Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 09:41

By Ellen Gomes, Manager- Social Media, Bill.com

If you know a little bit about Bill.com and what it does, you may have heard that Bill.com syncs with Quickbooks. It’s totally true. In fact, we sync with Quickbooks Windows even if the program or your company file are stored remotely-- which might have been something you were worried about. But it’s okay, because we’ve got your back. If your Quickbooks is stored somewhere in the cloud or remotely, we’ll get you ready to go in no time.  You can still get going with Bill.com in a few simple steps.

Remote Sync with Quickbooks Desktop

To get started, you'll need to locate where your QuickBooks Windows program lives, as installation instructions will vary depending on its location - is it on your machine, a server in your office, or hosted by a cloud provider? If it's on a server, or in the cloud, you'll need to enlist your IT person, or contact your cloud provider, to get it installed - DIY is not recommended, as the process is pretty technical.

Once the Bill.com Sync Dashboard is installed, you're only a few steps away from your first sync! 

  1. Close out of QuickBooks Windows, and the Sync Dashboard
  2. Open the Sync Dashboard
  3. Open QuickBooks Windows and open the company file you'd like to sync with. 
  4. Click Next in the Sync Dashboard - now that your QuickBooks file is open, the Sync Dashboard will automatically determine the location of the file. 
  5. Visually confirm the location is correct (try not to click Browse - you might unintentionally select the wrong company file, or a backup file)
  6. Click Next - you will see a security certificate. 
  7. Click Yes to finish the sync setup

Now, perform your first sync by selecting the Sync Profile in the Sync Dashboard, and clicking Sync. 

It should only take about 10 minutes to get the sync set up. If you're ready to get started, we're available to help get you up and running

For more information about the sync, including setup instructions, check out our Answer: QuickBooks for Windows Sync Setup - Overview 

Categories:
Friday, May 23, 2014 - 09:48

 

By Ellen Gomes, Manager- Social Media, Bill.com

SMB business owners know that when they accept payment online with a credit card, they’re always charged a transaction fee for credit card processing.  This fee is usually 2.9% of the total cost of the product sold plus $0.30 a transaction.

If a business invoices a customer for products or services that cost $1,000, the transaction fee is $29.30.  This can quickly increase as products and services become more expensive.  If the invoice is for $10,000, that transaction fee balloons to $290.30.  Can you reduce this fee?  

Avoid Credit Card Processing Fees

Yes, there are cheaper options for B2B businesses.  Bill.com has level 3 online credit card transaction rates, the lowest possible fees.  This offers most businesses a cheaper way to receive money from credit card payments.  Businesses have saved thousands of dollars in merchant fees by taking advantage of our level 3 online credit card transaction rates.   Businesses can even accept credit card payments online through their own branded portal using Bill.com  Can you get even more savings?

Yes.  If you move from credit card transactions to Automated Clearing House (ACH) ePayment, you can do much better.   ACH is based on a flat fee, instead of a percentage.  It is much cheaper than a credit card, especially for larger amounts.  In addition to the hard cost savings of lower transaction fees,  Bill.com can also reduce accounting labor costs by making the process of accepting money through ACH as efficient as possible.  By making ACH easy, we’re finding that businesses are moving more and more of their transactions to ACH over time.

When do you send out invoices by postal mail?  When do you send out electronic invoices and when do you choose to accept online payment by credit card?

Your decision will affect profits.  It comes down to a balance of scale and labor costs.  An analysis of the process of how an SMB receives money could improve profits for your business.

Before setting up an online credit card option to accept payment for your company, it’s good to do a profit forecast model and assess how the system will affect your overall company profitability.  Small changes to transaction fees can add up to significant savings, especially for larger transactions.  Accounting labor costs can also be reduced by using Bill.com to streamline workflows. 

If you have any questions or would like advice, please contact us at entrepreneur@bill.com

Categories:
Monday, May 19, 2014 - 10:24

By Julie Lubetkin, VP of Strategic Partners

Think about the technology your accounting or bookkeeping firm uses. More than likely, your technology ecosphere consists of several components that you’ve selected due to their individual merits. For example, you might have Intuit for your tax or finance software, a different program to hold contact information and notes, and yet another to handle your clients’ e-commerce transactions.

