Three Essential Business Roles for Success and Balance

In his book, The Rebel Rules: Daring to Be Yourself in Business, author Chip Conley describes what investors look for in a management team when considering providing startup money to new businesses. He says your management team should consist of a “brain trust that includes a passionate visionary, a ‘get-your-hands-dirty’ operator, and a responsible, finance-minded executive.”

Even if you’re never going to seek venture capital money to fund your business, this tidbit of advice makes a great strategy question to consider for your business, especially if you are an entrepreneur. Do you have these three roles in your company?

Passionate Visionary

The passionate visionary is a creative idea person. She has the technical knowledge that supports the service or product that will be created and offered. She sees the market need and just how to sell and position the product so that clients or consumers will want the offering.

The visionary often has more ideas than budget. The finance role can evaluate the profitability of the visionary’s ideas and prioritize the projects. The operator can execute the visionary’s ideas.

The visionary provides strategic direction for the company and keeps the market offerings fresh.

If your business is missing a visionary, you might also struggle to keep your practice full as often (but not always); the sales function could fall to the visionary. You might also find yourself getting stagnant with your service offerings and falling behind the marketplace.

The fix for a missing visionary is to develop a sales and marketing team and/or a research and development team that can serve these functions.

“Roll-up-your-sleeves” Operator

The operator is an action person who can execute. She gets things done. She can find and hire the right team. She is a systems builder who can develop the systems, job descriptions, procedures, and processes that makes the company unique.

The operator takes the visionary’s ideas and makes them happen. She needs the visionary’s ideas because she would rather take someone else’s ideas and work with them than create her own. She also needs the support of the finance executive to stay on budget and to focus on one project at a time or avoid hiring too many people.

A business without a good operator never gets the product to market and may also constantly be short of team members.

Responsible, Finance-minded Executive

The finance expert helps to make the dollars work for the company. She can tell us how much we need to sell and how much we can spend. She can also provide capital sources for the company via investors or loans.

The finance executive loves numbers and can help to make sure the company’s operations are profitable. She’ll work closely with the operator to make sure that the right number of people are hired at the right salary levels. She’ll work with the visionary to plan and budget for new sources of revenue and new product lines.

Without a finance executive, a company often spends more than they bring in and may not have a viable profit plan. They may also run out of cash which can cause problems with creditors and investors.

This is the role we can not only help you fill, but also help you build your financial literacy to the level that you need for the stage your company is in now and for the future.

Your Business Success Trinity

As you were reading, which role are you? Which role jumped out at you that might need shoring up in your business? You might be strong in one area and need to outsource another while keeping a strategic eye on things overall.

Take a look at each of these roles and objectively assess your business. How are all three roles being served in your company? Which ones need more development in order for your business to grow?

Getting clear on your company’s roles can very well take you to the next level of success.

Which trends impact your business the most? Which ones speak to you? Feel free to reach out to discuss any of these ideas with us.

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10 Hot Business Trends for 2020

As we welcome in a new year (and maybe a new decade depending on how you count them), it’s a perfect time to reflect on the trends that will impact us and our businesses. Here’s a list for your consideration and reflection.

Trend #1: Sustainability

Concern for the environment has made the list of many companies’ core values. The way businesses are run can have a huge impact on the environment. While we hear a lot of stories about large companies impacting sustainability, we can also do our part as small businesses.  In the accounting profession, many firms have gone paperless, transitioning from staplers, paper clips, and filing cabinets to digital storage which greatly reduces their footprint.

Trend #2: The Gig Economy

Young workers often have multiple jobs instead of the 9 to 5 jobs of their parents. This means there is more flexibility than ever before when it comes to hiring and retaining young workers. They can be employees, contractors, outsourced solutions, remote, local, part-time, full time, temporary, or permanent.  Sub-trends in this area include more virtual workers and many more opportunities for veterans.

Trend #3: AI – Artificial Intelligence

This trend is impacting the accounting profession in a big way via smart data entry, smart document fetching, and even smart bookkeeping. Marketing has also been impacted in a big way through online ads, customer service solutions, and marketing technology. In email, Google is finishing our sentences for us, and chat and other technologies are having fairly effective conversations via bots.

