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Why Budgeting and Forecasting Are Vital for Your Business

Jim-Rice-for-web.jpgRecently, a client in the financial services industry decided to open up several new locations over a 12-month span. I asked if they had a budget in place and a definitive timeline for opening up each location. Nothing concrete, they told me.

This isn't unusual. Many companies make up their budgets and forecasts as they go along. But this is like setting out on a long drive with no map, no GPS, no credit cards and no idea how much gas you have in the tank. Where you'll wind up is anyone's guess.

Plan Ahead by Looking Back
The next company that correctly forecasts its annual budget right down to the penny will be the first. Still, just because you don't know your exact operating expenses is no excuse not to come up with a reasonable estimate.

The best way to determine how much money you'll need in the next year is to carefully track how much you spent in past years. It's important not only to calculate the total amount you spent, but also to analyze seasonal highs and lows. Doing so will allow you to anticipate lean months and set aside additional funds as needed. Also, the more closely you scrutinize your spending, the more likely you are to find ways to cut costs and eliminate unnecessary expenses.

Typically, companies forecast budgets over a 12-month period. Depending on the nature of your business, however, you might want to forecast for six months, or even 30 days at a time. This will provide your employees with a detailed roadmap of exactly where you're headed and the resources you have to get there.

Does Budget Forecasting Work in the Real World?
So how did my client's planned expansion turn out? Very well, I'm happy to say. Together we looked at their sales trends over the two previous years. Then we analyzed the current market and economic conditions and came up with a reasonable sales forecast.

Next, we drilled down and looked at the costs of goods sold (COGS). We also calculated their business expenses over the past few years, noting increases in rent, insurances, advertising, employee expenses, accounting costs and legal fees. That provided the basis for a cash flow analysis, giving us an idea of the money coming in and money going out, including projected income and expenses. And that, in turn, gave us a reliable indicator of when extra cash was going to be available and when revenue would be light.

Based on this solid data, the client was able to proceed with their plan to open up additional locations.

Now, as the client moves forward, we carefully compare their actual cash flow against their forecast. By monitoring their finances on a regular basis, we've been able to identify potential problems at an early stage and formulate a strategy to correct them before they become major issues.

In other words, the client has been able to get where they want to go by carefully studying where they've been.

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Supporting Your On-staff Bookkeeper with Outsourced Services

Jeff-Orchard-for-web-2.jpgPrevious articles on our blog have explored why small-business owners should consider outsourcing portions of their bookkeeping, operational and controllership services. Reasons include introducing controls against internal fraud or theft and the ability to ramp up during temporary periods of high demand.

That's not to say business owners need to choose either an outsourced bookkeeping service or an on-staff bookkeeper. In many cases, the best solution is a combination of both. Here's why.

A Single Bookkeeper Can't Always Keep Up
Recently, I met with a prospective client who told me, "My bookkeeper went to lunch three weeks ago and we haven't heard from her. She won't answer her cell phone or emails."

That situation, unfortunately, is not terribly unusual. Many business owners simply don't realize how stressed their bookkeeper is until it's too late. Just because you're willing to work long hours and wear many hats doesn't mean your bookkeeper is. And even if they're willing, they might not be able.

If you hire a relatively inexperienced, inexpensive bookkeeper to do your payroll and basic AP/AR functions — but then also ask them to conduct bank reconciliations or internal audits, prepare detailed financial reports, track inventory, conduct quarterly forecasts, analyze your annual budget or take on other higher-level responsibilities — can you blame them for succumbing to burnout?

An outsourced bookkeeping service can offer higher-level support as needed, according to your budgetary needs. In some cases, such a service can also provide training and establish systems that will bring your on-staff bookkeeper up to speed at a pace they can handle. So not only will your bookkeeper not feel threatened by an outside service — they might actually stick around longer. (And if they do feel threatened, that's a red flag.)

Don't Get Caught Shorthanded
Of course, even good on-staff bookkeepers get sick, miss time for parental or medical leave or simply decide to move on. That leads to another benefit of supplementing your full-time staff with an outsourced bookkeeping service: If you need to fill a short-term vacancy, or if you want to take your time in selecting a permanent replacement when a staff member leaves, you'll already have a working relationship with an outside service that's familiar with you, your business and your staff.

The bottom line: Having the support of outside bookkeeping professionals whenever it's necessary brings peace of mind — for both you and your on-staff bookkeeper.

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Which Payroll Solution is Right for Your Small Business?

Jeff-Orchard-for-web-2.jpgIf you run a small business, one of the most important decisions you face is selecting the right payroll service. After all, as difficult as choosing a payroll solution is, transitioning to a different solution is even more difficult.

That's why it's important to get it right the first time. And while price is certainly a factor, the cheapest solution isn't always the best.

Capabilities aren't the issue either. Pretty much any service you choose can process payroll and calculate tax liabilities. The differentiators are customization, automation and reporting. Based on those criteria and my experience, I've narrowed the search down to what I consider the three best choices.

Intuit Full Service Payroll ($100 per month + $2 per employee)
Business owners know Intuit best for QuickBooks, but the company also offers this strong payroll solution. My recommendation comes with a caveat, however: Use the "Full Service" version only. The others require filing and paying taxes manually. Paying a little extra to take that responsibility off your plate is well worth it.

  • Customization: I haven't found many businesses that need custom features that Intuit doesn't provide, from compensation methods to payroll frequency to deductions.
  • Automation: For obvious reasons, Intuit Full Service Payroll integrates directly with QuickBooks. The general ledger mapping is very simple, and the accounting and payroll functions are so intertwined that they act as a single solution.
  • Reporting: The reporting module is simple yet robust.
  • Drawbacks: Intuit Full Service Payroll doesn't withdraw tax payments until they are due, which can be three months after payroll is processed. Although some business owners love hanging onto their cash as long as possible, it can cause havoc when several thousand dollars of taxes suddenly come due from prior payrolls. Most businesses I work with prefer to have all payroll liability handled as soon as they pay their employees.

Gusto Payroll ($39 per month + $6 per employee)
Gusto is much newer than the other two on my list, but has made significant progress and continues to improve. It's been a very good solution for many of my clients. The basic fee is low, though the per-employee cost is higher — something to consider if you're planning for substantial growth. I typically recommend it for companies that intend to have no more than 10 employees.

  • Customization: I'll be honest — it's weak. I often have to come up with workarounds.
  • Automation: Gusto automatically syncs with QuickBooks Online and a few other popular online accounting platforms. It also allows you to establish automated payroll that will run each period based on your company's payroll setup.
  • Reporting: Solid, but not as robust as Intuit. You can always find what you need, but it might take some digging.
  • Drawbacks: I wouldn't use Gusto for a more complex business that requires extra bandwidth from the payroll provider. I recommend it all the time for small businesses, but that's all I recommend it for at this stage of its development.

ADP Run (price varies)
ADP Run is by far the best solution for small businesses. They were the original innovators in this space and continue to be the industry leader.

  • Customization: Best in class.
  • Automation: Best in class.
  • Reporting: Best in class.
  • Drawbacks: As with most things in life, the best solution is also the most expensive. So, yes, ADP is pricey. But if you can afford it, it's well worth it. In fact, I got so tired of my clients settling for lesser products because of price that I partnered with ADP to discount the price to a level competitive with the other solutions. Because I think having the best available payroll solution for your small business is that important.

The Expertise You Need
Evaluating and comparing all the payroll solutions out there would be quite a task. How do you know which one is right for your business? Working with a bookkeeping services provider can help.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions on this topic!

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Supporting Strategies Expands to Brooklyn - Staten Island

Lvovskiy Becomes Managing Director of New Franchise

Leslie-Jorgensen-135 x 135.jpgSupporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, in Brooklyn - Staten Island.

Jane Lvovskiy, Franchisee and Managing Director, has served as Tax Associate at KMPG; Assistant Vice President, Tax, at Credit Suisse; and Assistant Vice President, Fund Accountant, at The Blackstone Group. In 2016 she founded LJ CPA Accounting Services, PLLC, where her responsibilities included reviewing month-end trial balances and financial statements, helping to prepare annual budgets and helping to prepare management reports and analysis to monitor overall financial performance of clients.

"I am excited to join Supporting Strategies," Lvovskiy says. "Over the last few years, the Brooklyn and Staten Island areas have experienced significant growth in business activity. Cost savings and time efficiency have been the driving force behind the success of many businesses. I look forward to helping businesses prosper by implementing my knowledge and experience together with Supporting Strategies' cutting-edge technology. "

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective bookkeeping services. Franchisees like Lvovskiy are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, Vice President of Franchise Development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If you are with a business in Brooklyn or Staten Island and would like to discuss outsourcing your bookkeeping needs, please contact Jane Lvovskiy at jlvovskiy@supportingstrategies.com or 718-504-5643.

Plan for Bookkeeping in Your New Business

darcie-coy-for-web.jpgEven if your business is profitable, it could still be at risk of failing unexpectedly if you don't track your money properly. And yet every day we see companies launched with little to no budget for professional bookkeeping services.

That's a formula for disaster.

You Don't Get What You Don't Pay For
The reason new businesses skimp on bookkeeping services is simple: They think they're saving money. But just as you can save more than you spend by hiring a professional to prepare your personal income tax returns, you can minimize the "loss" portion of your company's P&L — and maximize the profit — with the help of skilled bookkeepers.

Think about what you have estimated for revenue and make sure your budget for controllership and bookkeeping services is commensurate. If you expect to have a high cash flow, you want to plan for it and not rely on barebones or bootstrap bookkeeping.

Inadequate bookkeeping services can not only eat into your profits, but also lead to significant problems with the IRS. According to Franchise Business Review, "About one in three small businesses will face fines and penalties at some point in their operations due to mistakes, inaccuracies and other errors." And their recommendation for avoiding penalties due to inaccuracy is to hire a professional firm with the skills and experience necessary to handle your business' accounting needs.

Also keep this in mind: If you're crafting a business plan and seeking investors, being thrifty with your controllership and bookkeeping services won't impress them. It will scare them. They'll want to know their investment is well cared for.

Financial Planning Is a Big Part of Business Planning
Besides helping you keep track of your financials, an bookkeeping services company can help you analyze and interpret them, a key component in helping your business grow. You may also need help producing timely, accurate financial reports for investors on a regular recurring basis — usually monthly.

Your bookkeeper should take a holistic approach to your business, understanding not only its current state but also your goals for the future.

You need a bookkeeping services company that can scale with your growth, not stifle it. If you work with a company that has solid processes in place and a large team of qualified professionals, you can minimize the kinds of financial growing pains that can stunt your development.

For more information on this topic, read my blog post from November 2016: Smart Accounting for Start-Up Businesses.

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Legal and Tax Disclaimer
This website is created by Supporting Strategies to provide general bookkeeping and accounting information only. Supporting Strategies does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and the information contained herein is not intended to do so. As such, the information provided should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, legal and accounting advisors, and you should consult with a tax, legal or accounting professional before engaging in any transaction.

Meet the Italian Mathematician Behind Modern-Day Accounting

Harlan-Gleeson-for-web.jpgItalia. The land that brought us Mediterranean seascapes, the language of love, Michelangelo's "David" and, of course, the origins of keeping good books.

While solid accounting practices date back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, our true Founding Father was, in fact, a Renaissance man: a mathematician named Luca Pacioli. A trusted employee of several successful merchants of Venice, Luca decided he needed a totally new way of accounting that would demonstrate a merchant's performance and the reasons behind his success (or lack thereof).

At the time, the Renaissance elite was developing an appreciation for the practice of algebra and its emphasis on balance. Whatever happens on one side of an equation must be accounted for on the other side.

According to NPR's All Things Considered, Pacioli, who was known to break bread with Leonardo da Vinci, saw in this mathematical thinking a way to appease and impress his high-flying clients. And thus double-entry bookkeeping was born.

While some might call accounting dry, others say the same of a fine chianti (as a compliment). The next time you make an entry in the balance sheet equation, Assets = Liabilities + Owners Equity, remember that the contemporaries of da Vinci recognized the art of accounting as a truly beautiful thing.

(If I've piqued your interest, you can check out our blog for more on balance sheets and P&Ls, trial balance basics and double entry accounting.)

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New Year, New IRS Rules

Mary-Sue-Renfro-for-web-square.jpgFor accounting services professionals, the New Year always brings new regulations. Here's an overview of some of the key ones up ahead.

Mandatory New I-9 Form
This one's coming fast. Employers must start using the new I-9 form, a.k.a. the Employment Eligibility Verification Form, by January 22. The form is designed to verify compliance with the 1986 Immigration Control and Reform Act, which requires employers to confirm each employee's identity. Among the changes to the form, last updated in 2013, are a supplemental page for the preparer/translator.

Access the new form here.

New Filing Deadlines for W-2 and 1099 Forms
Under terms of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of December 2015, employers must now submit their copies of W-2 forms to the Social Security Administration by January 31. Previously, employers had until either the last day of February (for paper copies) or the last day of March (for digital copies). In addition, employers can now file for only one 30-day extension, and they must file the required form (8809) by January 31.

The new deadline also applies to 1099 forms covering payments to independent contractors and certain other forms of compensation for non-employees. The current deadline for employers to furnish copies of W-2 forms to their employees, January 31, is unchanged.

According to an agency bulletin, the earlier deadlines "will make it easier for the IRS to verify the legitimacy of tax returns and properly issue refunds to taxpayers eligible to receive them."

New Filing Deadlines for 1065 and 1120C Forms
The filing dates for these two forms have essentially flip-flopped, per the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015. Form 1065, pertaining to partnership income, has changed from April 15 to March 15. Form 1120C, pertaining to C corporations, has changed from March 15 to April 15. (Form 1120S, for S corporations, remains March 15.)

The idea is that putting the partnership filing deadline (including Schedule K-1 "pass-through" taxes) ahead of the C corporation deadline would make it less likely that corporations would be forced to seek extensions for their tax returns.

The American Institute of CPAs has posted this handy guide summarizing original and extended tax return due dates.

One Significant Postponement
A quick reminder: The new revenue recognition standard set by the Financial Accounting Standard Board, originally slated to go into effect on December 15, 2016, has been postponed for accounting periods beginning after December 15, 2017, for most public companies and a year later for nonpublic companies. Among the reasons for the delay cited by the Journal of Accountancy was "a lack of available IT solutions for the new standard."

We haven't covered every change in IRS regulations, of course. Some, like the Transportation Mainline Pipeline Construction Industry Optional 62(c) Expense Substantiation Rules for Payments to Employees under Accountable Plans, cited in the IRS's Revenue Procedure 2016-55 bulletin, are incredibly arcane.

Be sure to stay tuned for an update on other changes going into effect in 2017. And if you're looking for the latest on the new Fair Labor Standards Act overtime regulations, I've also blogged on that topic.

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___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Legal and Tax Disclaimer
This website is created by Supporting Strategies to provide general bookkeeping and accounting information only. Supporting Strategies does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and the information contained herein is not intended to do so. As such, the information provided should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, legal and accounting advisors, and you should consult with a tax, legal or accounting professional before engaging in any transaction.

Why Business Owners Need to Understand Cash Flow Statements

Ann-Willett-Thomas-for-web.jpgI once did the books for a restaurant owner who kept confusing the bottom line of his profit & loss (P&L) statement with his actual cash flow. If he hadn't had someone looking over his shoulder, the results could have been disastrous.

There's a cautionary tale here for all small business owners. Please note: I've provided a simplified example here to illustrate my point.

Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt
To get his business started, the restaurant owner had taken out a business loan. He had also run up a lot of credit card debt early on, charging additional equipment and supplies so as not to burn through the loan too fast. There's nothing wrong with that per se; a lot of small businesses start out in debt.

Even though he no longer used the credit card, the restaurant owner still had to pay down the debt. All told, he was on the hook for about $10,000 a month between the loan and the credit card. Even so, he was keeping his head above water. In an average month, his P&L would show a profit of about $15,000.

That's when the confusion started. Time and again the owner would see that profit and want to write himself a check for, say, $10,000. And time and again I would have to explain that he couldn't do that. That's because the P&L only shows profits or losses for a given month and doesn't factor in any cash used to pay for balance sheet items, like long-term debts. Before he could write himself a check, the restaurant owner needed to subtract $10,000 (for his monthly debt obligation) from the $15,000.

So while his profit for the month was $15,000, his overall positive cash flow was only $5,000.

Getting with the Program
Fortunately for small business owners, accounting software has come a long way since then. (And if you aren't using accounting software, you need to join the 21st century!) Every type of accounting software can generate a cash flow statement. This — not your P&L — is what you should use to gauge the true health of your business.

Basically, the cash flow statement analyzes a handful of vital signs worded something like this, depending on the program:

  1. Net cash provided by operating activities
  2. Net cash used in investing activities
  3. Net cash used in financing activities

To determine cash flow, you start with No. 1 and add 2 and 3 (don't let the negative numbers confuse you — just keep adding them!).

Your cash flow should be a positive number. If it's positive, but still lower than you'd like, you need to do a deeper analysis. If it's negative, you need to address your financial situation immediately.

Our restaurant owner had two basic options for increasing cash flow beyond $5,000 a month:

  1. Increase revenue (difficult, considering he had only one modest-sized restaurant to work with).
  2. Cut expenses (the more practical avenue).

One thing he couldn't afford to do was to run his business as if his long-term debt didn't exist. That's why he needed to focus on his cash flow statement — not his P&L.

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How to Work with Clients in Different Time Zones

jennifer-lang.pngWorking remotely opens a whole network of possibilities. You can collaborate just as effectively with a client who's halfway around the world as one who's right around the corner, provided you account for the difference in your time zones.

All it takes is being flexible with your availability and establishing procedures to avoid communication breakdowns.

What Time Is It? That Depends …
In an increasingly global economy, many U.S. companies have to adjust to doing business 24/7. When it's 9 a.m. in Kokomo, Indiana, it's 7:30 p.m. in Kolkata, India. Three p.m. in Beijing is 2 a.m. in Boston.

Fortunately, most Supporting Strategies clients are stateside, meaning that time differences are fairly minor. Still, you need to be aware of them to avoid miscommunications and missed communications.

You also have to be careful not to inconvenience your client. Say you're in the Central Time Zone and you call an East Coast client at 11 a.m. your time. Well, it's noon at your client's office, so your call could interrupt their lunch hour. Or if you're on the West Coast and you call a client out East at midafternoon your time, they could be preparing to leave for the day.

So that leads to the first rule of communicating with a client in a different time zone: Schedule calls whenever possible. That provides an opportunity to select a mutually convenient time and for each of you to prepare. Once you've determined a time that works for each of you, schedule regular calls at that hour to discuss routine business.

Be Proactive
If you're not instantly familiar with the time difference between you and your client, apps such as the Time Zone Converter can help you figure it out.

Be sure to include both your local time and the client's local time in your email when you set up a call. Otherwise your phone might ring at 8 a.m. when you're expecting a call at 9 a.m. Really, it comes down to being proactive. Don't allow a miscommunication to occur when you can easily avoid it. And by taking control of the process, you can also set your expectations for the client.

Establish Clear Deadlines — But Make Yourself Available, Too
Many of your routine client communications can be conducted by email, which resolves most of the time zone issues. Still, it's important to establish response deadlines. The deadline, whether it's one business day, 48 hours, a week — whatever — can vary depending on the nature of the business or the complexity of the request. The important thing is to set a reasonable timeframe and stick to it.

Despite all of your best efforts, you might still need to make yourself available outside normal business hours to accommodate a client in a different time zone. As long as both parties are considerate of one another’s preferred working schedule you should be able to collaborate harmoniously with minimal disruptions. Being thoughtful and flexible in these ways creates the opportunity to work remotely with interesting clients all over the United States — and beyond!

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Automating Recurring Charges with QuickBooks Online

Angel-Mazariegos-for-web-square.jpgRecently I’ve been approached by several clients looking for a way to automate collection on their recurring credit card payments using QuickBooks Online (QBO)—one of the best web-based tools for small business bookkeeping services.

For business owners who have multiple recurring payments to collect, automating recurring payments can help you streamline your processes.

For example, think of a produce distributor who makes multiple regular deliveries to local restaurants. Each month the same goods are distributed at the same price. For both the distributor and the restaurants, a lot of time and effort can be saved by automating this invoicing and payment process.

To set up an automatically recurring charge:

  1. Go to the top right corner of your QuickBooks Online window. Click “Company/Gear” and then select Recurring Transactions.
  1. Click “New,” then choose “Sales Receipt” as your transaction type. You’ll be presented with a sales receipt template form.
  1. Choose “Scheduled” as your type of Template and give it a name. Select a customer and enter in an email address so that your client will receive a confirmation email when the payment goes through.
  1. Set up your payment Interval as well as your Start and End date (if needed).
  1. Enter in your client’s credit card payment information. Make sure to check the box that says “Process Credit Card.”
  1. Fill out the rest of the Sales Receipt. This should be straightforward, done the same way as with any other sales receipt, recurring or non-recurring.
  1. Hit “Save.” You’ll receive a recurring credit card authorization form. Have your client sign this form and return it to you before the first payment goes through. Then either save this form or hand it over to your bookkeeping services provider for safekeeping.*

After this you’ll be all set up to collect this regular payment automatically, no manual data-entry required. If the details of the payment should change, just return to this sales receipt to make any necessary changes. 

*NOTE:  There are PCI compliance requirements regarding the proper transmittal and storage of credit card information.  If you are unsure of how to comply, consult your bookkeeping services provider, CPA, or legal counsel.

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Outsourcing Accounting Options: Which Is Best for Your Business?

jennifer-lang.pngIn a recent post, Supporting Strategies' Garrett Smith made a compelling case that growing companies should consider outsourcing select non-core business functions.

Basically, the point of the article was that the more responsibilities the business owner can hand off, the more they can focus on their company's reason for being. If you're in the medical-supplies business, you should spend your time figuring out ways to sell more medical supplies. Time spent on anything else takes away from your focus.

As Smith noted, accounting is one obvious business function that is ripe for delegation. Let's take a look at the three basic options.

