Our Latest Blog Posts

Sep 07

5 reasons Xero is leading the way in cloud-based accounting

Posted by Deborah Harris at Monday, September 07, 2015

We’re back from Xerocon 2015 and boy, what an event it’s become.

In case you don’t know, Xerocon is the annual gathering of accountants, bookkeepers and financial advisers who are Xero online accounting software users and partners. It’s an opportunity to: 

  • see the latest product developments (and feed ideas and wishlists back to the developers) 
  • learn about add-on applications that take care of other business functions and synchronise with Xero 
  • connect with cloud integrators 
  • generally see how things are being done, and will be done, in our increasingly connected business world.

This year’s Xerocon was in Melbourne, and we’re still processing all the information we got from the event. But some things became clear pretty quickly, and here are the top five takeaways we got from Xerocon 2015.

1. They’re big, and getting bigger

Here are a few statistics we heard during the conference: 

  • The first Xerocon (back in 2011) had 120 delegates. This year there were 1,500. 
  • Worldwide there are 540,000 Xero subscribers. And nearly half of them are in Australia. 
  • More than 20 million people are currently interacting on the Xero platform.

Cloud accounting has massive momentum, and Xero has staked a big claim in the market. So much so that their next big target is to have one million subscribers. 

2. They continue to innovate

Xero is currently number one on the Forbes Most Innovative Growth Companies list.

Co-founder and CEO Rod Drury says they’ve just about finished the boring stuff. And so we’re now starting to see the next generation of features, including: 

  • streamlining processes such as paying suppliers 
  • getting a loan 
  • renewing Workcover.

The data available in Xero gives business owners the insight they need to make the big decisions faster and more accurately. Soon there will be opt-in benchmarking, and the analytics on the dashboard is getting smarter all the time.

Smart add-ons can also be connected to help streamline processes, save time and allow better micro decisions to be made every day.

Xero has $250M in the bank so they can keep innovating. And as Rod Drury says, investors didn’t give them that money to pay a dividend. It’s for product development. 

3. Their vision and passion are still there

For years Rod Drury has talked about his vision to grow the small business economy so we can have better schools and hospitals. And that passion continues to show through.

Xero Australia Managing Director Chris Ridd contributes to major discussions on cloud accounting and the economy in both private and government circles.

Many of the original team are still there, and it’s clear they love what they do and the difference they make to small business.

And Chris has just been recognised with two awards for Executive of the Year and Innovator of the Year. Awesome work, Chris! 

4. They’re starting to play with the big boys

Xero is certainly getting noticed. They’re forming partnerships and collaborating with Apple, Dropbox, Adobe and Google, bringing the benefit of integrated tools for maximum productivity.

Federal Minister for Small Business, Bruce Billson was at the conference, talking passionately and from experience about: 

  • the importance of small business to the economy and to communities 
  • reducing red tape compliance.

At the panel session he chaired, David Koch said he uses Xero for his family business, and explained how critical it is for someone who travels as much as he does.

5. They’re giving bookkeepers the chance to do a lot more

On average, businesses with bookkeepers have higher revenue. Why? Because they: 

  • free up the business owner to do what they do to make more money 
  • give the business owner greater insight into the business numbers.

We’ve always believed that cloud accounting gives bookkeepers the opportunity to move from data entry to valuable process roles, such as detail-level compliance tasks and redesigning business processes.

And Xero is certainly giving them that opportunity.

After five years in Australia, and increased competition in the cloud accounting space, we thought Xero’s gloss might be starting to wear off. But the vision and innovation they demonstrated at Xerocon 2015 has strengthened our faith in Xero even more. And we look forward to the exciting developments to come.

Have you made the switch to cloud-based accounting? If you have, we’d love to hear your story. Why not tell us about it in the comments area?

Jun 21

How to create a budget (and stick to it) without feeling guilty

Posted by Deborah Harris at Sunday, June 21, 2015

Are you struggling to keep on top of your bills? A budget can help you organise your finances, saving you not only time but also a lot of worries.

Unfortunately, a lot of people think of a budget as a form of punishment, like going on a diet or even to jail. “You have been found guilty of spending too much money, and you must now pay the price” (no pun intended).

Not surprisingly, most of these budgets fail.

But a budget isn’t about punishing anyone. It’s simply a way to find out how much you earn, how much you spend, and how to get the things you want.

And when you’re actually creating your budget, that ‘finding out’ can be a real eye-opener. Filling out the income is easy, because nearly everyone knows how much they earn each month. But do you know how much you really spend?

It’s time to find out.

Start with the easy stuff—your bills. List each one, along with how much you need to pay and when you need to pay it. This is important, because cash flow problems are often about timing more than anything else. You’ll have the cash eventually, just not when the bill is actually due.

You may also want to add any debts you have (along with the interest rates and remaining amounts) so you know which ones you should pay off first.

Next, move on to the basics such as groceries and car expenses. If you go out for lunch every day, add it as a spending category. Same goes for any hobbies you regularly spend money on.

It may seem like having your nose rubbed in your spending habits, but that’s not it at all. You’re just trying to find the places where you spend your money.

Hot tip: To quickly work out your income and expenses, and make sure you list all your expenses, use a budget worksheet or online accounting software. Here are a few of my favourites: 

Now it’s time to identify your budget amounts. To work out how much you really spend, collect all of your receipts and bills for a month. It might sound hard, but it’s really quite easy. Just get a receipt for everything you buy, and then have a place where you can put them all at the end of the day. (A shoebox at the front door works wonders, because you can put them in there as soon as you walk in.)

Once you have a month’s worth of bills and receipts, go through them all and start filling in the spending category amounts, creating extra categories if necessary.

Hot tip: If you can, scan or photograph your receipts. You’ll then be able to either email them to Receipt Bank (who’ll then send the transaction directly to your Xero account for reconciliation), or upload them to myprosperity so you can see them. If you can’t, you can put them all in a bag and send them to Receipt Bank, who can then upload and forward them all to your accounting software. Cool, eh?

Keep doing this for a few months to get a realistic picture of how you spend your money. You may be surprised at just how much you spend on certain items, and find ways to save money straight away without causing too much pain.

Make sure you scrutinise every item. When it comes to cutting costs, everything is negotiable—even seemingly fixed expenses such as your electricity or water bill.

Remember: you’re creating a budget to manage your spending, not limit it. And while you may be surprised at where your money goes, there’s no need to feel guilty about it. Instead, you should feel a sense of relief knowing where it’s all going.

And that you can fix it.

If you’d like more information, or maybe some help and advice on creating your budget, get in touch with the Personal Financial Management Team at Gill, McKerrow. They can help take control of your finances so you can achieve your life goals.

Jun 21

Budgeting for bad news: How to create an emergency fund

Posted by Deborah Harris at Sunday, June 21, 2015

Looking at your latest bank statement, you might think you’re doing okay. You’ve finally paid off your credit card, and you have enough money in your savings account to buy a few luxuries when you go grocery shopping.

But what would happen in an emergency—an unexpected trip to the hospital, or major damage to your car or house? Would you have enough saved up to pay the bills? Or would you have to use your credit card, and face the nightmare of paying it off all over again?

If credit would be your only option, then you need to create an emergency fund.

The good news it’s not that difficult to do. Just set up another savings account, and then deposit $30-$50 in there every month. If you can, have it transferred automatically when you get paid. Otherwise, treat it as another monthly bill that must be paid.

Two things you need to keep in mind: 

  • You should only use this money for real emergencies. (A present for an unexpected birthday invitation is not an emergency.) 
  • While it would be nice to earn some interest, the most important thing is to have immediate access to your funds when you need them. (Unlike an investment fund, where the goal is to maximise your return.)

And how much should you save? Ideally your emergency fund should be large enough to cover your living expenses (rent, food, electricity, etc.) for three months.

Of course, to make sure you have the money to add to your emergency fund you need to know where it’s all going. And that means setting up a sound (and realistic) budget, which isn’t always easy.

But don’t worry. Here at Gill, McKerrow we can help you not only set up your budget, but also stick to it.

So get in touch with one of our Personal Financial Management Team members today, and start taking control of your finances so you can achieve your life goals.

Jun 20

How to reduce your non-essential expenses without losing out

Posted by Deborah Harris at Saturday, June 20, 2015

Part of creating a household budget is working out all of your expenses. Then you simply add them all up, deduct the total from your monthly income and voila—what you have left is the amount of money you’ve saved.

And the less you pay in expenses, the more you save.

Unfortunately, you can’t eliminate expenses completely. No matter how much you want to save, you still need to pay for essential services such as food, accommodation, and electricity. But what about those non-essential services—your phone, your Internet connection, pay TV and so on? Do you really need to pay so much to have them?

While you could cut down on how much you use these services, it isn’t always practical. (And if you have teenagers it may not even be possible.) After all, the reason you got them in the first place is because you use them.

But what you can do is look for someone who can offer the same service (if not better) for a lower rate.

Now this may sound like a statement from Captain Obvious, but it’s amazing how many people will pay a higher rate for the same service for no reason whatsoever.

Well, for no good reason anyway. People often justify it by saying they’re too scared to change, they don't have time to track down lower rates, or the insignificant amount of money they’ll save isn’t worth all the hassle. And then there are those who simply don’t need to save money.

I’m not one of them. And chances are neither are you.

Let’s say you managed to find a deal for one of these non-essential services where you could save $20 a month. Nothing spectacular, right? But if you could do the same for three more services, you’d have an extra $1000 a year to allocate to something else in your budget.

Seems a bit more spectacular now, doesn’t it?

What could you do with an extra $1000? Make a car payment? Pay your car insurance? You probably know exactly what you’d do with that money if you had it right now.

And, if you're like me you're probably thinking of ways to save even more.

Here are two things to keep in mind when trying to save money on non-essential services:

1. While price is obviously the first thing to look at, you should also look at the usage factor. How much service are you getting for the price you’re paying? (If you’re not using a service very much, look for a ‘bare bones’ deal. You can always upgrade if you start using more.)

2. Wherever possible, look for deals that offer unlimited usage.This is particularly relevant for phone and Internet service packages. Not only will you get the best value for money, it will make budgeting a lot easier because it will always be the same amount every month.

Changing service may cost you a little more initially (penalties for breaking the contract, setup fees, etc.), and you may have to put up with a few inconveniences. Just remember what you’ll be getting in the end. Chances are you’ll recoup any extra money you had to spend in the first few months. And after that, you’ll be spending less and saving more every month.

If you’d like to know how to improve the bottom line on your budget, talk to the Personal Financial Management Team at Gill, McKerrow. They’ll help you take control of your finances and achieve your life goals.

Jun 18

5 steps to creating a budget and achieving financial success

Posted by Deborah Harris at Thursday, June 18, 2015

Yeah, I know. Creating a personal budget sounds boring, and is probably something your parents did when they were younger. But it’s still considered the best way for people to manage their money because it helps them keep track of where it’s all going.

Unfortunately, a lot of people have given up on creating a budget. They think it’s way too complicated to set up, and isn’t worth the little (if any) benefit they get out of it.

But creating a personal budget doesn’t need to be complicated. And the benefits it can provide certainly make it worthwhile. You just need to find the method that works best for you.

Here’s a simple strategy for managing your personal finances. 

1. List all of your expenses. Start by listing all of your expenses for each month—rent/mortgage payments, food, utilities, etc. Don’t forget the events you have to spend money on, such as birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc. 

2. List all of your income. Next, make a list of all the money that comes in each month—wages, government assistance, etc. But don’t include any bonuses or other one-off payments unless you know you’ll receive them, or you may end up spending money you don’t actually have. 

3. Create a budget. Now it’s time to sit down and create your budget. Don’t think of it as the fun police putting an end to all your fun. Just think of it as a guide to help you manage your income and expenses each month. 

Once you’ve mapped out what’s coming in and going out for each month, look for months where you think you’ll have either a cash shortfall or a cash surplus. Then look at the overall figures for the year. Do you have enough income to pay all of your expenses?

More money coming in, less money going out

Of course, if your expenses are on par with your income, you won’t be able to save much money. So you need to reduce your expenses or increase your income. And ideally you should do both. 

