7 Best Bookkeeping Business Services

If you’re a small business owner considering outsourcing your bookkeeping, keep in mind that bookkeeping business services include much more than just keeping track of your finances. If you hook up with a true professional service they can become much more than an accounting service, they can become important partners helping you optimize not only your cash flow but planning your financial strategies. Here’s a short list of benefits and services you can expect from a full service bookkeeper.

1. Time

Actually this may be the most productive benefit of all the services an outsourced bookkeeper can provide. By taking over the responsibility of accounting, the bookkeeper service effectively gives you more time to do what you do best and that’s run the business. Accounting is an absolutely necessary part of a business but it is not a profit center and it plays no part in driving sales and revenue. Any time you devote to that function is time taken from engaging in an activity that can generate sales or profit.

2. Financial forecasting

Using your firm’s financial history an experienced bookkeeping service can develop financial models that will allow you to play “what if” games that can predict your financial performance in the future. For example a business owner can ask what if sales increase 8% in the next quarter or what if the marketing budget is increased by 10% what kind of sales can be expected. This is a complex model that requires the knowledge of experts and would not be readily available to the owner unless he outsourced the function.

3. Tax planning

Running your business to take advantage of opportunity to minimize tax liability can be the difference between taking a loss and making a profit. The same goes for licensing and other local fees. A knowledgeable service will not only prepare your returns but show you ways to reduce your tax bill.

4. Real time reporting

Gone are the days of receiving monthly reports from your accounting service. In today’s business environment you need to know where you are financially right now and that’s what a professional bookkeeping service can provide. Thanks to ASP technology you can log onto your account using an ultra secure server and access all of your reports at any time and from any where you have an internet connection.

5. Customized reports

Your bookkeeping service will work with you to build reports that make sense for your particular business. Profit and loss statements, sales reports, receivables reports, all can be designed so they present the information in a way that you can best evaluate your position.

6. Assistance with lenders

A sign of just how tough and competitive the economic times are is the expansion of bookkeeping business services into areas that they previously did not participate in. Assistance with loan applications or even introductions to lenders is an example of the “new” services being offered by many firms. Loan applications can be intimidating and confusing to many business owners and the accounting service can offer valuable assistance in insuring that the right, and best, financial information is included in the application.

7. QuickBooks Consulting

Even if you don’t hire a bookkeeping service and you use QuickBooks in house to do your bookkeeping, you may find that the service can help you do it better. QuickBooks has added so many features and has become so much more than an accounting platform that it has created an entirely new support industry. If a QuickBooks customer wants optimal performance from his system, it’s likely he or she will need the advice of a certified QuickBooks consultant and the bookkeeping service is a ready, qualified resource.

A combination of rapidly improving technology along with an increasingly competitive market has caused bookkeeping business services to evolve into something greater than the traditional accounting services. Smart businesses will take advantage of these services to remain competitive and optimize earnings.

Sustainability, Operations and Supply Chain Management in Manufacturing and Service Industries

Tourism is a huge and dynamic industry that is comprised of a wide variety of service businesses that reflect the same dynamics and priorities that a manufacturer would have for operations planning (OP) and supply chain management (SCM). One such service business is the cruise ship sector in which vacationers travel via these types of vessels to various destinations.

While manufacturers produce tangible products and wastes, service companies also produce waste, but their products are intangible. For example, the product that a personal trainer might produce is a healthier client. Operations Managers (OM) in both industries share similar interests in eliminating waste and delivering quality products.

The two main intangible products that the vacationer (end user) buys, and a cruise ship company “manufactures” and delivers, are pleasure and relaxation – the total experience that allows vacationers to “suspend” their everyday reality for a period of time and immerse themselves in pleasurable experiences. The mission of the cruise ship industry is to deliver this experience to them in a way that surpasses their customers’ expectations, and it depends a great deal on the manufacturing industry to make this possible.

