June 2006  
All of your business needs. One easy solution.
06/20/2006           Vol 3 Issue 6   www.offassist.com
Fun In The Sun

Is it June already?

Wow! I swear we just celebrated the new year, and I distinctly recall a seemingly endless stream of W-2 and 1099s coming out of my office.

Now my mind is, of course, turning towards summer... and, more specifically, a vacation!

As a small business owner, taking a vacation is one of the hardest things to do, and one of the most necessary, for your health and that of your business. Remember that a virtual assistant (VA) can check your email and voice mail so that you can take a REAL vacation. You can find a VA either by contacting me or visiting the IVAA website.

In this issue... Until next time...

Tracking Your Business' Finances
Part II

- By Candace Beauchamp

Common Problems
There are some common problems I see when reviewing a client's books. Most of you are probably using some version of QuickBooks, so the following list of common errors refers to it and is not all-inclusive:

Initial Set-Up:
This is by far the biggest hurdle. The "interview" when you open a new company makes it seem like a snap, but a good bookkeeper can set up QuickBooks so that it's tailored to your business needs and not a general company that doesn't necessarily fit into your business model.

Owner's Equity:
bookkeepers all over the land give a collective groan when they hear the words "Beginning Owner's Equity." This is some bizarre account that QuickBooks uses when first setting up the books and then makes all adjustments to. There should never, never, ever be a reason to use this account. Do not do it. Seek a professional if you feel you need to use this feature.

Incorrect Coding:
QuickBooks has a feature that will auto-fill the account and amount when you enter the vendor. This is great...sometimes. The problem comes if you aren't paying attention to the auto-fill to verify it is filling in the correct information. Watch which account you are coding your funds to. There's an old computer term, GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) that is very relevant to accounting practices. Make sure the information you are putting in is relevant to what you want to see--a correct picture of the financial health of your business.

Sales Tax:
If you charge sales tax this can be a big problem in the set-up of QuickBooks. Sales tax set-up varies from state to state so I won't go into how to set it up, but, if you do charge sales tax, I urge you to get help with setting up this portion.

Too much (or too little) detail:
Remember, you want a financial snapshot of your business. Too much information and the details overwhelm the big picture. Too little information and you won't really see where you are spending (and making!) your money.

Above all, make sure that you do your own independent research before making a final decision about what accounting software and procedures are right for your business. If you have a CPA they may have other considerations you will want to take under advisement. Doing your own accounting is a learning process. If you feel your time is better spent doing other things, find someone to help you and do what you do best. It is not difficult to do your own books, but it does take a good deal of time and there is a learning curve. If you have a good number of transactions per month, consider having someone review your work periodically to catch those errors before they become a larger problem.
Quickie QuickBooks Q & A
GK from Minnesota asks:

How do I know my QuickBooks is current?

Verify that version of QuickBooks you have by pressing Ctrl+1 (the number 1 on the keyboard NOT the number pad!). The Product Information window will pop up and you'll see the version and release number. Write this info down and head over to www.quickbooks.com.

Click on "Help & Support" on the QuickBooks home page, then click Product Updates.

You'll need to click on the version of QuickBooks you're currently using (aren't you glad you wrote it down?) and decide if you want to enable Automatic Updates or do a Manual Download of any applicable updates.

If you go with the Auto Update option, the website will walk you through setting up the Automatic Update feature in QuickBooks. Most of the time, QuickBooks asks if you want to update your program while you use it. If you don't use the built-in update feature then you need to do regular web updates (I recommend the built-in updater). If you do your own updates via the website, make sure you check your product information box beforehand so you enter the correct release information.

If you choose the Manual Download option, a pop up with instructions will appear that will walk you through the rest of the process.
Death & Taxes
A businessman on his deathbed called his friend and said, "Bill, I want you to promise me that when I die you will have my remains cremated."

"And what," his friend asked, "do you want me to do with your ashes?"

