Ah, the 80/20 rule. I am sure that at some point in your business or personal life, you have heard of it. Also known as the “Pareto Principle”, this rule says that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. We do use this rule here at Red Wing Software within our software products. When applied to product inventory, the rule says that 80% of your sales are from 20% of your inventory items. Knowing which items of the 20% are garnering the most sales can be crucial to growing your profits. That's where ABC analysis can come in handy. An ABC analysis within your accounting program can show you which items are most profitable. Our accounting software offers ABC analysis, which is an excellent tool for businesses.
But all science and math aside, have you ever noticed that the 80/20 rule can also apply to real life? As I think of my life, I can think of a few examples of where this rule might apply. For instance, about 80% of my free time is spent watching hockey and transporting my son to games. Yet when I originally signed him up, I would have thought it to be much less time consuming. My son’s hockey really only constitutes about 20% of the ways I love to spend my free time. Therefore, my surprisingly full and hockey-packed free time fits with the 80/20 rule!
What are some examples of the 80/20 rule in your life? Answers need not be serious or technical.
I can still remember when the only way of reaching out to someone was by phone or mail, or in person. I know that many of you can too, even though the children in our lives are baffled when we tell them we had to actually just figure out plans ahead of time, talk in person, and sometimes, just wing it because we didn’t have a cell phone to call anybody. Of course, now there are cell phones, texting, e-mail, instant messaging, Facebook, and so many more ways of reaching people! Here are some unconventional (and also not too painful) ways to take advantage of today’s technology to stay in touch with your customers.
E-mail a useful document
You can find an unbelievable amount of information on the internet for free, including case studies, white papers, marketing tips, research information, instructional videos and much more! The next time you find something that could be useful to one of your customers, send them that document via e-mail. It only takes a few minutes to send, and your customer will appreciate the fact that you thought of them!
Invite them to connect.
Some of you are probably thinking, “This is not an unconventional way of communicating—it’s the norm.” But for some people, connecting via LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter is uncharted territory. A great place for a business to start connecting with customers on the internet is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a network of business professionals and is a place where you can learn all about your customers (if they are members), meet new contacts, join industry groups, answer business related questions, and much more. It’s completely free, too. Visit www.linkedin.com to learn more. In fact, I’d love to be your first connection! Click here to see my profile and invite me to be your connection.
Invite them to a trade show.
You are likely in an industry similar to your customer, so why not invite them to come along to the next trade show? If you are an exhibitor, some trade shows will pass out free passes for you to hand out to your customers. Take advantage of this, and provide your customers added value by letting them get in the doors for free. By the way, click here to view the Red Wing Software trade show calendar. If you are a customer interested in attending, we may be able to help. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject line of TRADE SHOW to learn more. Please include your customer name.
Processing payroll on time is crucial to the management of your business. As your company grows, you may find that payroll processing becomes more complex with tax requirements, multiple employee types, increasing deduction types, and much more. To efficiently manage your payroll, you will need to choose the best options for your business to process payroll allowing you to continue to pay your employees on time, ensure taxes are filed promptly by due dates and still have access to the information you need.
As your number of employees grows, so do your labor expenses. Many people start their business using a payroll service, yet as business increases, they realize the expense grows out of hand. Once the cost of using a payroll service starts to outweigh the convenience, you may be ready to bring your payroll processing in-house and use payroll software.
Whether you use a payroll service or payroll software, you will need somebody to manage the process. Functions such as collecting employee pay data and editing employee information will need to be manually entered into a payroll software system or delivered to a payroll service.
Probably the biggest benefit to processing payroll with a service is their guarantee that they will file your taxes in a timely manner. However, payroll software providers currently offer online tax filing or complete tax filing fulfillment options. These options make the Federal and State tax filing processes much easier.
Some companies need or desire tight control over their payroll. Some reasons for this include having a large number of employees or the need to track data by different departments. Companies needing control of their payroll are better suited, in most cases, to processing payroll in-house using payroll software because often times a payroll service cannot provide the flexibility they need. With in-house payroll software, changes can be made instantly and there is no need to wait for somebody else to make them.
