As a business owner, you know how you've said that you might have taken different actions at various times if "you knew what you didn't know"? (or said another way - "I didn't know what I didn't know, so I didn't know what to ask!")
This tip is designed to share a critical idea with you to help you "know what you should know", especially when it comes to managing the accounting and finances of your business.Here's the tip...
Don't let anyone touch your QuickBooks (or any other accounting software for that matter) unless they have demonstrated they know what they are doing with it. Not now. Not ever.
That includes you.
Some tough advice for sure, but advice that has been proven time and again to pay big dividends for small businesses.It's a Crock
You see, this concept that "if you can write a check, you can do your own bookkeeping" (a concept made popular in an ad campaign a while back) is quite frankly, a crock of crap.
There is one key word that was left out of that campaign, but a very important one for sure...
The question should really be - "If you can write a check, can you do your own bookkeeping CORRECTLY?"
The answer in far too many cases is, sadly, no.The required bookkeeping knowledge and experience simply isn't there (no matter how many classes are taken or DVDs reviewed) and "correct" becomes "incorrect" or "disaster" pretty quickly.
How Quickly The Excitement Fades
For the new business that is excited about "doing their own accounting", they run out and purchase the software, load the CD, and then often say "ok, what do I do now?" Especially when they are confronted with terms like "chart of accounts", "sales tax", "items", and "balance sheet".
The eyes soon begin to glaze over and the excitement quickly fades. Errant decisions are then made just to "get through with the stupid setup" so invoices can be created and checks written.
Unfortunately, the setup of the accounting software is one of the most critical junctures in the process. Loading the CD into the computer is easy. Getting it set up right beyond that isn't easy, no matter if the software says it is easy or not."We Had a Bookkeeper That Really Didn't Know QuickBooks"
For the existing business doing their own accounting, this is a phrase that I hear with startling regularity. The end result? Their books are either a moderate or full-blown disaster.
Common problem areas and "Tums Moments" that unskilled bookkeepers can cause:
- Bank and credit card accounts not reconciled for months, if ever.
- The chart of accounts showing customers and vendors in it, and is set up wrong.
- The profit and loss report spewing out wrong numbers (True story - one business I worked with was showing 50% less sales in the income section of their profit and loss than they should have been because of a critical setup error).
And this list of common problems is just scratching the surface...
Would you let a mechanic that wasn't qualified perform service work on your car? Probably not.
Why would you let someone that wasn't qualified to work on your accounting software run the risk of turning your critical financial reporting system upside down? Without good financial data, it is extremely hard to make good business decisions.
You're Skeptical About the Magnitude of This Problem
Don't just take my word for it - connect with any of the 50,000+ QuickBooks ProAdvisors that have been working with QuickBooks for a couple of years. They will be able to quickly share with you similar tales of woe that they have seen at their clients. I guarantee it.
Think of it another way - why would there be 50,000 QuickBooks ProAdvisors out there if there weren't a lot of mistakes going on?So How Do I Save Thousands With This Tip?
Here's a few ways for starters:
Your Action Plan
- Your business will avoid the interest and penalties that occur from the mishandling of payroll taxes because you outsourced the payroll and didn't let your bookkeeper mess it up. Unfortunately, this issue is like a ticking bomb at many small businesses. Even worse, the extent of the problem isn't known until a year or three down the road because of the reporting delays inherent with many tax agencies. Just because you have a bookkeeper on staff doesn't mean he or she should be doing the payroll!
- Your business will avoid extra fees that are paid each year to your tax accountant to untangle the mess they are given at year-end. These costs can add up rapidly if your books are in poor shape. I don't know about you, but I'd rather have my tax accountant figuring out strategies to lower my taxes than figuring out if the profit and loss statement is accurate.
- Most importantly - your business will be able to make critical decisions based on ACCURATE financial data that reflect your true income, costs and expenses. The benefit of this is priceless.
There is no question that having someone unqualified keeping your books and working in your accounting software is truly a case of pay now or pay (a lot!) more later. Unfortunately, sometimes this lesson isn't learned until it is too late and the checkbook has been depleted.
If you have not set up your books or software yet, you're in luck - you can enlist the help of a professional to get you set up the right way and work with you to stay on track.
If you've been keeping your books for a while, it would make sense to stop and get a preventive maintenance checkup on them. Having a professional set of eyes doing a review of your setup should pay for itself in pretty short order. The insight you gain from that review will allow you to fix existing problems within your accounting and also learn ways to better manage your business finances.
Don't be fooled. Keeping your books is harder and more complicated than it looks. Resist the temptation to "hire cheap" when it comes to the handling of your business finances. Don't think of this cost as a budget-buster - rather, think of it as a budget saver! You won't be disappointed.
Scott Gregory is a specialist with QuickBooks Pro, Premier, and Enterprise. He has been called in to clean up the real-life disasters mentioned in this post many times during the last ten years.