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The Best Blogs & Resources for Tech Startups

Technology

Whether you are just starting or beginning to scale your startup, there is a wealth of resources on the internet containing advice on sales, technology, capital raising, and anything else you could need for your startup. We’ve picked out a few of our favorites and present them here, in no particular order.

A VC – Musings of a VC in NYC

Website: https://avc.com/

About: The blog is written by Fred Wilson, a Wharton alum currently serving as Partner at Union Square Ventures.

Having the word musings in the tagline is very appropriate for this blog, as the articles are the thoughts and writing of one individual and are not presented in a typical format. While the writing style may sound aloof, the ideas and content are anything but that. Fred touches on countless topics – he has 224 articles on blockchain, 157 articles on crowdfunding, and most importantly, 3,788 articles on VC & Technology.

Our favorites: While the last post was August 2019, we love the MBA Mondays section. It covers a wide range of extremely relevant topics for startups and their founders, including employee equity, financing options, and management teams. The archives for Management also contain a ton of quality content.

Andreesen Horowitz

Website: https://a16z.com/

About:  While this is a venture capitalist firm, we wanted to highlight their content tab.  You’ll find a wide range of subjects covered in videos, podcasts, and articles.  I recommend browsing and exploring their topics page, where a variety of articles can be found from AI to fundraising.  Ben’s book, authored by Ben Horowitz, is a particularly well written and interesting section covering advice on starting your own business.

Our Favorites:  Check out their podcasts, particularly their a16z podcast, which nicely summarizes current events and introduces wide-ranging topics relevant to growing your business and building your team.

Morning Brew

Website: https://www.morningbrew.com/daily

About: The site is mostly a news aggregation site, but they have daily newsletters that cover the most relevant business news. This includes company-specific news, current events, economic policy, and international issues, among other items. While not geared towards start-ups, the site contains coverage of the large businesses that most start-ups aspire to become one day. And regardless of industry or your particular position, it’s always important to stay up to date on news, trends, and policy. Morning Brew is also now up to four newsletters (probably more since this writing). In addition to their original newsletter, they now have specific coverage on emerging technology, retail, and marketing, so if you are in one of those fields it is a great option to stay informed on the space.

Our Favorites: Morning Brew entered into the podcast arena over a year ago with Business Casual, which can be found on Spotify. Despite the trendy/corny (depending on who you ask) name, the podcast boasts some of the most successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, specifically in the tech and startup space. They blend educational information with insight from thought-leaders, and occasionally have multi-episode themes featuring a deep dive into important topics for entrepreneurs.

TechCrunch

Website: https://techcrunch.com/

About: Well known for their annual tech conference, TechCrunch Disrupt, the site is a true traditional media website with endless content. Understandably so, given that it sits under Verizon Media’s umbrella.

The site contains over ten topic-specific newsletters, deal news, advise, webinars, analysis, and opinions. The Startups section has a very wide range or articles and topics, so it may be slightly harder to navigate directly to what you are looking for from that page, but you are bound to stumble on some interesting articles there, as there are probably between 20-40 articles posted on any given day.

Our favorites: In addition to the articles itself, if you navigate to The TC List, you can find a long list of investors in the venture capitalist industry. We all love reading about technology and capital raises, but what’s better than an actual list of people who may provide the next check for your capital raise.

SaaStr

Website: https://www.saastr.com/

About: I suppose you can skip this one if you aren’t in a SaaS business. The site is intended for the purpose of scaling your software as a service business, as the name indicates.  SaaStr might be slightly overwhelming upon first glance because it’s chock full of great resources, but it has a very intuitive organizational structure.  It has a blog and podcasts that are updated regularly, a great networking community of other leaders in the industry, and an abundance of educational content.

The educational content comes in the form of their university, which offers courses and free eBooks, an interesting live chat function with other members of the university, and an academy which is their university lite with blog, video, and course content in one easy, navigable place.

Our Favorites:  Consider signing up for one of their yearly events (once it is safe to travel) that attracts over 15,000 attendees to the San Francisco Bay Area or 3,000 executives and VC’s to Paris.

