Raising the Bottom Line

Why Every Construction Business Should Have a Facebook Page

Posted by Susan Gorham on Tue, Apr 10, 2018 @ 08:33 AM

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According to our 2018 Maryland Construction Industry Survey, less than half of Maryland contractors have a Facebook page. The more important statistic, though, is that a third of contractors don’t use social media at all to promote their business. And, the majority of those contractors say they have no plans to start.

So what's a contractor to do?

which social media platform should my construction company use.png

Among the top concerns of Maryland construction contractors are (1) finding and retaining good employees (75%) and (2) finding new business (36%). Building an online presence can help you combat both of these challenges. Social media is one online tool that help you attract new employees and new customers.

There are plenty of reasons why contractors might not want to use social media to promote their business. Here are some of the objections we’ve heard from contractors:

  • It takes too much time to manage a social media account.
  • It’s too risky to put myself out there publicly.
  • I worry about getting a bad review online.
  • Social media is a fad. Why waste time on it?

First, let’s just get this out of the way: social media isn’t a fad. It’s here to stay. If you are interested in getting found by customers and prospective employees, it’s worth your time to use social media for your business. And it’s worth the risk of getting a bad review.

We won’t argue that the idea of setting up and managing a social media account for your business can sound overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. There are so many social media platforms to choose from: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and many more.

We propose that you pick one social media platform for your construction business. The key is to manage that one social media page really well.

Our pick for construction contractors is Facebook.

Let’s take a look at how your construction business can benefit from having a Facebook page.

1. It’s easy to use, even if you’re not tech savvy

Facebook is pretty intuitive. If you don’t already use it for your business, you might be among the millions of Americans who use it personally, perhaps to share pictures of your children, pets or latest cooking creations. While a business page is a different format than your personal page, the principles of managing a business page are similar. If you know how to share your aunt’s recipe for peanut butter fudge, you can manage a Facebook page for your business.

Discover other tactics Maryland contractors are using to promote their business.

Even if you’re not super savvy with technology, you can setup a business page in minutes and then build it over time. There are plenty of resources online that offer step-by-step instructions for setting up a Facebook page, like these:

How to Build a Facebook Page for Business: A Guide for Beginners (Social Media Examiner)

14 Essential Tips for an Engaging Facebook Page (Hubspot)

How to Create the Ultimate Facebook Business Page (WordStream)

Create a Page: A Step-by-Step Guide (Facebook)

2. It’s visual: you can showcase your projects

When a prospective customer is looking for a home remodeling contractor to build her dream kitchen, she most likely hops online to look at pictures – pictures of rich cabinetry, granite countertops, big islands with seating for four, farmhouse sinks, pendant lights and well, you get the idea.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Sharing pictures of your latest projects, like a recent kitchen remodel, garage door installation, landscaping project or freshly painted home, is easy.

This home remodeling contractor uses before and after photos to showcase their projects:

before and after

The same contractor gets bonus points for using video in addition to photos to give prospective customers a virtual tour of their projects:

video of construction project on Facebook

3. Your customers can write reviews (and you can respond to them)

Customer reviews are powerful, especially in the construction industry. Thanks to some unscrupulous contractors out there, more than a few consumers have been burned and are leery about hiring contractors.

While there is always a risk of getting a bad review, you should ask customers to review your work on websites like Angie’s List and Yelp. Facebook business pages allow customers to leave a review as well.

When a customer takes the time to review your work, be sure to thank them and acknowledge their review. A simple comment is all it takes:

example of good review on Facebook

And, in the event you get a less than favorable to review, it’s not the end of the world. Even though it’s tempting to ignore a bad review as if it never happened, that’s the worst thing you can do. There are ways to respond to a bad review about your construction company.

4. You can add a face and personality to your business

People do business with who they like and who they can relate to. What better way to attract customers and quality employees than to show your personality online?

Facebook, and other social media platforms for that matter, offers an easy way to put a face on your business and show what your business stands for.

This contractor shared some fun pictures from their holiday party and thanked their employees for a good year. This is the kind of thing that could make a potential employee say, “I’d like to work for a company like that.”

showcasing fun work culture at construction business

If you are struggling to find and keep good employees, as so many Maryland construction businesses are, this kind of post on Facebook can help make your business much more appealing than your competitor who doesn’t have any kind of online presence.

