Take Precautions to Avoid Gift Card Fraud

Gift cards are a convenient way to give your friends and loved ones “just the right thing” at holiday time. They also give thieves an opportunity to make off with your money, according to a public service announcement issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

How can you protect yourself from gift card scams? Here are pointers.

  • Buy directly from reputable stores. If you’re getting a restaurant gift card, stop by the restaurant in person or visit their web site. That goes for airlines and big box stores too.
  • Check reviews of sellers of gift cards in online auctions. There’s a reason someone’s selling the card at a discounted price – it may be stolen or counterfeit. Are you willing to take the risk?
  • Examine the card. Before purchasing a gift card, inspect the front and back for tampering. Some cards have PIN codes that must be exposed before use. Make sure the PIN is still hidden.
  • Register the card. Some issuers let you register the card at the store’s web site. By registering, you’ll be able to check your balance on a regular basis and identify any misuse.

QuickBooks Reminders Prevent Problems

Preserve your relationships with customers, vendors, and others by setting up reminders in QuickBooks.

How many calendars do you maintain? Many businesspeople have more than one. Maybe you use a web-based or desktop application like Google Calendar or Outlook for meetings, task deadlines, travel dates, etc. Your Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) might have another. Perhaps you still have a paper calendar as backup.

But where do you keep track of bills that need to be paid, invoices that have to be sent, inventory items that must be ordered, etc.? Do you include that information in your general business calendar(s) and hope they don’t get lost in the shuffle?

QuickBooks has a better solution. The software contains a dedicated set of tools that automates the process of setting up and displaying reminders. Once you’ve created them, they can be the first thing you see when you open QuickBooks in the morning.

Warning: If you do not launch QuickBooks frequently, consider tracking your critical accounting tasks using a different method.

Getting a Head Start

QuickBooks lets you specify exactly when you want to receive reminders of upcoming activities. To set this up, open the Edit menu, then click Preferences, and then Reminders | Company Preferences.

Note: If you want QuickBooks to display your reminders every time you launch the software, click on the My Preferences tab and make sure that the box in front of Show Reminders List when opening a Company file is checked. If it isn’t, click in the box.

QBC 1115 image 1_zpsbljfajsn

Figure 1: QuickBooks provides personalization tools for your reminders.

As you can see, QuickBooks offers three options for every activity type. It can either display a summary of the tasks that need to be completed, or it can actually list all of them in the Reminders window. And you’ll be able to tell QuickBooks how many days prior to the deadline your reminders should appear. You can also opt not to be reminded.

Making modifications in this window is easy. Just click in the appropriate circle next to each task to indicate your preference, and change any numbers in the Remind Me column to tell QuickBooks when it should start showing the reminder.

If you didn’t indicate that you wanted the Reminders window to open every time you launch QuickBooks, you can always access it by opening the Company menu and selecting Reminders.

Using the List

QBC 1115 image 2_zpsiwxp2fpn.jpg

Figure 2: Reminders in the left column are current, and those on the right are upcoming tasks.

The Reminders list displays items in two columns. Tasks that need to be done on the current day appear on the left (overdue tasks appear in red). The list in the right column consists of upcoming transactions that will need to be processed soon. Each type of activity has a number in parentheses after it; this tells you how many individual tasks are pending. Click on the arrow to see the list, and double-click on any entry to open the actual transaction form.

You can add generic to-do items to either column by clicking on the plus sign in the upper right. These will appear along with your other reminders. If you want to modify anything related to your reminders, click on the gear icon in the upper right. This opens the Preferences window again.

Recurring Reminders

Transactions that repeat on a regular basis (bills, invoices, etc.) can be memorized. If the amount is always the same, create the transaction and enter the amount; if not, just leave that field blank. Click Memorize to open the Memorize Transaction window and click on the button in front of Add to my Reminders List. Open the drop-down list to the right of How Often and select the desired frequency. Make sure that the Next Date is correct. Click OK.

QBC 1115 image 3_zpsumnfety8.jpg

Figure 3: QuickBooks can add memorized transactions to your reminders list.

Reminders can help prevent serious accounting problems such as cash flow irregularities. Let us know if you’re experiencing these. We can help you determine whether poor task management is contributing to your shortfall, or if there are deeper issues that we can work with you to resolve.

Good Communication Keeps Your Customers Happy

As a business owner, you know how much effort goes into attracting new customers. So once you’ve found a new customer, you want to keep that customer as long as possible. Good communication can help. Make your customer feel known, understood, and appreciated at every stage of the relationship – before the sale, while you’re reaching a deal, and after you’ve concluded the sale.

  • Before the sale. Get to know your customer’s needs. In a retail setting good communication means greeting customers by name and learning their preferences. Train your employees to offer help, answer questions readily, and suggest new or alternative products. In other businesses, make regular calls or visits to a prospective customer, even if no sale is imminent. Use the opportunity to build relationships.
  • Making the sale. Honest communication while you’re making a sale can be key to keeping a customer loyal and happy. Be forthright about terms and conditions. Avoid over-promising, as that leads to disappointment down the road.
  • After the sale. Contact customers after the sale. Follow up with a call to ask if they’re satisfied with the purchase. Communication at this point shows customers they’re appreciated, and is a great opportunity to deal with complaints. If there is a problem, communicating well can help resolve dissatisfaction and create a loyal and appreciative customer.

Remember, your customers are buying an experience as well as your product or service. Good communication can make them want to repeat that experience.

How to Help get your Child started in Business

Perhaps you’re thinking of helping one of your children get started in business. Since the failure rate for new businesses is high, you need to do whatever you can to increase your child’s chances of success. That includes considering three M’s: motivation, money, and mentoring.

* Motivation. To succeed, your child must be motivated. He or she may like the idea of self-employment but lose interest when confronted with the realities of planning and preparation.

Before involving yourself, find out how much time, thought, and effort your child has already devoted to the proposed business. If the enterprise is no more than an idea, you can suggest approaches to researching the market and determining the resources, knowledge, and skills that will be needed. However, your input should be limited to guidance and ideas. Your child should do the work.

Once your child has completed the necessary groundwork, and if the project still seems reasonably feasible, you’ll be ready to consider the next steps.

* Money. Whether you’re making a loan or buying an ownership interest, never put up more money than you can comfortably afford to lose. Try not to be the sole source of capital. Risk is part of the business experience, and your child should have some personal assets at stake. Although loans from outside sources may also be part of the mix, they should be limited in order to keep the debt service from becoming overwhelming.

Set limits. Make it clear that you’ll lend or invest a specific amount and no more. You also may wish to set restrictions on the use of the funds within the business.

Put everything in writing. Loans should be supported by signed notes that stipulate repayment terms and require interest at market rates. Investments should be supported by partnership agreements, shareholder agreements, or similar documents that describe operating arrangements, profit and loss sharing, buyout provisions, and closing contingencies.

Don’t forget tax planning. You probably will want to allocate any taxable income to your child, and you certainly will want to be able to write off your loss if the business goes bad. Proper documentation will be paramount, since the IRS closely scrutinizes family transactions.

* Mentoring. Remember that the primary objective is to give your child business experience. Explain the reasons behind each of your requirements, and make it clear that the child must consider your input as a condition of accepting your money. You should offer advice freely, but let your child make most of the business decisions. Mistakes are part of the learning process.

If you’re thinking about helping your child get started in a business, give us a call. We’ll be glad to offer guidelines to fit your particular circumstances.