Trend #4: Stories

Storytelling is huge everywhere. People want to know:

  • The story behind your business and why you do what you do
  • The stories about your customers and the experience they have with you and your services
  • The stories from your employers and how it is to work at your organization

Digital communication has moved from text to graphics to video as bandwidth improves. Video makes stories even easier to share. Smart companies will leverage both stories and video going forward to get their message out.

Trend #5: Diversity Expanded

The conversation is no longer about race, gender, and even sexual preference. It’s now about authenticity and being the same person at work and at home. No one is “normal.” But it takes courage to reveal our differences, especially if they are outside the “standard.” Your courage is more likely to be honored in 2020 than it has in prior years.

Trend #6: A WOW Customer Experience

We’ve moved way past the time of “infotainment,” yet the concept is parallel. As businesses, the challenge is how we can deliver an entertaining, positive, and memorable experience while producing the outcomes the client desires.

Trends #7:  Drones

So far, drones have made appearances in photography, special effects at conferences, as toys, in movies, and of course, in war. I see them in use for safety reasons, going where people shouldn’t or can’t. They will become more pervasive in 2020 and there will be more rules, protocols, and court cases on their use.

Trend #8: User Interface

The move from desktop to mobile is nearly complete, with only the laggard portion of the population remaining. The move to voice is still a work in progress, and it will steadily continue to gain traction in 2020.

Trend #9: Actionable Analytics

Capturing information digitally gives businesses a huge amount of data to utilize but small businesses have barely scratched the surface of this profitable information. It’s time they started catching up, and that’s something our firm can help you with.

Trend #10: Pace of Transformation

New business models in companies like Tesla, Uber, Google, and Facebook will continue to show up at a rapid rate. The business that’s most nimble will be the one that changes the game or at least stays in it without folding.

Which trends impact your business the most? Which ones speak to you? Feel free to reach out to discuss any of these ideas with us.

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Cool Tech Tools: Fathom

If your eyes glaze over when you’re presented with financial statements for your business, you’re not alone. Many entrepreneurs benefit greatly when they can see their financial results in graphical and chart formats. Fathom is the perfect tool to help your numbers come alive so they can become meaningful for you.

Fathom is a company based in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and founded in 2011. The product is also named Fathom and is a cloud-based software application that crunches accounting data and provides multiple views that make analysis easy. In accounting terms, we call this type of software by many names: Financial Dashboard; KPI software, where KPI stands for key performance indicators which are metrics that help you measure your business results; and Business Intelligence (BI) software.

Fathom can present your accounting data in multiple insightful views:

  • KPIs – Popular KPIs are pre-loaded, plus you can create and calculate your own. Fathom handles financial KPIs like the current ratio or debt-to-equity ratio, and you can also enter non-financial data such as number of employees and customer satisfaction scores.
  • KPI explorer – This display takes on a wheel shape where green is good and red indicates room for improvement.
  • Profitability – This line graph shows your business’s breakeven point.
  • Cash flow – This bar graph shows in red and green your cash balance fluctuations.
  • Trend – This line graph allows you to see at a glance the direction account balances are moving over time.
  • Goalseek – This chart allows you to perform what-if analysis, set goals and measure your progress.

You can also generate predefined or custom reports in Fathom. The reports can be scheduled as well as exported to Excel.

Fathom does require a setup process. It integrates with QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Desktop, Xero, and MYOB (which is popular in Australia). It’s included in the Advanced version of QuickBooks Online. The steps to set up Fathom include:

  1. Updating the data, which is mostly done through integration setup
  2. Adding your company profile
  3. Mapping Fathom to your Chart of Accounts, which is a very common setup step
  4. Selecting your KPIs, which requires some strategy work on your part
  5. Setting targets
  6. Enabling alerts if desired

There’s a lot to like about Fathom. If you feel like you’d like to start digging deeper into your business’s financial results to find opportunities for more growth and profit, then please contact us anytime.

