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Business Owners Guide to: QuickBooks Online vs Xero (Canadian Edition)

The benefits of cloud accounting are becoming clearer to business owners: access to data anywhere, efficiencies in automation, efficiencies in integrations to POS systems, lower cost of bookkeeping.  Business owners

I tried Grammarly for a month

Grammarly has changed the way that I work Grammarly is a Chrome add-in that has changed the way that I've worked.  I've been trying Grammarly for almost a month now. While

New business? How to look established.

Your company's image and how your target market perceives you as a company is so important.  This is something that needs to be considered from business inception.  Faking it until

Before quitting your job to be an entrepreneur

When you ask a successful entrepreneur the story of their success, typically somewherin that story they quit their job in order to pursue their business idea. It’s often a part

Using Technology To Manage Personal Finances and Save Money (Canadian Edition)

I did a recent poll on our Instagram (@fintcloud) to ask people if they would rather learn more about keeping a paperless office, or how to use tech to save

Hiring the wrong people was the biggest and costliest mistake that I made

I’m going to outright say that I made so many mistakes in hiring during my first year of business! I’m going to share all of these mistakes so that others

5 Lessons that I’ve learned in my first year of starting a cloud accounting firm

It has been several months since I’ve last blogged and I have a good excuse for that. I’ve been busy! Like any entrepreneur trying to make their vision come to

Preparing for Small Business Growth

Our business is growing and there is just so much to learn along the way.  We want to share some tips and tricks for managing a growing business.  There are

Take 15 mins to execute this Christmas personal finance hack

Christmas in more recent years has become a time of reflection for me.  It is a time when I review what has gone well and what has not gone well

Should you split the restaurant bill with your friends?

Personally, I hate splitting bills when dining out.  With partners, close friends, and family where dining out occurs regularly, I think that taking turns paying just makes things simpler.  There is

Our Mission: Servicing Forward-Thinking Start-Ups

I am a strong believer that the technological movement will revolutionize the accounting profession, and I want to be on the forefront of it all. Earlier this year I left

Business Owners Guide to: QuickBooks Online vs Xero (Canadian Edition)

The benefits of cloud accounting are becoming clearer to business owners: access to data anywhere, efficiencies in automation, efficiencies in integrations to POS systems, lower cost of bookkeeping.  Business owners are turning to cloud accounting as the answer, but when it comes to cloud accounting software there are two major players in Canada – so how to choose?  Here is a fully comprehensive guide to QuickBooks Online (QBO) vs Xero (Canadian Edition) from the perspective of a business owner.

Want to skip the details? Scroll to the bottom for a summary.

Initial Setup

QuickBooks Online is owned by Intuit, a rather large company that seemingly operates their Canada division in what seems to be a bit of a silo from the US.  QBO Canada and QBO US are totally different, and if you make the mistake of signing up for the wrong QBO account, you’re left having to re-do everything.

QBO and Xero have both created a step-by-step setup in the format of a survey.

QBO’s survey is a simple two steps.  The second step of this survey (below) seems really daunting.  It feels like you’re back in high school and you need to select your destiny right now.  In fact, this step is just a waste of time.  Your answer to this question is to help QuickBooks learn more about their own software and seems to be irrelevant to the setup.

Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 4.51.49 PM

The bulk of the setup in QBO is not in a survey format and looks more like this below.  Notice how setting up a chart of accounts, setting up taxes and setting up opening balances are not part of this guided process.  As an accountant, that boggles my mind.  QBO has in the past year removed their default chart of accounts, which allows for more flexibility in creating a custom chart of accounts but seriously, what small business owner has the time to create a chart of account from scratch?  Don’t know what a chart of account is?  Most small business owners don’t either, so good luck asking them to build one from scratch.

Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 4.53.32 PM.png

The Xero setup process is smoother and is more comprehensive while at the same time allowing users to skip steps that cannot be completed immediately.  An improvement to this setup process is to be able to more easily be able to get back into the setup at a later date.  During the process step, you are asked to select the country in which the organization will pay taxes.  Now, isn’t that intuitive?  Here is a screenshot:

Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 5.14.49 PM

Xero is the winner for this one, hands down.

