Work smarter not harder in 2013

As the economic environment we operate in changes down a gear, we have seen a lot of businesses take a closer look at what they are doing and why, while others stick their heads down and pedal harder hoping things will go back to they way they were.  With the new year looming and businesses everywhere grappling with change, we thought it was timely to give you some ideas on how you can work more on your business, setting yourself up for a stronger year in 2013.  It’s time to work smarter not harder.

When times are good most business owners are focussed on the task in front of them and literally have no time to focus on planning as they need to deal with the customers or clients that have engaged them.

Then, when they get a sense that business is starting to slow down, they get nervous and focus even more closely on the current needs of the business, rather than looking into the future.  As humans we are all creatures of habit, so often, pedalling harder in our businesses along the same road is the easiest and most comfortable thing to do when times get tougher.  But is it the right thing to do? Or could you get there faster by standing back and selecting a shorter route?

We all know that family business owners are among the hardest working people in the community. They are often the first to arrive and last to leave their workplaces each day. They deal with all facets of their business from operations, marketing, staffing and administration to name a few, with each area’s complications adding to the stress of being a business owner.

Not only are family business owners good, hard working people, but they also like to think they are good planners.  But in reality, in almost every family and small business, there is simply not enough emphasis on planning for the future, on working smarter not harder, or on finding a shorter route to the goal.

But if you are a business owner, how do you get from working in your business every day, to working on your business? And what might it do for you in the future?

In principle, working on the business is taking time out to determine your personal objectives and the objectives of the business. (Please note this is not always making more money, it may be to reduce risk or have more personal time or less stress or all of the above.)  When business owners work on their businesses they could be:

  • developing a plan focussing on the objectives set.
  • developing an annual budget which is reviewed periodically knowing profit expectations, capital needs and cash flow needs.
  • determining the people resources required to achieve their objectives. To share your vision and to create a culture that develops your team into “doers” .This includes setting the values and ethics they expect within the business.
  • creating and implementing a sales and marketing plan, to assure you and your team, there is adequate revenue flows and revenue sources.
  • putting in place a programme to make sure you are up to date with your products and services, as well as pricing.
  • reviewing processes and procedures to maximise efficiency.
  • understanding variable costs and fixed costs to allow the business to manoeuvre when there  is a change in the market.
  • ensuring they have a good focus on the industry and the customers to understand change and the evolving needs of customers and clients.

Working on the business requires taking time out to develop a well thought out plan, programming the plan then executing that plan. The difficulty is that it is easy to fall into the habit of going back to “working in your business“  and getting distracted from the implementation.

Our team often gets called in to be the independent person that assists with the development of the plan, execution of the plan and sorting the programme from month to month, keeping the business owner and their leaders executing their plan on a controlled basis.

So why not start working on your business now for 2013.  You can start by considering the changing economic environment and work through each of the items below to form plans for your coming year.

P lanning

P rojecting/budgeting

P ricing

P roduct/ service

P romotion/marketing

P remises and location of the business

P eople within the organisation

P rocesses and expectation

Or you can give us a call  and we’ll help you with it.

You can be sure that your competitors are making plans to improve their share of the changing market.  Isnt it time you did too?

Glen Stapley is an Associate Director of Prosperity Advisers Group.

Using cloud accounting to keep your finger on your business pulse

Increasing numbers of our clients are moving to cloud based accounting packages, and are asking us to assist with the rollout.   Others are approaching us for insight and information on why they should consider the change.  So this week we take a look at the benefits of cloud accounting systems and give you a snapshot of the major players in the industry. 

Existing methods of dealing with the transfer of data files between client and advisor all bring their own deficiencies – issues with file sizes, duplicate or out of date file versions, remote access limitations and restrictions on bank downloads. Cloud accounting software gives you accounting as it happens.  It streamlines the bookkeeping and allows for real time understanding of your business’ financial position.  It also makes the interaction with your external advisor far simpler.

Whether you choose one accounting system or another comes down to the level of sophistication of your business and the skill level of the team. Having worked with a range of businesses adopting cloud software, I urge you to take your time when considering the system you will use because every business’ requirements are unique and as you will see below, every system has slightly different capability and user interface design.

There are many measureable benefits in moving from a desktop program to the cloud.  Most systems interface with daily bank feeds that itemise your transactions, cutting down on data entry and vastly improving the reconciliation process.

[Above: Prosperity Director, Stephen Guthrie talks about Prosperity’s migration to Cloud Technology]

Dashboard views of key business metrics, such as profit and loss, accounts receivable, accounts payable and cash balances, give you a quick snapshot of real time performance. As web-based applications, many have interface capabilities with other applications such as CRMs, business productivity suites and online retailing systems giving you much more power than you may have had before in your desktop package.

In addition to this, accounting in the cloud makes managing your business remotely and collaborating with external advisers easier than ever.  Both you and your accountant can log into your portal through separate logins from anywhere with internet access and look directly at an invoice, report, process or issue.  Gone are the days of transferring large datafiles back and forth and trying to keep records in sync.