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How to Stop Robocalls

You’ve received them—probably more than once—and every single time, they’re painful, tedious, and unsolicited. Robocalls . . . Need we say more? You can experience a robocall, or an automated telephone call delivering a recorded message, on both a personal and business phone line. From scammers scamming to political parties politicizing, these calls can get in the way of your daily business activities, stop productivity, and simply annoy the life right out of you.

Here’s how you can fight them.

Don’t Let the Robocalls In

Unfortunately, robocalls can plague all types of calls, whether it’s a cell phone, analog, or VoIP call.

First, if or when you receive a robocall, hang up. Easy enough, except, you know you will eventually get another call, and then another, and more after that. These calls keep coming . . . like cockroaches.

Put your name on the National Do Not Call Registry; it’s free! Will it sufficiently work? No, not always. Yet, taking this step is proactive and it might keep one or two callers from connecting with you.

When an unwanted call does come in, there is often an option to “press a number” that is supposed to delete your number from the robocall registry. Viewpoints are split on this idea, as some say it works and others believe it does the complete opposite of what it’s intended to do. We recommend taking your chances and pressing that number. However, if you’re on the fence, don’t worry; we have more options for you!

Cell

Try downloading a call-blocking app, such as Nomorobo or Robokiller. These are subscription apps that don’t discriminate against carriers. You can also check with your particular provider to see if they offer any special blocking option. For example, Verizon has the Caller Name ID app. Both iPhones and Androids have built-in call-blocking features, while Samsung has a “Smart Call” feature to squash this issue.

You can limit your cell phone calls to “contacts only” by setting the “Do Not Disturb” feature on your smart phone, but is this a realistic option for business owners who often need to take calls from people not yet in their contacts?

Analog

Again, try contacting your service provider to see what options they offer. You may also consider purchasing a call-blocking device. Some of the call-blocking devices on the market can block up to 5000 numbers, such as the CPR V5000, which is available for less than $90.

VoIP

A little trickier to fight, contact your Internet provider to see if they have a service to stop robocalls coming in via VoIP. With some clever searching, you may find an innovative blocking option online. Though, if you find a compatible match, it could be costly. Always report the unwanted call to the Federal Trade Commission.

Stop the Robocall Madness Now

The truth: Robocalls are becoming more frequent each year thanks to the double-edged sword that is the Internet. These calls show no sign of stopping. If you want them to end, you need to take action—and right now!

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Get Organized with This 32-Item Year-End Close Checklist

A great way to make a wonderful start to 2020 is to wrap up 2019 feeling organized and on top of the world. Here’s a checklist of items that you can start on now to make your year-end close go smoother than ever before. And don’t worry if you don’t know how to do some of these tasks – that’s what we’re here for.

