Review your reports and software

March 11, 2016 -  By

iS74137083computer-key-2016During your offseason, review what’s worked and what hasn’t. One area you should review is finances—both your numbers and your software.

The software contains information that guides many of your business decisions, as well as your taxes. Mistakes using that software can be costly, so reviewing your numbers tells you where you’re profitable and where you’re not as profitable. After the review, you may decide it’s time for a change. After all, profitability is the bottom line. So, review these three areas of your finances: accounting software, reports and other software.

Accounting software

Does your accounting software meet your needs? If not, where does it fall short? There may be several reasons why you’re not happy with it.

  • Capability. Does your software have the capability to do what you want or need it to do? It’s worth asking someone who really knows the software. Sometimes you need to change, and it can be painful, but the results can make it worthwhile.
  • Version. Many times, a different or newer version of your software is all you need. There’s no costly conversion and you benefit from extra features that make your life easier. Again, you can find consultants and salespeople who can tell you if a different or new version would solve some of your problems.
  • Setup. Perhaps your problems aren’t the software but the setup. It may be that whoever set up the software didn’t know how to use it—or at least not for the green industry. Or perhaps your needs have changed, which requires tweaks in the setup.
  • Training. Maybe your software is adequate and setup is fine, but you just need to train your staff. You can find training from consultants and software vendors in person and online.

Reports

Reports are critical for your business. After all, you base most of your decisions on them.

If you’re producing reports in Excel, it could indicate something’s missing from your accounting software. I frequently find setup and lack of training as reasons owners aren’t generating the reports they want or need from their software; hence, they’re using Excel to generate reports.

How long does it take to generate these reports? While it’s always good to review your numbers at the end of a job, if it’s a large job you want to see reports along the way to know if you’re running over budget or under budget. And while larger businesses may have someone running the reports, I like when owners can view their own company’s dashboards any time they want.

Have you reviewed the profitability during the past season for the following?

  • Service line or division. You should be able to compare your different divisions easily—and gross sales aren’t your only indicators. You want to compare after your direct expenses (cost of goods).
  • Customer type. If you review your customer list and start looking for client type patterns, you may find you really like some and would love to drop others. Your numbers would support your decision. Some ideas for client types could include residential, commercial, builder, homeowner associations, property management companies, government agencies or ages. You also may find your accounting software can help you track client types easily. Identifying the type of customers you like—and those who pay quickly—will simplify your marketing.
  • Location. Are you finding a certain municipality, county or subdivision hasn’t been profitable? Or maybe one area has been a gold mine for you. Perhaps it’s time to consider moving to a new location so you’re more centrally located, or maybe it’s time to consider a second location.
  • Job type. Over time, you’ll find there are certain types of jobs you enjoy, ones that are more profitable and ones that are easier to estimate. Maybe you decide there are certain types of jobs you’ll no longer do because you lose money on them, just don’t want that type of work or they’re too small or large. Many owners are often afraid of turning away projects, but if you underestimate your costs or the crews are inefficient, you aren’t helping your business. When you narrow the type of work you do, it’s easier to estimate and your crews will be more efficient. It also will be easier to market and sell.

Other software

Are you entering some data twice—once in one program and then again into your accounting system? Accounting software won’t run your entire business because you need to track leads, schedule crews and more, but double data entry is costly in terms of time and potential mistakes. It may be time to look at products that integrate with your accounting software. Maybe the time-tracking software you use in the field can sync to time sheets in your accounting software. Perhaps the leads in your customer relationship management system can become customers in your financial software; or maybe your in-the-field estimating can connect to estimates in your accounting program.

So, is your current software and its setup a good fit for your business? What type of work and clientele are the best fit for your business? The offseason is an ideal time to review this data, so when the spring rush begins, you’ll be ready and confident your accounting system is set up just right. Then you can pursue the clients and jobs best suited for you.

 

Monica Muir is a green industry accounting expert with Muir & Associates. Reach her at mmitchmuir@muirassoc.com.

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