Is it Me, or is the Print Getting Smaller or New Uses for your Selfie Stick

So, the remote control for one of our TV’s appears to be broken.  I press the button and nothing happens.  Remote-Control-Ultra2__69121Problem: broken remote control, Resolution: buy a new remote control Not a life or death problem, no question, but, in this day and age, there is a lot of dependency on remote controls. The only trick is getting that model number off of the TV so you order the right remote.  Here is the challenge, the model number, which is what I need to order the right remote control, is on the back of the TV.  The TV is in a corner and getting to the back requires agility, strength, know how, creativity and a duster.  I have some of those things, but, not all. But, what if I were to take my #selfiestick and instead of using it for the picture of ‘self’…
Obama figuring out how to use selfie stick

Obama figuring out how to use selfie stick

I used it to get behind the TV and get a picture of the model number and all the stuff that is entirely too small to read:CYXdDDNWEAEEcGH.jpg_largeEureka!!! With model number well in hand, our family will now be restored to order with a remote control, that works with our exact model, soon to be arriving at our doorstep. What common gadgets have you used to solve the every day problems you encounter?

Grilled Cake & Hugging your Constraints

As Hurricane Joaquin is coming toward us this weekend, it reminded me of another storm that hit the Washington, DC area around this time years ago, Hurricane Isabel.phpThumb_generated_thumbnail  In 2003 Hurricane Isabel came through our area just at the time of my son’s scheduled 9th birthday party.  When the power went out for days, I assured him that he could still have his party and we would find a way to make sure that all the important elements would be included. Many of the elements for the birthday were just as they would be whether the power was on or off, but, the one improvisation that turned out to change the party from just one of many, to a memorable one was the fact that the birthday cake was baked, not in our oven that was not available during the power outage, but, in our gas grill.  For years, my son’s friends would come over and say to me that I had provided them with the best grilled cake (mine looked much better than the picture I have provided) they had ever had.  When faced with the constraint of no power, I had created a solution that I would have never considered under other circumstances. Tonight I was reading the article in the Journal of Accountancy, Learning to Love Constraints and I reflected on the story of Grilled Cake as I also thought about the many challenges that KBS Clients encounter because of the many constraints they encounter. So, as your business encounters a constraint or limitation, consider looking at it as an opportunity to utilize a resource that you have available to you.  Stuck on what those opportunities might be?  Contact us!

As KBS clients take on difficult challenges, I am thinking of Skiing

I know it is the middle of summer, but, for some strange reason I keep thinking of skiing.  And, I want to make sure I add, over the last 20 years I rarely get the opportunity to ski and I think most would consider me far from being an expert. Years ago, while taking a ski lesson at Snowbird in Park City, Utah, the instructor provided me with some guidance that I think not only works on the slopes, but, seems so fitting for the challenging world of owning and growing your own business.  There were many specific instructions needed to improve my skills, but, one that stands out was specifically – “…point into the turn…”  While amazingly simple, the advice help tremendously with my enjoyment of the sport and ability to manage more difficult hills. So, in the midst of the sweltering heat in Washington, DC, below is my top 10 list of the common characteristics between skiing and running a business that you want to grow and prosper:
  1. Every day can feel like you are navigating a mogul field
  2. Having the right clothes or infrastructure can lead to a very good or very bad day
  3. Even though you want to think about the turn you are in the middle of at the time, you need to always be looking ahead and thinking about the next turn
  4. Having the right partners to ski or run your business with can make or break you
  5. Skiing and running a business are expensive
  6. It never looks or works like displayed in the magazine’s
  7. Learning from your mistakes makes you better
  8. Decisions between trade offs should be made and then you move on
  9. Reflecting on your performance is rewarding
  10. Lean forward
15mag-15recommendation.t_CA1-superJumboFor those of you enthusiasts, you may enjoy reading this letter of recommendation published a while back: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/magazine/letter-of-recommendation-skiing.html?_r=1 When I am not working with my clients to ‘point into their turns’, I am trying to learn the game of golf.  I imagine at some point, I will start to see similar parallels, but, for now, I just am trying to get that ball into that little hole far far away.