  1. Catch up on your books, especially if you do them only once a year. By doing it now, you’ll be able to get into your accountant faster this time of year and they will appreciate getting the work done ahead of their crunch time.
  2. Catch up on bank reconciliations in case they are not up to date. Don’t forget your savings accounts, PayPal, and any other cash equivalents. Void any old uncleared checks if needed.
  3. Review unpaid invoices in accounts receivable and get aggressive about collecting them, especially if you are a cash basis tax payer. Clean up any items that are incorrect so that the account reconciles.
  4. Write off any invoices that are no longer collectible.
  5. Ask employees and vendors to update their addresses in your payroll system so that W-2s and 1099s will reflect the correct addresses.
  6. Collect any W-9s that you don’t already have on file for contractors that will receive a 1099 form from you.
  7. Collect workers compensation proof of insurance certificates from contractors so you won’t have to pay workers comp on payments you have made to them.
  8. Collect sales tax exemption certificates from any vendor who has not paid sales tax.
  9. Decide if you’ll pay employee bonuses prior to year-end.
  10. Review employee PTO and vacation time and reset or rollover the days in your payroll system.
  11. After the final payroll runs, contact your payroll software company to make any W-2 adjustments necessary for things like health insurance.
  12. Set the date to take inventory, and once you have, make adjustments to your books as necessary.
  13. Write off any inventory that is unsalable. If possible, sell scrap inventory or other waste components.
  14. Prepare a fixed assets register, calculate depreciation, and make book adjustments as needed.
  15. Record all bills due through year-end, and reconcile your accounts payable balance to these open bills.
  16. Make loan adjustments to reflect interest and principal allocations.
  17. Perform account analysis on all other balance sheet accounts to make sure all balances are correct and current.
  18. Make any additional accrual entries needed, or if you’re a cash basis taxpayer, make those adjustments as needed.
  19. Get an idea of what your profit number will be. Choose whether you want to maximize deductions to save on taxes or whether to want to reflect more income. Decide what you can defer into 2020 or what you want to have as part of your 2019 results.
  20. Match all transactions with their corresponding documents – receipts, bills, packing slips, etc. – to make sure you have the paper trail you need.
  21. Download your bank statements and store them in a safe place.
  22. Download any payroll reports and store them in a safe place.
  23. Scan in paper documents so that they’re stored electronically.
  24. File any important papers such as new leases, asset purchases, employee hiring contracts and other business contracts.
  25. Prepare a budget for 2020 and enter it into your accounting system.
  26. Take a look at the 2020 calendar to determine which holidays you’ll close and give employees a copy.
  27. Review your product and service prices if this is the time of year you do that and make any changes you decide on.
  28. Update your payroll system for any new unemployment insurance percentages received in a letter each year.
  29. Update the mileage deduction rate if that rate has changed at the beginning of the year.
  30. Set a time with your accountant to go over 2019 results and get ideas on how to meet your financial goals in 2020.
  31. Review the metrics you’ve been using in 2019 and decide on the list of metrics and corresponding values that will take you through 2020.
  32. Celebrate the new year; it’s a wonderful time to gain perspective and be hopeful about the upcoming year.

Start 2020 with a bang and this year-end checklist, and feel free to reach out if we can help with anything.

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Seven Essential To-Do’s When You Get a New Customer

Congratulations, you’ve landed a new customer! Or, perhaps you prefer the term “client.” Either way, you should be excited; in this particular climate, sparking fresh interest in any kind of business can be challenging. Yet, you did it, and now comes the next part: What to do after you have officially landed that customer/client.

The following essential list of to-do’s will help ensure you not only keep your customer happy but that you KEEP them—period! Take a look; you will discover the list can apply to everyone and anyone.

  1. Welcome Your New Customer

A simple “thank you” goes a long way. Remember, with today’s competition, it is more important than ever to stand out. Nothing will help you stand out more than by showing appreciation to any new customers. Make sure to welcome them and thank them for choosing you/your business. This can be done in person, via card, or even email. Though, written form will likely make a lasting impression. Also, reinforce all of the benefits of choosing YOU!

  1. Make a Smooth Handoff

If you think about it, this new customer has joined your family—let them know that! Introduce them to your staff (i.e. their new family and friends). Specifically, make sure they are acquainted with their person of contact and ensure it is a good fit by all involved parties.

  1. Get Them Onboarded in a Fun Way

During the initial meeting—orientation, if you will—give your customer all of the vital information they will need to easily navigate your business and get the most from your services. This information could include passwords to access certain areas, emails, phone numbers, a glossary of keywords, etc. If you could present this information in the form of a video, even better! Videos are much easier to understand and leave a lasting effect!

  1. Be Their New Best Resource (Goodies Added)

Do you have a new client kit? You should! This kit can include anything pertinent to the relationship with your new customer (i.e. relevant paperwork, files, contact information, etc.). Spice up this kit with some goodies, though! Everyone loves goodies. Make sure to properly read your customer to get a better understanding of their likes, but in general, these goodies could include candy and sweets, candles . . . You get the idea.

  1. Connect with Them on Social Media

Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, almost everyone is on at least one social media platform. Connecting on social media will not only allow you to know your customer/client better but is also a great way to network with “friends” of your customer.

