May 2006  
All of your business needs. One easy solution.
05/24/2006           Vol 3 Issue 5   www.offassist.com
News abounds...

I hope you all had a wonderful April.

There's a lot going on right now with OffAssist. For those of you who don't know, we've expanded our service offerings. OffAssist now has a team of virtual assistants ready and willing to work on other projects - we aren't just about bookkeeping these days!

I was also elected by the IVAA Board of Directors to serve as Vice President/President-Elect this year. I'll move up to the Presidency for the 2007-2008 term. Wow! This is such an amazing honor for me and my business. I feel very proud and humbled to be recognized in this manner by my peers.

Freelance Wurk interviewed me for a recent article on their blog - check it out. It turned out really well. I'm always pleased to tell others about my successes and my struggles. OffAssist has grown beyond my wildest dreams in the last four years.

We recently moved into a new home/office. The setup is great. My office is now completely separate from Tom's (he shares with our assistant) and we are really enjoying the extra space.

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


Tracking Your Business' Finances
Part I


- By Candace Beauchamp

You have a bank account and a checkbook for your business. Now what?

The many options for tracking your business finances can make your head spin! I won't try to cover all the software choices out there, but I will try to explain what I generally recommend to clients.

First and foremost, if you do not have a separate checking account for your business, get one. I also recommend a separate savings account to accrue funds for paying quarterly taxes. If you use the same bank as for business and personal accounts, they can generally link them online. This will make it easy for you to transfer your owner's draws (or paychecks if you are incorporated) into your personal account without having to write checks to yourself. Just don't forget to record it!

A quick word on banks--See if you can demo their online system before signing up. Some are better than others.

Software
As I said earlier, there are several options for tracking expenses. I'll go over some of the software solutions:

Quicken
Quicken is widely used to track personal finances and there is a version that will track both your personal and business finances. This works well if you have a very small practice and just need something to start out with. If you plan on growing your business within a year or two, I'd say skip it in favor of something a little more business-oriented.

The good news is that you can import Quicken information into the major business accounting software programs should you choose to upgrade at a later date. The problem with that, however, is that you will need to review previous entries to see if the import went well. If you do decide to move to something more substantial, I would recommend you change as of January 1st and/or get help with the transfer.

QuickBooks
Intuit's QuickBooks is the leading financial software for business. Period. If you want something that most CPAs and bookkeepers will know how to use, this is probably the best answer. Over 90% of my clients use QuickBooks, and it is fairly easy to use. The biggest problem with QuickBooks is the set up. Again, I recommend you seek help from a professional when setting it up and perhaps have them review your entries after the first month and again every 3-6 months. If you have less than 20 customers and vendors, you can get away with the Basic Edition, but I almost never recommend that because you will probably outgrow it fairly quickly. QuickBooks Pro has many more features and the price difference is small by comparison.

QuickBooks does offer an online solution, QuickBooks Online. This is my least recommended solution because it is notorious for being painstakingly slow. If you travel a lot, however, it is an acceptable alternative. Another problem is that it doesn't have a lot of the features that the stand-alone product has.
If you must have access to your finances, a better solution is Real Time Accounting. They host your Pro version on their servers, and you have full-featured access to QuickBooks. It's not as fast as using it from your system, but it is miles ahead of the QuickBooks' online offering.

Peachtree
Peachtree is my personal favorite. The reporting features in Peachtree are, by far, superior to those in QuickBooks. Peachtree is, however, in every sense of the word, an accounting program. If you have little or no accounting experience, I highly recommend you go with QuickBooks.

Microsoft Small Business Accounting
Microsoft entered the ring of small business accounting earlier this year. At first glance, it looks a lot—strikingly so—like QuickBooks. It functions a lot like QuickBooks, but there were several things that I didn't care for -- it was slower to load, it wasn't as user-friendly as QuickBooks. Most importantly, it requires you to have Microsoft Office XP or 2003 installed for you in order to make full use of its features. At the time, I was exclusively using OpenOffice, so I had to locate and install the MS products. There are several other accounting nerd issues, so, for now, I will say that I'd wait a year or two until all the kinks are worked out before considering this as a viable option.