Price

Without going into the detailed pricing plans for each software, the retail price of QBO and Xero are very comparable for small business owners.  Keep in mind that Xero invoices in USD, which is annoying for Canadians who want to pay in CAD.  It’s still comparable and so I declare this one a tie.

Invoicing and Payments

Creating and sending invoices to clients is simple to setup in both software.  Customization for invoicing is available in both software.  Payment processing fee options for both software is also comparable.

While both software allows for the integration of payment processing information, what this section will cover is the simple case of using the cloud software to invoice a customer using the software and offer the customer the ability to pay the invoice by credit card.

QuickBooks offers built-in payment processing whereas Xero allows users to connect to a variety of payment processors including Stripe, PayPal and Square to name a few.  While the built-in setup process for QuickBooks is much simpler, I found that QuickBooks as a company is terrible to deal with for matters of payment processing.  Without going into too much detail, their merchant service support line is horrendous to deal with.  QuickBooks payment processing also falls short when it comes to allowing users to invoice and accept payments in non-local currency.  By not offering a seamless payment processing integration options for invoices created within the software, QuickBooks falls short here.

So while it takes a few extra steps, seamless integration with a more established payment processor such as Stripe, PayPal and Square can offer less administrative headaches.  Xero takes this one.

Payroll

Similar to the merchant payment processing option, QuickBooks Online offers a built-in payroll option, while Xero does not.  That said, both software offers integrations to a number of fantastic cloud payroll providers.

The QuickBooks payroll option in Canada is just not competitive in terms of features.  Since QuickBooks does provide an option to run a built-in payroll module it gives users an added option to easily setup and run payroll within the cloud software.  Unlike with payments, QuickBooks offering this option does not take away from its ability to also integrate smoothly with an external payroll software.  QuickBook wins in the category of payroll because it is able to provide additional options (both a built-in option and integration)

Bank Reconciliation

Bank reconciliation in Xero and in QuickBooks is typically the first major difference that a bookkeeper will notice.  For the purposes of this blog, I will not be elaborating and will assume that the business owner has a bookkeeper and/or accountant.  Both software can perform bank account reconciliations in a similar manner by pulling in bank transaction data automatically from bank feeds and creating reconciliation rules.  From the perspective of a small business owner, let’s call this one a tie.

Financial Planning and Analysis

A simple look at both QuickBooks Online and Xero from a business owner perspective would show that both software has a number of standard reports for financial analysis, management of receivables and payables, and simple inventory tracking.  The software even allows users to load a simple annual budget, which allows for some simple tracking to budget.

Want to create custom income statement and balance sheet reporting?  Xero has a drag and drop interface that will allow for custom categorizations of accounts and save it in a template.  Xero also allows for multiple report templates to be saved.

As an organization begins to grow, its needs for financial reporting and analysis will also inevitably become more complex. A business owner needs to keep scalability in mind.  What becomes more important is not the canned reports provided, but how easily data can become exported in standardized formats.  Being able to export a flat list of data makes it easy to analyze a subset of data or even use the subset of data to help develop a more accurate forecast.  There is no contest in this category as it is much simpler to pull flat data files from Xero than from QBO.  Xero is the winner for financial planning and analysis.

Taxes

With the ability to pull GST/HST reports in summary and by detail with form line number references, ability to submit GST/HST reports directly from the cloud interface, ability to assign GIFI codes to accounts and even a brand new development to create and file tax returns, QuickBooks Online is the winner in this category by far.

This very straight-forward GST/HST report can be generated by business owners to submit their own GST/HST reports.  All of the tax line items are provided, which makes the filing process that much easier.

Screen Shot 2018-12-16 at 11.18.56 PM.png

Xero tax reports are generic and likely because they have not been as established in the North American market for as long.  Xero tax reports are adequate to create an HST report and also to create financial statements that can be used to file taxes, however they are more like a data dump than actual tax reports.

Support

QBO has a customer service telephone call centre with very reasonable wait times.  Their customer service line provides excellent service, especially for basic how-to questions.  When it comes to more complex issues and inquiries into software glitches, this is where their call centre is not so helpful.  They have an escalated helpdesk with only outbound calling capability and they will call at random unscheduled times, just like the guy that fixes your cable.

Xero does not have a customer service line, but it does have a support e-mail that responds very quickly and is able to provide a high level of support remotely.  Xero also has a function to invite your customer support agent to your organizations so they can see what you are seeing.  This saves time because then you don’t have to do a screen sharing session on the phone.  I’ve found the Xero support to be very competent.