  1. Meeting with the Customer for the First Time

There will come a point when you have that first review meeting with your customer. Be sure to deliver value and explain the service you’ve performed so far. The most essential take away from this step is that your customer feels comfortable and knowledgeable. This is a perfect time to verify any information that may seem unclear or complicated; encourage questions during this meeting.

  1. Ask for a Referral or a Review

The best way to drum up more business is word of mouth. You can ask immediately or want until your relationship has blossomed and become strong. Asking for a referral or a review (or both!) is completely acceptable and a good business practice.

Incorporating these seven items into your new customer onboarding process will get your relationship off to a great start. By showing your customer they are important, you stand a better chance of securing their future business and attracting even more potential customers.

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Using Custom Fields in Your Accounting Software

Custom fields in your accounting software are data fields that you can define yourself. They are typically associated with customers, vendors, employees, and items, and they can help you store and categorize additional information about these stakeholders and your products and services in your business.

An example custom field that can be associated with customers is their anniversary date with you. You could also decide to store their birthday, their spouse’s name, their favorite color, or their shoe size.

Custom fields add functionality to your accounting system. Here are a few examples of practical uses for custom fields:

  • Staff contact for customer – if customers are assigned a particular staff member, you can add their name in a custom field
  • Frequency of service – daily, weekly, monthly
  • Warehouse location
  • Type of customer; for example, hospitals, pharmacies, retirement homes
  • Referring physician
  • Preferred method of contact: email, phone, fax, text, chat
  • License number

Some software allows you to choose the type of custom field you want to add. In some cases, this allows for cleaner data as the data can be limited to a certain type or certain values upon entry. Here are the most common types:

  • Free form text – this is the default type; it can come as a single line or paragraph
  • Check box – choose one or more values from a limited number of choices
  • Radio button – choose only one value from a limited number of choices
  • Drop down – choose a value from a dropdown list
  • File upload – add an attachment
  • Image upload – upload an image that will be displayed
  • Date/time – enter a date or time
  • Number – enter a number; it can be currency, integer, or another mathematical type of number

Custom fields allow you to meet your company’s unique needs over and above what the software provides by default.  It’s a great way to make your data more meaningful. If you have some ideas for custom fields in your accounting software and want help setting them up, feel free to give us a call anytime.

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Protecting Clients’ Credit Card Numbers

Does your business ask your customers for their credit card numbers at any time during the sales process?  If so, it’s essential that you honor the privacy of your customers’ private data as well as stay in compliance with the Payment Card Industry rules.

Every business that has an account with a merchant services vendor is required to follow PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance when collecting and storing credit card data. There are many different levels of compliance depending on the technology you use to capture and store credit card data.  These levels depend on whether you use a point of sale terminal, the customer hands you their card, orders are entered through an online shopping cart, or a combination.

In all cases, there are several no-no’s that you’ll want to share with your staff to make sure they are properly trained:

  1. Never ask a client to send a credit card number via unsecure email.
  2. Never take down a credit card number over the phone on paper before entering it into your system. If you do, you need to shred the paper immediately.
  3. Don’t ask clients to take a photo of their credit card to send to you.

If you need to use credit card authorization forms in your business, you’ll need to consider the proper collection of these forms as well as the proper storage. Storing a credit card outside any system requires you to follow further PCI compliance steps.

  1. After a client has signed and completed the credit card authorization form, you will need to provide a secure, encrypted email connection for them to send it back to you. Alternately, you can set up a private client portal for them using Box, DropBox, ShareFile, or another generic portal or file transfer app.  Just sending a pdf via email is not a great idea unless the PDF is password-protected and the password is sent via secure, encrypted email.
  2. Once you’ve received the form on your end, you’ll need to keep it in a secure place. If you print or download it, you’ll need to follow physical building security protocols to stay in compliance with PCI as well as to protect the customer data.

It’s not a surprise that so many credit cards get hacked each year.  It’s inconvenient to customers and vendors when their credit card gets compromised, and much of this can be prevented through proactive and safe measures. Respect your customers and help them keep their credit card data safe.

