DIY Small Business Accounting 101

Taking control of your own business accounting process can give you peace of mind and alleviate the stress of someone else having access to your private financial information. As you’re planning to take your accounting in-house, here are some basic steps to ensure you’re on the right path.

Find what works for your business

The first step is to look for a program that works for your specific field and business style. Much like you would want to hire a lawyer or CPA who specializes in your specific industry, you want to choose an accounting program that caters to your needs. Some accounting software may include unnecessary features, such as tracking inventory; others may not have enough, such as a feature that calculates quarterly taxes.

Test out different software so you can pinpoint exactly what your business needs and ignore the rest. There’s no need to waste time on something that doesn’t work, and you’ll want to find the best fit as soon as possible.

DIY accounting requires a system

Since you’ve chosen to tackle your own small business accounting, you must set up—and stick to—a regular bookkeeping routine. Tasks like categorizing expenses, paying invoices, and preparing reports have to be completed on a daily and monthly basis. So it’s important to implement a system for checking these tasks off the list.

Otherwise it’s far too easy to get behind and find yourself in the midst of financial disorganization and needing to hire help to get through the mess. Having unorganized finances can also cause you to miss out on important tax deductions, making regular tax payments, and ultimately cause you to lose your hard-earned money to pay for late fees and a high tax bill.

Adhere to the basics

As long as you know the basics of small business accounting, everything else becomes relatively simple. Start by understanding these basic accounting terms, as these are things your CPA will require you to prepare and print off at the end of the year when filing your taxes.

   •     Accounts Receivable: Also known as AR, this account includes money you bill out to customers or vendors and are          expecting payment for.
   •     Accounts Payable: Also known as AP, this account includes          invoices and bills you receive and are required to pay.
   •     Assets: This account holds both tangible and intangible items          you own that are of value to the business, such as equipment,          property, tools, trademarks, patents, and stocks.
   •     Balance Sheet: This report is an overview of your company’s          financial status and includes assets, liabilities, and equity in          relation to the business.
   •     General Ledger: This report houses a complete recording of all          the transactions, income, and expenses your business has          incurred since its inception.
   •     Journal: A journal includes entries and accounts, sometimes          called “journal entries,” and is where all your transactions are recorded, whether imported from your bank directly or          added manually.
   •     Liabilities: This is the opposite of your assets and includes all long-term and short-term debt owed by the business.
   •     Profit and Loss Statement: Also known as P&L, this report lists all of the company’s gross earnings, expenses, and net          profit.

Stick with the basics and you’ll be able to grasp nearly any accounting term or phrase that your CPA throws at you. This will help you save money by being able to expertly handle the bookkeeping tasks yourself.

Don’t forget to pay taxes

Above all things, it’s important to prioritize setting aside money for tax payments. This is the one thing that can really get your business into trouble, both with the IRS and by having cash flow issues, so don’t let this slip from your to-do list.

Depending on your type of small business, you’ll have to pay quarterly taxes and possibly have to submit payroll taxes and reports on behalf of any employees. Most accounting programs already have features built-in where you can quickly calculate quarterly or payroll taxes, and include specific guidelines for paying them. In this case, it may be best to prep the taxes and reports and then hand everything over to a CPA or tax professional.

When considering whether or not to take your accounting system in-house, these steps will make it easier for you to save money and time, while still producing your desired results.

Know When to Fold ‘Em: 3 Signs it’s Time to Sell Your Business

As the Kenny Rogers song goes, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em; know when to walk away.” These lines likely ring true for any small business owner.

Entrepreneurs start businesses to solve problems and put in a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and long hours in the process. Eventually, thoughts of selling come up. The decision to sell is not always the result of a problem within the business. There are many reasons entrepreneurs choose to sell. The founding partners may be ready to move on. It may be part of a long-term business plan or a necessity for financial reasons. Sometimes, it’s simply too difficult to keep up with the competition or changes in the marketplace.

Whatever the reason, selling is a big—and personal—decision that requires an in-depth look at the industry of the specific business, the market, existing and pending competition, and the individual company’s finances. Here are three signs that it may be time to walk away:

1. Lack of resources to take it to the next level

Just as starting a business takes capital, growing the business takes even more capital. Depending on the business, growth may require investing in new technology, adding employees, expanding skill sets, upping production, or anticipating market changes. Not all small businesses have the resources to take things to the next level.

