9 Small Business Accounting Tips

By Tim Parker

Your business’s accounting is probably the last thing you enjoy spending time on, so why not take a few steps to make it easier? These nine small business accounting tips can help.

It’s an easy area to overlook. As a business owner, you might look at making your website more effective, improving your management skills, company morale, conserving electricity, and getting the best prices on your raw materials but there’s one place that you might not think twice about.

Your accounting department probably isn’t an area you scrutinize. One or two people sit at a desk all day, shuffle paper, type a lot, and at the end of the day, if bill collectors weren’t calling you, you’re happy.

Or maybe your accounting department is you. You might not be an accountant by trade so you’re always looking for a way to make the act of money shuffling more efficient is welcome. We’re here to help.

  1. Consider Lockbox Processing

If you receive a large amount of customer payments, you’re a prime candidate for lockbox processing. Instead of having payments sent to your business address, they go to a PO box where the bank processes the payments and deposits them directly into your account. The bank sends you electronic records of the transactions that are automatically entered into your accounting software.

If it seems a little complicated, it will be at first but the amount of time saved by not manually processing payments makes the investment of time and money worth the hassle.

  1. Improve Credit Screening

A sale is only a positive for your business if you actually get paid. A customer who doesn’t pay becomes a bad debt and that costs your business money. If you’re shipping product on credit, do a credit check first. Invest in software that will automatically screen customers and put a hold on shipments if their credit looks questionable.

Ask for a deposit or ship COD to avoid the accounting nightmare of chasing down bad debt. Even if you recover the debt, you probably lost money anyway.

  1. Rethink how you reimburse employees

The process is often cumbersome. Employees who amass travel and entertainment expenses fill out a form, include a stack of receipts, and submit for reimbursement.

The problem, however, is the errors. Mislabeled codes, addition errors and missing information mean more work for the people processing the payment.

Instead, use an electronic entry system that prepopulates information and allows the employee to scan receipts. All or most of the process becomes automated.

  1. Use a purchase card

One employee spends $5 and needs reimbursed. Another spends $10 and yet another spends $7. How about the $29 invoice that arrived today? All of these small charges take far too much time for such a small amount of money.

Instead, give key employees and/or departments purchase cards. When they make a purchase, they submit the receipt or invoice and accounts payable matches the receipt to the statement. Instead of multiple checks, they cut only one for the month.

  1. Use a standard chart of accounts

Instead of allowing people to code invoices as they would like, make everybody use the same account numbers. When processes are consistent across all employees and departments, the accounts people can process paperwork more rapidly.

  1. Make new employees complete all paper work before starting

Allowing important employee documents trickle in makes it more difficult for HR and accounts payable. Send the employee all paperwork prior to their first day and tell them that it has to be submitted before they start working.

  1. Collect or apply taxes immediately

Waiting to do something later invites accounting errors. When employees are paid, account for payroll taxes right away. Same with sales taxes. And pay estimated taxes regularly and on time.

  1. Set up separate coding for ongoing projects

If you’re constructing a building, creating new technology or other project that is ongoing, set up separate line items. This allows you to pay bills as needed but gives the project manager clean, easy to generate reports of how costs compare to the budget. Entering costs of the project into the general ledger at a later date means processing the same invoices twice. There’s no need for that.

  1. Download bank records daily

If you’re using software like QuickBooks or another higher-end package, downloading transactions from the bank daily is easy and automatic. Not only does this allow you to check for fraudulent activity but it makes generating monthly reports faster. Higher-level managers don’t want to wait until the middle of the month for financial statements from the previous month. Easily solve this problem by doing the work throughout the month while transactions are fresh.

Bottom Line

Becoming more efficient often means investing in technology and training. An accounts department running off of manual processes is wasting a lot of time and inviting errors. As an owner, you’re paying them more money to do tasks that could be automated.

Don’t see technology spending as a cost. It’s an investment that will pay you back rapidly.

