Taking Care of My Business with Quickbooks 2007

While it might sound silly (with me being a business owner), I don’t think that I’m a numbers guy. So when it comes to filing our taxes and figuring out which number goes on what line – I’m pretty useless. And since this past filing was really the first time where my main business made any money, I was even more useless than normal and my wonderful wife had her work cut out for herself.

So at the advice of my mom, (who herself is more or less self-employed as a Real Estate agent), I visited her CPA who gave me the skinny on what I should be doing financially with my business, how I should be tracking my money, and what deductions I was probably missing.

Why I Need to Change
After an hour or two of talking with this guy and frantically scribbling down notes, I knew that it would really be to my company’s benefit to start taking my financials more seriously. Plus I knew it would take a lot of pressure off my wife too. I mean, even though I’ve never been one to make people do things for me and the business is for the family and not just me… I really don’t feel good about having the wife do all that work every year since I know others could do it faster and easier. Additionally, (and this is honestly new to me but would’ve made sense if I had stopped to think about it), apparently when you apply for loans and such from banks, you generally provide your financial records which at this point I’d be unable to do because they’re in such disarray.

I’ve Started with Quickbooks!
And yes, it was what my CPA suggested. Basically I can track all of the monies of my business in the program, and at the end of the year (or quarterly or whatever), I can submit a file to my guy that he can use to easily do my taxes. Now, I’m not sure how easy I thought it was going to be to jump into the program but there is def a learning curve to it. For me, it took me about a day, the help of a “Learn Quickbooks” DVD and searching through the Intuit forums to really get going. And by “going”, I mean halfway through getting my records up to date for the year.

You see, I started Quickbooks what… Yesterday?, some 5 months into my company’s fiscal year. And if you’re as new to this whole thing as I am, know that Quickbooks wants to account for EVERY SINGLE penny coming and going from your business. “Of course it does, what’d you think it’d do?” Well what this means in practicality is that every transaction from Jan 1st 2010 to now has to be entered, and correctly, so that your balance from Dec 31st 2009 goes up and down to the correct balance on your statements now… For me, that’s a lot of statements to enter!

But It’s Worth It
At this point I’ve setup all of my clients and their current contracts into the system (which again took me the better part of a day) and I’m sure it’s gonna take me another full one to get all my year’s transactions into the system. But already I can see that this will be great for my peace of mind and organization. It has tons of reports you can run, invoicing, and a bunch of other stuff that I could go into. For me, I’m just very excited to be able to (at a glance) figure out how much money is still coming to me by way of contracts. Of course I could set this up in Excel or something but setting up all those relationships so that sending invoices, receiving invoices, reporting and everything else plays nicely together would take QUITE a long time so again – I’m glad someone did the work for me.

Breathing Easier

Running your own business is a funny thing.

I’m trying to remember how long I’ve been in business but at the time that I write this, (like every other time I can recount for the last couple months), my mind is so… BUSY, that it’s hard to recall the small stuff.

But i will say that at least on the financial front, I’m finally breathing a bit easier. There have been so many highs and lows since I left my job… So many times where I’m just trying to move enough money around that I can make the minimum payment on my business credit card that it feels like a great accomplishment to FINALLY have a small amount of funds in the account.

And don’t read it any different – It’s a small amount of funds. But it’s enough to keep the family afloat for a month should a check not go through (or come) and we have not had that small amount of security for a long time.

Assessing My Current Situation
So today when I finally took a breath and found myself in a “good place” – My mind immediately began to race towards all the things I could buy now that I couldn’t before. In my younger days before I had these kids and a wife, I would probably have gone out and bought an LCD, new computer or SOMETHING! Presently however, I’m very content to just not have to worry for a little while and to have the chance to future proof my business!

*whew!* Everything is coming up Millhouse.

Bugzilla Install Was Torture

Saying that installing Bugzilla was painful would be the understatement of the year. From what I’ve been able to piece together through this nightmare, it probably took me 9 hours to get the whole thing done – 3 hours on 3 separate days. And if it wasn’t for @mkanat suggesting that I give it another try, I probably would’ve walked away a LONG TIME ago.

I mean, I believe that everyone who works on large computer projects like myself should have some kind of issue tracker setup and while I’ve been using Mantis very happily – It doesn’t look very attractive (which is important when opening this up to clients and associates). So I began searching for something that it looked a bit better which is when I found Bugzilla. *shaking head*

First Things First
If you’re thinking about installing this on your server, know that it’s not for the feint of heart. There are A LOT of “moving parts” with this thing (Perl, CGI, db stuff) and many of them are things that I don’t have intimate experience with. Aside from that, the install guide that comes up Bugzilla is very vanilla in that seemingly ALL the issues that came up for me were not addressed in the guide either in notes next to the instructions or in the troubleshooting section. Even Google searches weren’t yielding me the help I really needed. @mkanat suggested that I use the Bugzilla newsgroup which I tried, but look – I’ve never used a newsgroup before and at 11:30pm at night well into hour 7 or something… I just wanted to get this done, not learn yet another thing.

