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www.networkshe.com21Picture the scene: it's nearly time to file your returns. You scrabble round your office, car, and home, gathering up coffee-stained receipts and crumpled invoices. You stuff purchase orders and VAT paperwork into box files and carrier bags, take them home, and spend painstaking hours bringing them to order. Or indeed, you deliver them up sheepishly to your bookkeeper. Sound familiar?You'd be surprised - or perhaps not - to learn that despite the fact that keeping well organised records of financial dealings is a legal requirement, many business owners leave it to the year end before peeling receipts from the back of desk drawers. In reality, bookkeeping should be so much more than a year end activity. Here's why...Working in the dark about your finances puts you at a business disadvantage. Typically, bookkeeping records will include an ongoing record of the following to help you make informed decisions about basic activities such as new purchases.. Receipts: your outgoings. Payments: your incomings. Net Cash Flow: the difference between the total payments and receipts.. Opening Balance: the money carried over from a previous month.. Closing Balance: the difference between the net cash flow figure and the opening balance.CASH in a bag...Ceri Wilson tells us why bookkeeping is more than just a year end activity and identifies the importance of going from carrier bag to organised accounts.PlanningOngoing records allow you to predict the highs and lows in your cash balance and forecast when costs will arise, reducing the likelihood of cash flow hitches where there is money due to you on paper, but no money in your account.ChasingWith a good clear view of your finances and what's due when, you'll be more likely to invoice promptly and less likely to let late payments slide. The more in control of your accounts you are, the more healthy your cashflow is likely to be.BorrowingRecords and forecasts help you plan if, when, and how much to borrow. What's more, your bank will want to see evidence of very accurate records if they're to approve a business loan, so it's wise to have a monthly cash flow forecast ready.Get your books in order todayIf you're keen to turn your carrier bags of crumpled paper into an improved cash flow, here are some of the steps you can take.1) Create a spreadsheet to record your incomings and outgoingsA financial spreadsheet with one tab for your income and another for your outgoings is simple to create and allows you to see your running totals at a glace. 2) .or get some bookkeeping softwareBookkeeping software allows you to complete your daily financial records in a simple electronic program. 3) Have a separate file/ box for business receiptsNeat, archived receipt filing makes completing your tax returns simple and ensures that all records can be easily cross-referenced. You'll also need your paper receipts should you ever be audited.4) .or scan receipts as you get themKeeping an electronic copy of your receipts reduces the risk of misplacing them and some software will even analyse the text on the receipt, allowing direct information input into your bookkeeping software.5) Make a weekly slot in your diary Set aside a regular weekly time slot to update your accounts. Taking this simple step will ensure efficient financial management.Bookkeeping can be a time consuming process, but it's as vital to your business as good management and customer service. If you can't afford the time to do it yourself, a bookkeeper may well be your next logical port of call. Ceri Wilson is Director of Brilliant at Bookkeeping North 07949 646 743

Iread somewhere that a man aims to build credibility when starting a business relationship, whilst a woman tries to establish empathy. Of course we are not all the same, but this did strike a chord with me. And it made me think - what do women bring to the practice of accountancy?Let's not get too carried away with the gender argument. Women in business do just that - they run a business. We all have aims and targets to meet, and we all have a job to do. But do we approach it differently to men? On balance I think we do. When I became a director at Sage & Company, many clients were surprised to be dealing with a woman. I had to earn their trust. They have been fantastic people to work with and, I hope, they are pleased with what I do for them. I am very determined, but quietly so.I think women are sometimes their own worst enemies; we strive for perfection and have very high standards. We have families and businesses and the expectation on us to successfully manage these things is high. I believe engaging a good accountant can lighten the load on our shoulders. As a woman and an accountant, I want to help people strike a better balance between family and business. Improve how a business runs, and you can make more time for family and friends - or invest more time in the business if you choose to. I like to think a good accountant brings flexibility to life.Women can be delightful to have as clients. They tend to have a firm belief in their product and keep their eye on the end result. Often women are slow to anger and are not out to establish superiority or territory. We tend to want to nurture, develop and engage rather than have a race or competition. As a female accountant I understand this and work with it. I really listen to my clients and truly understand their needs. How I make people feel has a real impact, and is part of how I establish my credibility in what is still a profession largely dominated by men.I was brought up in a household where gender was never an issue. It was never mentioned. Never did I think I could or could not do something because I was a girl. My dad was fantastic and I helped him with the decorating, DIY around the house, and building stables for our horses. Mind you, I doubt my mum would have let it be I'm not just a NUMBERDirector of Sage & Company Clare Porter explains why women in accountancy more than adds up22Network She I Autumn/Winter 2012Clare Porter is a wife, a mum, and a director at Sage & Company Chartered Accountants