1. Full-Time
If you have a full-time bookkeeper or accountant on staff, you've already effectively delegated this responsibility. The question here is one of value. You need to calculate the cost of that full-time staff member relative to their production and then determine whether it is possible to outsource that position to a more cost-effective part-time resource.

When comparing costs, be sure to factor in not only a full-time staffer's salary, but also the cost of their benefits package, employment taxes and insurance, use of office space, etc. Then it becomes a simple bottom-line comparison.

2. Part-Time
If you're a small-business owner who's wearing too many hats, including a bookkeeper's, you face a dilemma: You don't have enough bookkeeping or accounting work to hire another staff member, but you have too much to effectively handle yourself — or to pile on one of your already overworked employees.

The solution is straightforward, particularly if you're looking to outsource a few tasks like payroll, accounts payable or accounts receivable rather than the whole accounting cycle: Pay an hourly rate or flat fee each month to outsource those responsibilities. Chances are you and your staff can use the time you free up to bring in enough new business to more than offset the cost.

3. Special Projects
This takes that logic a step further. If you need help with a temporary or short-term challenge, such as your tax returns or an audit, you can bring in an outside accounting-services firm to help. You might also go this route if you grow to the point where you need to update your business infrastructure.

For example, say you want to implement a new system of inventory tracking and integrate it with your overall accounting system. Your best option is probably to outsource that job to an accounting-services provider with proficiency in that particular software.

Choosing the Best Option …
You know your business better than anyone else. You also know better than anyone else which of these outsourcing options would best fit your company. Options 2 and 3 are relatively easy to jump into without a lot of commitment, so often our new clients start off this way and grow from there. Consult your CPA or other business advisors for recommendations and further guidance in helping you make this value-creating decision for your business.

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Hubdoc: The Solution for Collecting Source Documents

Melody-Gibbons.pngEveryone in the accounting services industry has a horror story about not being able to obtain source documents. Maybe a client routinely makes bank deposits without recording where they came from. Or they stuff all invoices and receipts into a folder and wait until the end of the month to sort through them.

This results in frustration and wasted time not only for the accountant, who has to chase the documents, but also for the client, who has to work with the accountant to retrace their steps.

Get on the Same Page with Hubdoc
Fortunately for business owners and providers of remote accounting services like Supporting Strategies, there's a solution to the challenge of managing source documents. It's called Hubdoc.

Here's how it works: Basically, all the business owner has to do is set up a Hubdoc account (for a nominal fee) and enable the accountant to "autofetch" all relevant source docs. Your bank and credit card statements, vendor invoices and all other online docs flow into a central repository automatically. Once you've finished the one-time setup, you literally don't have to do anything else. You don't have to send the documents to your accountant — and just as important, your accountant doesn't have to ask for them.

Hubdoc recognizes that (unfortunately) not all documents are available online. Its mobile app allows you to photograph receipts while you are on the go; these automatically funnel into your account for processing by your accountant. Plus, you can also drag and drop or email scanned documents into your Hubdoc account.

The system offers bank-level security encryption and restricted access. In addition, the files are "read-only," so neither the accountant, the business owner nor anyone else (including Hubdoc) can alter them.

Optical Character Recognition
Another neat feature is Hubdoc's Optical Character Recognition (OCR) capability. The OCR technology will extract relevant information for your Hubdoc and bill payment records — date, amount, vendor name, etc.

Hubdoc can then be integrated with QuickBooks or Bill.com — or whichever automated payment service you prefer — so all bills get entered automatically. This eliminates a lot of computer keystrokes from the process, not to mention human error.

All documents are archived in searchable files. So if you need to check an invoice from Acme Vendor Service, for example, you can search the keyword "Acme" and find it immediately.

End That Stressful Paper Chase
Source documents are the financial foundation of any business. They're the only way for you to prove that your numbers are what you say they are — for tax filings, audits and many other purposes. Hubdoc provides a means for you to record and file all of your source docs in one place, and to share them with your accountant in a seamless, secure environment.

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Start Your Business Year off Right

Dawn-Hershik-for-web.jpgWhether you set formal New Year’s resolutions or not, now is a good time to think about what you want to accomplish in the new year. Maybe you just started the business and want to grow sales by 30%, or perhaps you’ve been in business for years and need to figure out how to keep your products or services fresh. Whether you’re in year one or 20, the tips below can help any business kick off the New Year right.

  1. First things first: Determine what you want to achieve in the New Year. Call it a resolution or goal—just get it down on paper so you and your team have something to work towards. Be realistic. Don’t set yourself up to fail by having an out-of-reach goal that will not be achievable during the year. But don’t make it so easy that you reach the goal within the first few months. And make sure the goal fits in with the overall mission of the company.
  1. Identify where not to focus: Is there a product or service you should eliminate this year? Now is a good time to figure out if it still makes sense to offer a product that does not sell well. Is there a process that you do because you’ve always done it? Figure out if there’s a better way to do it, or see if you’re duplicating efforts.
  1. Set up target timelines: Now that you know where to focus you’ll want to keep track of your progress and make sure you’re on target. This could mean checking monthly or quarterly to figure out if you need to adjust the plan to achieve your goal by year end.
  1. Get help: You can’t do everything, especially if your plan is to grow the business this year. Delegate some of the work load. If you don’t have internal people, outsourcing is a great option.

Finally, don’t forget to reward yourself and your team. Schedule some time on the calendar for a massage or a walk in the park for yourself. Remember the target timelines? If the company hit the target during a quarter, take the team out to lunch. These little things go a long way in showing your appreciation for your teams’ hard work and dedication throughout the year.

Happy New Year!

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Be Wary of Third-Party Application Promises

Christina-Reynolds-for-web-2.pngI'm a big proponent of third-party applications. After all, with the right app, you can customize an accounting system like QuickBooks to streamline many of your specific accounting processes and save a considerable amount of money and time on bookkeeping.

As with any major purchase, however, you need to read the fine print. Third-party apps might involve cutting-edge technology, but a bad sales rep can still resort to unscrupulous sales techniques that date back to the days of horse-trading. Beware of the bait-and-switch or an obvious mismatch, where the rep pushes an expensive app that's not right for your needs.

Here are some questionable practices to watch for:

  • Free trials: Get the sales rep to define "free." Is it a completely free trial, meaning with no strings attached? With some trial offers, you have to sign an annual contract, and only the first 10 days are free. Depending on the application, 10 days might not even be enough time to figure out how to use the app, let alone determine whether it suits your needs. A month into the contract, when you determine the app isn't right for you, it's too late — you're on the hook for the full year.

    Never sign a contract without thoroughly vetting it. And don't sign one that automatically kicks in if you fail to opt out after the trial period.
  • Third-party implementation consultant required: Some third-party apps need to be adapted for your needs. This step could require a third-party consultant with specialized training — which, depending on the app's complexity, could be an additional cost upwards of $10,000. So be sure to ask for details about every step and related cost involved in the setup process when pricing a third-party app, and get the details in writing.
  • Actual monthly costs vs. advertised monthly costs: If an advertised monthly cost seems too good to be true, it probably is. It could be the cost per month per user, for instance. So if you have five users, the actual monthly cost would be five times higher. Make sure you understand how the advertised monthly cost is calculated and what it includes. Is it a simple flat fee? Or is it a subscription, with the advertised per-month cost contingent on signing a long-term contract? In some cases, you'll have to ask a lot of questions to ferret out the true monthly cost.
  • Upselling or overselling: Finally, you have to be careful that the rep isn't upselling you or overselling the app. One of my clients wanted a basic third-party app and a sales rep tried to force-fit a sophisticated, super-detailed app that was way beyond what the client needed. It was like selling a riding lawnmower to someone who needed a weed trimmer. We spent many, many hours over several months wrestling with overly complex details for this client — all of which could have been avoided if the right-sized solution had been selected at the start.

Spread the Word
Many third-party apps, like Bill.com, are great products with transparent terms of service. But if someone tries to sell you a third-party app that you're not familiar with, do your due diligence. Review demos and contracts. Call references and consult third-party vendors that you have a good relationship with. Get as much information as you can before making the commitment.

And if you come across a disreputable sales rep or a third-party app that isn't all it claims to be, speak up and let others know. Even in a high-tech world like ours, word of mouth is still our best defense.

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How to Ensure Good Client Communication When Working Remotely

Laura-Conner-for-web.pngIn our digital age, miscommunications in emails are an all-too-common occurrence. How can you avoid making mistakes that may have significant consequences for your organization?

As a national leader in providing virtual accounting and bookkeeping services, Supporting Strategies knows a lot about communicating effectively when working remotely. Here are some tips on how you can do the same.

  • Polish your writing skills. Whatever industry you're in, writing skills will help. For example, any accountant can do numbers. But not every accountant can tell you the story behind the numbers. Good writing skills will come in handy when writing a summary to go along with your monthly reports.
  • Don't rely on email exclusively. Even good writers run into problems at times when using email because it's tone-deaf. Take a simple two-word reply like "Got it." What does that mean? Is your client simply acknowledging that they received your email? Or are they too busy to review and answer questions? When in doubt, pick up the phone immediately. It's a simple way to resolve any misunderstandings.
  • Schedule regular meetings. Be sure to check in with your clients by phone or videoconference periodically. That's the best way to ferret out key pieces of information that would otherwise have fallen through the cracks. It often works best to schedule recurring meetings in advance so both parties are available and prepared to get right down to business at the scheduled time, reducing the need for inefficient back-and-forth correspondence between meetings. It also helps to maintain a shared "open items" list so everyone is on the same page with any pending items between meetings.
  • Listen. This might be the most important communications skill of all — and it requires no special training, no software and no advanced degree. All you need is a willingness to hear what your client has to say. And you can do that no matter where you're working.

Here at Supporting Strategies, being proactive in our communication is part of the package. After all, just because we work remotely doesn't mean we're out of touch.

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How to Deal with (and Make Deals with) Your Vendors

John-Gleason-for-web.jpgInsufficient oversight of vendor relations can drain your company's resources and lessen your bottom line. Lost potentials range from money left on the table due to not taking advantage of available or possible discounts, to insider scams perpetrated by dishonest employees or vendor salespeople.

If you haven't reviewed your vendor contracts lately, it's time to do so with your eyes wide open.

Is That the Best You Can Do?
That's the cold, hard question you should ask yourself at least once a year about each vendor contract.

Maybe you're on good terms with all your vendors — but how do you know you can't find even better terms elsewhere? Has your business grown with the vendor in question? Perhaps it's time to strike a better, fairer deal. Has your local business climate changed since you struck your vendor deal? You have to look around and compare. And if you negotiate a better deal with another vendor, your incumbent vendor might be willing to match it, just to preserve the relationship.

At the same time, be sure to treat your vendors fairly. Be honest with them, and don't string them along. Recognize the good work they've done for your firm, and make sure you always hold up your end of the deal. As Megan Sullivan writes at QuickBooks.com, "Paying your vendors on time demonstrates that you respect them and the work they do."

Also remember that many vendors won't offer you a better deal unless you ask for one. Make it clear to your vendors that you're always on the lookout for deals that increase your competitive advantage. After all, it's part of your job as your company's manager.

Can They Sweeten the Deal?
There are many other ways to save money on vendor contracts.

  • Some offer a discount for ordering in bulk. If you started small and have increased your order over time, you might have reached the discount threshold without knowing it.
  • You might be able to get a great discount by utilizing a different timetable. For example, if you buy 30 widgets a month and the vendor offers a discount on orders of 50 or more, you might buy 60 widgets every two months to get the discounted terms.
  • Most vendors will offer a net discount for early payment. Two percent, 3% or even 5% discount net 10 days payment, or greater, are very common discounts that can be arranged. These net discount arrangements and payment terms vary per industry.
  • Can your supplier offer you consignment for their goods? In that situation, your firm has vendor goods on your floor that aren't yours until you sell or use them. This is an especially advantageous vendor relationship for just in time (JIT) manufacturing and reducing A/P burden.
  • Is your vendor a national firm that can provide your firm with marketing help if you utilize their services or products?

Other options include group buys and affinity programs. Again, it's often a simple matter of asking.

Never Accept a New Vendor Purely on an Employee's Word
Even if you don't deal with your vendors directly, it's important that you know who they are.

We get it. You're busy. So you might be tempted to delegate vendor relations to one of your employees — particularly if that employee knows more about that portion of the business than you do.

Instead, use two sets of eyes — yours and your accountant's — to review any new vendor contracts or changes made to the A/P vendor list. The ugly reality is that deceitful practices and outright fraud can happen. Employees sometimes make vendor deals that favor friends or relatives, or potentially siphon money from the company through falsified vendor contracts or phony vendors. Vendors should be assigned numbers, and the vendor list itself should be reviewed annually.

No conscientious, trustworthy employee will balk at you doing your due diligence. Neither will a reputable vendor. In fact, if a vendor is anything less than forthcoming with you, that's a bright red flag.

As Jonathan Long of Market Domination Media told smallbiztrends.com, "There are plenty of potential partners and vendors. Don't waste your time with ones who aren't 100 percent honest and upfront from the beginning." The same point holds true for employees and other business stakeholders.

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Be Careful with Those Not-For-Profit Allocations

sandra-bowman-for-web-square.jpgOne of the stickiest aspects of accounting for not-for-profit (NFP) entities involves allocations — how these entities account for where they spend the funds they receive.

For-profit businesses don't have to worry about this too much. If you have a pizza parlor, it doesn't matter if you use the profits from your pizza sales to pay the rent and the profits from your soda sales to pay the utilities (or vice versa). The customers don't care what you do with their money, as long as they get their pizza and their drinks.

It's not so simple at an NFP entity.

How You Got the Money Can Determine Where You Spend It
Many NFP entities receive funds that are earmarked for specific purposes. For example, let's say an organization receives a grant expressly to provide wheelchairs for the physically challenged. The organization can't use that funding to sponsor an event instead. They have to spend it on wheelchairs — and they need documentation to prove they did. (This is called "direct identification.")

Allocations can get incredibly granular. If, for example, an NFP entity decides to include information about both an upcoming fundraiser and an annual membership drive in the same mailer, they actually have to break down the percentage of the mailer devoted to each purpose to properly allocate funds. (These are considered indirect allocations.) If 30% of the mailer is about the fundraiser, then 30% of the cost should come from the fundraising budget. The remaining 70% comes from the membership-drive budget.

How does the NFP entity calculate those percentages? That's where the guidelines toggle from precise to vague. (Speaking of vagueness: There's a subtle distinction between an NFP entity and nonprofit organization.) A recent Accounting Standards Update from the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) says only that each NFP entity's method of allocation has to be "reasonable."

Setting the Standards
So what's "reasonable"? Whatever method an NFP entity chooses to determine its allocations, the key is to apply it consistently. If, in our example above, an organization determines the percentage of the mailer devoted to fundraising based on the number of lines, they need to do that with all mailers. Or they can use the number of words as a determinant. Again, consistency is the key.

Other key takeaways from the recent update include:

  • Make sure allocations are accurately calculated. Breaking down the allocation of every dollar an NFP entity spends is painstaking but necessary.
  • Make sure management reviews all allocations. Given the complexity and importance of accurate allocations, this is a task that should require high-level sign-off.
  • Document your allocation plan and circulate it to all involved. When it comes to allocations, everyone needs to be on the same page — literally.
  • Make sure all expenses fit the scope of your organization. NFP entities are governed by strict guidelines. You need to adhere to them or risk trouble with the IRS. Use a critical eye to compare your expenses to those of similar organizations, and be sure you're in line with accepted standards.

We've barely scratched the surface here. The FASB's Accounting Standards Update on this topic consumes 270 pages — and even then, the report concedes that "The amendments in this Update make certain improvements that address many, but not all, of the identified issues about the current financial reporting for NFPs." So stay vigilant.

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Can't Afford to Invest in Internal Controls? You Can't Afford Not To.

christi-todd-for-web-square.jpgCould your small business survive a six-figure loss and the ensuing turmoil? Unfortunately, many can't. And that highlights why instituting internal controls is so important.

According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners' 2014 Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse:

  • The median loss to small businesses (those with fewer than 100 employees) that experienced a fraud loss was $154,000.
  • Small businesses suffered 28.8% of all losses studied.
  • In nearly 60% of cases, NO assets were recovered.

Those are sobering facts. The good news? There are a number of low-cost ways to reduce your business' exposure to loss from someone stealing your organization's assets. Let's look at a few of them:

Code of conduct/anti-fraud policy: Will signing a piece of paper keep an employee from stealing? Probably not. But it will set out your understanding of what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

An activity that is clearly theft to you might be perceived by an employee as simply a perk of the job. Spell it out upfront. Your payroll provider probably has some good examples, and an internet search will yield more. Cost to you: a few hours' research and some paper. We recommend also consulting your labor attorney on this type of matter.

Employee assistance programs (EAPs): What does this have to do with reducing employee theft? Well, an EAP won't keep bad people from taking advantage when they have the opportunity. However, fraudsters are frequently good employees with a great work history who make bad choices due to personal stressors such as financial or health problems, divorce, addiction issues, etc. Taking away the motivation to commit fraud can help keep fraud from happening in the first place.

An EAP directs employees to the resources they need to get help and is surprisingly affordable. Speak with an insurance broker who specializes in employee benefits.

Eliminating checks: Check tampering is still a common way to commit theft, and the median loss in check-tampering cases is around $120,000. Many business owners give their accounts payable (A/P) resource signing authority on the company checking account or direct access to their online banking bill-pay service, which are unnecessary risks.

A better option: Change your A/P system from a manual check-issuance program to an application such as Bill.com. With this application, you can review and approve vendor bills, and then Bill.com issues the payment. You control who in your organization is authorized to review and approve bills and who can release them for payment, minimizing opportunities for fraud. No more blank checks floating around your office, and the system keeps a detailed log of each authorized user's activities so nothing in the A/P system can happen in secret.

Segregation of duties: Two is better than one! Segregation of duties has traditionally been impossible for small organizations. But that's changing. For example, at Supporting Strategies, our tech-forward, team-based approach enables proper segregation of duties and provides clients with direct access to a full-time accounting back office while only paying for the hours they use.

We reconcile bank activity and all balance sheet accounts with two sets of eyes, which adds quality assurance to your bookkeeping. Plus, we double-check our own work and stay abreast of the latest accounting software, payroll services and other applications so you don't have to.

Final Thoughts
There are plenty of other highly effective techniques that you should explore, such as hotlines (THE number one way to detect fraud, by the way). I encourage you to read more at the ACFE web site.

As the Report to the Nations makes clear, there is no one way to eliminate fraud. Having the right internal controls in place, though, can help reduce the impact. Thanks to Paul McCormack at McCormack Writes for this topic idea.

Contact us to learn more about how to set up the proper internal controls for your business.

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Legal and Tax Disclaimer
This website is created by Supporting Strategies to provide general bookkeeping and accounting information only. Supporting Strategies does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and the information contained herein is not intended to do so. As such, the information provided should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, legal, and accounting advisors, and you should consult with a tax, legal and accounting professional before engaging in any transaction.

A Big Win for a Supporting Strategies Client — and for a Greener Tomorrow

Mark-Wald-2.pngSupporting Strategies | Los Angeles appreciates the opportunity to work with clients that make a difference in people's lives.

One such client, EV Connect, recently won a $4 million contract from the New York Power Authority to install and manage approximately 300 Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations across New York State, in addition to the 100 charging stations they already manage in the region.

This is just the latest of EV Connect's many wins in our era of climate change. The company provides the industry's most robust and flexible cloud-based platform for managing charging stations and the drivers who use them. Their work to improve the global environment has earned them the distinctive status of "Impact Rated Company" under the Global Impact Investing Rating System.

Established in 2009, EV Connect serves a variety of clients, including Fortune 100 companies; transportation authorities at the state, local and foreign-country levels; and municipalities. We're proud to be an integral part of the EV Connect team, and congratulate them on this well-deserved contract.

Environmentally friendly policy is at the core of our business model at Supporting Strategies. Our 250+ staff members (and growing) work virtually, thereby eliminating emissions from commuting and holding office space. This leads to a much smaller carbon footprint. We also work with clients to minimize printed paper, further reducing environmental impact.

In addition to running a green business, I'm personally an enormous fan, supporter and equity investor in environmentally friendly initiatives. Contact me any time to discuss how we can help your business run more efficiently, minimizing wasted money and resources!

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For Manufacturers, End-to-End Inventory Tracking Is Here

Christina-Reynolds-for-web-2.pngAt Supporting Strategies, we often recommend that our clients use QuickBooks Online for their bookkeeping and accounting needs because it is inexpensive and offers many time-saving features. But for those in the manufacturing sector, we recommend QuickBooks Enterprise — in particular, QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise Advanced Inventory.

Why? For one thing, the Advanced Inventory module offers sophisticated inventory tracking across multiple locations. Once you enter an item's serial number or lot number, you can track that item anywhere — right down to a specific bin. That makes it great for FIFO inventory management. Advanced Inventory's barcode-scanning feature streamlines reordering, while its real-time tracking lets you adjust on the fly to shift inventory from one location to another to avoid the dreaded backorder.

But it gets even better. Advanced Inventory syncs with a host of third-party applications, so you can track inventory all the way from purchase order to payment. Here's how it works with three popular apps:

  • Salesforce CRM: Here's a customer relationship management app that puts all data regarding your customer base — including each customer's complete sales history — in one place. And because it's compatible with Advanced Inventory, you can estimate (and anticipate) each customer's next purchase order. The system updates in real time through integration with QuickBooks Enterprise, making it easy to replenish inventory.
  • Bill.com: This digital business payment system syncs with both Advanced Inventory and the A/P system in QuickBooks Enterprise. As a result, you'll instantly know how much inventory you have at a given location as invoices, sales orders and purchase orders enter the system.
  • ShipStation: This advanced shipping software works with QuickBooks Enterprise as it tracks all aspects of fulfillment. So Advanced Inventory documents quantities and populates sales orders and invoices with tracking information.

The bottom line? With QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise Advanced Inventory and compatible third-party add-ons, you can more accurately forecast your orders and adjust inventory accordingly. You can then track each item you sell all the way from purchase order to payment.

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Under New FLSA Rules, Keeping Accurate Time Records Is Vital

Important Update:

Days before the new FLSA policy was to be implemented, a U.S. District Court Judge issued a temporary injunction blocking implementation. It is not known at this point when the new overtime policy will go into effect.

