The Business in the Cloud e-Book is now available for purchase in the Lulu online store.
More than just a guide to using Saasu, the 2nd edition of this book authored by Saasu Gold Partner Alycia Edgar provides a complete overview of how to take your business online, and discusses the new workflow efficiencies that can be achieved with the next generation of integrated business systems.
Purchase or gift a copy direct from the Lulu online store today.
Image by placeit.net.
*Note: Payroll is only available on M and L plans, Australia only
Welcome to Tips & Tricks!
Maybe you are a brand new user to Saasu or perhaps brand new to using the Payroll feature, either way, we know that Payroll can be confusing at times and want to help you through any challenges you may face, slowly and thoroughly.
We thought about the best way to guide our users through this feature, and came up with a real life case study format that hopefully you will find easy to understand.
In the coming weeks, we will be releasing more and more videos to uncover Payroll tips and tricks so stay tuned (or email Service if you can’t wait!).
Firstly, we will look at how to add employee, Claire Jones!
Now let’s look at a slightly shorter video, how to add a payroll entry*
Thanks for checking in with us this week.
We’d love your feedback on our videos, and on any other topics you’d like to see!
Today on the blog, Dean Rollins and Ian Cummings from Quick Timesheets share their tips for making a remote team successful.
Photo: Dean Rollins from Quick Timesheets working at Indian Creek, Utah. The desert tower in the background is called the North Sixshooter.
To many people we meet, one of the most surprising things about our business is that our team successfully works remotely from so many places around the world. After a quick count between us, we figured out we have worked on Quick Timesheets from almost a dozen cities around the world including; Singapore, Manila, Sydney, Hobart, Brisbane, Berkeley, Las Vegas and even in the middle of the desert in Utah!
We work remotely because our team members are based in different cities in Australia, and we also like to travel. So wherever we bring our laptops, we can bring our office.
Working remotely in a team and developing and supporting a product that is used 24/7 all around the world also has its fair share of challenges. The biggest challenge is co-ordinating our activities across multiple time-zones.
Recently we pushed a big update to our software which involved migrating hosting platforms and changing our e-commerce gateway. Our team was spread between Ian in Manila, Dan in Brisbane, Guy in Hobart, and Dean in Las Vegas. How did we do it?
Here’s some tips for working effectively as a remote team:
One of our adventurous developers, Dean Rollins, has been rock climbing around the USA over the past few months. He’s also been checking in with the team and developing some of our new features while he’s travelling.
In his own words, here’s Dean’s advice about how to work and travel at the same time.
How to Stay Motivated
Working remotely is all about flexibility – it gives you the flexibility to work when it suits you, and travel around between work days. But remember that it’s a two-way street – you must be flexible with your work as well.
Be flexible with the times that you work. I travel around rock climbing a lot. Some days the weather is too bad to go climbing. Don’t see this as something that spoils your day, see it as an opportunity to get some work done, the same should be done with rest days.
If you have a really productive day and feel like you’ve got more in you, consider stringing a few work days together. Make the time to get work done when you can so that it doesn’t hang over you like a burden.
Find a Productive Workspace
Depending on where you are and what you’re doing, it can be hard to find a good place to work. The most important thing is to make sure that you are comfortable. Awkward desk? Chair too hard? Find another. Too noisy? Too distracting? Go somewhere else. Spending an extra few minutes getting yourself set up properly will make you more productive, you’ll be done with your tasks quicker, then you can go out and have fun – that’s why you’re doing this, right?
I find libraries to be the best – quiet and comfortable, whereas cafes can sometimes get a bit too busy for my liking. I’ve also worked in my tent at night, in the back seat of the car (when it’s someone else’s turn to drive), at friends houses, on long plane flights, and even just chilling out at a nice campsite. No matter where, set up your space, make yourself comfortable, and get stuck into it.
I think that’s the most significant thing I’ve learnt — finding a comfortable place to work, and then just getting it done!
I thought it would be good to share some of Saasu’s secret sauce in a series of posts. In this one I’ll reveal a little about how we manage strategy and encourage execution.
We use a process we created called SPAR.
