Income statement for Open Office Spreadsheets!

I have finally gotten around to publishing my income statement from check register for multiple activities in one account in an Open Document Spreadsheet (.ods).  I have made a few improvements from the version I made in Excel, mostly around making the year of the income statement another factor in the equation so that you can record information for more than one year into the check register and pull each year separately by changing the date on the income statement.  I tried to also integrate the pivot table version of the spreadsheet, but I have found that Open Office does not seem to have an equivalent to the getpivotdata() function.  However, the array function seems to work with less latency in Open Office than it did in Excel, except when changing the year on the income statement.

Let me know if you have any comments, questions or suggestions!

Mutiple Activities in One Account

Big Omaha – Keep Business Flexible

The biggest takeaway that I had from the Big Omaha Conference was to keep your business flexible regardless of pressure to bureaucratize, measure, and manage every detail.  Having a vision is a positive way to know you’re making progress and working to a common end, but having a “plan” as used by Jason Fried, implies that you have left yourself no room to be flexible.

The best information you will have is the information available right now and for that reason, a discussed and written plan is always out of date.  If you must have a detailed plan, give yourself the freedom to deviate and create as inspiration is fleeting and must be acted upon quickly.  Don’t let the plan stop you from responding to inspiration.

For instance, a plan that involves long-term commitments to newspaper advertising might best be changed in light of current problems in that industry.  A plan to mow your grass gets changed on a rainy day.  No matter what the original idea, being adaptable is the name of the game and that is where David gets his advantage over Goliath.

There are many others who have been inspired by the Big Omaha Conference and I would like to recap some of their thoughts as well:

George Brooks’ seems surprised that the trip from Kansas City to Omaha was overwhelmingly worthwhile.  It’s cool to see an event like this exceeding expectations across the board.

Chris Rikli was inspired by Gary Vaynerchuk’s passion for people and business and the possibilities of development with YQL (Yahoo Query Language) and impressed by the organization, planning and venue.

Jeff Slobotski reflects on how a humble idea only a few months ago turned into an overwhelming hit with the community and a showcase for the creative and innovative atmosphere that is present in Omaha.

John Meyer recaps the conference and his experience after asking Gary if Wine Library was hiring.

Jenn Bailey recaps some of the best quotes and moments from the speakers at the conference.

Jason Fried took note of Jeffrey’s message about being sincere and accessible.  If you are transparent to your community, you can make big mistakes and be forgiven when you apologize.

Micah Laaker talks up Omaha and how it has been a great place to be, but is now getting some of the recognition it deserves.

Jolie O’Dell gives a very nice conference wrap up.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of what has been written in the wake of the event, but it makes up a good sample of what Big Omaha has meant to participants and oberveres.

Covey’s Quadrants

7habitstimematrix

During some time management training this week, Covey’s priority matrix was employed as a tool to evaluate where time is spent, and where it should be spent.  It has been consistently noted that time is best spent in quadrant 2, dealing with things that are important but not urgent.  The worst place to spend time is in quadrant 4, on unimportant and non-urgent matters.

During tax season, most staff, managers, and partners spend a good majority of time in quadrant 1 due to a shortage of time.  Now that tax season is over, we want to focus once again on activities that would put us into the quadrant 2 realm of “pro-activity” to avoid getting stuck in quadrant 1 later.  However, I have a couple questions about what qualifies as quadrant 2 activity.

Partner/manager golfing events with clients seem to fit into the realm of recreation and relationship building, a quadrant 2 activity.  Is a staff person that maintains a professional blog, is active in online communities (LinkedIn, Startup Nation, etc.), and communicates with other professionals and potential clients via Twitter engaged in a quadrant 2 or quadrant 4 activity?  It is obvious what I think, but do the partners at most firms and business owners agree?  With the professionals I see standing up to say “Hey, don’t block social media from your staff” it appears that not all business owners see value in social media.

Rather than a few social events throughout the year, I have an opportunity daily to engage other professionals and potential clients in meaningful conversations.  Am I twittering my time away?  Is this activity less legitimate?  Business development is about building relationships and relationships require conversations.  Having more opportunities to engage in conversations with people you may have never run into on the golf course or at a stodgy networking event gives you more opportunities for exposure, recognition, and growth.

Backyard ethanol?

Twenty percent of US corn production has been diverted to produce ethanol, and it is being heavily subsidized to get it up to speed. Now E-Fuel corporation wants you to make ethanol in your backyard from either sugar or liquor. In an article in Scientific American the company asserts that it takes 14 pounds of sugar to make 1 gallon of ethanol and the company will provide you with bulk rate sugar for between 15 and 30 cents per pound.

If my math is correct, that means that just the cost of the input, excluding the cost of the $10,000 machine, water, and electricity, is between $2.10 and $4.20 per gallon. In the same article the company states that one of its main objectives is for customers to be able to produce ethanol for about $1.00 per gallon. This seems to be unattainable until you consider the possible dilution of the ethanol (the same article states that 65% ethanol is acceptable to fuel an automobile, suggesting water for dilution).

Considering dilution the best possible cost is between $1.37 and $2.73 excluding the cost of the machine, electricity, and water. This also assumes that the company delivers on its promise to provide a source of sugar at the rate of 15 to 30 cents per pound. This may not solve our energy independence issues overnight, but it is at least a step in the right direction, putting power in the hands of the people.

Open source impressions

A few weeks ago I built myself a new home PC after I bent the pins on the processor in my old PC. Since I know support for WIndows XP will be going away in a few years, and I don’t really care to purchase Vista, I decided to see how well I could cope with “free” software for operating purposes.

