Employee Portals: Boost Productivity In Your Accountancy Firm

In these economically challenging times, finding ways to maintain a competitive advantage through increased productivity is essential for all accountants. Whether you are a sole practitioner or an accountancy firm, the possibility of getting your work done quicker and easier is tantalizing. And that’s exactly what’s offered with an employee portal. So if you are looking to enhance performance, employee engagement, internal communications, and knowledge management within your business, in this article, you’ll find out why an employee portal is the solution you’re looking for.

What is an employee portal?

Also known as a company intranet, an employee portal is an internal website featuring all the tools and information that staff need in their daily work. Think of it as the heart of your business, as the central hub for all work-related data and internal communications.

A well-designed employee portal enables accountants to effectively manage their documents, policies, and procedures as well as automating business processes and providing seamless communications.

With such great benefits offered, it’s no wonder then that an increasing number of accountants are introducing employee portals to simplify the running of the practice. This means that your fee earners will have more time to spend on providing better services to clients and reaching out to potential new clients.

Are you wondering how exactly an employee portal will do this? Carry on reading to learn more about what can be achieved with an employee portal.

Enhanced performance

Document management is a perennial problem in accountancy firms. Where is the latest version of the International Accounting Standards? Who has the updated expenses claim form? Where are the financials for ABC Ltd? Too often, staff members are having to search through hundreds of emails or overloaded shared drives and generally waste time trying to locate the information from a colleague.

A document management system on the employee portal eliminates all that. Instead, all corporate information, including client relationship management data, is stored centrally on the employee portal. An intuitive navigation menu together with an advanced search functionality means that staff can quickly and easily locate the information they’re after. Searches can be done by title, tags, author, or topic. Having all this information at employees’ fingertips will result in improved service to clients as queries are dealt with more efficiently and client relationship management data is all in one place.

What’s more, the self-service aspect means that staff members have control over their work. This is empowering and helps to improve overall levels of team morale and staff engagement.

Furthermore, the employee portal will improve performance by automating processes.  Business processes in accounting firms have traditionally been very paper-based. Whether it’s setting up a new client on the system, ordering office supplies, or completing a request for annual leave, chances are there are multiple forms to complete.

An employee portal allows for the automation of all paper-based forms. Using a simple and instinctive form builder tool or by customizing existing templates, even technical novices can create online forms. What’s more, the intranet will make sure that the form is automatically routed to the appropriate staff member for action.

Improved internal communications

Even if you’re a sole practitioner with just one or two support staff, communications can still be an issue. This is especially true if those support staff are actually working remotely from home.  An employee portal is a great facilitator of communication. The ability to message, instantly share information with colleagues, contribute to blogs and forums as well as a corporate news and events page, allows for seamless communication whether you have 3 or 300 members of staff.

What’s more, the employee portal is fully mobile optimized which means that when it comes to communication, even your remote staff or those that are out and about visiting clients can be kept in the loop.

Better knowledge management

The purpose of accountants is essentially to ensure their clients are compliant with tax and financial regulations. This simple statement, though, masks the sheer amount of knowledge that is required. However, more often than not, this knowledge is in the heads of individual staff members, and knowledge transfer and sharing within an accountancy firm can be an issue.

The employee portal offers help with these familiar issues, too. An employee directory is a great way to showcase the knowledge and expertise that individual staff members have. Staff directories with a short biography, including subject knowledge and areas of interest, will enable employees to quickly locate the right person with the relevant expertise. So if a client has a specific query on tax obligations, then they can immediately be put in contact with a staff member who can deal with that query. Likewise, if an employee requires support on a complex or difficult issue, then help is readily at hand with the staff directory.

Keeping abreast of all the changes in legislation as well as financial rules and regulations can also be a challenge for accounting firms. The employee portal acts as a central repository for all the accumulated corporate knowledge. Rather than having to consult multiple websites or external databases, all the relevant rules and regulations will be held on the employee portal. Your employees can be confident that they are accessing the very latest information, thereby eliminating the possibility for embarrassing or expensive human error.

What’s more, the employee portal offers e-learning and staff training and development opportunities. This could take many forms from videos to wikis and webinars. In addition, staff will be able to complete the training at a time that suits them and can even do so remotely. And providing such flexibility for fee earners in particular is a great bonus.

Employee portals make a difference

Quite simply, an employee portal will streamline the running of your practice, giving you more transparency and a better overview of workflow and performance. This means that you’ll have more time to spend on adding value to your clients. And it will help you to maintain that all-important competitive advantage in challenging times.

If you want to find out more about employee portals for accountants, then get in touch with the friendly team at MyHub for an informal discussion on the possibilities.