QBO and Xero both have a database of accountants that support their software so small business owners do not have to deal with this entirely.  I’m giving this one to QBO, because I understand the need for business owners to want to pick up the phone and call and speak to a real person.  I’ve also seen a formidable effort by QBO to connect to small business owners in real life through conferences and help connect them to bookkeepers and accountants.

Integrations / Apps

This blog article compares Xero and QBO side by side without the use of integrations to other applications.  The real power of cloud accounting is its ability to connect to powerful apps.  While many cloud accounting apps connect to both Xero and QBO, there are some that only connect to one.  A deciding factor of which software to choose is whether it has a certain app.  For example, a client of mine uses a specific real estate cloud system that only connects to QBO and not Xero.  In this case, it is clear that if they want to upgrade their accounting system to cloud, it would be much easier for them to pick QBO.

Both Xero and QBO have a strong app community and continue to encourage developers to use their software.  They both have sites that support the app community and allow for apps to be rated by users and for users to share their experiences with various apps.  It would be interesting to see how this continues to build out in the coming years, but for now, this is a tie.

Overall Ease of Use

Both QBO and Xero were designed with small business owners in mind.  Everything is designed to be click-button friendly, and there is no real need to understand debits and credits to use the basic functionalities of either platform.

QBO had an edge on menu layout as it has this really easy + button on the top right of the screen that allowed users to intuitively add new invoices, expenses, sales receipts, credit memos etc. without toggling between different screens.  As of earlier December 2018, Xero has entirely ripped off this layout.  Xero generally runs a lot smoother and has less lag and glitches.  The lag issue in QBO is one that I hear across the board from all users.  The load and refresh time is significantly slower in QBO than it is in Xero to the point where productivity is impacted.  I’m giving this one to Xero.

Summary

Feature Winner Comments
Initial Setup Xero Xero offers an easy setup wizard and a nice default chart of accounts
Price Tie Both products are priced similarly, Xero pricing is in USD
Invoicing and Payments Xero Xero offers seamless integrations with popular payment providers
Payroll QuickBooks QuickBooks offers the option of built-in payroll
Bank Reconciliation Tie Both software perform bank reconciliation with automated bank feeds
Financial Planning & Analysis Xero Xero offers easy drag and drop custom reports and clean data exports
Taxes QuickBooks QuickBooks produces summarized tax reports to easily fill tax forms
Support QuickBooks QuickBooks offers a live customer support line while Xero support is more competent, live customer support is what small business owners want
Integrations Tie Both offer a slew of app integrations
Overall Ease of Use Xero Less of a laggy experience, less glitches

Each of these tools has its own strengths and weaknesses.  From a small business owner perspective, I find that QuickBooks offers an all-encompassing solution that is more suited for small businesses that needs something simple.  It also offers a familiar product that many bookkeepers and accountants in North America are used to. For small business owners who have aspirations to continually scale and improve the efficiency in which they do things, I find that Xero is a great option.  As a forward-thinking accounting professional who continuously strives for continual efficiencies, Xero is typically my software of choice in most cases for the reasons in this blog article and for a slew of other more technical reasons that have not been covered.

I tried Grammarly for a month

Grammarly has changed the way that I work

Grammarly is a Chrome add-in that has changed the way that I’ve worked.  I’ve been trying Grammarly for almost a month now. While I feel that I am an advanced writer, I was surprised to see how many errors I was making without realizing.  I noticed that when I am interrupted often or just don’t have a smooth flow of thought, I sometimes double type words.  Grammarly made me become more aware of this and helped fix these errors in a way that just seemed less annoying than your typical word processor software.

It’s not as annoying as you would think

What I like about Grammarly is that it checks my written emails, messages, tweets, blog posts and even when I fill out surveys.  It basically works with every text field in the chrome browser.  I was initially hesitant about installing Grammarly because I felt that it would be really annoying to be corrected.  It isn’t like the correction feature on your phone, it does not autocorrect your typing, it just underlines errors or potential errors much like a word processing spell check.  While it does underline errors it does not look like the eyesore red squiggly line that you’re used to in a word processor.