4. Reduce your expenses. This is what stops a lot of people from sticking to (or even creating) a budget. They think “reducing expenses” means “never going out with friends” or “giving up everything I enjoy”. 

But it doesn’t have to be like that. Yes, you may have to eat at home more often instead of going to restaurants, but you can still enjoy them occasionally. It’s all about moderation. 

And reducing expenses doesn’t always mean cutting down on these “luxuries”. A lot of everyday expenses can also be trimmed. Here are just some of the ways you might be able to reduce your spending: 

  • If a low fixed interest rate is available, it might be worth fixing part of your home loan mortgage. It will help stabilise your costs over the next few months and keep them down in the long term, which could save you hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars a year. 
  • If your mortgage’s fixed interest rate is high, it might be worth trying to renegotiate your loan. 
  • Are you paying for health insurance you don’t need? What’s the point of having all those extras if you never use them? A number of online services can help you find the health cover you need for the best possible price. 
  • What about your car, home and other insurance packages? Yes, you need to make sure you and your family are covered if anything goes wrong. But sometimes these packages include cover you simply don’t need. For example, we had travel insurance removed from one of our policies because it was already included in another. 
  • Look at your latest electricity bill. If you’re not getting a loyalty discount you may get a better deal with another provider. And don’t forget to check out whether you can take advantage of cheaper tariffs. 
  • Do you really need your Pay TV and glossy magazine subscriptions? Are you getting your money’s worth out of that gym membership? If not, get rid of them and put the money words your other expenses. 
  • If you’re paying off multiple debts from various sources, you may want to consider getting a consolidation loan. You’ll be able to combine all of your debts into a single loan with a single monthly payment, which means: 
    • you’ll reduce your monthly payment because it will be one large loan spread out over a longer period.
    • you'll reduce the amount of interest you pay because you’ll only have one debt to pay from one provider. This will both reduce your expenses and increase your income. 

And if you have enough assets to get a secured loan, you may also qualify for a lower interest rate because you can offer your lender some security to back up the loan. 

5. Increase your income. Okay, this might be easier said than done. But see if you can secure some extra hours of work, or maybe even do a bit of consulting for some extra money. 

And if you run a business, you might be able to restructure the work so you can secure more jobs of higher value.

Finally, once you’ve set up your budget you need to review it regularly. Are you meeting your spending goals each month, or are your expenses still outgrowing your income? Are you managing to save money? If so, how much? And what are you doing with that money?

Need more help?

Creating a budget and then sticking to it diligently isn’t easy. You need to figure out what to include, review your expenses and track your spending. And if you’re thinking of getting a consolidation loan, that’s something else again.

If you’d like a hand with any of these, get in touch with one of our budgeting and personal financial specialists at Gill, McKerrow. We love helping people take control of their finances so that they can start achieving their financial and personal goals.

And we’d love to help you, too.

Jun 18

5 steps to improve the conversion rate of your business’ website

Posted by Deborah Harris at Thursday, June 18, 2015

Every business needs a unique selling proposition. It needs to stand out from the competition, and attract customers with the outstanding value it's offering.

And the same goes for your website.

Developing an online presence for your business involves completing a five-step process, whether you want to:

  • generate leads 
  • sell online 
  • provide information about its services 
  • connect with its vendors electronically 
  • start an entirely new kind of service.

But if yours is a small company with a small budget, you may have trouble finding the right web designer. You need someone who can reflect your value proposition in the website design, help you sell it to as many people as possible, and create a way to turn those prospects into sales. And all at a price you can afford.

Not an easy task.

What your business website needs

There are five core aspects of a business website:

  • The graphic design (i.e. the visual feast that attracts people to your brand) 
  • The marketing and promotion engine to drive traffic and conversions 
  • The database that lets you monitor and drive campaigns, and measure the site's performance 
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which gives your website the highest ranking possible in search results using your chosen search terms 
  • The content (i.e. the words you use to promote the business)

At one point these would have all been done by different companies (unless you compromised, in which case the result was usually less than ideal). But these days most web development firms do them all, giving small business web-based marketing methods they can afford.

An effective web-based marketing campaign can give you incredible results turning clicks into conversions. But it's easier said than done. A good web marketing firm will create an entire marketing plan using strategic and tactical methods crafted by specialists and/or consultants to increase sales for your business.

You can now have a website with the same look and usability of your industry leaders without having to spend a fortune. It can also act as a tactical marketing tool, engaging and educating your clients. And it can provide the analytical data you need to give your customers even better service.

To generate more conversions, your website design strategy should include at least some of these features:

  • Cutting-edge, tailor-made website design that exposes your products and services to potential clients 
  • Highly-scalable digital website designs that will grow with your business so you can realise its full potential 
  • Fully featured e-commerce solutions to help your business deploy a powerful and cost-effective e-commerce store 
  • Customised search engine optimisation services that meet your needs and goals.

While there are plenty of cheap alternatives (e.g. Fivr), a professional web development firm will do more than just build you a website. They'll:

  • Gather relevant information about your business through a systematic data collection process
  • Clarify the website requirements in terms of fulfilling the nature and goal of your business 
  • Perform extensive research to find the best website solution for your budget.

Other factors that can boost your presence on the Internet (and ultimately conversion rates) include:

  • Content that's innovative, specific and unique 
  • Website maintenance to ensure it's displaying information as quickly as possible 
  • SEO to improve its search engine rankings 
  • Multimedia presentations, multi-lingual capabilities (if needed) and E-Commerce solutions.

The five steps to success

To create a unique website presentation and ensure the success of your small business, you need to follow these five steps:

1. Clarification. Every website starts with an idea—what’s yours? Is it a new product? Are you redesigning your existing site? Is the business purely cloud or internet based? Do you need any e-commerce functionality? Are you trying to drive traffic to an actual business location?

At this clarification stage, the actions a customer needs to make next should be clearly outlined as the goals of the website. It will become a Key Performance Criteria that measures whether the website is successful.

2. Design. After the initial consultation, the website development firm will solidify your ideas. Using strategic design they’ll create a blueprint for your site, the same way an architect would create a floor plan of a house. It shows you how the website will engage your customers and move them from one area to the next, completing the necessary actions as they go.

3. Development. Each specialist in the team will work on their respective part of the website—creating the graphic design, writing the content, coding the website and designing the database.

4. Web Hosting. A website is an intricate interplay of graphics, text, programming and computer resources. And the last thing you want is for your website to be unavailable. So building your site on a rock-solid web hosting foundation is critical to its success.

5. Website Maintenance. Once your site is up and running, you need to maintain it and perform any necessary updates. You may need to add fresh content and even develop the site further to keep your customers engaged. And don’t forget to review and monitor your site, and measure against your key performance criteria. It will quickly tell you what is (and isn’t) working, and what changes are needed to meet your future needs.

Remember, your website is like any other part of your business: first impressions count. It should be fresh, and communicate the value your brand represents. But it also needs to be functional, and lead your customers towards the goal you want your website to achieve.

Jun 17

The one reason most family budgets fail (and how to avoid it)

Posted by Deborah Harris at Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Family budgets. We all know what they are. Chances are we’re even created a few over the years. But how many of us have managed to stick with them?

Sure, we start out with the best of intentions. But within a few months we’ve either blown it completely or grown tired of not having any of the luxuries we’ve grown accustomed to.

Even if we’re trying to get ourselves out of debt, or perhaps starting an investment fund, we still seem to falter. So why can’t we stick to a budget so we can live within our means?

One of the biggest reasons is a lot of budgets don’t cater for the expenses we encounter in day-to-day life.

Most expenses are fairly predictable. Your rent is always the same amount each week. If you have a mortgage, your monthly repayment will be the same every month (unless there’s a change in interest rates). And it’s the same for car loan repayments, magazine subscriptions, insurance premiums, and so on.

Because these amounts don’t change, budgeting for them is a no-brainer. You know exactly how much you need to earn each month to cover them.

Other expenses may vary slightly from month to month—grocery bills, phone bills, electricity bills, fuel costs, etc. But even so, you can enter a ballpark figure into your budget to cover any minor fluctuations.

The real problem is the expenses that come ‘out of the blue’. How much will you spend on car repairs over the next 12 months? What about medical bills? Home maintenance costs? Gifts? You have no way of knowing, and so budgeting for them seems impossible. One week your grocery budget gets spent on new tyres, and suddenly you’re worrying about having too much month left at the end of the money.

So what's the answer?

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect solution. But you can get a rough estimate of how much you’ll spend in the coming year by working out how much you spent in the previous year.

Start by gathering a year’s worth of information: bank statements, credit card statements, major bills and receipts, and so on. Now, using a pen and paper (or better still, an online accounting tool such as Receipt Bank or MyProsperity) work out what you spent every time you paid for something that wasn’t a fixed expense. Group them into categories (e.g. car expenses, home maintenance, clothes, etc.) as you go, but don't try to break it down too far—you just want a handful of useful categories. Then keep listing each expense under the relevant categories for the entire 12-month period.

Once you’re done, and know the amount you spent in each category, simply divide each amount by 12 to work out how much you’ll need each month. For example, if last year’s car repairs came to a total of $1,200, budget for $100 a month to cover this year’s car expenses.

This way, if you suddenly need a new set of tyres for your car you’ll have the funds to pay for them.

Of course, an expense may come up that exceeds your estimated outlay. But you’ll be a lot closer to having the necessary funds than if you’d just guessed or, worse still, left car repairs out of your budget completely. And the more years you do it, the closer you’ll get to the ‘true’ amount you need.

But don’t just keep these funds in your purse or wallet. Put them in a separate savings account instead. Better still, get the money deducted straight out of your pay and into the account. Not only will you have less chance of ‘accidentally’ spending the money, you’ll earn a bit of interest on it as well.

Now that you know what to do, it’s time to get started. Grab those bank statements and receipts, and work out just how much you need to save for those ‘out of the blue’ expenses.

And if you need a hand, get in touch with Gill, McKerrow today and a member of our Personal Financial Management Team will help you take control of your finances and your future.

Apr 27

3 surveys that changed our business—and our customers’ lives

Posted by Deborah Harris at Monday, April 27, 2015

Are there any questions you’ve always wanted to ask your customers?

Maybe you’d like to know what’s important to them and what their priorities are, both in business and in life. Perhaps you’re concerned about their future, and want to ask what contingency plans they have in place. Or maybe you just want to know what they really think about you and your business.

Fortunately, online surveys make it easy to ask your customers these questions and, more importantly, get their honest answers.

But you need to be careful. Like most people, customers don’t like being asked too many questions. So you need to ask the ones that will have the most impact on your business.

Here are three surveys where the answers have helped us so much they’ve actually changed the way we do business.

1. The Net Promoter Score

This is a great way to find out what people think of your business. And all you’re doing is asking them one question:

“How likely are you to recommend BUSINESS NAME to a friend or colleague?”

Even better, they answer simply by picking a number between zero and ten.

And here’s what you can get from their answers:

Customers who scores you between zero and six are known as Detractors. They’re not happy with you, and their negative opinion may even detract from your brand image. (Look out if they get on social media.)

Those who gave you a seven or an eight are described as Passives. While it looks like a reasonable score, chances are they won’t be going out of their way to promote your business. They’re not necessarily loyal to your brand, and could be influenced away.

Anyone who scored you a nine or a ten is a Promoter. They’ll actively help promote your brand image. They’re loyal and enthusiastic brand supporters. And they’ll refer others to your brand, fuelling growth.

To come up with an overall score (the Net Promoter Score), simply subtract the percentage of Promoters you have  from the percentage Detractors. 

Why do I like this tool so much? Because in our industry service is everything, and it’s the only way you can measure dissatisfaction. (There’s no exchange desk for faulty products.) This simple tool gives us a unique insight into brand loyalty, and whether our service is hitting the mark.

(Oh, and if you need help creating a form to capture all the data I thoroughly recommend Formstack.)

2. The WITY (“What’s Important To You”) Survey

This survey from MYP guides your customers through a series of questions to determine what their priorities are, both personally and in business. It then produces a report you can use to:

  • tackle the priorities in order of importance
  • identify and manage network referral opportunities to other service providers.