NOTE: This guest article was provided by MyHub Intranet and is used with permission.

Startup Story: Helping Clients Feel Comfortable In Their Own Skin

For two decades, entrepreneur Kim Weiler struggled with the common skin condition known as psoriasis. She finally found a solution that helps her manage it very well. So, she decided to take the leap of faith into setting up a small business to share her knowledge with others.

Healing My Skin, LLC was officially born in July 2015 in New York City. She started e-mailing with people internationally a few years ago, but now with a growing demand, she is available for consultations via phone and Skype. This saves on travel time and gets her knowledge out worldwide.

The entrepreneur describes her role in the venture and what her aspirations are as she continues to grow.

“I am an integrative nutrition health coach,” she says. “I specialize in helping people with skin diseases. I’ve combined nutrition and self-love to heal my own psoriasis, so I am teaching others how to use those strategies to improve their own lives.”

She meets with clients one-on-one to give personalized advice, but will be holding workshops soon. Her goal is to reach as many people as quickly as possible. She is writing a book to share her personal journey and to give advice on how to help people heal more quickly.

“My goal is to create an organization for people struggling with skin disorders. I want to help them learn the best ways to reduce their conditions without always choosing potentially toxic pharmaceuticals first. I want to educate them, provide choices and alternatives, and help them lead healthier and happier lives.”

Nutrition and self-love are the cornerstones of the coaching services Weiler offers through Healing My Skin, LLC.

“It amazes me how food is our medicine, and so many people still don’t realize this,” she explains. “I’m all about bio-individuality with regard to nutrition. Overall, I recommend eating whole foods such as fruits and vegetables and staying away from processed foods. You just have to be conscious of what you’re putting in your shopping cart. Caffeine, alcohol, sugar, gluten, dairy, and red meat have been shown to affect the skin, so I’d suggest avoiding them.

The other part of her coaching involves helping others believe in themselves to make positive changes in their day-to-day lives.

“Self-love is also a huge part of my program. You have to have healthy relationships with loved ones, a career that you find rewarding, and hobbies that bring you joy. Also, implementing a regular exercise and spiritual routine will not only help you heal more quickly, but it will force you to lead a balanced life.

How Self-Employment Leads to Greater Enjoyment

Weiler explains what the true reward is that she receives from running her startup venture.

“I love helping people so much. Watching them slowly heal and gain the confidence they need is incredibly rewarding.”

She is part of a large online community of psoriasis sufferers and is now in touch with people from various countries around the world.

In addition to her new business, she’s had a long career working in all facets of the TV and film industries. She has worked behind the scenes for legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese, along with a host of other big name producers and directors. A quick glimpse of her production and acting credits can be viewed here.

She looks forward to helping others who struggle with skin conditions. In her words, whether you are in front of one person or thousands, feeling good about yourself and all human imperfections is key to living a fulfilling life.

Tackling Small Business Competition

From Weiler’s vantage point, her industry is anything but exempt from competition with so many nutritionists and health coaches flooding the market. Fortunately, she knows how to separate her small business from others.

“I really speak from the heart,” she says. “I think I am so relatable because I have dealt with a skin condition myself and understand the pain and suffering it can cause. The self-love aspect is also different from other companies because I really stress this – and teach clients about it – so they can improve their lives in all possible ways.”

As for the demographics of her clients, she is willing to lend a helping hand to men and women of all ages.

“I will help anyone,” she confides.

How to Promote a Small Business

Weiler has relied on the “information superhighway” to spread the word about Healing My Skin, LLC. Her company’s website is www.healingmyskin.com. She has company pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and a blog.

Like fellow first-time entrepreneurs, Weiler admits she has encountered a few challenges in the initial stages of her business.

“I have had two big challenges. The first has been finding the right people to help me with the technical side of things. I’m so much more of a creative thinker. It has also been tough finding time to do everything I want to do with this business. I want to do it all, but I just can’t. I could read Entrepreneurship for Dummies, but until you actually start doing this, you have no idea how much work is involved.”

Tips for Startup Success

She offers some advice for anyone looking into starting a business.

“You have to find the right balance with your time. My new motto is, ‘Time is on my side.’ I say it’s okay to be a little selfish when setting up a business because you have to do what you love. You also have to learn to say ‘no’ to people at times.”

1-800Accountant Client Review

Weiler is a client of 1-800Accountant and says she has received fantastic small business accounting services from the nationwide firm.

“I am so thrilled to be working with 1-800Accountant,” she enthuses. “My accountant is amazing and has been such a big help. I would never attempt to do my own taxes. You should leave it to a professional accountant who knows the drill.”