The businessman said, "Just put them in an envelope and mail them to the Internal Revenue Service. Write on the envelope, "Now, you have everything."
Important Tax Deadlines
June 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for May

June 15 - 2nd quarter 2006 estimated tax payments due

June 15 - US citizens overseas 2005 tax returns due (or file 4868)

July 17 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for June

July 17 - Partnership Returns due for 2005

July 31 - Quarterly IRS 941s are due for quarter ending June 30

July 31 - Quarterly TWC (TX) filings are due for quarter ending June 30

Spotlight On...
VA LAB Designs
In the limelight this month is Austin-area web development firm VA LAB Designs and the woman behind it, Leslee Beldotti.

Leslee started down the road to virtual assistance as a personal assistant to a corporate coach. Maintaining the coach's website was one of her duties and she really enjoyed it. Leslee taught herself basic html, and began writing code in her spare time. When the client moved away she began referring other professionals to Leslee for web design and site maintenance.

When asked how she came to find her niche in web development Leslee says:

"Although I started my business as a virtual assistant - doing any type of administrative work - I discovered that I preferred designing websites. A lot of new solo business owners come to me for assistance in building their first website. I try to make the Internet and 'cyberspace' as accessible as possible to the non-techie person. I WANT them to understand how the Internet works and how they can use it to their advantage."

The company name, VA-LAB Designs, is derived from both Leslee's initials and her philosophy. She says, "The word 'lab' also encapsulates my attitude towards life. The world is a great big laboratory to me. I believe in experimenting, analyzing, and interpreting everything!"

For more information about VA-Lab's services, visit them on the web at www.va-lab.com. You can also sign up for LAB Notes, Leslee's monthly newsletter with solutions and tips for business owners.

Tech Talk with Tom...
Your teenager knows more about PCs than you do.

Many new businesses are being started right in the home. This is an amazing experience; I am lucky enough to be working from home myself. Unfortunately this also creates a whole new realm of computer security woes. What is the problem? In many cases the new business owner suddenly realizes that their child knows more about the computer than they do. This in and of itself is not a problem. The problem is that even with all of this knowledge, many children do not know enough to avoid online perils and it is all to easy to mess up the settings on a PC. Add some rebellious teenage emotions and I think you can see where this is going.

How to be prepared: Set computer usage ground rules, educate yourself and your child, use site blocking software, and user profiles.

Commonsense should be the rule here. Sit your child down and explain to them what you expect. Find out what they do online, what their interests are, and discuss what you see as risks. Unless your house is in a state of total war, reasonable guidelines will generally elicit an acceptable response. Let your child know about the dangers that lurk in cyberspace and teach them ways to avoid being duped. Great informational resources are available online through sites such as SafeTeens, and The Parents' Guide to the Information Superhighway.

If possible, place the computer in a family area where you can interact with your children. You should not spend your time surfing over their shoulders. You should also not hesitate to ask what's grabbed their interest.

Your web browser has some useful security features. Its history and browser cache, which list visited sites, can also give you insight into what your children are doing online.

Younger children may not be able to recognize a threat or suspicious behavior online. Internet Explorer's Content Advisor can restrict the types of sites which can be visited (Tools Menu -> Internet Options -> Content tab -> Content adviser section). Many parents find other software useful for restricting browser, e-mail and instant messaging usage, such as Cyber Patrol, Surf on the Safe Side, and Net Nanny.

Multiple logons are a great way to protect your desktop settings. Use profiles in Windows 9x to allow each person who uses the computer to keep their own desktop settings, Start menu, Internet Favorites and My Documents. To set up a profile click Start -> Settings -> Control Panel, double-click Users, and follow the steps in the wizard. Windows XP handles profiles automatically when you set up a new user (Start -> Control Panel -> User Accounts).

My 5 year old loves to play games on the computer. He knows how to modify the desktop and how to start his games. We have discussed what he can and cannot touch, and he has his own login. With the correct tools, and a little understanding, there is no reason why your business computer and your family cannot live in harmony.

Tom Beauchamp is the marketing and tech expert behind OffAssist. He can be reached at tom@offassist.com.
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