Some businesses share their community service projects on their Facebook pages. Seeing that 64% of millennials won’t take a job if a company does not have a strong sense of corporate social responsibility, business owners are wise to not only participate in community service projects, but feature them on their Facebook page (or website or other social media platform), as this contractor does:

community service project at construction company

5. The number of your customers and employees who are online is growing

When people need information, they go online. Sure, they talk to people they know. They might ask their neighbor for the name of the contractor who built their deck. But chances are, they’ll hop online to look for more information, like reviews from other customers, a Better Business Bureau rating and pictures of other decks.

If you are a business owner who didn’t grow up in the age of the internet, remember this: a growing number of your prospective customers and employees have grown up in the internet age. In fact, millennials – born between 1981 and 1996 – make up a quarter of the U.S. population and in 2018, according to an article by Forbes, millennials will have the greatest buying power out of any generation.

You want to be where your target audience is: online, and a Facebook page for your business can get you there.

6. You can manage it from any mobile device

 It’s easy to manage your company’s Facebook page with your mobile device, whether you are out in the field or waiting for your child’s baseball game to start. An app called Facebook Pages Manager, available for both Apple and Android devices, makes it incredibly easy to monitor your page, respond to reviews, share links and post pictures.

7. It’s free

Building a website usually costs some money. Most of us have to rely on a website developer to create an effective website. But that’s not the case with a Facebook page for your business. While it takes some time for you to create the page and manage it day to day, it’s completely free.

While Facebook does offer advertising for businesses, it is well within your reach to have success with Facebook without any paid advertising.

The Next Steps

Once you build a Facebook page for your construction business, the worst thing you can possibly do is nothing. Be active on your page. Post pictures, respond to reviews and comments left by customers, and share helpful tips. For example, if you are an HVAC contractor, share tips for homeowners about how frequently filters should be changed, how often an HVAC system should be serviced, and how to keep an outdoor compressor unit clean.

This concrete contractor, for example, tells its customers how they can qualify for LEED credits by having a concrete parking lot:

concrete leed credits

When you are busy serving customers, it’s easy to forget about your company’s Facebook page. We recommend assigning one person within your company to manage your Facebook page. That person should be a trusted employee who uses good judgement, knows your business fairly well, and uses good grammar and spelling. In addition to being responsible for posting content to your Facebook page, that person can get notifications from Facebook whenever someone leaves a comment or review, and respond quickly.

It’s time to get started! If you have questions about how to use Facebook for your construction business, contact us online or call 800.899.4623.

Click here to register for the construction industry seminar on may 2

Tags: construction, 2018 Maryland Construction Industry Survey

21 Must-Know Revelations from the 2018 Maryland Construction Industry Survey [Seminar]

Posted by Steve Ball on Wed, Apr 04, 2018 @ 07:04 AM

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Over the past few months, we’ve been gathering and analyzing data from those working in Maryland’s construction industry as part of the 2018 Maryland Construction Industry Survey, hosted in conjunction with Maryland Construction Network (MCN).

On Wednesday, May 2 at 3:30 pm, we’ll present the results of the survey at the newest brewery in town – B.C. Brewery in Hunt Valley, MD.

Here’s a sneak peek at just some of the data we gathered and will discuss at the seminar:

  1. 70% of contractors said they thought the construction industry’s outlook was better for 2018 compared to last year.
  2. Finding and retaining good employees has ranked #1 on contractors’ list of top concerns for the past three years, but jumped from 64% in 2016 to 75% in 2018.
  3. Six out of ten construction contractors say they aren’t satisfied with what’s being done to recruit younger generations to the construction industry.

As an attendee at the seminar, which we’re jointly hosting with MCN, you’ll be one of the first and only to get a copy of the survey result report. Plus, you’ll be there as industry veteran Steve Ball, CPA, offers recommendations on how to use the survey data to grow and better your business.

Click here to reserve your spot at this exclusive event at B.C. Brewery!

In his presentation, Steve will focus on the following:

  1. Outlook and trends for 2018
  2. Human resources and personnel development issues
  3. Accounting and finance
  4. The state of technology
  5. Exit and succession planning
  6. Marketing and new business tactics
  7. Insights from architecture and engineering firms

If you work in the construction industry, this is a seminar you won’t want to miss.

