In my years of training business owners and novice bookkeeping staff to manage accounting data, I have learned that when to approach accounting software setup and training is a critical factor for successfully self-managed books. I have found that when it comes to the timing of training, businesses generally fall into these categories:
The Procrastinator – This business has been in operation for several months or perhaps even years. Apart from the obvious difficulties of running a business without benefit of sound financial reporting, there are some task-related aspects to consider.
First, a novice bookkeeper can easily be overwhelmed by the amount of data to catch up. Learning a new skill can be challenging at the best of times, but adding months of bookkeeping backlog is a recipe for failure. This business should go ahead with training – toute suite! – for current and future transactions but be prepared to engage a bookkeeper to help with the backlog so they are not setting themselves up for failure.
Second, training can bog down when details of transactions are forgotten – “What WAS that deposit that I made in January of last year?” If the owner needs to look something up, we will set that transaction aside during training and move on but eventually we will have to circle back and deal with it. These little “holes” in the posting will hamper our efforts to tackle bank balancing, HST filing and management reporting.
Finally, if the prevailing mindset for this business has been that bookkeeping is not a priority, what has changed and will it stick? These business owners need to ask themselves if they are truly committed to managing their books. If not, a bookkeeper might be more than a temporary solution to catch up backlog and actually be a prudent course of action, permanently.
The Eager Beaver – This business has just started and has no transactions to speak of, other than start-up costs, but they want to proactively train on everything they anticipate needing to make sure they are ready. If operations have not truly begun and there is no need for payroll, bringing in a trainer at this point will not yield ideal results. Start-up businesses are still in learning mode to find the best formula for their market. For example, they may believe that they don’t need to track receivables as all of their sales will be paid for on the spot. A couple of months into operations, they land a large client who demands credit terms. Perhaps the business has grown quickly and the small business loan that seemed unnecessary at first becomes a need. Because of these departures from the anticipated bookkeeping transactions, the trainer did not have the opportunity to address the entire scope of training required.
Perhaps the most compelling argument against the Eager Beaver is that training, if not used immediately and consistently, tends to be forgotten.
Sensible Solution – This business has an immediate need to start using their accounting software. Perhaps staff has been hired and needs to be paid, sales are firing up immediately (yay!), or the business owner’s personality is incompatible with letting things ride for a bit. The ideal solution here is to divide training into two phases. Phase 1 tackles data file setup, recording of start-up costs to date, training on managing day-to-day items such as invoicing, payroll, and expense recording, plus basic reporting for tracking revenues, expenses and cash flow. Phase 2 comes a bit later and can address the business activities which were unknown during Phase 1, plus reconciling and advanced reporting. The disadvantage of this model is that once Phase 1 is complete, it can be challenging for business owners to get back into training mode for Phase 2, particularly if business is now booming. Failure to complete the training program means that things like balancing bank and credit card accounts or advanced reporting stay on the back burner, which can result in inaccurate reporting that severely impairs the owner’s ability to manage the business.
Sometimes-Sensible Alternative – While the “Sensible Solution” above is almost always a good method, this alternative can hit the mark as well. This model involves waiting a bit for software training and getting by in the interim with tracking expenses manually or creating the first few invoices in familiar software such as Word or Excel. Just how long this delay should be can vary from business to business and will depend on the volume of transactions, but 2-3 months after operations have begun is about as far as things should go before establishing sound bookkeeping practices. If the business is slow to get off the ground or a business location needs to be constructed or renovated, those 2-3 months can stretch to 3 or 4. The advantage of this model is that training can take place at one point in time without loss of momentum. The disadvantage is that the business owner needs to be vigilant in organizing receipts, invoices and deposits to ensure that once training gets underway it doesn’t get stalled by the “look-ups”, the “dig-through-the-piles-of-paper” or the dreaded “I-can’t-remembers!”
Whatever your training needs or the timing, if you think your business can benefit from expert software and bookkeeping training, contact BookSmarts today!