I want to tell you about the fabulous CRM system that I use, it’s called Capsule CRM and it makes my business so easy to manage.
When I first started up as a Virtual Assistant I put all of my contact information into a spreadsheet. I didn’t think I needed anything else, I thought I only needed to record names and addresses, but I was so wrong. As my business grew, I was adding more and more contacts but I couldn’t remember who they all were, where I’d met them or what we had talked about.
Realising that something needed to change I first tried to create an Access database, it was a bit better but still not what I needed. Then I did a bit of research and realised that a basic database wasn’t enough and I needed a CRM – Customer Relationship Manager.
I worked with one for a while, but was never totally happy with it, but then I was recommended to try Capsule CRM
It changed my business!
I couldn’t believe how easy it was to keep all customer information in one place. Not just their names and addresses, but notes about what we had discussed and tasks for my to-do list, and it’s possible to save emails and documents too. It also integrated with other packages I was using, so I could access client invoices and update my mailing list all from within Capsule.
Tracking sales opportunities, running projects and labelling each contact with identity tags that allow me to create lists of contacts based on similar data is what really makes Capsule CRM more than a database.
After a while I found that the way that I use Capsule has changed the way that I gather and use information for my business.
If you are looking for a CRM to keep your data then I recommend Capsule and if you need some help setting up please let me know. Click the image below to visit the Capsule website.
This is an affiliate link which means that if you choose to sign up to Capsule CRM I will receive a small amount of commission. I have been using Capsule CRM for years, and would never recommend a product that I wouldn't use myself.
Cast your mind back to January, were you one of the many people who were worried, stressed and even anxious about filling in your online assessment? Did you leave it to the last minute? Did you discover a large bill to pay? And then worry about where the funds would come from to pay that bill?
You can change that for this year, you don’t have to go through that in January, instead you can choose to do your self assessment now.
One huge benefit of doing your self assessment right now, especially if you left it until January and especially if you had a very large bill to pay is you won’t have to pay the tax bill straight away. The tax bill will still be due to be paid in January but you can find out how much you owe and then you can save your money and you can pay it off when you are ready instead of being pushed into a corner and having to find that money immediately.
If you are not ready to jump straight in to your online assessment I suggest you start finding your receipts, if they are in a box somewhere then that’s great because you’ve got them! But if they’re not and if you can’t find them then that’s more of a problem. But gather up all of the receipts you can find, find your bank statements and update your spreadsheet or accounts system and put together all the information you need so you can do your self assessment.
If you’re not currently using a computer and you have a manual system now is a really good time to think about changing because the government, you may have heard, are talking about making tax digital and although the plans have been delayed recently, ultimately, I think this is something that will come in and it would serve us all to be prepared for this before it happens. The idea of making tax digital is that HMRC want their money a bit sooner, so what they want is for businesses to start doing self assessment quarterly instead of annually which could be a really big headache for some small businesses, but it doesn’t have to be.
We don’t know the details yet, we don’t know how the system will work or how complex it will be but if you get in the habit now of compiling your accounts every single month, so at the end of every month you get your receipts and put them on your spreadsheet or on your accounts systems then when they do bring in this digital tax system you will be ready to embrace it.
I will keep you updated with new information as it is published, but don’t wait until new system arrives and then start panicking and making changes to your current working systems make those changes now, it will benefit you in the long run.
So think about those changes, and if you need help with any of that give me a call and I will help you set up a new system, I will help you sort through your receipts, input information if that’s what you need and get ready so your bookkeeping and your business runs more smoothly than it does right now.
Receipts for items bought in person tend to sit in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the handbag, while petrol receipts reside in one of the many nooks and crannies in the car. Only receipts delivered to your premises stand a chance of getting into the file on your desk!
And at the end of the month when you want to reconcile your accounts those pesky little receipts can be quite hard to find! Until you have stopped looking of course, and then they will turn up a couple of months later in exactly the place you thought you’d put them, but they definitely weren’t there when you needed them!
It is so easy to pick up a bargain with every intention of settling up with the petty cash, but by the time you’ve finished your mad dash around town, scoffed a sandwich and glugged a coffee during your lunch break, when you’ve actually got back to the office getting that receipt into the petty cash tin can easily slip your mind.
Carrying a small zipped purse in your handbag, or keeping a wallet in the car just for these receipts can make a difference. Hopefully the majority of your receipts will make it into this receptacle which will make reconciliation so much easier.
