Category Archives: The back office

Posts about the infrastructure of my consulting business.

Finding a reliable Reminders app

I have been playing with the app Due on iOS and OSX. It’s a good “to do list” app that lets you record when you want reminders for whatever reason. I’m using it because I can’t trust iOS and OSX Calendar and it gets cluttered with boring “Buy Milk” reminders. It’s _slightly_ idiosyncratic.

The OSX application allows you to click on the days you want a repeating alert to sound. Four nights a week Mr12 finishes at the normal time and one night is late. It’s easy to enter this in the OSX application but there doesn’t seem to be a way to do it in iOS, even on an iPad because it shows dates on the usual iOS poker machine reels.

There appears to be a few little bugs. The settings for the alert sounds seem to bounce around a bit at first. I set one which worked but the other one changed immediate afterwards. It all seems stable now so I’m guessing they used uninitialised variables!

I had previously purchased version 1 of the app. For some reason buying the app for AUD$12.99 still left me needing to pay another $3.79 for an in-app purchase for “Upgrade from 1.0”. Yes, I clicked Restore In-App Purchases and no, that didn’t work. Your experience may vary.

I needed the upgrade because I wanted access to Dropbox syncing.

Using Dropbox it can sync in the background.

Using iCloud you have to open the app on each device and then it will sync.

Yes, Apple really know how to cripple tools that might compete with what they have decided is fundamental functionality.

The Due apps are meant to have good natural language parsing for dates and they show it in their promotional videos but typing something like “Noon on the Third Thursday of the Month” doesn’t work for me. It’s easy enough to enter manually but only parsing “Next Thursday” or a long form date is just lame.

Is it worth nearly $20? I’m satisfied with it and it appears to work so far. It syncs in the background and it has a nice simple interface. It is NOT OmniFocus or Evernote and that’s fine because I already have them for keeping track of project work.

Due is a great way of reminding yourself every Friday morning to put the bins out.

Tax time

I finally earned enough income from consulting that I needed to pay myself as an employee.

The last time I was self employed which was a long long time ago in the 90s this involved lots of paper forms and indeed when I created my company the ATO sent me stuff that was from exactly that era but this financial year they didn’t. They don’t want pieces of paper. They want electronic data uploaded directly into their computers.

As I mentioned previously I use Xero for my accounts. It’s very easy to set up and use, so I thought I would use the built-in payroll tools. This looked good until I realised that no matter what I couldn’t set the payroll module to use the “Wages Payable” account in the general ledger. It’s a leftover from a previous version of Xero. I had to manually create a new Wages Payable liability account and then I could select it from the Payroll module. Nasty.

Once I got through that things were fairly easy to get right and at any point I could nuke what I had done and start again.

In the modern era the ATO want to know that you have paid your employee’s superannuation entitlements. Someone dreamt up the idea that super funds should lodge this data with the ATO electronically and naturally, it being the second decade of the twenty first century, various organisations have sprung up to make this simple for self managed super funds and after doing some digging I found smsfdataflow who provide this as a FREE service. This looked much better than paying Australia Post or some other organisation some tens of dollars per year. Now I know that because it’s free I am the product but heck, I’m sure that if I paid those other organisations they would sell my email address to a bunch of advertisers anyway.

I entered all my details as an employee into Xero and told it to tell the ATO I’m an employee.

That worked.

I entered what I was paying myself and it worked out the statutory super contribution amount. I entered some other allowance and super details and set it in motion. This was harder than it should be for someone paying themselves as off end of financial year lump sum.

But it worked well enough.

I generated myself a payslip. Haven’t had one of those for 18 months.

I scratched around to work out how to get the PAYG Payment Summary out. That’s what us old folks call a Group Certificate.

It turns out that Xero does all of this automatically, emails it to your staff AND lodges it with the ATO as long as your browser has been set up with an “Auskey” to talk to the ATO. Even if it hasn’t you can load your Auskey into Xero with a bit of work.

I had to do a bit of messing about with the quarterly BAS and lodged that via the ATO site and all was done and dusted.

So Xero makes paying staff really easy. Makes me feel like employing someone!

On the other hand the ATO website is a piece of archaic puke. It doesn’t work with Chrome. It doesn’t work properly with Safari. It just barely works with Firefox. It runs on your computer under Java which every security professional loathes like a weeping sore in a swimming pool. blargh!


When setting up a business one of the critical elements is a good accounting system. Before GST it was possible to run a single employee consulting business from an invoice book and a shoe box for receipts but that was last century.

I have used single user and multi user accounting systems in businesses before and they have all sucked not least because the database needs to travel with the user.  A business with two mobile users needs some sort of remote terminal access using Windows Remote Desktop or Citrix or the lovely built-in mechanisms in OSX.

Given the need for Internet access to use this you might as well do the entire thing “in the cloud”.  Enter Xero.

You sign up for a free trial, tell Xero some details of your company and banking and you’re under way.

Then things get very interesting.  Humans call you to check on your progress and offer help.  They’re very keen to get you talking with accountants who are experts at Xero to ensure you have set up a good chart of accounts.  The human support side of Xero is done very well.

You can record purchase orders, send them to suppliers, enter bills from suppliers, process payments to them and raise invoices to customers.

The entire service so far is working nicely.  I must send some people some invoices 🙂

The next step is to get the automation working with the bank so that customer payments are processed automatically.

My first client

I was chatting about unemployment back in December with my friend Simon and he observed that he has invested in a number of companies and that a few of them would benefit from some attention.

So the day after I left iiNet I sat down with Simon and agreed to do some work for him.

I can’t talk about all of the businesses I’m working with because some of them are still in stealth mode but those I can talk about I will.

Lindsay Strategic Advisory

LSA Logo1Welcome to the beginning of Lindsay Strategic Advisory Pty Ltd.

The company was incorporated on January 16 2014.

I will blog the process of how I am creating a consulting business.

The company exists because I asked my accountant, Frank, from Wright Evans Partners what I should do. Frank runs all of the back end of my investment companies and makes sure all the formal stuff like tax and ASIC paperwork gets lodged. Frank advised that I set up a stand-alone company just for consulting. It won’t own any other assets.

So now I need to get a bank account, register for GST, register as an employer with the ATO and Workcover, get insurance and create an accounting system.

I need a regular office because working from home may be glamorous but I find it inefficient in the long term because my home is full of distractions.

Oh, and I need some clients to work for so I can generate some income.

The swan has been a part of clan Lindsay crests for hundreds of years.  The tartan is of course Lindsay.  If I have an artist create a logo the swan will be black 🙂