If a business is poised for growth, it may attract possible buyers who can invest sufficient capital, bring in a new set of business acumen, and expand the business.

2. Founder burnout

Getting businesses off the ground is tough. It takes a lot of hard work, risk, sacrifice, and stress. Each stage of setting up a business comes with its own set of issues. In the early stages, founders often try to do everything themselves, and, later, it might be personnel issues. This can lead to the founders feeling burned out or simply ready for a change.

Feeling unhappy, unfulfilled or even exhausted may be signs that it’s time to sell.

3. An offer that’s too good to pass up

Entrepreneurs and small business owners may dream about Google or another large corporation buying their company and becoming billionaires. This might seem like a fantasy, but it’s possible that an offer might come out of nowhere and be too good to pass up.

Even if selling hadn’t seemed like a possibility, receiving an unexpected offer can give entrepreneurs the opportunity to evaluate their business plan, examine the market, and think about the future. If an offer is received, especially a multi-million dollar one, it’s a good idea to give it some serious consideration.

It’s best for the sale of a business to always be on the seller’s terms. Though this may not always be possible, entrepreneurs should remember all of their hard work as they look to sell, take stock of the business, and try to anticipate what’s best for the future of the business and business owner.

IaaS vs PaaS vs Saas: Tips On the Cloud Trifecta

Cloud technology is enjoying marked success as companies move from “occasional” use to mainstream adoption. Consider the rise of soft-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings; according to IT Pro Portal, more than 1,400 new SaaS companies have emerged over the last five years and this $8 billion market should reach more than $50 billion by 2026. For many businesses, however, it’s easy to get bogged down in terminology—IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS—and miss the technology’s potential ROI. Here’s what you need to know about the cloud computing trifecta.

Software as a service

By far the most popular and straightforward type of cloud computing, SaaS offers entry-level cloud technology access for companies of any size. The easiest way to understand this service? Think in terms of applications. Almost any app currently hosted on local servers or stored on PC hard drives can be moved the cloud. Instead of taking up valuable server space and network resources, all necessary code is stored off site. More importantly, all the “heavy lifting” of computation, analysis, and data storage are also handled by cloud servers. The result? You get high-performance, high-availability applications without the need to maintain hardware or upgrade software. Typically, you’ll pay monthly for access to the cloud itself and then a per-device or per-user fee for the software. SaaS is also the easiest cloud “entry point” for employees because many already use cloud services—such as email clients or social media sites—and are comfortable with the concept.

Infrastructure as a service

At the other end of the cloud is IaaS. Here the idea is to leverage virtual machines (VMs) in place of physical servers, meaning you’re not on the hook for big CAPEX spending or regular hardware upgrading. You’re able to put anything you want on these VMs—whatever platform, software, monitoring tools, or security solutions work best for your business—but they’re ultimately housed and maintained off site. Typically, IaaS is leveraged by companies that want total control over their virtual computing environment and have enough full-time IT staff to make the most of VM environments. While it’s possible to run IaaS in a public cloud environment, many enterprises now choose a hybrid or private model to maximize data and resource security.

Platform as a service

In the middle, you’ll find PaaS. As noted by Network World, it’s not a “finished product” like SaaS offerings, nor is it the “blank slate” of IaaS. Instead, PaaS provides a way for IT teams to develop services and applications for a specific platform. Developers and IT ops professionals get all the tools they need to build apps, social sites, mobile offerings, and websites—along with the APIs and tools needed to “hook” these offerings into the larger infrastructure of your cloud provider.

It’s worth noting that with so many as-a-service options on the market—from database to analytics to security to communications—two trends have emerged. First, the maturing cloud market has created a significant shift toward the simplicity of SaaS for even mission-critical tools and services; second, the ubiquity of cloud computing has driven down the average price of entry.

Bottom line? A little knowledge of the cloud trifecta goes a long way to selecting the ideal deployment for your business.