We hope you find some (or all) of these resources to be of some help in the future! And if you need assistance with the accounting, bookkeeping, and finances for your start-up, no need to search the web any further. Give us a call or send us an email. We would be happy to provide a free evaluation or your accounting needs.

Online Bill Payment Systems (part 2)

In the prequel to this post, we discussed traditional accounts payable and bill payment systems as well as their downsides. For part two, we’ll highlight an effective system for small businesses as well as common concerns people have when considering implementation. This example will follow one accounting system (QuickBooks) and one bill payment system (Bill.com), but note that this process can be accomplished with a variety of platforms.

System and processes overview

Bill.com is an industry leader, having over $70B of payments processed through their platform. Users are required to pay for the subscription; costs include a flat rate and additional fees based on number of users/payments processed. For a quick overview of the process:

  1. Invoices get scanned, emailed, or uploaded into your Bill.com “inbox,” at which point they can be coded by a bookkeeper or other member of your team
  2. The coded invoice is routed to a manager or the owner for approval and processed for payment
  3. Bill.com initiates an ACH from the company’s bank account, or sends a check directly to the recipient on your behalf
  4. Bill.com transfers the data to your accounting system (so you don’t have to enter any data in the accounting system manually)

An advantage of the Bill.com platform is that it integrates with a number of accounting systems, including QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online. You can link your existing QuickBooks information (vendor data, terms, chart of accounts, customers/projects, etc.) to the Bill.com platform, enabling all transactions entered within one system to transfer to the other. (Note this will vary depending on the system you are using; it may be an automatic process that runs in the background, or one that requires the click of a button when logged in.)

Common questions and concerns

Now that you’re familiar with the process, let’s address a few concerns we often hear from companies evaluating whether to implement a bill payment system:

1. “I’m concerned about security.”

The major bill payment platforms all have best-in-class security protocols, as well as SOC reports that are available to the public. More importantly, they have additional built-in security protocols related to logging in and making payments. We recommend using dual-factor authorization when logging in and submitting payments to enhance security protection – it’ll significantly reduce the risk of an attack on your server, or computer leading to fraud perpetrated through the Bill.com platform.

2. “Some of my vendors only take checks.”

The online bill payment system eliminates the need to write checks yourself, but you can still use them as a payment method – the platform will just generate a check and send it directly to the recipient for you. So under this system you don’t have to handle checks yourself, but vendors can still receive checks if they so choose.

3. “My employees or management are not good with technology.”

The major platforms have very intuitive interfaces that even the least tech-savvy individuals can utilize. Most also have smartphone apps available, if you’re more comfortable using a handheld device versus a computer.

4. “I don’t want to pay for another subscription fee.”

The fees for most platforms are manageable, but you have to factor in the time saved managing the accounts payable function (which helps decrease headcount cost). If you outsource your accounting or bookkeeping functions, most firms will foot the bill for the platform because it’s more efficient for processing on their end. They may even have a discount on the subscription fees that can be passed on to your company.

5. “I need multiple people at my company to approve invoices.”

The major platforms allow you to add as many users as you need with any workflow to the system. Additional costs may be added based on the number of users, but they’re reasonable. You can give different levels of approval permissions to project managers, supervisors, division presidents, or anyone at your organization. If you want a specific invoice routed to four different people for approval, that can be done. Conversely, if you’re an SBO who inputs and processes everything yourself, you can follow a more simplified workflow and skip the approval process altogether.

6. “I don’t know how to integrate this with my accounting system.”

The Bill.com service team performs the initial integration and can assist you with getting started on their platform at no additional cost. They also have a fantastic support team as well as a number of resources on their website to assist in making a smooth transition to their platform.

If you’d like to learn more about bill payment systems or have any questions, please contact LRZ Consulting.

Online Bill Payment Systems (part 1)

While it is always a good time to evaluate systems and look for efficiencies and process improvements, now more than ever it makes sense to consider a switch to an online bill payment system.