How I Transformed The Way I Work And Live By Moving To The Cloud

From day one of my professional career as a CPA, I have been a passionate follower and adopter of the technology tools that are available to assist our profession in doing our jobs better.
I am likely dating myself, but, when those Compaq “Luggables” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compaq_Portable) came along, I was first in line. Why?  Because I could see that the Luggable, despite it’s small screen, and many other failings, would allow me to stop typing numbers into a 10 key calculator.  Similarly, many years later, when organizations started providing remote computing solutions (PC Anywhere, GoToMyPC), I jumped onboard because I found that these tools would allow me to assist my employer and clients from anywhere, at anytime.
In 2004, when I started Kensington Business Solutions, one of my priorities was to be able to achieve a work/life balance for my employees and myself by creating a virtual organization.
Initially to achieve the virtual organization structure, before there were tools like DropBox, KBS was sewn together with Internet file synchronization tools.  Everyone had files on their computers that would synchronize to the Internet and then synchronize to the rest of the computers in the firm.  It was innovative at the time, but, I then lost sleep at night worrying about duplicating files, security holes, employees walking away with client files and many other flaws of the solution I had created.
So, again, I realized that there had to be a better way.
Today, KBS is 9 years old and operates successfully and securely and completely in the cloud.  Employees and clients can get to their data from anywhere and, although hard drive failures are never without their inconveniences, they hardly derail me or my team because we can easily work from any computer knowing all the information we need isn’t sitting on one machine, but, is safely lodged in ‘server farms’ throughout the country.
One Software as a Service (SaaS) that has transformed my business the most is the password management system that we adopted a number of years ago.
In April 2008, shortly after meeting with a client of mine who was a well-known writer and speaker in the field of Nutrition, I received a call informing me that my client had passed away very unexpectedly. The call was from the client’s husband, who I had never met.  Her husband, steeped in grief from the horrible, unimaginable event, felt he had to call me, because…I was the only one that had many of his spouse’s passwords.  I went over to his home and provided all of the passwords that I had stored, but the image of that day has stuck with me.
When I came home from meeting with the client’s spouse, my husband and I had a conversation about the importance of these passwords. Since that time we have agreed to keep all of our passwords in an encrypted password management system that we both have access to.
KBS is currently using the cloud-based product, Secret Server Online, for our password management system and it is one of the most mission critical, reliable and valuable tools we have in our tool chest.  With great confidence, we store over 1,200 ‘secrets’ in a secure portal that allows only the appropriate users to see the confidential information.
Because of my business’s reliance on “the cloud” for all of our data and passwords, I am confident that whether I am in my office, walking my dog, or somewhere in between, my information is both accessible and more secure in its spot on a server far away, yet as close as one of my devices nearby.

How to prevent cash-flow shortfalls in your business

Cash-flow shortfalls can strangle your businesses growth, and getting out of the shortfall hole is very challenging. Some businesses that have excessive demand for their products or services still end up going out of business due to cash-flow shortfalls that are so significant that vendors discontinue providing services to them, making the business unable to deliver more product to their customers. Manufacturing businesses are prime examples of where a business can have a great product market fit, solid sales and still be strangled by cash flow shortages. Investment in the products being manufactured occurs well in advance of when the products are sold, which often ties up cash for months. Then, if customers pay 60 days after the sale, it can be 6 months, or more, between outlay of cash and collection. If properly planned out, it can be managed. Once you get in the cash-flow shortfall, it can be a viscous cycle and difficult to dig out. Companies can dig overcome shortfalls, but need to streamline accounting operations, extend payment terms with current vendors and attempt to accelerate customer payments in order to survive. KBS has helped many businesses to both avoid ever getting into these predicaments and also successfully dig out. Creating a scalable accounting and business infrastructure may seem unrelated to cash flow management, but the two are closely related. Follow these tips to help reduce the likelihood of a cash-flow shortfall in your business:Obtain and use a business credit card.Pay vendors for business expenses, when feasible, using a business credit card that allows payments to be deferred 30 days.Accept multiple methods of payment.Offering payment by credit card, PayPal, ACH, and even wire transfer can encourage timely payment of balances due to your business. Make it easy for your clients to pay you.Always ask for extended payment terms.Ask for payment terms of 30 days or more when working with vendors. If that’s not possible, make sure your customers are limited to a similarly brief payment window.Seek credit before an emergency happens.When cash is plentiful, contact your banker to obtain a line of credit. It’s very difficult to get a line of credit when you are in dire need of one. With careful, frequent monitoring, managing your business cash flow will become a habit as natural as brushing your teeth!