We have a link to this survey on our website for our customers, and the information we get has really helped us meet their needs.

Want to try it out for yourself? Just click on the image.

3. Estate Planning For Life

At a recent MYPCorp conference in Sydney a much-respected accountant moved me to tears. He talked about the tragic loss of his brother-in-law, and how him not having his affairs in order divided his family .

Estate Planning for Life is not a simple survey. It’s complex, time-consuming for fill out, and brings up all sorts of issues that can divide entire families.

But the end result is staggering.

It produces a great Action Report, which allows you to systematically put your affairs in order. You can also use it to collate all the information needed for someone to take up the reins of managing your household’s:

  • liabilities
  • assets
  • bills
  • insurances
  • etc.

The information can be extracted in a Crisis Management Plan that clearly outlines:

  • what the immediate priorities are
  • where the information can be found
  • who is available to help manage the crisis

And the Crisis Management Plan can be enacted around scenarios other than death, such as short- and long-term incapacitation.

This is the most life-changing survey I’ve ever done. And I’m sure it’s changed the lives of our customers who’ve completed it.  

Want to know more?  Simply click on the image.

As I said earlier, these three surveys have changed the way we do business. But more importantly, they’ve helped us change people’s lives for the better.

Jan 24

How CRM software can work wonders for your business

Posted by Deborah Harris at Saturday, January 24, 2015

First up - in case you were wondering - just what is a CRM system?

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is invaluable for helping businesses manage their relationships with customers, and store potential sales leads for current and future customers.

The most effective CRM software let you organise your marketing, technical support, customer service, sales leads and current opportunities from a single location.

The Xero Accounting software add-on community has developed dozens of products to make operating a small business easier, and many CRM tools integrate with this software.  A lot of them involve learning new and unique systems that integrate well with the accounting software. The one great problem with these products is that they often fail to integrate between systems.

Get a fully integrated CRM system

Over the past few years Gill McKerrow and Associates has been working closely with MYPCorp to develop our own software to automate and integrate our processes. MYP started out in 1999 as a consulting firm, offering a broad range of services in HR, business coaching and management and IT consulting. Since developing their first CRM tool in 2010, they’ve built a strong platform of services including:

  • a project management module

  • events management

  • marketing tools

  • document management

  • HR modules

  • business dashboard tools

  • a scoping and quoting system (an idea we brought to market)

  • a hub you can set up for quick access to your cloud-based tools (even those not part of the MYP toolkit)

They also provide a plethora of highly automated tools for accountants including:

  • benchmarking

  • business valuation

  • succession planning

  • survey tools

  • estate planning.

These CRM software tools help us capture relevant information consistently, and provide professional reports to give you our client the key information you need. Best of all, they connect not only with Xero but also MYOB and other accounting providers.

And all from a single database!

Their CRM system ‘Administration, Relationships and Management (ARM)’ comes in a ‘lite’ version for small businesses or start-ups. And as your business grows you can choose from their  existing marketplace products, or even develop your own.

If you want to know more about MYP’s suite of client relationship management products, and how they could fit your business, contact Deborah Harris at Gill, McKerrow and Associates. We can help you automate your own business processes, leaving you free to build your business.

And if you’d like to see the professional reports and processes MYP can develop, take our What's Important To You (WITY) survey by clicking the image below or on our website pages.

If you read this and find some inspiration,click here.

Oct 23

Taking Cover: 5 Types of Business Insurance You Should Consider

Posted by Ysabel Bautista at Thursday, October 23, 2014

Whoever said, “You can never have too much insurance” obviously never had to pay the premiums. Still, there’s no denying the fact you need it to protect your business and its assets.

So you probably have building and contents, public liability and public indemnity insurance. But what else should you get cover for? What else can you get cover for?

The answer to the first question really depends on the type of business you own. As for what you can get cover for, you may be surprised.

Here are five types of insurance every business should consider:

• Business Interruption insurance

If there’s a fire at the premises, chances are your building and contents insurance will cover it. But while everything’s being rebuilt/repaired/replaced, you’re not making any money.

Business Interruption can cover you for loss of profit, ongoing staff costs and additional operating costs (e.g. temporarily relocating to another premises).

• Goods in Transit insurance

You may have the stock you have on the premises insured, but what about the stock that’s in transit? Whether you’re buying it, selling it or just using it, your business could suffer if it’s lost or damaged.

With Goods in Transit insurance, you’re covered whether it’s coming or going by ship, air, post, rail or road.

• Burglary insurance

While your contents insurance probably covers you against fire, flood, malicious damage and other perils, it may not cover you if your goods are stolen. And if your business involves a property you don’t always have attended, that could be a serious risk. But with Burglary insurance, your goods are covered if they’re taken from your premises.

• Product Liability insurance

No-one goes out of their way to sell a product that will harm people or property. But accidents can happen. There may be a glitch in production, or a misprint in the instruction manual, or the customer may have simply used your product the wrong way.

And that accident can result in legal action.

Product Liability insurance covers you against claims of injury, death or damage from goods you sell, supply, deliver, repair or service.

• Employment Practices Liability insurance

While you’d never purposely upset your employees, there may come a time when they feel unhappy enough about their work situation to take legal action.

Employment Practices Liability insurance covers you for any damages or costs resulting from accusations of discrimination, unfair dismissal, harassment or other situations.

As you can see, when it comes to insuring your business you have a lot of options. A combination of bad luck and not being insured for one of the above scenarios could cost your business dearly.

It pays to sit down with a risk insurance advisor on a regular basis and review which insurances—the obvious and the not so obvious—you should consider. Even if you decide not to take out insurance in these additional areas of risk, an annual insurances review can make sure you’re neither under- nor over-insured.

This might save you money on premiums.

It will definitely add to your peace of mind.

Get in touch and we’ll make a time to sit down with you and review your business’ insurance needs.

Oct 13

There are two common misconceptions when it comes to wills and estate planning:

  1. Thinking that having a will means your estate planning is in order
  2. Thinking that it’s solely about what happens after you pass away.

These are costly misconceptions that cause families much avoidable stress and added grief.

Firstly, a will is just a small part of your overall estate plan. There are a number of other documents you need, which we address below.

Secondly, estate planning also covers what is to happen should you become incapacitated, either temporarily or permanently. Because a will only takes effect after you die, it fails to cater for a range of scenarios that, sadly, often occur.

A good estate plan takes care of all of these possibilities, and gives your loved ones comprehensive and specific information on how to proceed when you’re not around to help them.

This gives both you and your family peace of mind that if anything happens to you, they will be looked after and your wishes will be honoured.

Having only a will in place is a recipe for stress, confusion and disappointment.

So what do you need in your estate plan?

7 documents to keep up-to-date in your estate plan

1. Your Will

Your will may cover information such as:

  • how your assets will be distributed

  • what needs to happen with any debt

  • who gets the kids

  • what you may like to give to charity

  • instructions on your funeral.

But you also need to make it clear what happens if you and your partner die together, otherwise what’s written in your partner's will could determine how your assets are distributed.

And make sure it’s up to date. If you’ve had major life changes (e.g. getting a divorce, remarrying, births and deaths in your family) and you don’t update your will, it may be invalid.

That’s as good as not having a will.

Action Plan: Dust off your will and check to see it is up-to-date and still reflects your wishes.

2. Testamentary Trusts

Testamentary trusts are set up in a will, but only take effect after the death of whoever made the will. People set them up for a number of reasons, including:

  • protecting assets for minors

  • dealing with the trustworthiness of beneficiaries

  • protecting assets against divorce or bankruptcy.

The trust is administered by a trustee, who manages the assets of the trust until the trust reaches its expiration date.

Action Plan: If you feel any of your beneficiaries aren’t capable of handling the assets of your estate you may want to look into establishing a testamentary trust. If you already have a testamentary trust, make sure it’s up to date and still reflects your wishes.

3. Superannuation and Insurance Policies

Did you know the beneficiaries named in any Binding Nominations made in your superannuation or insurance policies will override whatever’s in your will. Which means your will may not even cover your biggest cash asset - your superannuation.

Action Plan: Make sure your insurance and superannuation are both up to date, and that  any binding nominations reflect your preferred choice of beneficiaries.

4. Family Trusts

One thing you need to keep in mind is that for a Family Trust, the assets of the trust will be distributed according to what’s specified in the Trust Deed - regardless of what’s written in your will.

Action Plan: Make sure the Trust Deed for your family trust reflects your current wishes. You should review it every 3 to 5 years, or whenever a major event changes your life circumstances.

5. Powers of Attorney

A number of documents fall into this category. Here’s what they’re used for.

Document Type

When and why it’s used

When it can no longer be used

General Power of Attorney

To cover a specified period of time you may not be around (e.g. taking an overseas holiday).


  • the period has elapsed

  • you can no longer make decisions for yourself.

Enduring Power of Attorney

If you lose the capacity to make legal and financial decisions for yourself.

When you can once again make these decisions.

Medical Power of Attorney

Gives the power of attorney to make medical decisions for you when you can’t make them for yourself.

You should choose someone who:

  • will be around when needed

  • is trustworthy

  • you can keep up to speed on how you feel about specific health events.

When you can once again make decisions for yourself.

Action Plan:  If you have any of these documents, make sure the people you’ve nominated as powers of attorney are still willing and capable of administering the role.

And if you don’t have these documents, now’s the perfect time to get the ball rolling.

6. Living Wills and Guardianships

These documents record how you want to be treated (or not treated), and appoint trusted people to act on your behalf. Here’s what they’re used for.

Type of Document

When and why to use it

Enduring Power of Guardianship

Whoever you nominate in this document can choose where you live, your medical care and other lifestyle choices if you’re incapable of making those decisions yourself. So choose carefully.

Anticipatory Direction

This is where you can record your specific wishes about future medical treatment in case you’re ever incapable of expressing your wishes.

Advance Healthcare Directive (also known as a Living Will)

This document provides instructions on how to administer your future health care, and may include specific instructions about resuscitation, life support, treatments, and even your beliefs.

Action Plan: Make sure you’re still happy with the health directives you’ve specified in these documents. If you don’t have any of them yet, it may be time to reflect on what your future needs may be and get them drawn up accordingly.

7. Critical Events Plan

There’s no point having any of these documents if they can’t be quickly found and acted on as the need arises. You need to have a critical events plan so your family knows exactly what to do and who to contact. It’s a way to give them the comfort they need when they need it most.

The Plan should include:

  • the key issues of any potential crisis that could have an impact on your loved ones

  • a complete register of both family members and professionals who can deal with any estate matter

  • the purposes and entitlements of the structures in place

  • all documents needed so decisions can be made unimpeded

  • a list of insurances in place

  • a register of assets and debts

  • the legal responsibilities of the estate, particularly regarding care of dependents.

What should you do next?

Objectively ask yourself, how up to date is your estate plan? It’s too important to leave it in the ‘some day’ category.

When we undertake our estate planning process here at Gill Mckerrow, we focus on one goal: to protect your family's future by protecting and maintaining the family wealth and distributing it according to your wishes.

If you need help with your estate plan, get in touch with us. We can:

  • conduct a needs analysis

  • review of your existing structures

  • facilitate any legal documents you need

  • tailor a complete Critical Events Plan to the needs of your family

  • regularly review your estate plan to ensure it’s always up to date.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Let us help you create or update your estate plan now, and give yourself and your family the peace of mind you all deserve.

Aug 17

How To Have A Seasoned ‘CFO’ Help Guide Your Business Decisions

Posted by Ysabel Bautista at Sunday, August 17, 2014

How To Have A Seasoned ‘CFO’ Help Guide Your Business Decisions

Larger businesses have a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) on staff. But what can small and medium sized businesses do in this regard?

Clearly, larger businesses can afford an in-house CFO. But it goes beyond an affordability issue: Large, successful businesses also understand how crucial the CFO role is to their business performance…

The CFO keeps an eye on the numbers, helps management create sound forecasts, ensures the cash inflows and outflows are managed well, reports on revenues achieved compared with targets, gives solid information on a range of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to the business decision makers, and also helps with decision making.