Take some time on a Friday afternoon to gather up all receipts for purchases made during the week and record them through petty cash or expenses. This way if one or two have gone astray you may have a better chance of remembering where they are.
Half the battle with keeping accounts records up-to-date is knowing where your paperwork is!
Last week was a busy one for me. I had meetings with clients every day, a mountain of work to plough through in my home office, not to mention household chores, taking the children to their clubs, helping with homework and cooking dinner. So when Sunday came around and I had a look at my diary for this week I was pleased to see that it would be much quieter.
Monday morning my husband took the children to school and went food shopping so that I could get an earlier start on the now slightly smaller mountain of work that I was still working through. Cup of tea in hand, I sat at my desk and began preparing the accounts for one of my clients, and I got off to a great start.
At 9.45am I received a text from a different client asking if everything was OK because I was so late for our meeting.
I was mortified!
I am usually a very organised person, but that is not the result of a brilliant memory, or a perfectly organised lifestyle, oh no, that comes from writing down everything that I need to do because I know that I can’t remember it all.
Through my very busy week last week I had exchanged several emails with this client and we had arranged a 9am meeting, but I had forgotten to write it on my planner, which meant I then forgot about it entirely.
In my CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) there is a Task Manager and Calendar and I rely heavily on this to keep track of the tasks I need to perform for each of my clients. When I open the CRM it’s default view is the Task Manager list, showing me everything that is still on my to-do list. Each task is assigned to the relevant client so that I can see whose jobs are most urgent, or which ones have been outstanding the longest.
I can also look at tasks in a Calendar view, which is ideal when you have a very busy schedule and you can clearly see the tasks assigned to each day.
For each client, if I click onto their record I also can see a list of outstanding tasks and completed ones too, so I have a record of when jobs were completed, which can be invaluable if problems arise.
There are many task manager software to choose from, but one within your CRM keeps more information in one place, which is more efficient in the long run. You just have to remember to use it!
Decide what a reasonable amount of time is for your customers to make payment. Most companies will choose either 30 days from invoice date or the end of the following month, but some may go with as few as 7 days or as many as 60 days.
Decide how your customers can pay you, BACS is usually the preferred method these days, but most companies still accept cheques, and Paypal is increasing in popularity too.
Most importantly you need to add your payment terms and accepted payment method to your invoice template so they are sent to your customer every time you send an invoice. You need to make it as easy as possible for your customer to make payment, because if your customer has to go hunting for your payment details then your invoice will go straight to the bottom of the pile!
Once you have set your terms think about how you will inform your new customer about them. The easiest way to do this is to create a Credit Agreement document. This document will outline your payment terms and accepted methods of payment, it will also contain information about any discounts you will give to your customer, and make statements of fact, such as: All goods will remain the property of [your business] until payment in full has been received.
Your Credit Agreement should also include consequences of late payment, for example, you will exercise your right to charge interest on overdue invoices at the current recommended rate, you will pursue outstanding monies through the courts, if you have to take a customer to court then all future purchases will require payment in advance of goods being sent.
Create space for both parties to sign and date. Easy!
Well, that will vary from business to business, there isn’t a right or wrong way of doing it, it’s just about finding the right way for you and your business. Below is a list of popular filing options and how they are best used:
Great for holding small quantities of paperwork. If your business relies on fairs to sell directly to customers you probably won’t have that much paperwork to keep, so you may get everything you need for the year in one file.
Lever Arch Files
Larger files suitable to hold larger quantities of paperwork. If you are producing more than 100 sales or purchases per month you may find it easier to separate your paperwork and have a dedicated file just for your sales invoices and another for purchase invoices etc.
This is a great option if you need to keep a small amount of information on a large number of customers or suppliers. Each file will have its own hangar to sit in and they will be arranged alphabetically so you can find them easily. Be careful though, the hangars are not that strong and if you need to keep more than perhaps 20 sheets of paper the hangar may start to warp under the weight.
These can be very useful if you need to keep several pieces of information of varying sizes together neatly, or if you have items that you either can’t or don’t want to punch holes in, such as pre-printed booklets or marketing materials. It is also a great way to store small sample products.
When you first start out and only have a handful of customers or suppliers a concertina file can be used in the same way as a filing cabinet but on a much smaller scale, and more cheaply too!
Index Card Box
Ideal for keeping small amounts of information about customers to hand. Each card is the size of a post card so only suitable for name and contact info and perhaps purchase preferences if you supply several products or services. These are stored alphabetically in a small box.