The SPAR cycle renews every fortnight. At the start of the fortnight each team member reviews how they went over the last 2 weeks and looks for ways to improve their Processes in the next by budgeting some time on Actions, which are not part of their normal work Processes.
Here’s the framework:
Strategy is the specific items from the businesses plan of action that are relevant to the individual. Strategy stays fairly consistent over time. It may evolve during the year but consistency in strategy is just as powerful as agility.
Processes are the regular Actions (rituals and work habits) you do in order to achieve your Strategy in the cycle. You are what you haven’t automated so obviously you want to automate as many processes as possible. This free’s up human resource. Processes are just a bullet point list for each Saasuian but there is also a procedures manual detailing technical aspects. We budget hours against processes each cycle.
Actions are things in your to-do list for the cycle that create and improve (or sometimes remove) Processes. Actions are listed and prioritised. There shouldn’t be actions outside of this. That’s where the slip occurs and the inefficiency manifests. Our days are filled with unplanned Actions if we aren’t careful. We budget and prioritize these actions.
Results are the KPI indicators that best demonstrate success in executing our Strategy. These motivate, teach us, allow us to adjust and then scale the things that work.
The intent behind SPAR is a framework for creating focus in a world where emails, information and exploration can flood in and dominate your day at the expense of execution of your plan. In an ideal world a person who has a big prioritised todo list that manages to nail lots of items from the top down is a legend of productivity.
The hour’s budget for Processes and Actions shouldn’t exceed available time for a fortnight. You have to budget time for things like research and exploration. Budget for brainstorming sessions and entertainment, be real about it. A measure of success is if people Processes list is full of knowledge work that can’t be automated or commoditised then we are being efficient with labour cost. Humans are doing what the system and machines can’t. It’s very much about the “thinking work”.
Execution is everything. It’s about choosing the right actions to take and staying focused on planned actions. As George Samuel Clason quotes in the Richest Man In Babylon, “Action is the goddess of good luck”.
Costumes.com.au are an online retailer of costumes and fancy dress. We really wanted to find out more about the ways that they’ve improved the management of their back-office with Saasu and Magento, an e-commerce application that makes up part of our add-on ecosystem.
We sell licensed and generic costumes, from basic to theatre quality, for babies through to plus size and everything in-between. I think we sell around 15,000 different items now, purely online. We also have a another business arm, providing a cloud-based shipping carrier integration service and we do a little eCommerce consulting here and there too.
We have been selling costumes for about 3.5 years. Before this, we owned another online business—selling fishing tackle—that we sold. This is our newest venture.
I think what sets us apart from others is our vast experience. We have been in eCommerce and the ‘online’ industry for more than 13 years now so we are great with systems and technology. We automate where we can, to do more with less staff. We have an amazing team, many of whom have been with us for close to ten years!
We used a few different systems in the early days, including our own systems that we developed. We used MYOB a little bit, but as we were growing so quickly we realised we needed a system that was easy to use, could grow with us, and integrate with the software systems we used heavily. In our case, this is Magento. Magento and Saasu as a combination are really powerful and have made a huge difference to our costume business.
Well, we know there are many benefits to online or cloud based software. We develop our own cloud based service, and we have been heavy users of cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox etc. for years. All of our server hosting is cloud based too so we realise the benefits. It is an easy choice really!
The problem we had before was that we were growing quickly, and having 3 different companies meant that managing the books was getting difficult. We had lots of sales channels (web, eBay, etc) and we needed a system that we could get data into quickly, from multiple sources. Saasu was suggested to us by an existing customer and we haven’t looked back.
We have been heavy users of online software, and Saasu was a natural addition to our suite of business management tools. The most attractive benefits were the API integrations available and the ability to import bank account data for reconciliations. That, and the fact that we can manage our books from anywhere, at any time, and provide tailored access to others as required. We also value the multi-currency support as we buy a lot of stock in different currencies.
Moving to Saasu was very easy actually. We were able to get set up and start entering data in no time at all. It is simple to use, and improving all the time. It is fantastic to be able to make suggestions to the Saasu team to modify or improve certain screens, and they take our feedback on board when they’re making updates to the product.