Register now to reserve your spot at this exclusive event at B.C. Brewery. With 24 craft beers on tap and a massive taproom with games like corn hole and bocce ball, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to check out this unique venue.

Questions? Contact us online or call 410.685.5512.

may-2-2018-seminar

Tags: Steve Ball, construction, 2018 Maryland Construction Industry Survey

5 Reasons Why a Managed Services Agreement Makes Sense for Nonprofits

Posted by Josh Beitler on Fri, Mar 09, 2018 @ 09:36 AM

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If your nonprofit is concerned about security, you’re not alone. According to Capterra, the top nonprofit security concerns are weak passwords, outdated software, past employees and insecure payment processors.

Managing network health and security is a time-consuming job. It makes sense that nonprofit leaders are opting for managed services to ensure their organization is secure, without compromising their job duties.

Here are a few reasons why nonprofits rely on a managed services subscription service:

1. No one has time to deal with network maintenance, or worse, catastrophes

Your managed services provider will proactively monitor all your workstations and servers for potential problems, and, depending on the kind of issue they uncover, they may be able to prevent a critical issue from occurring.

While your organization focuses on fulfilling its mission, it is easy for essential IT tasks to fall to the wayside. With the help of a managed services provider, you can make sure those IT tasks are taken care of without bogging down your time.

2. Cyber security should be a priority, but not your only job duty

You and your fellow employees are the #1 threat to your network security, so it’s critical that you educate your team on how to keep your organization safe. Educating your staff on everyday best practices such as using safe browsing habits, updating your passwords occasionally, and thinking twice before you click on you suspicious emails go a long way toward preventing a cyber attack.

The real time-consuming activities boil down to your security software as Microsoft and other vendors roll out security patches each month. It’s important to make sure those updates are installed to keep networks reliable and secure, and after those updates are installed, an administrator needs to review the changes.

IT professionals target “looming problems” all the time during routine maintenance. These problems need to be caught and fixed at the right time, or they can lead to a catastrophic failure. When you have a managed service provider who is taking care of this process for you, it gives you the freedom to get back to your real job duties: making the world a better place.

3. A managed services plan isn’t as expensive as you think

With a managed services plan, most services are covered under a fixed monthly cost. You can expect maintenance, remote or onsite support cases, and disastrous situations to be covered in your monthly plan. It’s like paying for a Netflix subscription, but also getting bonus cable services and a phone line as part of your plan.

When you compare this to the expense of responding to and remediating a one-time disaster, it’s a walk in the park. In fact, according to CompTIA, over 400 businesses using managed services have reduced their security budgets by more than 25%.

The price tag on a managed services agreement can seem high at first, but so can a network catastrophe or an agreement with a shady provider. Get a glimpse of what you’ll end up paying in this free managed services calculator.

4. Knowledgeable providers will help you get access to nonprofit discounts

As a nonprofit, we know your priority is making money through fundraising rather than spending it on technology services. Here’s where a managed services provider’s expertise and resourcefulness can come in handy.

Did you know that Microsoft products are significantly discounted for nonprofits? Software such as Office 365, which includes email, the Office program suite, SharePoint, 1TB of OneDrive storage and more is just $2 per user per month for nonprofits.

Additionally, Microsoft gives you $5,000 a year to use towards the cloud computing Azure environment. In some cases, you might even pay $0 a year for Azure. Nevertheless, if you do use up that $5,000 yearly credit, you are still looking at only a small cost to pay for Azure’s powerful cloud computing environment.

A good managed services provider will help steer you toward cost-effective technology tools, which in turn will keep more of your organization’s money funneled toward your mission.

Other vendors, like Tech Soup, can help nonprofits get other Microsoft software (like Office or Windows) at deeply discounted rates, too.

5. You deserve peace of mind

You’re passionate and good at what you do. You don’t need to be bogged down by complicated, time-consuming IT tasks or put on hold for hours when you need help. Your managed services provider is always just a few clicks or a phone call away.

If you have a question or run into a technical issue, your provider can use remote support services to help you in a jiff. And, with those remote monitoring tools and maintenance, you can take a deep breath knowing there is a dedicated, knowledgeable IT professional watching out for you and your organization.

Questions?

Finding the right managed services provider can be a daunting task, but Gross Mendelsohn’s Technology Solutions Group is experienced in helping oodles of nonprofits find the right technology at the right price. If you have questions, or need help, contact me here or call me at 410.685.5512.