TYPES OF BUSINESS PAYMENTS PRO’S AND CON’S

hand1Business Checks:

A negotiable instrument (document) that instructs and authorizes the financial institution upon which it is drawn to pay a specific amount from the “drawer” (the signer or payor –the party making the payment) to the payee (the party receiving the check).

Pros:

Checks are a widely accepted payment method. The check writer does not need to know the payee’s bank routing number and account information.

Cons:

Costs are high, including postage, purchase price of check stock, toner, and labor of signing, stuffing and mailing. Many people handle and see checks, so account numbers can be stolen/compromised, mail can be stolen and/or copies taken, creating the opportunity of fraud against the check writer’s account.

Wire Transfer:

The electronic transmittal of funds intra-day from one financial institution to another involving an unconditional order to pay a certain amount to a beneficiary upon receipt, or on a day stated in the order. Funds are irrevocable. Each wire transfer is a single message sent individually.

Pros:

A highly-secure, near-real time mechanism that ensures domestic or international delivery and final

settlement.

Cons:

Fees are charged to both the sender and recipient; fees for international wire transfers can be high. The payor must know the payee’s bank routing number and account information

Credit/Debit Cards:

Credit cards allow cardholders to make purchases or obtain cash advances using a line of credit granted by the issuer of the card. Credit cards allow cardholders to have a continuing balance of debt, subject to interest being charged. Debit cards allow cardholders to make purchases or withdraw available cash from their own checking accounts.

Pros:

Accepting these payment types might boost sales; cards are easy to use and widely accepted; funds are

secured/guaranteed from the cardholder. The payor does not need to know the payee’s bank routing

number and account information.

Cons:

Potentially high cost of acceptance (monthly, equipment and interchange fees), usually most expensive

with credit. Chargeback amounts and fees are incurred when a customer requests a reversal  of a charge for reasons such as claiming fraud, dissatisfaction, or non-receipt of service/product.

Internet Bill Pay:

Electronic payment service that facilitates both one-time and recurring bill payments. Provided by either a financial institution or a non-bank provider.  Provider sends an ACH payment or check on behalf of bill payor.  Electronic bill payment is commonly offered through a bank’s online banking service, allowing

a depositor to send money from his checking account to a creditor or vendor (such as a public utility)

to be credited against a specific account. Non-bank providers offer bill pay services for businesses. electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) can be a very useful tool for the accounts payable department. It centralizes all transactional documents in one location on a web server so they can be easily found and processed. E-invoicing allows vendors to submit invoices over the internet and have those invoices automatically routed for processing.

Pros:

Saves time associated with paying bills. Can produce substantial cost savings compared to the traditional approach of printing and mailing bills and payment remittances. An added benefit is a significant reduction in the use of paper. With e-invoicing, invoice arrival and presentation is almost immediate.

Cons:

If payment is made via check, checks mailed may take 5+ days to reach their destination. A check may save the payor’s account number on the check, which can enable fraud. Depending on the bill pay service provider, checks for bill payments initiated may be outstanding until paid, so payors need to be

aware of their true account balance. The payor must know how to identify the payee to the bill pay system being used so the payment can be accurately delivered

Automated Clearing House (ACH)

Electronic payment network that can be used to push (credit) or pull (debit) funds. Transactions are processed in batches (instead of as single items as in the case of a wire transfer or a check) with a one-or two-day settlement timeframe. Used for Direct Deposit of payroll, direct debit of recurring bills, and various other use cases. An ACH credit is an ACH entry originated to make a payment to another account; for example, for a buyer to pay a supplier for a purchase. The buyer’s account is debited by the buyer’s bank and the buyer’s bank sends the payment to the ACH network. The supplier’s bank picks up the payment from the ACH network and posts the credit to the supplier’s bank account.An ACH debit is an ACH entry that pulls a payment from another account; for example, used by a supplier to pull (debit) funds from the buyer’s account for a purchase.

