10 Payment Alternatives to Help Small Businesses Get Paid Faster

One of the numerous ways in which technology has benefitted small businesses has been to increase the number of payment options available.  While  conventional methods of payment like cash and cheque still exist, there are also a variety of other options like debit cards, internet transfers and mobile payments that have greatly facilitated payment infrastructure and made financial management significantly more flexible.  Every business owner must wade through the alternatives and decide what type of payment options are right for their customers.  This is based on several factors including their industry, common practices, location and of course business specific considerations.  For example, a retailer will usually allow for payment by credit and debit cards, cash and possibly some form of mobile payment.  Conversely, a law office may not offer a credit card option, but request payments via cheque or bank transfer.

Some payment alternatives for small businesses to consider are discussed below:

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How to Set Up a Small Business Accounting System

Many small business owners (including myself) tend to focus on the more glamourous aspects of their business like sales and marketing and product/service development.  As a result, accounting (poor misunderstood accounting) does not get the attention it deserve.  In addition to the perception that an accounting system does not necessarily add value, they can also be a little intimidating.  However, setting up an accounting system does not have to be complicated and should be considered essential for any small business or self employed owner (the reasons for which will be covered in my next post). A good software tends to handle most of the complexity of accounting as long as the data is entered accurately.

The primary steps in setting up an accounting system are represented below:

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8 Top Notch Information Resources for Small Businesses

As a small business owner, business blogger and service provider to other small business, I’m always looking for resources that will help me improve my own business, and provide insight into the latest developments, innovations, tools and guidance on financial and tax matters.  Over time, I have bookmarked a list of the resources that I visit frequently:

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19 Features to Consider When Selecting Small Business Accounting Software

When selecting accounting software for your small business it helps to have an understanding of what you want your accounting system to do for you.  This involves analysing the key aspects of your business, determining what you must have and what you would like to have.  Then, like any good cost benefit analysis, narrow it down to what works within your price point.  Below is a checklist of questions you should ask yourself about your business financial needs before selecting a software:

Cost:

Assessing how much the software is going to cost you is perhaps the most important consideration.  Some accounting software are free, some charge a one time fee and some are based on monthly or annual (recurring) billing.

Platform /Apps:

Determining whether you need your accounting software to work on a Windows or Mac platform or whether you would like to access it from the cloud can be an important consideration.  For example Quickbooks Canada does not currently offer their software for Macs or online. 

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Quickbooks Online Banking: Setting Up, Deleting Matched Transactions and Manually Uploading Web Connect or Excel Files

Using online banking can be real time saver for businesses with numerous bank transactions.  It is primarily a tool to help you reconcile your bank accounts by matching the transactions that have already been entered in QuickBooks.  It helps to avoid the painstaking process of checking each transaction against your bank statement and the maddening frustration when you something goes wrong and you have to redo it. 
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4 Alternatives for Preparing Your Small Business Payroll

Paying employees (or yourself) requires more than just knowing the amount that you are going to pay.  The Canadian tax authorities requires that employers calculate a variety of taxes on the salaries paid, remit them to the federal and provincial governments and prepare annual reports demonstrating that the calculations are correct and all amounts have been paid.  This can be a lot of work for business owners whose time is more valuably spent generating sales and building their businesses.  Luckily there are many options that help simplify and guide business owners through the process:
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Is Wave Accounting Software a Good Fit Your Small Business

Most small business owners understand, in theory, that they should have an accounting system.  The problem arises when trying to select accounting software when often you are not really sure what your accounting software should do.      Every business has its own unique accounting and reporting needs.  The ideal accounting software should be able to record your transactions, report on them and provide for analysis on the different facets of your business.  If you are a freelancer or a small service provider, who prefers to do their own accounting, and is looking for a simple and cost effective accounting solution it is definitely worth taking a look at Wave Accounting.
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5 Notable Disclosures in Groupon’s Financial Statements and What They Mean.

Since Groupon first submitted its S-1 filing in June, 2011, there has been a wave of negative sentiment around Groupon’s  upcoming IPO.  Many analysts believe that not only is Groupon not a good investment at the approximate $20 Billion + that its IPO’s initial share price will value it at, but  is in fact on the brink of insolvency.  They are also some that do not believe that, in the long run, Groupon’s business model is profitable . 

In an effort to determine whether Groupon is in fact  a raging buy or, as alternatively presented, on the verge of insolvency, I have undertaken an analysis of their latest S-1 , which was filed with the SEC on August 10, 2011.  The document, which is required by all companies who want to file an initial public offering, comprehensively reviews its operations, long term viability, business risks (which are numerous) and its financial condition.  Some of the more interesting discoveries, as they relate to the 6 months ending June 30, 2011, are presented below:

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Apple Vs Google: Comparison of Quarterly Results (Infographic)

Apple and Google both had incredible quarterly results for the 3 months ended June 25th (strange quarter end date) and June 30th respectively.  They beat forecasts by significant margins, continue to expand their operations and have massive amounts of cash on their balance sheets with virtually no debt.  The infographic below presents some key figures of interest.  It is interesting to note that while Apple is almost twice the size of Google, based on Market Capitalization, their Earnings per share is virtually the same.  The majority (68%) of Apple's sales come from the iPhone and ipad , while almost all of Google's sales come from advertising.  Another interesting distinction for this quarter is that while Apple spent 2% of its gross revenues on  R&D, Google's investment in R&D was about 13%.
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3 Free Small Business Tools that allow you to Access your Computer from Anywhere

The proliferation of cloud computing has changed the way many business owners and employees work.  No longer are they tethered to their computers and designated workspaces.  Business can be conducted anywhere with internet access, be it your home, an airport, a café or (if you are lucky) on the beach. 