About Josh Beitler

Josh BeitlerJosh Beitler, MCP, MCSA, is a network consultant and engineer in Gross Mendelsohn’s Technology Solutions Group. He works primarily in Windows Server, Microsoft Office and Office 365 environments. Josh also has experience with automated network monitoring and data backup solutions. Learn more about Josh.

 


click here for our free managed services calculator tool

Tags: nonprofit, technology

IRS Extends Transition Relief for Maryland Health Saving Accounts and High-Deductible Health Insurance Plans

Posted by Leonard Rus on Wed, Mar 07, 2018 @ 07:59 AM

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This post was updated on March 7, 2018 to reflect new guidance issued by the IRS.


The IRS has issued transition relief regarding male contraceptive services in relation to Maryland health savings accounts (HSAs) and high-deductible health insurance plans (HDHPs). The agency published the following in Notice 2018-12:

"The Treasury Department and the IRS are aware that certain states require benefits for male sterilization or male contraceptives to be provided without a deductible, and that individuals have enrolled in health insurance policies and other arrangements that otherwise would qualify as HDHPs with the understanding that coverage for male sterilization or male contraceptives without a deductible did not disqualify the policies or arrangements from being HDHPs.

The Treasury Department and IRS also understand that certain states may wish to change their laws that require benefits for male sterilization or male contraceptives to be provided without a deductible in response to this notice, but may be unable to do so in 2018 because of limitations on their legislative calendars or for other reasons. Until these states are able to change their laws, residents of these states may be unable to purchase health insurance coverage that qualifies as an HDHP and would be unable to deduct contributions to an HSA.

Accordingly, this notice provides transition relief for periods before 2020 (including periods before the issuance of this notice), to individuals who are, have been, or become participants in or beneficiaries of a health insurance policy or arrangement that provides benefits for male sterilization or male contraceptives without a deductible, or with a deductible below the minimum deductible for an HDHP.

For these periods, an individual will not be treated as failing to qualify as an eligible individual under section 223(c)(1) merely because the individual is covered by a health insurance policy or arrangement that fails to qualify as an HDHP under section 223(c)(2) solely because it provides (or provided) coverage for male sterilization or male contraceptives without a deductible, or with a deductible below the minimum deductible for an HDHP."

How did HSAs and HDHPs get in trouble in the first place?

Even with the efforts of lawmakers, advocates and insurance companies to protect HSAs and HDHPs, many plans fell in violation of The Contraceptive Equity Act on January 1, 2018. To read more about why the plans violate this act, check out this blog post.

Why couldn't lawmakers retroactively fix the plans?

When evaluating Senate Bill 137, which attempted to retroactively restore the lost deductions of Maryland HSAs and HDHPs, employee benefit lawyers determined that federal law prohibits a retroactive amendment to the affected HSAs and HDHPs. Also, given the number of plans and participants, insurance companies argued it simply wasn’t possible to change plan administration for 2018 so late in the game.

So, what now?

Senate Bill 137 will take effect on January 1, 2019 as long as it passes through Maryland legislature. That means that the affected HSAs and HDHPs may fall back into official complaince in 2019. Also, in the chance that the IRS makes the needed amendments to their list of IRS-approved preventive care services before 2019, the plans could become requalified as a result.

Questions?

At Gross Mendelsohn, we can help with any questions you have about your organization’s HSA and HDHP. For help, contact us here or call 800.899.4623.

Tags: Leonard Rus, health insurance

Dependency Exemptions and Child Tax Credits Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Posted by Mark Vogel on Mon, Mar 05, 2018 @ 10:01 AM

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The new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) raises a lot of questions for divorce attorneys. I recently hosted several seminars on the effects of the TCJA on divorcing couples alongside my colleague, Richard Wolf. At these seminars, several questions were raised, which we will individually address in this and future blog posts.

In this article, co-authored with family law attorney Carol Ehlenberger, Esq., we will discuss the new dependency exemption and child tax credit.

Section 11041 of the TCJA suspends dependency exemptions beginning in 2018 and ending in 2025. In tax year 2026, these exemptions will return unless the suspension is further extended. In many divorces, this dependency exemption was used in negotiations as a trade-off for other economic considerations. It is worth noting that agreements signed closer to 2026 should most likely include language to reflect the return of the exemption if the tax laws are not extended.