It does not correct common short-forms.  An example of this is when I type “thx” in my messages.  I don’t get a red underline for this.  I like that.  I’m not writing a novel when I type and short-forms should and is allowed.

Look at this screenshot!  I love that it did not correct my tweet.  I would have been so annoyed if they highlighted my smiley face.  Thanks for understanding Grammarly.

grammarlyscreenshot

Our entire team is now on Grammarly.

It’s not perfect

Like any spell check and grammar check, it isn’t perfect.  It’s not going to pick up on all errors.  If I use a word in the wrong context, it isn’t going to pick up on that.  I imagine that it follows some sort of algorithm for grammar and look-up for spellcheck.  I still think it’s great though.

Not a fan of the phone app

I really was so impressed with Grammarly that I decided to check out the phone app.  They have a downloadable keyboard app that installs like any other non-native keyboard app.  I have an android phone and it was easy enough to install.  I immediately uninstalled it when I realized that it does not allow for swipe typing.  I am a swipe typer and so I just couldn’t live with that.

If you would like to try Grammarly, click here to give it a go.

 

Your Start Up and E-Commerce Accountant

Jenny Tran, CPA, CMA

@fintcloud

 

New business? How to look established.

Your company’s image and how your target market perceives you as a company is so important.  This is something that needs to be considered from business inception.  Faking it until you make it can bring you further as a company – have you watched Leonardo Dicaprio in The Wolf on Wallstreet?  At the very least, taking some small steps can make your company seem more organized and makes it easier for customers to trust your company.

Below are a few ways to make your new business seem established without any large upfront fees.  All of these suggestions that I am making are things that you will eventually need anyway and will make your business look more established right away if implemented on day one.

You need a website

I’ve connected with new business owners, who talk excitedly about their business and just as I get intrigued and ask to see their website, they tell me they don’t have one.  My saying is that if you don’t have a website, you don’t have a real business.  There are so many services to create a website, but if you are lost, let me help you with a recommendation: Blue Host.  Blue Host has an easy integration with WordPress.Org which has a ton of different plug-ins that makes it easy to create a website.

If you don’t have a website, how can prospective customers of your service or product see what you are able to provide and/or how to find you?

Don’t use a free e-mail service

Nothing screams amateur and unestablished like a @gmail.com, @hotmail.com, @yahoo.ca and don’t even get me started with a @sympatico.ca e-mail.

My firm uses GSuites to host our e-mail.  It also brings together all of our calendars and allows us to share calendars easily.  There are a slew of tools that come with GSuites that I use on a daily basis for my business.  I’m not sure how I can run a business without GSuites.  I like that every time I sent out an email, I am promoting my business brand.

Does setting up an e-mail address with your personalized domain seem too daunting?  Contact us, and we can refer you to someone who can help set you up.

Accepting electronic payments

If you are accepting cash-only for your business, you are more than likely turning away potential clients.  If you are accepting personal e-mail money transfers, this can look unprofessional and can make your business look less established (not to mention create a bookkeeping nightmare).

There are many ways to accept electronic payments from customer.  There are many solutions out there for payment processing that can process credit card payment to direct debit payments.  I will do a separate article on electronic payments, but if you need some help with this you can contact us to get setup.

Your Start Up and E-Commerce Accountant

Jenny Tran, CPA, CMA

 

Before quitting your job to be an entrepreneur

When you ask a successful entrepreneur the story of their success, typically somewherin that story they quit their job in order to pursue their business idea. It’s often a part of the story that gets glazed over, but as many aspiring entrepreneur would know it really is a pivotal move. It’s not so easy to quit a job especially if you are dependent on the income from said job. As someone who is more conservative with money (as most accountants are), I would advise on taking some preparation steps before making the jump to be a full-time entrepreneur.

Consider pursuing the business idea as a side gig

Some business ideas can be pursued as a side gig until it grows large enough to pursue full-time. This is a good way to test the waters and see if the business idea is a viable one that can also support you financially. And let’s be honest, some business ideas are just not going to work out so this is a good way to get a little taste of entrepreneurship with less risk.

Being a bit of a serial entrepreneur myself, I had several side gigs including selling soaps on Etsy, starting a tutoring business while in University and starting a Shopify store based on the basic drop-shipping model. These were all fun and each experience has shaped me as the entrepreneur that I am today.