However, it’s always good business practice to have a consistent and reliable procedure for time tracking. Tsheets is a great program for tracking time accurately so you can better understand your payroll costs and profitability. Read the blog below to learn more.

Cheri-Giglia-for-web.jpgUrgent memo to business owners: Unless you want to risk a lawsuit, make sure you're keeping precise employee time records when the new Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime regulations take effect on Dec. 1, 2016.

In this article, I'll explain why it's so important to keep accurate timesheets in light of the new rules.

It's About Time
The new FLSA regulations are intended to modernize overtime pay rules for salaried employees — rules that haven't changed much in 40 years. But in the process, these regulations put the onus on employers not only to more accurately classify their employees as either salaried or hourly, but also to document their employees' hours. Because if you have salaried employees who make less than $47,476 a year, you're now required to pay them overtime if they exceed 40 hours in a week (or, in some states, eight hours in a day).

If you prefer to restrict your salaried employees who fall short of the new standard to 40 hours/week rather than pay overtime, you'd better establish strict guidelines for documenting their hours. That includes spelling out such details as whether checking company-related email or news items on weekends constitutes "work time."

So Who's Counting? It Could Be Your Employees
According to TSheets (developers of a cloud-based time-tracking app), 62% of small businesses with hourly employees use either paper timesheets or Excel to track their workers' time. That might be better than nothing, but not by much.

Besides being overly susceptible to human error, any system that depends on manual input is subject to abuse. It basically relies on the honor system — which works only until someone decides not to honor it.

In court, the burden falls on the employer to produce thorough documentation. If an employee can prove any inconsistency or inaccuracy in your timesheets, it calls the reliability of your recordkeeping into question. And that, in turn, could lead a court to rule in the employee's favor.

Easier Said Than Done
So how do you produce ironclad timesheets? There are several options, but the key element is accuracy. For example, if you're still using paper timesheets, you could review them with your employees each week and have them sign off.

However, that can add up to a lot of extra work and a huge stack of paper to keep track of. Some small businesses choose to outsource the job to a payroll company. Others prefer to have an independent, outside auditor review their records.

A growing number of employers are implementing automated time-tracking systems. TSheets, whose app provides automated time tracking and scheduling with QuickBooks integration, is one such option.

Really, it's up to you. "From a legal perspective," Maria O. Hart of Parsons, Behle & Latimer told TSheets, "all I look for is that a company has a consistent way to track hours."

So the choice is yours. But you just have to make it by Dec. 1.


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Are You in Compliance with New FLSA Overtime Regulations?

Important Update:

Days before the new FLSA policy was to be implemented, a U.S. District Court Judge issued a temporary injunction blocking implementation.

What should employers do as a result?  ADP posted a helpful article about how to respond to the block of the overtime rule.

Whatever happens regarding this law, it's good business practice to make sure your employees are classified and compensated properly. Read the blog below to learn more.

Mary-Sue-Renfro-for-web-square.jpgOn Dec. 1, 2016, new regulations go into effect under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regarding the minimum threshold for classifying salaried employees. The purpose of the threshold is to determine whether or not non-exempt salaried employees should be entitled to overtime pay for working over 40 hours in a week.

Nervous employers are asking questions about the changes. Here are some answers.

This is just a minor tweak, right? Wrong. The basic benchmark that defines a salaried employee is taking a huge leap. As of now, the minimum annual pay for salaried employees is $23,600, a standard set by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). On Dec. 1, that figure will jump to $47,476.

Yikes! So let's say I'm paying my salaried employees $40K a year. The government is making me give them each a $7,476 raise? No — although that might not be a bad idea in some cases. It all depends on a) if the employee is considered non-exempt (see FLSA duties test for exemption), and b) how much overtime your salaried employees put in.

If they are non-exempt and all work 40 hours a week (or less), then you're fine. But if any of your non-exempt $40K salaried employees work overtime, you'll have to pay them the equivalent of time-and-a-half for every hour beyond the 40-hour threshold. So it's a simple math problem. If you end up paying a salaried employee $15,000 a year in overtime, then suddenly that $7,476 raise doesn't look so bad.

Further, you need to be aware that commissions and bonuses paid less than quarterly are not included in the minimum annual pay calculation. So if you're an employer who pays $10,000 in commissions and bonuses annually to a non-exempt employee who makes $40,000 per year, you may be required to pay overtime.

Do I have any other options? Maybe, but you need to tread carefully. You might be able to reclassify some salaried employees as hourly employees — but either way, you have to document hours and pay time-and-a-half for anything over 40 hours a week. So that could amount to six of one, half a dozen of the other. It could also have unintended consequences that lead to morale problems.

You might also be tempted to shift salaried employees to "independent contractor" status. However, that's extremely risky. If it's obvious that you made the switch just to circumvent the law and you continue to treat those "independent contractors" as if they were salaried employees, you may open yourself up to serious consequences

Here's how complicated these compliance issues can be: The DOL itself was hit with a $7 million judgment involving unpaid overtime for its own employees. So this isn't something to mess around with. Consult a professional.

Why do we need these changes, anyway? Basically, they're designed to bring the salary threshold in line with the times. (It has increased just once since the 1970s.) The current minimum salary, $23,600, works out to about $11.35 an hour for a 40-hour week.

More to the point, the so-called "white-collar exemption" means employers don't have to pay salaried employees overtime. So a salaried employee at the current minimum threshold who worked a 50-hour week would make just $9.08 per hour. Clearly that's not the scenario Congress had in mind when the exemption first went into effect.

Anything else I should know? Of course! This is a government regulation, after all. We've barely scratched the surface. Get a broader overview here or check out this video.

And be sure to set up an appointment with your accounting services provider today. Don't wait until Dec. 1 to discover you're not in compliance.

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Supporting Strategies Expands to Henderson, Nev.

Twitchell Becomes Managing Director of New Franchise

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgSupporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, in Henderson, Nev.

Lyn Twitchell, Franchisee and Managing Director, has over 20 years of accounting, finance and auditing experience, which includes the direction, management, training, evaluation and supervision of accounting and finance department personnel. He is also a Nevada CPA.

"After I left the M Resort and Casino last year, a lot of people asked, 'Why aren't you working for yourself? You have the kind of experience that many small and medium-sized businesses really need,'" Twitchell says. "I'm excited to bring that experience to businesses in the Henderson and Las Vegas areas."

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like Twitchell are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned accounting professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, Vice President of Franchise Development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If you are with a business in the Henderson area and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Lyn Twitchell at ltwitchell@supportingstrategies.com or 702-325-3999.

Bookkeeping Service | Making Sense of E-Commerce

Elliot-Hershik-for-web.jpgRecently, at a roundtable discussion with fellow services professionals, the topic of e-commerce came up. Most people, when they hear this term, imagine that it only refers to the use of the Internet to sell goods and services. 

I believe this is a bit of an antiquated notion. In the early days of e-commerce, perhaps, an online store was merely a store moved from a brick and mortar location to a website. Outside of this change in venue, not much else changed about operations.

Today the world of e-commerce has expanded, and there is much to be gained if we expand our definition of the term from meaning merely “selling online,” to including all the ways in which we can use web-based tools to enhance our business practices and our selling methods.

By this definition, even business owners who aren’t selling products or services directly through a website (and who may even be selling from a brick and mortar location instead) can benefit from the rapid expansion of e-commerce in the past twenty years.

One of the main benefits to be had is a good Client Relationship Management (CRM) system. No matter what you’re selling, a CRM can help you organize and streamline your sales processes, all while helping you achieve yearly revenue projections. 

Another important aspect of e-commerce is how we can use web-based tools to strategically strengthen marketing efforts. Gone are the days of naming your business with as many A’s as possible in order to show up first in the phone book. Business owners today need to understand the benefits of strategic search engine optimization and website design in order to draw traffic to their online presence, which will draw clients to their business. 

At our roundtable discussion, we eventually realized that the term e-commerce can even refer to how we use technology to improve back office operations. These operations, although they are perhaps not directly related to sales efforts, can be improved with new technology and will strengthen your business as a whole.

Examples of this are inventory management software, improved bookkeeping services software, and linking credit cards and debit cards to these software programs in order to streamline data flow and allow business owners to have a more comprehensive grasp on all aspects of their operation.

As a business owner, it’s important to have an open mind and to stay competitive by making the most of the latest tools available to you. When you think of e-commerce, don’t just think of how you can sell on the Internet. Think also of how the Internet can help your business thrive as a whole, improving not just how you sell and where, but also how you manage your bookkeeping services, how you relate to your clients, and how you make your most important decisions.

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Win-Win: Why Allowing Employees to Work Remotely Works for Employers, Too

Heather-Roberson-for-web-square.jpgThe American workplace is becoming increasingly mobile. Research from GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com shows that about a quarter of the U.S. workforce now works remotely at least some of the time, and that 80 to 90 percent of U.S. workers say they would like to have the flexibility to do their jobs remotely.            

This shift has forced many companies to reassess their policies toward telework—reluctantly, in some cases. But many managers recognize the trend toward a mobile workforce as the opportunity it is.

One obvious benefit of a remote workforce is that it can cut a company's costs. In a controlled experiment with the travel website Ctrip, allowing call-center employees to work from home saved the company an estimated $1,900/employee in overhead over a nine-month period (as reported in a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article).

It Works Both Ways
From the employee's perspective, there are many perks to working from home. Eliminating the daily commute saves both time and money, not to mention the aggravation of sitting in traffic. Telecommuting also provides a better work/life balance, which is particularly important to working parents.

Beyond that, employees appreciate when their employer trusts them to handle responsibility. Given a well-defined, reasonable goal, they'll strive to meet it whether anyone is looking over their shoulder or not.

Forward-thinking businesses can find a new competitive advantage in utilizing a remote workforce, and can find a new way to attract sought-after employees. 

To learn more about remote working, read Leslie Jorgensen’s blog: Remote Working Gains Ground with Support from New Organization.  


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Current Technology Can Streamline Foreign Currency Processing

Lauren-Wilson.pngWhat's the key to being a successful accounting professional today? One answer, according to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants: "Understand emerging technologies."

As the AICPA explains, "It's critical to stay abreast of and utilize new computer applications and systems as necessary."

A great example is the software that's now available to assist companies dealing with foreign currency. In the past, processing foreign currency added time-intensive steps to the accounts payable process. Today's technology is helping to streamline things.

On the Money: Choosing the Right Application
It's important, however, to find the right application for your organization's specific needs. Every company is different, so a solution that can vastly improve efficiency for one may be of little use to another. For instance, some companies deal mainly in U.S. dollars, while others use many foreign currencies, regardless of where the company resides.

Here's a sampling of some of today's most useful technology for foreign currency processing:

  • If your dealings with international vendors are fairly limited and straightforward, Bill.com could be the solution. Bill.com allows you to make all international payments by check. Learn more.
  • Tipalti, which can be used in more than 190 countries and can make payments in 120 currencies, lets clients pay international vendors via global Automated Clearing House (ACH). Sign up for a guided product tour.
  • TransferMate takes another approach. It enables you to upload a payment file from your accounting software into TransferMate and process mass international payments. Also available: a QuickBooks Online add-on for international payments.

So if foreign currency is bogging down your business, don't despair. By doing a little research — or with input from your accounting services provider — you can probably find a digital solution that's just right for you. And that will allow you to dedicate more time to helping your business grow.

 

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Smart Accounting for Start-Up Businesses

darcie-coy-for-web.jpgAs an accounting services professional, I love working with new start-ups. These entrepreneurs are ambitious, enthusiastic, and creative, but all too often I see them running into the same stumbling blocks when it comes to their accounting. Here are four tips for staying on top of accounting for your new or growing business.

  1. Make Time for Accounting
    Accounting is not your core business, but having good accounting practices can help your business be successful. It is worth your time to be involved. If you’ve hired accounting services professionals, meet with them on a routine basis, and make sure you understand the data they provide. If you’re handling your accounting on your own, I recommend using a top-notch cloud-based software such as QuickBooks Online.

  2. Pay Later, Get Paid Sooner
    The impulse to pay on time is, generally speaking, a good one. But many of the business owners I work with find themselves in a difficult position when they pay their invoices right away, while their own clients and customers have yet to pay them.

    According to Under30ceo.com, “With the invoices you need to pay, the rule of thumb is to delay them for as long as you can.” The goal is to collect payment from your clients as early as you can, while delaying payment on your invoices as long as you’re entitled to. Having cash on hand will help keep your business going.

  3. Forecast
    You don’t need to be a psychic to know where things are going for your business. A good forecast will help you stay ahead of the game, answering questions about long and short-term profitability, cash flow, and expenses.

    A business forecast is a look forward at how your business will expand and develop in the future, both short and long-term. Not only is a forecast a valuable resource to show to potential investors, but it will help you as well. Your forecast will take into account all of your expenses, and your expected revenues. It’s useful to consider different revenue amounts—looking at your best- and worst-case scenarios.  

    Forecasting will help you set out your goals clearly and make the kind of day-to-day decisions that will actually get you there. Check out Paul Audet’s blog post on how to create a great forecast

  4. Establish a Separate Business Bank Account

    They say that good fences make good neighbors. Putting up a “fence” between your business and your personal expenses is important for new entrepreneurs. This will make record keeping and filing for taxes an easier process. Set up a bank account for your business with its own credit card, and it will be easier to track your business expenses.

    Read more tips for entrepreneurs in Danielle Huffstetter’s blog: Three Things to Do When Starting your Own Business.

     

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Three Tips for Staying Compliant with Filing

Mary-Rose-for-web-square.jpgMany businesses have a number of filing requirements, which can vary from state to state. There are not only annual and quarterly filing dates, but also, in some cases, monthly. If your business needs to comply with filing requirements in different states, this can be a daunting task. No one wants to miss a filing deadline and lose out on a Certificate of Good Standing, as this can add delays and additional costs when you’re looking for investors, grants, or other forms of financing. 

Here are three tips to help you stay compliant.

  1. Turn to an Expert
    It would be nice if filing requirements were as user friendly as smart phones, but unfortunately it often takes an expert to understand them thoroughly. Don’t expect to receive reminders about filing dates—many states assume that you read the deadlines on their websites and will file on time. In our office, we tag critical dates and either assist with filing or send our clients a reminder. Using a professional accounting services provider to handle managing and tracking your filing requirements will help make sure that your business is in compliance.
  2. Use an Accounting Services Provider with a Presence in Multiple States
    Because filing requirements can vary from state to state, using an accounting services provider with resources in multiple states can be beneficial to businesses with a presence in multiple states. If your accounting services firm works in multiple locations, they will likely have a good information sharing network to ensure that your business stays compliant in all its locations.
  3. Work Closely with your Accounting Services Provider
    Stay involved with the accounting function, even when you outsource it. Make sure you provide accurate and complete information to your accounting services provider, review regular financial reports, and take the time to understand the process and requirements. When you stay compliant with your filing, you avoid unnecessary penalties and are prepared for future loan applications.

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Fathom Software Helps You Be More Proactive with Financials

Cheri-Giglia-for-web-1.jpgThere's a lot of look-back involved in accounting. We document the month-end close, or last quarter, or last year. But clients who look at financials only in this way — who see just the end number or the cash balance — never get a real picture of what their business is about.

At Supporting Strategies, our job as providers of bookkeeping and accounting services is to help clients not only look back, but also figure out how to go forward. And one of the best tools I've seen to assist with that critical mission comes from a company called Fathom.

Tracking Your KPIs in Real Time

So what does Fathom do? To quote from the company's website: "Whether you call it business intelligence, performance management, or analytics, the goal of Fathom is the same: to help you understand what's happening in your business, and how to take action when needed."

Basically, Fathom is a cloud-based resource that tracks key performance indicators (KPIs) in real time. Just sync it with QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Desktop, and you can instantly assess your company's profitability, cash flow and growth.

I first learned about Fathom from Supporting Strategies Founder and CEO Leslie Jorgensen. She recommended it when I had to consolidate two companies. In addition to expediting the process, Fathom transformed me into an analyst who could advise the client on how to achieve their goals once the consolidation was complete. And Fathom isn’t strictly a tool for consolidations; the analytics help anyone who wants a better understanding of their business.

Fathom is particularly useful with companies that have a CEO who is not a financial person — which is fairly common. With Fathom, CEOs can look at the ratios that are important to them, in a form that's easy to understand. All they have to do is check their dashboard. Fathom can sort by different priorities, such as Perspective, Result or Importance. Ratios are broken down into clear categories, such as Customer (New Customer/Lost Customer), Efficiency (Return on Capital Employed/Return on Assets) and Activity (Accounts Payable Days/Accounts Receivable Days). Simple color-coding lets you know at a glance where your company stands at that moment (green is good, red is bad).

Never Let the Numbers Surprise You Again

Little things like real-time reporting can have a huge impact on a company's future. That's especially true with small businesses, where the owner is often so consumed with the day-to-day details of running the company that he or she doesn't recognize big-picture problems until it's too late.

With Fathom on your side, there's less chance of that happening to you. Along with real-time reporting, Fathom offers alerts. So if your business happens to miss a vital benchmark, you'll know about it right away — when there's still time to react.

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Five Signs That You Should Outsource Your Nonprofit's Accounting Functions

Jim-Rice-for-web.jpgMany nonprofits try to do more with a smaller budget. This is a challenge when it comes to accounting and bookkeeping, as there are specific regulations and tracking and filing requirements for nonprofits.

For these nonprofits, the simplest, most cost-effective solution may well be to outsource their accounting functions. Does your organization fit this description? Here are five signs to look for.

  1. You Suffer from "I've Got It/You Take It"
    Businesses with limited budgets may decide to add accounting and bookkeeping tasks to people who were hired to do other jobs. This may be expedient in the short-term, but it can be problematic to have people who aren't trained in or knowledgeable about accounting and bookkeeping for nonprofits serving in this role.

  2.  You Have No Backup Plan
    Maybe you do have a single competent staff member in charge of all financials. But what if he or she gets seriously ill? Or quits without notice? Or leaves on a two-week cruise just when you get hit with an audit notification?

  3.  You've Become Too Big to Act Small
    Growth is good — up to a point. And that point arrives much sooner for a nonprofit. "The compliance and administrative burden for a small nonprofit organization is far greater than for a similar sized for-profit company," authors Murray Dropkin and James Halpin write in Bookkeeping for Nonprofits (Jossey-Bass, 2005). According to the authors, "In some states, a nonprofit organization with $250,000 or less per year in support and revenue is required to file an audit with the state attorney general and pay a filing fee based on income or net assets."

  4. You Can't Afford to Hire a Professional
    Budgets are unforgiving. If you've priced out the cost of a full-time accountant or bookkeeper and can't afford the salary and benefits, your options are limited. You'll just have to keep spreading out those financial responsibilities among existing staff. What other choice do you have?

  5.  You Can't Afford Not to Hire a Professional
    Actually, you do have a choice. You can take away your worry by outsourcing your nonprofit's accounting and bookkeeping needs. If you work with a vendor that provides multiple services, you'll be able to set up a solution that fits your particular needs. That will allow your staff to get back to doing what you hired them to do. They'll be able to refocus on the goals that attracted them to nonprofit work in the first place, without enduring the time-consuming and stressful process of navigating nonprofit financial regulations.

QuickBooks Statement Writer: A Must-Have Tool for Financial Pros

teri-ayeni-for-web-square-1.jpgAre you familiar with QuickBooks Statement Writer? I think it's one of the industry's best-kept secrets — a tool that only the most skilled QuickBooks users seem to know about.

QuickBooks Statement Writer (originally called Intuit Statement Writer) has been around since 2010 and is designed specifically for bookkeeping-services professionals. This report-writing tool is available only as a standard feature with the Enterprise Solutions edition of QuickBooks or with the Premium Accountant Edition as a 30-day free trial. (There's an option to purchase afterwards for $149.95.)

Either way, this program is well worth the cost. It's the best way by far to create GAAP-compliant financial statements for your clients.

QuickBooks Statement Writer allows you to create financial statements in Excel using all the data in your QuickBooks accounts. It delivers the best of both worlds: The customization and wealth of reporting features found in Excel, with an easy way to import the data you need from QB. (It also offers integration with Microsoft Word.)

A library of report templates — Balance Sheets, Profit & Loss Reports, Income Statements, Cash Flow Statements — gives you plenty of common options. You can also create custom templates and add them to your library for future use.

Let It Sync In

As you update your QuickBooks account, you can easily sync changes to your QuickBooks Statement Writer statements without ever leaving the system. And any additions to your QuickBooks chart of accounts automatically integrate into your QSW statements. The system also works the other way around: You can make changes in your QuickBooks data and modify transactions easily from within the QSW interface.

Once you start using QuickBooks Statement Writer, you'll wonder how you ever got along without it.


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Bookkeeping Services |How to Manage Making Payments Abroad

Laura-Conner-for-web.pngAs international business becomes business as usual, many of my clients who come to me for bookkeeping services ask for guidance about how to manage payments in foreign currencies. If you also need to make payments abroad, here’s what you need to know about making payments, how exchange rates affect payments and invoicing, and some of the tax implications of making foreign payments.

Making Payments Abroad

There are three main ways that business owners make payments to foreign vendors.  These are: wire transfer through your bank, PayPal, and the Forex exchange market. 

Doing a wire transfer through your bank is a straightforward option, but banks charge a fee and may charge another fee upon receipt of the transfer, as well as a currency exchange fee. If you have a PayPal account, you can transfer payments abroad for a somewhat smaller fee than an average bank would charge, and typically only the recipient has to pay.

Another popular option is to do an International ACH Transfer. ACH (Automated Clearing House) transfers work similarly to wire transfers, but while they are cheaper, they can take a few days longer as well. www.Xoom.com (owned by PayPal) is a convenient, online facilitator of International ACH transfers. Keep in mind though that most of the web-based tools set up for transferring money (such as Xoom, PayPal, and Tipalti) do not sync with QuickBooks. This means that the transfers must be logged manually.

If you are sending large amounts, however, utilizing a foreign exchange (Forex) dealer may be best. The fee is low and the exchange rate fee is generally low as well for large sums.

