Inspiring thoughts from
OUr CEO, Sarah Gould
OUr CEO, Sarah Gould
You went out on a limb and started a small business. Your sales have been good, and you’ve got plenty of loyal customers. Now, you’re wondering what else you can do to set your company up for success. The answer? Commit to smart accounting practices.
If you think of your business as a house, accounting practices are the foundation. Without good, strong financial practices, it’s impossible to grow sustainably or to enjoy a strong, solid company.
Fortunately, we’re here to help.
In this blog, we’ll break down some of the accounting practices our team recommends for small businesses and help you understand how to set your company up for financial success.
Let’s dive in.
5 Smart Accounting Practices Your Small Business Should Implement
Follow these tips to ensure a strong financial foundation for your business:
1. Keep business and personal finances totally separate
Nothing is as unprofessional (or confusing, come tax time) as blending your personal and business finances.
If you run your business as a sole proprietor, it can be challenging to understand why this matters so much. You and your company are technically one in the same, right?
Still, it’s essential to separate business and personal expenses. Buying personal items with business funds will cause cash flow issues and can lead to audit or tax filing complications.
With this in mind, we recommend opening separate bank accounts and credit cards for your business. This will make doing your business taxes easy and help you avoid financial snafus.
2. Double-check your accounting method
When you opened your business, you either chose or fell into an accounting style. As it turns out, though, there are many different types of accounting, including Financial Accounting, Management Accounting, Public Accounting, and Tax Accounting, to name a few.
As a small business, the top two primary accounting methods typically utilized are; cash accounting and accrual accounting.
In cash accounting, companies recognize expenses and revenue as money changes hands. This is a standard accounting method for freelancers and other small businesses with limited accounting activity each month.
On the other hand, the accrual method is the accounting option most CPAs recommend. This style of accounting recognizes revenue when it’s earned and expenses as they occur.
In other words, it matches revenues against expenses in the same time period, so it is easier to know the health of your business monthly. That said, it can be more complex than the cash method.
As such, we recommend hiring an advisory service to help you evaluate your current accounting method and make changes if need be.
3. Develop a plan for managing income and expenses
Most of your financial transactions as a small business will come from income and expenses. The better you handle these two types of transactions, the smoother and more efficiently your business will run.
Here are a few basic skills you’ll need to master:
4. Reconcile your bank statements regularly
Lots of us trust our banks to be accurate and detail-oriented, but mistakes do happen. Because of that, it’s important to be proactive about your bank accounts. Instead of letting statements pile up, download them regularly and review them for accuracy. Make sure there are no unauthorized purchases or disbursements, and reach out to your bank promptly to resolve any issues.
5. Plan for taxes during the year
Instead of only thinking about taxes at tax time, plan for them throughout the year. Hire an accounting service and stay in touch with them throughout the year to ensure you’re correctly maintaining records and paying estimated taxes.
That way, when it comes time to file, you’ll have a head-start on the process.
A Stronger Small Business Starts With Good Accounting Practices
For small businesses, an excellent financial framework is THE key to success. As it stands right now, only 48.9% of small businesses survive five years or more, and 82% that fail typically do so because of cash flow problems. Fortunately, you don’t have to become a statistic.
To set your small business up for success, it’s crucial to adopt strong accounting practices from the get-go.
Things like monthly bank statement reconciliation, intelligent tax planning, proper management of income and expenses, and separation of business and personal income will all go a long way toward helping you build a strong, profitable, resilient business.
If you’re not sure where to start, you don’t have to go it alone. Here at Elevated Advisory & Accounting, our team specializes in helping small businesses like yours build a strong financial foundation.
Serving companies in Whitefish, Kalispell, and beyond, we’re here to help you avoid common financial pitfalls and enjoy a sustainable business.
Ready to learn more? Contact us today.
Are you starting a new business? First off - congratulations! Starting a new business is exciting, and doing it in Montana makes it even better.
Despite all the good stuff, the line between success and failure as a new business is narrow, and it’s essential to understand how to set yourself up for success.
In this blog, we’ll outline the biggest things you need to know before starting a new business and how you can get your venture off on the right foot.
Let’s dive in.
First Things First: Why Start a Business in Montana?
When it comes to launching a business, Montana is a great state to do it.
In 2020, Montana ranked 5th on Tax Foundation’s 2020 State Business Tax Climate Index, thanks to low property taxes and lack of statewide sales tax.
This is excellent news for new business owners: when you pay less tax, you’ll have more cash available to grow your business.
Here are a few additional Montana business stats to keep in mind:
6 Steps to Start a Business in Montana
You know Montana is a great place to start a business, so let’s talk about how to do it. Here are five steps to get you on your way to business ownership:
1. Come up with a business plan
You’ve got an idea, you’ve done some research, and now it’s time to develop a business plan. Think of a business plan like a roadmap: it tells you where you’re going and when you can expect to get there.