This idea of strategically splitting up sections of an overall business management system into discrete parts is what Doug Sleeter, founder and president of The Sleeter Group, calls “chunkification.” It allows you to benefit from multiple features that suit your operating needs – elements that an “all-in-one” platform may not offer or handle as adeptly. 

A big focus of chunkification in the accounting world is not only to be able to pick and choose the features you feel work best for your needs, but also to attain the highest level of collaboration, transparency, speed, and integration to take you one step closer to that beautiful “zero entry” world. Imagine a world where the connections between your technology chunks are so tightly woven together via the Internet that you no longer have to do individual updates within systems or duplicate data entry. Not only are inefficient practices eliminated, but you as the trusted financial advisor will have greater insight into your clients overall strategy and performance. 

But you have to choose and evaluate your chunks carefully. Not every software offering is a good fit for your practice or for your clients. 

One good opportunity is a “chunk” that suffers from an overkill of manual processes and inefficiency: bill payments. Bill payments can devour large amounts of time on repetitive and administrative activities such as contract review, approvals, follow-up, check runs, adjustments, and mailing. 

Wouldn’t your clients appreciate the adoption of a new and ideal “chunk” of technology that can take this task off of their hands? Wouldn’t you appreciate a new addition to your technology that can not only handle bill pay but automate it so well that your time is always spent productively instead of on administrative tasks? And what if this “chunk” helped to provide a big picture view into operations through collaboration, integration, and transparency? 

Join Doug Sleeter of The Sleeter Group and Jami Blackburn of Bill.com for Chunkification 101: Bill Pay with Bill.com, a webinar that will drill down into how to utilize cloud technology and online bill pay to reach new markets, make more money, and build stronger relationships with your clients. The webinar, scheduled for May 22nd at 11 a.m. PT, will include information on:

  • The bill pay business opportunity
  • Benefits of cloud-based bill pay services with Bill.com including a demonstration
  • How to identify and select target clients
  • How to effectively sell outsourced bookkeeping and bill pay to clients.

The webinar will conclude with a live Q&A with Doug Sleeter so be sure to BYOQ (bring your own questions)! 

Register now for Chunkification 101: Bill Pay with Bill.com. 

 

 

Categories:
Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - 12:58

By Julie Lubetkin, VP of Strategic Partners

This article orginally ran in Accounting Technology on May 12, 2014.

Are your clients struggling with in-house, paper-based bookkeeping? If you do not know or have not asked, you could be missing a great opportunity to expand your practice as well as strengthen your quality of client services.

Oftentimes, small and medium-size businesses may not be aware of just how much time and money go into handling their own bookkeeping. Paper-based bookkeeping is traditionally considered a high-labor and time-intensive activity, and most business owners have not fully tracked its impact on their company’s resources. Outsourcing bookkeeping can yield high-priority benefits for your clients for accounts payable, accounts receivable and cash flow management—especially when you introduce them to cloud-based technology.

However, let’s take one step back. Encouraging your clients to outsource their bookkeeping to your cloud-based environment not only helps them but also offers your accounting firm multiple benefits. Adding a new practice to your firm allows you to bring in more money. It also sets your firm apart with diversified services while allowing you to retain and grow existing client relationships. Finally, it positions your firm as a true technology leader that can introduce new important technologies that help clients gain greater insight into their business performance.

Sell Your Clients on Outsourced Bookkeeping

With the benefits evident for both your firm and your firm’s clients, here are three ways you can help clients migrate to outsourced bookkeeping.

1.    Address the Challenges

When business owners consider the numerous steps involved with in-house bookkeeping, the time constraints and labor requirements are somewhat staggering. Issuing and reconciling bills can mean sorting through files (or documents to be filed) for contracts and relevant information. Paper-based invoicing, which depends on printing and stuffing and adding postage to envelopes, can drag an accounts receivable process into long windows of time. Even check approval involves multiple steps from requesting approval on payment to check runs and beyond. The entire process is absolutely littered with administration-heavy tasks that eat up valuable time that could be focused on higher-yield activities.

Not only is bookkeeping a time stealer, but the costs around it can be oppressive. One study estimates that the average cost to pay a single bill across an organization is $92*. This takes into account everything from labor to postage. How many bills do your clients pay? Based on this number, what is it costing their businesses to keep this process in-house?