Exchange Rates and Payment

No matter how you’re making your payments, remember that exchange rates between currencies are always in flux. Because of this, it’s important to be thoughtful about when you make your payment.

Exchange Rates and Invoicing

The exchange rate also becomes relevant when it comes to invoicing. The delay in time between the issuance of an invoice and its payment may be accompanied by changes in the exchange rate, which could create a discrepancy in your books. For instance, it may happen that on September 1st an invoice is recorded at an exchange rate of 1.10 (Euro to USD); but on October 1st when a payment is made and books are closed, the exchange rate is 1.13, which creates an increase in the invoice payment amount in USD for the client. Consult with your bookkeeping services provider to create a plan for rectifying these discrepancies on at least a monthly basis.

Tax Compliance

Another important aspect of foreign payment management is tax compliance. Before you begin regularly paying vendors abroad, talk to your CPA about how to do so in a way that is compliant with the tax code. For example, many of my clients are unaware that for foreign vendors they need to obtain an IRS Form W-8BEN rather than a 1099. This is because individuals you pay abroad may be subject to U.S. taxes for certain income that comes from U.S. sources. 

For more information about how to manage payments abroad, please read Christi Todd’s post on Using Forex for International Payments.

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The Case for Outsourcing

Garrett-Smith.pngThey say that no man is an island. Well, it’s true for business as well. Not only does your business rely on the talents and resources of your own staff, but also on the partnerships your business forms with other businesses in your community.

One of the most effective ways for new and growing businesses to strengthen these partnerships is by outsourcing select non-core business functions. Outsourcing has been on the rise since the 1990s, and as communications technologies continue to develop, outsourcing is becoming a more convenient and cost-effective strategy.

For most business owners, the biggest motivation to outsource is the financial benefit. A small business might not have the need (or the resources) for an in-house bookkeeping services professional or payroll services provider. By working with an accounting services firm, companies can get this work done without the cost of hiring full-time employees.

Those who decide to outsource certain business functions quickly discover a host of other benefits as well. 

Improved Quality

The first and foremost of the benefits of outsourcing is quality. When we speak about outsourcing, we’re speaking specifically of those functions that are not core to your business. If your business is auto-repair, for example, you’re not going to outsource your mechanics. Auto-repair is your core business and your area of expertise. When you send non-core functions such as accounting services, payroll, web design and marketing out of house, you can find experts to do the work, rather than try to add that non-core expertise to your business.

The increasing popularity of firms providing outsourced services has resulted in the rapid development of these fields. For example, the growth of a specialized accounting services industry has led to a huge growth in the development of accounting methods and technologies. 

Scalability

For new and growing businesses, the ability to scale your services as you develop is key to success. Outsourced firms make it easy to adjust services and regularly reevaluate services to ensure your business is getting exactly what it needs.

Simplicity

But the best perk of all is that of simplicity. Whether your business is Auto-repair or Zoo-keeping, your focus should always remain on what’s core to your business. After all, that’s why you started the business in the first place.

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Supporting Strategies Among 2016's Top Low-Cost Franchises

Steve-Shultz-for-web.jpgFranchise Business Review recently published its 2016 Top Low-Cost Franchises Report, and we were pleased to see that Supporting Strategies made the list.

The report debunks the notion that becoming a successful franchisee requires a massive investment: "Our franchise research indicates there is not necessarily a correlation between the amount you invest in a franchise and the amount you may earn. In fact, many of the low-cost franchises featured in this report have a very high return on investment based on high average unit sales and lower overall investment requirements."

Supporting Strategies was among 125 franchise brands, representing over 11,000 franchise owners, that participated in Franchise Business Review's research. Franchisees were surveyed on 33 benchmark questions about their experience and satisfaction regarding critical areas of their franchise systems, including training and support, operations, franchisor/franchisee relations and financial opportunity.

"Over the past 12 years, we've developed a proven, scalable business model that franchisees can leverage without breaking the bank," said Supporting Strategies Founder & CEO Leslie Jorgensen. "It's nice to know our franchisees are reporting that the system works."

Read the press release.

Bookkeeping Services | How and Why to Use “Classes” in QuickBooks

Lynn-Wise-for-web.jpgLike most bookkeeping services professionals, I love QuickBooks. It’s one of the best accounting software options out there, used widely by small businesses, individuals and professionals in the bookkeeping services industry. This software offers a lot of tools for organizing and reviewing your finances. One of these tools is the “Classes” option, which is a must for businesses with multiple sources of profit.

Segregating transactions into different Classes will allow you to separate transactions according to pre-determined criteria. For example, if you run a Heating & Air Conditioning company, you can classify all Service Repair transactions under one Class and Installs under another. Another reason to use Classes is if your business has more than one location. By separating the transactions by location, you will be able to track how well each location performs.

Consult with your bookkeeping services professional about how best to organize your data to allow for better analysis.

Here’s how you can make use of this feature:

  1. In QuickBooks, go to the menu bar, select Edit, then Preferences.
  2. Once you’re in Preferences, click “Accounting preference.”
  3. From this menu, choose the “Company Preferences” tab.
  4. Click “Use Class Tracking for Transactions,” and then set up your different classes according to type of transaction or location of transaction.

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Can Your Business Survive a Catastrophe Like Hurricane Matthew?

Pete-Denholm-for-web-square.jpgThe Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) calls it Continuity of Operations, or COOP. It's a plan to ensure essential government agencies continue to function in the event of a disaster. As the devastation recently wrought by Hurricane Matthew made painfully clear, private businesses should have similar plans in place.

To help you get started, the Department of Homeland Security website has a diagram that outlines a basic Business Continuity Plan. In general, your COOP plan should begin with a business impact analysis. From there, it's a matter of defining your recovery strategies, developing the specifics of your plan and testing it on a periodic basis. At a minimum, every plan needs to address recovery procedures and manual workarounds for standard operations.

Sound like too much to take on yourself? Many private consultants out there can assist you in formulating a COOP plan for your organization's specific needs.

We Put “Support” in Supporting Strategies

Supporting Strategies clients are finding that our business model meets some COOP criteria already. Here are four examples:

  • All records are in the cloud. Supporting Strategies leverages cloud services for all accounting transactions and records, including copies of receipts, bills, invoices and vendor/client contracts. These records are accessible to clients anytime, anywhere, no matter what happens to their physical place of business. So even if your paper records are wiped out, your business won't be.
  • Our employees are geographically dispersed. I make it a point to meet my clients face-to-face to better understand their circumstances and help solve their problems. But my team is geographically dispersed between Michigan and Florida. So if a hurricane or other catastrophic event creates a disruption, my clients in the affected region will have backup support available when they're ready to get their business up and running again. In the meantime, we can continue to process bills and invoices. We can also assist with insurance claims, financing and various bookkeeping needs. Even if your employees can't work during a crisis, ours can.
  • We provide redundancy. Supporting Strategies supports all clients with a team approach. Usually the team consists of a Financial Operations Associate (FOA) and a Financial Operations Manager (FOM). The FOA provides most of the day-to-day operational support, while the FOM oversees the work as a second pair of eyes and can also provide backup when needed. This helps not only in times of emergency but also during planned absences such as vacations — a luxury that many businesses with accountants on staff can't afford.
  • We employ documented processes and procedures. We record all our clients' weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual financial tasks in our proprietary cloud-managed system. If an assigned Supporting Strategies team member is offline during an emergency, we simply reassign the tasks. Having documented processes and procedures in place ensures continuity in the event a Supporting Strategies employee unfamiliar with your business needs to take over management of your account on a temporary basis.

Do your vendors, suppliers and contractors offer the same level of backup as Supporting Strategies? If not, you need to remedy that as part of your COOP plan now — before disaster strikes. The future of your business may depend on it.

Best Practices for Successful Time Tracking

jennifer-lang.pngI’ve never liked the terms “outsourcing,” or “sending work out-of-house.” These terms seem to imply that you’re sending parts of your business out of sight and out of mind, but as a provider of outsourced bookkeeping services, I know that this is far from the case. This is why I encourage my clients not to think of what they’re sending out so much as what they’re bringing in: a team of experts, a new set of resources, and most important, a valuable partnership.

Time tracking is a good example of how a partnership strategy with clear communication can ensure success when working with an outsourced firm. The concept of entering and approving time is straightforward, but in practice, many difficulties can occur if the system is not implemented and managed properly. A poor system can cause payroll to be late, incur extra work to fix incorrect time entries after payroll is processed, and create churn in reminding people to enter and approve time entries.

A unified voice and clear communication

There may be several parties involved in time tracking: management, employees and contractors, in-house HR/accounting, and a vendor HR/accounting/payroll company. With so many different groups involved, communication is critical. Make sure that the rules are agreed on by all parties, and communicated in a clear and consistent manner. Even though there are internal and external groups working together, the process should appear seamless to the employee entering time.

Take the time to train

The next step is to train the employees and managers. Do they understand how to properly track their time and meet the deadlines for time entry and approval? Do they know whom to turn to if they have a question or problem with time tracking?

I recommend that you set up a system for training, review, and management so that employees know to enter their time before the deadline, a reminder system for late time entries, and a review period for managers to approve time entries. Assign a point person to answer questions and provide additional training as needed. There will be a transition period while everyone learns the new time tracking protocol—build time into your roll-out plan to allow for this. This extra effort to train employees and managers in the beginning will pay off with a smoother payroll process on an ongoing basis.

What happens if?

In your time tracking strategy, include instructions and protocol for handling problems. Make sure that everyone involved—employees, managers, internal HR/accounting, and the time tracking vendor know what to do if an employee submits an incorrect time entry, or if a manager approves a time entry by mistake. With a protocol in place, you can save your team from numerous emails and frustration.

A successful partnership

By communicating expectations between your HR services provider, your internal accounting department, and your employees and their managers, you can help to make your payroll process run smoothly and establish a positive working relationship between your outsourced and internal services providers.


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Syncing Harvest with QuickBooks Online

Kelly-Rodrigues-Umbelina-for-web-square.jpgWorking in the bookkeeping services business, I use an array of web-based tools to help my clients. When these programs work well together, keeping organized becomes that much easier. 

While attending a webinar for bookkeeping services providers several weeks ago, the question of product integration was raised regarding two of my favorite software programs: Harvest and QuickBooks Online. 

Harvest is a time tracking and invoicing tool available for your computer and smartphone. It helps to make sure that you’re billing for all time spent working for your clients, as well as to make sure that the bill actually gets sent out. QuickBooks Online is a broader online accounting program that also has an invoicing feature.

So how can bookkeeping services professionals and business owners optimize these programs together? Here’s what you need to know:

Integrate Accounts

First things first, you need to be an admin user within both Harvest and QuickBooks Online in order to integrate the two accounts. Once logged in as an admin within Harvest, go to “Settings,” and click “Account Settings.” Scroll down to “Integrations” and select “Connect to QuickBooks.” This will send you over to your QuickBooks Online account. Once signed in as an admin in QuickBooks Online, you can click “Authorize.”

Now that you’ve integrated the two accounts, when you use Harvest to send out invoices, these will automatically copy over to your QuickBooks Online account. Recurring invoices will be automatically copied over to QuickBooks Online as well. 

Check Names for Accurate Syncing

To make sure this integration goes smoothly, check that the listed name for each customer is the same in both Harvest and QuickBooks Online. This will ensure that the invoice in Harvest will sync over to the correct customer profile in QuickBooks Online. For example, if you have a client listed as “Jennifer Smith,” in Harvest, but listed as “Jen Smith,” in QuickBooks Online, the invoice will be copied over but a new, unnecessary customer profile will be created.

Along these same lines, the “Item Type” category in Harvest will also need to match the “Product/Service” category within your QuickBooks Invoice. When copying an invoice over from Harvest to QBO, Harvest will apply your line items correctly if there is a match between these categories. If there is no match, you will need to select a Default Income Account within Harvest (go to “Settings,” select “Integrations,” and click “QuickBooks Online” to set up with account) to apply the line items to.

Another option is to create these income accounts within QuickBooks Online by selecting “Company Menu,” and clicking “Products and Services.” Here you can see all products and services and set up which Income Account each one will be connected to.

Create Invoices

Once you’ve taken care of that, you can create invoices easily within Harvest based on billable time, or a blank invoice (in the case of a flat fee). It’s not possible to record as much detail about the payment in Harvest as it is in QuickBooks Online so you may have to add detail (check # or reference #) within the QuickBooks Online invoice if this is something that the client requires.

If you want to manually copy an invoice to QuickBooks Online, in Harvest, go to “Invoices,” select “Overview,” and from there select the invoice that you want to copy over to QuickBooks Online. Click on “More Actions,” and select “Copy to QuickBooks Online.” You’ll see the words, “Copied to QuickBooks Online” next to this invoice title when the copy has been completed.

Things to Note

It’s important to remember that if you make changes to your invoice within Harvest, they will not automatically be synced to your QuickBooks Online account and will need to be copied over again. It’s also good to know that Harvest and QuickBooks Online use some different terms. For example, what is called “Client,” in Harvest is “Customer” in QuickBooks Online. Most of these differences, however, are pretty straightforward.

Both of these programs can be wonderful and helpful tools for your business. Syncing them together will help you stay on top of your time tracking and never miss an invoice again.

Note: this integration only works on American and Canadian QuickBooks accounts and does not work with the QuickBooks Self Employed edition.


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Big-Business Technology for Small Businesses

Steve-Shultz-for-web.jpgIt wasn’t long ago that cutting-edge business technology was the exclusive purview of large enterprises, which gave them a competitive advantage over small business. 

Large companies could invest in expensive information technology tools and software, a cost that would pay off across a large corporation. Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) software helps businesses to maximize efficiency and minimize cost. For example, a national chain of hardware stores could use ERP to collect data on how many of each product are in inventory, as well as how many are purchased daily—synthesizing this data to automatically order more of each product at the exact moment needed.

One can imagine how helpful this kind of large-scale solution could be. For big enterprises, it eliminated the need to maintain huge, costly inventories at all times.

Small businesses could not afford the large up-front cost to invest in these enterprise-level systems. However, with recent advances in technology, small businesses have new options. Software as a Service (SaaS) works on a subscription model and allows scalable and affordable access to business technologies.

Small businesses can now afford many useful bookkeeping tools: time tracking through products such as TSHEETS, bill payment through Bill.com, automated document fetching with Hubdoc, and payroll processes with ADP RUN. The prevalence of SaaS is changing the landscape of the business world, allowing small entrepreneurs and innovators to stay competitive and play with the same set of tools as the big guys.

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Chicago Far West Suburbs' Dawn Hershik Receives Honor

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgCongratulations to Dawn Hershik, Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | Chicago Far West Suburbs, who was recently named Woman of the Month by the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Dawn-Hershik-for-web.jpg

Dawn and her husband Elliot Hershik (General Manager) launched their Supporting Strategies franchise in February 2015. The local small business community has welcomed the couple with open arms. Earlier this year, Chicago Far West Suburbs earned the 2016 Best of Naperville Award for Bookkeeping Services.

Read the Chamber of Commerce's Q&A with Dawn

 

Supporting Strategies Expands to Phoenix

Riggs Becomes Managing Director of New Franchise

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgSupporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, in Phoenix.

Charl Riggs, Phoenix Franchisee and Managing Director, is an accomplished CFO and Corporate Controller who has spent over 20 years in leadership roles across various industries. He has extensive experience working with emerging to mid-sized privately owned businesses in both the public accounting (Big 4 and regional/local firms) and private sectors, and also has large public company experience.

"I am excited to become a Franchisee and see great potential and opportunity in the Phoenix market," Riggs said. "I believe that the wealth of resources and highly automated processes that Supporting Strategies provides can be a significant benefit to the growing number of small to mid-sized business owners in the Phoenix market."

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like Riggs are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned accounting professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, Vice President of Franchise Development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If you are with a business in the Phoenix area and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Charl Riggs at criggs@supportingstrategies.com or 480-330-6707.

Balance Sheets and P&Ls: Putting Your Financials in Focus

wendy-masias-for-web-square.jpgAs a business owner, you're required to provide a variety of financial forms to different entities, including investors, lenders and the IRS. You might find this process a chore. Instead, think of it as an opportunity. These forms are like cameras that give you a clear, comprehensive picture of your business.

Let's look at two of the more important financial reports: your balance sheet and your profit & loss (P&L) statement. Your balance sheet is like a snapshot: it captures a moment in time. The P&L statement is more like a video that documents your business over a longer period.

Your balance sheet details all assets, liabilities and equity for a specific date. It encompasses everything your business owns and everything it owes at that particular moment.

In other words, the balance sheet shows the worth of your business.

The P&L statement, on the other hand, covers more time—usually a fiscal quarter, but sometimes an entire year. It summarizes the revenues earned and expenses/costs incurred during that reporting period, showing whether you're making money, losing money or breaking even.

And that, in turn, answers the business owner's most important big-picture question: Is the company generating profit?

If the answer is no, the P&L statement can help address some important follow-up questions, such as:

  • Is profitability even possible?
  • Which costs and expenses can be eliminated or reduced?
  • Which sources of revenue can be enhanced?

Getting Better Resolution

When you need an accurate picture of how your business is performing—maybe you're preparing a presentation for investors or strategizing with your team about important business decisions—remember that these two statements are valuable tools.

Consult with your bookkeeping-services provider for more information.

Read more Supporting Strategies blogs about understanding financial information:
John Gleason’s Learning from your Trial Balance
John Gleason’s What is Double Entry Accounting

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Supporting Strategies Expands to Boise, Idaho

Whigam Becomes Managing Director of New Franchise

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgSupporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, in Boise, Idaho.

Tracy Whigam, Boise Franchisee and Managing Director, is an accomplished business, finance and risk management professional with over 25 years of experience helping companies navigate complex challenges to achieve growth and profitability goals.

"I'm excited to serve the Treasure Valley's small business community by supporting the necessary, but distracting, business task of bookkeeping while improving the efficiency of the process for these organizations," Whigam said. "Supporting Strategies' services allow founders and key management to focus more on the core competencies that make their business unique. I look forward to helping small businesses gain access to exceptional financial talent that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive at this stage of their lifecycle."

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like Whigam are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned accounting professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, Vice President of Franchise Development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If you are with a business in the Boise area and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Tracy Whigam at twhigam@supportingstrategies.com.

Is Your Accounting & Finance Function Ready for the Future?

Mark-Wald-2.pngLeading finance and accounting operations for over 100 different organizations across a diverse set of industries over the past two decades has taught me a great deal about what it takes to run a successful business. It all boils down to people, processes, and systems. The abundance and variety of affordable and innovative software tools available to small and medium businesses is transforming the role of finance and accounting professionals from after-the-fact score keepers to the kingpins of business intelligence.

The Right Tools

Selecting the right tools for your business can be overwhelming, and that’s where experience pays dividends. At the time I’m writing this, Supporting Strategies has over 1,200 clients and has been using cloud-based accounting software tools for a dozen years. We’re constantly learning about and testing all the latest tools, which allows us to customize a curated selection of the best available software solutions for each of our clients.

A Team of Professionals

But sophisticated software tools on their own will not consistently deliver beneficial results for a business. While they promise to enable their users to do more with less, they invariably require thoughtful coordination between human and machine to yield a net increase in value for the organization. Pairing these tools with a skilled team of professional accounting and finance resources is critical to achieving competitive advantages in operational efficiency and strategic insights for business leaders.

A Proven Process

A well-planned and properly staffed implementation is critical to attaining value from technological change, and this is an area where experience really counts. It begins with understanding the current workflow and objectives of an individual organization, then considering different ways that technology can efficiently augment human resources in the performance of programmable repetitive tasks, complex calculations, and large scale data analysis. I’m fortunate to have a very strong team for this. Since each of my staff members have an average of 15-20 years of experience working in finance and accounting teams of operating businesses, we thoroughly understand how individual accounting transactions aggregate into meaningful financial results and key performance indicators for a business. We leverage that innate knowledge to select and effectively implement new systems and processes for our clients.

Once implemented correctly, business automation software can generally be relied upon to tirelessly perform its intended functions. But it doesn’t work entirely on its own! Because the software has to live in the real world with humans and a sometimes unpredictable combination of input variables, it’s important for a business to have experienced finance and accounting professionals who have a process of controls to identify and resolve exceptions that the software isn’t programmed to solve for independently.

In the context of business intelligence software, the phrase “garbage in, garbage out” refers to the fact that capturing inaccurate or poorly organized data into the system results in poor quality reports. A business should rely on people with a strong fundamental understanding of accounting principles to manage the collection of transaction data in their business. Those people should have a detail-oriented, process-driven mindset and the business acumen to analyze financial results to deliver timely, actionable key performance metrics to the business leaders.

A Higher Level of Analytical Thinking

With sophisticated software tools and updated processes in place, the experienced accounting team’s attention can shift to a higher level of analytical thinking about the key business metrics. Instead of spending the majority of their time doing basic data entry, accounting and finance resources can perform more strategic analysis, investigate changing trends in the company’s financial performance, and bring new insights to the business leaders that are now possible with the new data that’s being collected.  So it’s a combination of the right accounting and finance team, paired with properly implemented and managed systems, that enable business leaders to elevate their focus to higher-level analysis and equip them to make forward-looking decisions based on insights derived from factual data rather than intuition alone.

My all-star team of experienced and forward-thinking finance and accounting professionals is shaping the future of small business accounting by approaching our work differently. We bring measurable results for our clients in the form of cost savings, strategic insights, and lasting value. This is the future of finance and accounting, right here, right now.

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Making the Switch to QuickBooks Online

Georgean-Schmidt-for-web.jpgNo one likes to update software. Like hitting the snooze button on your alarm in the morning, it always seems easier to click the “remind me later” button and kick that task down the line for some undetermined date in the future. The result of this is, of course, that you might end up never updating the software and find yourself left with old or obsolete technology.

As an accounting services professional, I sometimes encounter business owners using very old versions of QuickBooks. For these individuals, I recommend making the switch from a desktop version of QuickBooks to QuickBooks Online.

Not only will this save you the hassle of having to do regular software updates (all updates will occur on the platform automatically), but you’ll also gain access to a number of great features that aren’t available on the desktop versions of QuickBooks.