A good business plan should include the following sections:
2. Organize and register your business
Next, you’ll need to determine your formal business entity and register your company with the state.
This is undoubtedly one of the toughest parts of forming a business - mainly because it has so many tax and financial implications.
When it comes to business entity formation, there are a few main options to choose from:
Clear as mud? Don’t worry - you’re not alone. Deciding on the correct entity for your business can be tricky.
Because the tax implications are complex and long-standing, we highly recommend consulting a business accountant before you put anything in writing. An accountant will help you understand the pros and cons of the different entities and choose the one that best suits you and your goals.
Once you’ve decided on a business entity, you’ll need to register your business with the state of Montana. You can do this through the Montana Secretary of State’s Online Business Portal.
3. Get your federal and state tax ID
Next, you’ll need to obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN). An EIN is similar to a social security number, but for businesses. It allows you to open business bank accounts, initiate payroll, and file your taxes. You can apply for an EIN online via the IRS website.
4. Open business banking and credit accounts
Once you receive your EIN, you’ll need to open a bank and credit card account for your business.
This is a critical step even if you choose to operate as a sole proprietorship. Having designated business accounts allows you to track and manage expenses and navigate payroll and taxes easily.
5. Get all needed licenses and permits
The next important step is to obtain all the licenses and permits needed to operate in your area.
Restaurants, for example, will need a liquor license, while businesses like pawn shops will need reseller’s licenses.
If you’re unsure what licenses or permits you need, check out the MT Department of Commerce’s Business Checklist Tool.
6. Hire an accountant
Last, but certainly not least, you’ll need to hire an accountant to handle your business’s finances.
Business finances can get complicated and stressful in a hot minute, and it’s critical to get it right from the start.
Nobody wants to find themselves in the midst of an audit, scrambling to produce receipts (or else!), or lagging on profits simply because of money mismanagement.
Hiring an accountant can help you avoid all that nonsense from the beginning and take full advantage of the financial guidance and support you need to grow a thriving business.
Elevated Advisory and Accounting: Here to Help you Get Down to Business
Starting a new business in Montana is a major step, and our team is here to help.
We offer accounting and advisory services for companies throughout Montana’s Flathead Valley, with offices located in Whitefish and Kalispell. Our team will help you navigate all the financials - from payroll to profits and beyond!
Give us a call today to learn more.
I met face-to-face with a client last week. We were still 6 feet apart, but I actually saw her face! During our meeting, she admitted she was stepping out of her business. The exhaustion of starting a business and then immediately having to pivot and homeschool children at the same time was too much. We shared stories of hitting “survival mode” during times of stress this past year — it’s insane trying to keep life together in uncertainty. It’s even harder when you don’t know if your business will make it…or what help is available to help you through.
What really struck me was her honesty. So many people are “fine”, but are we really? She was open enough to admit that she survived through the hardest times by sticking her nose in the sand and focusing on just getting it done. When she finally lifted her head up to take stock, she was amazed at the toll it took on her.
This hit home.
My partner and I both own businesses. Thankfully, they support two kids, three dogs, and two guinea pigs named Captain Picard and William Reiker (ha!). In reality, our businesses not only support our households, but our valued employees, and clients.
We’re grateful for the opportunity to help others, but sometimes during the darkest times in the last few months, even that just felt heavy. Phrases I often heard from clients echoed in my own mind over and over: “Just keep going” “It’ll get better soon” “You’re strong” “You’ve got this”.
Somehow these mantras worked, and here I am.
My partner and I got through the worst of it by adjusting school schedules and communicating actual expectations for the kids. We saw grace (and even humor!) when there were interruptions in Zoom meetings. There were some sunny patches with solo walks in the woods or a wave and a smile from a neighbor. Elevated Accounting’s team even had a few Zoom happy hours filled with encouragement and laughter. And although it sounds so mundane, this was a big deal to us here at the office: We FINALLY received actual direction for the PPP Loans, UI filings, and SBA Grants.
So, as you lift up your head and look around in the next few weeks, what do you see? Although I’m still asking myself what the heck happened this year with an air of disbelief, these last blurry six months have so many bright spots of deep breathing and true connection. We are still walking on slightly unstable ground, but to me, it feels supported with more community and mindfulness.
If you find yourself without that support in your life and in your business, reach out. Here at Elevated, it’s our goal to help our clients’ dreams come true through total custom packages suited to your individual needs. On top of that? We do it all without judgement. You deserve a partner, not someone who does the least. We’re ready for you!
Sending lots of love,
The 2019 filing deadline was extended from April 15th to July 15th, 2020. If you need to get an extension, make sure to get it in before the 15th of this month. The extension will allow your tax filing deadline to be October 15th, 2020. All 2019 taxes must be paid by July 15th to avoid penalties. For 2020, Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 estimated tax payments are also due on July 15.