There are ROI calculators that can show clients exactly what level of savings they can attain by utilizing business-specific requirements such as wages, the number of checks processed each month, ACH transactions per month, the number of bank accounts, and payment runs per month. After analyzing the information, they can calculate current costs and how much can be saved with outsourcing. A useful tool such as this can be invaluable in pointing out the constraints around bookkeeping and open the door for a conversation about outsourcing.

2.    Assess the Opportunities

Now that you have your clients’ attention about the challenges of in-house bookkeeping, it is time to help them understand the opportunities that exist when bookkeeping is outsourced. And these advantages yield the largest benefits when your clients not only outsource bookkeeping but move from paper-based bookkeeping to cloud-based bookkeeping.

Simply by eliminating or reducing paper, a plethora of opportunities evolve including streamlining processes, promoting collaboration, enabling mobile access, and reducing costs.

For accounts payable, your clients will have the ability to go completely paperless and introduce automation. They can upload bills and paperwork to a centralized, cloud-based repository. By storing contracts and bills in the cloud, they can eliminate the time wasted in digging through filing cabinets. Additional financial information—such as due dates, cash flow projections, and the tracking of approvals and bill payment based on the company’s schedule—will also be stored and accessible online. Automated notices will remind them of when a payment is due. They will also have immediate insight into the approval status of bills.

For accounts receivable, invoices will now be mailed or emailed on a company’s behalf. All of the sudden, the hassles and costs of printing, postage, and mailing are eliminated and replaced with a few approving clicks. Migrating payments online will give clients more options including receiving payments online, via credit card, through PayPal or directly from a bank – meaning no more filing and trips to the bank. Automatic due date reminders are delivered straight to vendors. Most important, these process enhancements will allow clients to collect receivables two to three times faster than with paper-based processes.

Share these real opportunities with your clients and it will help pave the way to onboarding new revenue-yielding services.

3.    Accomplish Results

Congratulations! Your clients have agreed to outsource bookkeeping to your accounting firm. But, as with any “win,” the real value is evident with careful follow-up and measurement. Encourage your clients to evaluate the results of moving to outsourced, cloud-based bookkeeping by the following measures:

  • Time and cost savings: How much time and money have clients saved by outsourcing bookkeeping and going paperless? Has the timesaving allowed them the bandwidth to focus on other activities? Help each one take a long look at the process before the cloud and after. The results will be obvious and impactful.
  • Convenience: After migrating to the cloud, ask your clients what improvements they have seen in terms of convenience. For example, by adopting the cloud, conveniences such as mobile access, collaboration, and automated workflows will certainly be apparent.
  • Important financial insight: Has outsourcing bookkeeping and eliminating paper provided a more comprehensive picture of the company’s cash flow and overall financial health? Cloud-based features such as a collaborative, centralized hub of information can yield important high-level and real-time reporting on such issues as cash flow, business performance month-to-month, strengths and weaknesses.

By educating your clients on the challenges of in-house, paper-based bookkeeping and the opportunities provided by cloud-based technology, you will inevitably help them save not only time but money. And those are two very important components of successful growth. More important, you are positioning yourself as a technology leader and building strong ties with clients. By working with clients to outsource their bookkeeping, you are not only reinforcing the strength of their businesses, but also your own.

 

* Source: 2010 Purchasing Card Benchmark Survey, RPMG Research

Categories:
Friday, May 9, 2014 - 11:58

By Jacqueline Hendy, VP of Human Resources

The Bill.com office has been abuzz with our recent award from the San Francisco Business Times as Best Place to Work 2014. We are proud of our fun, supportive, and collaborative culture. Our culture is instrumental in how we share ideas, develop innovative features, and deliver effective customer support to you. 

As Bill.com grows, we want our collaborative environment to continue to thrive. The amazing success of our business over the last year, has created a good problem to have.  We have outgrown our current space on Ash Street! We will soon be moving to a bigger facility in Palo Alto.  

As of June 9, 2014, our contact information will be:

1810 Embarcadero Road

Palo Alto, CA  94303

650.621.7700

877.345.2455

Our official moving day is Friday, June 6. Our new office opens formally on Monday, June 9. During that short period of time, there will be no disruption to the Bill.com service. You can continue to use the application to manage your business, pay bills, and receive payments from customers. Our Support website will continue to be available 24 hours every day, and our Customer Support representatives will be available live during our regular support hours, Monday through Friday, 5am to 6pm PDT.