With QuickBooks Online you can work from any device at any time, whether it be Mac, PC, smartphone or tablet. As a cloud-based app, your accounting services professional will be able to instantly access your files. You’ll be able to auto-schedule and send out invoices. And you get great integrations with over 300 cloud based apps.

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Accounting Services | Clinton and Trump Talk Taxation

Lori-Coleman-for-web-square.jpgYou can’t avoid being barraged by news coverage about the upcoming presidential election. Hillary or Donald? Red or Blue? A never-ending stream of opinions, polls and speculations fill the newspapers, dominate water cooler conversation and crowd our Facebook newsfeeds.    

As a bookkeeping services professional, you can bet there’s one issue I’m especially curious about in this election: taxes. Even my clients have begun asking me about the election from an accounting services perspective! 

Luckily, as a bookkeeping services provider I work closely with CPAs and tax experts who have been keeping an eye on the candidate’s tax platforms. A recent article from one of our accounting services partners, Newburg & Company CPAs, gives a full rundown on how tax policy plays into this election.

Taxes are a hot issue in every election, of course, and Donald and Hillary have both articulated their positions a number of times. But in a sensational race like this one, it’s important to take a moment to learn the facts.

I recommend reading Newburg & Company CPAs’ insightful analysis:
Compare and Contrast the Republican and Democratic Tax Platforms


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Why Auto Dealers Should Outsource Bank Reconciliations

Jim-Rice-for-web-2.jpgIt was an expensive lesson for California auto dealer Danny McKenna. He found that two of his most trusted employees had systematically drained $600,000 from his five dealerships.

The guilty parties "had been there a long time and had earned this immense trust," McKenna told Automotive News. "Now I don't dog-pile all this trust on one person all the time anymore."

McKenna's losses could have been even more catastrophic. One of the co-conspirators, who worked in McKenna's accounting department, had taken a medical leave. It was only then that a temporary employee uncovered the fraud, which had gone undetected for years.

Auto dealers everywhere should heed the lessons that McKenna learned the hard way. As a small-business owner, you want to build an atmosphere of mutual trust with your employees. But while it might seem counterintuitive, the best way to accomplish this is to outsource your bank reconciliations — if not all of your accounting and bookkeeping services.

Detection and Deterrence

Regular bank reconciliations performed by an outside firm can not only detect fraud that has already occurred, but also deter future fraud.

With their high annual turnover rate — a recent study pegs it at 39.4% industry-wide — auto dealerships are particularly susceptible to fraud and outright theft. One survey found that 88% of dealership fraud was committed by first-time perpetrators. Moreover, up to 40% of employees could be tempted to commit fraud if they thought they could get away with it, according to the same survey. An employee who knows a third-party reconciliation is coming, however, will be less likely to try to cook the books.

Beyond the obvious benefit of saving you money, keeping your employees honest helps maintain morale. McKenna says that the fraud he experienced "affected everyone's life" at the dealership and "was awful." He now uses certified third-party auditors.

Another benefit of third-party reconciliations is that they can uncover irregularities resulting from honest mistakes or faulty practices. That can keep you from casting a suspicious eye on an innocent employee and promote a healthier working relationship. It can also help you streamline procedures and eliminate inefficiencies.

Spreading out the Responsibilities

With multiple streams of debits and credits, auto dealerships can be an accounting nightmare. New cars, used cars, leased cars and loaners all require separate bookkeeping. Most dealerships also have a parts-and-service department, with fluctuating inventory and multiple vendors. A dishonest employee who knows the system can easily play a shell game with your money.

Industry experts recommend dividing accounting responsibilities and building in crosschecks and redundancies to avoid concentrating too much responsibility — and too much information — in one person's hands. It's a simple safeguard against fraud. In addition, a distribution of responsibilities keeps a dealer from being left high and dry if a key accounting employee leaves or has an extended absence.

Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business. For some auto dealerships, the best way to monitor that lifeblood is to use a third-party accounting service. At the very least, a conscientious auto dealer should perform monthly bank reconciliations, according to the Houston Chronicle. "When bank statements are not monitored and reconciled, the potential for undetected loss is high," the Chronicle reports. "Keeping an eye on bank statements can help you keep your finger on the pulse of your company."

 

Remote Working Gains Ground with Support from New Organization


Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgWhen we founded Supporting Strategies 12 years ago, we built it around the premise that experts working remotely and using best-of-breed technology would deliver the highest level of client service.

For us, remote working isn't just an employee perk. It's also a core strength of the business, providing a more streamlined process to deliver a full suite of services. The business model has truly taken off — not just for us, but for other businesses as well.

With the telecommuting, or "work-in-place," phenomenon growing increasingly popular, a not-for-profit organization has been founded to help support it. Founders of the organization Work in Place, recently highlighted in The New York Times, are inspired by what they call the "changing geography of work." They're promoting more conversations about the benefits of remote work arrangements, including hosting a Work-in-Place Summit in 2017.

We are proud to have been part of this forward-thinking approach to work and will be watching to see what innovative new approaches come out of next year's summit.

Bookkeeping Services | The Ins and Outs of Expense Management

Kimberly-Lockett-for-web.jpgA number of my clients ask me questions about expense management. While most business owners know that they need to track and document their expenses, they are not sure of how best to do this, or which expenses need to be tracked and why. 


Why Track Expenses?

Like most aspects of your bookkeeping services, expense management has two main functions. The first is for you. If you clearly record and analyze all of your business expenses, you’ll end up with a much better sense of how your business is performing, and where you might need to make changes. The second reason is the IRS. No one wants to be unprepared for an audit, and the IRS can question your deductions for up to six years after the fact. 

Documentation

When it comes to business expenses, which receipts should you be saving? Common wisdom has it that you don’t need to save receipts for purchases under $75 dollars. While this is generally true, it’s best to have at least one way to back up even the smallest purchases. 

The best way to accomplish this is to have a separate credit card specifically for your business, which is not tied to your personal account. This way, even if you don’t save the receipt for the lattes you purchased for the staff meeting, your credit card statement has that information. 

For purchases over $75, however, a credit card statement is not enough. In the event of an audit, the auditor will want to see the credit card statement and the receipt. It’s important to keep both. How do you handle saving receipts? There are now several tools that can help keep you organized.

Technology

I’m a big fan of Concur, which not only allows you to easily scan your receipts into the platform, but will also automatically import e-receipts sent to you from airlines, hotels, etc. With its travel-booking app, employers can preapprove certain travel expenses for employees, saving the difficulty that sometimes comes with getting approval for a cost that was already incurred. I’m also a fan of Tallie, which can help you track mileage while you’re driving, and will send employees alerts for expenses yet to be submitted.

Best Practices

By spending a little time to set up a system for tracking your expenses, you will better be able to monitor the financial health of your business and be well prepared for tax time. With the technology we have today, expense tracking and management can become a seamless part of how your business operates.

For more information about saving receipts, please read Jacquelyn Wong’s article on the Why, What and How of Saving Receipts.

For organizational advice, read Ann Willett-Thomas’s blog: Three Tips for Organizing your Financial Records.  

And to learn about other business applications, read Lori Kunkel’s blog: Making Use of the Best Business Apps.

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Consistently Filing Extensions for your Business Tax Returns? Outsourced Bookkeeping Services Can Help

Dawn-Hershik-for-web.jpgDid it happen again this year? You didn’t have all your books in order so your tax preparer had to file an extension. It’s OK, it happens, but wouldn’t it be nice to have your books up-to-date so you’re not worried about filing on time? The deadline to file extended business tax returns is September 15. If you miss that deadline late fees and penalties can be applied, costing you money needlessly.

Hiring an outsourced bookkeeping services provider can help. Not only will your books be ready for tax time, you will have vital information about your business at your fingertips.

Here are several ongoing services an outsourced bookkeeping service can provide:

Accounts Payable
It is important for maintaining good vendor relationships to set up a regular accounts payable process. Your accounting services provider can establish a system for paying bills, and make sure they get paid in a timely manner. The bookkeeper can provide routine expense reports and prepare 1099s for contractors.

Billing and Accounts Receivable
Perhaps the most important part of running a successful business is managing the accounts receivable process. Your bookkeeping services provider can make sure that invoices are sent in a timely manner which will help ensure more consistent cash flow management.

Financial and Management Reporting
In addition to managing your income and expenses and month-end close, your bookkeeping services provider can create monthly financial statements and budget versus actuals performance reports that you can use to make sure your business is healthy.

HR and Payroll
Another service a bookkeeper can provide is managing the paperwork associated with employees, such as benefits, tracking paid time off, and on-boarding and termination procedures. They can also process payroll directly or work with a payroll provider to make sure employees are getting paid and the payroll taxes are being paid.

Using an outsourced bookkeeping services provider to help in these areas will not only free up your time for growing your business, it will ensure that your tax preparer has accurate information to complete your tax returns on time—no more extensions or late fees. Also, having up-to-date books and completed tax returns will provide you with the valuable information you’ll need when planning for the future of your business.

 
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Three Reasons To Share Your Contracts With Your Bookkeeping Services Provider

Mary-Rose-for-web-square.jpgTo get the most from your accounting services provider, it’s helpful to supply them with incorporation documents and contracts. Many of my clients are confused when I ask for these documents. Here are three ways your bookkeeper can use the information from your contracts to help you better run your business.

1. Your Contracts Might Have Direct Implications for Accounting

When you share your contracts with your bookkeeper before and after signing, you might discover contracts that have implications for your bookkeeping and accounting team. The implications could be additional reporting requirements, deadlines for reporting, or a stipulation for special reports which need to be produced. By providing your bookkeeper with these contracts, he or she will be able to spot these compliance issues before they become issues. For example, if one of my clients has large deferred revenues, it might mean that current ratios will not be met. Taking note of this before the contract is signed will allow for additional negotiation and clarification before signing.

 

2. Your Contracts May Require Information Gathering

In order to meet the terms of a given contract, you may need to collect certain information. For example, if you’re running a non-profit which receives a grant, the contract may stipulate that the funds can only be allocated to certain types of expenses, and thus these expenses will need to be tracked. Rather than scrambling to do this after the fact, your bookkeeper will be able to see what kind of data collection is required up front and gather it as required.

 

3. A Valuable Financial Perspective

The most common things I see in contracts I review are things like hidden fees that the client is not aware of and potential future cash flow implications (depending on the payment terms negotiated). I also read contracts to note when the next billing is due (for example, some contracts have annual billing terms) so that it is not forgotten.

By asking your accounting services provider to review your contracts, he or she will be able to offer a financial perspective you may have not considered, as well as act as a warning system for identifying potential future issues.


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Supporting Strategies Client Earns Headlines for Life-changing Services

torchlight.pngtorchlight has been a Supporting Strategies | 128 & South Shore MA client since 2014, so we're well-aware of the company's important mission. The Boston Globe recently showcased torchlight's work with an article highlighting its online service supporting caregivers of individuals with special medical needs.

The innovative service, which provides caregivers with critical tools and information, is made available as an employee benefit through participating employers. In the Globe article, founder and CEO Adam Goldberg shares some of his own family's story and the experiences that led him to launch the business.

We're grateful to be part of torchlight's success and look forward to supporting them as they continue to improve the lives of so many. As for Goldberg, he appreciates the "truly productive partnership" between torchlight and Supporting Strategies.

"When you eventually get sick of recreating the wheel upon every investor request … When you, at long last, get to hand off expense reports like hot potatoes … When you finally have an exact moving picture of operational performance, you know Supporting Strategies | 128 & South Shore MA has arrived," Goldberg says. "My only regret? Not bringing them in sooner. The Supporting Strategies team has cleared the deck so I can concentrate on growing my business."

Supporting Strategies helps to make life easier for elderly and their caretakers

Nana.jpgNana is a 98-year-old (soon to be 99), strong, beautiful, amazing woman living by herself in East Boston, MA—the home she has had for the last 70 years, the home where she and Gramps raised their children and hosted a lifetime of memories for grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren.

Though her parents and siblings emigrated from Italy, Nana was born in the United States. Their Italian roots and culture emanated through every aspect of their daily lives here in this country. Nana’s mother would make everything from scratch because she had no other choice. She would make meals that are endearingly referred to by the family as depression food—not in solidarity with sadness, though I am sure they were sad, but because the meals resulted from the Great Depression when money and food were scarce (see recipe below).

As a young married woman, Nana carried those Italian traditions with her as she and Gramps, also the child of Italian immigrants, married and started a family together. Gramps worked for the MBTA and secured a good salary and great pension. I think it is safe to say that the MBTA is both amazed and horrified by Nana’s longevity.

Nana’s job was that of homemaker. She would, like her mother, make everything from scratch—from food to clothing and tablecloths, and everything in between. She never wasted a single thing—she would find a use for stale bread and turn grapes into raisins. Nana is frugal and generous, and a day in her home is to travel back in time, to another country, where everything is pure and simple.

But Nana has lost almost all of her eyesight. Although this does not stop her from making gravy or fudge from scratch every week, it does interfere with her ability to pay her bills. Even with the aid of the world’s largest magnifying apparatus, she struggles with the process. Fortunately for her, she is the Nana to Supporting Strategies’ Director of Business Development, Stephen Schultz. Steve explained to Nana, who has never used a computer once in her life, that he would be paying her bills. At first she said “No, I have enough money to pay my bills. That is too much for you.” He explained to her that while he would be happy to do so, he was not using his own money to pay her bills. And from there, an account was set up in Hubdoc titled Nana, and all Nana has to do is place her bills in the Supporting Strategies mailers each week.

Getting Nana’s weekly bills is a joy. You never know what will be in the mailers—the contents range from actual bills to coupons—and once we even received her Massachusetts Legally Blind Certificate.

The beauty of this system is that Steve and Supporting Strategies is able to help Nana, not only by ensuring her bills are paid properly and on time, but by allowing a soon-to-be 99-year-old woman to rest assured.

Macaroni and Peas

Sauté garlic and oil in pan
Add one small can tomato paste
Add enough water to make a soup
Break spaghetti into small pieces
Add one can of peas
Salt and pepper to taste

Bookkeeping Services Tip: Using Forex for International Payments

christi-todd-for-web-square.jpgAt one point during my career as an accounting professional I provided bookkeeping services for the U.S. Sales offices of a multinational company. We regularly had to make payments to foreign vendors.

Initially, we made these payments as international wires out of our primary U.S. business account. After currency brokers began calling me to say that they could save me money on these transactions, I researched the options and began to make payments through the Forex market. 

Today, the need to make payments internationally is increasingly common to businesses large and small, and savvy bookkeeping services professionals are recommending Forex as a good, cost-effective way to handle these transactions.

Forex (Foreign Exchange) refers to a decentralized global exchange market for the selling and purchasing of currencies. The fees tend to be cheaper than those offered by banks or online money transferring services. Currencies sell in pairs: for example, U.S. Dollars to Euros. If a U.S. business is making payments to a vendor in Europe, the Forex broker will accept U.S. dollars from the U.S. business and then purchase a quantity of Euros to pay the vendor on behalf of the U.S. business in Euros.

There are several advantages to using Forex, in addition to the lower fees it offers. Forex generally does not require U.S. businesses to maintain a balance in the Forex account—instead, payment is made only upon initiating a transaction. You can also manage your costs by using a Limit Order, which is an order placed with your brokerage to be completed only when currency can be exchanged at a specified rate.

Even if your business rarely makes international transactions, you may find Forex to be useful. Your broker can make “spot payments,” which are for immediate, non-recurring payments to foreign countries. You’ll get competitive rates and won’t necessarily have to pay an additional bank transaction fee. 

There are many brokers out there and it can be daunting to find the right one. I recommend to my clients that they compare prices at FXCompared.com, which I find to be a great resource. You can enter in the details of your transaction and compare your quote to the exchange rates of four other Forex providers, as well as to current bank rates. 

As our world becomes increasingly global and mobile, the number of businesses in need of international payment solutions has skyrocketed. Talk to your bookkeeping services provider about your needs when it comes to international transactions. Your bookkeeper should be able to recommend a broker and help you get started.

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The Why, What, and How of Saving Receipts

jacquelyn-wong-for-web.jpgMany of us are aware that saving receipts is an important way to be prepared not only for the annual tax return, but also for a potential audit… but we don’t know much more than that. What makes a receipt relevant to the IRS? Does any receipt qualify? Do I need to save all my receipts or just some of them? 

When it comes to these specifics, many business owners are unsure what to do. Here are my tips for saving receipts:

  1. Why Should I Save Receipts?
    An audit can be targeted, or it can be a completely random occurrence. That means that even if you are 100% sure that every inch of your tax return is justified, honest and accurate… you might still get audited. Saving your receipts is a good practice to follow. Your accounting services team should include receipts as part of its regular financial recordkeeping operation. 

  1. What is a Receipt?
    You probably think you know what a receipt is, but a receipt won’t be useful unless it has several key pieces of information. Before you file your receipt or give it to your bookkeeper, make sure it has the following information:
    • Name of business
    • Date of transaction
    • Amount of transaction
    • Business purpose
    • If there were multiple attendees, the names of the attendees

  1. What Receipts Should I Save?
    Generally speaking, use the value of $75 to figure out if a receipt is worth saving. If a receipt is over $75, make sure you save it. If you feel the purchase was significant despite being under $75, save the receipt just in case.

    If you’re worried about being overrun with receipts, keep in mind that generally you only need to save them for three years

    In addition to receipts, other documents you should save are bills (medical bills, student loan bills, mortgage bills), receipts for charitable donations, mileage and gas logs, and tax documents. Check out the IRS website for more information about recordkeeping for small businesses and self-employed people.

  1. How Should I Save Receipts?
    The key here is order. Ask your accounting services professional to help you design a system to keep these financial records well organized and easy to search through. Receipts can be stored digitally through a number of applications. The great part about these apps is that they allow you to scan the receipt right when you get it, uploading it into the system for you. This will eliminate the storage issue of actually saving all of that paper, as well as making your receipts visually easy to scan through and search. Also, a digital copy is forever and will not fade or deteriorate like paper receipts.

For more information about electronic document sharing, please read Sandra Bowman’s blog on using Hubdoc.

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New Orleans' Ledet Contributes to AccountingWEB E-book

What_Your_Clients_Really_Want.jpgWhat are small business owners looking for in CPAs and other accounting professionals? A new e-book has the answers — and features a number of insights from Bryce Ledet, Owner and Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | New Orleans.

Deanna C. White, author of "What Your Clients Really Want," interviewed several accounting professionals on the challenges of addressing client needs. Ledet contributed to the chapters on using technology to reduce administrative burden, HR compliance and cybersecurity in the cloud.

"These topics are particularly important to me because they have the potential to increase costs and liability for clients if not managed properly," Ledet noted.

The e-book also includes chapters on cash flow; strategic business planning; state, local and other compliance burdens; and customer relationship management tools.

"I've seen first-hand how important it is for clients to understand these technical topics and to have trusted advisors who offer expertise in these areas," Ledet said. "Small business owners have to wear so many hats every day; the right service provider can add tremendous value by delivering efficient service and allowing the owner to focus on growing the business rather than on administrative tasks."

"What Your Clients Really Want" is available for download from AccountingWEB, which describes itself as "the leading online community for CPAs in the United States, providing news, software tools and guidance from top industry voices."

Supporting Strategies Client StyleSeat Marks Major Milestone

img-mark-wald.jpgAt Supporting Strategies, our job is to address clients' accounting needs so they can focus on growing their business. It's a real pleasure for us to see clients reach key milestones on the path to long-term success.

Case in point: StyleSeat, a Supporting Strategies | Santa Monica client since 2015, recently celebrated that over 50 million appointments have been booked on its platform.

StyleSeat allows beauty and wellness professionals (e.g. hair stylists, barbers, nail artists, massage therapists) to showcase their work and consumer members ("clients") to search for providers and book appointments online. The platform currently has 7 million unique clients, lists 350,000 beauty professionals and operates in 16,000 communities nationwide.

This kind of success is no small feat, but also no surprise to us because StyleSeat has amazing personnel and a fantastic product. The Supporting Strategies team is thrilled to play a supporting role along the way.

"Thank you, Team!" wrote StyleSeat CTO Dan Levine. "We appreciate your hard work in keeping our finances in order during this very fast-paced and constantly evolving phase of our business."

Bookkeeping Services | Three Tips for Organizing Your Financial Records

Ann-Willett-Thomas-for-web.jpgMany business owners live in fear of one word: audit. Often this fear has little to do with any possible result of an audit. Rather, it’s a fear of having to go through your records at the last minute, sorting through heaps of old documents and receipts in a desperate attempt to get organized. However, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that means the time to get organized is now. Here are some tips on how to get your financial records organized ahead of time:

1. Call in a Pro

Using a bookkeeping services provider to handle your financial recordkeeping is a great way to make sure your books are being organized regularly and thoroughly. Outsourcing bookkeeping to experts will take away much of the stress and the guesswork that can be involved in the process. Of course, as a business owner, it is crucial to stay involved with your bookkeepers. By only putting aside 15 to 20 minutes each week to check in with your team, you will not only make sure your books are in order, but you’ll have better insight into your business’ financial situation as your business grows.

2. Use Accounting Software

There are so many great online tools to help you manage your business’ books. By automating processes, these tools take much of the grunt work out of accounting and make it easier to work with both bookkeepers and CPAs. The other big benefit of these accounting software solutions is the ability to go paperless. Some of them, such as Bill.com, Tallie, and QuickBooks Online, allow you to store and save important documents, receipts, and pay slips, eliminating the need for a giant, overstuffed filing cabinet.

3. Know What’s Expected

Gaining knowledge about what the IRS expects is a helpful way to prepare for paying taxes. Check in on the IRS website to find out what kind of recordkeeping is necessary. You’ll learn which industry specific records are required of your business. Work out a system with your bookkeeping professional to save and organize the necessary documents so that they will be safe and easy to access when you need them.

For more information about business applications, read Lori Kunkel’s blog Making use of the Best Business Apps, and for inspiration about getting organized, read Elliot Hershik’s blog Managing March Madness.