A traditional accounts payable function often looks like the following:

  1. A vendor invoice is received in the mail and entered in the accounting system.
  2. The invoice is stored in a folder until the payment is due.
  3. When payment is due, a check is printed from the accounting system.
  4. The check is then placed with the invoice and routed to management, who reviews the documents and sign the checks.
  5. Copies of the checks are made and stored with the invoices in a filing cabinet.
  6. Checks are placed in the mail and sent to vendors.
  7. Every few years, those invoices are put into storage and kept for five to seven years.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the above process, but with advances in technology and security, an online bill payment system can address most of the downside and inefficiencies associated with the above process. Conceptually, there are not many changes from the above outline when switching to an online bill payment platform. Rather, the platform allows for modifications and enhancements to the process which improve efficiency and add convenience for the personnel and management involved. Most importantly, it can save your team a significant amount of time and ultimately money.

The following are some of the issues with a traditional, paper-intensive bill payment process:

  1. Increased time & cost: while there will be a cost to use a bill payment platform, the savings in time spent performing these tasks will far outweigh the fee paid to use the platform. Later, we will dive into all of the ways an online bill payment platform can save you time.
  2. Increased risk of fraud: with a traditional process, a business owner or management may give a signature stamp to the accountant at the company. This saves the owner time, but makes the company susceptible to fraud, especially if there is only one person in the accounting department performing all functions related to recording and paying bills.
  3. More storage requirements: The above process is often still done with actual paper, which not only takes up extra space in the office but will then require the company to pay for storage to keep old boxes until they can finally dispose of the records many years down the road.
  4. Lack of convenience: The traditional process requires the person entering bills and the person signing checks to physically be in the office. With a move to more of a remote workforce and the burden of a busy schedule for business owners, the ability to work from any place at any time is becoming increasingly important. Unfortunately, the traditional process often does not allow for remote processing.

The ideal system and processes will depend on what accounting system you are using and can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Some more robust accounting systems – think SAP or NetSuite – especially where the accounting system is part of a larger ERP, allow you to perform most of the processes discussed above within the accounting & ERP system itself. For example, actual invoices can be scanned and stored within the accounting system, then routed to a manager for electronic approval, and exported into a CSV file that can be uploaded into your bank’s portal, where payment is ultimately approved by a CFO or other executive. This type of system would typically apply to larger businesses. For the smaller businesses, an optimal bill payment platform would typically be separate from the accounting system, such as QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Desktop, but would integrate directly. In Part II, we are going to discuss how this optimal system would function.

Selecting an Accounting System – Add-on Applications and System Features

In this series of articles, we are going to offer some practical advice for how to build a best-in-class accounting and finance function. The first few articles will cover accounting system selection. This article will specifically touch on features and add-on applications, as it relates to selecting an accounting system.

Selecting a new accounting system serves as a perfect time to evaluate your internal policies, procedures, and processes. Depending on the industry and nature of operations, companies have drastically different needs as it relates to transaction processing and financial reporting. Some companies in the government contracting industry have $20 million in service revenue but have less than ten customer invoices per month. For these companies, because of the regulatory requirements and need to track individual projects, one of the most important features within the accounting system will be integration with a timekeeping system and automatic calculations of labor allocations based on timesheets. If the timekeeping system is integrated and the information automatically flows to customer invoices, you can save hours or days in processing time and calculating invoices each month. On the other hand, it is not important for a company like this to have a process that automates sending invoices to customers. The company will only be sending a few invoices each month, so this feature would have minimal benefit in terms of time saving. Meanwhile, a software company with $20 million in annual revenue that has a recurring revenue model may have 500 customers that are billed each month. Their customers likely are billed based on contracted prices for software, and therefore integration of timekeeping would not be essential, but an automated invoicing and revenue recognition feature within the accounting system would be of significant importance. Imagine the time saving if instead of manually generating 500 invoices each month and sending each of the invoices to a customer, you had a system that automatically generated those invoices each month and emailed them to customers.

The features within different accounting systems are going to vary, as well as the quality of each of those features and the ability to integrate them with third-party applications if needed. Therefore, you first need to identify what are the most important and most time-consuming processes for your company, and then see how the accounting systems you are evaluating addresses those needs.