Freelancing or contracting while starting a business

Freelancing and contracting offers an excellent way of making some side income while the business is growing. When I first quit my job, I was lucky to be contacted by an agency who wanted to hire me on a short-term basis to contract for a bank. Freelancing nowadays can be entirely done virtually and from home. I used upwork.com and freelancer.com to look for contracts. If you’re lucky, you can even convince your old employer to keep you on an as-needed basis.

Going all-in

As my friend and mentor, Yanky Li from Openhouse.ai believes, a truly good business idea deserves 100% dedication. So if you’ve decided to dedicate yourself to your business idea congratulations, now you need to keep close watch on how long you can survive while making little to no income. And if you cannot survive with little to no income, then I recommend seriously reconsidering this option.

Personally, when I started to realize the lifestyle change I had to undergo I had to make some quick and fast decisions. It wasn’t an easy task to go from a senior software consultant salary to no salary. I first considered what was important to me (my business, my family), and cut out some unnecessary costs.

  • I cooked more at home and started going to Chinatown for some really cheap meats and fresh fruits. I can cook dinner for a whole week for under $30. I also froze meals for later consumption. I also cut back significantly on ordering food deliveries.
  • I picked events to go to that offered free food, which saves me from paying for an extra meal. The events doubled as a means to grow my network. With very little exceptions, I declined to go to paid events.
  • I stopped buying clothes and make-up almost entirely, which wasn’t so difficult since I often worked from home. Surprisingly, for the first time in my life, I felt content with my existing wardrobe.
  • Getting coffee and meeting for coffee was purposeful, but I actually stopped going for a routine drink at coffee shops.
  • I wasn’t willing to go to a cheaper hair salon, but instead I grew my hair long and reduced the frequency of needing a haircut. I stopped getting routine procedures like getting my nails and eyelashes done. I learned how to wax at home.
  • I’ve not gone on a vacation since I started my business.

Using Technology To Manage Personal Finances and Save Money (Canadian Edition)

I did a recent poll on our Instagram (@fintcloud) to ask people if they would rather learn more about keeping a paperless office, or how to use tech to save money. The results were almost unanimous, people wanted to learn how to use technology to save money! I tried to do a few tips and tricks on IG stories, but think that a blog post would be a better medium.

Carrot Rewards

The Canadian government is giving away millions of dollars to incentivize Canadians to live a healthier lifestyle. You can earn money / points by taking steps and doing some quizzes. Don’t have a step tracker? Just get Google Fit and connect it to this app. They literally pay you to live your day-to-day life. The goals are personalized based on your activity level. I’ve personally earned the equivalent of $15 in less than a year, doing almost nothing. (You do have to log into the app from time to time). For some extra bonuses, my referral code is: jennyt3667

Drop Reward Points

Carrot Rewards pays out into points, and the point system that I use is the Canadian Drop Rewards. Connect your bank / credit cards, and you can start earning points immediately based on your spend with their partners (which includes Uber, Shopper’s Drug Mart, Sephora, Under Armour, Staples, Adidas and more). Including my $15 from Carrot, I’ve earned roughly $200 in Drop Rewards. It’s not cash, but Amazon.ca gift cards are pretty much as good as cash.

The best thing about Drop Rewards is that I find that you can easily stack this with other deals. Since the spend it tracked on your credit card immediately, you can stack this with other promotional offers (in-store specials, online promo codes).

Ebates

Okay, so enough about points. You want cash? Ebates.ca will give you a cash rebates. So before you go online shopping, check if you are purchasing from an Ebates.ca partner store. If you shop through their link, they get paid a commission, which they share with you once your balance hits more than $5.01. I’m still new to this, but I don’t see why this cannot be stacked with the Drop Rewards. Some major partners include Amazon.ca and Ebates.ca.

Just Butter It

Just Butter It is a Canadian finance app that gives you cashback just for allowing it to keep track of your subscriptions. The cashback seems to be roughly 1% of your eligible subscriptions. The bonus of using this app is that you can also easily keep tabs of what subscriptions you are still on. It allows for you to be more aware of those subscriptions that you should cancel if they are no longer in use;.