Current tax law allows for a child tax credit of up to $1,000 per child; however, the phase-out based on adjusted gross income was relatively low. However, under Section 11022 of the TCJA, the child tax credit will increase to $2,000 per child.

In addition, the phase-out thresholds are much higher under the TCJA, with phase-outs beginning at adjusted gross income levels of $200,000 for single filers and $400,000 for joint filers. Under the TCJA, it will take $40,000 (a $50 reduction for each $1,000 over limit) of taxable income over the threshold to phase out the full child tax credit, $80,000 over the limit to phase out the second $2,000 credit and so on, compared to the current law, which sets the limit at $20,000. 

Download our free whitepaper for divorce attorneys!

As the child tax credit represents a dollar for dollar decrease in tax, and the TCJA includes provisions for a refundable portion of the credit, the credit might be more valuable to divorcing couples going forward than the previous dependency exemption, which reduced taxable income.

The child tax credit applies to a “qualifying child” who must be under 17 years old as of the last day of the taxable year. In addition, the child must have the same principal place of residence as the taxpayer for more than half the year.

For children over 17, there is a reduced child tax credit of $500 available. To qualify, all “qualifying child” rules must be met except that the age requirement will be raised to under 19 years old (or 24 years old if the child is a full-time student).

The question remains as to whether the IRS will allow for a release of this child tax credit to the non-custodial parent, similar to the prior rules for dependency exemption.

We believe that the release, if it conforms to all current rules (which haven’t changed under the new law), should still work, and the non-custodial parent should be able to take the child tax credit. Although the exemptions have been suspended, the definitions of a dependent have not changed.

Even though the IRS might allow for a release of the child tax credit and parties can still negotiate who can claim the same, a court might not have the authority to allocate the child tax credit. Virginia Code Section 20-108.1 states that the court can order one party to “execute appropriate tax forms or waivers to grant to the other party the right to take the income tax dependency exemption for any tax year or future years.” 

Under the prior law, the party who claimed the income tax dependency exemption also was entitled to the child tax credit. However, that leaves the question that if there is only the child tax credit (at least until 2026), does the current code language allow the court to allocate it?

Read More Articles on How the TCJA Will Affect Your Divorcing Clients

Reconsider Your Financial Strategies for Divorcing Clients

Our team of litigation support professionals can help family law attorneys form financial strategies for their divorcing couples in light of the new tax law. Contact us online or call 800.899.4623 for help. 

About the Authors

MCV Circle Formal.jpgMark Vogel, CPA/ABV/CFF, CVA
Mark is a partner at Gross, Mendelsohn & Associates. He has 32 years of accounting experience, with 20 years of experience working with divorce attorneys throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and leads the firm’s divorce seminar series.

 

Carol Ehlenberger.jpgCarol Ehlenberger, Esq.
Carol is a partner at Hirsch & Ehlenberger, P.C. She has over 20 years of experience practicing family law and serves as a member of the Family Law section of the Fairfax Bar Association, among other committees.

 

Tags: forensic accounting, Mark Vogel, litigation support

3 Things You Need to Know About the IRS’ New Withholding Calculator and Form W-4

Posted by Leonard Rus on Fri, Mar 02, 2018 @ 01:35 PM

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With the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in December 2017, the IRS has been working diligently to keep up with the changes of the law. On March 1, 2018, the IRS released a new withholding calculator for individual taxpayers and an updated Form W-4.

1. Why is there a new Form W-4?

As a result of the changes implemented by the TCJA, Form W-4 needed to be updated to reflect new tax rules, including:

  • Changes in itemized deductions
  • Increases in the child tax credit
  • The new dependent credit
  • The repeal of dependent exemptions

2. What is the withholding calculator for?

The withholding calculator is a tool developed by the IRS in order to determine an individual taxpayer’s withholding allowances for 2018. The calculator does not gather any personal information like name, address, etc., but the calculator does require some financial information specific to withholding calculations, like an estimate of 2018 income, number of dependents, etc.