This is the most significant move to date for Bill.com, and we are really excited. We will once again have the space to meet, think, and be creative -- which will help us continue to deliver the award winning products and support you expect.

We will post pictures of our new office after the move is complete! 

P.S. Here's a little peek at a couple of places we've called H.Q. along the way.

 Previous HQ        Previous HQ

 

Categories:
Wednesday, May 7, 2014 - 12:55

By Julie Lubetkin, VP of Strategic Partners

This article orginally ran in Accounting Web on May 6, 2014.

It used to be that for accounting firms of all sizes, keeping clients was a top priority. However, the 2013 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey shows that accounting firms have moved beyond client retention to focus on bringing in new clients. Welcome to a new level of competition in the accounting world. Now, more than ever, it is imperative to ensure that your firm stands out from the crowd. In this article, we'll explore two critical steps you can take to differentiate your accounting firm.

Do Some Research
Never underestimate the power of knowledge. You may think you know all there is to know, but it is best to make sure.

Start by researching the composition of your city. Is it a start-up hot spot or an oasis for Fortune 500 corporations? Examine which industries are the most strongly represented in your area and if you can respond to their unique needs. For example, Silicon Valley is known for technology, while Houston is known for energy. Building strong expertise, including knowledge of pain points unique to these industries, can make your firm far more attractive than a competitor's.

Homework:

  • Visit city or metropolitan government websites for information on your area's composition and trends.
  • Locate surveys or studies focused on key industries that might reveal insight—see what the U.S. Census Bureau has on your area.
  • Find someone who represents your target client and use quality one-on-one time to pinpoint that person’s needs and how a firm might respond to him or her.

Next, identify and research your competition. If you are not familiar with the competition, now is the time to figure out exactly what you are up against. Who are the main players in your area or your field? What is making them successful?

Homework:

  • The Internet is your friend. Use a search engine to identify competitors and visit their websites and social media channels to discover what they do and how they do it. Read case studies or attend presentations or webinars they participate in. Pay particular attention to anything that speaks to their level of client service and the tools they use.
  • Use this knowledge to offer your clients something your competitor cannot.

Build Your Expertise
What is the one thing other firms cannot give their clients? You. Take the time to establish and maintain your standing as an expert in your field. Speak at organizations that your prospects respect, publish educational articles, or start a blog. Pitch yourself to media as an expert resource who can address timely topics. Consider partnerships with other organizations or vendors that can support these endeavors. For example, bookkeepers can get referrals from CPA firms and vice versa. Finally, do not be afraid to evolve and move into a more specialized accounting field.

Homework:

  • Research ideal partner organizations or publications.
  • Proactively approach potential partners to explore joint thought-leadership and speaking opportunities.

Taking the time and effort to cultivate these key areas of differentiation can create a strong sustainable advantage for your accounting firm—one that promotes growth, helps your client base grow, enhances client loyalty, and builds a thriving accounting firm. And in this competitive field, every advantage counts. 

 

For more ideas and ways you can differentiate yourself, see our "tip sheet."

Categories:
Monday, May 5, 2014 - 14:28

Geraldine Cruz, Senior Director, Product Marketing

When your business receives an invoice, how do you know you are being billed correctly, or haven’t already paid the bill in the past? Does the person paying the bill consult Procurement to ensure the prices are correct, or the Receiving Department to validate receipt of goods and services? How long does it take to get approvals? After the payment is made, how easily can you access the audit trail and source documents to answer payment questions from a vendor or auditor? 

These scenarios reflect some of the business challenges that payment approval workflow (PAW) solutions are designed to address. A previous Bill.com blog post highlighted even more benefits of these solutions.

PAW solution providers offer a wide array of features and benefits. But what exactly does your business need? 

To answer those questions, you need to know what’s missing, inadequate, or can be improved with your process today. The exercises and questions in this post will help you determine: 

  1. What is your current payment approval process?
  2. What is your ideal approval process?
  3. What do you need in a payment audit trail?
  4. Next Steps in Building a Better Workflow

In conjunction with our webinar on improve your approval process and best practices, this blog post will help you better evaluate the alignment of specific PAW solutions with your needs.

What is Your Current Payment Approval Process?

To establish a baseline of your existing approval and payment process, you should map out how your business processes bills into payments. Figure 1 shows an example payment approval workflow. 