For most small businesses, QuickBooks Pro is the way to go. It's widely used by accounting professionals and, once it's set up correctly, it’s fairly easy to learn. If you are keeping your own books, this is probably the way to go.

... to be continued.
Quickie QuickBooks Q & A
Feel free to email candy@offassist.com with any quick question you have!
 
Important Tax Deadlines
June 15 - RS Monthly payroll tax deposits due

June 15 - 2nd quarter 2006 estimated tax payments due

June 15 - US citizens overseas 2005 tax returns due (or file 4868)
Spotlight On...
The Blanket Baby
Center stage this month is The Blanket Baby, brainchild of Jennifer Beauchamp.

Jennifer attended a baby shower where the mom-to-be was given a diaper cake. She thought it was a clever idea, but she wanted to do something a little different, a little more personal. She rounded up all the supplies for making a diaper cake and stared at them, trying to figure out what else she could do that would be cute and clever. From that afternoon The Blanket Baby was born!

The Blanket Baby is a doll-like gift for expectant mothers made from receiving blankets, disposable diapers, and a variety of other baby accessories like caps, bottles, toys, and can be seen on its own website at www.theblanketbaby.com.

After getting a few second opinions on the idea, Jennifer began selling them to the public in September 1995. According to her, "...friends and family, that was our test market. If your sister says you have a good product, then you do." The Blanket Baby is currently available exclusively online, but they hope to move into the baby show marketplace in 2006.

The Blanket Baby is happy to provide custom creations to match shower or baby room themes. Jennifer told us the only problem they have is that their customers don't want to take the babies apart (to get to the baby supplies used to make them). "...once they get one as a present. People just want to look at them, they're so cute."

If you want to find out more about The Blanket Baby, visit their website at www.theblanketbaby.com or send an email to info@theblanketbaby.com for information.

The 401-Keg Plan
Here is some important financial advice:

If you had purchased $1,000.00 of Nortel stock one year ago, it would now be worth $49.00.

With Enron, you would have had $16.50 left of the original $1,000.00.

With WorldCom, of $1000.00 you would have had less than $5.00 left.

But, if you had purchased $1,000.00 worth of beer one year ago, and drank all the beer, then turned in the cans for the aluminum recycling REFUND, you would have had $214.00. Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle...

It's called the 401-Keg Plan.
Tech Talk with Tom...
We've all heard of Nightmare Computer Scenarios and shudder to think, "What if that was my business?"

This month's tech tip is the first in a series dealing with these drastic situations. Hopefully, they'll help you and your business to prepare should one of these situations happen to you.

Nightmare scenario: You go to work one morning only to find the entire office building burned to the ground. Your insurance might cover the cost of replacements of your equipment. However, when it comes to your data, your application discs, and your registration keys it is up to you to replace it.

What can you do to be prepared? Back up regularly and store your back ups off-site, maintain a record of all license keys, have insurance that covers not only physical goods but data loss and the cost of re-entering data, have a plan of action for how to operate without automation and computers.

Many businesses now have a "Disaster Preparedness Plan" in place that will allow their business to continue running, even in the face of a total loss. When making your disaster plan, here are a few things to consider:
  • Can your employees do their jobs from home and use their own computers?
  • Is it possible to rent temporary office space until you find a more permanent solution?
  • There are many sources of rental computers that can be set up with your company's software and data until the insurance pays off and your new office is setup and ready for use - is funding for these sort of eventualities a part of your disaster plan?
The "Total Loss" scenario is probably the scariest that you will have to face. If you are prepared for it you’ll find yourself prepared for lesser scenarios as well (burglary, evacuation, computer viruses).

Next month: When your child knows more about the computer than you do.

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



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Have an article you'd like to write for our monthly newsletter or want to be spotlighted? Have a QuickBooks question or something you'd like to see in the Tech Tip?

Email candy@offassist.com.