So hey, I finally got things going last night so I wanted to put something out there that might help others who are going through the same pain. This isn’t an install guide but just the problems that I had that I didn’t see answered anywhere else. Oh and keep in mind that I don’t fancy myself a Unix Administrator either so if I get things wrong or sound stupid – It IS what it IS.

Getting Started
First you’ll need to probably shell into your server using the username for the website you’re installing it into. That’s to say, even if you think you can only or SHOULD shell in as “root”, you should instead shell in as the group/owner of the website where you’re installing Bugzilla… This will probably fix problems for you later. After you download the Bugzailla tar file and untar it, you have to run this script called checksetup.pl. (You run it by typing “./checksetup.pl” at the command line. When you first run it, you’ll be told about all the Perl modules you need to have installed to get things going. It will also say that to install all the modules, do “./install_modules.pl –all”. When I did that, everything went fine until it prompted me for “pg_config” which is when the first big headache started.

Installing the Modules – Oh and “pg_config” or “pg_path” is the Devil
I found out later that the “pg_config” prompt was for a PostgreSQL module. Here’s the thing, I have MySQL. You can think that you can just skip this by pressing [enter] but when you do, the script quits out and then I was getting an error when re-running it saying “Can’t locate Constant.pm in @INC” blah blah blah. At this point, I couldn’t go forward in my installation. The only way I found to deal with this was re-installing Perl (if you use CPanel, you can follow the instructions to do so here: >http://docs.cpanel.net/twiki/bin/view/11_24/AllFAQ/PerlFAQ#How_do_I_upgrade_Perl After doing this 2 or three times, I think I stumbled onto something through Google searches saying that you may NOT want to install ALL the modules. This was a big turning point. Instead, (after I was able to run checksetup.pl again), I ONLY installed the modules that were required (I think there was about 3). After that, I got past this HUGE hiccup. And again – Why this information isn’t included as a note in the install guide is beyond me.

And Then There Was the Group Owner Permission Problems
After all this, I finally got to the point where I could try and run things again (./checksetup.pl and the like) and I was still getting problems. Turns out now that I had group/owner permission problems… Remember before when I said you should make sure to shell in using the group/owner account of the website where you’re installing this? Well see, I’m using something that I found out is called SuExec… From what I understand, it makes individual websites on your server run scripts by that website’s group name… If you let them run as “nobody” or “root”, it’s a big security thang. So anyway, when I installed all of this Bugzilla stuff as “root”, my owner and group permissions for all these files were all over the place (which is obviously bad). Using the commands “chown” and “chgrp”, I ended up fixed things and I made sure to update the “localconfig” file with the right group name.

At about this time in the process, you can run “testserver.pl” to try and see what’s wrong and even though things were a little broken, it was saying that the group name on the “localconfig” file was different than the name being used by the webserver. Even though it says “this MAY not be a problem”, when nothing is working you tend to second guess yourself so obviously I spent hours changing my Apache httpd.conf file, restarting Apache and then changing Bugzilla’s “localconfig” file and hoping it all worked. Bleh. Let me sum up things for you if you’re a bit confused:

I’ve been looking at this screen a lot lately.

Let’s say that I’m on my Linux box running Apache with Cpanel installed. I’m going to install Bugzilla onto hockeyrules.com – A domain that I own (for conversation’s sake anyway). When I FTP or or login to the CPanel for this domain, I know my username is “hockey”. Chances are, this is what SuExec is using for your group name when running scripts. So this is what you’re going to use in your “localconfig” file’s $webservergroup variable. Got it?

403 Forbidden My A$$
At this point, “checksetup.pl” was lookin’ good but I still was having problems with “testserver.pl” saying that it couldn’t retrieve some PNG file or something. When I checked out the site through my browser, I saw that I was getting a 403 Forbidden error. I mean seriously, could this thing just work!?!? After a little while searching and a little while investigating, I found out that my Bugzilla directory that was supposed to be serving files didn’t have the right permissions. What tripped a flag was when I saw that “Other” didn’t have read permissions which is when I think I chmodded it to 755 to get it to serve…

And that my friends is when it FINALLY worked.

So now I have a working version of Mantis AND a working version of Bugzilla. Oh, and I tried to get into Bugzilla a little while earlier today, but I found myself bamboozled. There’s a lot in there and it’s going to take a while to suss out I think. And don’t worry – I still plan on comparing the two so check back in a little while and you may see a FANtastic (or mediocre) review!

Little Update of May Goings On

I’ve once again hit a patch of pretty busy things for myself, and thankfully this time around it looks like those things are definitely of the positive sort.

And I’m beginning to come out of them now so I think it’s time to throw some updates up on here. Well actually… Now that I write that, I don’t know if I’m really coming out of them as much as I’m starting to see the proverbial light at the end of tunnel.