When deciding which options will work best for you, consider the amount of paperwork you will be handling and the amount of storage space you have got available. Choose a system and stick to it for several months at least, unless it really doesn’t work!
If you would like some help setting up a filing system that will work for your business please email email@example.com or call 07891357525.
This was fine until the business started growing. Now they find themselves unable to recall specific details about customers, or can’t remember the last conversation they had, and when customers call it is very difficult to recall information they need.
My advice to each of them is to invest in a CRM system, which is a database for your contacts. CRM means Customer Relationship Management, so the software is basically a place to store information so you can manage your customers.
CRM’s have fantastic database capabilities for recording details about each of your customers and prospects, and I recommend recording as much information as possible to help your business run smoothly. In the early days of business you may know each of your customers very well and be able to recall any information you need, but as you expand that will become more difficult, and if you take on staff they will need to know too!
Every CRM system is designed to record names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses as you would expect, however, CRM’s are so much more than a record of contact details. You will have the option to add in custom fields to record information specific to your business, and I highly recommend you take advantage of this. When your customer calls you or drops in to your office or shop you need to be able to bring up their information on your computer and know more than their name and address.
A hairdresser can record the cut and colour their customer chose, and a note reminding them of the wedding the new style was intended for gives them a place to start a conversation.
A crafter may want to keep a photographic record of the bespoke items created for a customer, a visual record of preferred items can help with designing new products.
And if you have a high number of customers it could be handy to know which one returns your products too often to be something they didn’t like after all.
But most importantly, your customers will respond well when you remember their birthday, or ask about their son’s graduation etc. People like to feel valued, and it’s ok to refer to a note on the computer to help you be more thoughtful when speaking with them.
If you would like some help finding the right CRM system for you, or would like assistance transferring your information into a CRM please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Invoices received from suppliers can be a little more difficult to organise. They each look different, the invoice numbers are in different formats and even the paper they are printed on can be different sizes and thicknesses making any file full of purchase invoices rather messy to look through.
There are several ways to organise them which will be dependent on the software you use to record them and how many you receive each month.
For low numbers of invoices you could use an A-Z divider in a lever arch file and file all invoices alphabetically throughout the whole year in one file. With this method when searching for an invoice that is several months old, you will just need to look under the correct letter to find the current year’s invoices for that customer. If you add the latest invoice to the top every time the invoices will also be filed by date so you will be able to easily find the one you are looking for.
If you are processing a larger number of invoices each month, you may need an entire file for each month, or maybe 2-3 months. In this instance keeping the invoices filed by month and then alphabetically could be more suitable. With this method when searching for an invoice that is several months old, you will need to know the date of the invoice. This information will be available on your accounts software.
For much larger numbers of invoices, that fill several files each month it could be more sensible to assign each invoice a reference number. You can purchase sequential number stamps which can be stamped onto each invoice and recorded as a reference in your accounts software when you record the purchase invoice – some accounts packages will handle this extra piece of information better than others so please check the capabilities of your chosen software before proceeding.
With this method, when trying to find an invoice that is several months old, you will need to find the assigned reference number in your accounts software first, once you have that number it is very quick to find the correct invoice in the file as they are all numbered sequentially and should be filed as such, with the lowest number at the back of the file and the highest number on top.
Another benefit for a sequential system is that it is much easier to see if an invoice has been removed from the file, and equally if an invoice is discovered in the wrong place it is easy to identify where it belongs and to also confirm on the system if it has been processed already.
In this modern age we should all be aiming for the “paperless” office, so if you only receive a small number of purchase invoices each month and most of them arrive electronically, don’t print them off! You can create identical filing systems as described above for your computer files instead of physical files. And ones that arrive through the post can be scanned in to the computer and added to this filing system and the original recycled, keeping your physical paperwork to a minimum.
and when they happen. The bank reconciliation checks that you have accounted for all transactions. Anything that shows on your bank reconciliation that isn’t in your accounts should have corresponding paperwork that has been overlooked. Anything that is in your accounts but does not show on your bank statement should be investigated.
There is a reason that larger companies “close down” their accounts each month. By going through an exercise of making sure that all invoices, purchases and expenses have been added to their accounts system and then checking those transactions against their bank statement they are then able to generate reports on vital information about the health of their business and to create a cashflow forecast for the coming month. This is something that every business should be doing, not just larger ones!