E-Waste Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Technology is in hyper-drive speed as it continues to advance. Because of these ongoing improvements, computers, printers, smartphones and other electronic items are finding their way to our landfills faster than ever. However, there are large amounts of dollars—billions, in fact—of recyclable materials in this e-waste that we can recoup if we take the necessary steps. Take a look at the staggering statistics that surround e-waste in this infographic. Need to properly dispose of e-waste at your workplace or home? See our blog on recycling old technology.


Discarded electrical appliances are called electronic waste, or e-waste. Computers, cell phones, TVs, refrigerators, monitors and microwaves are common e-waste items. Disposal of electronic items is one of modern society’s most critical environmental concerns. The issue is largely “out of sight, out of mind.” Here are the disturbing numbers and facts.

What is e-waste?
Any unwanted or obsolete electronic item – operational or not. Cell phones, televisions, VCRs, DVD players, stereos, copiers, fax machines, computers, monitors, CDs, etc.
Average e-waste produced every year The UN says 41.8 million tons of e-waste were produced last year worldwide.  90% was illegally traded, exported or dumped
On average each American generated 48 pounds of e-waste. (equivalent of every American throwing out 11 laptops every year)
Only 12.5% of total e-waste is recycled. The U.S. is the worst offender – 9.4 million tons/year
According to the EPA, recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent of electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year. Electronics are full of valuable resources such as silver, gold, titanium, fossil fuels, aluminum, iron, copper, and more.

Raw materials in e-waste
In 2014, $50 billion worth of recyclable materials was present in e-waste products.
Raw materials in single-year’s e-waste Silver $.3 Billion Palladium $1.8 Billion Aluminum $3 Billion Plastics $12.3 Billion Iron $9 Billion Gold $10.3 Billion Copper $10.5 Billion Last year,
Apple pulled $40 million worth of gold from recycled phones.

The Internet and e-waste
The Internet was supposed to decrease e-waste. But the advent of new devices means old ones are thrown out. other types of waste are decreasing; however, e-waste is growing close to 5% annually.
More than 5.5 million boxes of software go to landfills and incinerators.
Online downloads and streaming are causing CDs to become obsolete.
Millions of music CDs thrown away each year. Every month, approximately 100,000lbs of CDs become obsolete.
It takes over 1 million years for a CD to decompose in a landfill.

Most used and replaced electronics
Cellphones – Replaced every 22 months
Computer – Replaced every 2 years
Television – Replaced every 10 years
Printer – Replaced every 5 years

Where cell phones go to die
Approximately 350,000 phones are disposed of daily = More than 152 million phones each year.
More than 7.2 billion mobile phones in existence (the Earth’s population is 7.4 billion).
80% of phones end up in landfills. Exported to countries like Ghana, India, and China where civilians salvage electronics in hazardous/toxic conditions.
For every 1 million cell phones recycled, 35,274 lbs of copper, 77 lbs of silver, 75 lbs of gold, and 33 lbs of palladium can be recovered.
Americans throw out phones containing $60 million in gold and silver every year.

What can we do about e-waste?
Re-evaluate: Do you need that gadget?
Extend the life of your electronics: Buy a case. Avoid overcharging the battery.
Buy environmentally friendly electronics. Look for ENERGY STAR or Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Took (EPEAT) certification.
Donate used goods to social programs: Children safety initiatives; domestic violence victims, etc. Reuse large electronics. Use e-waste recycle bins.

Why should I be concerned about ransomware?

Ransomware is not like the neon windbreakers of the early ’90s, which quickly faded, or the popular toy Furbies, which peaked in sales a few years after being introduced in 1998. No, ransomware is here to stay. According to the FBI, “Cyber criminals collected $209 million in the first three months of 2016 by extorting business and institutions to unlock computer servers.” At this rate ransomware is on pace to become a $1-billion-a-year industry. The stakes are high and you must have a proper backup plan in place.

The days of backing up systems to tape and external drives are long gone. Once considered the future of data protection, cloud backup is now an essential part of a comprehensive backup strategy. And the best part about cloud backups is how simple they are. Most offerings have set-it-and–forget-it scheduling, so you or your company’s IT department does not have to spend time backing up your data. These backups are also non-disruptive, meaning they are going on in the background while you are working and will not disturb current workloads.