Mint by Intuit

Mint not an app that allows you to earn or save money, but it is a fantastic way to keep tabs on your personal finances. Connecting all of your financial accounts will allow it to automatically calculate your net worth *caveat that it is not always accurate, particularly if you own a business. I love how easy it makes to visualize your finances. Bonus that it sends you reminders to pay your credit cards. It automatically sets a budget for you based on your previous spend and sends you reminders if spending trends are off.

I know people out there may be apprehensive about connecting all of their banking information to an app. I can understand that and I also felt this way in the beginning, but I think that it is much more beneficial to keep a close eye on my financials and have a full view of it rather than not. Mint helps me ensure that there isn’t fraud on my accounts, and makes me aware of any additional bank fees or interest charges on my account. It has indirectly saved me a lot of money.

Camel Camel Camel aka Camelx3

Love shopping on Amazon.ca for the convenience? Firstly did you know you can subscribe to recurring subscriptions to basic necessities and save more money if you stack these recurring subscriptions? Well, that’s great, but you also need to make sure that these goods are fairly priced. Here comes in Camelx3, which is a price watch for all items.

At one point, I was obsessed with setting this up. I would search for products that I commonly used (like razor blades), and products that I wanted to buy but only at a good price (like a headphone) and setup a tracking such that Camelx3 would alert me via email once the product’s price went down to the price at which I am willing to buy it at.

Your Start Up and E-Commerce Accountant

Jenny Tran, CPA, CMA

Hiring the wrong people was the biggest and costliest mistake that I made

I’m going to outright say that I made so many mistakes in hiring during my first year of business! I’m going to share all of these mistakes so that others need not follow and can learn through my own mistakes.

Hiring Friends

When I first started the company, I figured that I needed someone to do sales. I decided to hire a friend who is also an accountant to do it, and pay them on a commission basis.

Unfortunately for me, I learned that my friend wasn’t very reliable, nor was he very good at sales. He couldn’t even articulate what the company does in order to make a sale. Turning to friends may seem convenient because they are in your social network, but it’s not always the best especially if you’ve never worked together before on anything real.

Hiring Family

I decided to hire family. I am lucky I got out of this one unscathed. I love my family and I think that is all the more reason to not hire them. Again, for the same reason that hiring friends that you’ve never professionally worked with is a bad idea, hiring family is a bad idea.

Okay, so at this point, I realized that I needed to hire outside of my social circle. I needed to post a job ad out there.

Hiring Freelancers

I can write an entire blog post about hiring from the online freelancing community, but in short, I was able to find a few gems that eventually turned into longer-term team members. I found my right-hand woman this way, and I cannot see myself being where I am today without her!

The secret? Having a filtering process to be able to test candidates for language competency, technical skills, communication skills, customer service skills and the ability to work autonomously.

Hiring Local Employees

At this point, I had a few contractors now and decided that a full-time local employee would be the way to go. I took the same approach as I did online and applied the same tried and true strategy. In short, it didn’t work.

The hiring process does not take into account those that are articulate about their skills but do not have the actual motivation and discipline to own up to the job. I can say for certain that hiring the wrong employees was the biggest and most costliest mistakes as I was starting out in the first year. If I could go back to give myself just one piece of advice, it would be to own up to the mistake and end the relationship sooner.

So what worked?

I went back to focusing on hiring freelancers since that was working fairly well. For those freelancers that were doing well, I gave them a raise and asked them to commit all of their available working hours to my company. I guaranteed them security as best I can. Since they were working well, I asked them to refer their colleagues and this has worked really well.

What was sacrificed?

To the best of my ability, I do not let poor hiring practices impact the work that we do for our clients. What I did sacrifice instead was my mental well-being in having to fill-in for poor hires. I knew that I needed this to work in order for the company to move forward.

Hiring Interns

Stay tuned for an article on how I was able to turn an internship from a burden on resources to a positive experience for both employer and intern.

Your Start Up and E-Commerce Accountant

Jenny Tran, CPA, CMA

5 Lessons that I’ve learned in my first year of starting a cloud accounting firm

It has been several months since I’ve last blogged and I have a good excuse for that. I’ve been busy! Like any entrepreneur trying to make their vision come to fruition, the first year of building a business is just immensely challenging. I’ve been busy learning some really critical lessons in my industry and as a new business owner of a cloud accounting firm.