4 Easy Ways to Manage Your Cash Flow

When it comes to business growth, a lot depends on the money in the bank. And the faster the growth trajectory of a business, even the most profitable ones, the more crucial cash flow monitoring becomes for business sustainability. Cash flow monitoring is about more than how much cash is in the bank right now. It also keeps track of where you’ve committed your cash for the next 30, 60, and 90 days. Monitoring cash flow can seem intimidating, but a few tasks can help you break down the process:Reconcile bank and credit cards regularly.If it takes more than 30 minutes to reconcile your business checking accounts, consider seeking professional help to streamline that process.Record all bills and payments due.When entering future payments in your accounting system, be sure to enter the outstanding amount due along with the payment terms.Record all invoices and payments due.Keeping track of money owed to your business is just as important as knowing what payments you’re making. Remember to enter  when you will be expecting to receive payments.Measure your working capital.Take note of your working capital and working capital changes on a regular basis. Remember that current assets – current liabilities = working capital. If there’s cash in the bank, but your working capital is negative, a cash-flow shortfall may result. These reminders should help you begin to plan the cash flow needs and/or potential shortfalls your business may face. In our next post, we’ll discuss ways to prevent and manage cash-flow shortfalls. Our next post will provide tips for preventing a cash-flow shortfall in your business. Stay tuned!

Make More Money (Without Cloning Yourself)

Buying onlineAs we’ve discussed previously, a business can’t grow if it relies on the work of the owner alone. (If, however, you find a way to clone yourself, please let us know.) While you don’t want to rely on yourself to keep the business running at top speed, don’t feel that you need to pile on staffers. By using tech tools and a bit of planning, you can save yourself time—and perhaps even make more money with the time you have. Is there a way to automate delivery of your product? Set up recurring memberships and watch your business income grow month after month. While providing professional services might require the help of a new staffer or a qualified contractor, product delivery of digital products or subscriptions can often be made simple with use of subscription and online market services. If you’re thinking of investing in technology to help your business run better, don’t forget about training! One extremely common mistake is under-training. If you’re going to invest money, take the opportunity to invest time in that software or tool. Knowing how to fully leverage the product you’ve invested in will help your company increase revenues—or, in the long run, decrease your costs. Not sure how you’re spending your time? I recommend periodically taking time out to examine how you spend your time on critical tasks for your business. Here are a few steps: 1. Over the course of a month, jot down the percentage of your time spent on marketing/business development, finance, technology, administrative tasks, and management of your business. If you find yourself having a hard time determining percentages, check out Chrometa. I’ve been using this time-tracking tool for years on all of my devices and can’t imagine running my business without it. 2. Next, place a value on your time. This can be difficult to quantify, but is essential to measure the return on the investment of your business. Base this value on what others are are willing to pay you for the products or services you offer. Don’t forget to include a premium for your own sanity and work/life balance. 3. Once you determine this value, use the framework you developed to measure the return for delegating work or creating new projects. Remember to take the long view—some investments will provide a return over the next two-to-five years (say, an accounting system setup), rather than just a few months. Revisit this process once a year and don’t forget to give yourself a raise!

