Your books are great story-tellers. While your financial reports may seem like nothing more than a bunch of numbers on a page, they can reveal volumes about the health and direction of your company. Your books and records can tell the story of success, growth, or challenge.
What are some of the stories that your books can tell?
Your business makes money – “How much money did I make” is usually the first thing on everyone’s mind. Profitability is often seen as an indication of a successful business. If you’re bringing in more money than what you are spending, that’s a good start.
You can’t stop there. Be sure to take a closer look at your revenue and expenses.
Is there room for more profitability? – One approach to improving profitability is to sell more of your products or services. Consider a few things;
- Are add-on services or products an option? If your company performs IT services, are ongoing maintenance contracts an option? Should you expand your product offerings to include hardware?
- How do your prices compare with your competitors? Are they higher, lower, or about the same? If you are finding that your prices are lower than your competitors, you may not be charging enough to cover your costs. If your offerings are similar to your competitors, you may be pricing yourself out of the market if you are charging more.
- If you sell multiple products or services, which ones stand out? Which ones are you spending the most money and time selling? If you find that you are spending more effort selling a product that generates a low amount of profit, you might consider focusing your efforts on products or services that have a higher return.
While the common approach to improving profitability is simply to increase your sales, it’s not the only plan. Take an overall look at what you are spending for the month and for the year.
Determine if these payments are:
- Absolutely necessary – Expenses such as rent, utilities, and insurance are typical expenses that you would expect to pay every month. You may have some leeway to reduce these amounts when you renew your lease or insurance policy. If you choose to install LED lights or updated thermostats, you may save on utility bills.
- Important, but may be improved – Some of the expenses we pay each month are necessary, but amounts may be further reduced. Phone bills and internet service are great examples where you may be able to negotiate a lower amount if they have a better service plan available. If you have a seasonal business, some utility and credit card companies may allow you to put a “hold” on your account, which allows you to pay a smaller fee to keep the account open, but not the full fee until it’s in use.
- Nice to have, but not necessary – These are the expenses that can be reduced or eliminated. Meals and entertainment expenses often fall under this category. Perhaps choosing less expensive restaurants or limiting the dollar amounts spent will keep this under control.
Small changes that you make to recurring expenses can have a significant impact over time. Even saving $100 per month will add up $1,200 for the year. Money that is spent on non-essential items should be re-evaluated. Companies that pay monthly bank service fees may be able to reduce these expenses, even eliminate them, if they switch to a different bank.
If you sell a product or service that has a direct cost, analyze how profitable it is. Are you making enough of a margin to cover your indirect costs, such as rent, utilities, and administrative payroll? If not, you may be paying too much for their direct cost or you aren’t charging your customers enough.
Can you pay the bills? – While a statement of income can show that you are making a sizable profit, that’s only part of the picture. A company’s liquidity, or how much money they have to pay bills, tells a story as well. Comparing your current assets against your current liabilities can give you a quick snapshot of your liquidity.
For example, if your current assets are $100,000 and your current liabilities are $50,000, you have two times the amount needed to pay your bills. That’s a good position to be in. If the amounts were reversed, a company could run into a cash flow issue if they need to pay $100,000, but only have $50,000 available.
What does the company value? – Many companies have mission and vision statements on their websites. A business of any size can adopt a corporate social responsibility program. But is what they are paying for consistent with their plans?
You can tell quite a bit about a business by the way in which they choose to spend their money. Companies that are employee-focused typically spend more money on training, recruiting, and benefits. For those who are looking to grow or innovate, disbursements for technology, new staff, or equipment would be expected. Those that offer programs with a charitable intent should have donations being made. How a company spends its money can reflect what they value.
Is your story current? – The story your books tell is only as good as the record-keeping that goes into preparing them. If your books are behind, what does this mean? If you are a sole business owner and are struggling to stay on top of things, a set of books that is months behind can be a signal that you have too much on your plate. You may want to consider outsourcing this task. Not only does come off of your plate, but it will also actually give you more control over your company’s finances as your time will be spent reviewing financial reports, not preparing them.
When your books are behind, it can also tell a story that management doesn’t place much emphasis on keeping current records. If you are looking to obtain a loan from a bank or purchase equipment on credit, this is not a story that you want to tell.
Books and records can reveal many things about a business – where it is successful and where it can improve. The most accurate story can be told when your accounting records are current. Since 1990, Valley Business Centre has helped small and medium-sized businesses stay current with their bookkeeping and payroll functions. We serve clients through the BC region and beyond. If you are struggling to keep your bookkeeping and payroll up-to-date, we can help. Contact the bookkeeping specialists at Valley Business Centre today.
One of the most important roles that a bookkeeping department plays in a company is maintaining proper and complete records. These documents often include evidence of income and expenses, as well as permanent records that evidence business ownership and tax structure, insurance coverage, and company policies.