PPP Loan Updates
Thankfully, our Government has extended the deadline to apply for PPP Loans that could possibly be forgiven from June 30th to August 8th. These loans can be used towards payroll, rent, mortgage interest, and even utilities. Contact us if you need guidance with applying for this loan or help with filling out the loan forgiveness application.
We have personally seen Clients within our Elevated Community affected by Unemployment Fraud in the last month and you don’t have to have payroll within your business to be a victim of it. It saddens us to see people taking advantage of hard times, but it is happening.
The State of Montana reported that it had paid out about $10 million of Fraudulent Unemployment Claims as of the end of April. At the beginning of June the State of Washington estimated that it had paid out between $550-$650 Million in Unemployment Fraud.
These are staggering numbers.
How is this happening?
State Unemployment offices have not seen this large of an influx in claims in such a short period of time. Suffice it to say, this was a golden opportunity for people to take advantage and create fraudulent unemployment claims. They were not just filing claims in their names. They are creating claims for other people and then routing the checks to themselves.
How do you know if someone filed a claim with your name and information? You will likely receive a letter from your State Unemployment office stating that a claim was filed. In our experience the fraudulent claims had our Client’s names misspelled, but still similar.
What to do if you receive a letter:
Last week the initial Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed. This bill goes into effect on April 2, 2020. We continue to research the implications of this bill and will keep you updated when the IRS releases additional guidance next week. In the meantime we do know the following information:
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
If you would like to read additional information from the IRS on this Act click here. The IRS will release additional guidance next week so stay tuned.
Cash Flow is Key
During times of unease in our economy it is imperative to focus on cash management. Believe it or not we are nerds when it comes to budgeting and cash flow projections. We are creating an offering to help you out in this area. A few quick tips to consider in the meantime:
Need help now?
For small businesses requiring financial assistance during this difficult time, information on the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program can be found here. There may be additional loans available with the next Act Congress is discussing.
What to expect from us
We are working our hardest to keep on top of all unemployment matters and will do our best to keep you in the loop. As some businesses face closure or employee layoffs, questions are inevitable. To see the FAQ page specifically for Montana Employers related to Covid-19 click here. If you are in a different State just go to your State's Unemployment website for additional guidance.
We want to support you however we can, we are a team.
Our last post started with our Core Value of Flexibility. We would like to wrap this one up with another that is just as close to our heart: Gratitude. There are specific times in life when fear and uncertainty feel as if they are a strangling cloak in which we cannot escape. However, it is in these times that Gratitude is most paramount. Take a breath, then take a step outside your thoughts. Grasp onto a happy thought. Ours is that we have the opportunity to serve you and will continue to be here as needed.
One of our firm’s core values is “Flexibility: Because all we have in this world is change, both within and without. We value the opportunity to flex and grow with your business, adapt to the needs of the moment.”
I feel as if this is the perfect opportunity to embrace change and enact flexibility. We are lucky because our firm has already been operating with employees who work remotely. No scrambling or major operations had to change due to our recommended societal adjustments.
With the current health concerns we have decided to close our Whitefish office to protect both our Clients and our Staff. Our Kalispell branch is minimally staffed as of now, but we are encouraging all communications going forward to be either via phone or video conferencing.
Please know we will continue to serve and support you with the same high standards that we have always delivered. Remember that we can accept sensitive documents through our secure link at the bottom of our email signatures. We are available by phone, text, email or fax if you have any questions or concerns. If you have to leave a message, know we will get back to you within 24 hours.
I would like to leave you on a positive note and share a bit from our last staff meeting. I asked each of our team to share how they have seen something positive come from this difficult situation in our world today. They each shared a common thread of seeing our community and people that we serve become more grateful, patient, and compassionate with communication. Please continue to support and hold space for those around you. We are all in this together. I hope that you may look to the light in these darker times and find ways to pause with gratitude.
Stay safe through these hard times.
My kids asked me what my biggest fear is, and they give me quizzical looks when I utter those dreaded three letters: "IRS". Thankfully they are too young to understand that there is more to fear than spiders and monsters.
In the same way, a question I get asked most often by my clients is, "Do I have to keep a copy of my receipts?"
My biggest fear in life and my answer to this question are intrinsically linked... YES!
Now I'll be the first to say I'm not the best at getting receipts for every business purchase — I'm human, just like you. My filing system up until recently — albeit functional — was not perfect. Honestly, I would just throw them into a folder and pray that I will never have to search through it again. Even with this "catch all" system for receipts, many paper copies will fade over time and they can't be read. What do we do then?
Honestly, I was just crossing my fingers and hoping the detail on my bank statement would be sufficient if that time ever came. Unfortunately, a retired auditor from Colorado just moved into an office down the hall from mine and we were having a conversation about this subject. She recommended to always have a receipt. THAT is what the IRS looks at.