Pros:

ACH typically has lower fees per transaction than other types of payments described here. Transactions are typically seen by fewer people than check transactions (e.g., only the payroll or accounts receivable clerk might see an ACH transaction), reducing chance for fraud. In major disasters (e.g., Hurricane Katrina), ACH may process without delay, while paper checks may be more difficult to deliver and/or more easily lost. Employees and companies may receive payments faster when using ACH to send

credits.

Cons:

Unlike wire transfers, which are irrevocable, ACH credit entries received are not final until settlement between banks takes place.  Recurring ACH payments are not guaranteed –the accounts on which they are drawn must have good funds in them. The party originating the transaction must have the receiver’s bank routing number, account

number, and authorization.

*Excerpt from The Small Business Owner’s Toolkit. Remittance Coalition, Volume 1, 2015

To Succeed With Your Small Business Avoid These 5 Mistakes

By: Chuck Pistor

At one time or another, virtually everyone thinks about starting a business. The allure of being your own boss can be strong, but it’s important to remember that launching a new business is risky: According to a recent SBA report, [PDF link] about 50% of all small businesses will fail within just five years.

Managing a startup can be a minefield, especially when the pull of entrepreneurship clouds your decision-making – and when you go it alone with no business experience. But if you do decide to start your own business, it’s a great idea to learn from other’s mistakes and set yourself up for success. Here are five mistakes to avoid:

1. Inaccurately gauging demand for your product or service.

Remember – just because you like jalapeño-flavored pickled okra, that doesn’t mean everyone likes it. Too many small businesses fail because the owner overestimates demand. Before launching your venture, find out how strong the demand is for your product or service. Is it a product or service that most people need or want? Does it fit with current trends? For instance, a DVD rental store is probably not a good investment now due to the popularity of streaming services. Before settling on a business venture, ask yourself if the benefits to the customer are compelling and easy to understand. Test demand for your product or service by vetting it with a wide range of friends and family who will be brutally honest with you.

2. Entering a crowded market without a distinct competitive advantage.

You may cook an incomparably delicious hamburger or make a mean pizza, but before you try to build a business around that talent, think about how you are going to distinguish your business from every other hamburger or pizza restaurant. It’s important to consider factors like price, taste, décor, service speed, advertising and other choices and define how you can set your business apart.

Without a well-defined competitive advantage, it’s tough to compete in a marketplace like the restaurant business, where it typically takes a lot of time and money to build a viable brand. Make sure you have a competitive advantage that stands out.

3. Forgetting to count the costs.

Like any other large-scale project, such as building a house, successfully launching a business requires a thorough, upfront accounting of costs, both financial and personal. Under capitalization is one of the top reasons for business failure, so before you launch, make sure you have a detailed budget that includes not only startup costs but the living expenses you’ll have to take on before your business can start paying you. It’s best to assume it will cost more and take longer than you initially think it will. And it’s also important to include the personal and family costs since startups can be an all-consuming enterprise. It’s better to overestimate the costs and be pleasantly surprised than to project an overly rosy scenario and end up bankrupt.

 

4. Failing to delegate and ignoring critical functions.

No one person is great at every facet of running a business, so make sure you identify each critical function and delegate tasks to the best person to get the job done. Use your strengths to the company’s best advantage and offload functions that others can do better.

Also, make sure you never just ignore the things you don’t like to do. You can go bankrupt just as fast for failing to pay federal payroll taxes as you can if you don’t generate sales. There are many critical functions involved in running a successful business. Get the right people on your team and be sure each one is in the right position.

5. Not planning for profitability.

One of the first things you should do when making a business plan is to define the business model. Running a non-profit or charity can be satisfying, and it definitely takes business skills, but before you can succeed in any type of business, you’ll need to know your profit model inside and out.