This is management input that all businesses require regardless of their size. But how can small and medium sized business access CFO input and guidance?

The answer: You out-source it. You get a part-time, out-sourced CFO until you can afford one full-time.

That’s where we can play a role.

Our ‘Insight’ service has been developed with input from our clients to make sure it’s the ideal mix of support services and affordability.

As ‘Insight’ we roll our sleeves up and work with you in management meetings throughout the year on: 

  • Cash flow – Efficient management of cash flow to provide cash for saving or growth
  • Profitability – Identifying key drivers of profit and focusing on these
  • Business value – Growing a valuable and saleable business asset
  • Structure management – Staying on top of risk and taxation issues

As business owners we all know we need to measure and monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). That is, the handful of numbers that really matter in running our business.

It is also important that you have a ‘KPI dashboard’ to display your KPI targets compared with your current KPI performance. This helps tremendously in monitoring and managing your business’ performance and ultimately hitting your targets.

As your outsourced CFO, we will bring to each meeting that we conduct with you clear financial reports, easy-to-understand KPI information, as well as our commercial experience to interpret the information, make suggestions and help guide your business decision making.

Items we’ll discuss each meeting include: 

  • Profit (historical and future)
  • Cash flow (historical and future)
  • KPIs: A mixture of focusing on Lead Indicators which drive performance and Lag Indicators that measure the outcomes
  • Marketing activity and effectiveness
  • Operational efficiencies such as work-in-progress or workflow

  • Financial indicators such as debtor turnover

  • Team efficiencies, knowledge management, morale and safety.

By helping with your forward planning for achieving the next period’s targets, and by being a sounding board for you as you strive to meet your targets, our ‘Your CFO’ service and support gives you a crystal clear focus for what needs to be done to achieve the goals of your business.

Your next step

Contact us for a no cost and no obligation meeting to discuss how we can work with you as your outsourced CFO. We’ll outline for you what’s included and what costs are involved so you can see how the service can be comfortably include

Jul 30

Employers: How ATO SuperStream Transition Delay Affects You

Posted by Jeremy Harris at Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Back in May we wrote a post about SuperStream, which is all about streamlining data and payments around employer super contributions. From the ATO website:

“The goal is to improve the efficiency of the superannuation system, to improve the timeliness of processing of rollovers and contributions, and reduce the number of lost accounts and unclaimed monies.”

Since SuperChoice began on 1 July 2005, many employers now record and make quarterly (or even monthly) contributions to multiple funds, all with different reporting and payment requirements.

Needless to say it can be a major admin task.

To meet SuperStream’s requirements, all super funds must: 

  1. have consistent data collection and payment methods
  2. be electronic.

And on the flipside, employers’ systems must also allow for electronic reporting and payment.

The original intention was to have SuperStream up and running by now, but there have been a couple of delays. The latest deferral acknowledges that many businesses (employers) and self-managed superannuation fund trustees aren’t sure what they need to do, and aren’t ready to handle the new requirements. 

For employers 

Here’s the latest timetable.

    Employer Type

   Compliance dates

Medium to large employers (20 or more employees)

From 1 July 2014 employers will commence implementing the data and payment standard measures, but will need to meet the requirements by 30 June 2015.

Small Employer (19 or fewer employees)

From 1 July 2015 employers will commence implementing the data and payment standard measures, but will need to meet the requirements by 30 June 2016.

Employers can voluntarily adopt SuperStream from 1 July 2014 if they are ready to do so.

If any of your employees are members of a Self Managed Super Fund, here’s the information you’ll need from them to be ready for compliance: 

  1. ABN
  2. Bank Account details
  3. Electronic Service Address

To meet the SuperStream standards, you’ll need to make sure your payroll software is SuperStream compliant. If you haven’t updated your accounting software (including payroll) for a long time, it may not work for SuperStream.

Our preferred software solution for many small- and medium-sized businesses is Xero. Being electronic (in the cloud) already, Xero is perfectly positioned to handle the new super requirements.

Small employers can also choose to use the Small Business Superannuation Clearing House, which is a free service.

For self-managed super funds

Self-managed super funds need to provide their electronic service address, ABN and bank account details to each working member’s employer(s). And they should do it early (we suggest 60 days before the planned start date) to give them enough time to start using the system. Remember: While the compulsory start dates are as per the table above, some employers may choose to opt in earlier.

We’ve found that the easiest way to get an electronic service address is through the self-managed super fund accounting software provider. All of our clients who run self-managed super funds and need an address already have it.

An exemption

Contributions made to a self-managed super fund from a related party employer are exempt from SuperStream. These contributions can use either the existing data and payment methods or the SuperStream system.

Education for employers

Here are links to a few videos produced by the ATO.

Employers, what to do now…

SuperStream is inevitable, and once it’s up and running it should be a good system. So whether you’re an employer, a super fund trustee or both, we suggest you get ready for the new system sooner rather than later.

As an employer you may not want to use it straight away (“Let someone else sort out the teething problems!”) But at least get ready, and maybe even give it a go during this financial year.

And if you need a hand getting ready, whether it’s changing your payroll system or getting set up for super funds, get in touch. We can help.

Jul 15

Crowdfunding: New Ways To Fund Business Startups

Posted by Ysabel Bautista at Tuesday, July 15, 2014

So you’ve got a great idea for your business, but you don’t have the funds right now to get it off the ground.

You could try applying for a government grant, but it’s often a long and arduous bureaucratic process of form filling and there are of course no guarantees you’ll get the money. Some governments also offer tax incentives for research and development, but usually you need to spend the money before you can get it back.

And there are private investors—’business angels’—too, if you have the contacts and know how to structure and negotiate a good deal that you won’t regret in the years to come.

‘Bootstrapping’ is the most common way that businesses fund their startup phase. This is where entrepreneurs fund the startup business out of their own savings and even from their credit card limits! High risk, but the bootstrapping advantage is that the founders don’t have to give away equity or control to other investors.

The downside is that bootstrapping can lead to under-capitalisation of the business, which can starve it of the cash the business needs to fund its growth.

You have to admire the entrepreneurial spirit. Small business is the engine room of the economy.

But what if you’re not able to tap into government grants, private investors or your don’t have sufficient funds for your startup idea?

Fortunately, it’s not a dead-end. There’s another relatively new way for your business to get the money it needs: crowdfunding.

With a little help from my friends

Crowdfunding is defined as the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via a web-based independent crowdsourcing platform.

Compared with other ways of raising money through multiple smaller investors—such as by issuing a prospectus or other traditionally regulated disclosure documents, which could also extend to completing the complex and expensive Initial Public Offering (IPO) process—crowdfunding is a relatively simple, easy and inexpensive process.

Crowdfunding is essentially a process of explaining (selling the idea of!) a proposed venture or project, and then asking for pledges from the public. In return, those who pledge receive rewards. These rewards can include early access to the product or service, or copies of the proposed book, album or movie, or (depending on the crowdfunding platform used) even equity in your company.

You just need to offer something that motivates people to help fund your crowdfunding campaign.

Two crowdfunding models to choose from

When you set up your crowdfunding campaign, you specify: * the amount of money you hope to raise * the time period you want to raise it in.

What happens at the end of that time period depends on the funding model you’ve chosen.

With the ‘all-or-nothing’ model (used by crowdfunding sites such as Pozible and Kickstarter), if you don’t reach your target then nothing happens. You don’t get any money, and your backers don’t get any rewards.

If your campaign is successful, then you get the money (less the fees charged by the crowdfunding site), and the backers get their rewards.

With the ‘flexible’ model (used by Indiegogo), you get to keep the money you raise whether your campaign is successful or not. However, you may be charged higher fees if you don’t reach your target. (You may also be legally obligated to give rewards to anyone who has given you money for your campaign. Be sure to study the crowdfunding platform’s terms and conditions before you start your campaign.)

How much are you willing to reveal?

The secret to a successful crowdfunding campaign is giving people a compelling reason to back it. And according to Johanna Baker-Dowell of Strawberry Communications, that means telling your story.

“Speak from the heart and help your supporters understand why the project is important to you and why they should pledge to it. Use words, videos, photos and whatever else you can think of to share your story.”

There’s a fine line between telling your story and giving away your intellectual property. So when you’re telling your story, make sure you don’t reveal too much.

Thanks to the internet and crowdfunding platforms, entrepreneurs now have more options and a much better chance to get the funding needed for their startups.

The “Ask and you shall receive” principle might just hold true? It’s certainly a matter of, “Ask and you shall find out!”

If you’d like to bounce any of your business startup ideas off us, or ask us about the various funding strategies you have available to you, get in touch and we’ll make a time to have a chat about it over a coffee.

Jun 25

Risky Business: Why Being Audited Costs You, Even When You’re Squeaky Clean

Posted by Deborah Harris at Wednesday, June 25, 2014

As a business owner, you know the importance of risk management and mitigation. To protect yourself you need to regularly:
  • review your operation’s processes to make sure they’re meeting workplace health and safety requirements
  • review your supplier chains to make sure products are available
  • survey customers to gauge their satisfaction.  

Of course, you can’t foresee every possible situation, which is why you also have insurance. There’s workplace health and safety cover to insure your staff, property insurance for your premises in case there’s fire or natural disaster, and even life and income protection to cover you outside of work.

But there’s another form of insurance you may well want to consider—Audit Insurance.

What is Audit Insurance?

Audit Insurance covers you against the fees you’d need to pay your accountant (and possibly your solicitor) to respond to an Audit, Review or Investigation of a return by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) or other Government body.  

What doesn’t it cover?

Audit Insurance does not cover the consequences of the audit, such as:
  • taxes due as a result of the findings of the audit
  • penalties incurred
  • payment arrangement negotiations
  • work that needed to be done before an audit
  • redoing your financials as a result of the audit.
What could be investigated/audited?
Investigations/audits could be requested for:
  • Income Tax
  • GST or BAS
  • Fringe Benefits Tax
  • Employer Obligation Reviews
  • Record Keeping
  • Capital Gains Tax
  • Payroll Tax
  • WorkCover or Workers Compensation
  • R&D Tax Concession (ATO only)
  • Self Managed Superannuation Funds
  • other lodged returns.

How likely is it that I’ll be targeted?

Each year the tax office announces the specific types of strategies, occupations or wealth categories it will focus on. In the 16 July 2013 edition of BRW, Nassim Khadem said:

“The four broad areas of focus this financial year are: individuals who fail to declare income or make incorrect claims for deductions; tax risks associated with the use of complex business structures; correct reporting of taxable income by wealthy individuals; and participation in tax planning schemes.

If I don’t fall into these categories, does that mean I won’t be audited?

Absolutely not! While the tax office may be targeting these specific areas, it doesn’t mean they’ll be ignoring everything else. If there’s an issue, you could still wind up in their crosshairs.  

But my accountant does a great job

This isn’t about your accountant getting it wrong. In fact, you can be audited even when your accountant has done everything right. As Gill McKerrow partner Philip Newell says, “Even if everything is squeaky clean it can still be a long expensive process to prove that… it can cost $25,000 just to prove you haven’t done anything wrong.”

One example of audit insurance at work

An employee being dismissed from his workplace decided to cause a bit of trouble. So he queried whether he had been paid appropriately under his award.

The tax office began a comprehensive investigation, going back over ten years of payments (including superannuation) to the employee.  

Now the business in question knew they’d been paying him fairly, even above award on occasion. Bit it didn’t matter—they still had to prove their case to the tax office.

In the end the tax office found they hadn’t done anything wrong, and so they weren’t fined or penalised in any way. But it cost them $25,000 in professional fees just to provide the evidence the tax office needed. 

Fortunately this particular business had an Audit Insurance policy in place. If they didn’t, they would have had to find $25,000 in their business cash flow to pay their accountant and solicitor.

How much does it cost?

Premiums start from $99 p.a. (including GST) and are based on the size of business, business structure, and whether or not it’s a self-managed superannuation fund.  

And in most cases you should be able to claim the premium as a tax deduction.