In an FAQ regarding the calculator, the IRS recommends that “employees check their withholding each year to make sure they’re having the right amount of tax withheld from their paychecks.” In particular, the agency suggests that the following groups check their withholding for 2018:

  • Families with more than one earner
  • People with two or more jobs at the same time
  • People who only work for part of the year
  • People with children who claim credits such as the Child Tax Credit
  • People with older dependents, including children age 17 or older
  • People who itemized deductions in 2017
  • People with high incomes and more complex tax returns

3. Are there more changes to come?

Yes, the IRS said in a press release in January 2018 that taxpayers should expect to see more withholding changes in 2019.

Need help?

The changes of the TCJA can be overwhelming. Click here to contact our tax department online or call 800.899.4623 to learn more about how tax law changes will affect you in 2018 and beyond.

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Tags: Manufacturing & Distribution, individual tax planning, Leonard Rus, tax, healthcare, nonprofit, construction

What Federal Grant Recipients and Government Contractors Need to Know About beta.SAM.gov

Posted by Taylor Dean on Thu, Feb 22, 2018 @ 08:08 AM

beta.SAM.gov website

If you’re a government contractor, or if your organization makes, receives or manages federal grants, you’ve probably heard about beta.SAM.gov.

According to the beta.SAM.gov website, “SAM is the official U.S. government website for people who make, receive and manage federal awards. It’s the central hub for the entire federal awards community.”

If you think SAM sounds all encompassing, you’re right – it is. Let's take a look at what the website is and whether you should create a user account.

What is the purpose of beta.SAM.gov?

With beta.SAM.gov, the GSA is streamlining and consolidating multiple federal award management systems – ten to be exact – into one website. Having one website will make it easier for people to login and manage federal awards from one central location.

Because the beta site is not fully functional yet, you should continue to use the legacy site(s) you’re already using, such as FBO.gov or CFDA.gov, to manage awards and run reports. Over the next few years, data and functionality from the legacy sites will be transitioned fully to beta.SAM.gov. For now, beta.SAM.gov will run concurrently alongside the legacy systems.

Once the migration to the beta site is complete, the authoritative site for managing federal awards will be SAM.gov.

Do you need a user account?

If you have an account in one of the legacy systems, you’ll want to create a new user account in beta.SAM.gov. You can do that here.

Once you create a new user account, you can migrate your roles from the old systems.

Additional resources

The GSA offers several helpful videos about beta.SAM.gov.

Visit beta.sam.gov's help center to learn what you can do on the website.

For help

If you have questions about beta.SAM.gov, or about managing federal awards, contact Taylor Dean or call 800.899.4623. Taylor advises government contractors and federal grant recipients.

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Tags: government contractors, Taylor Dean

7 Easy Ways To Make QuickBooks Work Better For Your Small Business

Posted by Diana DeWitt Strassmaier on Thu, Feb 15, 2018 @ 01:06 PM

QuickBooks Tips for Small Business

Being a business owner generally doesn’t come with an excitement for keeping the books. But QuickBooks can help owners comply with the required chore of keeping accounting records in good shape without costing an arm and a leg — or needing a full-time staff with accounting degrees.

QuickBooks is one of the most widely used accounting software packages around. When setup correctly and used well, it is a formidable low-cost alternative to more sophisticated accounting systems.

Taking the time to understand the flow of information in QuickBooks, along with its limitations and flexibility, can help make running your business a lot more productive. The goal is to reduce the amount of time you spend on internal tasks, like accounting and bookkeeping, so you can devote more time to growing your business.

One of the things I like most about QuickBooks is its flexibility. With that flexibility, however, comes risk and responsibility. Metrics are only as useful as the accuracy of the data supporting them.

Rest assured, there are several easy steps you can take that will help you get the most out of QuickBooks, and more importantly, have confidence in the data that goes into and comes out of the system.

1. Setup users with their own unique passwords and rights.

First, an important distinction: users are not the same as licenses. The Admin user is just for performing administrative tasks, like modifying the chart of accounts or setting up items. The Admin user should not be used for entering transactions.

Your external accountant has a special user category, enabling you to maintain confidentiality of sensitive data, such as customer credit card numbers. If there is more than one person entering transactions or viewing activity, setting up different users allows you to limit access appropriately for each user. It also makes it clear who did what in the system.

Taking the time to setup users correctly, and with secure passwords, is just good business practice.

2. Take extra time (it’s worth it!) to think through your chart of accounts.

Create enough accounts and categorize them properly so you can analyze what you’re spending money on and how it’s impacting the business. Child accounts can be helpful in subtotaling sets of information, but if you have child accounts, posting only to the lowest account level will help with reporting.

