Before we explore ManagePLUS Gold’ allocation features, it may be helpful to discuss some basic accounting ideas related to allocation, cost centers, and profit centers.

The QuickBooks Approach:  Just Short of What You Need

Anyone who runs a business would like to know whether the business is profitable, especially before his lender or financial reality communicate that in a some unpleasant and more forceful way. But understanding why a business is or is not profitable is hard to do when looking at the business as a whole. It’s easier if you consider the business as being made up of several different activities or departments, and see how each of these contributes to profits of the entire business.

To begin to answer the “Why are we making (or losing) money?” question, you need to look at each of those separate activities, to figure out which ones the business should or should not be doing, or should change, in order to make a profit. Ideally, you need a profit and loss report for each major department or activity within your business. That can help you answer questions like:

· Our company runs its own courier for daily mail & deliveries between our locations in three nearby cities. What is that costing us? Would we be better off to shut down that part of our business and hire a contract courier, or use one of the commercial services like FedEx?
· I raise cattle, and I also raise the hay to feed them. Am I an efficient (low-cost) producer of hay? Or should I consider quitting hay production, buy the hay I need for feed, and turn more of my hay acreage into pasture for grazing?
· Our trucking company has its own small mechanic shop. We either need to expand it or close it. What is it costing to run the shop, compared to what we can get contract mechanic work done for at a nearby shop that has more mechanics and newer, better tools and equipment?

You probably already know that you can set up QuickBooks classes (see “classes” in QuickBooks Help) to represent activities or departments of the business. And if you’ve used classes in your transactions, you know that QuickBooks makes it easy to associate income and expense with specific classes. This is particularly true of direct income and direct expense—things that are directly and obviously associated with a particular class.

ManagePLUS for QuickBooks starblue About allocation, profit measurement, and QuickBooks Direct vs. indirect expenses:
If you run an auto mechanics shop and operate a towing service, you might set up a Towing class for tracking income and expenses for that activity. When you pay license and insurance fees for the trucks you use for towing, those are direct expenses of the Towing class. But the cost of blanket liability insurance for your entire business is not a direct expense of any particular activity, because it really applies to all of them—it’s a good example of an indirect expense.

But what about things that are not direct incomes or expenses? Liability insurance, office supplies, or fuel for vehicles used in many different activities in the business are typical examples of indirect expenses. (You may have indirect income too, though it usually involves smaller dollar amounts.)

Indirect items can be major expenses of running your business, so you cannot neglect them in measuring profits of the various departments or activities of your business. But QuickBooks doesn’t give you much help there. Splitting up a liability insurance bill among a half-dozen different classes requires that you enter a half-dozen lines when entering the transaction, to have different insurance expense amounts assigned to each class. And if you pay for liability insurance quarterly, he will head to make the same half dozen entries four times per year. That’s a lot of data entry—probably more than the resulting management information would be worth.

But that’s not the only wrinkle in this problem. Suppose you assign part of the liability insurance expense to your Office & Customer Service class. That makes sense, because it covers liability related to your office help, the customer waiting area, and so on.  But wait a minute… the “office” doesn’t make you any money. There are only costs associated with running it; it doesn’t earn any income.

Really then, Office & Customer Service costs ought to be divided up among those parts of the business that do earn income, like Towing, Auto Repair, and Custom Services (the part of your business involved with selling and installing pickup truck accessories, car stereos, and such). But back to our liability insurance transaction…does this mean we shouldn’t assign part of the insurance bill to Office & Customer Service, and should only divided up among the income-earning activities? But how can you have an idea of your costs for running the office, if you don’t assign any expenses to the Office & Customer Service class?

If you don’t have a headache yet, it should be easy to see how these kinds of questions could cause one. These points should help to clarify the problems involved:

· Splitting indirect expenses among several classes in QuickBooks requires a lot of data entry effort. (Besides the time required, there’s also a greater chance for errors…which will require even more time to find and fix.)
· While a main goal may be too see how profitable the income-generating parts of your business are (Towing, Auto Repair, Custom Services), understanding the parts of your business which only involve costs is equally important (Office & Customer Service).
ManagePLUS for QuickBooks starblue About allocation, profit measurement, and QuickBooks Evaluating profitability and costs separately for the various parts of a business or organization is a branch of cost accounting often referred to as activity-based costing.
· Because some parts of your business only involve costs (Office & Customer Service), you need a way to split up the costs associated with those parts and assign them to the income-generating parts of the business. Otherwise, the income-generating parts will appear more profitable than they really are. If the Custom Services activity requires a lot of telephone and office personnel time (checking prices, answering product questions, placing customer orders, etc.) maybe it should be assigned a larger portion of the Office & Customer Service expense, for example.
· If there were a way to split up costs associated with the Office & Customer Service class in QuickBooks, the QuickBooks approach (entering separate transaction lines for each split) would still involve far too much data entry effort. Not many people would be interested in doing it.
· Even if you could accomplish cost allocation and assignment exactly as you wanted, no QuickBooks report is well suited for providing an activity- or department-oriented Profit and Loss Report. (QuickBooks’ Profit and Loss by Class report works, but falls short of providing all of the information it could.)

ManagePLUS Gold to the Rescue!

Lets see how ManagePLUS Gold addresses each of the points listed above.