We love the ability to import bank account data, and the multicurrency support as we buy a lot of stock in different currencies.
I would say, examine the benefits you get thanks to the availability and the integration capabilities. And of course things like upgrades and extra features, which can be rolled out to all users without having to update a machine on someone’s desk etc.
I think the strangest place I have accessed Saasu would be on a boat, just out from Port Lincoln, South Australia. Was fishing for whiting on holiday, and got a call from one of my staff asking a question about an account!
Today we will be visiting a scenario where you may be importing or exporting goods and needing to record a lump sum of tax whereby 100% is paid to customs and you need to record this in the books.
You are sent a bill from Customs as follows:
Enter in this invoice as normal (make sure you un-tick the ‘Amounts include GST’ box), now create two lines to capture GST. Here’s how to do this:
*Please Note: Selected accounts are examples only
So you can see that there are two line entries for GST. One offsets the other so that as a result we have captured $205 in the ‘Total GST’ section, and our totals are still correct.
As always, we recommend speaking to your accountant if you need assistance with this process—particularly regarding which accounts and tax codes to use.
Maybe the lessons you give as an advisor don’t all have to be about money? Have you considered that most of your advice is based on maths, stats and law? There may be some social advice thrown in around estate planning and general well-being around money but it may not be enough, given the level of trust your clients award you.
Maybe you’ve suppressed the creative and emotional side of your brain and it’s time to let it out of its cage so it can serve as a point of difference with your clients in your practice?
Some of the biggest and best ideas in history are born in the realms of art, craft and self expression. They often end up being monetised into the the stuff you know best, money.
Often advisors come at a business from the logical left side of the brain, when really that can limit the business in several ways. Innovation, exciters, delighters and originality are all born in the right side of the brain.
Here’s some ideas to consider when advising small business owners that come from the exciting and flamboyant right side of the brain.
We humans love to benchmark ourselves against others. It drives us to compete with friends, neighbours, other businesses, career colleagues, etc. Maybe less turnover, smaller business and simple structure existences are better? While there are many economies of scale, there are also dis-economies of scale. Metrics that relate to size, growth and dominance can be considered to be vanity metrics. Re-thinking what metrics matter relative to your clients personality and goals can help to ensure wealth is also accompanied by happiness.
Your business is a actually a blend of business models. You add exposure, capital, ideas, emotion, art and resources in a planned way. You cook it up and hope it makes a really nice meal people want to keep buying. Only a portion of what you do is in the financial realm. I see startups that decide to source materials, manufacture and retail their product. They see themselves as one business in this simple example. I can see a blend of three business models. It’s a complicated recipe with lots of execution risk if just one of the three fails.
Intangibles don’t have one value as they really do mean different things to different people. If I said I would pay the same price for a 200k business with a 100k debt as one with just 100k of assets and no debt then I’d be a fool. One of those business has a problem. The problem is not financial difference, but it is still a real and tangible difference being the costs of stress, risk and uncertainty to the small business owner who left their job to have some control over their future. There are in reality dozens of problems or benefits in a business that are not priced or valued appropriately that lead to bad decisions in investment and in general business decisions.
Optionality in intangibles is everywhere. It takes some intuitive and creative thinking to assess them. Business valuation models do not factor them properly. Examples are valuing the Trust component of a customer base. Valuing the long term customer value (LTCV) for a business. The emotional detachment in favour of the analytical approach in the valuation process gets the valuation wrong. The simple adage that the buyers value is the right one is true. It’s what it means to the buyer and it isn’t what the seller thinks. This is because the intangibles (and even the tangibles) have different meaning and value for each buyer.
Language can change how a business is perceived in terms of brand as much as raw dollars spent on advertising. If I say “we unblock your drains” versus saying “we clean up after the job is done right” then I create a difference in value for the same task by selling the experience as an additive to the commodity service. The logical left brain will always take us back into commodity thinking while the right will tend to use language that creates added value of experience over and above the commodity in the business.