So how do I get a policy?

Start by having a chat with us. A good policy should cover the cost of your accountant acting on your behalf, as well as any other professional advice needed, such as a solicitor. For this reason we use Audit Shield to give our clients this vital cover. 

To find out more, or to discuss risk management strategies for your business, contact us online or phone +61 7 3378 7399.

[1] Accountancy Insurance Audit Shield Educational Presentation (Policy Ver 03.2014)

Jun 13

3 Reasons Personal Budgeting Is Brilliant, Not Boring!

Posted by Ysabel Bautista at Friday, June 13, 2014

If a business owner said to you that they run their business without a budget, what would you think? You’d think they were incompetent. Or perhaps lazy? Or both?

But what do most families do?

When you think about it, a family is actually a mini business. There is income, there are expenses and there is, hopefully, something left over to invest and to enjoy.

So why don’t most families operate to a budget?

After all, a personal budget helps you to see your financial direction and helps you stay (or get back!) on track. It’s a great comfort.

One reason some people don’t put together a budget is a feeling of overwhelm, of being too busy, of feeling like life is too complex to keep track of all that.

Well the good news is we can handhold you through the process and make it easy for you.

But before we look at the ‘how‘ aspects, let’s consider 3 more reasons why a personal budget is such an important tool to help you achieve your financial goals and dreams.

1. Most of your money is already spoken for long before you get it

The money you earn has already been promised to keep the electricity on, make the loan repayments and pay for the insurance. Most of what many people think of as budgeting is really honouring the commitments you have already have.

Now since we are all honest people and plan to pay these bills, the first step is to track these bills and see what is left over for your day-to-day living.

2. Your day-to-day living money is spread all over the place… Some of your day-to-day living money is in the bank. Some is in your purse or wallet. Some is with your partner or children if you have them.

You need a simple system that allows you to track day-to-day expenses such as fuel for your car, shopping and your discretionary spending expenses.

We suggest you don’t attempt to keep track of every cent of your day-to-day living money. It’s not worth the effort for the benefit you’d get out of that level of detail.

Instead, you need to identify your main day-to-day expenses and make allowance for all other minor day-to-day expenses as a total expense.

Here’s a key: You need a system that is so easy to use that you keep using it. You can track these day-to-day expenses by entering them into a spreadsheet, or better yet, use a tool like Xero Personal or Pocketbook that can automatically pull in bank feeds to save you a lot of data entry.

3. The Number 1 reason people give up on their budgets is that they don’t have the right attitude

It’s ALL in the attitude!

Have you ever attempted to budget and given up in frustration? What is the reason your budgeting attempt failed? What will make you stick to it?

Think about this…

One of the top reasons—if not the top reason—so many people give up at budgeting is attitude. If you think of it as a penny-pinching sacrifice instead of a means for achieving your financial goals and dreams, how long are you likely to stick with it?

It’s like the difference between going on a diet and eating healthily. One is negative and restrictive; the other is positive and allows you to indulge every now and then and yet still achieve your goals.

To increase your chances of success, work on your attitude first.

Many people refuse to budget because of budgeting’s negative connotation. If you’re one of them, try thinking of it as a ‘spending plan’ instead of a ‘budget’. Once you’ve attempted to budget and failed, the bad feelings associated with any type of failure can keep you from trying again. Don’t give up!

The cold hard reality

Let’s face it. Money is a tool that enables you to reach your goals in life. But the cold hard reality is that until you know where your money goes, you can’t make conscious decisions about how to use this tool effectively.

A budget (or spending plan!) shows you exactly where your money goes and provides a clear plan that lets you save for the things that are important to you: a new house, a new car, a comfortable retirement, a tertiary education, high quality health care, travel, or whatever your particular goals and dreams happen to be.

And that’s exciting.

Whatever YOU decide you want to save for and achieve, you can. With the right attitude, a focus and a (spending!) plan.

Avoid This Pitfall

There are several universal budgeting concepts that every successful budget will include, but one of the most important features of a successful budget is for it to be easy to use and suitable for your needs.

Don’t try to use a generic, complex, one-size-fits-all budget. A simpler approach makes it easier to stay committed. If you stick with a realistic, effective budget long enough, the rewards will keep you motivated. In the meantime, do whatever it takes to keep yourself going.

The 3 steps for effective personal budgeting (spending planning!) are: 1. Build a Budget, 2. Track Income and Spending, and 3. Compare Budget to Actual. Once you start budgeting with a positive attitude, you will see the difference a budget or spending plan can make in your life. 

Your next step … Call us on +61 7 3378 7399 or email us on info@gillmckerrow.com.au to make a time to meet. We’d love to discuss this with you and help you to get on track towards achieving your financial goals.

May 24

Business Owners: Ready to ride the SuperStream?

Posted by Jeremy Harris at Saturday, May 24, 2014

If you’re still paying your employees’ super with bank transfers (or worse still, cheques), then you need to change the way you do things–and fast.

From 1 July 2014, if you make super contributions for 20 or more employees you’ll have to make those payments online. (Those of you with fewer than 20 employees have until 1 July 2015.)

That means you’ll no longer be able to pay by cheque (yes, some super funds still insist on being paid that way). And chances are a bank transfer won’t cut it either because you’ll also need to include other details such as the employee’s name, Tax File Number and Super Fund member number.

Help the government help you

Why is the government making you do this? Well, the government is acutely aware that people aren’t putting enough money away for their retirement.

At one point the magic superannuation figure to retire on comfortably was one million dollars. But according to a recent Deloitte report, that figure is now $1.58 million for men and $1.76 million for women. (Women live longer, so they have to save more.)

So as part of their become more educated and proactive with their super investments” (to quote Richard Puffe).

The bottom line? If you’re not using an electronic accounting system, it’s time to make the switch.

Make things easier for yourself with Xero

Naturally, the accounting systems that will handle the change best are those that already do everything online. And few systems do that better than Xero.

Xero operates completely in the cloud, and already works with feeds from banks and other financial institutions. So it’s easy for Xero to also work with superannuation funds.

How easy? Here’s a video showing how to easily make superannuation contributions for employees using Xero.

And this feature is being included in all Xero Premium plans.

Get ready to ride the SuperStream

The deadline for moving to online superannuation contributions is only months away. And if you have to move to an electronic accounting system as well, it’s time to get that process moving before it’s too late.

Talk to us and we can guide you on converting across to Xero. Streamlined payment of your employees’ superannuation contributions will be just one of many benefits you’ll enjoy once you’re using Xero.

May 09

Cloud Computing: The 3-Places Rule For Secure Digital Files

Posted by Jeremy Harris at Friday, May 09, 2014

“A digital file doesn’t exist unless it’s in three places”

When I heard this comment the other day I thought it was simple, yet profound.


It came from my daughter, who heard it from one of her lecturers. She’s studying film and television at university. And of course, everything in film and television is digital these days.

I immediately thought about our approach to software (particularly cloud-based applications), and realised the same principle applies.

So much of what we do today is digital. And it makes whatever we’re doing—photography, communications or even accounting—quick and easy.

But where is the information being stored? Do you have a backup? Where is it? And how quickly and easily can you access it?

Let’s look at a few different scenarios, starting with one close to home…

How safe are your family photos?

With today’s smartphones and digital cameras we can easily take hundreds of photos. Perhaps too easily! For many people, the result is family photos and videos haphazardly stored across multiple devices.

Now getting them all organised is a topic in itself. But in terms of storage and backup, The 3-Places Rule definitely applies.

For example, your photos can be:

(1) stored on your home computer (either in an application or just in a file structure);
(2) backed up to an external hard drive; and
(3) uploaded to online albums in the cloud using a variety of software applications. (Tip: Make sure they are stored in the same format as the originals, with no resizing or compression.)

Protect your customer-related emails and other important documents

You may think you have only one copy of your emails. But if you save an email in your document management system, that’s another copy. And with systemised and regular backups of your server you have a third copy.

Of course, if you need to keep the email you should archive it so it isn’t cluttering up your inbox.

Don’t forget your accounting data (the stuff we know best)

The popularity and understanding of cloud-based accounting applications has grown massively over the past few years. One concern people have (and rightfully so) is they don’t have a local copy of their accounting data on their computer.

One of the reasons we love the Xero accounting software so much is it gives us the benefits of the cloud while still allowing for disaster recovery. Xero backs up the data, of course. But what if something goes wrong with their servers, or our connection to them?

We use a Xero add-on application called ‘safegaurdmy’. Once a month (or once a week if we wish), we get an automated email with a multi-tab spreadsheet containing all the data from every Xero file we have a subscription for.

And by sending this email to the business, we satisfy The 3-Places Rule:

(1) Xero’s own backup;

(2) The copy on our server; and

(3) The copy on the business’ own server.

This even applies to invoices and receipts

When it comes to copies of invoices and receipts (and whether you can throw away the paper copy) we also love ‘Receipt Bank’. It scans your invoices, and then creates the accounting entries in Xero by extracting the data from the scanned image.

And in conjunction with safeguardmy, you can have three copies:

  1. (1) one in Receipt Bank;
  2. (2) one in Xero (attached to the transaction ), and
  3. (3) one on safeguardmy’s servers.

As for whether or not you can throw away the paper copy, guess what? Having copies in three places gives some people enough confidence to throw them away. (Or, if they receive their invoices electronically, to not even have them in paper form in the first place!)

When a copy isn’t really a copy

There’s one point I need to bring up to put The 3-Places Rule in context—version control.

Three copies doesn’t mean three different versions. You need to establish which copy is the essential source of truth, and make sure that’s the one that gets updated.

The other two copies are just that—copies, not different versions that get directly edited.

Do you follow The 3-Places Rule with your digital files?

Do you follow The 3-Places Rule with your digital files? If you do, we’d love to hear about it. Enter your Comments below and share how you’re achieving it.

Apr 20

Where Did It Go?: Taking The Mystery (And Pain) Out Of Managing Your Money

Posted by Jeremy Harris at Sunday, April 20, 2014

Most people will quite literally earn millions of dollars in their lifetime. Yet many people struggle financially and live from paycheque to paycheque.

With the ageing population and many Baby Boomers now continuing to work, at least on a part-time basis, past the traditional retirement age, people are working more years than ever. Even if a person works only 40 years, at average earnings, that’s a lot of money.

It is said, Money talks, but for many, all it ever says is, Good-bye.

Have you ever found that the month lasts longer than the money? Or have you ever got your tax return and looked at all the money you have earned over the past 12 months and then thought, Where has it all gone?

You’re not alone. And the good news is, now there’s a simple solution.

There’s a great quote from Charles Dickens, David Copperfield where the character Mr. Micawber says to Copperfield, Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

So true. Yet keeping track of what you spend your money on, for many, is too hard, too laborious. The benefits of doing so are obvious to anyone, yet the discipline to keep all your receipts, enter the information into a program like Quicken Personal or MS Money (or just to write it into a paper ledger), and keep that going consistently over time is beyond most of us.

Well … and here’s the good news … what if a piece of software could track and categorise what you spent your money on, but it involved very little effort by you?

Imagine the clarity you’d get if you knew exactly how much you have spent and what percentage of your income is going on the various areas including mortgage/rent, vehicles, groceries, schooling/education, eating out, entertaining, mobile phones and internet, medical and pharmaceutical, and so on.

For most, it would be a real eye opener.

It is said that knowledge equals power.

That is very true when it comes to your personal finances.

Once you can objectively see exactly how your lifestyle and your habits that is, you are spending your money each year, and month-to-month as you go, you then have the power to make decisions on where you can change your spending (and saving!) habits.

In this information age and electronic era, many of us use credit cards, debit cards and EFT when buying things. We have now reached a point for the first time in history where more money is exchanged electronically than through cash transactions.

That’s a lot of transactions. And it’s a lot of data.

What that means, is that this data is available to be analysed, on a societal basis, industry basis, business basis and … a personal basis.

And that’s where a brilliant tool comes into play: Xero Cashbook

Here’s how it works …

Xero Cashbook is online software. It’s the non-GST version of the Xero software used by businesses.