Growing a Business – One Lap at a Time

Today…I swam a mile at the local pool! 
I usually give up because it is kind of boring and I also have developed a really long list of excuses of why I am not going to keep swimming.  But, I didn’t do that this morning.

Why?  Because the Master’s Coach doesn’t say, go swim 1,600 meters and let me know when you are done.  He lays out on a board a series of sets of laps, with differentiated instructions  2 x 50 free choice, then, 100 odd
breathing/drill/free choice….stuff like that.  By setting all of these
little steps/goals, before I knew I had swam 500 meters, then, 750, then 1500…! 

Then 2×50…1,600 meters.

That’s what we are doing with KBS Clients and before you know it we are going to have done something that we didn’t really think we could do or had the time/inner ability to do – build a growing and successful business.

Use E-Commerce to Drive Your Business Growth

ECommerceWhether your business is a boutique or a service provider, offering customers the chance to buy online can take your endeavor to a more modern level.Is e-commerce right for you?Knowing when you’re ready for e-commerce can be tricky. Customers need to be willing to buy what you’re selling. You can’t measure real demand until you actually get people to commit to buying; so be sure to talk to your existing customers to find out what would spur them to purchase online. If there’s demand, there’s good news for setting up e-commerce: Once you do it, it’s easy to scale. Building a system to sell one product costs the same as building a system to sell an entire set of products. If you invest early in your business growth, some of the stress of adding items to your online shop will be relieved.Which e-commerce solution should you choose?Exploring e-commerce options can be overwhelming. When you’re selecting the right one for your business, choose a system that won’t require developer assistance to make small changes. Be sure to explore off-the-shelf solutions before paying a developer to build one for you. Just as you would think about providing good service to your own customers, look at what e-commerce providers can offer you. Open source or free services can look attractive, but if you run into a major problem, can they help you dig out? Do they offer phone, email, or live chat support? The cost of resolving problems that may occur may quickly outweigh the cost savings you gained by paying less for a service. Reporting is crucial, especially as it relates to sales. Your e-commerce platform should provide helpful information about what’s selling, what’s not, how much your customers are spending, and what payment methods they’re using.

Is Your Accounting System Holding You Back?

Post-it notesWhen you’re a busy business owner, it’s easy to let accounting fall by the wayside. There are projects to complete, employees to manage, and well, bills to be paid. But before you know it, your exciting business growth and your accounting system can veer off in different directions, leaving a big mess in their wake. Think of it this way: your accounting system is the script for the story of your business. If the script leaves out important details, no one can follow the story. If your team can’t follow the story, your business can’t grow.Follow these four tips to make sure that your accounting system helps, instead of hinders, your business growth.Consider your current accounting system. What works right now? What’s confusing? Next, think about what you’ll need to know when your volume doubles, triples, or scales. Remember that the data you collect impacts the reports you can generate–and the planning you can do based on those results.Your system should help you run your business all year. Don’t let your accounting system exist just to help you with year-end tax preparation. In addition, note that income you track should be matched with the expenses associated with that income. If your timing isn’t aligned, you’ll be forming the wrong conclusions about what’s happening in your business.Who’s responsible for your accounting system? If it’s you or a member of your team who’s responsible for sales or marketing, your accounting may suffer. Taking on too many tasks can lead not only to cash flow shortfalls or stressed partner relationships, but it can also stunt your overall growth.Make sure your accounting and marketing work together. If you’re working toward growth, your best bet is to establish your product/market fit early on. Are you selling something that people want to buy—for your price? Your accounting system has to capture data that helps you track results, and your marketing and sales team should have a crystal-clear understanding of your customer base.The bottom line: If you’re an owner who’s still doing your own accounting tasks, it’s time for change. Delegate, use technology where you can, and be vigilant for process bottlenecks. Your time is best spent growing your business!