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Avoiding Accounts Payable Errors: What to Watch Out for

When you pay a bill in your business, are you 100 percent comfortable that the bill payment is correct and justified? Is there ever a chance that that bill is fake or fraudulent? What about duplicates? With so many fake bills being mailed to businesses these days, it makes sense to think about controls you can put into place to reduce the risk that you might write a check out of your hard-earned profits that should never be written.

Accounts Payable Controls

In the accounting profession, the term “internal controls” refers to processes, procedures, and automations you can put into place to reduce errors. In accounts payable, there is a specific subset of rules and controls you can put into place to reduce risk in this area. Here are just a few ideas.

1. Approvals

All bills should be approved by the appropriate level of staff in your business. Sometimes a bill gets approved that is fake or shouldn’t be approved, especially in areas where the approver doesn’t have technical knowledge of what they are buying. Be sure to read the fine print on the bill and make sure you know what you are paying for.

2. Segregation of duties

The person who pays the bill should be different from the person who submitted the bill. These people should be different from the one who signs the check. This reduces employee fraud.

3. Receipt confirmation

A packing slip or other confirmation of receipt of the goods or services should be matched to the invoice, line item by line item.

4. Math check

A prudent step is to check an invoice’s math, at least for reasonableness.

5. Duplicate payments

If a vendor emails their bill as well as mails a hard copy, controls should be put in place (usually automated) to avoid duplicate payments on the same bill.

6. Reconciliation

If there are a significant number of transactions between you and a vendor, an accounts payable reconciliation should be performed each month via a statement.

7. Missing check numbers

Most systems provide a missing check numbers report that you can use to make sure all checks are accounted for.

8. Bank reconciliation

A bank reconciliation is a sure way to see exactly what checks cleared your bank account.

9. Coding

Coding each transaction to the correct expense account, inventory, asset, or cost of goods sold account is an essential part of the process.

10. Income statement review

Each month, a review of the balances in your expense accounts as well as a disbursements ledger review for reasonableness can provide added peace of mind.

11. Purchase order

Requiring purchase orders is another control you can add to your process. Purchase orders should be matched to packing slips and invoices before payment or approvals are made.

12. In-depth knowledge of your business’s numbers

The more you get to know the numbers in your business, the greater chance you’ll have of accurate accounts payable handling.

And if you’d like to discuss your accounts payable function with us and how it can be improved, we’re happy for you to reach out any time.

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Does Your Business Have a Safety Net?

One of the most important parts of managing a business is making sure there is enough cash to keep the business going. As a business owner, you probably have a very good idea how much cash you have in the bank at any time. The smaller your business is, the more likely you are to keep a close eye on cash.

Checking your cash balance is a daily function you should be on top of. Yet there is another often-overlooked responsibility that many business owners don’t spend enough time on, and that is managing your future cash, especially in light of unplanned situations. Looking ahead helps reduce your business risk and allows you more time to correct any upcoming dip in your cash balance.

Having enough cash is akin to having a safety net for your business. It can sometimes even mean the difference between staying in business and going out of business. To plan how much you might need for your safety net, you can use a few different methodologies.

One way to plan your safety net is to prepare for the worst-case scenario. How long would your cash hold out if no revenue were to come in but all expenses kept going out? Some questions you might ask:

  • At what point will your cash run out? How many weeks or months of cash do you have?
  • Do you have a line of credit you can tap at a bank?
  • Do you have other loans or sources of cash that you can tap quickly in case of emergency?
  • What expenses could you shut down without hurting your business if you had to?

Another way to plan your safety net is to do what the average business does: acquire the amount of cash you need for two to three months’ worth of operations and keep it on hand. Alternately, you can make a plan to liquidate that much cash on a very fast basis and only put your plan in place if it’s needed.

An easy way to get these numbers is to look at your bank statements in conjunction with your average accounts receivable and accounts payable balances. If that’s all Greek to you, no worries. Feel free to contact us and we can help you figure out a safety net number that you’ll feel comfortable with and that will keep your business risk low.

Once you have a safety net in place, you’ll gain peace of mind for your business. It’s one step in an overall disaster preparedness plan that you can make for your business.

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