Obviously pay data is sensitive, and should be protected. With in-house payroll software, be sure the system offers security tools so that only authorized employees can see certain screens or data. A system with menu level security is helpful so that certain users can only see the screens you give them access to within the system. With a payroll service, if you are entering data online, be sure your service offers security measures so your data cannot be captured by somebody else.
Every business has a different set of payroll reporting needs. Perhaps you want to know labor expenses by department or expenses for just one or a combination of your locations. Typically, there is more flexibility in reporting when you are using an in-house program with report editing capabilities. If you are using a service, be certain your service provider can give you the data you need, when you need it.
There are variations of product offerings among payroll software providers as well as payroll service providers. No matter which method you choose, be sure to consider all of the above so that your payroll runs smoothly.
One of the great benefits of accounting software is the ability to slice and dice your data so that it means something to you and your business. Well, consider ratio analysis an extension to your standard reports. Why? Because ratio analysis gives you information not found in your standard financial reports. It goes a step further by helping you pinpoint areas of strength and weakness in your business, so you can increase profits and reverse negative trends.
How do you stack up?
Ratio analysis allows you to make comparisons between your business and your competitors’. You can view standard industry trends, so you understand where your business stands in comparison. Once you know where you stand, you get an idea of which areas of your business to improve, giving you a distinct advantage over your competitors.
Just the facts, please.
It’s one thing to have ratio analysis data, and still another to understand where the numbers came from. Use your ratio analysis tool to generate the data, and then drill down further to understand exactly what makes up those numbers. This allows you to understand patterns within your business, so you can make better management decisions moving forward.
See the forest through the trees.
There is power in looking at details up close, but even more in being able to compare your data from two different time frames. Maybe last year wasn’t profitable and you want to turn it around. Or maybe you struggled last month and want to know why. Use ratio analysis as a high-level tool to see trends over longer periods of time, so you can achieve long-term financial growth.
By using ratio analysis, you can access information and trends that you may not have noticed, so you can make changes accordingly, which will benefit your business!
When researching accounting and payroll software for your company, be sure to get these commonly forgotten questions answered, or you may have unwanted surprises down the line.
What are my ongoing yearly costs, and what does that include?
People often remember to ask the upfront costs for a software package but place less importance on the ongoing costs, which can be substantial. Even if your upfront costs are minimal, you may be shocked when you find out as the years go by that there are additional costs for functionality your company requires. For example, you decide you want to start processing payroll via direct deposit, only to find out there is an expensive per-check fee for that service. Another example is support, which can be handled in various ways depending on the software company. Be sure to ask what support is included in the price, what that support includes, and what the ongoing costs for it are.
Can I talk to somebody in my own industry for a reference?
If you own a retail store, then talking to a manufacturer for a reference probably won't help you much because your company processes accounting and payroll in a completely different way. Be sure to talk to a reference that is in a business similar to yours, so you get a true feel of how it could work for your own business.
Will it work with other software products I use?
Most businesses now use software for many different purposes whether it's for word processing or spreadsheet management to time clock entry and electronic data interchange ("EDI"). Be sure to find out whether your accounting and payroll software can fit together with your other software. Having your programs work together saves you significant reentry of data, which saves you time and cuts out a margin for error.
What are the product limitations?
A salesperson by nature does not want to tell you all the details of what a product cannot do; however be sure you understand what its limitations are. For example, you might find out that a software package has the capability for unlimited concurrent users. This may be true in theory, but in reality there is a limitation of how many the system can handle while still running efficiently. This number likely depends on many things like the number of items, customers, transactions, and history saved in the system, not to mention the database technology used. Gain a good understanding of these limitations before purchasing your new software.
How experienced is their technical support staff, and where are they?
Technical support experience varies greatly by company. Be sure to ask about the experience level of the staff that provides support. If you don't get a better answer than, "I'm not sure," you have reason to be skeptical. At times when you need help, you will definitely appreciate having an expert available instead of somebody who knows nothing about accounting or payroll. Do they outsource support services to another company?
Will this work for everybody at my company?
Don't forget that many people in a company are affected by the accounting and payroll software choice. Shipping may need to print special packing lists; accounts payable may need to print 1099 forms, and the warehouse may need a better way to perform a physical inventory count. These are just a few examples of problems that can easily be solved with your accounting software. Include input from people in all departments, so your new system will work well for the entire company.