What is your gross margin on sales? Your net margin? How many sales do you need to break even each day or week? What is the worst case scenario, and how would you overcome it? Establish the key performance indicators (KPIs) for your business that will let you know how your company is performing. Numbers don’t lie, they’re not emotional and they don’t make excuses. If the numbers show you are in a steep decline, take action and make changes before you crash. But you can only do that if you define and measure your numbers

So how can you increase your chances of being among the 50 percent of businesses that make it for at least five years? Luck and timing definitely play a role, but you can improve your odds with careful planning and a detailed strategy. Another way to mitigate the risk of business failure is to choose a franchise business. The top franchises already provide solutions and support to help new business owners overcome potential problems.

Successful franchise companies have proven products and processes, and they have historical data and financials to work with, which are valuable resources at the planning and operations stages. Most importantly, franchise companies can provide support when you need it to make good decisions and avoid the minefield of mistakes that doom half of all small business startups. But whether you choose an established franchise or decide to go it alone, remember to avoid these five common business mistakes, and set yourself up to succeed.

Six Mobile Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

How-to-change-customers-mindsMobile phones are essential to shopping these days, and a majority of cell phone owners say they’re willing to share personal data with merchants in exchange for such things as coupons and discounts.

But navigating mobile marketing can be confusing for small business owners, who must avoid bombarding people with unwanted texts while they’re slogging through crowds of holiday shoppers. So how can local merchants use mobile marketing effectively? Here are six tips.

Focus on customers. Consider how consumers already interact with their mobile devices and take advantage of that behavior. Eliminate anything that makes buying more difficult, such as a website that doesn’t load correctly on a mobile device or hard-to-find contact information. Optimize your customers’ mobile Web experiences by adding “click to call” and “click for directions” features, suggests Jeff Fagel, chief marketing officer at G/O Digital. Make sure all your marketing messages look great on the small screens where people are increasingly opening them, says Jessica Stephens, chief marketing officer at marketing technology company SmartFocus. She says 30 percent of mobile shoppers abandon transactions that aren’t optimized for mobile and 57 percent abandon sites that take more than three seconds to load.

Don’t get too pushy. Most Internet shopping activity involves consumers actively searching out information on services or products. But mobile marketing is what’s called “push” technology, which involves sending unsolicited messages to would-be customers. “It’s all done with the idea of engaging customers and getting them to spread your offers on social media,” says Betsy Page Sigman, who teaches operations and information management at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “If people buy something every time you send a discount, keep sending them. But pay attention to when they stop, because that data tells you a lot, too.”

Respect privacy. The discovery of a series of ad beacons used to track phones in New York City recently caused a ruckus over privacy concerns. You won’t catch people by surprise if you direct your marketing messages to customers who have agreed to receive texted discounts or coupons or who have downloaded an app such as Shopkick. The application, and others like it, allows merchants to send messages to users’ devices when their location service is turned on, showing they are nearby.

Give something away. Most people don’t mind that their supermarket tracks their purchases—as long as they get discounts when they swipe their reward cards. The same idea applies to mobile marketing: You need to sweeten the deal, not just text annoying ads. Send customers special offers, reminders about sales, and discount coupons. Imagine the response to a “free coffee with purchase” offer you send to shoppers a block away from your bakery at 4 p.m., for instance.

Integrate. Mobile marketing should be part of your overall marketing plan, along with e-mail, direct mail, and other advertising, says John McGee, chief executive of OptifiNow, a Los Angeles sales and marketing company. “Track the results you get from each channel and see which one is working. There’s no silver bullet—you need to do a little bit of everything. And remember, it doesn’t matter what you want to do—it’s what your customers like,” he says.

Be concise. Unlike e-mail, text messages have a high open rate. But you have to get your point across in few words, which is easier to do the better you know your customers. “Text messages work better for local marketing, which lends itself to small business,” McGee says. “If a local restaurant is having a slow night and sends text to people nearby to get them in for a special, that’s more effective than a retail chain sending out messages to people 20 miles down the freeway.”