It analyses and categorises all your electronic transactions to give you a snapshot of your complete financial position in an instant. This also organises a view of all your bank accounts and cards in one place. Very handy.

This is precisely what a lot of people have been waiting for.

An easy way to track and control your finances.

Xero Cashbook categorises your spending and saving, so you can tell whether your money is being used for essentials or you’re splashing out on other things.

If you are concerned about security, Xero protects your financial data with 128-bit SSL encryption, the same as online banking. Your data is well protected.

You can also invite people you trust, such as your spouse, accountant or other financial advisor, to access your Xero reports for free. This means that, as your advisors, we can see the true picture of your finances and spending habits, and help you stay on track.

This allows us to help you plan ahead and make the most of your money.

You will never before have felt so in control of your personal finances.

Being web-based, rather than being stuck on one computer like traditional software, you can access Xero from home, work and even on your mobile smartphone such as an iPhone and Android device.

If you’d like us to step you through getting set up with Xero Cashbook, or their Xero equivalent for Business, or both, get in touch and we’ll hand hold you through the process. It’s not difficult, and once your bank accounts are set up, it happens automatically from there.

The way we see it, the more clients we help keep track of their finances in such an easy way, the more clients who will prosper and find financial happiness instead of financial misery, to paraphrase Dickens’ Mr. Micawber.

Your next step … Call us on 61 7 3378 7399 or email us to make a time to meet and discuss your options. We’ll then outline the costs so you know exactly what lies ahead.

It’s time to stop saying “good-bye” to so much of your money each year!

Apr 20

Where Did It Go?: Taking The Mystery (And Pain) Out Of Managing Your Money

Posted by Jeremy Harris at Sunday, April 20, 2014

Most people will quite literally earn millions of dollars in their lifetime. Yet many people struggle financially and live from paycheque to paycheque.

With the ageing population and many Baby Boomers now continuing to work, at least on a part-time basis, past the traditional retirement age, people are working more years than ever. Even if a person works only 40 years, at average earnings, that’s a lot of money.

It is said, Money talks, but for many, all it ever says is, Good-bye.

Have you ever found that the month lasts longer than the money? Or have you ever got your tax return and looked at all the money you have earned over the past 12 months and then thought, Where has it all gone?

You’re not alone. And the good news is, now there’s a simple solution.

There’s a great quote from Charles Dickens, David Copperfield where the character Mr. Micawber says to Copperfield, Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

So true. Yet keeping track of what you spend your money on, for many, is too hard, too laborious. The benefits of doing so are obvious to anyone, yet the discipline to keep all your receipts, enter the information into a program like Quicken Personal or MS Money (or just to write it into a paper ledger), and keep that going consistently over time is beyond most of us.

Well … and here’s the good news … what if a piece of software could track and categorise what you spent your money on, but it involved very little effort by you?

Imagine the clarity you’d get if you knew exactly how much you have spent and what percentage of your income is going on the various areas including mortgage/rent, vehicles, groceries, schooling/education, eating out, entertaining, mobile phones and internet, medical and pharmaceutical, and so on.

For most, it would be a real eye opener.

It is said that knowledge equals power.

That is very true when it comes to your personal finances.

Once you can objectively see exactly how your lifestyle and your habits that is, you are spending your money each year, and month-to-month as you go, you then have the power to make decisions on where you can change your spending (and saving!) habits.

In this information age and electronic era, many of us use credit cards, debit cards and EFT when buying things. We have now reached a point for the first time in history where more money is exchanged electronically than through cash transactions.

That’s a lot of transactions. And it’s a lot of data.

What that means, is that this data is available to be analysed, on a societal basis, industry basis, business basis and … a personal basis.

And that’s where a brilliant tool comes into play: Xero Cashbook

Here’s how it works …

Xero Cashbook is online software. It’s the non-GST version of the Xero software used by businesses.

It analyses and categorises all your electronic transactions to give you a snapshot of your complete financial position in an instant. This also organises a view of all your bank accounts and cards in one place. Very handy.

This is precisely what a lot of people have been waiting for.

An easy way to track and control your finances.

Xero Cashbook categorises your spending and saving, so you can tell whether your money is being used for essentials or you’re splashing out on other things.

If you are concerned about security, Xero protects your financial data with 128-bit SSL encryption, the same as online banking. Your data is well protected.

You can also invite people you trust, such as your spouse, accountant or other financial advisor, to access your Xero reports for free. This means that, as your advisors, we can see the true picture of your finances and spending habits, and help you stay on track.

This allows us to help you plan ahead and make the most of your money.

You will never before have felt so in control of your personal finances.

Being web-based, rather than being stuck on one computer like traditional software, you can access Xero from home, work and even on your mobile smartphone such as an iPhone and Android device.

If you’d like us to step you through getting set up with Xero Cashbook, or their Xero equivalent for Business, or both, get in touch and we’ll hand hold you through the process. It’s not difficult, and once your bank accounts are set up, it happens automatically from there.

The way we see it, the more clients we help keep track of their finances in such an easy way, the more clients who will prosper and find financial happiness instead of financial misery, to paraphrase Dickens’ Mr. Micawber.

Your next step … Call us on 61 7 3378 7399 or email us to make a time to meet and discuss your options. We’ll then outline the costs so you know exactly what lies ahead.

It’s time to stop saying “good-bye” to so much of your money each year!

Apr 11

There’s a saying in business, “You can go broke making a profit.” And another, “Cash is king. Profit is theory.”

As you know only too well, you don’t pay rent, meet payroll or pay your bills with profit.

You pay them with cash.

A business can make a lot of sales, have a book full of orders, have delighted customers and clients, have a great reputation, be growing, and yet still go broke.

Why? Cash flow.

The business might be profitable on paper, but have no money left in the bank. They become insolvent.

A growing business is often hungry for cash ... hungry for inputs so it can make the business’ outputs, be they physical products, services or a combination of both.

The tragedy in this is that cash flow crises can often be averted. They can be predicted, planned for, and then contingency measures put in place.

For example, if a business has seasonal effects where some months are busier than others, or if a business knows it has some jumps in expenses or fixed costs approaching—such as moving to a larger premises or hiring more staff to cope with growth—then these expenses can be planned for and compared with the planned income in those months.

Which would you prefer to do?

(A) Call your bank manager and ask for a short-term loan or increase in overdraft when you are urgently in need of the cash (and therefore stressed, and desperate, and not in a great frame of mind to negotiate good terms), or

(B) Call your bank manager 6 months in advance and meet with him or her to explain the coming cash crunch, the reasons behind it, and plan for the funding in a calm, relaxed, totally-in-control manner?

Not only would you get the loan, you’d impress the bank manager and strengthen the relationship for further funding, should it be needed to support your growth.

The bank manager would see you are a professional operator with a planned approach to your business, not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operator. (They see a lot of those. They don’t like doing business with them.)

Apart from the relationship with your bank, there’s the immediate effect of sleeping better at night.

We all seek a level of certainty to comfort us. Knowing what lies ahead in business and planning your cash flow gives you a peace of mind and confidence in your day-to-day work that will rub off on those around you...

...in your workplace and at home. It’s a good feeling.

This is one of the reasons we are so passionate about helping our clients put together cash flow forecasts, to help them keep their business on track and to avoid any stressful, unpleasant surprises in the coming months.

It doesn’t matter whether a business is a one-person hairdressing or lawn mowing business, or a 10 person, 20 or 200+ person business.

Every business needs a cash flow forecast.

Running your business without a cash flow forecast is like driving a car at night along a dark country road with only your normal headlights on. It’s hard to see what lies ahead. Some wildlife might come right out in front of you, leaving no time for you to react. CRASH!

On the other hand, a cash flow forecast is like driving along that country road with high beam on. You can see so much more. You can drive with much more confidence. Less stress. And avoid the CRASH!

Another thing we often find in helping our clients build realistic cash flow forecasts, is that we can spot problems and make suggestion that help improve the business’ cash cycle. This puts money in your bank account.

For example, a combination of negotiating better terms with suppliers, tightening up or at least clarifying and enforcing your business’ own credit terms, and reducing stock holding and waste can have a powerful positive effect on your cash flow.

So, if a cash flow forecast is so crucial, why do many businesses not have one?

Simple. Business owners get busy. Busy pleasing customers or clients. Busy dealing with staff. Busy paying suppliers. Busy generating sales.

Also, it’s easy to get ‘too close’ to your own business. “You can’t see the forest for the trees,” as the saying goes.

Having an independent and fresh pair of eyes come in and look at your business—especially cash flow which is its life blood—allows opportunities for improvements to be identified. Things that are there, but difficult for the business owner to see amidst the ‘busy-ness’ of it all.

So, what should do about it? Call us. Take action. A cash flow forecast costs less than you think.

It’s time to turn those high beams on!

Your next step ... Call us on 61 7 3378 7399 or email us us to make a time to meet and discuss your options. We’ll then outline the costs so you know exactly what lies ahead.

Apr 10

Why Creating Connections Can Be Viral

Posted by Jeremy Harris at Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why is it that some companies pay millions of dollars to advertisers just to try to make a campaign go viral and it doesn't work? 

It fails to connect...

By this I don't mean people fail to see it or even to respond to it. It fails to connect because it doesn't hit enough people right at their core. It doesn't sing to them about their Why.

Simon Sinek gives us great content about what drives us to do what we do. To see one of the best examples of his work you should spend the time watching his video below. The single biggest failing of the advertising companies is that it doesn't understand why we do what we do because that is not in the trend analysis data.

Now I'm not suggesting I know what makes things go viral, but I do know that what drives me is to make connections with people, with products, with brands, with places that make me feel good inside because they resonate with who I am - generous, concerned for others, wanting to help.

How I make connections... 

My favourite way to make connections at work is through our giving program through B1G1 - Business For Good where businesses like Gill, McKerrow can make regular and consistent micro-impacts to help people around the world. The reason for this is that it allows me to express my generosity, concern for others and helpfulness in a way other people can see clearly. And because I also try to lead by example, as a gift to you for reading my blog, I am going to prevent blindness in a child. So after you have watched the video, click on the link below and I will donate on your behalf.

Mar 31

Businesses for Good see the Power of Small

Posted by Jeremy Harris at Monday, March 31, 2014

Recent Trip to Cambodia with B1G1

In early January I was privileged to take part in a Study Tour to Siem Reap, Cambodia and surrounding areas organised by B1G1. B1G1 is an organisation which connects businesses with more than 600 worthy causes around the world. 

As a special bonus, two of our teenagers, Joshua (16) and Jessica (14), were able to accompany me on the tour.

We were a diverse group including Accountants from Queensland and the UK, an accompanying Antiques Dealer from the UK, a Dentist from Aberdeen with accompanying videographer, Health and Allied Health professionals from Perth and Melbourne and an Author/Speaker/Coach from Dubbo with her son. The tour was led by B1G1 Founder Masami Sato, Chairman Paul Dunn and Team Member Hashima Hassim.


The main aspects of the tour included helping build a playground for over 150 primary schoolchildren, conducting a knowledge workshop for scholarship students and visiting vocational training and community projects.

This Life Cambodia (TLC) supports the development of sustainable communities and it works to improve the quality and access to education in 3 provinces in Cambodia. The name came about as a result of village communities saying what they wished for in the next life. TLC aims to improve this life. Their projects include:

Pedalling Out of Poverty provides a second-hand bicycle and lock to each student. This simple means of transportation can be the key to being able to attend secondary school and continue his or her education, breaking the cycle of poverty. Every adult participant on this study tour contributed one bicycle to a disadvantaged student.

The Light Up A Life With Solar project aims to sustainably increase the capacity of students to study during evening hours after their chores have been completed. The students receive solar lamps or lamp kits which extend light hours in the evening and therefore daily productivity in terms of school work for the child and household activities for the family.

Life Beyond Bars works to support juveniles (14–18 year olds) incarcerated in adult prisons as Cambodia lacks a juvenile justice system. The application of the is arbitrary and those with money or connections tend to avoid prison meaning the prison population largely comprises the poor and vulnerable with the juveniles often the most at risk. In instances children have been detained for petty offences such as stealing a small amount of food. Access to family visits, education and other support needs means that the reoffending rate of these children has been drastically reduced.