Another thing to consider is the increasing prevalence of third-party applications that integrate with accounting systems. QuickBooks Online has built out an entire “app store” because there are so many third-party applications that can be fully integrated to meet the needs of various customers. These applications can integrate your payroll, import credit card and bank transactions, manage inventory, automate financial reporting, and perform a host of other functions. Some robust accounting systems may have inventory modules and various other modules that the vendor has built out, which may be important for your accounting function. But because there are now so many applications that can be fully integrated into various accounting systems, you may find yourself able to build a much better system by using a simple product like QuickBooks or Intacct and customizing those systems with a variety of third-party applications, as opposed to if you used a “high-end” accounting system with various modules already built into the software.

If you go the route of using third-party applications, the following are some common areas and processes that you might consider using an application for:

  • Timekeeping systems: If a company needs to record labor costs by project or job, you need your employees to record their time appropriately. There are tons of online timekeeping applications that can integrate with accounting systems so that you don’t have to manually record the labor costs by project or job. These systems can also be set up so that proper approvals of time by supervisors are in place. And many of the applications now let employees access their timesheets on their phones so that they can go in to the system any time and from anywhere.
  • Bill payments: Applications for vendor invoice and payment processing can save your organization significant amounts of time on a daily basis. Many of these applications will scan your vendor invoices and give you a clean interface to code the transactions and then import into an accounting system. You can also then approve invoices for payment, and these applications will process the payment so that you don’t have to physically prepare checks or initiate ACHs anymore.
  • Customer invoicing: As discussed above, this is especially important for companies with recurring revenue models or with a significant amount of small dollar-value transactions with customers. There are generic applications where you can simply set up a customer invoice and have it billed automatically to a customer each month. There are also a lot of industry specific systems that integrate with the operational side of a business. For example, if a company provides limousine rides, they may have a booking and dispatch system that tracks where their limos are, which customers have booked rides, and the pricing for those rides. That system may be integrated with an accounting system for revenue purposes, or you could run a system like that as essentially a sub-ledger for revenue and accounts receivable.
  • Inventory management: If the company runs a business that requires inventory, then this will be an important component. The application or inventory module will vary depending on the nature of the inventory. For example a company selling high-dollar value items with no components has different needs than a company selling small items with tens or hundreds of components in each finished product.
  • Expense Reporting: Many applications exist now that allow you to take a picture of a receipt and have that expense then flow into the application, where you can code the expense and then seamlessly export those transactions into the accounting system.

We hope this information can help serve as a starting point in your evaluation for potential accounting systems. It is a critical decision that impacts almost all areas of your accounting and financial reporting function. Make sure you speak to as many people as possible as you start to evaluate your options. We recommend talking to people both inside and outside of your industry, to personnel inside and outside of your internal accounting department, and to unbiased service providers. Read reviews, take demos, and take plenty of time before you make a decision so that you have the best possible foundation for building your accounting and function.

Selecting an Accounting System – Implementation

In this series of articles, we are going to offer some practical advice for how to build a best-in-class accounting and finance function. The first few articles will cover accounting system selection. This article will specifically touch on implementation issues as it relates to selecting an accounting system.

Three key considerations when thinking about accounting system implementation are cost, complexity, and timing. We have discussed cost and pricing in a previous article. As mentioned, it is important to factor in the cost of implementation into a total-cost evaluation when choosing an accounting system. The following will discuss the other two key considerations:

1) Complexity

The complexity of an accounting system implementation and transition can vary significantly based on the choice of accounting system, the level of customization desired in the new system, and the experience of your accounting team and any external parties involved in implementation. An implementation of QuickBooks with minimal customization and few add-on features would require limited resources. When you move to more robust systems such as Oracle and NetSuite, the implementation will require a much more sophisticated team and there will be a long list of considerations that will need to be made. Your team, and any external parties, will need to decide on the level of customization of the software, which optional modules will be used, and how each module will integrate with your accounting processes. The more customization and the more modules that are used, the more complex the implementation will be. This may require significant outside help, and the associated costs of that outside help, and will likely require more time for both the implementation and training with the new system.