There are an abundance of tools out there that allow small business owners to connect with their computers and data.  Three of these are discussed below:

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20 Interesting Financial Facts About Google

One of the best ways to analyse a set of financial statements is to look at a public company’s 10-K.  The 10-k is a mandatory annual filing for all public companies’ and provides a wealth of information about the business, operational and financial information about the entity.  Google’s is particularly interesting, as most of us are intimately familiar with at least some of Google’s wide array of services, yet its business model is fairly simple and accessible.  The bulk of its revenues are derived from advertising and its expense comprise primarily of amounts paid to adsense members, employee salaries and stock compensation and maintenance of its data centres.  Whether you are considering Google as an investment or trying to glean some insight into how one of the world’s most successful companies’ operates, a review of their 10-k is interesting (it helps if you are a finance geek) and insightful reading.  Below is a review and analysis of some financial facts and figures from their 2010 10-K.
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How to Be Less Forgetful: 17 Task Tracking Tips for Business Owners

 

Memento (Chris Nolan’s masterpiece) is the story of a man who suffers from short term memory loss i.e. he can’t remember anything for more than 15 minutes.  This makes his life somewhat complicated, in that he needs to come up with a system to track his memories.  Interestingly it also simplifies it as having no memories allows him to live his life entirely in the present.   One of the many brilliant aspects of the film is that every time you watch it, it is a slightly different movie, as the memory of it does what memories do – they fade and dissolve and meld with other memories leaving us with an impression which is different from the actual events as they unfold.  This is why eyewitness testimony is often unreliable, and individuals’ recollections tend to vary significantly.

Our particular ability to remember … and forget is unique to all of us.  Some of us never forget a face while being hopeless with names.  Others have trouble with appointments  or where we left our keys.   I often have trouble finding the right word or forget the entire plot of a movie or book.  (Not to mention  chunks of my life that are completely missing).  Unfortunately , these memory malfunctions tend to get worse with age, so it is important to find ways to fend them off.  From a work and business perspective, forgetting something important can have severe consequences.   Below are some ideas to help you keep track of your tasks:

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Excel for Small Business Owners

This is incredibly geeky, but there is something about large amounts of data, in a neatly organized table, that I find somewhat exciting .  I suppose it has something to do with an affinity for organization combined with a love of numbers.   As an accountant and financial consultant, I am constantly faced with the task of organizing and analysing data.  And although good accounting software is absolutely necessary for any small business owner, almost all of my financial reporting and analysis is done using excel.

Excel, for my purposes, is somewhat magical.  (Just to be clear, I have no connection to Microsoft. I will eventually write a post on how much I despise Word).  I actually like manipulating data in excel, just so that I can discover new features and find more efficient ways of doing thngs.  This, of course, often ends up taking twice as long as if I had just done it using the more manual, tried and tested methods.  What, continues to impress me, however, is that there is an easier way to do almost everything  in excel (involving data – unfortunately it will not cook you dinner).  And this does not even include macros.

If you are planning to updgrade to excel 2007 or 2010, keep in mind that the interface is quite different.  This takes a while to get used to, and can be quite frustrating in the beginning.  However once you have become familiar with the new structure, excel 2007/10 is vastly superior to 2003.

Excel is especially helpful for small business owners and employees who do not have customized financial reporting or accounting software but are interested in disseminating their data.  Below are some ways in which excel can add value:

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Guidance on Working from Home

Having a home based business has many advantages -  there's no soul sucking commute to and from work, waking up hours are flexible and it allows us to work when we are at our most productive or creative.  Also, it is tax deductible.  It can, however, also present a unique set of challenges.  Given the proximity of distractions including our beds, fridge and tv, even our primary work tool i.e. our computers, it requires a great deal of discipline and focus to actually get any work done. Below are three articles that provide guidance on having a home office:

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NeatDesk Scanner: Effective Bookkeeping Tool?

As an accountant, I occasionally (literally) get shoeboxes of documents from my small business clients.  Receipts are stuffed in and scrunched up and comprise everything from gas (good) to toilet paper (bad).  As I contemplate the mind numbing exercise where I will have to sift through everything, identify missing information and worst of all, enter it all into an accounting software (usually Quickbooks), I often feel a sense of dread.  I've often fantasized about a tool that could do it all for me (of course I could outsource, but since I only have a handful of these types of clients, it is not worth it, yet...). So, when I saw an ad for the Neatdesk scanner (shown ad nauseum on CNBC), I felt a little bit of glee as I perceived a potential solution to (at least part of ) the problem. 

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3 Time Tracking Iphone Apps for Business Professionals

Many business professionals, whether they charge hourly or by project, want a more efficient and accurate method to track and bill time.  This is especially important when you are on the go as you may not have access to your time tracking software.  The iphone has been a boon in this regards in that it provides a plethora of time tracking apps.  The problem, of course, is that finding the right app can be an overwhelming and confusing process.   I have selected 3 popular apps, all under $10, for review:
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