Comparable Dynamics and Priorities in Manufacturing and Service

The movement and connection of goods and services from the point of origin, or the original source, to the end user is referred to as “the supply chain”. Supply Chain Management is a part of the Operations Management that involves the effective management of many inter-firm processes such as:

  • Supplier/Vendor relationship management
  • Order Processing
  • Information Systems management
  • Sourcing and Procurement
  • Production Scheduling
  • Inventory Management
  • Warehousing and Distribution
  • Customer Services
  • Environmentally sustainable practices

Just as in the manufacturing industry, in the cruise ship industry it takes the coordination of a variety of resources – financial, material and human – working together to manage these processes in order to achieve organizational goals.

Operations Management involves the management of all the activities that produce an output (a product). In operations management a multitude of processes must be managed in order to produce and distribute products and services. Policies must be formulated; daily operations must be managed, and so must the use of human and material resources. OM also demands the effective utilization of technology and communications systems to allow for timely ordering and delivery of materials and products, and the servicing of customers and stakeholders.

Policies in both the manufacturing and service industry sectors might include social and environmental impact considerations such as the use of resources and the disposal of wastes. Religious, cultural, political and legal issues such as human rights, use of child labor, wage and hours; human resource impact issues such as age, gender and other forms of discrimination must also be considered.

In a manufacturing situation these considerations would impact the goods and services that the cruise industry might use. Some of these goods include foods, linens, toiletries, furnishings, packaging, electronics, fuel, etc. All of these products are outputs of a manufacturing process that a cruise ship might use and all of these products impact the environment from the original source to the end-user.

Organizations in both industries need to develop a sustainability mind-set and identify where waste being generated in their companies and along their supply chains; the reason why and when, at what stage it is being produced.

So, for example, the OM of a cruise line that is socially and environmentally conscious, and who wants to improve their SCM and incorporate a closed-loop method of operation in her organization, might be considerate of the inputs that a manufacturing company utilizes in its production process and in the processes that it utilizes to convert the raw materials into products; the timely deliverance of those products; the quality of customer service after the product is delivered, and the impact that disposal of these products have on the environment.

Likewise, manufacturing companies (whose products the cruise lines use) also wishing to do the same might, in turn, be considerate of the inputs that their suppliers utilize in their operations. As mentioned before, these inputs include – but are not limited to – various impact considerations previously mentioned.

This backward view of the supply chain links the end user of the services of the cruise ship to the beginning of the supply chain – and that includes all the companies that, working backward, might make up the chain to the original source. An original source might be cotton growers and the policies they have in place that might affect the methods that they use to grow, harvest and supply the converters of the cotton.

Questions that an Operations Managers might ask, for example, are:

· Ate the cotton growers using harmful, earth polluting chemicals in growing the cotton?

· Is child labor being used in harvesting?

· Are working conditions safe, and are wage and hours legal and fair?

· Are materials being delivered on time – and if not, what are the reasons that are preventing this?

These questions impact the management of the supply chain and organizations can gain or lose competitive advantage if they do not consider such questions because, in the case of a cruise ship, for example, an enlightened vacationer might hardly be impressed that the soft cotton sheets that she uses on the cruise line were made from cotton picked by children who live in slums and who earn mere pennies a day for back-breaking labor – and are denied an education because of these poor labor practices.

These types of considerations and decisions faced by a cruise line Operations Manager will affect his or her own company’s financial bottom line and will also affect the operations management of their down-line suppliers, as it also would in manufacturing. One can easily see that the considerations and activities of Operations Managers in service industries easily affect supply chain management in their organizations.

Maintaining a Competitive Advantage

Today’s consumers are more sophisticated and keenly aware of the global impact that their actions have on the environment and many consumers already take actions to reduce their “carbon footprint”, that is the contribution to the environmental impact of human beings and their activities upon the planet.

For example, the more waste one leaves behind in one’s daily activities, the larger one’s carbon foot-print. This idea has been capsulized in the term “going green”. Consumers are not only modifying their own habits in order to minimize waste and thus reduce their carbon footprints, but they are also holding corporations accountable for their impacts on the environment. This has put pressure on many corporations to go green by embracing more environmentally friendly processes in their operations.