Splitting indirect expenses

ManagePLUS Gold lets you set up formulas for any account to allocate the account’s total among any number of classes. Utilities are a typical example. Just set up allocation formulas for your Electricity and Water expense accounts, and from then on ManagePLUS Gold will automatically allocate the current accounting period’s total for those accounts to the classes you indicated in your allocation formulas.

· You no longer need to enter multiple transaction lines in QuickBooks to assign expenses to several classes. Just enter a single line when you enter your monthly Electricity bill, and let ManagePLUS Gold take care of splitting it among classes at the end of the month, quarter, or year.
· You no longer have to calculate dollar amounts for each class split. To split Electricity 60% to the Livestock class and 40% to the Crops class, create allocation formulas with those percentages and ManagePLUS Gold does all the calculation.

Analyzing “cost-only” and “income-generating” parts of your business separately

If you set up classes to represent the various departments and activities of your business, ManagePLUS Gold lets you designate them as cost centers or profit centers. Cost centers are parts of the business which incur costs but don’t normally generate a profit. Profit centers are parts of the business that generate revenue and are normally operated to make a profit. The reason for separating these two designations is that cost centers can normally allocate amounts to profit centers but not the other way around, as described next.

Splitting (allocating) income and expenses among cost center and profit center classes

ManagePLUS Gold lets you allocate incomes and expenses:

· From income or expense accounts to cost centers and/or profit centers (as described above in Splitting indirect expenses).
· From cost centers to other cost centers and/or profit centers.
· From profit centers to other profit centers.

Allocation between cost center and profit center classes is handled by setting up allocation formulas, the same as for accounts. Once you have established them the formulas are ready to use any time for preparing cost center or profit center reports, until you change them.

ManagePLUS for QuickBooks starblue About allocation, profit measurement, and QuickBooks How does allocation work?
ManagePLUS Gold accumulates account and class balances from your QuickBooks transactions for the selected accounting period, then applies your allocation formulas to create special temporary allocation transactions. When you create a Profit Analysis report, it includes the allocation transactions along with your real transactions to build an “allocation-adjusted” profit and loss report for the class you’ve selected.


ManagePLUS Gold also lets you send the allocation transactions to QuickBooks if you want, where you may use them in any QuickBooks report, such as the Profit and Loss with Classes report.

Easier than the QuickBooks approach

As already mentioned, ManagePLUS Gold lets you establish formulas to allocate amounts between accounts, cost centers, and profit centers. Your formulas can allocate on a percentage basis, or by other means that you will learn about in these tutorial lessons. By establishing formulas that you can use over and over again, until you decide to make changes in how things are allocated, allows ManagePLUS Gold to do the allocation calculations for you in each accounting period, without having to do manual calculations, etc. And, it can reduce the effort involved during transaction entry in QuickBooks, because now splitting amounts among classes when you enter transactions is optional in many cases (more on this later in the tutorials as well).

Getting a report well suited for analyzing profits

The ManagePLUS Gold Profit Analysis report is specially designed for showing income and expense amounts from transactions, and  from allocations, as separate blocks in the report. It also has lots of per-unit statistics based on management quantities you have associated with your classes. In fact, the report automatically calculates your per-unit cost of production right there on the report.

Reusing your allocation formulas

When you add a new accounting period, you have the option of copying your allocation formulas to the new period. So most of the effort involved in allocation happens when you first set up the formulas. After that, you’ll mostly just copy them forward into the new accounting periods you add in ManagePLUS Gold. Any changes you make in them will be copied forward as well. The important point is that once you’ve set up allocation formulas, in future accounting periods you’ll mostly be reusing them, and that requires very little effort.

“So is this All I Need to Know?”

Not by a long shot! This discussion has only introduced the opportunities and problems involved in looking at the profitability of different parts of your business. But once you know that tools like ManagePLUS Gold are available to help solve the problems, the opportunities may push you to learn more about this area of accounting, often called cost accounting or managerial accounting.

In fact, entire college courses are devoted to cost accounting. Why? Because there’s a lot to think about in learning how to assign and allocate costs in a way that produces meaningful information you can use for management decisions. To do a good job you need to properly account for the value of beginning and ending inventories of things you have produced, as well as unused supplies. You also need to know how to adjust beginning and ending inventories in QuickBooks; to know what accounting entries to make. Then too, it’s helpful to have some background or training on ways to look at the different parts of your business—to figure out which should be identified as cost centers or profit centers, and how they relate to each other.

The more you understand about cost accounting, the better and more useful your information will be.

More help is coming!

We don’t have space here to discuss the many important issues involved. And we realize that many ManagePLUS users don’t have an easy, accessible source for information on profit analysis. Since we know the information need is great—especially for information that includes a lot of QuickBooks examples and screen shots—we have a major project underway, designed to fill that information void.

For marketing reasons we cannot say more about it until closer to its release date. All we can say at this point is to keep watching our Web site for information. (Since we cannot know when you’ll be reading this, it would be a good idea to check our Web site right now to find out whether it is available.)

The best way to learn is simply to get started!

You’ll make some mistakes, sure, but nothing that can’t be changed “for next year”—QuickBooks and ManagePLUS are both pretty flexible in letting you restructure your lists and data. Most importantly, experimenting with allocation and profit analysis will reveal some easy opportunities for understanding more about costs within your business.

Now, on to the tutorial lessons…

About allocation, profit measurement, and QuickBooks