One key consideration related to the complexity of the implementation will be what outside parties your team uses to assist with the implementation. Assuming outside expertise is needed, your team will likely face the decision of using consultants from the software company or using outside consultants. In some cases, we have found that using an implementation and integration team from the software company itself may not be the best choice. While that team of course knows the software extremely well and understands how things work behind the scenes, they may have more of a cookie-cutter approach to implementation. Sometimes third-party consultants have more experience in different operating environments because they have worked with so many different companies. They may have a better idea of what modifications to the software work best for a given company and what areas may cause issues.

2) Timing

If you are making your decision about accounting system selection at the inception of the company, timing is not a key consideration. You will want to have your accounting system live by the time the company begins its operations, or as close to that time as possible. If the company has been in existence and you are evaluating new accounting systems, timing is a much more important factor. For the best possible transition, you will likely want a cut-off date that is the same as your new fiscal year. If you follow a calendar year, then best practices would be to begin on the new accounting system January 1st. This ensures that for any given year, you have your full accounting records and reports in one system. If you choose October 31st as a transition date to the new accounting system, then for that transition year you will always need to pull reports from different systems to have full financial and accounting records for a given year. That is not to say that a mid-year transition date is not feasible, it just adds a little more complexity and may not be as clean. If there are important business reasons for switching mid-year, it is certainly a viable option.

Another important consideration regarding timing is to provide ample time for implementation, training, and side-by-side processing in both accounting systems. If you choose January 1st as your transition date to the new accounting system, that doesn’t mean that implementation should be physically done on or near January 1st. You should do the implementation a few months before so that you:

  • Have enough time to set up the new system, transfer data, build your new chart of accounts, etc.
  • Provide time for employees and other parties to learn the new accounting system, build new processes, customize the software, and create reporting functions in the new system.
  • Run the old and new accounting systems side by side to ensure accuracy and identify any issues with the new software and related processes.

The worst thing that could happen is to for your company to reach a go-live date in the new accounting system and have either the software, personnel, or processes not ready and fine-tuned. Then you will find yourself struggling with delays in the month-close process that will frustrate both the accounting and finance teams, as well as the management team that is relying on timely financial information. By building out an appropriate timeline for implementation, training, and other key dates, your team can be prepared when the final switch to the new accounting system is made. One final note on this topic is to make sure you consider how long you will have access to the old accounting system and records. You will likely make backups of the old accounting records, but if you need to be able to physically go in to the old accounting system for audit purposes, researching vendor records, or a variety of other reasons, your team should consider how long you want to have access to the actual accounting system as opposed to just backup records which may be harder to use and to research items you may need.

We hope this information can help serve as a starting point in your evaluation for potential accounting systems. It is a critical decision that impacts almost all areas of your accounting and financial reporting function. Make sure you speak to as many people as possible as you start to evaluate your options. We recommend talking to people both inside and outside of your industry, to personnel inside and outside of your internal accounting department, and to unbiased service providers. Read reviews, take demos, and take plenty of time before you make a decision so that you have the best possible foundation for building your accounting and function.

Selecting an Accounting System – System Structure

In this series of articles, we are going to offer some practical advice for how to build a best-in-class accounting and finance function. The first few articles will cover accounting system selection. This article will specifically touch on system structure as it relates to selecting an accounting system.