At first I tried Ubuntu, because there is often an article about it in the technology magazines I read, so I wanted to see if there was anything special about this latest open source contender. It seems to me that Ubuntu still shows its youth as a distribution when compared to OpenSuse and Fedora, as many simple things that should be automatically detected and configured are left to manual tinkering with the configuration files.

Frustrated with some of Ubuntu’s quirks, I decided to try OpenSuse to see if a more established open source system would be more to my liking. As a first time Linux operator, I have appreciated the friendliness of OpenSuse and it’s ability to handle some of those simple things automatically (I don’t want to edit my xorg.conf file every time I want to switch my monitor or screen resolution). Most of the issues that I have had since installing OpenSuse were dealing with more advanced issues that the average user may not have need to bother with.

One issue occurred because I used Network Manager vpnc instead of the terminal vpnc program. After using the terminal vpnc program and writing my own configuration file for it, I honestly prefer the terminal program. However, after operating Windows only for 10 years, I know why I had an initial inclination towards the GUI program.

I also wanted to try and meet all of my PC needs with a free system to see from a business standpoint if it makes sense for companies to pay Microsoft obscene amounts of money anymore. I will report more fully later, after a year or so of usage, but my impression so far is that the majority of desktops in almost any organization could completely run on open source software while having little if any problems as a result.

Utilize online backups

Small businesses often forget the importance of backing up important data files as most of their time is spent growing revenues and cutting costs.  Both Mozy and Idrive offer a couple gigabytes free for personal or very small business use (this would be good for at least your Quickbooks files) but are limited to Windows based machines.  Unlimited personal use plans are also reasonably priced from these two vendors.

However, being a proponent of open-source programs and software, I expanded my search to find a company that at least supported a Linux solution.  It appears the standard solution is rsync.   Even Ibackup, the other provider I found uses the open-source rsync utility to facilitate Linux backups.

 So, no matter your machine’s configuration, make online backups part of your daily routine to ensure that no matter what calamity may strike, your business will be back up and running smoothly.

Diamond in the rough

An article at PCWorld.com showcased several open-source projects that serve as alternatives to software products for which most users pay dearly.  One of my favorites as an accountant was GNUCash.  While I have not had time to thoroughly review the product, the screenshots appear similar to the registers in Quickbooks.

Considering the price of Quickbooks, and its lack of interoperability between versions (one of the greatest annoyances I have with the program) GNUCash may provide a very simple but powerful alternative for users that are familiar with accounting programs.  I doubt that it is as pretty, but it seems to be a great value.

There were several other products shown in the review and it is a great article for small business owners who are tired of paying high prices for products that overpromise and underdeliver.

NolaPro leads the pack on web based accounting software alternatives

The majority of small and medium sized businesses utilize some type of desktop accounting software to handle their book-keeping and accounting chores.  Among the most prolific are Quickbooks and Peachtree.  Quickbooks is now offering its own web-based solution called Quickbooks Online Edition for $24.95 per month ($300 annually).  However, from a review of the comparison between Quickbooks Pro 2008 and Quickbooks Online Edition, it appears that the online edition is missing support for inventory tracking and pricing, as well as additional cost for customized invoicing, delayed billing, class tracking, and time tracking. 

Another plus for the online edition is its support for 3 users plus your accountant at the $24.95 per month base fee compared with $200 per user for QB Pro.  If you’re a small company with no inventory, QB Online may provide a sufficient solution, or you may be stuck on your desktop if you are in love with either the QB or Peachtree software for handling all facets of your business.

There is a very acceptable alternative that I have had a chance to review lately that has flown largely under the radar.  An Ohio based software development firm, Noguska, LLC, has developed a web-based accounting software that appears to be a comprehensive solution that is completely scalable in NolaPro.  NolaPro is free to download and install on your server or desktop, however you can opt for a NolaPro hosted solution for $25 per month, $60 quarterly ($20/month), or $200 annually ($16.67/month).

As an accountant I often have instances where I have one entity with multiple companies and multiple QB files and Quickbooks is slower than dirt at switching between the companies as it unloads one database and loads up another.  In NolaPro, separate companies are on drop down boxes that switch nearly instantly.  More than one user?  NolaPro doesn’t mind as it supports unlimited users with customizable rights.

So QB roles out a new edition, you have to run out and buy the latest and greatest, and your accountant has to do the same to remain compatible.  In the hosted NolaPro solution, upgrades are made automatically and free of charge, and if you choose to host yourself, the upgrade is free for download, just as the original program was.  NolaPro makes its money by the natural consulting business that develops from the utilization of its software.  The software is encrypted so that they have the rights to customization and such.  So if you have a highly specialized invoice for customers, but you want to be cheap, you can download the NolaPro program for free and take the money you saved to hire NolaPro consultants to make your special invoice.

QB Online did not offer an inventory solution with its product, but NolaPro includes an integrated inventory/shopping cart program, where the online shopping cart is tied directly to the inventory system within the accounting package.  I do not know how this works on a desktop installation, but it is pretty neat to see it work on a web-based installation.

There is a demo on the NolaPro site, but it has been messed with quite a bit and doesn’t really give you a feel of what your initial installation will look like, but it is at https://demo.nolapro.com/.

I desired to do an evaluation of Netsuite, as I have read about their solutions on WebCPA.com, but it has been almost a month since I emailed the company asking for more information and I have received no reply.  However, I am happy that I found NolaPro in my search for solutions to aid the small and medium sized business customers my firm serves.