Cruise ships are like floating cities that can generate as much as “…30,000 gallons of sewage, 250,000 gallons of kitchen, bath and laundry waste water and 10 tons of garbage — each day”. Effectively managing the inputs that create this amount of waste begins with effective management of the supply chain. Effective management of the supply chain begins with effective operations management.

Socially and environmentally conscious organizations that develop a vision and a mission articulating a clear objective to take responsibility for ensuring the sustainability of all inputs that go into their products will have a competitive advantage over those who don’t. So a cruise line, for example, that establishes a culture of “world class supply chain management” into its operational processes can gain significant competitive advantage over its competitors because “supply management directly affects the two factors which control the bottom line: total costs and sales”[2] (Burt, Dobler, Starling. 2003, p. 10).

For example, a cruise ship line that is an early entrant into World Class Supply Management practices will most likely emerge as a leader in the practice and, as such, will stand to hold “40 -60 percent of the market after competition enters the picture” (p. 11). The quality of its offerings will also improve as it utilizes the sustainable goods produced by manufacturers. Since quality usually commands premium prices, this can help firms gain market share. Today, a more informed and enlightened public demand higher quality goods and thus supports organizations that deliver quality.

Additionally, consumers are demanding more and more that corporations go green as much as possible. Building sustainability into the supply chain will improve quality and increase customer satisfaction. Organizations that do not build sustainability into their operations will find that it will cost them more (in the loss of market share) to NOT do so. By building sustainability into their practices early, both manufacturing and service organizations can expect to gain and maintain a competitive advantage.

USDA Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program – Noteworthy Revisions For Community Banks

The Business and Industry (B&I) loan program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA or Agency) guarantees loans by qualified lenders to benefit rural businesses. For eligible projects, community banks can obtain an 80% guarantee for loans up to $5 million, a 70% guarantee for loans between $5 million and $10 million and a 60% guarantee for loans between $10 million and $25 million. The B&I guaranteed loan program allows lenders to expand their loan portfolio, obtain a deficiency guarantee, increase earnings by participating in the secondary market, make loans in smaller communities with traditionally lower collateral values and extend loans above their legal lending limits.

For each loan, lenders submit a detailed guarantee application to the Agency office in the state where the project is located. Approval or denial decisions generally take several weeks. Projects eligible for B&I financing include business acquisitions, commercial real estate purchases, startup costs and working capital, machinery and equipment purchases and some refinances.

On December 17, 2008, the USDA published a new interim rule pertaining to the B&I loan program in the Federal Register. Effective October 1, 2009, the new rule is designed to streamline the application, accelerate the guarantee approval process and expand the types of eligible projects. The Agency ultimately decided to abandon the new rule and instead focus on working within the existing regulatory framework to improve the B&I loan program.

Under the previous rule, the B&I loan program required lenders to compile burdensome applications and to deal with lengthy approval timelines and limited loan features. For example, a common lender complaint has been the laborious guarantee application process. For every loan under the previous regulations, B&I lenders had to submit to the local Agency all of their underwriting and loan approval documents, at least three B&I application forms, the draft loan agreement, copies of loan origination and servicing policies and procedures, and details concerning lending history, experience and their relationship with regulators. The Agency also awarded guarantees on a “priority scoring” basis, which gave loans in particularly rural areas with compelling purposes priority over otherwise eligible loans that earned a lower “score”. An approval or denial decision for lower scoring loans could take months from the application submission.

The USDA aims to reduce these drawbacks with the revised rule. The new rule attempts to streamline the original application process. Lenders must apply to participate in the guaranteed loan program by submitting background information such as descriptions of lending history and experience, policy and procedures and documentation concerning regulatory compliance (7 CFR 5001.9). Although lenders had to submit this information under the old rule, they are now permitted to submit summaries instead of copies of their policies and procedures (§5001.9(a)(1)). Once approved by the agency, lenders will no longer have to submit this background information when applying for loan guarantees (§5001.9(b)(4)). The revised rule also reduces the number of guarantee application forms (§ 5001.12(a)) and eliminates the draft loan agreement (§5001.34). In addition to simplifying the application process, the new rule endeavors to reduce the guarantee approval timeline.