BOOM. (I actually was thinking a slightly stronger version of this word).
My intention isn't to put the fear of the IRS in you... if you know me, you know my main focus is efficiency — for you, and for me and my team. I was ready for a better system, which led me to some research on different software technologies that could take some of the burden.
I have had trainings on the system, I tested it on my own business, and have implemented it for a number of clients to test drive it... the overwhelming feedback? I am blown away at what this can bring to my ease of mind as a business owner. No more receipts floating around in every corner of your car, your office, your bedroom, or your wallet!
Here's how it goes: I make a business purchase, take a photo of it in my app on my phone (I can even make notes and label certain things at this time), hit OK, and the app uploads the photo to Receiptbank where I can view it on their website. All of your QBO accounts and customers are synced with Receiptbank so they are directly matched with vendors and customers in your books. Receipts that are emailed to you can easily be forwarded and magically entered that way as well. If you use Dropbox to hold receipts, you can even link Receiptbank to that folder.
One of the other benefits of this would be accuracy of your books. EAS would now be able to view your receipts in real time and categorize expenses with additional accuracy and less questions to you at month end... all you need to do is take a photo with your phone when you purchase something, or forward a receipt for an online transaction.
If you're ready for this stress-free system that allows you to FINALLY toss those mountains of receipts sitting around, reach out. We're excited to have added it to our software partners! And maybe you — like me — will start telling your kids "spiders" instead of those dreaded three letters.
Hi, my name is Sarah and I'm a dreamer.
Jared, my partner, often rolls his eyes and laughs when I drive home, jump out of my car, and run up to him gush about my next great idea or goal I have for my life and business. After doing this at least once a week, he's used to it. He knows that the next great adventure around the corner keeps me going.
What can I do next? What will help me grow as an individual? As a business? As a mentor? As a mother? What experience will stretch me into that slightly uncomfortable feeling of fear where I know I will not be the same after?
Working in so many businesses, jobs, and positions in my career, I discovered I thrive without a challenge. Ideally, a BIG challenge.
Starting EA was one my biggest life dreams. In this way, I know how intimidating it can be to make the decision to quit a salaried position with "job security" while at the same time, you're dying inside every day knowing you are silently selling your soul.
And I know too well what it's like to really step out on your own. (Ridiculously scary.) It's that feeling of not knowing if it will be a step up towards freeing your true self, or if it will be a step down — into possible public failure and ruin of everything you have. (It's usually almost always the former, isn't it?)
This Fear has been by my side every day since I took that leap, and over the years we have developed somewhat of a relationship. In those moments when Fear lurks a little too close, I ask myself, "Where would bravery and courage be without fear?"
Just this last year I pushed myself even further and decided to pursue a second dream of mine: Becoming a yoga teacher. I've always been slightly envious and awestruck by “the yoga instructor.” She's confident, yet carefree, bendable yet strong... they are the directors of peace and vitality. Colorful. Warm. No stress. All ease. Then one day, I was asked by my friend, Mollie Busby (owner of Yoga Hive) if I had ever considered taking a 200-hour teacher training. I said yes without thinking. And then later, after making the leap and committing, I thought, “I hope I'm in good enough shape for this. I better start running!”
I did not expect to be thrown into a completely different world!
Turns out the fitness aspect was the least of my challenges throughout the training. It was my old friend in a different wardrobe... Fear. He was sitting beside me the entire time poking me, asking, Who are you to be able to think that you could be an instructor? You aren’t like anyone else in this training. You don’t even like public speaking! You aren’t as experienced as everyone else.
Turns out, after all those yoga shapes, classes, poses and lectures, I discovered Fear is what makes me a dreamer. And being a dreamer keeps Fear in check.
This is what I see in my clients' faces, day in and day out. I hear Fear in your voices when you call. We talk about the intricacies of your business, you bounce ideas off me, you trust me enough to ask how to handle employees and their complaints of wanting raises and health insurance. I love being this person. And some days the Fear gets pushed back when a goal has been attained, but we both know he is always there, ready to wiggle in beside you, put a hand on your back, and whisper, “Who do you think you are?"
Opening a business is quite an adventure — as is becoming a yoga teacher... as is anything that pulls us away from our comfort zone. The struggle is real. The learning curve is great. At times, it feels isolating to be the one on top, looking down, and trying to manage…everything. But despite Fear, this work has brought amazing, courageous, and empowering people into my life. Knowing I can help is what fuels me. Knowing I've been there too — I'm there still from time to time. Relating to you and helping you through the financial woes is what I love.
So I guess I just want to say thank you. Thank you for allowing me to be your trusted business adviser, and for collaborating to live from a place of adventure — without fear!