Pro-tip — Did you create too many accounts? Merge the redundant ones. But do so with care, as you cannot un-merge them.

3. Harness technology by using bank feeds.

Bank feeds allow you to download bank and/or credit card transaction activity directly from your financial institution. However, there are a few pitfalls that go along with this convenience:
  • Bank feeds do not take the place of account reconciliations. It’s still important to reconcile the bank and credit card accounts in case items have been missed, accidentally deleted or duplicated.
  • Bank feeds can be useful for certain transaction entries. However, transactions that are linked to others, such as bill payments or deposits of customer receipts, must be entered correctly in order to be useful. Then the bank feed can be used to match a recorded transaction to what was posted to the bank. For example, bill payments get recorded through the vendor menu and customer receipts through the customer menu. When you record transactions this way, bank feeds can be used for matching transactions.
  • Some banks integrate better with QuickBooks than others. Also, some banks provide more detail than others, some require more effort to setup the integration, and some charge a fee for using bank feeds.

4. Use classes to prepare more meaningful financial statements.

You already take the time to enter business data into QuickBooks for accounting purposes. Why not get meaningful data out of QuickBooks, on the back end, to help you assess how your business is performing?

Say your business operates multiple locations. If you want to compare profit and loss by office, for example, you can use classes to segregate the activity for each office. Know what parameters may already exist in a different field, such as by account number/category, so there’s no need to create classes where the parameters already exist in another field.

5. Memorize useful reports to make your favorites easily accessible.

You can run a slew of reports from QuickBooks, and there are just as many ways to customize those reports to filter the information for better reporting and decision-making.

Memorizing reports keeps those unique filters and customizations so you don’t have to re-create them each time.

6. Use closing periods to finalize and safeguard your data.

I have seen a number of small businesses accidentally post a transaction to a prior year. When this happens, their books no longer tie correctly, causing someone — either an outside accountant or someone inside the business — to spend time finding and correcting the error.

There is an easy fix for this. Closing periods can keep users from accidentally posting transactions to a prior period that’s already been closed, since QuickBooks requires you to enter a password to post to a prior year. This saves everyone the time and hassle of having the prior year’s data change after it has been finalized.

7. If you need job costing, use items, payroll and estimates to reduce the need for add-on software.

Job costing offers you a way to determine profitability for a specific component of a project, customer account or a set of common types of jobs. Put simply, job costing can help you see where your business is making and losing money.

When you use items, payroll and estimates in QuickBooks, you can save money by reducing the need for add-on software. For example:

  • If you keep track of activity by customer on the income and expense side, using items can provide additional measurement and tracking capabilities.
  • If you use QuickBooks for payroll, the items will also come in handy. Service items allow you to categorize the work done for billing purposes. Payroll items put the expenses to the designated accounts.
  • Using estimates will open additional invoicing, reporting and measurement options.

Need Help?

Get more out of QuickBooks, starting now. Contact Diana DeWitt Strassmaier online or by calling 800.899.4623. A huge fan of using technology to simplify daily business tasks, Diana is a Certified QuickBooks Pro Advisor.

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Tags: accounting, business owners, Smart Accounting Support Solutions, Diana DeWitt Strassmaier, QuickBooks

Nonprofit Accounting Tips from Nonprofit Auditors [Video]

Posted by Ernie Paszkiewicz on Tue, Feb 13, 2018 @ 08:14 AM

We sat down on camera with three members of our nonprofit group — Ernie Paszkiewicz, CPA; Lisa Johnson, CPA; and Richard Wolf, CPA — to solicit a few tips from their experience working with nonprofit organizations.






Meet the panel

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Ernie Paszkiewicz, CPA is an audit partner at Gross Mendelsohn. He has over 38 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Ernie says the best part of helping nonprofits is helping them fulfill their mission.

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Lisa Johnson, CPA is an audit principal at Gross Mendelsohn. She has 16 years of experience in nonprofit audit and accounting. When asked what the best part about working with nonprofits is, Lisa said she enjoys helping nonprofits make use of their limited resources to do more with less.

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Richard Wolf, CPA, CGMA, CFE, CVA is an audit principal at Gross Mendelsohn. He has worked with nonprofit organizations for over 20 years. Richard says his favorite part about working with nonprofits is knowing the services he provides work toward helping the organization achieve their mission.