One topic that will most likely come up in the early stages of selecting an accounting system is whether you will choose a “cloud” based system or not. We believe that in today’s work environment, it is important for a company and its employees to be able to access the accounting system at any time and from anywhere with an internet connection. Multiple people should be able to make changes and those changes should occur in real-time. With that said, if you come across a sales rep that is insisting you need to use a “cloud” based system, you most likely should disregard this advice. The best example to illustrate the point we are trying to make is QuickBooks. QuickBooks has been pushing their new cloud product, QuickBooks Online, and are trying to get as many customers as possible to move to this cloud solution from their desktop products. QuickBooks Online has advantages over the desktop version, and vice versa, but we are not going to delve into that. QuickBooks is pushing the Online product because it is a better and more profitable business model for their business. Their biggest selling point when trying to push the product is that the Online product is a cloud solution that can be accessed online. In some cases, this has some value. But you should not select QuickBooks Online solely to create a “cloud” solution. There are many ways to turn a traditional desktop program such as QuickBooks into a “cloud” solution. You can move the QuickBooks Desktop systems into a cloud environment and achieve the same outcomes. You can use Amazon Web Services, a remote desktop set-up, LogMeIn, or countless other options to create an environment where your employees can access the accounting system from anywhere and at any time.

Another big decision will be whether to buy or lease the accounting software, depending on whether the potential software vendors currently offer both options. A key consideration will be the company’s future plans and goals for the company. If the owners or management of a company are looking for an exit in the near-term, the exit may come in the form of a sale to a larger corporation. That larger corporation may integrate your company’s operations and accounting into their own system, in which case you would have been better off leasing for a few years as opposed to buying the software.

You may also have to decide between hosting the software on-premise or using the vendor’s hosted version of the software. Consider what your internal IT resources are and whether much of their time will be needed to manage the software on premise. The hosted software will likely be more expensive once you reach a certain period of time with the software, but it may be a lot more convenient in terms of access options and maintenance issues.

We hope this information can help serve as a starting point in your evaluation for potential accounting systems. It is a critical decision that impacts almost all areas of your accounting and financial reporting function. Make sure you speak to as many people as possible as you start to evaluate your options. We recommend talking to people both inside and outside of your industry, to personnel across all divisions in your company, and to unbiased service providers. Read reviews, take demos, and take plenty of time before you decide so that you have the best possible foundation for building your accounting and function.

Selecting an Accounting System – Pricing & Cost

In this series of articles, we are going to offer some practical advice for how to build a best-in-class accounting and finance function. The first few articles will cover accounting system selection. This article will specifically touch on pricing and cost as it relates to selecting an accounting system.

The first comment we will make is that it is extremely important to analyze your accounting system selection in terms of total cost. That means looking beyond just what you will pay to the software vendor for the accounting system itself. In addition to the cost of the accounting system or software itself, total cost analysis should factor in costs for maintenance & support, computer and IT costs (how will the system be hosted, is it cloud based, how much time will it require from our IT department), implementation and integration costs, cost of add-on or third-party applications, cost of payroll processing if you are not doing payroll through the accounting system, cost of labor to perform accounting functions, and other consulting costs associated with the accounting and financial reporting function.

Since we are looking at building the best possible accounting and finance function from the ground up, we are assuming that all costs are variable. Specifically, this means our labor cost, or consulting cost if using third-party services, is a variable cost. When looking at total cost of the accounting system, potential cost savings or additional costs associated with labor and transaction processing should be factored in. A lower-tier accounting system may save the company $8,000 annually in license fees compared to a more robust software system, but if the more robust system provides certain features that can automate processes, increase transaction speed, and decrease manual reporting processes to the extent the company can save in excess of $8,000 in labor cost, then that should be factored in. Some other considerations when evaluating pricing include:

Fixed software license fees: If you are using a cloud or SaaS accounting system moving forward, there is a good chance you will be paying monthly, quarterly, or annual license fees. Make sure you evaluate the contract you are signing to determine if the license fees are fixed, and if so for how long. The most commonly used accounting system is QuickBooks, and they are pushing customers to their cloud product, QuickBooks Online. There is heavily discounted initial pricing and special offers, especially if you sign up through an accountant, but these are temporary offers that will expire at some point. You are also not locked in to a fixed price over the long-term with QuickBooks Online. Rather, it appears that they have tried to gain customers with low pricing, and those customers will be forced to make a decision in the future to either accept price increases on the monthly/annual fees or switch accounting systems. That is not to say you shouldn’t use QuickBooks Online; the price increases should be reasonable. But it is just a warning to consider potential increases in license fees with any vendor over time depending on the nature of the contract your company signs.