Congress moves forward on measures for small-business contractors

budget 4By J.D. Harrison

Under the direction of former Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the House Small Business Committee over the past six years made overhauling the federal contracting process one of its top priorities, spearheading a number of initiatives intended to funnel more work – and by extension, taxpayer money – to small businesses. When Graves stepped down from the panel at the end of last year, it was unclear whether that effort would continue, or at least whether it would remain near the top of the committee’s to-do list.

Instead, it’s like he never left.

Now led by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), the small business committee has picked up right where Graves left off. Chabot and crew recently held a series of hearings on a number of challenges facing small contractors, and last week, the panel marked up and approved a comprehensive package of changes stemming from those conversations.

“We know that when small businesses compete for federal work, it creates jobs, improves the quality of work, and saves taxpayers’ money,” Chabot said when rolling out the proposal, calling the proposed bill – dubbed the Small Contractors Improve Competition Act – “a commonsense approach to make sure that Washington is working with Main Street.”

This latest effort comes after federal agencies last year successfully hit their annual goal of delivering 23 percent of contracting dollars to small businesses for the first time since 2005. However, the money is flowing to a smaller number of businesses in the form of increasingly larger awards, suggesting that new and particularly small players may be struggling to break into the contracting arena. At the same time, there’s evidence that many of the contracts that are categorized as small-business awards actually go to large companies.

The committee has attempted to address both problems, among others, with this latest piece of legislation.

It’s unclear whether the package will be able to move through Congress on its own, but if recent history is any indication, the changes have a good shot at becoming law. Similar bundles of contract reforms approved by the small business panel have passed as part of the annual defense spending budget in each of the last few years. However, that process doesn’t take place until the end of the calendar year; thus, it could be some time before changes take effect.

For now, here’s a look at some of the proposals in the package and what they would mean for small companies that currently – or hope to in the future – work with Uncle Sam.

More emphasis on subcontracting goals

In addition to the overall 23-percent small-business contracting target, the Small Business Administration must every year set individual goals for each agency (combined, they must add up to allow the government to hit the 23 percent mark). What’s not as widely known, though, is that each department also has a small-business subcontracting goal. All told, roughly 40 percent of the money flowing through prime contractors is supposed to go to small businesses.

In handing out contracting grades, though, the SBA’s process gives little weight to an agency’s subcontracting performance. In other words, an agency can earn high marks even if most of its contracts are flowing through small businesses and into the hands of large corporations. Changes in the proposed legislation would require the SBA to factor each agency’s subcontracting performance more heavily into its annual grades. In addition, the bill would require that the small-business subcontracting goal performance be part of the evaluation process for senior agency officials for bonus purposes.

“The federal government awards billions of dollars in contracts and subcontracts to small businesses every year,” Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), who initially proposed some of the subcontracting rule changes, said in a statement after the markup. “But without appropriate means of tracking awards, there is no accountability to ensure that we are succeeding at reaching our goal.”

Cut back on contract bundling

One of the most common complaints from small government contractors is that departments often “bundle” many small projects together, essentially making the contract suitable only for large companies with a large arsenal of capabilities – not highly specialized small businesses. While there are some laws already in place to deter agencies from bundling, the committee in recent hearings heard testimony indicating that the process still exists, sometimes leaving thousands of small businesses ineligible to compete for work they handled in the past.

Under the proposed legislation, each department would have to investigate their current processes and implement a plan to better adhere to anti-bundling laws. In addition, when departments currently lump smaller contracts together, they have a year to publish documents justifying the decision and showing why small firms won’t lose out. Under the new bill, every department would have to file those documents at the same time they solicit bids for the project.

Barriers removed for new joint ventures

A valuable tool for small companies looking to expand their presence in the federal procurement arena is the joint venture. Small firms can – and in fact are encouraged in many cases – to partner with a large company to bid on contract proposals. In the past, Congress approved language stripping away some of the restrictions on those sorts of joint ventures in an attempt to encourage even more small businesses to consider that path.

