Excel for Small Business Owners

As a confirmed excel nerd, there is something about large amounts of data that I am inextricably drawn towards . I suppose it has something to do with an affinity for organization combined with a love of numbers and the innate desire to solve problems. As an accountant and financial consultant , I am often presented with the task of organizing and analysing data into a format that allows for greater insight into my clients businesses . And although good accounting software is absolutely necessary for any small business owner, a significant amount of analysis and reporting is done most effectively in excel.

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The Many Hats of Self Employment

Being self employed comes with many benefits.  You can sleep in, work in your pyjamas and go shopping in the middle of the day.  You no longer have to report to a boss who doesn't really understand what you do or deal with mindless workplace politics.  It all sounds wonderful, but unfortunately there are also many challenges.  Small business owners have to deal with uncertainty and risk.  They need to be disciplined and deal with the many demands that being self employed can impose upon us.  In the early stages of self employment, most of us have to take on the responsiblity of fulfilling the administrative functions that you find in a more established business. Some of the skills that you need to develop are:

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9 Factors that Affect the Value of Your Business

Blood, toils, tears and sweat go into building our businesse; however their values are very rarely a direct product of our efforts.  A recent bidding war between HP and Dell pushed the stock price of 3Par from $10.00 to $33.00 over a two week period.  The company ultimately sold for $2Billion.  It seemed that both HP and Dell decided that they needed a company that sold storage servers and were ready to pay far more than an independent valuation would have gotten 3 Par (the market had valued it at $700 million).  Of course most businesses are not 3Par, and most business owners need to take numerous factors into account when determining the value of their business.  Some of these are discussed below:
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7 Qualities of Highly Desirable Clients

“I want to create a rival to Twitter. So I want it exactly the same except where it says What’s Happening? I want it to say How are you feeling?”(From the very funny "Clients from Hell")

This pretty much sums up the type of client we don't want - ridiculous expectations, unimaginative and just plain clueless. Conversely, there are some clients that are a pleasure to deal with.  Ones that ask great questions, and make us feel happy to have chosen the entrepreneurial route.  The more important of these are listed below:

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GST and QST Considerations For New Business Owners

The Goods and Services Tax or GST is a consumption tax that is charged on most goods and services sold within Canada, regardless of where your business is located.  Subject to certain exceptions, all businesses are required to charge GST , currently at 5%, plus applicable provincial sales taxes.  A business effectively acts as an agent for Revenue Canada by collecting the taxes and remitting them on a periodic basis.  Businesses are also permitted to claim the taxes paid on expenses incurred that relate to their business activities.  These are referred to as Input Tax Credits.

Does Your Business Need to Register?

Prior to engaging in any kind of commercial activity in Canada, all business owners need to determine how the GST and relevant provincial taxes apply to them. Essentially, all businesses that sell goods and services in Canada, for profit, are required to charge GST, except in the following circumstances:

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Breaking Up with a (Likeable) Client

Many of us have clients who are annoying, cheap, stupid , high maintenance or some combination thereof.  As a new business owner, we are often stuck with these clients because we need them.  However, we look forward to the day when we will have the thriving business that we so deserve, and fantasize about the spectacular way in which are going to fire them (you can shove your business into your rear orifice etc.)  This is actually a productive fantasy as can help to channel and concentrate anger.  Of course, in the majority of cases, a firing should be conducted with slightly less vigour.

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9 Tips For Managing Your Customer Receivables

Having Accounts Receivable i.e. amounts owing by customers is both good and bad.  It's good because it means that you have sales and customers.  It's bad because it is cash that you don't have now, and there is always a possibility that you won't collect.  When you offer credit terms to your customers it is extremely important to have a system in place to manage your accounts receivable.  It is difficult to collect amounts due when you don't actually know how much you are owed or when it is due.  Having the information at your fingertips  (this really relates to any kind of information) also makes a great impression. Below are some steps to help manage and collect on your accounts receivable:
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Tax Planning for Business Professionals: Dividends or RRSPs?

This article in the globe and mail discusses a novel tax strategy.  If you are an incorporated business professional - a lawyer, accountant or consultant -  it might be more benefical from a tax perspective to retain excess funds that would normally be transferred to an RRSP, in the corporation. The business owner would withdraw funds in the form dividends instead of a salary.  (It is necessary to have earned income eg. a salary to build RRSP contribution room.  Dividends are not considered to be earned income.) This strategy results in the following tax savings:
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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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Accounting for Non Accountants : Debit, Credits and Financial Statements

When people hear the term accounting, there is an involuntary reaction whereby the comprehension centres (the medical term) of their brains tend to shut down, and sleep mode is activated.  This is unfortunate, as accounting, especially to a small business owner, can actually be quite interesting.  It is one of the primary tools by which business owners and other interested parties can gage the success of their business, as well as identify areas that require attention andneed improvement.  To understand accounting, business owners need to have a basic understanding of how it works (debits and credits) and it's results (financial statements), explained below:

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