Implementation Costs: These costs can quickly add up if proper planning is not in place. You should consider how much customization of the accounting system will be needed, as more customization will likely require more implementation and consulting costs. Also, be sure to compare prices between what the accounting software vendor would charge you for implementation services (as they usually have their own team that can perform this) vs. what a reputable third-party service provider would charge. If one of them is willing to commit to a fixed fee as opposed to hourly billing, then it will be easier to factor implementation fees into your total cost analysis. Lastly, factor in any potential savings from being able to use internal resources for the implementation. If you have a Controller or Senior Accountant that has used one of the systems you are considering, they may be able to perform parts of the implementation. They may also be able to train the rest of the accounting team on some of the functions of the new system, which can decrease third-party training costs.
Support & Maintenance: Make sure you get an understanding as to what is covered in your Support & Maintenance contract, if you have one. It also helps to find reviews and speak to other companies about the quality of the support. Once you are up and running on the new accounting system, you are certain to run into issues that you need assistance with. However, a misunderstanding of what is covered in your support contract could lead you to believe that support for these issues would be at no additional cost, only to find yourself stuck with a big bill for services provided outside the scope of the support contract.

Automation, automation, automation: The importance of this really can’t be overstated. Our team has worked with clients over the years where we took a process and reduced the time it took to perform the process by 50-90%. All it took was an understanding of how certain systems worked and how we could use functions within the software that were not previously being utilized. Not only can these functions reduce the time spent processing transactions or performing other activities, but because they are typically reducing manual entry, they will most likely reduce errors and increase accuracy. Make sure you identify what processes in your accounting function take up the most time or cause the biggest headaches. It could be customer invoicing, reconciling bank accounts, job costing, financial reporting, or a combination of other items. Once you have those items identified, you can evaluate which of your possible accounting system selections best address those issues and allow you to automate the most time-consuming or difficult processes. The savings from the automation may be a little difficult to quantify, but you could start by estimating how many hours the automation would save you in labor and multiply that by the labor rate for the personnel that would have been performing that function.

We hope this information can help serve as a starting point in your evaluation for potential accounting systems. It is a critical decision that impacts almost all areas of your accounting and financial reporting function. Make sure you speak to as many people as possible as you start to evaluate your options. We recommend talking to people both inside and outside of your industry, to personnel across all divisions in your company, and to unbiased service providers. Read reviews, take demos, and take plenty of time before you decide so that you have the best possible foundation for building your accounting and function.
Stay tuned for future articles!

Excel Tips & Tricks – Keyboard Shortcuts

If you spend a chunk of your time each day on Microsoft Excel like we do, you probably know how much time you can save by utilizing some of the keyboard shortcuts within Excel. This is of course not an all-inclusive list, but the following are some shortcuts we have found to be the biggest time-savers.

The Basics

Ctrl + O Open a workbook
Ctrl + S Save
Ctrl + W Close
Ctrl + C Copy
Ctrl + X Cut
Ctrl + V Paste
Ctrl + Z Undo

Navigating and Data Manipulation

Ctrl + Shift + L Filter
Ctrl + Shift + Arrow Key Extend selection to last cell in a dataset
Ctrl + A Select entire worksheet
Alt + I + R Insert row
Alt + I + C Insert column
Shift + Spacebar Select an entire row
Ctrl + Spacebar Select an entire column
Ctrl + Minus (-) If you have a row or column selected, it will delete the row or column. If you have cells selected, it will open the Delete dialogue box
Ctrl + 9 Hide selected rows
Ctrl + 0 Hide selected columns
Ctrl + Home Move to the beginning of a worksheet
Ctrl + Page Down/Page Up Move to the next/previous sheet in a workbook

Formatting

Ctrl + B Bold
Ctrl + I Italics
F2 Edit the selected cell
Ctrl + Shift + # Apply Date format
Ctrl + Shift + $ Apply Currency format
Ctrl + Shift + % Apply Percent format
Ctrl + K Insert Hyperlink
Alt + Enter When in a selected cell, creates a new line within the cell
Esc When in a selected cell, cancels any changes
F4 Repeat last command (such as formatting)

You can view our previous Excel Tips & Tricks articles here:

Using the VLookup Function

Using PivotTables

Excel Tips and Tricks – Using the VLookup Function

In our last Excel Tips and Tricks article we discussed how to create a PivotTable. In this edition, we are going to explore another powerful tool, the VLookup function. For this example, we are going to revisit our dataset from the last article, which showed us each of our employees, their department, their location, and their 2016 bonus.