In some cases, though, new joint ventures struggle to win contracts because a number of federal departments have said that they only consider past performance of the partnership – that is, if this is the first time the companies have joined forces, there may be no history to consider, even if the small business has a proven track record with the federal government. If approved, the legislation would require agencies to take each party’s past performance into account.

An investigation into fraud and abuse

Despite a number of attempts to eliminate fraud and abuse in the government contracting arena, millions of dollars of contracts reserved for small businesses wind up in the hands of large corporations every year. The problem appears to stem from a combination of fraudulent activity by large companies masquerading as small businesses as well as mismanagement and reporting errors by contracting officers.

In response, Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) floated an amendment requiring the Government Accountability Office to conduct another investigation (there have been several in the past) into the problem, identify the root causes and recommend actions Congress and the administration can take to ensure that small-business contracts are actually awarded to small businesses. Her proposal was unanimously approved by the committee and folded into the legislation.

“When Fortune 500 companies are awarded small business contracts, small businesses across the country miss out on billions of dollars,” Hahn said.

SEC finalizes key JOBS Act rules for small businesses

By: J.D. Harrison

secNearly three years after the law was signed, the Securities and Exchange Commission has taken an important step toward implementing the so-called JOBS Act, making it easier for small and mid-sized businesses to raise capital through small public offerings.

Commissioners on Wednesday approved rule changes that allow companies to raise up to $50 million a year, up from a longstanding cap of $5 million, through what’s known as Regulation A offerings. Under Reg A offerings, as they’re commonly called, companies looking to raise relatively small amounts of money through a public offering are subject to a much simpler SEC registration process, putting fewer bureaucratic hoops between them and investors.

Until now, the Reg A path, which is nearly as old as the SEC itself, has been sparingly used. Congress voted to lift the cap as part of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which was signed into law in April 2012, largely to encourage more small and mid-sized companies to consider that option.

However, it’s another more subtle change the SEC has made to the rules – one that the agency was not specifically required to adopt – that some experts believe will make the Reg A option now much more appealing to companies in need of capital. In keeping with the initial regulations proposed about a year ago, the commissioners finalized new rules that exempt Reg A offerers from registering with state financial regulators in every state in which they’re prospective shareholders reside.

“I have never felt that the $5 million cap was that significant, because if you look at Reg D, you see that the average raise is less than $3 million,” DJ Paul, who last fall was appointed by SEC Chair Mary Jo White to join the agency’s advisory board on small and emerging companies, said in an interview. He was referencing a similar option in the SEC rulebook – known as Regulation D – which pertains to small offerings to a select group of private investors, as opposed to a public offering. “The real friction point has been this state approval requirement,” Paul said.

Under that requirement, a company that wanted to offer shares to investors in a dozen states would be subject to 13 revies of separate securities laws – one in each state and one by the SEC. State regulators have warned that those additional reviews help to thwart fraud and protect investors. However, entrepreneurs and legal experts have said there’s little evidence that the multiple-hoops process does anything except deter businesses from using Reg A.

“This regulatory process can be lengthy, cumbersome and expensive, factors that many believe have contributed to the infrequent use of Regulation A,” several attorneys from Richmond-based law firm McGuireWoods wrote in a white paper last year about the proposed rule changes. While there are typically hundreds or thousands of Reg D offerings a year, there are often only a dozen or so Reg A deals, Paul explained. Some years have passed without a single one.

Under the new rules, small businesses will now only have to go through the simplified SEC review.

“That change had to happen, or else Reg A was going to continue to be a dead-letter, never-used alternative,” said Paul, who also co-chairs an advocacy nonprofit called Crowdfund Intermediary Regulatory Advocates based in New York.