Figure 1. Example Payment Approval Process Map

 

One person may not know all the intricacies of the process. It is a best practice to lay out the process with representative individuals involved in the process and the stakeholders. Questions to help you and your team outline the process are shown in Table 1.  

Table 1. Key Questions for Mapping Your Payment Approval Process

What is Your Ideal Approval Process?

After mapping your process, you can then consider what you would like to change. Identify gaps, missing steps, or inefficiencies in your process map. Append the questions in Table 1 with the words “in the ideal scenario”. The first question would be “In the ideal scenario, what type of would trigger an approval process?’

If you kept approval trails, review representative cases of payment errors and inefficiencies. For example, if payment delays hindered your business, examine the length of time between steps and determine if those are reasonable. Also ask:

  • What gaps or inadequate approval policies make you vulnerable to fraud?
  • Would automation, including mobile capabilities, close the gaps or streamline inefficiencies? 
  • Would a better workflow alter those inefficiencies, and if so, what is preventing your adoption of a better workflow? 
  • If the same group of approvers reviews all payment requests, is that necessary? Or would your business be comfortable instituting fewer or no approvers for bills below a certain amount? 
  • If other business applications rely on the approvals captured in your PAW, would your process be expedited with full integration with the PAW?

Assess payment or approval mistakes — including inadvertent delayed payments, missed payments, and multiple payments — and their sources of the errors. What could have prevented those mistakes? 

  • Would better access to supporting documentation have prevented those mistakes? 
  • Would a different set of approvers have caught and rectified the errors? For example, does your PAW solution restrict you to selecting approvers from only one department, when you really need reviewers from several departments for more comprehensive scrutiny of payment requests?
  • Would automated integration or syncs between your PAW solution and accounting software have prevented the errors?

If you have a PAW solution and are considering a replacement solution, ask yourself:

  • Am I able to implement the workflow I need to run my business effectively?
  • How easily can I configure the solution to my business needs? Can an administrator in my company make those changes, or must an application developer implement them?
  • What combination of capabilities and cost would spur me to purchase a new solution?

If you do not have a PAW solution today and rely on a manual process, your ideal scenario may be automation. What are the critical steps that need to be automated, and what are nice-to-have automated steps? 

What do you need in a payment audit trail?

PAW solutions may offer payment audit trails that can be used for a number of reasons. Your lenders, investors, creditors, shareholders, auditors, and other local, state, and federal agencies may require you to furnish proof of internal controls. Business leaders may want documentation to evaluate and/or improve the effectiveness and efficiencies of your payment process. Identify all the business and regulatory requirements you must fulfill with your PAW solution. 

Next Steps in Building A Better Workflow

We recommend these additional resources as next steps to help you build or refine your payment approval process: 

 

  1. Attend our webinar, Invoice Approval Process Makeover or How to Impress Your Boss, on June 4, will also present practical advice and best practices in leveraging technology to improve your payment process. 
  2. Read our white paper,The Practical Guide to Payment Approval Workflows, which discusses key capabilities offered by PAW solutions, why they are important, and how the workflow engine in Bill.com delivers these capabilites.
  3. Evaluate the fit of Bill.com to your approval policies and payment process through a risk-free, thirty-day trial. Our award-winning Customer Support team will ensure that you optimize you use of Bill.com.
Categories:
Friday, May 2, 2014 - 13:28

By Julie Lubetkin, VP of Strategic Partners

This article orginally ran in Accounting Today on April 29, 2014.

I admit it. I am a control fanatic. And if you’re reading this, you probably are, too.

Control is integral to the work of the accounting professional. It helps negate risk, protect important information, and support conduct consistent with the highest level of professional excellence. However, the flip side of control fanaticism is that it can reinforce overly risk-averse behavior that actually inhibits innovation.

Take, for example, paper.

Walk into an accounting firm and most likely you will see a large amount of paper – bills, files, invoices, receipts and documents. Information exchange, overall, is paper-based. While paper reliance has been the standard in the industry, it can lead to expenses you might not expect. For example, the average cost to pay a single bill across an organization is $92*.  

Paper is often the culprit for inordinate costs, fraud and inefficiencies, but less-than-adequate technology is also to blame. For example, software that needs frequent updates and relicensing and allows access only from select PCs or laptops can often compound and not alleviate problems. Inadequate integration in technology also leads to duplication of efforts and data entry – which increases the possibility for errors. And as technology continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, even hardware can pose problems. Some PCs and laptops don’t offer CD-ROM drives. Netbooks and iPads often have minimal or no data ports at all. If your practice depends on CDs or USB drives, you may find that your clients don’t have compatibility with those items or they demand other means of output or collaboration.