Did you warn your business owners about what they were getting themselves into? I quote this often now but I think all new small business owners should be given the “Disclaimer of No Guarantee of Happiness” – You may pay Income Tax, PAYG, SGC, Workers comp, Payroll tax, Excises, Stamp duties, Filing fees, Capital gains tax in addition to everything else you will need to pay to the banks, your staff and investors. You will probably give 50-70% of all your money to the government. Then some goes to banks and you might get lucky and have some of what’s left if you make it. Know that you are going to be a slave to the tax and debt system until you are a very large enterprise, a billionaire or broke.
Their way isn’t your way. The type of business model their personal comfort levels can endure will be different to yours. As an example I have at least half a dozen family and friends, people close to me, in SMSF’s who clearly shouldn’t be. It has been bad advice that hasn’t considered those individuals investment skill levels and risk appetite for compliance, understanding of investment sectors and the added worry over having a super company manage it. A SMSF can feel simple enough to us, feel low risk and worry free but small risks for some can be a cage of fear and dread for others.
Are you really as skilled up in verticals as your client is? Maybe your client knows more than you do. Your logical left will tend to instruct, recall stats, cite figures and facts. Your creative right will listen, think and coach more. This will work much better if you have a client who is a really smart cookie that should be coached rather than told.
Think more like an artisan or craftsman and less like a business person. Being clear, simple and elegant in your approach at the expense of tricky, complex and beautiful can have big rewards. As an example I sometimes see people put into tax structures, even basic trust structures, in order to save a few thousand dollars here or there. They end up in an accounting headache each year that in which there is no elegance or simplicity in just to save them a few thousand dollars. The structure complexity outweighs the uncertainty, confusion and accounting bills they deal with in the aftermath. There are intangible costs of complexity that have been swapped for small tax savings.
Stats and maths don’t explain everything. Outlier risks and events occur more frequently than they should statistically. This is because we have many unknowns. Accordingly relying a little more on intuition ahead of logical thought might help avoid some risks. As an example sherlocking is a common risk businesses and accountants alike don’t understand. It’s when a big company adds a seemingly small addition to their product or service that wipes out a bunch of little businesses in an instant. Many of these little businesses never see it coming. The iPhone app that tunes your guitar is a good example of one.
Anyway, I hope these are some ideas to get the creative juices flowing in the less logical and more emotional side of the brain. I love the logical left but the right side of the brain is a great opportunity for your practice to differentiate. As a species we mostly cast it aside in the world of finance which is a shame so instead choose to embrace it and enjoy it.
Today we’ve released the ability to attach files to journal entries (you can already add files to sales and purchases).
This makes it easy to keep track of documents, photos, receipts and collateral that relate to an entry in your Saasu file.
And, for those wondering, attachments on employee records are just around the corner.
We’ve also added tabbed browsing for some of the most requested situations in Saasu—to make flying through your accounts even easier. Simply Right Click (or Option + Click on a Mac) on the link and select “Open link in a new tab”.
Here’s the full list of the screens that tabbed browsing now works on:
This morning we updated the Contact Us screen in Saasu to make it easier for our customers to get the answers they need—either from our extensive Help Centre, or from one of our friendly Service staff.
The page now lists any current notices on our System Status page, so you can see at a glance if anything is affecting other users too.
We’ve also included a quick search field so you can query the Help Centre resources, as well as provided links to some of the most frequently visited help notes.
When you submit the form, we are also capturing a whole lot of data about your user profile, company file and the device you’re using, which means we can get to the root of the problem quicker, and provide you with a more satisfying response!
Image credit: @rachaelvoorhees on Flickr
Small business is one of the most critical elements of any economy.
Small business gives individuals the opportunity to “give it a go”.
Running a small business has a feeling of liberty about it. Be your own boss, control your own destiny, make your own decisions and travel your own journey. Your work/life balance can be controlled by you and not your employer.
The act of serving, creating, crafting or inventing in itself is very fulfilling for us as humans. Small business creates satisfaction for many intrinsic motivators, as does the way of entrepreneurism—which is closely aligned to small business. Self expression and creativity is such a small part of society relative to our other activities of supporting the government (through tax), families and the consumerist culture we are a part of.