In an attempt to ease concerns about potential scams, the SEC also established two Reg A tiers. For those raising between $20 million and $50 million through a public offering, there will be additional review requirements. That’s a slight change from the proposed rules, which split the tiers at the $5 million mark. Commissioners have also agreed to require Reg A offerers to file their paperwork to the SEC for public review several weeks before they start selling to investors, giving state regulators a chance to comb through those documents if they wish to look for red flags.

Ahead of the vote, SEC Chair White said Wednesday that she believes the changes “strike an appropriate balance for the roles of federal and state law” and will make Regulation A offerings “an effective, workable path to raising capital that also provides strong investor protections.”

The finalization of the rules was the latest step in what has become an exceptionally long process to breathe life into the JOBS Act. Now on the cusp of its third birthday, only about half of the provisions in the statute – which, by providing better access to capital to new and growing businesses, was touted as a potentially powerful gust of wind in the economy’s sails – have been put in place by the SEC.

Among the most highly anticipated changes mandated by Congress but not yet implemented by the SEC are rules allowing companies to raise small amounts of money from mom-and-pop investors via what are known as online crowdfunding portals. Initially, the SEC was to give that process the green light by the end of 2013; however, the agency has been slow to move on the rule-making process. The SEC put forth proposed rules in October 2013, but it isn’t clear when they will be finalized.

While the crowdfunding rules, which are outlined in Title III of the JOBS Act, have drawn most of the JOBS Act’s spotlight, Paul explained that the Reg A changes (contained in Title IV of the legislation) will likely have a much more significant impact for certain companies.

“With Reg A, we’re talking about businesses that are going to be much further along in their life cycle than the ones that would benefit from Title III,” Paul said, noting that the online crowdfunding rules will limit entrepreneurs to raising no more than $1 million from non-accredited investors. “Obviously, a company raising $1 million is in a very different place than a company raising $40 million, or even $10 million.”

“It’s all part of a continuum,” Paul added. “While crowdfunding will be important for getting capital to genuine start-ups – ones that have three people working for them – this will help those that have 300 people working for them and are still looking to grow.”

5 Ways To Increase Your Productivity

asbdc-logo-35-years

02/25/2015

As a small business owner, you juggle a lot of daily tasks. Making a concrete plan to achieve them can help you stay productive throughout the day. In addition to starting your day right with a morning ritual, increase your productivity by setting limits on meetings, and using technology and apps to streamline your business.

Start your day right with a quick agenda overview

Do you check your email or your calendar first thing in the morning? Why not do both at the same time? Mentally prepare for the day with a quick snapshot of your daily tasks every morning by having Google Calendar email you a snapshot of your full agenda at 5 a.m. Do this by accessing the Reminders and Notifications menu, and checking the box next to Daily Agenda. First access the Reminders and Notifications menu and then check the box next to Daily Agenda.

Be alerted of interruptions to your commute before you leave

Once you’ve set up your commute destinations in Google Maps, Google Now (part of the Google Search app) will send you a notification with real-time traffic updates, including incidents, before you hit the road. You can even sync Google Now with your Calendar to get traffic updates before your meetings, and make sure you’re not late for appointments with your vendors and customers.

Don’t let email take over your day

According to a report by McKinsey, the average person spends 28% of his work week going through emails. There are a few systems you can put in place to minimize the amount of time you spend emailing. Instead of reading an email the second it hits your inbox, designate a few times throughout your day to check email. Remember to practice the four D’s: do, delegate, dump, or delay.

Stay synced and organized with Google Apps

As you juggle everything that requires your attention, take advantage of time saving tools that keep your information current across all the devices you use throughout the day. Your Google account allows you to sync your calendar, maps, email, and even the notes you take on your phone with just one click. Watch this video to learn more about how you can even use Google Chrome to improve your productivity.

Prepare for tomorrow with end-of-day rituals

How you spend the last few minutes of your workday can have a great impact on the following morning’s success. The simplest way to bring closure to your day is to ask “What went well?” Then, as you prepare your to-do list for the following day, write down the top three things you want to accomplish to help you prioritize your time.