Documenting the process of becoming the president of a cloud accounting firm was something that I’ve wanted to do, but in this first year this process took precedence to the actual documenting. Moving forward, I will be blogging regularly and sharing my journey through various mediums including this blog. I have also been sharing this journey through social media, Twitter and Instagram @fintcloud .

Here are some critical lessons that I’ve learned in my first year of starting a cloud accounting firm, which I plan to elaborate on in more details in future blog posts.

#5 Partnering with the right people

Networking and meeting new business contacts can be really exciting, but sometimes some skepticism is warranted. I’ve learned that treading carefully is a good idea, and doing some background research on those you partner is worthwhile. It’s kind of like checking out a Yelp review before trying a restaurant.

#4 Managing growth

When I first started the business, I was super gung-ho for new clients and growth. I realized that I really had to pull back on business development in order to for me to first build the operations in a way that was sustainable. It’s a good problem to have.

#3 Having the right software stack

There was a bit of tinkering to figure out the best software stack for my company. Keeping an open mind and staying flexible really helped here. I plan to blog more in future about the cloud applications my company uses on a daily basis.

#2 Taking on the right clients

When I first started the business, I wasn’t choosy about the clients that I took on. As long as they knew how to use e-mail, it was a green light. I really had to take a step back from that to redefine my ideal client. This is still a work in progress, but long story short, we had to let go a few clients who were not a good fit. Letting go the wrong client can have a positive impact on profitability, resource availability and staff morale.

#1 Hiring the right way

When I hired my first employee for Fint, I was very naive in thinking that anyone can learn anything. This isn’t true, and that’s a hard fact. Motivation, drive, ambition, discipline are just a few factors that go into determining whether someone can do the job. When hiring employees, contractors or even interns, it is so important to do this the right way, consciously. Not everyone can do the job. I will most definitely go into more details about my learning on hiring in a future blog post.

Your Start Up and E-Commerce Accountant

Jenny Tran, CPA, CMA

@fintcloud

Preparing for Small Business Growth

Our business is growing and there is just so much to learn along the way.  We want to share some tips and tricks for managing a growing business.  There are three topics that is relevant for every growing small business: staying organized, mental health and appreciating employees.

 

1. Staying Organized

A company with just one owner might be able to get away with mental notes or just a simple notebook, but a growing company needs to be aware of what it means to stay organized at different sizes.

When we were just one, it was just a notebook.  Then we became three, and we started using Trello to manage tasks.  I highly recommend Trello, but we’ve grown out of it and now we started using a more robust tool called Karbon HQ that also allows us to track each other’s e-mail trails.  This journey would look different for different types of small businesses, but the underlying theme of proactively seeking the right tools is one that every growing business needs to consider.

At what point does one need an administrative assistant? This was a big question for me as of late.  We’ve been using Calendly to manage the need of having to coordinate back and forth the question of, “So, when can you meet?”.  It was fantastic, until I realized that it cannot make appointments, or make judgemental decisions on the priority of a meeting over another.  Personally, I made the decision that when my calendar became so full that it became a matter of having to decide which meeting is more important than another.

2. Mental Health

Most entrepreneur would agree with me that staying healthy mentally is something that needs to be proactive.  I don’t think the typical person appreciates how many decisions a business owner needs to make in a day, and how mentally exhausting it can be.

It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves.  My advice is to surround yourself with people who at the very least can sympathize with why you might immediately book a direct flight that costs more to having to check flight prices everyday, or stress out over connecting flights.  Making reasonable choices to avoid unnecessary stress is sometimes more important than saving a few dollars.  Yes, I’m an accountant and I actually said that.

Most recently, I’ve discovered how difficult it is to just look at my phone and not be immediately stressed out over the volume of notifications.  I thought it was normal until my friends started mentioning to me that they get stressed out over my notifications even when I ignore them.  I’ve now manually turned off notifications on almost all apps now.  I’m also trying out a meditation app called Calm.

3. Appreciating Employees

I used to work for big corporations prior to becoming an entrepreneur.  Big corporations are known for having disgruntled employees, and I admit to being a disgruntled employee at one point in my life.  Rather than hold a grudge, I take it upon myself to never forget how being unappreciated made me feel.  As hard as I may be on my employees sometimes, I will always try my best to appreciate them.  Many of my employees are young and new to the working world.  They probably have not seen how an unappreciated team with poor communication can quickly deteriorate.  I realize that having zero disgruntled employees can be difficult as a company grows, but do I take it upon myself to take preventative action.