11 Intranet Solution Tips for Bosses Who Aren’t Tech Savvy

(Paid) Public speakerMany small business owners are great at what they do, but managing technology simply isn’t their strong suit. If this is a problem that sounds familiar to you, don’t worry! There’s an intranet solution that will allow you to improve internal communications, increase employee engagement, and make it easier for your employees to access important documents without requiring a new degree in intranet management. In fact, getting your intranet up and running may be easier than you think! By following a few simple tips, you can use the skills you already have to develop an intranet that will provide immeasurable benefit for your company.

Work from a template. Many cloud-based intranet providers like MyHub Intranet Solutions provide a template that’s easy for you to customize based on the unique needs of your business. You don’t need a custom intranet solution to put together an intranet that will provide for all your needs. In many cases, a cloud-based intranet will run much more smoothly than one that you’ve constructed on your own, making it significantly easier for your business.

Keep it simple. You’ve seen intranet designs that are filled with complex features. While they may work for some companies, that doesn’t have to be the solution you choose for yours! Instead, start with the minimum features you think will be necessary to meet your company’s needs. You can always go back and add features later.

Test before you choose. If you’re working with an intranet provider that won’t allow you to do a trial run of your intranet software before you decide that it’s ready to deploy to the company as a whole, it probably isn’t the right intranet solution for your company. You’ll want to go through several testing phases before you settle on the intranet solution that works best for you. Testing might include:

  • Personal testing, where you try out the system to make sure you understand it and that it fits the needs you envisioned;
  • Testing by the individuals who will be most affected by the intranet, specifically those who will be expected to add content; and
  • Testing by members of various departments within our organization who will be expected to use the intranet on a regular basis.

The testing process will help you determine what changes need to be made before you deploy the intranet to your entire company. This is a critical step in the process. Don’t skip over it or assume that “everything will be fine.” You want to take the time to fix any glitches before you deploy the intranet to your company as a whole.

Choose a cloud provider that offers plenty of support. There are no stupid questions, especially when you’re struggling to get a system up and running. There are, however, plenty of providers who will allow your questions to go unanswered. Find an intranet provider who is willing to handle the big tech support issues, answer the small tech support questions, and provide an intranet solution that will keep your business running smoothly.

Mobile access matters. Yes, you’re keeping it simple. Yes, mobile access adds a level of complexity: another platform you’ll have to test before you’re sure that your system is ready for deployment. Mobile access, however, is critical for many intranet users. If you have employees who occasionally work from home, especially if it’s after-hours, they need to be able to access that critical information from their devices. If you have employees who are regularly on the go, working anywhere but in the office, mobile accessibility is even more critical.

Poll your employees. Find a way to discover what your employees want the most out of their intranet. Each department may have a different view of what is “critical” information. For example, HR might want to make it easier for employees to access information about their insurance policies or their paid time off, while your sales department might want to make a particular form easy to download, fill out, and print off.

Describe your idea of success. Like anything within your business, you aren’t putting all this time and effort into your intranet solution just for the sake of doing it. You want a solution that is going to accomplish something within your business. Decide well before deployment what your idea of success is going to look like. Are you hoping to streamline work processes? Make it easier for your employees to communicate about shared projects? Try to find a way to quantify that success so that you can measure it over time and adjust your intranet accordingly.

Maintain your intranet solution regularly. Check your links to make sure they aren’t broken and that they still direct to the place you want them to go. Remove old copies of documents and irrelevant resources that are no longer useful to your employees. This will help keep your pages looking cleaner and make it easier for your employees to access the information they’re looking for. You should also be sure that you’re keeping everything up to date and that your intranet solution is still working for all of your employees. Remove or change features that aren’t working according to plan, offer new features as they’re needed, and don’t be afraid to do something new.

Double check your search functionality. Your search function is one of the most important parts of your intranet solution. It’s the way your employees will access information that they don’t know how to find and, in many cases, the easiest way for mobile users to get to the page they’re seeking. If your search function isn’t working efficiently, your intranet isn’t working as well as it could be for your company. Be sure that you perform your checks from a variety of devices to ensure that it works equally well for both mobile and desktop users.

Your intranet solution needs to be intuitive. If you can’t figure it out, your employees probably can’t, either. Keep the design and layout as intuitive as possible. Be sure to poll various individuals to make sure that they are able to easily locate the information they need, from using the forums to navigating the homepage. The more intuitive your design, the greater the likelihood that your users will utilize the intranet the way you intend.