The current major players in the Australian cloud-based accounting software landscape are Saasu, Xero, MYOB, and Quickbooks.  We take a quick look at each:

Saasu
Saasu is a Sydney-based provider of cloud-based accounting solutions for small and medium businesses. The Saasu application includes capabilities that align with the desktop offerings of accounting suites including purchases, inventory management, sales, payroll, ecommerce, CRM, point of sale, document and workflow management.  Saasu includes full inventory and payroll functionality in its “medium” business package as well as including automatic bank feeds from most Australian banks directly within the application.

Saasu also goes beyond the basics by providing full tax and superannuation calculations for Australian businesses alongside complex inventory and a lightweight customer relationship manager (CRM) that should meet the needs of most small businesses.

Saasu is well known for its strong online accounting API that enables connection to hundreds of web applications, software products, payment services plus thousands of banks.

  • Cost: AUD $9 – $60 per month
  • Strengths: Strong online accounting API that allows online retail and other web applications to interface.
  • Weaknesses: More complex dashboard than Xero
  • Web: www.saasu.com

Xero
With an exponentially growing customer base, Xero must be doing something right.  A simple, browser-based accounting package, Xero doesn’t offer the complexity of Saasu.  It does however offer fully integrated payroll and bank feeds.

Xero is one of the larger cloud based accounting vendors. Publicly listed on the New Zealand stock exchange, they have invested heavily in both product design and marketing channels. Xero has 50,000 customers around the world and country-specific versions for the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the US.  All data is located in the US and Xero uses a content delivery network to overcome speed issues caused by geographic distance from users.

Last year, Xero purchased Australian payroll provider PayCycle providing complete financial/payroll functionality to customers. Xero has built in automatic bank feeds with over 5,000 banks internationally including all major Australian banks.

  • Cost: Xero costs between $29 and $64 per month.
  • Strengths: Automated bank feeds, integrated payroll, very intuitive user experience and dashboard.
  • Weaknesses: The lack of inventory is a barrier to product companies.
  • Website: www.xero.com.au

MYOB Live Accounts
MYOB LiveAccounts is a first generation cloud accounting software pitched at small businesses and individuals wanting a simple double entry system.  Similar to Xero and Saasu, MYOB LiveAccounts can be set up to pull bank feeds in automatically, and includes payroll functionality.

Business owners looking for functionality akin to their existing desktop version of MYOB will need to wait for the new MYOB AccountRight Live which is expected to launch in the last two months of 2012.

  • Cost: Live Accounts costs $25 per month
  • Strengths: Automatically create and allocate transactions via bank feeds, integrated payroll, easy BAS preparation,
  • Weaknesses: No inventory management, time billing, or multi-currency
  • Website: www.myob.com.au

MYOB AccountRight Live
From November 8 this year, MYOB will make available AccountRight Live, which adopts a hybrid model – user access will be via a locally loaded MYOB application which will then access a cloud based data file. The data file can be used locally in periods without internet access and then synchronised later to the cloud. This product therefore differs from other cloud based systems, where all the necessary software is available via a web browser session.
AccountRight Live will allow your accountant, bookkeeper, or other members of your team to all connect to the same data file and receive automatic updates of all records in real time on their desktop record of accounts. 
 
It is not yet clear whether AccountRight Live will offer the connectivity to other applications promoted by Xero and Saasu. The ability to import automatic bank feeds is currently available in beta stage.

  • Cost: From $23 per month to $59 per month
  • Website: www.myob.com.au

Quickbooks – Hosted or Online
Quickbooks offer the opportunity to leverage their existing strong desktop products into the cloud using two alternate approaches.

Quickbooks Hosted
The hosted version of Quickbooks offers the same feature set that is available on the desktop application. The application itself, together with your datafile, is hosted on a remote server and is accessed via your web browser (in a similar manner to Saasu and Xero).

If you also own a desktop version of Quickbooks, you will be able to download a copy of the data file to work on offline and then re-sync it later.

Quickbooks Online
Quickbooks Online does not have the feature set of the desktop version or the hosted version and is therefore not suitable for all business types. It is a different product, designed specifically for internet access, which brings both benefits and disadvantages to the use experience.

  • Cost: Quickbooks Hosted is priced on a per user basis from $310 per annum. Quickbooks Online is priced from $25 – $55 per month.
  • Strengths: Bank feeds and multi-currency features can be handled within the package by the $40/month offering.
  • Weaknesses: The Online Australian edition does not at this stage offer payroll, time tracking and inventory tracking.  Payroll can be set up manually in the chart of accounts but is not as simple as Saasu and Xero.
  • Website: Hosted – www.reckon.com.au; Online – www.intuit.com.au

Our experience
The above outline is just a quick overview of the options available. Our team works with all of the systems in this lineup and is happy to give you further insight if you are thinking of moving from the desktop to the cloud.

Having migrated our own computer environment from locally based servers into a secure hosted cloud based system, we understand the concerns around data security and have also experienced the benefits such a move creates for the mobile business owner.

Article by Stephen Guthrie, Director, Prosperity Advisers. Stephen and our other Advisers provide Business, Tax and Family Office services to our clients from offices in Brisbane, Sydney and Newcastle.