April 15 is a nail-biting deadline for businesses and their sleep-deprived accountants everywhere. Now that we’ve made it through tax season, it’s time to reflect, then change course as needed. When in the trenches, what held you up the most? What data and digits—crucial information important for deductions and government reporting—were the hardest to collect and find?
Before we undertake this task, remember what got you into business in the first place: to focus on a product or service that drives you. This is how to keep your eyes on your main prize, while finding technology, apps and software to fix the gaps in your number-taking business processes in inexpensive but indispensable ways.
First, break down the numbers that really matter in your business: the money coming in and the expenses going out. How can you track both of those better, with more detail, and in real time?
For example, consider the money you take in. How updated and integrated is your point of sales system? Is the register easy and relatively error-free for employees to use? Or does it cause them to make mistakes in product scanning, payments or refunds that cost you? Can you see sales across stores? If not, imagine the advantage your competitors might have on inventory and expense tracking, plus on making business decisions in quick reaction to the marketplace.
It starts as a molehill, that by tax season turns into a mountain. You have to think small to achieve big accuracy in your back office.
For example, consider employee paychecks. Does your payroll process take hours of sorting through handwritten timesheets? That’s a red flag, right there. Employee timesheets come packed with critical information, or could, if you used them right. Many employees tend to neglect their record keeping (possibly just like you do), and make guesses more often than you’d like. Stop the guesswork on both ends.
A web-based time tracking system can give employees options for tracking time on the front end—using a smartphone app, online time card, quick text or call, or whatever works best for them. Data points like GPS locations, job codes, task notes, overtime alerts, PTO accruals, lunch deductions, and other critical information at the end the day can also be collected in real time.
The instant but unobtrusive oversight this gives business owners is a huge benefit, as they can see who’s working and on what over multiple locations. By the time payday rolls around, numbers can be quickly reviewed and approved so checks can go out. A process that once took hours, even days, could be finished in minutes. This recurrent savings also adds up on tax day in labor and effort saved in order to get numbers needed.
When it comes down to reporting and filing at tax time, what software do you rely on most now? Make sure your different ways of collecting numbers now can sync together to save on errors and legwork at tax time.
For example, a large percentage of small businesses take care of basic accounting with QuickBooks. So can you sync the numbers coming in from both your register and your time tracking system to QuickBooks, if wanted? Before you make the switch to any new system or technology, consider what you currently bank on, and think about how you can creatively onboard a bundle of technology solutions best suited to your business and the way your employees actually work.
For now, you’ve earned a breather and a break. Make a toast to all that you’ve achieved in the 2014 tax year, then look ahead to the future of your business. Here’s to your tax season and technology savvy success in 2015.