Remain open to feedback. Even if you aren’t tech savvy, chances are, you have employees who are. Be open to feedback throughout the intranet design process. You want an intranet solution that works equally well for every member of your company. That means listening to what they have to say and implementing their suggestions whenever possible. You don’t have to listen to every piece of advice you’re offered, but if you’re hearing the same comment or complaint from multiple different sources, it might be worth making some changes to reflect it.

If you’re ready to find a cloud-based intranet provider that offers the templates you’ll need to develop an intranet solution that will work for your company, contact us! We’ll walk you through the process, help you choose the features you need, and provide the support you need to help your project succeed long-term. There’s an intranet solution that will work for you, and our goal is to help you develop it.

NOTE: This article was provided by MyHub Intranet Solutions and has been published with permission.

Do You Owe Business Taxes to the IRS in September?

Business taxes and personal taxes are similar in some ways. But one major difference revolves around estimated tax payments to the IRS throughout the year.

When Are Estimated Taxes Due?

In general, small business owners and those who earn self-employment income are on the hook for paying estimated taxes. While you may be able to make these payments on an annual basis, they are traditionally due to Uncle Sam four times per year. The deadlines for estimated taxes fall on January 15th, April 15th, June 15th, and September 15th.

The September deadline is quickly approaching. This particular due date is for estimated tax payments for the third quarter of 2015, covering the beginning of June through the end of August.

Do I Owe Estimated Taxes?

The concept of estimated taxes harkens back to a keyword in this term – estimated. These estimated taxes are levied on small business owners, 1099 independent contract workers, and others who do not have taxes withheld from the income they earn. For that reason, these tax payments made to the IRS are more of an estimation of what a taxpayer would owe rather than a precise amount that would otherwise be withheld from a W-2 paycheck.

The basic group of taxpayers who owe estimated taxes includes those who have income outside of wages or salaries. This includes Schedule C self-employment income, as well as earnings from capital gains, interest, and dividends.

How Do I Make Estimated Tax Payments?

In order to file and pay estimated taxes on a quarterly basis, Form 1040-ES must be submitted to the IRS by each estimated tax deadline. Of course, any money you owe must also be included when filing this tax form.

If you owe estimated taxes this month, they should be in to the IRS on time. Otherwise, you may be required to pay a larger amount when April 15th rolls around. You could also be on the hook for late payment penalties. There are some options on making these quarterly payments all at once every year, but be sure to find out if such options would work for you, or if it makes more sense to pay them each quarter.

To handle your business taxes and other accounting needs, turn to the tax pros at 1-800Accountant. Call 1-800-222-6868 or check out www.1800accountant.com for details.

5 Tips on Running a Successful Franchise Business

Taking the plunge into your own business venture can be scary – even more than the best haunted house on Halloween night. But if you find an established brand that offers small business owners the opportunity to open a franchise under its name, a little bit of work has already been done for you from a branding standpoint. However, this doesn’t mean it’s that much easier to succeed.

So in honor of Franchise Appreciation Day this week, consider these 6 tips on running a franchise business that has a good chance of prospering in the future:

1. Thoroughly research the franchiser.

Before actually launching a new franchise business in your town, conduct thorough research on the business with which you plan to become a franchisee. This business is commonly called a franchiser. Determine the biggest selling points of the franchiser’s products or services. Learn about any current locations that are already open – and how successful those franchises have been. Get to know the top dog or CEO well, and get an in-depth lowdown on his or her plans for the company. The last thing you’d want to do is get into a bad situation, so do all possible research on your part to ensure you are diving headfirst into a desirable business environment.

2. Lean on your franchiser for support.

Many entrepreneurs and small business owners choose the franchise route because a business model is already in place for them and has been shown to work. With that said, don’t hesitate to lean on your franchiser for any support you need. That’s why they are there – and why they want others to open up shops like their original one.

Take advantage of all the resources provided by your franchiser. These may include pre-opening training courses, financing, technical support, marketing, and franchise consulting. These forms of support are not always available to entrepreneurs who start ventures themselves, so utilize them to the fullest extent.

3. Make networking a priority.

Regardless of your industry, franchise business owners should make every effort to be involved in networking. Join your city’s chamber of commerce, which should be an ardent supporter of all local businesses. Network with other entrepreneurs in your local area and industry. Make it a point to find other franchisees out there so you can get the scoop from them on how they’ve succeeded under an established company name. You may not feel comfortable talking with competitors, but there are so many business-minded professionals around you who can give you some tips and tricks for your franchise.