Small business performance benefits from direct attribution. Effort based on good decision making and capital use is rewarded. Equity values for the business are influenced by this and the side benefit of this is a kind of “forced saving”. Us humans aren’t good at saving and that’s because we like to satiate near-term wishes. Small business inadvertently creates a saving plan for its owners via growth in equity value.
Small business enables a smaller government and a bigger private sector. Governments are incredibly inefficient other than as a trustee for the use of force, law and order on behalf of the people. I know 60-80% of my money goes to the government and I don’t get much back in return for it. I’d rather buy my services thanks—from small businesses.
The ultimate human right as a sovereign individual is freedom and liberty. Small business is definitely a step closer to that goal, leaving aside the state and its taxes for the moment.
Mostly people don’t go into small business to make money, usually it’s about a passion first, be it for a product, service or otherwise. It’s often also about a lifestyle change. Having an economy full of people driven this way is positive. If you rock up to work just to collect your pay cheque that isn’t as inspiring, it may not last and certainly isn’t going to generate higher levels of productivity. It’s one of the reasons I involve Saasu staff in ownership of our business.
Small business creates most of the diversity and discovery in the economy. Some government bodies like NASA (USA) and CSIRO (Australia) this also, but small business does it quicker, and in a more capital efficient manner. Small business is in itself an exploration through its nature of being a far more accountable system than government.
Clustering is something small business owners get to take advantage of. Local industry players, universities and R&D sectors can combine to create 1+1=3 situations. Incubators, joint venture and social enterprise structures are all possible without bureaucracy curbing their effectiveness. Government assists in forming, tax concessions and grants, but the efficiency of these is questionable.
Small business is very much a pay-to-play sector. If you lack prior success in small business then you may need to re-raise cash to pay for your mistakes. If you don’t, then you need lots of experience and luck to make it work first time.
Small business is a great use of the country’s capital. Returns on investment from 15%-25% are common and achievable. Money in a bank deposit at 2% is safe but it’s also dead wasted capital that has no cyclical velocity. In fact, you are losing money when you factor in asset inflation (not to be confused with CPI, which the government would prefer you focus on).
Small business is an inflation hedge for the self-employed. As prices rise, the cost of starting a new business rises. Markets tend to create parity in asset values so the value of existing small business equity rises to match the cost of starting a new one. You can see this in stock markets when the seemingly nonsensical happens and it rallies in a high inflation situation.
There is a dark side that isn’t talked about for many small business owners. Small business (as a rule of thumb) is dominated by taxation and cash flow issues. What ensues is a heavy focus on credit cards and the banking system as a fix, but this transfers the problem and causes an increase in fear and anxiety. Now you can argue the latter is self-inflicted, but the former tends to create the latter.
Small business is without question the most abused by the government’s tax system. It wears the full force of tax while the low income sector pays small amounts through consumption taxes and the corporate elite can structure their way out of paying tax legally. Don’t be ignorant and think that people in high places (the government included) don’t know this to be true and also understand that they expect small business to wear the tax burden. They understand that small businesses are the tax sheep that get shorn in this unjust picture.
There are many myths we are sold about small business but the reality I see in the streets is quite different. There are plenty of success stories in which individuals achieve their dreams. There are many what I call half-happy stories also?—?a rough ride but worth it in the end. The downside is an anxiety ridden, ongoing nightmare—broke and barely trading small business owners. They are left thinking a lower stress, ignorant, blissful life may have been much better had they stayed working for someone. This is a common comment I hear from people who have gotten into this situation. They feel tax, bad debts, lawyers and sometimes even advisors they trusted have sucked them dry. It’s easy to blame others but there is some truth to their stories I find.
So what’s the reality? Small business pay most of the taxes in the economy. The services sector in particular is a very large part of the economy and they are dominated by the small business sector. The tax you pay is large. You may pay personal income tax, company tax, GST/VAT, Excises, SGC (Australia), Pension (UK/US), Medicare/Obamacare/NI, state taxes, local/county taxes and charges, capital gains tax, stamp duties etc. You have proxy taxes (compulsory expenses) like workers comp, levies, registrations, filing fees, etc.
Sit down and work it out, you can easily get to 60-80% of your money going out in taxes and proxy taxes and for what in return. A discussion worthy of another post?