Panel Q&A

What’s one easy fix most nonprofit CFOs can implement right now?  

ErnieMake sure you are staying up on your accounting records. And if you have any questions, make sure you ask those questions of your auditors or your outside accounting advisors.

Richard: Think before you act. A lot of times we get calls after a grant has been issued or after the fact, and it becomes a lot more complicated and complex for us to unravel and unwind how to approach something.

What’s the costliest mistake you see nonprofits make in their accounting?

Lisa: Not developing and approving a budget for the year. It’s so important that nonprofits follow a budget, that it is prepared as accurately as possible, approved by the board and that the staff buys in on it as well.

Ernie: One of the biggest mistakes a nonprofit will make in doing their accounting is they’ll take either a grant from a federal or state government agency without really understanding all the requirements.

Richard: Not investing enough. A lot of times what we’ll see is an RFP goes out and the organization will just select the lowest cost provider without really evaluating whether that organization has the right experience and knowledge needed to do a good job.

Where do nonprofits get tripped up in the audit process?  

Ernie: One of the things nonprofits do with their audit process is they don’t really prepare for it. So, one of the things you want to do is really make sure before the auditors come in, you’ve gone through the records and you have backup and support for all the critical areas.

Richard: The biggest area that nonprofits get tripped up in an audit tends to be documentation. It’s extremely important that you retain and make all documentation available.

Lisa: Be prepared. In the audits that go smoothly for us, the client really spends a lot of time, weeks ahead of the audit, to go through the books and records, clean everything up, reconcile the accounts, go through the client assistance list and prepare all the documents for us.




Preparing for an audit

Learn the basics of the nonprofit audit process, including what you should expect from the audit, how to understand a management letter and your responsibilities if you get a negative comment, and more, in this free eBook, Demystifying the Audit

Questions? Contact us here or call 800.899.4623 to talk over your organization’s situation.                 

Learn what to expect during your nonprofit's next audit (free eBook) 

Tags: Ernie Paszkiewicz, Lisa Johnson, nonprofit, Richard Wolf

What Maryland Businesses Need to Know About Mandatory Paid Sick Leave

Posted by Leonard Rus on Mon, Feb 12, 2018 @ 01:52 PM

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A new law, dubbed “mandatory paid sick leave,” will have a substantial impact on many Maryland businesses, starting now.

Despite a last minute attempt by the Maryland Senate to delay the roll out of the new mandatory paid sick leave law until July, the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act took effect yesterday, February 11, 2018.

The core provision of the Act that’s causing Maryland employers to scramble revolves around sick leave. Under the new law, which was hotly debated in the state legislature, some Maryland businesses must provide paid sick leave for employees.

What’s required by the new law?

Whether you are required to offer paid sick leave depends on the number of employees you employ.

Maryland mandatory paid sick leave

Under the new law, employees can earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employees can earn a maximum of 40 hours (five work days) of sick leave each year.

Sick leave mandated by the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act can be used for an employee’s own illness, to get medical care for a family member, to care for a sick family member and for maternity/paternity leave.

What to do now

If your business hasn’t already taken steps to comply, act now.

Every business owner should review his or her sick leave policy immediately. Once your sick leave policy is updated to reflect the new law’s requirements, distribute it to employees.

Recordkeeping methods need attention as well. Payroll systems, for example, need to account for the accrual and use of sick leave.

Consequences for failure to comply

There are stiff penalties for business owners who fail to comply with Maryland’s new sick leave law. Monetary fines and possible lawsuits filed by employees are a threat to businesses that don’t have compliant sick leave policies in place.

Additional resources for employers

According to Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation, state officials say they “will work closely with employers and employees to make sure both parties understand the requirements and limitations of the law and resolve any issues as informally as possible.”

Employers can email questions to small.business@maryland.gov.

The state is developing sample policies and a detailed Q&A document. These resources will be posted on the DLLR website when they are available.

The Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation’s sample employee notice poster offers an easy-to-understand explanation of the new law and how it works.

You can read the full Maryland Healthy Working Families Act here.

Need help?

If you need help determining how your business is affected and the steps to comply, contact us here or call 800.899.4623.

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Tags: Manufacturing & Distribution, Leonard Rus, real estate, nonprofit, construction, Maryland, business owners, government contractors