4. Ensure your business taxes and finances are in good working order.

No matter what type of business you operate, it’s critical to keep close tabs on your business taxes and finances. Make sure you file your corporate return on time if you own such an entity. Don’t forget about estimated tax payments, either. Finally, IRS business tax deductions can help reduce your business tax liability considerably. These include deducting startup costs, the vehicle deduction, the home office deduction, and the meals and entertainment deduction.

If a franchise business must pay royalties to a franchiser based on sales, these franchise fees should be deductible on your tax return. However, franchisees generally cannot write off initial franchise fees that are paid to become the franchisee of a business.

As for business finances, franchisers often require payments every month or quarter in the form of a specific percentage of gross revenue earned by the franchisee. Be sure to make these regular payments on time, and always give up the requested amount each time that you signed off on when setting up your franchise business. In addition, maintain solid bookkeeping and payroll records.

5. Remember that it’s all about the customer.

While the phrase “The customer is always right” applies in most scenarios, the philosophy that customers are the backbone of any business is 100% on point. This is why running a successful franchise involves taking good care of your customers. Getting repeat customers and referrals from those who like what you offer can serve as an integral source of revenue for your franchise. Make sure you handle all customer requests swiftly, and be sure all of your employees or contractors are trained to do the same since they may deal with customers more directly.

If you’re just an entrepreneur, or if you’re one of the millions of established small business owners out there, turn to 1-800Accountant for all of your business tax needs to ensure you stay compliant with the IRS. Call 1-800-222-6868 or check out the “Services” page on www.1800accountant.com.

Now We’re Talking: Tax Tips for Public Speakers

Public speaker

Photo credit: 123rf.com

Do you run your mouth – but in a professional way as a public speaker?

If so, we’d like to recognize all those who spread positive messages with the spoken word in honor of Professional Speakers Day. These tax tips for public speakers can save you money:

Consider establishing a formal business entity.

If your public speaking work is done under a sole proprietorship, consider setting up a formal business entity like an LLC, an S corp, or a C corp. Not only will this give you added credibility, but also it will open the door to more IRS tax savings. Plus, it can help you separate your personal and business finances and activities.

Don’t forget about estimated taxes.

You must file quarterly estimated taxes, whether your public speaking work is conducted as a 1099 independent contractor or is done under a formal business like an LLC, S corporation, or C corporation. Estimated tax deadlines are January 15th, April 15th, June 15th, and September 15th.

Carefully document the locations of your speaking engagements.

Keep close tabs on exactly where you are doing business as a public speaker. Traveling to different cities, states, and even countries can be a significant part of being a public speaker who talks to a variety of groups. In these cases, you might be on the hook for filing additional state income tax returns based on where you earn income as a speaker each year. If you travel abroad, there could be unique income tax requirements as well.

Save your receipts.

You might not have a huge mound of receipts piling up in your closet as a public speaker. But if you get receipts for any business expenses you incur to conduct your trade, be sure to document and save all of them. Receipts help small business owners provide to the IRS that they’re indeed eligible for business tax deductions on relevant expenses.

Use the vehicle deduction

Mileage for driving to speaking engagements can be one of the top expenses for public speakers who frequently travel by car.

Maintain a mileage log for your speaking-related business trips to fully document this information. You can claim either mileage (57.5 cents per mile) or actual expenses (gas, tolls, insurance, maintenance, etc.) as a write-off on your income tax return.

Claim other travel deductions.

Many professional speakers travel regionally, nationally, or even abroad. These trips can certainly take a bite out of your budget. You can deduct airfare, lodging, rental cars, cab fares, and any other expenses related to traveling in order to conduct your trade as a public speaker.

Claim any additional tax deductions for public speakers.

As a self-employed public speaker, you can write off a number of business expenses when filing your taxes. These include

  •  Office supplies, i.e. pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, scissors, stamps, paperclips
  • Equipment, i.e. desktop computers, laptops, tablets, cell phones, land lines, printers, fax machines, copy machines
  • Rent and utilities of a separate office space
  • Home office expenses, including power, water, Internet access, home phone service for business purposes
  • Meals and entertainment, i.e. restaurant bills, sporting events (only 50% deductible – and only when business is discussed before, during, or right after the meal or event)
  • Subscriptions to relevant publications for public speakers, i.e. magazines, journals, newsletters, online websites
  • Fees for accounting, legal, and other professional service providers
  • Marketing/advertising expenses

Handle “miscellaneous deductions” with care.

Avoid listing a significant amount of expenses under “miscellaneous deductions” on your income tax return. This could be a red flag that you do not have the proper documentation on file to prove these write-offs to the IRS.

more tax tips for public speakers – and for all other professions – by teaming up with the business accounting professionals at 1-800Accountant. Call 1-800-222-6868 or visit www.1800accountant.com.