay bills, organize your receipts, process payroll, track mileage, reconcile your bank statements and review your financials to add or cancel services as your needs change. These tasks will take less and less time as you get familiar with them, but as you can see, there’s definitely too much to do it all just once a month!
The other important thing to consider is that this is something you won’t want to do on your personal time. Do yourself a favor and schedule this during work hours (even if you’re busy) because this is work! Trying to crunch numbers during your evenings and weekends will only make you resent this necessary part of your business housekeeping practice. Most of all, you need your personal time to recharge and enjoy your life!
Once you have QuickBooks set up with your bank accounts, client information and products and services, you can start doing the monthly tasks of processing your financial activity I mentioned earlier. There are a few key features in QuickBooks that can automate some of the most repetitive work, which I will outline here (though the desktop version works a bit differently than QuickBooks Online).
Sync your bank data: In the “banking” section, enter your online banking account login information so QuickBooks can sync all of your transactions from those accounts in real-time. This little step allows you to categorize all of your transactions and reconcile your bank account with your records.
Assign rules: There are probably certain utilities and services you pay for every month, and QuickBooks allows you to create “rules” so those recurring transactions get coded the same way every time. Under “banking,” you will find a wizard to help you “automate income and expense tracking.”
One important thing to note is that syncing your bank account will likely create duplicate transactions for payments you’ve already recorded via paid invoices. If you see any of these duplicates here, you can click “exclude” to ignore those duplicate transactions.
Set up recurring automated invoices and reminders: After you create an invoice in QuickBooks, you can select “make recurring” to choose how often the same invoice will be sent and on what day, when to start sending it and when to end. There’s also an option to create it a certain number of days in advance, which I like because it gives you time to make any necessary changes. Be sure to preview your invoice to check it for mistakes!
QuickBooks Online also allows you to send reminders to clients with unpaid invoices. This feature isn’t perfect; there’s no way to set exactly when these emails will go out, and they may go to your client’s Spam folder. But I do recommend using this option to avoid chasing down unpaid invoices whenever possible.
Find your support people
Are you not exactly jazzed about being an accountant for an hour every week? First of all, you don’t have to figure everything out by yourself. You might want to find an accountability partner who has a similar business or uses the same software to help you stay motivated. If you need a little more help getting your bearings, a finance coach may be right for you. Many entrepreneurs outsource these tasks to bookkeepers or CPAs, which may be worth it, but I highly recommend getting to know your processes first. The most important support person to find is someone who understands your unique business goals, who you trust to answer your questions with your best interests in mind. When issues come up that you don’t know how to deal with, you’ll already know who to call!
Did this article bring up some burning questions? I’d love to hear what’s on your mind and work through it with you! Don’t hesitate to get in touch.