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Bookkeeping Services Basics | What Is Double Entry Accounting

John-Gleason-for-web.jpgYou have probably heard the term “double entry accounting” but might not know what it means, or why it matters to you and your business. It is a common bookkeeping method that you or your bookkeeping services provider are probably already using.

Double entry accounting is the balancing of debits and credits and shows the value of your company. Your company’s value is equal to its liabilities plus its equity. For example, imagine that you just bought a new piece of equipment for your business. You have less cash because you spent it on the equipment (a debit), but the value of the money is not gone—it is now in the equipment that your business owns (a credit). This combination reflects the true value of your company.

Why does this matter? Your bookkeeping services professional’s job is to make sure that your books are an accurate and reliable reflection of your business, and double entry accounting helps to provide a realistic view of the worth of your company. This will become crucial if and when you’re seeking financing, presenting information to lenders, or trying to make a decision about investments. By using double entry accounting, your books reflect the worth and standing of your business as a whole. 

And if you do receive a loan, you will need to be mindful that the increase in cash is also reflected on the liability side, as a loan that needs to be repaid.

If you’re doing the books for your own company, it would be wise to make sure you’re putting this principle into practice.  Otherwise, check in with your bookkeeping services provider to learn more about how Double Entry Accounting is at work in your business.

 
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Streamlining your Financial Document Sharing With Hubdoc.com

sandra-bowman-for-web-square.jpgAs a bookkeeping services provider, I often work remotely with my clients. This means that I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve and streamline remote communication. Hubdoc.com has quickly become one of my favorite tools for sharing and managing documents. Hubdoc is a cloud-based document management platform that has changed the way I share information and work with my clients. Here are four reasons you should check it out:

1. Ease of Sharing

Hubdoc makes it easy to upload documents and organize them. My clients can use the Hubdoc mobile app to snap photos of receipts and bills and upload them in seconds, as well as forward invoices from their inboxes. 

Rather than sorting through email attachments or digging through a pile of paper, you can quickly search documents and find them in an instant. For a bookkeeping services provider, this is the best way to stay on the same page as my clients, uploading important documents and reports so that my clients can access them wherever they are.

2. It’s a Time Saver, and Time is Money

Rather than logging into banks and vendors to access statements and invoices, Hubdoc makes it easy to keep all your important files in one easily accessed location. This is a huge selling point to clients, because it saves time and smooths over the difficulty of having your important files spread across many platforms, each with its own set of login requirements. 

3. Simplicity

Hubdoc is all about simplifying what used to be complicated processes. The system automates data entry and automatically uploads bills. An account is easy to set up and easy to access remotely for both the bookkeeping services provider and the business owner. Best of all, Hubdoc automatically extracts key information from your bills and receipts, processing and synthesizing this data for you.

4. Customer Service

In my opinion, quality of customer service is almost as important as the quality of the platform itself. The customer service at Hubdoc is excellent. Their team is friendly and helpful. Their website also provides a forum with threads addressing common questions and offering other tips to maximize your use of the service. This makes it especially comfortable to get on board and get started.

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Supporting Strategies Client DPLA Featured on White House Blog

Deb-Demeule-for-web-square.jpgThe latest initiative of the Digital Public Library of America, Inc. (DPLA), a long-time Supporting Strategies client, was recently featured on the official White House blog.

The article discusses the Open eBooks project, a partnership of DPLA, First Book and The New York Public Library offering students free access to $250 million worth of reading material. More than one million students have already received access codes providing them entry into the project.

Since my first days working with DPLA, I've known they were headed for big things. Referred to Supporting Strategies by one of our clients, DPLA brought us on board at the time of their incorporation in 2013, so I've been able to watch them progress and expand — and to grow our services with them.

DPLA is a not-for-profit entity, so much of their work is dependent on grants. Their rapid growth means they have continuously added funding sources that are managed independently of the others, each bringing their own audit requirements and accounting challenges.

Impressing the CPAs

Working with DPLA's audit teams and tax preparers from the outset has given me a window into their changing needs and allowed me to recommend effective documentation systems in conjunction with the DPLA Financial Manager. The CPAs performing those audits have been so impressed with the resulting systems and practices — e.g. having documentation electronically available so they can perform audit functions from their own offices — that they have referred clients to Supporting Strategies themselves.

DPLA has expanded from four employees to 16 in the time I've worked with them. My role includes accounts payable, accounts receivable, expense allocations by grant, and processing their growing payroll and benefits payments. The controls we've built into the process from the ground up provide extra security and confidence as the client's bookkeeping needs have grown more complicated.

DPLA is a virtual company, with employees who work and live remotely. Because they've included me in events and gatherings, I've met nearly every employee in person and truly feel like part of their team. I've been honored to have such a strong and involved partnership with a client committed to doing so much good. They have many more exciting projects ahead of them, and I'm happy to know Supporting Strategies will get to play a role.

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Supporting Strategies Expands to Reno-Tahoe

Ellermeyer Becomes Managing Director of New Franchise

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgSupporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, in the Reno-Tahoe region.

Jen Ellermeyer, Reno/Tahoe Franchisee and Managing Director, is an accomplished business and accounting executive with over 20 years of experience developing financial control systems and processes for businesses and not-for-profit organizations. She has a particular interest in improving financial accuracy and creating foundational systems to plan for and accommodate business growth.

"The Reno/Tahoe region is at the beginning stages of diversifying into a much broader economy than in years past," Ellermeyer says. "The traditional industries of construction and resort services are imperative to the local economy. Additionally, the region is experiencing a surge in technology-based industries and startups, which makes it a vibrant time to grow a business in the area.

"I'm excited to offer an efficient, comprehensive bookkeeping and operational support service that pairs well with any growing business. The opportunity to serve businesses and assist with maximizing business productivity is a passion of mine."

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like Ellermeyer are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned accounting professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, Vice President of Franchise Development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If you are with a business in the Truckee, Tahoe or Reno area and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Jen Ellermeyer at jellermeyer@supportingstrategies.com, 530-212-8418 (office) or 530-386-1155 (mobile).

Three Things You Can Do to Help Protect your Business

Indre_Bauza-for-web.jpgYour accounting services provider is in a position of trust—he or she works with the finances of your company. Ideally, your bookkeeper is your trusted advisor, a valuable member of your team who works to help achieve your company’s vision and goals. That’s why it’s disheartening to hear stories about bookkeeping services providers abusing this position of trust.

It’s not a common occurrence, but it does happen and every now and again that a news story crops up about a bookkeeper slowly embezzling thousands of dollars.

Here are a few things you can do to help protect your business from embezzlement.

1. Do Your Homework

If someone you know refers a bookkeeper to you, ask how long he or she worked for them. Financial deception can go on for very long periods of time without the business owner knowing that there is a problem, so look for a candidate who worked at the company for more than a year. Be sure to do a background check as well.

2. Be Involved

If you are doing your own bookkeeping, it will save you a lot of time to hire a bookkeeper or outsource to an accounting services firm. However, as a business owner, you need to stay involved and oversee the bookkeeper’s work.  Looking at the financial statements routinely is not enough—it is important to review the details as well. For example, one way that a bookkeeper can embezzle funds is to create a vendor that doesn’t exist and pay himself through the fake vendor. Over time, even small payments will add up to significant loss.

Make sure that all accounts (payroll, accounts receivable, accounts payable) are reconciled every month so that you don’t miss any important details.

3. Work with a Firm that Values Security

If you’re working with a bookkeeping services firm, make sure you choose one that puts a high premium on your security.  Ask the company about its hiring process and whether or not they do background checks.  Find out what systems and protocols are in place to prevent fraud.  You want to choose a firm that relies on a system of checks and balances.  It shouldn’t be the case that only one person oversees your business’ finances—there should be a team involved checking and overseeing each other’s work.

Outsourcing accounting services is an important step for a growing business. It will enable you to put more of your energy into your core business. Just take the time to do your homework when choosing a bookkeeper, stay involved by reviewing the details, and choose an accounting services firm with secure systems and protocols in place.

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Supporting Strategies Expands to Southeastern Mass Cape & Islands

Craven Becomes Managing Director of New Franchise

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgSupporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, Southeastern Mass Cape & Islands.

Ed Craven, Franchisee and Managing Director, is a highly skilled and accomplished business executive who has spent over two decades developing and applying expertise in operations management, business planning and strategy, and human capital management. His background spans finance, technology, sales and marketing, and investments.

"I was attracted to Supporting Strategies after learning about their pedigree in tackling operational issues for growing companies over the last 12 years," Craven says. "Once I understood the robust solutions provided to customers in conjunction with flexible, as-needed services, I was hooked. I'm really looking forward to applying their successful model alongside my experience in customer service and product delivery."

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like Craven are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned accounting professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, Vice President of Franchise Development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If you are with a business in the Cape Cod area and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Ed Craven at ecraven@supportingstrategies.com or 508-927-5016.

Bookkeeping Services | Learning from Your Trial Balance

John-Gleason-for-web.jpgIf you or your bookkeeping services provider is in the process of preparing your business’ financial statements, then you’ve probably heard of a Trial Balance. A Trial Balance is a snapshot of your books on a particular date—an internal report that lists all balances in your business’ General Ledger accounts. Bookkeepers use a Trial Balance to uncover errors.

If you work with a bookkeeping services provider, you can ask to see how your Trial Balance is put together. On one side of your Trial Balance you’ll list your debit balances, and on the other side your credit balances. The goal is for both columns to be balanced—the sum total of the debit balances should equal that of the credit balances.

If the Trial Balance shows that the columns are not equal, this may mean that errors were made when posting income and expense entries. For example, if your business received a payment for a service not yet performed, your bookkeeper should not post it to the revenue account until the service has been performed.

After you have adjusted the Trial Balance, those numbers are used for the preparation of your business’ financial statements. Financial statements are important for you, your business, and your bookkeeping services provider.  Preparing the Income Statement, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statement accurately and in a timely manner is the best way to stay on top of your books, get a clear understanding of your company’s financial situation, and set your goals for the period to come.


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Three Things to Do When Starting Your Own Business

Danielle-Huffstetter-for-web-square.jpgCongratulations on deciding to start a new business! It is empowering to become your own boss and to pursue your dream of starting a business. However, there is a lot to learn about setting up a business, and there is a lot that needs to be done in the beginning. Here are three tips from a bookkeeping services professional on how to give your business a financial head start:

 

1. Establish a Business Entity

One of your first actions as an entrepreneur should be to establish a business entity–whether it is a Sole Proprietorship, an LLC (Limited Liability Company), or a Corporation. Do your homework and consider consulting a lawyer to find out which type of entity will best serve your business. A Sole Proprietorship is fairly easy to set up, but has more liability than an LLC (which offers protections for the proprietors). Or, it may be preferable to form a corporation, which will better position your company for outside investment. 

2. Open a Separate Bank Account for Your Business

Separating your personal finances from your business finances is a great way to get organized, make tax time easier, and even save money. Set up a bank account that you use exclusively for your business, and also get a credit card that you use only for business expenses. It is helpful to consult with a CPA to learn about business expenses, tax guidelines, and best practices regarding managing your business bank account.

3. Determine How You Will Organize and Track Your Business Income and Expenses

Even before you earn any money with your new business, you should establish how you will be keeping track of your business’ finances. Think not only about your finances now, but about what your finances will look like after a year in business. It will help you in the long run if you take the time to set up a system that is both easy to use and scalable. There are several software programs that help you organize your finances and make it easier for you to stay on top of tracking your income and expenses.

An option that works for many businesses is to hire a bookkeeping services professional or firm. An experienced accounting services firm will be able to advise you on software tools for bookkeeping and time tracking, and when your business grows will be able to respond to your new needs, such as HR, payroll, and healthcare administration. An accounting services firm will help your business where it is, and help get you where you're going.

For more tips on how to set up your business, please read the blogs by my colleagues Dawn Hershik, “Three ways to optimize how you run your business’ books” and Amy Lyons, “My top five favorite business bookkeeping apps.”

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Supporting Strategies Expands to Atlanta

Ramey Becomes Managing Director of New Franchise

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgSupporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, in Atlanta.

Jon Ramey, Franchisee and Managing Director, is a seasoned accounting and finance professional with expertise in performing a wide variety of financial management functions. A Certified Public Accountant with Big 4 and corporate audit experience, he has a strong background in corporate finance and asset management. He also has over 20 years' experience spanning all aspects of business development and management.

"This is a great opportunity, and I'm excited to join such an innovative organization," Ramey says. "As a former finance professional for a Fortune 500 company and founder of several businesses myself, I can really appreciate the value offered by Supporting Strategies. Our solutions enable our clients to focus on their businesses while we manage delivery of their financials and support the overall business strategy.

"I'm passionate about serving others in this meaningful way and look forward to helping businesses in the Atlanta community achieve success."

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like Ramey are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned accounting professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, Vice President of Franchise Development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If you are with a business in the Atlanta area and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Jon Ramey at jramey@supportingstrategies.com or 770.314.6832.

Wald Earns Supporting Strategies President's Club Award

Presidents_club-1.jpgMark Wald, Managing Director of both Supporting Strategies | Santa Monica and Supporting Strategies | Los Angeles, has earned the company's inaugural President's Club Award. The announcement was made at Supporting Strategies' annual meeting, held in May 2016.

The President's Club Award recognizes outstanding business development, sales and service by a Supporting Strategies Franchisee. Wald, one of 40 company Franchisees, launched the Santa Monica office in 2013 and the Los Angeles office in 2016.

"We're incredibly proud of Mark's success. His accomplishments reflect our commitment to excellence when it comes to supporting small businesses," says Leslie Jorgensen, Supporting Strategies Founder and CEO. "Mark has consistently ensured his clients receive the high level of service that helps their businesses to thrive."

Supporting Strategies has provided efficient and effective bookkeeping and operational services to growing businesses since 2004. The company's annual meetings are held in conjunction with the Scaling New Heights conferences for small business advisors.

If you are with a business in Greater Los Angeles and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Mark Wald at mwald@supportingstrategies.com or 310-625-6262.

Supporting Strategies Expands to Hartford

Maher Becomes Managing Director of New Franchise

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgSupporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, in Hartford, Conn.

Tanya Maher, Hartford Franchisee and Managing Director, is a senior accounting professional with both private and public experience who has worked in supervisory roles in a variety of settings. She brings broad knowledge of accounting operations, in-depth experience with data quality and process improvement, and strong skills in accounting, reporting and project management.

"Having worked for the Boston office of Supporting Strategies, I know why clients and their CPAs prefer us: simple process for the client, monthly audit-ready financials, reliable professionals when you need them and affordable cost, to name a few key reasons," Maher says.

"One of my clients told me she worried about her books multiple times a day. Within days of retaining us, she said, 'Not only am I no longer in the dark, I'm on the beach drinking a margarita!' I want to bring this experience to businesses in the Hartford area. I'm proud to be part of this innovative company and excited to give business owners the support they need so that they can focus on growing their business instead of managing company finances."

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like Maher are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned accounting professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, Vice President of Franchise Development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If you are with a business in Greater Hartford and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Tanya Maher at tmaher@supportingstrategies.com or 860-207-8469.

Supporting Strategies Expands to San Diego, Calif.

Gilpin Becomes Managing Director of New Franchise

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgSupporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, in San Diego.

Jane Gilpin, Downtown San Diego Franchisee and Managing Director, is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and a seasoned Certified Public Accountant with over 15 years of managerial experience in a variety of private and public sector organizations. That experience has provided her with broad expertise in computerized accounting processes, generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and generally accepted auditing standards (GAAS).

"I feel fortunate for the opportunity to join the Supporting Strategies network," Gilpin said. "I have always been a proponent of utilizing available technology to maximize productivity in the workplace. I look forward to providing technical and professional accounting expertise to the vast number of entrepreneurial and small-to-mid-size businesses in San Diego."

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like Gilpin are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned accounting professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, Vice President of Franchise Development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If you are with a business in the Downtown San Diego area and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Jane Gilpin at jgilpin@supportingstrategies.com or 619-210-0407.

Supporting Strategies Expands to Pittsburgh, Pa.

Palmer Becomes Managing Director of New Franchise

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgSupporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Stacey Palmer, Pittsburgh Franchisee and Managing Director, is a skilled attorney with nearly two decades of professional experience. After graduating from Notre Dame Law School, she practiced at Reed Smith for over 17 years, gaining extensive experience counseling companies in corporate matters such as the structure and formation of business entities, contract negotiation and drafting, and general business transactions. She earned her undergraduate degree in Business Administration with concentrations in Finance and Management from Truman State University in Missouri.

"Pittsburgh has a vibrant and growing tech industry, and it has recently been named one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in the country. There is also tremendous business development in the Cranberry Corridor," Palmer said.

"Supporting Strategies is the perfect fit for me because it allows me to combine my business acumen with my legal experience to help tech startups and other small and medium-sized businesses to succeed," she added. "We provide our clients with a cost-effective, technologically savvy bookkeeping solution that gives them more time to focus on their passion — which is their own business — along with the tools necessary to achieve greater profitability."

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like Palmer are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned accounting professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, Vice President of Franchise Development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If you are with a business in the Pittsburgh area and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Stacey Palmer at spalmer@supportingstrategies.com or 412-559-1742.

Five Quick Tips for Choosing the Best Outsourced Bookkeeping Services Provider

Indre_Bauza-for-web.jpgNow that you have made the decision to outsource your bookkeeping—hiring a professional bookkeeping service rather than doing it yourself or asking one of your employees to take it on—how do you decide which company to choose?

Here are five quick tips to help guide you while you are choosing a bookkeeping service provider:

  • Experience. You want to find a bookkeeping service provider that has the experience and knowledge to save you money by helping you to stay on top of your finances. An experienced bookkeeper will be able to tailor their services specifically for the kind of work you’re doing and the industry you’re in. Having worked with many businesses before across industries, a bookkeeper will also be able to offer valuable insight as a business consultant—having seen firsthand what works and what doesn’t.
  • Time and Money. One of the benefits of outsourcing bookkeeping is that you do not have to hire an employee at a set number of hours. Make sure that the bookkeeping services provider will be able to adjust to the level of bookkeeping service that is appropriate for your particular company.
  • Technology. The world of bookkeeping has evolved a lot in recent years—new technical capabilities have enabled bookkeepers to streamline much of what they do. When choosing a bookkeeping services firm, you want to make sure that they are not only up-to-date with technology, but that they’re enthusiastic and open to new technologies as they continue to develop.
  • Company versus Individual. Another benefit of outsourcing accounting is that if you hire a bookkeeping services firm rather than an individual bookkeeper, you have a whole team working for you rather than just one person. When you look for a bookkeeping services company, look for one that has an experienced team of accountants. Even if you have one person who directly works with you, you want that person to have a team of accounting experts to consult with as needed, and to be part of a company that stays current with accounting changes and has established best-practices protocols.
  • Safety. Using cloud-based storage is safer than you might think. Make sure your bookkeeping services providers are using leading cloud-based storage solutions for your data so that your information is safe and easily recovered.

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Supporting Strategies Expands to Flint, Mich.

Wise Becomes Managing Director of New Franchise

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgSupporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, in Flint, Mich.

Lynn Wise, Flint Franchisee and Managing Director, is an award-winning business executive and entrepreneur who has spent over 20 years managing and supporting businesses of all sizes, including six successful companies of her own. Much of her experience comes in the HVAC, plumbing and trades fields.

"I elected to invest with Supporting Strategies because of their leadership in people, processes and systems in the bookkeeping space," Wise said. "I focus on specialty contractors who need good management and organization in their business so they can focus on selling, delivering and training in the field."

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like Wise are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned accounting professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, Vice President of Franchise Development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If you are with a business in the Flint area and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Lynn Wise at lwise@supportingstrategies.com or 810-535-9031.

Supporting Strategies Client DropIn Named a Tech Pioneer to Watch

img-mark-wald.jpgAt Supporting Strategies, we're fortunate to witness on a daily basis the amazing things our clients are capable of accomplishing. Sometimes we even get to play a supporting role.

It's especially gratifying when others recognize the innovators we've come to admire, so we were thrilled to see Entrepreneur call out one such company, West Hollywood-based DropIn, as one of "8 Tech Pioneers to Watch."

As the article points out, DropIn has transformed the insurance industry landscape with an app that allows for on-demand remote video inspection. The app has been a boost for the industry and for DropIn itself, which is expanding to San Francisco, New York and Chicago. 

Having served DropIn since its inception in 2015 and come to know the great people who make it work, we were beyond happy to see this much-deserved shout-out.

Supporting Strategies Named Best of Naperville

Dawn-Hershik-for-web.jpgWe at Supporting Strategies | Chicago Far West Suburbs are happy to announce we've earned the 2016 Best of Naperville Award for bookkeeping services. The award recognizes "exceptional companies that help make the Naperville area a great place to live, work and play" and "enhance the positive image of small business through service."

It was just over a year ago that my husband Elliot and I launched the Chicago Far West Suburbs office with high hopes for what the Supporting Strategies model could bring to the community. Our success, and that of our clients, has surpassed our expectations.

We've been privileged to help so many outstanding businesses with a proven model of outsourced bookkeeping and operational support services. Naperville's thriving businesses are a testament to the way neighborhoods and small business owners can support one another for a stronger local economy and community. 

Our thanks go out to the Award Program for this honor and for their work to recognize companies for practices and programs that generate competitive advantages and long-term value. Their mission is to recognize the small business community's contributions to the U.S. economy — a commitment we at Supporting Strategies truly appreciate and share.

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What’s the Value of a Happy Customer?

Steve-Shultz-for-web.jpgThey say that a satisfied customer tells one or two people about their experience while an unhappy customer tells ten.  It’s no surprise – we all know that a bad consumer experience can stick with you.  And while I believe it’s true that an unhappy customer will be more vocal than a satisfied customer – I have a feeling that a very happy customer might be the most vocal of all.  

I personally love to give a good review.  A great new restaurant opens up and I’ll tell everyone I know.  A movie wows me and I don’t stop talking about it for a week.  I know I’m not alone in this.  People love to pass on an exceptional review – this means both exceptionally good and exceptionally bad.  The clients who leave unhappy might drag your name through the mud around town – but the ones who leave happy will be the best advertising you can get.  