The big things on the hit list are of course the impending house purchase, finally finishing up that pesky website I’ve mentioned on here, Little Mac’s 1st birthday party, getting more business for my design company, and learning ColdFusion *bleh* at work. Why don’t we go in order of stress shall we?

Getting More Business for BWD 0 stress
Right now, my business Bethesda Web Design is doing just the right amount of business for me right now which isn’t too much. (#):) As I’ll point out in a hot minute, I’m putting the finishing touches of the company’s first real client site and I’ve had another person inquire about a new website too which I have a good feeling on. But probably the biggest thumbs up for the company in the past month was getting an old client back on board which means my hosting costs are no longer dragging me down to nearly the extent as they were before.

Finishing Up That Pesky Website 2 stress
This used to rank much higher on the stressful scale but I’ve recently put a lot of work into it addressing the harder parts of the service, and finishing up some nagging issues that I personally had a problem with. NOW the only thing I’m really waiting on is the “client” to get back to me with the rest of the text so I can put the seal of completeness on this one. And don’t worry, I’ll be talking a lot more about this project next week in a Postmordem of sorts.

Little Mac’s 1st Birthday Party 3 stress
I’ll admit it that from jump, I didn’t want to have a birthday party for the little guy. He’s not going to remember it and it’s just going to mean a lot of time commitment from me along with the whole catering thing *rolling eyes*. BUT the wife really wanted to have it so here I am, having to fire up the BarBQ (which NEVER goes smoothly) and having to figure out what food I’m going to make to feed all these people that are allegedly coming. bleh

Learning ColdFusion 4 stress
It should come as a surprise to no one that I’m more familiar with PHP for database manipulation than anything else. (See wordpress). But when I was originally propositioned at work to learn this technology I of course agreed and now I really wish I was doing something else. Of course it doesn’t help that I’m basically learning as I’m going through the joy that is the Internet Tutorial, but it really feels like ColdFusion is forcing me to learn a new scripting language that is just different enough from most standards that I have to stop and look everything up every 5 seconds. And as there’s basically only one other guy in the office with CF experience, I bet I’m gonna have to start doing this a lot more in the future.

Impending House Purchase ? stress
And finally on the pain train is the impending house purchase for which I have settlement on Monday. For some reason, it’s really not stressing me out as much as it should be. Maybe it’s the fact that I probably won’t be moving in ’till Sept or that I’m ok paying copious amounts in the way of bills. One thing is for certain though and that’s that I have very limited time to renew my real estate license if I’m going to be able to get a referral fee off the purchase. Busy weekend for sure coming up. (#):)

Anyone out there doing anything of interest?

The Design Site is Up

I was so happy when I finally finished the new look of my design site last night.

Obviously this was the main project that prevented me from posting on here (or at least that’s my story) and it has been a monkey on my back for a really long time.

Of course in the grand scheme of things, getting the site up probably isn’t the biggest thing I’m going to have to do. THAT dubious honor would probably fall to attracting clients and getting work.

Bethesda Web Design
As you’re probably already aware, that’s the name of my design site/company. Recently, amongst the 3 or 4 big projects that I’m focusing on for the future I decided to make this one a priority because I thought it would be the quickest avenue for me out of the 9-5 that I could find. Additionally, I’ve had design clients in the past that I’ve had on retainer and it’s really nice to know that your hosting costs will be covered month to month without you having to go out and get people to say…

Buy ads on your site. (#);)

The Design
I’ve said it before but I think it deserves repeating, I don’t fancy myself a designer. I like art, I like design, but coming up with original work in that area is a bit of a struggle. So coming up with a look for the site that I felt good about was a very taxing endeavor. And unfortunately (or fortunately), I had to come up with something good because I couldn’t sell my company knowing that my site was utter trash. Thankfully before I started the site (and my company in earnest), I did what any upstart does and order really flashy and expensive business cards. (#):)

Sure that doesn’t sound like a good thing (buying expensive cards before you have a site or anything), but the company I went to make my cards also did free logo design and consultation. And what they came up with helped me out quite a bit. In fact, what you see on the site as far as the company’s logo is about exactly what you see on my cards. Sure it’s not super over the top, but it definitely works for what I needed.

The Main Content
Outside of the logo is the main content, and I needed to find a way to present everything in a way that was clean but still (pun not intended) flashy. What I came up with was what I think of as very clean (even if a bit too simple) layout, where my main content is presented with animation in a Flash movie and I came up with the message, “Because everyone deserves a unique home on the web”. Recently with my projects, that whole ‘message” thing has become very important for me, and I think that’s what really drove me to overhaul the site into what you see today.

What Do You Think?
I know the readers of this blog (the few of you who are left) are a very talented sort. I’m hoping that you’ll check out the site, and let me know what you think of it. What you like, what you don’t, and what I can do to improve it. Much appreciated and can’t wait to see what you have to say!