Not only are cloud backups automatic and non-disruptive, they are very secure. Data security is a hot topic for companies today and will be going forward. Cloud backups are typically encrypted at the source, while in flight to the data centers, and while at rest in the data center. Most cloud backup providers will provide a variety of encryption options, including 256-bit AES encryption and 458-bit Blowfish.

You may be asking yourself, “This all sounds great, but what happens in the event my data gets attacked?” Keep in mind that cloud backups are structured in a way that allows you to roll back to a point in time prior to the attack. For example, let’s say at 12:30 p.m. your laptop locks up and a pop-up appears on the screen informing you that your data has been hijacked and encrypted and demanding a ransom in Bitcoins in exchange for a decryption key.  You would first notify management of what is going on and then go straight to your friends in IT. They will be able to pull the last backup at 12:00 p.m. and restore your data in a matter of minutes.

Cloud backup is a second line of defense to antivirus and threat detection software and was designed with the end user in mind. Providing great data protection and easy restore options makes for a hassle-free backup policy. Just imagine if your system were attacked by ransomware and you did not have a backup policy in place. You could be paying the ransom, and worse, not even receiving an appropriate decryption key. What would that do to your business?

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Brian Dye, Symantec’s SVP of information security, says, “Antivirus software only detects 45% of all attacks.” And according to the Global Data Protection Index, 36% of companies have suffered unplanned system downtime and/or data loss due to an external or internal security breach. Clearly, ransomware and other forms of malware are on the rise and are a very real threat to your business. The good news is that Mozy by EMC can help prevent a ransomware data loss disaster with easy-to-deploy and efficient cloud-based backup solutions.


When Should You Bring on a Partner as a Small Business Owner

You’re a small business owner and feeling stuck. This happens at all stages—during idea brainstorm sessions, product development, and even after you’ve made thousands in profits. And right now you’re not sure which direction you want to take your small business.

So to clear the fog, it can be appropriate to bring in another head; one who isn’t stuck in the stuck-zone.

This person? Your business partner. Someone with expertise and a history of results; investors, and friends with big solutions. But when is the time to introduce a business partner to your small business?

1. When business is booming

When profits are coming in from every avenue, the success is amazing. But it’s also overwhelming. The stronger your sales become, the higher your revenue, and the more responsibility you have as a small business owner.

If the responsibility isn’t handled correctly, you may find yourself:

   •   Burned out
   •   Stressed out
   •   Tired out

While you might spend 60-80+ hours in the office now, it’s not necessary. Bringing on a partner to help with the influx of orders, customers, and product inventory can bring relief while also strengthening the business. And the two of you can construct a business plan to manage all new customers and orders more effectively than if you were on your own.

2. When business is slowing

On the opposite scale, when business begins to slow down, a partner can help speed things up.

A slower season—especially if your small business is season-dependent—provides you ample time to address current needs and weak points in your business model.

Strengths and weaknesses might be hard to pinpoint; however, your partner—depending on their expertise—may have an easier time identifying aspects of your small business that is causing a shortage of sales.

Together, you can also implement a new (digital) marketing strategy to ramp up customer engagement and increase product outreach to other businesses.

3. When business is expanding

Or you’re looking to expand it.

Expansion can come in many ways; partnering with other businesses in your industry, creation of a new product in a similar and/or new niche, or opening more stores across the state or country.

Expansions rely on flowing revenue streams, additional product inventory, product development, thorough communication, and marketing plans. While expanding, you may also have to hire new team members and co-workers. But implementing these changes will be a headache to handle by yourself.

You’re only one person. Although you may think that you have unlimited mental and physical capabilities, you may be burning yourself out. Hiring a partner to help offset changes, developments, and responsibilities will take a load off you while also aiding the expansion.

But when it’s time for you to decide on a partner to develop your small business further, it’s best to hire an expert in your field. Be wary of choosing a friend or family member because close relationships cause an imbalance of power, communication issues, and additional complications if the partnership doesn’t work out in the end.

Good Ethics Are Good Business

With the need to maximize profits, companies are under constant pressure to maximize profits any way that they can. Take the automaker Volkswagen for instance. Volkswagen gamed the software in nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles to pass emission tests. The emissions from the cars were almost 40 times the permitted levels of nitrogen oxides. Dishonest accounting factors led to the downfall of Enron and WorldCom. In fact, since 1980 more than half of the 10 largest corporate bankruptcies were the result of unethical business practices.