So what’s the value of a happy client?  Your bookkeeping services team may not be able to put an exact dollar value on a satisfied client, but we know that a happy customer is more likely to be loyal, to stay with you for a long time, and to recommend your business to friends, family and associates.  

Considering this – you should work hard to keep your clients happy and do anything within your power to mitigate their concerns as they arise.  That said – concerns will arise.  But don’t despair.  A customer who comes to you dissatisfied with some aspect of their experience or the service they received is not a lost cause.  If you meet their concerns with sympathy, openness, and respect – this dissatisfied customer can become your most ardent supporter.

After all, a dissatisfied customer whom you were able to make into a satisfied customer might be your most vocal advertiser of all.  Great business leaders understand this and focus on these two things: how to keep the happy clients happy and how to respond efficiently to the concerns of the unhappy clients.  You should be as methodical about these aspects of your business as you are about your bookkeeping services or your staffing: create a team responsible for addressing client experience and make sure that everyone is on the same page about the proper process for addressing concerns and complaints.

As a professional in the bookkeeping services industry – I recommend checking in on your clients actively and regularly – the same way we advise businesses to do with their books.  Rather than waiting for them to come to you, actively solicit client feedback and dialogue.  This will allow you to make great use of your clients and strengthen the way you do things – but it will also make your clients know that their needs are important.

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Supporting Strategies Celebrates First Year in Naperville, Ill.

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgNaperville, Ill. – February 18, 2016 – Supporting Strategies | Chicago Far West Suburbs is marking one year of providing efficient and effective bookkeeping and operational services to growing businesses throughout the area.

The franchisees — Managing Director Dawn Hershik and her husband, General Manager Elliot Hershik — could not be more pleased with the business's inaugural year.

"The first year has been everything we wanted it to be," Dawn says. "We've seen a range of businesses truly benefit from our services, so we know we're filling a real need in the community. We're excited to help clients realize their goals."

Dawn is a seasoned sales and finance professional with deep expertise in the financial analysis of small businesses. Elliot has over 30 years of experience in accounting and operations, including a long career managing staff in bookkeeping, billing, budget and payroll.

"We chose Supporting Strategies because their systems and processes work for entrepreneurial startups as well as more established businesses that might otherwise hire a part-time bookkeeper, which has risks and limitations," Dawn says. "Our clients know we're standing by whenever they need us. That instant access to our proven practices and deep expertise helps companies thrive."

Supporting Strategies has developed a scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like the Hershiks are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and virtual team of seasoned accounting professionals.

Dawn notes that the franchise recently added an Associate to help serve their growing roster of clients. "We can only get bigger and better from here," she adds.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, vice president of franchise development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If your business is based in the suburbs west of Chicago and you would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Dawn Hershik at dhershik@supportingstrategies.com or 630-475-4182.

Supporting Strategies Expands to North Seattle

Andersen Becomes Managing Director of New Franchise

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgSupporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, in North Seattle, Wash.

Barry Andersen, Franchisee and Managing Director, is an award-winning business executive and management consultant who has spent over four decades delivering guidance and executive leadership to businesses across industries. His expertise in sales, marketing and finance has fueled the launch and growth of several successful companies. He also brings exceptional skills in areas such as corporate budget development and execution along with staff recruitment, mentoring and performance.

"As CEO of a number of small to medium-sized businesses, I really appreciate the unique technology and services that Supporting Strategies offers for bookkeeping needs," Andersen said. "I outsourced my payroll 20 years ago; now it's certainly time for many businesses to outsource their accounting. I'm excited to help Northwest entrepreneurs focus on growing their business and letting me work with their CPA to manage their bookkeeping."

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like Andersen are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned accounting professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, Vice President of Franchise Development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If you are with a business in the North Seattle area and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Barry Andersen at bandersen@supportingstrategies.com or 206-227-0379.

Bookkeeping Services 101 | Making Use of the Best Business Apps

Lori-Kunkel-for-web.jpgSuccessful entrepreneurs are always looking for an edge and asking themselves “What new approaches can I take to make things run better, faster, and more efficiently?”  Many of the entrepreneurs that I see in my capacity as a bookkeeping services provider owe their success to this quality: they try to fix what’s not necessarily broken.  I tend to emphasize this to all my clients – one of the most important hallmarks of success is the ability to maximize personal productivity and to find streamlined ways to manage tasks and/or employees.  Keeping up with the latest technology might be a great way to do this.

Without a doubt, there’s a ton of great apps out there that will serve your specific industry.  But here are a few of my favorites that will definitely be useful and enriching for any kind of business:

1.  Tallie 
This is one of my go-to recommendations, and your bookkeeping services professionals will thank you for using Tallie's great service.  They offer an easy to use platform for tracking, recording, organizing and processing business expenses.  Not only will this make life easier for you and your bookkeeper – your employees will thank you too.  This is much easier than saving receipts and copying them over later.  This often leads to error and sometimes employees lose those receipts, which can create a big mess.  Now employees can simply snap a photo of the receipt right onto the app.

2. Confluence
Confluence is an amazing way to get your office all on the same page – literally.  It’s a platform that allows communication and sharing to occur quickly and easily between employees and across departments.  Basically it becomes the online mirror of your business, and keeps everything in one place (while still allowing different teams, projects and departments to store their work and organize their communications separately and easily).  It can be accessed on all your devices.

3.  LinkedIn
By now you probably know about LinkedIn.  It’s been a dominant force in online business networking for years, and I still find myself recommending it to any clients who haven’t yet gotten on board.  It’s recently been upgraded to be faster and imbued with some new features, but essentially has stuck with its original mission: to connect professionals all around the world.  They have over 400 million members, arguably the largest and most powerful business network in the world!

Finding new applications and software solutions can change the way you do business – eliminating old problems and opening new doors.  The key is to be curious about what’s out there, as the list is always expanding.  Start following the latest news in business technology.  Tech.co is a great resource for keeping up with latest tech trends for entrepreneurs.  And you can always check in with your bookkeeping services provider as well to get recommendations for great financial and accounting apps, as well as industry-specific solutions perfect for you.


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why walter is a fan of hubdog

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More time to play since I don't have to fetch my bills!  Thanks @hubdoc #hubdog

Bookkeeping Services Best Practices | Scheduling Quarterly/Annual Bookkeeping Tasks

Andy-Hale.jpgToday's post, the final one in our Bookkeeping Services Best Practices series, looks at scheduling quarterly and annual bookkeeping tasks. If you haven't read them yet, please check out previous posts on scheduling daily, weekly/bi-weekly and monthly tasks. 

Let's start with the quarterly bookkeeping tasks:

1. Prepare and file your quarterly taxes as required by your jurisdiction. File all reports on time for sales taxes, employee payroll taxes, FICA, etc. Timely filing will help you avoid late penalties and additional scrutiny.
2. Perform a quarterly review by consolidating monthly statements and reviewing trends to examine the big picture.
3. Review policies, accounting processes, benefit/insurance and retirement plans, bonuses, procedures, etc. Make changes as necessary.
4. If you have inventory, count it. Update your bookkeeping services system with revised inventory quantities and journal entries as necessary.

As for the annual bookkeeping tasks:

1. Complete year-end close. If you've been closing each month, the end-of-year close should be easy.
2. Create and review a year-end reporting package. Get into the habit of doing this every year.
3. Send out the year-end reporting package to board members, banks or investors as required.
4. Complete tax preparation activities. This includes everything from understanding your books to ensuring they're complete and your documentation is organized. Your efforts will pay dividends when you meet with your accountant at tax time.
5. Meet with your accountant. With an organized set of books in hand, you can use the time with your CPA to focus on growing your business.

Continuous monitoring and management of your finances will demonstrate to lenders and investors that you're responsible. In addition, the information you get will allow you to adjust quickly to changes in the business environment and to take advantage of situations that present themselves.

Proactive management will also save you time and money. More importantly, good bookkeeping habits will give you peace of mind from knowing your business is on track and taking you exactly where you want to go. If you're unable to manage your books efficiently, consider a bookkeeping service provider in your area.

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Supporting Strategies Named One of 'Top 200 Franchises'

Steve-Shultz-for-web.jpgWith hundreds of franchise brands in the United States, we were thrilled to see that Supporting Strategies ranked among the top 200 franchises in a new report by Franchise Business Review.

Franchise Business Review compiled its list by surveying "28,000 franchisees representing 339 franchise brands," according to a press release. "Franchisees who participated in the free survey were asked 33 benchmark questions about their experience and satisfaction regarding critical areas of their franchise systems including training & support, operations, franchisor/franchisee relations, and financial opportunity."

Supporting Strategies was one of 14 franchises listed in the Business Services category and the only one providing bookkeeping services. We began offering franchises in 2013 and now have 35 franchisees operating 50 locations.

"I'm really excited to be included in this list, and I'm happy that our franchisees are happy," said Leslie Jorgensen, Supporting Strategies Founder & CEO. "It's validation for all the hard work that our support team puts in every day to make our franchisees successful."

Among the many positive highlights of the Supporting Strategies survey results, Jorgensen noted two that were particularly gratifying:

  1. Core values: Our franchisees gave Supporting Strategies a 4.8 (out of 5) for core values. "That's great to see," Jorgensen said. "It speaks to how dedicated our corporate team is to the success of our franchisees, whether that means helping them hire a new associate, prepare for a call with a potential client or get a new client on-boarded and into their system. By doing all that tactical work, our core values really shine through."
  2. Work-life balance: 79% of our franchisees described their work-life balance at Supporting Strategies as "balanced" or "very balanced." "Since our inception 12 years ago, we've been all about providing accounting professionals with the flexibility to balance their work and home lives," Jorgensen said. "Now we're giving entrepreneurs the same opportunity to enjoy those benefits as owners of our franchises. They have great flexibility in determining their own schedule, work style and more."

Be sure to check out the Supporting Strategies survey results for yourself!

Bookkeeping Services Best Practices | Scheduling Monthly Bookkeeping Tasks

Andy-Hale.jpgWelcome back to our Bookkeeping Services Best Practices series. So far, we've covered best practices for scheduling daily and weekly/bi-weekly bookkeeping tasks. This time, we set our sights on monthly bookkeeping tasks.

Here's our list:

1. Download and reconcile cash and credit card accounts.
2. Run a trial balance to ensure that all of your debits and credits are in balance and that all entries have been posted in the correct ledgers.
3. Create and review reports. Most accounting packages have a set of canned reports that you can create with ease. Whether you're sending out a report or not, get into the habit of creating it and reviewing it monthly. Also, ask yourself tough questions such as: What do the numbers on my balance sheet tell me about my business' performance? Are cost projections in line with gross profit goals? Are my margins where they need to be?
4. Distribute a monthly reporting package to board members, banks or investors as required. The timely receipt of financials not only is a requirement in many cases, but also serves to instill confidence.

Next week, we'll conclude our Bookkeeping Services Best Practices series with a look at scheduling quarterly and annual bookkeeping tasks.

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Supporting Strategies Named One of Hubdoc's Top 50 Cloud Accountants of 2015

Hubdoc.pngSupporting Strategies is pleased to have made Hubdoc's list of the Top 50 Cloud Accountants of 2015. Calling Supporting Strategies "a powerhouse," the roundup recognizes "bright and inspiring accounting professionals" who lead in bringing cloud accounting services to small and medium-sized businesses.

We're especially proud about the shout-out because we're big fans of Hubdoc. Their document management technology, which we began using in January, has allowed us to super-charge our source document collection and processing. For our Associates, this streamlining means less time spent shuffling around electronic documents and more time adding value for clients.

Improving outdated processes is at the heart of what we strive to do for every client, so we're happy to have earned this recognition from a vendor that excels at it.  

Bookkeeping Services Best Practices | Scheduling Weekly/Bi-Weekly Bookkeeping Tasks

Andy-Hale.jpgLast week, we kicked off our Bookkeeping Services Best Practices series with a post on scheduling daily bookkeeping tasks. Now we'll shift our focus over to bookkeeping tasks that must take place on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

Here's our list:

1. Run a weekly cash-flow report to verify your data entries are complete and up-to-date.
2. Run accounts receivable aging reports to look for any overdue accounts receivable. Address any overdue balances by sending a reminder to the client or customer.
3. Review accounts payable to ensure all bills are paid on time, a necessary step to protect your business' reputation and credit rating.
4. Set up and run payroll. Making mistakes with payroll can be a huge liability. Make sure to hit your dates by having a game plan for collecting time cards, inputting data and running payroll.
5. Download bank activity into your books. Depending on your bank and your bookkeeping software, you might be able to have this information sync in real time. If not, do it every two weeks to stay current. Code/match all transactions. If you're unsure about any transactions, place them in a suspense account to review with your bookkeeping services provider at a later time.
  1. In next week's post, we'll cover bookkeeping services best practices for scheduling monthly bookkeeping tasks.

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Bookkeeping Services 101 | Managing March Madness

Elliot-Hershik-for-web.jpgTo most people in the U.S., “March Madness” refers to the NCAA Division 1 college basketball tournament. This has become one of the most widely watched sporting events in the world and many people rearrange their work and personal calendars in order to catch the games on TV. This year the games start on March 15th  – a  date that is significant for another type of March Madness as well.

The second type is the one bookkeeping services professionals see small business owners go through every year when it’s time to get their recordkeeping for the prior year up-to-dateAfter that, it’s time to pass the required information on to their tax preparer or bookkeeping services firm – most corporations must file their tax returns by March 15th.  Basically this is a whole year’s worth of recordkeeping tasks heaped on just a couple of weeks.  

This process repeats itself year after year and unfortunately, many business owners just see this as a cost of doing businessThe good news is that this process can be simplified by keeping track of this information on a timelier basis throughout the year and eliminating the panic and stress of doing it all at once.  Not only does this make for a calmer March, but having this information ready throughout the year can be used to gain an advantage in the marketplace.

More consistent recordkeeping will give you the opportunity to review product lines and determine which should be expanded and which might need to be closed down. Companies can also review their short and long-term cash needs. This gives them the chance to go to outside funding sources while there is still time to negotiate advantageous terms, long before the cash runs out.

Take this opportunity to remove yourself and your company from the stress of this March Tax Madness.  Start by approaching your bookkeeping services professional or CPA to see how you can get better organized throughout the year and eliminate this stressful period – leaving you more time this March to sit back and enjoy the tournament! 

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Being an Accidental Networker

Lori-Kunkel-for-web.jpgAs someone who runs a business providing bookkeeping services, networking is something I’ve always tried to prioritize, as it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me.  It’s not that I don’t like meeting new people and forming new connections.  But when those meetings happen in the highly contrived context of a networking event – I find myself unable to drum up small talk.

It seems to me that we should do away with this idea of networking altogether.  For one thing, it’s a little bit redundant as a concept.  Life is all about forming meaningful connections and building community.  This web of connections will be there for us when we’re looking for support, partnership, friends, clients, etc.  But while there are those naturally gregarious networkers out there, I think that many people, like me, find this idea of networking daunting.

Introverts, or anyone who might find themselves a bit shy at networking events, would be wise to watch Susan Cain’s TED talk on the “The Power of Introverts.”  Equally enlightening was her article “How to Learn to Love Networking.”  In that article she calls networking “a soulless, mechanistic word that encourages people to think of each other as instrumental cogs in a machine.”  Pretty extreme, but she has a point!

These days, I try to be an accidental networker.  It’s a small adjustment, but a crucial one.  At the networking events, as everyone around me spins about in a frenzy of business card distribution, I slow down.  At each introduction and in every conversation I try to imagine that we’re not here at a networking event, and rather I focus on having conversations that will be funny, enlightening, and deep.  As Susan Cain says, “we all want to connect at a deep level. The only question is, how do you find the magical portal to the deep stuff?”

The key is to be present, open and be curious.  If I find myself talking to someone in need of bookkeeping services, then the networking event has done its job.  But I remember to stay open.  The person in front of me doesn’t need to be a new client.  They might rather have something else to offer – like an amazing story or a great joke.  Who knows, they might even be another introvert like you and me – thankful to have found a pal.  

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Accounting Services 101 | How do Banks and Lenders View Business Owner Notes and Should They Appear on Balance Sheets

John-Gleason-for-web.jpgAs a provider of accounting services, I’m often approached by business owners who are unsure of how to represent owner notes and loans on their balance sheets. They may also be concerned about how to represent such notes to potential lenders and buyers. The issue of business owners and how they relate to their business’ finances is complex, so it is always best to confer with your accounting services professionals to make sure that these transactions and loans will not appear unsightly to lenders and investors.

There’s also the issue of money loaned to the company. For nearly all the business owners I work with, supporting their new enterprise is their number one priority, and if that’s true for you as well you have probably poured a lot of time and money into the cause, without expecting to get it back in the short term.

Notes or loans payable to officers or owners represent money which these businesspeople have put into the business. Sometimes, for tax purposes, owners may put additional money into a company without increasing their equity share in the business. The return on investment to the owners through interest paid by the company would then be paid as tax deductible interest expense rather than as non-tax deductible dividends to the owners.

These notes payable to officers are often looked at hypercritically by potential buyers of businesses. They will want to see the paper trail and usually will not be enthused about the idea of paying for this debt. For this reason, timing is crucial when considering loaning money to your firm, and it’s always advisable to get the input of your accounting services team before doing so.

When a small business borrows from a bank, officer loans are typically put on standby. The officer loans will “ come behind” the bank debt (they will be subordinated) and the loan will be considered as equity by the bank. Notes receivable from an officer are considered a bad sign by banks while notes payable to the officer are considered to be a positive.

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Ohio State’s New Plan For an Innovation District

Georgean-Schmidt-for-web.jpg“Location, location, location” is not only the rule of real estate, but very often the rule of business as well.  This is of not just true of businesses that rely on foot traffic and walk-ins, but all businesses.  More and more large companies are rediscovering the importance of finding the right neighborhood for their offices, and many, it seems – are choosing innovation districts.  It’s a relatively new concept in urban planning and refers to a symbiotic mixing of university research facilities and businesses.  It’s an arrangement that’s increasingly common at research facilities in big cities across the country, and in the case of MIT in Cambridge, has proven very successful.

As a provider of bookkeeping services in Columbus Ohio, I was excited to read in Bizjournals.com that Ohio State is taking steps to transform parts of it’s campus into a new innovation center.  This kind of investment can be pricey, but has shown to pay off in transforming the local real estate market and drawing in respectable tech companies.  In the case of MIT’s Innovation District –  Google, Amazon and Microsoft have joined the ranks as Cambridge residents.  

Many of the business owners who have come to me for bookkeeping services have begun to rediscover the benefit of geographic industry clustering – something our entrepreneurial forebears understood in the past.  In the case of an innovation district, however, it’s not just that businesses benefit from one another, but also from the resources and partnership of the research university.  

Steps are already being taken to renovate Ohio State’s West Campus.  Right now the West Campus is largely dominated by small buildings and big parking lots, as well as farmland.  Keith Myers, Ohio State’s associate vice president of physical planning and real estate, has assured that the farmland will mostly be preserved, while other features of the campus will make room for the infrastructure of the district, including transportation, housing, and green spaces.

Perhaps the most exciting feature of all is the way in which Innovation Districts encourage students and enable them to start businesses.  While these districts are designed to attract the big players like Google, they’re not a success unless they have space for new growth as well.  As someone who provides bookkeeping services to new and growing businesses, this seems like a wonderful allocation of resources for the University to make for its students.  

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Bookkeeping Services Best Practices | Scheduling Daily Bookkeeping Tasks


Andy-Hale-for-Web-2.jpgAdhering to timely bookkeeping practices is critical to managing a business.

Besides having the peace of mind that comes from knowing your books are up-to-date, you'll enjoy the confidence of making good decisions based on relevant data. Scheduled correctly, bookkeeping also allows you to drive your business proactively, looking ahead into the horizon rather than backwards out the rear window.To keep your bookkeeping in order — and avoid problems that might otherwise fester — you need to schedule recurring tasks and then complete them accordingly. In this blog series, Bookkeeping Services Best Practices, we'll review the daily, weekly/bi-weekly, monthly and quarterly/annual bookkeeping tasks that must be completed so that your business runs like a well-oiled machine.

Let's start with the tasks that should be done daily …

  1. Input business transactions as they occur into the general ledger. Doing so mitigates the chances that transactions will be omitted and creates a financial history of your business activity. This audit trail of activities will come in handy if you're ever called upon to explain your company's finances.
  2. Invoice your customers/clients as soon as the sale or service is completed to improve cash flow and reduce the chance that invoicing is forgotten or delayed.
  3. Make cash deposits daily to improve cash flow and reduce the chance that funds are lost or delayed in getting to the bank. Make sure to record deposits in the proper journal section.
  4. Review bank balances and run a daily cash-flow report to review where you stand and ensure day-to-day operations won't be impacted. Make adjustments as necessary.
  5. Back up your financial files. If you're using a cloud-based solution like QuickBooks Online, you're already covered. If not, make sure you back up your data daily.

Keep an eye out for next week's post, where we'll highlight bookkeeping services best practices for scheduling weekly and bi-weekly bookkeeping tasks.


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4 Tax Related Mistakes to Avoid and How Outsourced Bookkeeping Services can Help

Dawn-Hershik-for-web.jpgLet’s face it – most people, whether business owners or not, dread dealing with taxes. However, it is something that is unavoidable and needs to be dealt with in a timely manner or you run the risk of serious consequences. Listed below are four very important things to watch for when thinking about taxes. The bottom line, if you struggle in any of these areas, it’s worth it to seek help from a bookkeeping services pro.
  1. Failure to file –Whatever the reason, this is never a good idea. If you haven’t kept your books up-to-date throughout the year you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of getting everything organized for your tax preparer.  Most business owners believe they can handle the bookkeeping work themselves – how hard can it be? Even if the bookkeeping is fairly simple it’s usually not a priority in the mind of a busy owner. Chances are, after spending 12+ hours a day working on their business they don’t have the energy or inclination to work on the bookkeeping. By outsourcing the bookkeeping services everything will be up-to-date and readily available for the tax preparer – saving time and expense.