There is a light at the end of the tunnel but you have to first see the cage you have created for yourself. You have to see that others, the government, the banks and even some service providers helped you create that cage without you even noticing it. Seemingly valuable services and products don’t always deliver.
All three lead to debt or foreclosure and inevitable stress.
In short your cash position = CASH + SALES DUE + NEW SALES + NEW FUNDS – BILLS DUE
Once you have done this you need to make sacrifices. If you haven’t got the stomach for this then you really are more committed to ongoing cash flow stress and the payoff from this than you are to fixing it.
The payoffs for less cash flow stress are increased lifestyle, flamboyance, hope (spend to grow strategies) and many more.
Be honest with yourself. What can you add to (1) and what can you cut from (4). If you are relying on (3) you are simply delaying the problem and adding risk to your cash flow instead of de-risking it.
You must transform your cash flow to be neutral or positive. Take the pain but then at least you will sleep well at night. This will give you back passion or enthusiasm for your business.
You’ll increase your equity value instead of taking profits and this pushes out your tax liability until business sale time and that’s when you’ll have money to pay tax. However, do this in respect of other legal entities you have and your personal tax position—plan this with your advisor.
Don’t pay the government a cent more than you legally have to. The lower and upper classes certainly don’t. Don’t forget you are seen to be the tax sheep of the economy.
If you seriously address point 1 above (cash flow calculation) then awesome, you get to start winding down your credit card debt over time.
Many (read as most) small businesses are run on credit cards. Owners wake up in the morning and check their bank account for incoming cash and mentally match that against available credit on their cards to work out what bills they can afford to pay. They are doing mental cash flow math on the fly. It might be about meeting the next pay run or meeting the next tax bill. This is the most common small business ritual around money I see.
You won’t have 100% A-grade hires in your business—your kind heart might be hanging onto poor performers.
Employees can be revenue decimating rather than creating. You will need to fire, retrench or coach. The team impacts cash flow more than any other element in business.
I’m a big believer in coaching, and most employee issues can be improved or completely fixed with good coaching (and it allows you to hold onto the kind heart).
Often the problem with employees is actually you the business owner. This is the hardest pill to swallow, you have to consider your management style, your employee policies steer employee performance.
What does your flywheel look like? How many sales and marketing rituals do you carry out in a regular ongoing way?
List them down—what ones have you stopped and started in the last year. Marketing is repetition, a flywheel that you add momentum to with new rituals. You can slow it down with friction, bad email content, bad sales process, etc.
Test > Measure > Adjust > Scale lots of different sales and marketing techniques and watch that flywheel grow.
To accept there is a problem in your approach is the first step to fixing it. Three classic weaknesses are communication, approachability and blame.
Coaching conversations are positive troubleshooting for people and works much better than blame to fix things. Literally tell them you want to have a conversation that is a coaching exercise.
Failure is very rarely about a single person. Failure is nearly always the outcome from a system or series of events and thus blame is an inauthentic reaction to failure.
Listen, learn, think. Make better decisions more and work less.
The best managers can listen to their employees, their clients and the market.
Some easy examples are to revisit supplier relationships. Are you being treated with respect? Don’t buy into high price justifications. There are plenty of great value products and services out there that won’t gouge your wallet.
Revisit pricing of your own products. Do this quick check:
Minimalism in business is a fantastic way to reduce costs, create focus, efficiency and it just feels great. Read my post on this topic here, and if you haven’t done so, read The Power of Less by Leo Babauta.
Execution is everything.
Don’t attempt to do all of this at once. It won’t work, or if it does it won’t sustain—I’ll put money on that.
Just nail one or two of these ideas each week or month. It won’t take long and you will have formed several long term rituals for the betterment of your Small Business.
My top tip is to keep sharing with as many people as possible how you are transforming your small business. Give them the detailed rituals you are adding and removing. As you share your story you cement it into your being, it becomes your mission and you also cement it into others and how they start seeing you as a transformed business. They get inspired, you get inspired and you get passion. It brings the change into reality.
I’d say good luck, but I don’t believe in that. Go and make some luck