The question now is do businesses that resort to unethical business practices gain an advantage over their competition? A recent study showed that the stock price growth of 100 firms with the most ethical cultures outperformed the stock market and their competition by almost 300%. They had a lower turnover of employees and higher employee job satisfaction. All in all good ethics lead to good business as we see in the infographic below. What are you doing to breed good ethics in your business to help it succeed? Reply in the comments below.

Good Ethics are Good Business

Norwich University Online Master of Science in Leadership Program

Infamous Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware is on the rise. Until recently, ransomware used to be a crime targeted at consumers and small businesses. Cybercriminals who carry out these attacks have become more confident in their abilities and have elevated their game to take down some of the biggest companies in the world. It only takes hackers six minutes to compromise an organization, 60% of the time. Ransomware is not industry specific, meaning no one is safe. Like any other types of crime, ransomware has been responsible for a multitude of high-profile crimes. There are many infamous attacks documented, but I would like to focus on three high-profile cases.

Horry County Schools

Horry County Schools in South Carolina was brought to a screeching halt due to ransomware. Earlier this year hackers gained access to the school district’s network through an outdated server. The attack locked computers that contained sensitive intellectual property and lesson plans. Teachers in the school district had to create new lesson plans and Wi-Fi was shut off at some of the schools as a precaution. At first, the school district stated they would not pay the ransom for the decryption key. This decision was later reversed and the school district paid out nearly US$10K in Bitcoins. The attackers are believed to be from a country outside the United States. Currently, the FBI is investigating this crime.

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center

Ransomware can even bring a hospital to its knees. This past February the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles found this out the hard way. The attack locked computers and encrypted patient information. Routine medical practices such as CT scans were unavailable, and patients were sent to other medical centers for their scans. Doctors and nurses resorted to pen and paper to keep track of what was going on because no computer access was allowed. The stakes were particularly high in this attack because critical (and sensitive) patient data was hijacked. The hackers used this to their advantage and demanded a US$3.6 million ransom. The cybercriminals eventually reduced the ransom and Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center ended up paying US$17,000 in Bitcoins in exchange for the decryption key. The FBI is investigating this attack as well.

Sony Pictures Entertainment

Perhaps the most infamous cyberattack was the hack on Sony Pictures over the film “The Interview,” a comedy centering around two American spies trying to assassinate the leader of North Korea. Sony Pictures received an email threatening terrorist attacks at cinemas if the film was screened. This attack also included the leaking of unreleased Sony films, portions of films scripts, 47,000 Social Security numbers, and employee emails discussing anything from Angelina Jolie to the James Bond film script “Spectre.”

Is your data backed up and is it restorable?

The FBI has estimated that cybercriminals have collected US$209 million in Q1 2016 alone, on pace for a $1 billion year and up from US$23 million in all of 2015.That said, if a business, or its users, have an appropriate data backup plan in place the consequences of these attacks can be minimized. Organizations need to be asking themselves, “In the event of a ransomware attack, is our data restorable?” Threat detections and anti-virus software are not going to protect you from these sophisticated cyberattacks. Your data must be backed up and it must be restorable to a point in time prior to the ransomware attack! Learn how Mozy can help.

7 Outrageously Unique Perks Offered by Different Companies

Last month, I was at the salon for a hair trim. My hairdresser, who also owns the place, lamented that a branch of hers outside town just closed shop. When I asked why, she said her employees have all left.

Sad story, indeed, and the sadder part is it happens to a lot of businesses.

Unique employee perks from different companies

Recruiting new talent is no walk in the park. It requires time and manpower. The costs can easily pile up, too, especially if your turnover rate is high. Once they’re on board, the challenge is retaining the high-performing ones. They’re your company’s backbone, after all.

The solution? Add handsome employee perks into your compensation plan.

Speaking of handsome, we’ve found some of the best, if not most unique, employee perks offered by different companies.