A commonly used phrase at many of the projects we visited is “appropriate technology”. This means that an activity can be set up to continue sustainably with obtainable skills and resources if and when the organisation sponsoring it is no longer there. A good example is the bio-sand water filters that are manufactured and installed in a simple but effective way by The Trailblazer Foundation.

The most inspiring of moments that came from this tour were the presentations from students from Pouk High School receiving scholarships through Child’s Dream. Aspiring to be a lawyer, Thoeu aged 19 moved most of the audience to tears with her story, and captivated the hearts of Joshua and Jessica – inspiring them to connect with the students there in various ways, and take action at their own school when they returned home. To view part of Thoeu’s presentation click here.

How does B1G1 work?

The B1G1 vision is that everything we do in business makes a real difference to someone else. A business signs up as a partner to B1G1 to access the giving platform with hundreds of carefully selected high impact projects from around the world. Selecting a project which is meaningful to the business and its products/services can help to build and strengthen connections with customers. The B1G1 system enables a business to keep track of its ongoing impact through its micro-giving activities.

Mar 30

An Eye for Connection: Creating Moments of Impact in Your Business

Posted by Jeremy Harris at Sunday, March 30, 2014

Last week I was deliberately observing key moments in business relationships. And two particular moments stood out… for the wrong reasons.

Business cards

I met somebody last week that I’d only previously known on paper by their reputation and experience. Someone we may well develop an ongoing business relationship with.

It was a typical introduction. We smiled and shook hands, and then he handed me his business card. Which wasn’t easy considering he had an armful of files, and was fishing for it with his other hand.

But before I could even take it he was already looking down at his briefcase, ready to pick it up and head to the meeting.

Our meeting would have had far more impact if he’d taken an extra ten seconds to maintain eye contact and make a genuine connection. Perhaps even putting the files down and handing the card over with two hands, as it’s often done in Asian countries. It would have given me a much stronger belief that he values the relationship, and takes the time to build trust.


My wife and I went for dinner to one of our long-time favourite restaurants, which has recently changed hands. Unfortunately we didn’t enjoy the meal as much as we have in the past, which may be why I was so acutely aware of the rest of our experience.

At the end of the meal we paid the bill, and they thanked us for our custom. Then we heard a comment that’s heard so often in these situations: “Hope to see you next time”.

But the cashier who said it was already looking down at the desk and filing the docket. And so the comment felt far less meaningful and genuine than if they maintained eye contact while they said it.

The power of these small moments of impact in business can grow exponentially. It’s all about making connections with people, which in turn quickly creates strong relationships. And the best thing about these moments of impact? All it will probably cost you is a minute of your time.

This stuff is simple, but not necessarily easy. You may need to change long-term habits, and retrain yourself and your staff.

But the payoff—financially and emotionally—will be huge.

Mar 18

Business Owners: Are You Inadvertently Putting Your Family Home At Risk?

Posted by Jeremy Harris at Tuesday, March 18, 2014

As a business owner, there are plenty of things you need to manage, and two of the most important of these are assets and risks.

In other words, building your wealth and protecting your wealth.

There’s no point building a lot of wealth if the way you have things structured behind the scenes means that someone could take your assets away from you.

Sadly, many business owners are in precisely this predicament...

...without knowing it!

Following are some crucial concepts that, if you as a business owner don’t understand them and put protective measures in place, your family home (and all personal assets of you and your family) are at risk of being lost if someone decided to take legal action against your business.

Consider these facts...

      Your business faces unpredictable risks through interaction with employees, customers/clients and creditors.

      This means there is potential to be sued by a variety of parties. Where there are agreements in place, sometimes disagreements later result. This is life. It makes sense to accept that, and plan and protect yourself, rather than hope it never happens.

      Litigation, sadly, is increasing each year, largely driven by lawyers offering ‘no win, no fee’ services.

      This encourages people to ‘have a go at you’ through legal action. They have nothing to lose, after all.

      This means you need to ‘build a wall’ between your business risks and your personal assets otherwise you risk losing it all.

      This ‘wall’ protects you and your family from losing assets such as your house or personal investments, if your business was to be sued.

      The wall is created by clever use of companies, trusts and also deciding who within a married couple, for example, should and should not be a Director of each company. This is a key point. One seemingly simple mistake in this area can cost a family their house.

      The standard type of will puts your family’s assets at risk, because if the person who dies holds the family’s personal assets in their name, ownership of these assets will revert to the person who through their Directorships in the business, is at a much higher risk of being sued. 

This presents significant risk.

So what can you do about it? 

If you haven’t looked at your asset protection structure in the past 12 months, you need to make that a priority.

Then this should be reviewed annually.


As your life changes, your asset protection strategies—your ‘wall’—needs to be checked that it is still appropriate. 

As part of this process we also ensure your wills and estate planning are in order. Remember, the standard type of will can bring down your wall. 

In addition to wills, there are other important documents to have in order such as an enduring power of attorney. This is a legal document that can give someone else—the person you choose—the power to make personal or financial decisions on your behalf. 

You see, it is far more common for someone to become incapacitated through accident or trauma such as stroke, than it is to suddenly die. If this happens to you, you may not be able to communicate your wishes and make decisions when you need to.

The consequences of this are dire and tragic.


It’s all about choices and about ensuring you protect your family and your assets. Without sound asset protection and effective wills and estate planning in place, the legacy you have been working so hard to build may not end up in the hands of the people you intend.

The potential tragic nature of this type of scenario is why we feel so passionate about asset protection and estate planning ... because it’s all about protecting the families we serve.

If you’re anything like our many other clients who have these structures in place, we think you’ll find the costs of ‘building these walls’, so to speak, relatively minor compared to the protection they give you and your family.

Your next step ... Call us on +61 7 3378 7399  or email us on info@gillmckerrow.com.au to make a time to meet and discuss your options. We’ll then outline the costs so you know exactly what lies ahead.

Feb 25

Your business, government grants and tax incentives. Are you cashing in?

Posted by Jeremy Harris at Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thomas Edison once said that “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration”.


Unfortunately, going from that inspirational idea to the finished product takes a lot more than hard work. Just like Edison, you also need to invest in a lot of research and development.

And R&D doesn’t come cheap.

Fortunately the Federal Government helps business in two ways: Grants and Tax Incentives

Government Grants - What’s available to you?

You might be surprised to find out just how many different government grants and assistance programs are on offer. The Federal Government’s GrantsLINK website helps you work out the grants your business may be eligible for. Click Business and Industry on the left of the screen and you’ll see pages of grants listed. Depending on your type of business, different grants might be applicable.

The Grants & Assistance Finder on business.gov.au has a more detailed listing of grants and assistance programs. You can filter on State or Territory and Type of Grant or Assistance.

Get in touch with us if you’d like us to shortcut the process for you, and we’ll let you know which grants are worth applying for in your situation.

Keep in mind there’s no guarantee a grant application will be successful. That’s one reason the next type of assistance is so appealing…


The R&D Tax Incentive - Are you eligible?

Innovate, and you reduce your tax. That’s the idea behind the Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentive. It provides R&D tax offsets to encourage businesses to innovate and engage in R&D.

Businesses conducting R&D may be eligible for:

       a 45% refundable tax offset (that’s equivalent to a 150% deduction) for eligible entities with an aggregated turnover of less than $20 million per annum, provided they are not controlled by income tax exempt entities

      a 40% non-refundable tax offset (equivalent to 133% deduction) for all other eligible entities (entities may be able to carry forward unused offset amounts to future income years).

The program is jointly administered by AusIndustry and the Australian Tax Office (ATO).

To register for the tax incentive you must lodge your application within 10 months of your company’s income year.

Each year you must apply to register for the R&D Tax Incentive. This is a self-assessment process for companies using the R&D Tax Incentive Online Eligibility Tool. This will give your company an indication of its eligibility.

It’s important that your company keeps adequate records throughout the year to show it carried out eligible activities in incurring the claimed expenditure.

If you’re eligible for the R&D Tax Incentive but not applying for it, you’re leaving cash on the table. We can help you make sure you tick all the relevant boxes so you don’t miss out.

If the government is offering your business financial assistance through tax breaks, take them!

A little perspiration will be worth it

Remember Edison’s words. The ‘perspiration factor’ can’t be avoided. You need to apply for the grants and tax incentives, but the effort can be well worth it. And we’ll share the load with you.

Drop us a line and we’ll make a time to catch up and have a chat about your eligibility and the next steps required.

Feb 20

Where there’s a Will, there’s an Estate Plan. Well, there should be.

Posted by Jeremy Harris at Thursday, February 20, 2014

Let’s face it: no-one likes to think of death, especially their own. It’s not exactly a great conversation starter, is it? This might explain why so many people end up “dying Intestate” which means they die without a will and, as a consequence, have their assets distributed according to State law.

Sadly, the way State law distributes a deceased person’s assets among family members can often be a lot different to the way a deceased person wanted their assets distributed

It can create a lot of unnecessary stress and conflict within a family.

So unless you’re living as a hermit with no contact or relationships with others, and you also don’t have a single possession to your name, you need to not only think about preparing a will, but do something about it.

And you need more than just a will. You need an estate plan.

Why having a will is not enough

If you have a will in place, you may not think you even need an estate plan. After all, your will spells out your “Who gets what” instructions regarding your estate, right?

Unfortunately, the estate you’ve specified in your will may not include all of your assets. By law, your will doesn’t include assets such as:

  • jointly-held property
  • superannuation
  • proceeds of life insurance policies
  • assets held in trust
  • company assets.

To control what happens to these assets, you need an estate plan.

6 more reasons to have an estate plan

A well-written estate plan can do more than just distribute all of your assets the way you want. It can also help:

  1. Your beneficiaries (i.e. your loved ones) to reduce (if not eliminate) tax on the income generated when they receive their inheritance, and every year thereafter
  2. Protect your beneficiaries’ inheritance from unfortunate events such as divorce and bankruptcy
  3. Minimise or even avoid the death benefits tax when distributing your superannuation benefits
  4. Guard against a beneficiary wasting their inheritance because of their spending habits, mental health, drug addictions, gambling or other vulnerabilities
  5. Make capital gains tax savings on the assets distributed through your estate
  6. Ensure your assets are passed to your preferred beneficiaries rather than, say, an in-law or former spouse.

Who should help you create your estate plan?

While an estate plan is a legal document, its creation shouldn’t be left solely to your solicitor. You need someone who knows about you, your family and your financial situation.

And the person who generally knows the most about that is your accountant or financial planner.

However, while they may know all about your finances, they may not have the legal qualifications needed to create a watertight estate plan. So you actually need your accountant or financial planner and a solicitor.

According to One Super Fund partner Gerard Wall:

“The financial planner’s job is to try and identify if the estate plan is funded properly, and if it is funded that the insurance is owned by the right person; the accountant’s job is to make sure that the client’s affairs are structured appropriately from a tax point of view; and the solicitor’s job is to make sure the documentation is all drawn up.”

Avoid leaving a trail of chaos behind you

Whether or not you have an active will in place, without an estate plan there’s no telling who your assets may end up with. Avoid creating stress and conflict for your loved ones, and give yourself the peace of mind in the here-and-now that your affairs are well in order. Get in touch and we can start the ball rolling to get a solid estate plan in place for you and your family.

Jan 29

Get It Done. Get It Read. Get Ahead.

Posted by Jeremy Harris at Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Success in business requires a number of essential ingredients. A sound strategy. A robust business model. Effective planning. Strong financial control and bookkeeping. A good team. Great systems. Measurement. Focus.

But you know what? Even all those elements are not enough without this skill: Execution.

Call it “Getting Things Done”, making things happen, the action habit, extreme focus… call it what you like, for many entrepreneurs it’s what separates mediocre from magic. It’s the difference between a business that plods along from one year to the next, and one that grows, evolves, impresses, enriches.

Execution is a skill. Sadly, we’re not taught it at school. (Gee, but we all use those good ol’ quadratic equations each day!) The good news is that, as adults, we can go out and find the information and principles of effective execution, then apply them. Daily.