Think about how you use technology in your personal life. Perhaps you check emails on your smartphone or tablet or you text a colleague to let her know you are running late. Apps help you quickly gather important information such as the day’s weather, last night’s baseball game score or your bank balance. It’s easy to get the information you need no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Why should your practice not have the same convenience?

Clinging to a paper-based practice or dated technology works at cross-purposes to what you need for your firm and your clients. Even for the greatest of control fanatics, there is no excuse not to keep pace with the lifestyle and requirements of your clients and their businesses. Cloud-based solutions can offer your accounting firm the cutting edge it needs to distinguish itself from competitors, as well as enhance client services.

Welcome to the Cloud

By now, you have heard of the cloud. And by now, you probably have already used it. Popular services such as Amazon, Google and apps exist in the cloud. They are on-demand and always accessible. Cloud-based solutions eliminate the need for on-site hardware in favor of Internet-based “virtual servers” that can scale up or down according to your firm’s storage and operational needs. There is no need to download software or updates to your computers, since that software is hosted in the cloud. All you have to do is log in and you are ready to go. It can also be significantly less expensive than traditional solutions as it eliminates hardware fees, reduces the burden of IT administration, and may have more accessible costs when compared to traditional software licensing.

The bone of contention with cloud-based services for accounting professionals basically comes down to control. Your information – and your clients’ information – is hosted online, not on-site. It is virtual, not paper. This often leads to the perception that there is a lack of control of that information, its security, and your overall business.

However, despite this perception, the cloud actually endows a certified control fanatic with even more control than paper-based or non-cloud technology.

Here’s how:

1.    The cloud allows you to control the security of your files.

While the popular feeling in the accounting world is that you have to sacrifice security when you migrate to a cloud-based solution, nothing could be further from the truth. Most vendors protect your clients’ personal information, tax records and checks to a greater degree than holding onto paper-based files in your office cabinets.

Cloud-based service providers should adhere to the following stringent security standards:

  • Extended Validation (EV) SSL encryption technology  
  • Firewalls that prevent unauthorized electronic access to servers
  • Encryption of sensitive data in transit and rest in the providers’ databases
  • Physical security protocols that include housing production servers in high-security, locked facilities with biometric access controls preventing unauthorized physical access  
  • Annual audits such as the SSAE 16 SOC 1 Type II Audit by a third-party service
  • FDIC-insured payments en route

In addition to these standards, there are a variety of options available to secure your information.

    Restricted Access

It only takes one person accessing a restricted document or information to cause considerable damage. Minimizing “touch points” to highly valuable items such as checks or payment systems that are the backbone of your (and your clients’) finances reduces the risks of fraud or errors.  The cloud allows you to customize the online experience by giving only select individuals permission to access sensitive information. You define who can see what, when they can see it, if they can edit or download it, and how it can be accessed. You can create personalized collaborative sites for each of your clients – sites that only you and they can access. As for the security of the information, cloud services must meet the most stringent levels of compliance for their industry in order to operate, and security is continually reevaluated and reinforced as necessary.

    Business Continuity

Imagine if your office were flooded or suffered from wind damage. What would happen to your paper files? Migrating to the cloud with electronic formats builds an important and fundamental level of control into your business continuity planning. While your paper files may be destroyed in the event of a disaster, your online files – hosted in the cloud – will stay safe, accurate, and accessible.

    Safety from Normal Wear and Tear

With paper, even the safest of storage facilities cannot prevent the degradation of physical files. Over time, ink fades or paper rips, compromising the integrity of your files.

    Non-Reliance on Obsolete Technology

The cloud allows you to access whatever file is hosted, no matter what the format. That is not always the case with on-site electronic storage. For example: How many files do you have in storage that might have important information on floppy discs? Even the widespread acceptance of CD-ROMs is fading as more and more laptops and computers move from CD drives to pure-play online storage.