We encourage open communication channels, welcome informal feedback and most recently we introduced an appreciation program using HeyTaco, a Slack integrated app.  Appreciating employees is something that needs to be ever-evolving and re-assessed from time to time for a growing company.  It should not be just a program that is implemented and forgotten.

 

Your Start Up and E-Commerce Accountant

Jenny Tran, CPA, CMA

 

Take 15 mins to execute this Christmas personal finance hack

Christmas in more recent years has become a time of reflection for me.  It is a time when I review what has gone well and what has not gone well when it comes to life events, relationships, career and my own financial situation.  If new years is the time for a fresh start, changes, and new goals then Christmas is a time to think about what it is that defines our life purpose.

There has been a lot of firsts this year for me from leaving my consulting job to starting my own accounting firm, getting my first client and hiring my first employee.  In my personal life, I celebrated my twin dogs turning one this year and met some new friends who taught me more about myself.  I attribute many of the good things that happened this year to being able to let go of some of the things that were not so good last year.  Sometimes you have to re-evaluate and make room for more good things in your life.

On that note I’m going to share with you a personal finance hack that took me 15 minutes to execute this Christmas.  I cancelled my main credit card.  Well, to be more accurate, I called in to my credit card company to report my main credit card as being lost.  Why?  Well, these days it is common to have dozens of recurring subscriptions whether it is monthly, or annually and it is admittedly difficult to keep track of these costs.  If you can’t remember every single subscription you have, and can’t be sure that you won’t be hit with a subscription charge for something you’re quite sure you’ve cancelled, then I recommend this hack for you.  I’m now going to have to update my credit card information for all of my subscriptions, but I will gladly do that to be more conscious about my costs.  I assure you that if you do this, you will find at least one subscription that you can do away with!

Best thing about this hack?  I can do this in the comfort of my family’s home while snuggling with my dogs.  Furthermore, Christmas tends to be a slow time for call centres (at least that is what I remember it to be when I used to be the one picking up the calls).  Make sure to thank your customer service representative and wish them well.  And while you’re executing this hack, you can also take a minute to follow my new YouTube channel by clicking here.  Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Your Start Up and E-Commerce Accountant

Jenny Tran, CPA, CMA

Should you split the restaurant bill with your friends?

Personally, I hate splitting bills when dining out.  With partners, close friends, and family where dining out occurs regularly, I think that taking turns paying just makes things simpler.  There is one bill, one payment and everyone involved saves the effort and time required with splitting bills.  I also think it is friendlier and it feels less petty to have to split everything fair and square.  Coming from a family that thinks about money as a communal resource and seeing close friends adopt this turn-taking method, I thought it was a social norm.  In more recent years, I realize it actually isn’t the social norm, and sometimes it is just more practical to split the bill.

Ideally, I feel that it is on the restaurant to split the bill. I’ve seen this done really well at some restaurants that are able to easily split an appetizer seven ways.  This is unfortunately not an option most of the time.  Another reason why I hate splitting bills is because being a financial professional, the group typically turns to me to do the bill splitting!

Luckily for me, recent advancements in OCR (Optical Character Recognition) has made way for some really cool bill splitting apps.  One that I’ve tested is called Tab Bill Splitter.  It is an app that you can download to your phone that allows you to take a picture of your bill, enter your name and select the items you purchased.  The app spits out your total with tax and tip proportionately.  I can confirm that it can in fact split your appetizer amongst the table.  You can download this FREE app here:

Tab Bill Splitter for Android

Tab Bill Spitter for Apple

Note: I am not a partner nor do I get kick-backs.  I just simply thought this app was really cool!

One caveat that I have to add is all of the cool apps that allow you to actually exchange money between your friends is unfortunately not yet available in Canada.  OCR technology is not perfect either, and Tab failed me when I tried to split a massive Costco bill, but overall it is a nice solution and much better than me crunching out numbers manually or with my calculator phone app.

I am actually interested in what you think about splitting bills with your partner, your friends and your family.  Do you split bills or take turns or use a different method?

Your Start Up and E-Commerce Accountant

Jenny Tran, CPA, CMA