Two changes aim to accelerate the guarantee approval process. The Agency has eliminated its “priority scoring” system in favor of a simpler first-come-first-serve approach (§5001.103(f)(1)). Additionally, the Agency has created a preferred lender program (PLP) (§5001.9(d)). The benefits of obtaining PLP status include a ten day approval or denial decision (§5001.11(c)), a smaller guarantee application package (§5001.12(b)) and the opportunity to obtain preferred status in more than one state with a single PLP application (§5001.9(d)(2)). In addition to streamlining the application process, the Agency has introduced some new loan features to the B&I loan program.

B&I guarantees may now be issued for additional uses and purposes. Under the previous regulations, lines of credit were ineligible. Lines of credit are now eligible when used for annual operating/business expenses, debts advanced for the current operating cycle, scheduled non-delinquent term borrower debt or closing costs (§5001.103(b)(2)(xix)). Projects involving leasehold improvements and the purchase of mixed use commercial and residential buildings are also now eligible for B&I guarantees (§5001.103(b)(2)(xviii, xx)). Another new feature removes the prohibition that interest rates change no more often than quarterly, and allows lenders to set a variable rate that adjusts as often as daily (§5001.31(a)). These new features allow lenders to obtain a valuable B&I guarantee for projects that previously were ineligible.

Although these features are now available to lenders, some revisions to the rule are less clear and useful tools have been eliminated. For example, the Agency has replaced the proposed cash equity criterion with a debt-to-tangible net worth ratio criterion (§5001.6(c)), but has failed to define this calculation other than referring to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Additionally, the rule eliminates the Agency’s limited authority to issue 90% guarantees. Again, the Agency ultimately decided to abandon the new rule and instead focus on working within the existing regulatory framework to improve the B&I loan program.

Business Service Management – How Your Business Can Benefit From It

Businesses in most of the industries today rely on their IT infrastructure for delivery of their products or services. Despite this, business owners and IT managers face difficulty in figuring out the performance of their IT infrastructure and analyzing how that performance affects their bottom line at any given point of time. If you are wondering the same about your IT infrastructure, the answer to your queries is Business Service Management (BSM). Let’s discuss some aspects of Business Service Management and how it can benefit your business.

What Business Service Management Is

BSM is a way to monitor IT services so that one can understand its impact on the business’ bottom line. Through it, IT managers can monitor application performance so that they can identify, foresee and solve application bottlenecks. In case of larger organizations, the business owners and IT managers need to know which department if going to be affected the most in case of an outage, so that its impact can be minimized. Through BSM, the interests of the business can be protected by monitoring, tracking and managing the investment and operational aspects of the IT department. BSM hence ensures that IT processes are aligned with business processes for the maximum benefit of the business.

How you can use Business Service Management for your business

If your business depends on IT department for providing services or products or your customers, Business Service Management can be extremely useful to you. Even if you have a large company with a huge IT department, a BSM solution can help you undertake effective ITSM. When you have a Business Service Management solution in place, in case of a system failure, you will be able to know exactly where the error has occurred on a real-time basis. You will hence be able to analyze the financial impact of the failure as well as instruct the IT manager of steps to take to ensure that application performance is up to the mark.

Some of the many benefits of a BSM solution for your business are:

  • It ensures application performance is up to the mark at all times
  • BSM also ensures the availability of business-critical applications
  • A BSM solution helps IT managers to ensure that service level agreement conditions are met
  • You can make IT service management easier with a customized BSM solution
  • You can understand the impact of a system failure on your bottom line through Business Service Management
  • A BSM solution will help you avoid downtime of applications by identifying bottlenecks and figuring out their cause
  • Through a BSM solution, you can reduce losses of downtime and improve productivity of your business