Netflix: no regular working hours

At Netflix, employees are free to come when they please, provided they get the job done. Work hours are not tracked. No standard number of days per year is required, and even vacation days aren’t logged. As long as employees deliver the performance required of them, big vacations are not a problem.

Google: 50% salary after an employee’s death

Google’s acceptance rate is a measly 0.2%, according to a 2015 report by Business Insider – about 7,000 from the more than 3 million applications they receive worldwide each year.

Aside from Google being Google and its employee perks among the most sought-after, the company’s death benefit package warrants that should an employee pass away, the surviving spouse or partner receive a check amounting to 50% of the Googler’s yearly salary for the next 10 years.

Accenture: gender reassignment

Accenture follows a strict non-discriminatory policy within the organization. As part of its commitment to uphold equality in the workplace, the company supports initiatives that promote the well-being of their LGBT employees, including domestic-partner benefits in some countries. Its enhanced health package also covers gender reassignment procedures.

Airbnb: $2,000 annual travel stipend

Airbnb employees are entitled to a $2,000 yearly travel coupon they can use anywhere in the world, as long as they stay in an Airbnb listing.

Scripps Health: on-site massages

Medical, vision, and dental benefits form part of Scripps Health’s employee health and wellness plan. Healthy living and preventive care programs include health coaching and workshops, screening and assessments, and even on-site massages.

Salesforce: paid volunteer time-off

Salesforce encourages its employees to give back to their communities through volunteering. Each employee is entitled to a seven-day paid volunteer time-off per year. When they max out their volunteer hours, they’re awarded a $1,000 champion grant they can donate to the cause they care about.

Facebook: $4,000 baby cash

Aside from “baby cash” amounting to $4,000, parents at Facebook get 16 weeks of paid parental leave. Parental leave covers maternity, paternity, and adoption leave.

Final word

Keeping your employees happy revolves around two things: lots and lots of appreciation and a fun work environment. And if you’re much too small a business to afford lavish employee perks, the key is to craft a benefits plan, as well as nurture a company culture, that shows you value your employees on a personal level.

7 Online Education Resources that Will Help SMBs Succeed

Most small to medium-sized businesses will need all the help they can get to survive in a very competitive marketplace. Because many neither have the capital nor the manpower to bring their businesses to greater heights, they need to be much more creative to succeed. That means reading up on different online education resources to help them understand the best business practices to grow their business at an accelerated rate despite any shortcomings.

As an SMB owner, you need to absorb as much information as possible from the best and most trustworthy online education resources. The following are good places to start.

Harvard Business Review
The site is chockful of news about the latest business trends and events. There are also thought-provoking pieces about numerous industries, some of which will provide you with a deeper understanding of how your business works within your market.

Catering specifically to startups and small businesses, is your go-to place for information about the most recent developments in the startup market. The site is also known for the Inc. 5000, which lists down the fastest growing private startups and SMBs in the US. This list is a great place to see the needle movers in your industry, as well as potential competitors and business partners you need to watch out for.

The site features a more diverse list of topics that are not limited to the business spectrum. Nonetheless, Forbes has very vibrant entrepreneur, business, and technology sections with influential and accomplished contributors sharing their tips and advice regarding success in their respective fields.

iTunes U
This app brings the classroom to students through their Apple devices. Educators can develop lessons, compile reading materials, and mediate discussions among students, and more. SMB owners can access content from open universities related to their industries. The materials available from the iTunes U app provide SMB owners with lots of information and opportunities to help them achieve success.

Known as one of the best platforms for offering online courses, Coursera allows SMBs to choose free or paid courses related to their industries. They can take the online classes at their pace but within a specified period. Once students pass a course, their success is recognized with an official certificate, which they can share with friends, colleagues, and employers.

Similar to Coursera, Udemy is an online course marketplace designed to help people improve their skills and knowledge about a topic. However, whereas Coursera offers mostly academic-oriented courses, Udemy provides more practical courses for professionals and SMB owners to help them gain an edge in the workplace, if not their market.

With the tagline “Ideas Worth Spreading,” TED puts itself in a unique position over other online education resources for SMBs. The TED Talks, which are videos from industry leaders who discuss thought-provoking ideas in front of a live audience, will help inspire you to rethink and approach subjects related to your market in different ways. TED videos are short—18 minutes or less.