To fast track you on your journey towards becoming brilliant at execution, here are some books that we highly recommend that you not only read, but you study, practice, live by:

Read (or listen) to those books, and your mind will be permanently re-wired. Obstacles and frustrations will become Projects, Tasks, or Wildly Important Goals. And you’ll have a pragmatic framework for achievement and creating the change you want in your business.

And in your life. It’s powerful stuff.

We’d love to hear of your favourite books on this ‘execution’ topic. Please share them in the Comments below, and after you read (or if you have already read) any of the books above, please share with us the key principles and practises that have made the biggest difference to you in terms of “getting things done” and executing your ideas.

Jan 14

3 Reasons Your Business Needs A Budget Now

Posted by Jeremy Harris at Tuesday, January 14, 2014

For many, the word ‘budget’ is about as appealing as the word ‘diet’.

It seems to imply what you will go without, rather than what you will achieve.

To a successful business owner, however, the word ‘budget’ has a very different meaning.

It’s more like a map than a diet.

It’s an outline of where you want to take the business, and what you need to achieve to get there.

Running a business without a budget is like a ship’s captain setting off on a voyage without a map. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it. Who would do that?!

Yet this is, figuratively speaking, what many business owners do.

Successful business owners, on the other hand, not only set clear targets and budgets each year, they monitor them closely each month, even each week, and adjust them as they go throughout the year.

Here are 3 compelling reasons your business needs a budget, now …

One: If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know you’re not already there?

If you’re not satisfied with how your business is performing, unless you set clear goals for where you want to take it, it’s probably as good as it is ever going to get. At best, it will just meander along, subject to the whims and vagaries of the economy and general market conditions.

The good news is that your business doesn’t need to meander along.

The first step in charting a clear course for growing and developing your business is objectively measuring ‘where it’s at’ right now.

And the numbers do tell a story.

For some, they act as a wake up call. For others, they just confirm the journey’s starting point.

It’s paradoxical that a large part of the value in a business budget is not in the numbers themselves. It’s in the realisation and acceptance of where you are and where you want to be.

The numbers are just the signposts for the journey.

A factual look at the numbers that describe where your business is right now takes away all the subjectivity, opinions and ‘reasons’ (often excuses, disguised as reasons).

This is the naked truth.

In fact, it is like standing on the scales, naked, looking at yourself in a full length mirror. That may or may not be a pretty sight!

For your business, these factual numbers are the sales, the variable costs, the margins, the overheads, and, lastly, the profit.

After all your work, this is the profit you’re left with.

Then comes the first of a series of ‘hard questions’ …

Are you happy with that profit? Is it worth it? Or are you dissatisfied? Then … What do you want those figures to look like?

Answer those questions, and you’ve just described where you want to be.

Congratulations! You have charted your course which is the first step to maximising your success.

Two: What’s more important to treat? Symptoms or causes?

As you well know, sales just don’t happen. Costs don’t just drop because you want them to. Sales and costs are a result of other underlying factors.

Put another way, they are *symptoms *of causes.

The business budgeting process quantifies the symptoms, and by asking a series of ‘What leads to this number?’ questions, it also identifies the underlying causes.

For example, underlying factors contributing to a sales (revenue) figure could include:

  • the number of calls made,
  • the number of customers walking through the door,
  • the percentage of conversions of enquiries or walk-ins to sales,
  • the dollar value of the average transaction, or simply
  • where your marketing is targeted.

These are all called ‘drivers’.

The sales figures are simply a result of these drivers.

Costs are no different …

For example, the rent paid may be a result of the storage you need for your stock levels. Wages costs may be blowing out as a result of overtime paid but underlying that may be inefficient staff.

Or a lack of clear processes. Or both.

So in reality what came first was not the sale or the cost, but their underlying drivers.

The budgeting process forces you to name and to quantify these underlying drivers.

That’s one of the most valuable aspects of preparing your budget. Not the budget itself, per se, but identifying your business’ drivers.


Because then you can focus on improving them.

That’s what will produce the improved results in your business. No looking at last quarter’s figures. That’s history.

It’s more fun to create history.

And that is, in essence, what you are doing when you are in your own business. You are captain of your own destiny, and you can steer it in any direction you want.

Note that word … direction. Key point. Have one.

You will be amazed at how well the budgeting and planning process will get you very clear on your direction.

Three: Budgeting is not about accounting. It’s about being accountable

Once you are crystal clear on the handful of drivers that creates your business’ results, the next question is …

What are you going to do about it?

Your budget won’t just give you a monthly sales target, for example, it will help you quantify the drivers that will produce the result.

For example, if next month’s sales target is $120,000, that figure is not your focus. Not on a day to day basis. Knowing the drivers, your focus will instead become 25 calls per day (Driver No.1) at 80% conversion rate (Driver No.2), with each customer buying an average of $300 worth of products (Driver No. 3).

Now you and your staff have crystal clear focus and are 100% accountable.

That’s good for them, and good for you and your business. (Tip: People in a business want a clear scoreboard and a ‘game to play’ so they know whether they are winning or not. Research has found that a lack of measurement in a job is demotivating to a staff member. See Patrick Lencioni’s books such as 3 Signs of a Miserable Job for more information on this topic.)

Knowing these drivers, and quantifying a target for each … you can ask questions like:

  • Have the 25 calls been made today?
  • If not, why not? Is the target realistic?
  • Does the team need training?
  • Do they need better telephone equipment or dialling software? - Or just more focus?
  • Or guidance on what their task priorities should be?
  • Or a combination of these?
  • Are we being effective and converting 80% of the calls?
  • Again, if not, why not?

You can then decide to improve skills, or systems, or attitude, or all three!

As you can see, the power of the budget is in the process of preparing it, and then the budget itself is a tool to hold you accountable to the measurable indicators you’ve chosen.

An added layer of accountability is … us.

We work with a number of clients where, on either a monthly or quarterly basis, we act as a sounding board and independent party to ask you the hard questions about the drivers and the results. This focuses your mind, allows you to form a clear Action Plan to improve results, and then increases your chances of success because you know you need to ‘report in’ to us next time.

It’s a brilliant process, that both we and our clients enjoy because it works wonders!

To take more control of your business and its performance, get in touch to make a time to come in and see us.

Depending on the size of your business, we might work out that a quarterly process might work best (and be the most feasible, cost-wise), or your business might be at a point where monthly or even weekly guidance would be ideal.

Either way, we’ll outline your options and your costs so you know precisely what’s involved.

We look forward to helping you chart your course, helping to get a clear direction, and then keeping you and your business on course.

After all, you won’t end up at the ideal destination by drifting …

Your next step … Contact us to make a time to meet and discuss your options. We’ll then outline the costs so you know exactly what lies ahead.

Aug 25

3 Keys to Addressing Uncertainty in your Family Owned Business

Posted by Jeremy Harris at Saturday, August 25, 2012

Should a family owned business attempt to apply the same levels of governance (processes, policies and customs) as other businesses? Of course it should - at a minimum!

All businesses need to apply governance processes to two groups - shareholders (owners) and directors (management). A family owned business has a third, overlapping, group which requires governance - the family (1).

Only 13% of businesses survive to the third generation and 4% to the fourth (2). Unmanaged or mismanaged family (especially generational) conflict will eventually result in a family owned business splitting apart, thereby reducing family wealth.

Too often family businesses attempt to handle or avoid tensions using techniques such as exclusion and secrecy, divide and conquer, and bribery/ favoritism (1). These habits form easily over time in the absence of communication, but clearly make a recipe for ultimate disaster!

For many family owned businesses, examining these behaviours would be painful and frightening, but would also be a heads up to a fork in the road. But they donít know what to do or where to start.

The solution is simple, but not easy. It can be broken down into the following three steps.

1. Vision mapping and gap analysis

  • Revisit (or establish) the vision and purpose, the values to work and live by, and the rules of the game (policies) for certain circumstances.
  • Generational family members should acknowledge and confront their fears.
  • Identify core competencies of family members when determining (or reallocating) roles and responsibilities. Recognise that the head of the family need not be the head of the business, and encourage family members to think as managers not as born heads of the business.
  • Create a one page plan to straddle the gap between current reality and the vision.
  • Hold a retreat with an external facilitator to celebrate, acknowledge and excite.

2. Systems for ongoing management of different priorities

  • Establish firm protocols for bringing the right people together at the right time to discuss the right things - ownersí meetings, board of management (directors/employees), family council/family assembly.
  • Form a board of advisers with strong independent members.
  • Formalize and professionalize the decision making processes.
  • Remember the values as the foundation for all communication and action.
  • Make available an online secure library for the various groups to access information relevant to their needs, including strategic planning and regular reporting.
  • Hold an annual retreat, maybe one for each group, founded on the vision and purpose.

3. Eye on the exit strategy

  • Always be aware of the range of possible exit strategies - for individual family members and/or for the family business as a whole. Succession planning options should be top of mind from day one in the life (or the new life) of the family business.
  • Succession strategies need to be regularly discussed so that when the time comes an informed decision can be made by all.
  • For a business which has started to involve the next generation, set clear and specific milestones, timelines and dates for transfers of management and ownership authority.
  • Consider financing options.
  • Work out how to engage with non-family member employees in regard to the succession process.
  • Plan the roles of the senior generation if they are still to be involved in the family business.

The theme of the 3 keys is communication, within and between the stakeholders. No surprises.

A successful family owned business is achievable. Houshi Onsen, a hotel in Japan, was founded in 718 and is currently managed by the 46th generation.

A final thought:-

Does your family owned business have a have a bias towards surviving or failing into the next generation?

(1) Governing the Family-Run Business, John Davis ñ Harvard Business School, 4 Sep 2001 http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/2469.html
(2) Raakhi Jagga,indianexpress.com, 24 Nov 2010
(3) Governing the Family-Run Business, John Davis ñ Harvard Business School, 4 Sep 2001 http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/2469.html

May 20

Vivienne's 5 C's to become a Person of Influence

Posted by Jeremy Harris at Sunday, May 20, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I attended the second annual Alumni Awards Breakfast for past students of St John's Anglican College, Forest Lake (until 2010 known as Forest Lake College). I am involved in the school as a parent and volunteer.

The guest speaker was Mrs Vivienne Anthon, who is currently CEO of the Australian Institute of Management Queensland and Northern Territory, and is a past Head of College of St John's.

I think Vivienne could have been a stand-up comic. Her presentation style is relaxed, and she makes her points with humour. She really connects with the audience.

She gave us Vivienne's 5 C's to become a person of influence - very relevant, since the College motto is "Creating People of Influence". Here are her 5 C's, plus a bit of poetic licence (with Vivienne's approval) via a sprinkling of thoughts from Simon Sinek (Start With WHY).


Be good at what you do - both technically and tactically. Tactically means getting along with people.

Keep learning. Read widely, not just technical books. Take painting or dancing classes to allow your mind to think differently and to observe how others solve problems.


This is who you are when no-one is looking. The real you. To earn trust, and to be influential, you must be authentic in what you say and what you do.

Trust is different to reliability. It comes from shared values and beliefs.


Networking is critical to advancement. Networking becomes collaboration when we offer help and are open to receiving it from others.

Human beings are generally socially focussed creatures, relying on community for survival. It's possible, and rewarding, to advance others as you advance yourself by working together and watching out for each other. Success is worth striving for together. Instead of I/me/my, think we/us/together.


Be clear, and don't gossip. Realise that remaining silent when something is not right is a form of gossip.

At a simple level, communication means things like keeping people in the loop, being clear on your abilities and limitations, and being aware of non-verbal cues. At a deeper level, learn to talk about why you do what you do to attract people to your cause. People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do what you do.


Life is too short. Stay focussed. Follow through with tasks, and with people. Aim to under-promise and over-deliver. Be careful not to overcommit.

What you do should be tangible proof of what you believe. Commitment is part of being in community.

I think that the common theme of the 5 C's is building trust. If you have earned trust, you can have influence.

Are Vivienne's 5 C's relevant to your life and career? If so, what's your number one?