    Flow of Information and Transparent Reporting

Does your accounting firm have an established services workflow for its clients? Can you easily ascertain where a bill is in the approval process or who has not yet reviewed it? Chances are, if you rely on paper, you do not. Without an established and enforced workflow, information can be inappropriately shared or languish openly on top of someone’s desk. Most cloud-based services allow you to set up automated workflows based on the deliverable and its owner. The service will automatically shepherd the file, bill or invoice to the correct person during each stage of the process. It provides a reminder alert if individuals are not responding within an allotted time. Furthermore, you can easily log in to see exactly where that file is, who else needs to see it, and what steps need to be taken to finalize it.

    Establish Audit and Communication Trails

Cloud-based solutions often offer full audit trails of all transactions. This can allow for easy tax audits, for example, as auditors can be given access to review all transactions firsthand.

    Deter Employee or Outsider Fraud Potential

A typical organization loses 5 percent of its annual revenue to fraud (either internal or external) and 49 percent of these businesses never recover these losses.** Features such as workflows, centralized repositories of information, and the ability to restrict access to certain files reduce the potential for fraud.

2.    The cloud allows you to control where you work.

When you are part of a paper-based organization, you must work where the paper is. However, as the popularity of smartphones, tablets, and home offices grows, more accountants – like their clients – must be able to be flexible about work arrangements. When you move to cloud services, all of your information – files, invoices, notes, and forms – is available online through any mobile device or Internet connection. That means clients will not have to hear, “I can get that to you when I’m back in the office.” Instead, they get the information they need immediately.

3.    The cloud lets you control cost.

Let’s face it: Paper is expensive. It costs a lot to buy it, print it, file it, store it and move it. By eliminating paper, you can save a substantial amount of money that has normally gone toward paper-based expenses.

Moreover, the cloud gives firms of all sizes the opportunity to reduce their capital investment on hardware, software and associated infrastructure. Rather than purchasing technology and product licenses outright, cloud users simply rent them, paying for IT solutions on a subscription basis, benefitting from the provider's economy of scale. That money saved on IT infrastructure and services can be reinvested in other areas of the firm.

4.    The cloud lets you control time.

Maybe you won’t be able to turn back time or time travel, but the cloud can significantly reduce the amount of time you spend working on mundane tasks. As more functions get automated, removing the burden of manual work, you can focus on other value-added tasks, helping to boost overall output. Automated alerts remind you when to process bills and invoices or schedule an electronic payment, which removes the need to create manual reminders or search through paper files to determine due dates.

Moving from a reliance on paper to a reliance on electronic files in a cloud-based environment reduces the “lag” of paper-based operations and adds more efficiency and speed into everyday services. Cloud services such as workflows and online payments can significantly shorten your receivable process and get your money to you more quickly.

The cloud can even convert traditionally low-margin services such as bill pay into feasible and profitable services through the aforementioned workflows, online payments and reminders.

5.    The cloud gives you the ability to control firm growth.

The accounting world is competitive. With new firms launching every day and offering specialized scopes of services, the edge provided by cloud technologies can bring you the needed impetus to accelerate your firm’s growth and revenue. The cloud offers you the opportunity to:

  • Increase collaboration and provide a greater level of responsiveness: This creates more opportunities to cement your relationship with existing clients and incorporate more services into your portfolio to meet their immediate needs and woo prospective clients from other firms. 
  • Identify new areas of growth: With the cloud, you are no longer restrained to conducting business in your local area. Collaborative tools with on-demand access mean your clients can be based on the opposite coast and still receive the high level of client services your firm is known for.
  • Expand your talent pool: By bypassing the reliance on working solely from the office and moving to the cloud, you can acquire additional talent for your firm no matter where those individuals are located. 
  • Advise your client on business performance and trends: The cloud enables you to perform more routine tasks faster, collaboratively work with your clients, and help steer strategic growth.

Paper has served the accounting world well for decades. However, now is the time to innovate and invite new technologies into your practice – such as cloud-based solutions – that can help your firm enhance its level of client service, offer new services, create a strong competitive profile, and increase revenue. Take it from me, a certified control fanatic: You do not have to sacrifice control to innovate.

 

* Source: 2010 Purchasing Card Benchmark Survey, RPMG Research

** Source: Association of Certified Fraud Examiners 2012 ‘Report to the Nations’

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - 12:29

By Julie Lubetkin, VP of Strategic Partners

The other day, a friend’s daughter made sure to share her sweets with me – by leaving a handprint on my new shirt. Like her lollipop, it was bright, big, and especially sticky. 

“No worries,” I thought. “I can wash it out.” 