The reports generated will include:
Also known as the Aged Creditors Report or Aged Receivables Report. This is a list of all invoices that have not yet been paid. Usually the report is split into periods or months, which shows what is currently unpaid but not overdue, and then what was due to be paid during the last month, and the previous month and finally anything older. These customers can then be contacted to request payment be made.
Also known as the Aged Debtors Report or Aged Payables Report. This is a list of all purchases that have not yet been paid. Again it will usually be split into periods or months. With this report you will know which of your suppliers need to be paid during the next month.
It is important to know if any cheques have been raised but not yet cleared the bank. Your supplier will have up to six months to cash a cheque so to avoid any nasty surprises you need to know which cheques remain uncashed as you move into the next month.
When you have all of the above information you can create your cashflow forecast. This is basically a summary of how much money you have in the bank, how much money you are expecting to receive and how much you need to pay out over the course of the month. This will then give you your available funds so you know how much money you can afford to spend, regardless of what is currently sitting in your bank account.
How often should you reconcile the bank?
It depends on the size of your business and how many transactions you have. Larger firms will reconcile every day, some businesses once a week and others once a month. It is important that it is done at least once a month, if you leave it any longer it will become more difficult to track errors.
So how can you price competitively, and make a great profit, and stand out from the competition?
Step 1 – Covering your costs
Firstly you need to make sure that your costs are covered. This is not always as clear cut as you may think. Using a baker as an example, when pricing a batch of cupcakes you need to consider not just the cost of the ingredients themselves, but also the extra costs incurred when acquiring the ingredients, such as delivery charges or the cost of your fuel and your time to go to the shops to purchase them.
You also need to know how much the power costs to make those cupcakes, power for the mixer and power for the oven, power for the dishwasher to clean utensils afterwards, heating and lighting for you while you bake. Other essential overheads that need to be included are business insurance, rent, rates, telephone etc.
Then consider the machinery and its maintenance; electric food processor, weighing scales, oven, how much does it cost to maintain these items with cleaning products, spare parts, regular servicing etc
And finally packaging – how are they being sent out? You will need a box for the cakes to go in, but if being sent by courier those costs need to be included too, along with any labelling.
Step 2 –Costing your time
How much do you want to be paid? The hourly rate that you want to be paid, i.e. money in your pocket, isn’t the only consideration. You need to make a provision for your Tax and National Insurance contributions, payments to a pension fund, extra provision so that you can go on holiday or be ill and still pay yourself. Your hourly rate will be much higher than the amount you actually pay yourself.
When working out the hours for a job you need to consider the time spent planning, time spent making the cupcakes and the time spent cleaning up afterwards. In some circumstances there could be time for a practise run too or research into new techniques. Consultations with the customer, initially choosing what they want, trialling the practise run if there was one, and then collecting the finished product.
Even consider the time taken for the paperwork side of the job, how long does it take you to invoice your customer? How long to process their payment? Do you need to take time out of your day to take cash and cheques to the bank? Time spent doing tasks that are necessary for your business to provide its product or service are all considerations when pricing.
Step 3 –Choosing your profit
When all costs directly relating to creating a batch of cupcakes has been factored in, all that remains is the addition of profit. If your batch of cupcakes does not have a profit margin your business does not have any extra money to grow on. In addition to this, the price you set for your cupcakes will be rigid, because any reduction in price will actually cost you. Use your profit margin as a buffer which will allow you to offer discounts when you want.
Step 4 – Look at the market
Once you have set your price it is time to have a look at the market, how does your price compare to your competitors? If it is lower consider raising it, if it is higher look at how you can reduce your costs, maybe you need a different supplier, or perhaps you can reduce the delivery charges you incur by purchasing further in advance. If you can’t lower your prices any further then consider how you can add value to your offering.
Step 5 – Adding Value
To add value to your product or service you need to find something that you can offer your customers that is above and beyond what your competitors offer. It could be a free gift, an extra product or extra quality in the product itself. All of these things make your product or service more desirable and people will be willing to pay a little more for it. This also becomes part of your Unique Selling Point, your USP is what helps you to stand out from the crowd and be more memorable.
If you would like some help pricing your products or would like to review your current prices please contact me at email@example.com
Photograph by Meg Hanlon
Jamie has spent many years working in administrative roles, she has also spent time as a stay at home mum and now loves the flexibility of working from her home office and being available for her family whenever they need her.