Now let’s assume that management has requested that we also add 2016 salary to this table to assist in their analysis. Because this is a small data set, we could just manually key in the salary numbers by looking them up in our payroll system. However, if we had hundreds of employees, this would be a very time-consuming task. The VLookup function can automate this process for us. The finance department can download a list of 2016 salary for all employees, as follows:

As you can see, it is not in the same order as our first table, and in many cases, it might not have the same number of rows as our other table. To get the salary information into the first table, we can make another column to the right of the Bonus column in the first table. We will label this column Salary. In the first cell under the Salary column, we enter the following formula:

=VLOOKUP(A2,$H$1:$I$12,2,1)

We can also enter this information from the Function Arguments screen by going to Formulas on the ribbon bar, selecting “Lookup & Reference”, and then “VLOOKUP”.

We would then copy this formula all the way down the Salary column.

So what exactly are we telling the function to do based on what we entered? Let’s look at each line:

  • Lookup Value: We entered A2 to tell the function that in our second table, we are looking for the salary of the person in cell A2 (Marc). Note that when we copy this formula to the cell below, it will change to A3 so that it will then look up Eric’s salary and show that in the row with his information.
  • Table Array: Here we are specifying our second table where we are looking up the value. In this situation, the table with two columns showing just employee and salary (see above) are in these cells. This essentially is where we are going to “look up” the information we are trying to add to our original table.
  • Col Index Num: This specifies which column in the “look up” table (that we just specified in the Table Array) that we want to pull into our original table. We are trying to put the salary into our original table, and the salary column in our second table is the second column. Therefore, we enter “2”.
  • Range Lookup: Here we are entering “False”, because we are looking for an exact match to our lookup value. Because we know the names in both tables match exactly, we can choose to only look for exact matches.

Our resulting table is as follows:

We have now used the VLookup function to add the salary data into our original table, and we now have the report requested by management without having to manually combine or enter any information.

Excel Tips and Tricks – Using PivotTables

One of Excel’s most powerful tools for analyzing financial and operational data is the PivotTable function. The following shows how to create a PivotTable and illustrates some of the functionality of the tool.

The below image is our initial data set. It shows each of ABC Company’s employees, their department, the office location they work from, and their 2016 bonus.

Management of ABC Company would like to be able to quickly review a table that shows bonus by department, as well as one that shows bonus by department and branch. This information could be obtained relatively quickly from this data set without an advanced function because we are using a small data set for this example. But if we start getting into hundreds of employees, you will see that a manual process would be very inefficient.

To create our PivotTable, select the entire data set, including the headers. Then go to Insert on the Ribbon Bar and choose “PivotTable”. You will then get the following dialogue box:

Because we already highlighted our data set, your Table/Range should be showing properly. If not, you would just need to correct that information by either typing in the selection or highlighting the data set in the excel sheet. Then you can either choose to create a new worksheet with the Pivot Table, or choose to create the table on your existing worksheet. Once we click “OK”, we have our PivotTable created and now need to modify the fields of the table itself. To modify the fields, we can either check the boxes next to the fields, or drag the fields into the different areas (see below – filters, columns, rows, values). To create a table that shows bonus by department, we will want the Department to be under Rows, and the Bonus to be under values, which will look like the following:

Once these settings are selected, we should now have a succinct and summarized table to present to management, as follows:

To create our table that shows bonus by department and branch, we could then move the Branch field into Columns, and our table will appear as follows:

We have now quickly created both tables requested by management. As you come across very large data sets and data sets with more columns and different variables, you can try creating your own PivotTables to summarize the data and help with performing various types of analysis.

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