But her parting gift made me think. Sticky is, basically, a cohesion between two objects. You don’t want clothing to be sticky. However, for an accounting firm, sometimes it pays to be sticky. After all, you want to build a strong relationship with your clients – so strong that they are truly reluctant to leave your firm. 

How can you make your accounting firm stickier? Look for financial services your clients truly need – services that are often time-consuming and labor-intensive and that take business owners’ focus off of the big picture of growing their company and enjoying financial success.

That’s right – if you haven’t already, it is time to onboard bill payment services. 

Bill payment services are notorious for taking up large amounts of time on repetitive and administrative activities such as payment and contract review, follow-up, check runs, and adjustments and mailing. In fact, a recent study showed that 90 percent of back office costs for businesses comes from labor associated with bill payments. Imagine the relief your clients would feel if you could take this off of their hands.

At the same time, you might be asking: “Why would I want to take over bill payment services for my clients?” 

True, the traditional process for bill payment offers a lot of challenges. But now with cloud-based technology, the process is much, much, much easier. And there are real opportunities to make money from this service as well as build stronger relationships with your (relieved) clients. 

The Five Benefits of Cloud-Based Bill Payment Services 

Cloud-based bill payment services (like the ones Bill.com offers) streamline and organize finances into a processed-based system that is secure and available anytime, anywhere. All activities normally associated with bill payment are migrated online and accompanied by automated reminders and workflows as well as enhanced document management and collaboration technologies. 

First, cloud-based bill payment services eliminate many manual processes. You no longer need to enter data by hand. For most services, you can input bills or contracts by scanning, faxing or emailing them. The system will then automate the workflow from reviewer to approver, eliminating time-consuming manual follow-up via email or phone. With its ability to store documents online, it also eliminates the need for visits to the filing room to hunt down contracts or past bills. Even better, you can assign a date for payment and the bill will be automatically paid on that date. 

Second, cloud-based bill payment services should sync with all major accounting software and banks, which saves you time and trouble when balancing books. For example, Bill.com syncs with QuickBooks, Xero, Intacct, NetSuite, and more. Copies of all bills, cancelled checks, contracts, and other documents are also filed online for fast access. 

Third, cloud-based bill payment services can reduce risk. Best practices can involve paying each bill through the provider’s account, which means your business is protected against errors or fraud. (Another plus: Bill.com offers Positive Pay protection which ensures a check cannot be cashed if it has been altered.) 

Fourth, the security provided by cloud-based bill payment services is absolutely comprehensive. This includes roles-based access and detailed audit trails that give you tight controls in addition to encryption, firewalls that prevent unauthorized access, physical security protocols for servers that house data, and FDIC-insured payments en route. 

Finally, cloud-based bill payment service providers should give clients on-demand answers to their queries. Your clients can access your branded, collaborative portal in order to inquire about an invoice, approve a bill or examine a cash flow forecast. All this can happen from any device including PCs, laptops, tablets or smartphones.

Learn how you can make your accounting firm “stickier” by:

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Friday, April 25, 2014 - 08:20

By René Lacerte, Founder & CEO, BIll.com

At Bill.com, we are honored and amazed by all the awards our young company has won. We’ve received more than 40 awards from some of the most prestigious institutions in our market. But none mean more to me than our most recent award—The San Francisco Business Times Best Places to Work 2014.

It is so important because it is completely based on our employees’ input. Our team members took the time to fill out a questionnaire on management efficiency, executive leadership, training, workplace culture, compensation, benefits and general employee satisfaction.  The result is amazing: Bill.com ranked 8th among the 50-100 employees category.

At Bill.com, we feel like we are not co-workers, we are family. We work together to build amazing solutions while we also work together to help make our community a better place. We run together and eat healthy together in a quest for stronger minds and bodies. We celebrate each other’s successes, mourn each other’s losses and help chase each other’s dreams. Bill.com is a great company because it’s a human company. We have the best NetPromoter scores in the industry because the same love and support we show to each other, we show to our customers.

Back in 2006, I had the honor of winning this same award with my previous company, PayCycle.  This second time is just as humbling and fulfilling as the first. I firmly believe that what makes a company great is the people. You can have the best idea in the world but without a team who loves to be together, nothing will ever be achieved.

Bill.com is blessed with both an amazing solution and a passionate team. There is no stopping us, and no limit to the heights we will reach.

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