Keeping a complete set of records can serve many purposes. Proper documentation that evidences income and expenses can help a bookkeeper to determine which account a transaction should be posted against. Documents that support income and expense activity can be crucial to provide proof for your company’s tax return when dealing with a taxing authority. Trying to track down invoices and receipts after the fact is not only time-consuming, it can lead to missed deductions on your tax return.
What types of documents are typically held by a small business?
A company should keep documents to support its business activities. In addition, company records that show ownership, compliance, and coverage should be easily accessible. Such documents include;
Income – Keep documentation of money that you’ve received. This may be making copies of check and attaching the remittance advice to the invoice, emails, or other documentation. It should be clear as to what the funds were for.
Expenses – Invoices and receipts provide evidence to support the expenses that a business incurs. If you are paying bills, a good practice is to attach one part of the check to your invoice to reflect that it has been paid. Some of the most common forms of documents for business expenses include;
- Invoices and receipts, original or printed electronic versions
- Canceled checks, if provided by your bank
- Petty cash and expense reimbursement requests
In addition to keeping these documents, it is also essential that you file them away. Maintain a filing system that is organized and easy to follow to store both paid bills and receipts, as well as income documentation.
Payroll – If you have employees, your files should include;
- Personnel file – Each employee should have their own personnel file. This would include such documents as an employee application, tax forms, banking information, as well as copies of any identification that you’ve obtained. It may also include other documents such as vacation requests, employee handbook acknowledgments, and emergency contact information.
- Wage and tax information – Whether you process payroll internally or use an outside service, payroll registers that list wage and tax information should be kept in a secure location. Other documentation, such as timecards or employee rate changes, should also be kept.
As a general rule, personnel files and payroll reports should be maintained in a filing system that is locked and not accessible by staff that is not authorized to access it.
Month-end information – Bank and corporate credit card accounts should be reconciled each month. Copies of these reconciliations, along with the statements, are kept and filed. In addition, if you make journal entries in your books, keep a copy of the entry. Be sure to attach any documentation necessary to support the entry, such as an invoice or receipt.
Electronic documentation – With much of the business being conducted online, documents may be electronic. Making purchases or paying bills online using credit or debit cards, as well as electronic transfers, result in electronic receipts and emails. Many companies using online banking can access their statements and canceled checks electronically. Payroll reports may also be in an electronic format.
While these documents can be kept in their original electronic form, it is essential that they are saved and organized in a way that you can easily retrieve them. You may consider downloading these and saving them to a group of electronic file folders on your computer or network. If you change banks or payroll providers, you may lose access to these documents if you maintain them on their servers. It is also recommended that you frequently back these up to ensure that they are not lost if your network goes down or you change computers.
Electronic invoices and receipts can be maintained in a similar fashion. Should you keep these electronically, ensure that it is clear who the payment was made to, the amount spent, and what the expense was for. Proof of payment may not be enough to support a tax deduction if its purpose is unclear.
While these items above represent documentation of a company’s daily operations, there are several other documents that a business should maintain.
Corporate documents – If your business is incorporated, these documents reflect the company’s structure. Articles of incorporation, as well as the incorporation agreement, should be kept on file. These documents may be requested if you are seeking a loan or establishing a bank account.
Tax returns – Keep copies of all income tax, provincial sales tax, and GST returns.
Contracts and agreements – Customer or vendor contracts should be easily accessible if needed. This can also include lease agreements for your office or warehouse space or company vehicles.
Loan agreements – If you have borrowed money or obtained a line of credit from a bank or another source, keep copies of the loan agreements, as well as another other documentation, such as loan applications or renewals. Also, maintain copies on file of any automobile or equipment purchases that have been financed.
Insurance policies – Maintain a current file that includes complete copies of your insurance coverage. This should be updated each year as the policies renew. This may include copies of your general and liability insurance, health insurance, and automobile insurance.
Human resources policies and procedures – Many times, these policies can be found within an employee handbook. Keep a copy of the handbook, as well as any changes to human resource policies made throughout the year. These policies may include using social media, media relations, disciplinary actions, compensation, and benefits, as well as anti-discrimination clauses.
Product service agreements and equipment information – Computers, office equipment, and vehicles often come with service agreements and product handbooks. It’s helpful to keep these organized and accessible should an issue arise.
It is crucial to maintain complete books and records for both operational and tax purposes. The ability to quickly gather, document, file, and report keeps a company efficient in its operations and maximize its deductions for tax purposes. Maintaining a complete and organized set of documents is also helpful to a company if they are seeking a loan, need to quickly address an insurance claim, or conduct an employee review.
Valley Business Centre has delivered quality and efficient bookkeeping and payroll services to its clients since 1990. We serve clients located in Whistler, Squamish, the Sea to the Sky corridor, BC, and beyond. If you need help in keeping your books and records current, contact the bookkeeping specialists at Valley Business Centre today.