  2. Not Filing for an Extension – If you don’t have everything ready to file your taxes by the normal deadline your tax professional can file an extension for you. This will allow you some extra time but don’t wait to get things in order. In most cases, hiring a bookkeeping services company to get your receipts out of the shoebox and into an organized system will be more cost effective then having your tax preparer do it. If you do have to file an extension get help as soon as you know this is what’s happening. Waiting will keep you in the same spot you’re in now and possibly lead to penalties and more taxes if you miss the extension filing deadline. 

  3. Waiting Until the New Year to get started – Most people procrastinate about things they don’t enjoy doing and bookkeeping and taxes are high on that list. Waiting to get your books up-to-date in order to have your taxes prepared will cause a domino effect and in some cases more taxes and penalties that can be avoided. Employing a bookkeeping services firm early on will ensure you some peace of mind and you’ll be able to do some intelligent planning before the end of the year that may help you in the next year.

  4. Keeping meager records – Of course an outsourced bookkeeping service can help you keep better records, like keeping track of itemized receipts to explain those charges on the credit card statement. A good service will also recommend efficiencies for the business that you may be too busy to research on your own. Having the business run more smoothly and efficiently will save valuable time and money.

Avoiding tax filings will catch up with you eventually so it’s important to stay on top of your record keeping to ensure you can get this task done on time. That may mean hiring someone to do the bookkeeping for you. Spending money on a bookkeeping service now can save you big money in the long run.

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Bookkeeping Services 101 | Understanding Off Balance Sheet Financing

John-Gleason-for-web.jpgMany of the clients who come to me for bookkeeping services ask me about Off Balance Sheet Financing.  What is it?  Why use it?  How does it work? The answer to the question, “What is it?” is deceptively simple.  Off Balance Sheet Financing is financing that will not appear as a liability on your balance sheet.  The answer to the other questions, however, is a little more complex.

Off Balance Sheet (OBS) Financing can be a desirable strategy for many businesses that don’t want their balance sheet to reflect an overly high debt-to-equity ratio.  That sort of thing will scare off investors.  But the use of OBS Financing is limited to certain contexts to protect those investors and make sure that they’re not missing out on information that they need to know.  You should check in with your bookkeeping services providers to find out exactly which uses of OBS Financing are allowable under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).  

Common uses for OBS Financing are Partnerships and Operating Leases.  Let’s start with Partnerships.  When a company is part of a partnership, it is not obliged to show the partner company’s liabilities on it’s own balance sheet.

Using OBS for Partnerships is a common practice.  It also happens to have been Enron’s infamous strategy for concealing its liabilities.  This is another reason why you want to work closely with your bookkeeping services providers when it comes to OBS Financing to make sure you’re staying well within the boundaries of acceptable and ethical practices.

OBS Financing is also widely used for Operating Leases.  If your company is in need of a car or another piece of equipment, you have the choice of leasing or renting (and then buying at the end of the lease period) or buying outright.  Both situations have the same result, which is you owning this equipment, but arrive at this point in different ways that will be reflected in the books differently.  With an operating lease, you can record only the rental expense and not the full cost.  If you were to buy the equipment outright you would be obliged to record the asset (your new equipment) and the liability (it’s price) on your balance sheet.  Going the path of the Operating Lease, then, will show much less liability on your balance sheet than buying outright.

If you’re looking to clean up your balance sheet for potential lenders, OBS Financing, accurately practiced, can be a great option to reduce your debt-to-equity ratio.  Additionally, it can be important when seeking additional funding as your previous funding may have involved a lender covenant specifying that your leverage ratios remain at a certain point.  Go to your bookkeeping services providers to get even more details on how it can work in the specific context of your own company.

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Supporting Strategies Expands to Portland, Ore.

Harlan Gleeson Becomes Managing Director of New Franchise

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgSupporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, in Portland, Ore.

Harlan Gleeson, Portland Franchisee and Managing Director, is a business leader and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in technology, asset management, human resources and sales leadership. Between 1994 and 2015, he founded, grew and sold a Los Angeles-based technology

sales company, Kingsley Computers.

"Portland is a vibrant, emerging market for tech startups and a hot bed of activity for creativity and forward thinkers," Gleeson said. "Supporting Strategies is a perfect fit for me because it allows me to engage my passion to help businesses succeed. By providing a cost-effective, technologically savvy, dependable bookkeeping solution, we give our clients — small and growing businesses — a leg up on real success."

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like Gleeson are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned accounting professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, Vice President of Franchise Development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If you are with a business in the Portland area and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Harlan Gleeson at hgleeson@supportingstrategies.com or 323-244-9299.

Bookkeeping Services 101:  Speeding Up and Staying Organized with Customer Management

christi-todd-for-web-square.jpgAs a bookkeeping services professional, I’m always looking for that balance between streamlining processes and keeping good controls.  Being highly efficient and accurate is the name of the game when it comes to bookkeeping services – and you don’t want one to come at the expense of the other.  If you’re like me and looking for ways to optimize your bookkeeping efficiency without losing that attention to detail, here are some great tips from a great book, Just-In-Time Accounting, by Steven Bragg:

1.  Preapprove Customer Credit: This is a simple way to be proactive and efficient.  Have your credit team review the credit of potential customers before your sales team ever makes the first call.  This way, by the time that call is made, the customer already has an assigned credit rating.

2. Review Your Customers’ Credit More Than Once: I recommend doing this two or three times a year.  Your customers' financial situation may be in flux – and you’ll avert potential issues if you keep an eye on their credit and stay ready to eliminate credit if need be.

3.  Don’t Delay Your Invoicing: I’ll never understand why so many professionals who deliver their products and services with such great consistency and efficiency are so disorganized when it comes to invoicing.  This is your moment to get paid!  And no one is going to remind you to do it but you.  That’s why you should deliver the invoice at the same time the product is delivered and just get it over and done with right away.  Make this part of your product delivery protocol.

4.  Call on Your Customers' AP Departments: Now that you’ve sent your invoice, don’t forget about it.  Make a follow-up call to the AP department as part of your routine to make sure that the invoice has been received and approved.

5.  Match Payments Against Accounts Receivable…Now:  Like invoicing, updating your Accounts Receivable is best to do at one specific time: right away!  If you just got a payment, match in A/R right now.  Don’t delay!

6. Forgo Sending Those Month-End Statements: this takes up valuable time, which would be better spent making collection calls.

Of course, there are countless strategies that bookkeeping services professionals use to streamline business-as-usual.  Those are just some of my favorites, but you should consult with your own bookkeeping services team to hear theirs.

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Bookkeeping Services | A Bookkeeper's Guide to Payroll

John-Gleason-for-web.jpgWhen looking to outsource, payroll services are usually one of the first operations that business owners send out-of-house. This is no surprise. If you’re not an experienced accountant who knows all the ins and outs of the tax code, doing your own payroll can become a nightmare, and hiring a fulltime in-house employee to do it is simply not an option or a necessity for many small businesses. As a bookkeeping services provider, my clients often come to me asking just what they should be looking for in a payroll services provider. Here’s a few things I tell them to keep in mind:

Know What Services to Look For
Your first job as an informed consumer when shopping for payroll services is to understand exactly what payroll services are. There are a lot of great online and cloud-based payroll services out there and it can be hard to keep all the details straight. Make sure that any option you’re considering can handle all basic operations like:

Paying all employees and contractors via paycheck or direct deposit.
Tracking paid time off (PTO) as well as sick days and vacation days for all employees.
File payroll taxes
Process earning and deductions such as reimbursements, commissions, tips, garnishments and bonuses
Deduct for 401(k), as well as FSA, HSA and IRA contributions.

Know What It All Costs
Most outsourced payroll firms offer their services for a fixed subscription fee, with a small fee added (generally $1- $5) per month, per employee. These fees can range in size from $15 to more than two hundred/month. This will of course depend on how big your business is and what kind of services you need. Discuss options with your bookkeeping services provider to get some perspective on which payroll firms offer the best value for your money.

Make Sure it Works for You
Most online payroll services will offer a free trial online. This is a great chance to see if their interface and services work for you. When you get set up with an account, go to their website and add employees. This is an interface you will be dealing with a lot so you want to make sure that it’s user-friendly, functional and compatible with you. Your employees also should be able to access personal portals to check on their PTO and see time stubs. Also, make sure you test-drive their customer service. There’s nothing better than having fast, efficient and reliable customer service when you need it.

Ask About Taxes
Tax services that should be handled by payroll include process employee W-2 forms and end of year 1099 forms. This should come standard and any company that tries to charge extra for tax compliance services pertaining to payroll are probably not the best option for your business.

Scalability
Like your bookkeeping services, you should make sure that your payroll services can be scaled easily and effectively. They may be the right fit for your company today, but will they be the right fit for you in a year? Ask about how they would handle scaling up your services over time, and what it would cost to grow with them?

Security
Now this is one that really can’t be overstated. Your payroll services providers, like your bookkeeping services providers, will be handling important and private financial information regarding your business and your employees. Data security is highly important in situations like this. Before signing on ask about how many layers of security they have for online information, as well as what kind of security is offered at data centers.


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Supporting Strategies Selects Tallie as Preferred Expense Reporting Tool

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgWe at Supporting Strategies like to keep our clients on the cutting edge of cloud accounting tools  Tallie is a great example of such a tool, as it allows our clients' employees to efficiently report their expenses, seamlessly integrates with the business' accounting systems, and provides instant collaboration between the employees, their managers, and with us, the business' outsourced accounting services team.  For these reasons, we have recently selected Tallie as our preferred expense reporting option for our clients.  

Expensing reporting can obviously be a pain.  Many know the heartache of not being able to find a receipt or flat out procrastinating an expense report until it’s forgotten or simply too late to submit.  Luckily, with Tallie, the expense reporting process is made simple and painless.  By using the app you can snap photos of receipts on the go, directly import credit card transactions, track mileage and submit expense reports directly for approval and processing.  Tallie's solution is a win-win-win as it allows ease of use and real-time data access for business' employees, their managers, and their accounting services team.  We are excited to add Tallie to our cloud accounting tools toolkit!

Bookkeeping Services 101 | Crucial Financial Reports for Your New and Growing Business

John-Gleason-for-web.jpgIn my perspective as a bookkeeping services provider, when it comes to getting your new business up and running, organization and proper reporting are key. A lot of my clients, when they’re just getting started, are focused on other new business priorities like staffing, training, and marketing. But keeping an eye on the numbers will keep you connected to what’s going on with your business, and will become your greatest tool for maximizing growth as you move forward.

So where do you look for the numbers? There are many ways to examine your business and you should consult with your bookkeeping services provider about the reports that will be most important to you. That said, there are three main reports that will be crucial whether you are selling shoe polish or operating a traveling circus: these are your income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement.

1. Income Statement
Your income statement will show you your business’ earned revenue, expenses, and profits over a fixed period. Basically, this document tells you if you’re making money or losing it – definitely something you want to be aware of. At the very least, you should be going over your Income Statement every month with your bookkeeping services team.

2. Balance Sheet
The Balance Sheet will show you your business’ liabilities, assets, and capital on a specific date. This can be a very important document for sharing with potential investors, as it reveals what your company actually owns, and what your company owes as well. Check in with your balance sheet on a monthly basis at the least.


3. Cash-Flow Statement
The Cash-Flow Statement is of particular importance for small, newly started and growing enterprises, as these are the businesses that might have the most trouble getting their hands on the cash they need. You’d be well served by taking a good look at your cash-flow statement on a monthly basis. Unlike your income statement (which will show you revenues even when they have yet to be collected) your cash flow statement lets you know how much cash you have, in actuality, at your business’ disposal.


4. And the Rest
The above are the three main financial reports to look at, but there are many ways to examine a business. It may be an analysis of the percentage of new leads that become clients, or a look at how your clients are finding you (by word of mouth? By internet search? Through your advertisements?) Your bookkeeping services provider can help you come up with a strategy, figuring out which metrics will be relevant for you to examine and preparing them for you.


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Should I Use Cloud-Based Accounting Services or an Offline Accounting Service?

img-mark-wald.jpgIn an online discussion forum I participate in, a startup founder recently posed this question, “I'm an early stage startup with minimal, but growing, accounting needs. Should I pursue an agreement with a cloud service, or an offline accounting firm using QuickBooks?  Tangentially, my goal is to be seeking venture capital funding within the next 12 months, and I'm wondering if VC's have any preference?”

Most responses from the community included recommendations for a variety of desktop and cloud accounting software and referrals to a handful of accounting services providers. But the most thoughtful and valuable response came from a fellow entrepreneur.  Here’s a summary of what he said (link to the original discussion to follow):

  • 80 out of 100 CEOs interviewed (by an accomplished business book author) from public and large private companies said that “getting an expert business finance advisor” was the first really great business decision they ever made. You don’t get expert financial advice from cloud services. You get that from qualified, experienced people.
  • VCs invest in the founder and what you’ve accomplished—investors don’t care whatsoever which accounting services platform you use to manage your books.

What excellent advice! Sure, if you run a very small professional services business with simple fee revenue and basic expenses you may have your basic bookkeeping needs met by a cloud accounting platform that mostly automates your expense categorizations well enough that your tax preparer can easily complete your tax return. But if you have plans to scale beyond the garage office and are building a business with any measure of complexity, skip past the allure of an all-in-one automated cloud accounting service and find a professional business finance advisor with real management accounting expertise.

Management Accountants understand the essentials of business operations and focus on running the business most effectively through the intelligent use of management reporting.  Remember, the software itself is largely irrelevant—what’s important is who you have on your accounting services team and how they’re aligning your selected tools and business processes to generate meaningful, timely reports that help you run your business. 

Here’s a link to the discussion thread that inspired my blog post.

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Bookkeeping Services | How Sharp is Your Axe?

Jeff-Orchard-for-web-2.jpgAbraham Lincoln has been credited with the following quote: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Regardless of the context, the premise holds true, especially in business.  To a business owner, the tool isn’t an axe but can include technology, people, capital, knowledge, experience, and yes… actual tools. I find that many of my clients have very valuable tools at their disposal, but they often aren’t as sharp as they should be or they aren’t being used correctly.  Based on my experience providing bookkeeping services for small businesses, I’ve seen three ways that tools are being underutilized.  Here’s what they are and how to avoid it.

1.  Even the Greatest Hammer Won’t Cut Down a Tree
You’ve got to put your tools to the right use, otherwise they’re useless.  I often see this kind of misallocation when it comes to a company’s people.  Your team is your most valuable asset.  Take the time to hire the right people for each job, and make sure your employees are given the freedom to focus on their areas of expertise.  Don’t slough off the bookkeeping services onto the office manager, for example.  When each task is handled by someone competent, trained and enthusiastic – morale and efficiency skyrocket.  

2.  You Don’t Know Which Axe to Buy
Sometimes our tools are software solutions or outsourced firms that provide us with payroll or bookkeeping services.  These kinds of services can be a boon to your business, bringing it valuable outsider experience and great new technologies.  But you won’t get to benefit if you don’t know what you’re looking for.  As a provider of bookkeeping services, I often see clients struggle to decide between QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Desktop.  They also may be overwhelmed in the search for the right Payroll Services Firm.  Because of this, it becomes incredibly important to become an informed buyer.  Read reviews online, speak to other business owners about their choices, and call in your trusted advisors, be they your bookkeeping services team, your grandma, or any other consultant you confer with.

3.  Your Axe Isn’t Sharp
This is the issue Honest Abe was focused on, and I think it’s especially important to consider here.  How do we make sure our axe is sharp in business?  Well, first off one needs to realize that there’s more than one axe that needs sharpening.  To succeed in your business means putting in consistent effort, and not growing complacent.  Evolve your training processes as your business grows.  Help your employees grow and develop within the organization.  Review how operations are carried out and ask yourself if something needs to be updated.  And remember that your most valuable tool is yourself -so keep yourself sharp!

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Bookkeeping Services | Understanding and Mitigating Business Risk

Georgean-Schmidt-for-web.jpgBuying a business, or investing in one, can be risky. What are these risks? Of course some of them are physical. Could the buildings be damaged by fire? Is there a manufacturing process associated with serious financial liabilities? There are technological risks as well. How secure is a business’ data and what’s the back-up plan for when the system is down? In addition to this there are the business risks. Will consumer trends change in a way that’s favorable or unfavorable to the business? Will people be interested in this product/service at all?

If you’re in the position of selling your business or trying to interest investors in your enterprise, you need to be considering these risks before they do. Any investor or buyer is going to want to know just what kind of risk they’re buying into, and you should know what kind of risk you’re selling so that you can address all concerns comprehensively.

When putting together a business’ risk profile, it’s important to consult with management as well as owners. Not only this, but bring in your most trusted external advisors like your bookkeeping services professionals and legal advisors.

Go through your operations with a fine-tooth comb and compile potential risk factors (physical, occupational, and business) that will be of interest to investors. After you’ve put together a full list with the insight of your management, bookkeeping services providers and lawyers, it’s time to rank your risk factors.

This will be done by considering the seriousness of each risk against its likelihood. Your offices being hit by a meteor from outer space would garner a high grade on the seriousness matrix, but a low grade on likelihood. According to bizjournals.com, each risk factor should be scored (with two grades, each between 1 and 5) for both it’s severity and it’s likelihood. These two scores should then be multiplied together to provide a general risk score between 1 and 25. High priority will go to risks that rank high in both categories.

Afterwards, discuss with your bookkeeping services professionals and your other advisors, how you can best mitigate these risks, allotting resources to each risk based on its ranking.

Remember, no wise buyer or investor is expecting your business to be risk free. As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained. But showing your investors that you understand the risks, have ranked them, and have done all you can to mitigate them will build their confidence in you and your business.


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Bookkeeping Services 101 | Using QuickBooks Online For Inventory Management

John-Gleason-for-web.jpgIf you have an inventory intensive business, managing your inventory can become a major component of managing your business’ finances. It’s no surprise that many business owners turn to their bookkeeping services provider for guidance in this area.

Your inventory may represent your business’ ability to generate revenue, and thus should be managed tightly. That means organization, accountability, and consistency. I’ve seen businesses with mismanaged inventory before and I always urge those clients to consider what it would be like if they treated their cash the same way they treated their inventory – storing piles of cash all over the place and failing to note where they’re kept, never jotting down just how much money there is, and forgetting to track exactly when it comes in and when it goes out of the storeroom!

I tend to recommend using clear and consistent labeling systems, short and unambiguous item numbers, units of measure, a great and accurate starting count, and a super software that tracks all your inventory’s comings and goings. I generally advise my clients to turn to QuickBooks Online. For one thing, it’s software most of us are already familiar with, and it has a great inventory management feature. While QuickBooks has, in the past, been focused on “service” oriented businesses, it has recently upped its game on inventory services. New features allow you to create inventory lists with images, enter into an SKU field, track quantity, and easily adjust the value of inventory. It seems that new inventory-based features are being added regularly. For more complex inventory management needs, there are a host of cloud-based inventory apps that integrate seamlessly with QuickBooks Online, such as Exact Online, Salespad, and Unleashed.

As a bookkeeping services provider, I highly recommend this solution as QuickBooks Online provides an inexpensive, highly accessible, and user-friendly accounting package, while providing options for inventory management from the most simple to the most complex. This allows your business to stay on top of your business' inventory from start-up and as you grow.

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Bookkeeping Services | When, What, and How to Outsource

Georgean-Schmidt-for-web.jpgIf you’re considering outsourcing certain operations within your business, chances are your first question is “why?” For many business owners, even after they’ve settled the “why” question, are at a loss on how to go about it. The “when,” “what,” and “how” questions still remain.

When to Outsource
Many business owners who are just starting out think of outsourcing as an option for some time later down the line. This makes sense. You’re a new business and operations are still pretty small. But while this may mean that you can handle most daily tasks in-house, you could still benefit (and save valuable time and money) by sending out certain functions. This will lighten your financial burden, as you won’t need to hire new fulltime staff. The truth is that there is no right answer to the “when” question. Outsourcing can be beneficial at any stage in your business’ life – it’s just a matter of scale and priorities. A more developed enterprise with tons of growth and new business coming in may find that even simple daily tasks - data entry and taking calls – are best handled by outsourced talent.

What to Outsource
Let’s start the question by asking what not to outsource? The answer to this is intuitive – whatever is core to your business should stay in house. Whatever falls under your expertise should stay in house. Operations which are not core, or which are repetitive, or which are distant from your own expertise – these are the operations to outsource. Bookkeeping services, payroll, IT, and data entry are all examples of commonly exported operations. This is because they are not core operations (unless you are yourself running a bookkeeping services, payroll, IT, or data entry firm). Also, many small businesses simply do not have the resources or, quite frankly, any need to have a full time employee in-house for each one of these tasks. To do so, in many cases, would be like buying a home with four extra rooms to house an on-call plumber, electrician, carpenter, and cleaning person. You may need to hire those professionals from time to time, but hardly need them on-call twenty-four hours a day. In addition, outsourcing is a great way to bring experts into your team. When looking at what to outsource, ask yourself where you could benefit from an expert. For example, a bookkeeping services firm will offer expert financial analysis.

How to Outsource
Even though any outsourced firms you work with are not “employees” of yours, per se, they do become part of your team. This means you should choose them as carefully and wisely as you do your employees. Ask others in your local business community who they have chosen to handle their IT and payroll. Read reviews online. And also trust your gut. The cheapest option might not be the best. For example, your bookkeeping services providers are paid to save you money. Going with the cheapest may seem like a way to cut corners, but a quality service will be much more valuable in the long run.

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Supporting Strategies Expands to Fall River, Mass.

Scott Severance Becomes Managing Director of New Franchise

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-web.jpgSupporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, in Fall River, Mass.

Scott Severance, Fall River Franchisee and Managing Director, is a dynamic technology specialist, project manager, and finance and accounting professional who excels in helping clients improve processes through systems and technology. He brings experience managing diverse teams and complex projects across a range of industries, with particular expertise in healthcare.

"As an IT professional and a small business owner, I am very excited by the Supporting Strategies business model," Severance said. "I feel that it brings incredible value to small and medium-sized businesses. I am very happy to work with business owners in my community and to offer operational support so that they can focus on what they do best."

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like Severance are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned accounting professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, Vice President of Franchise Development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If you are with a business in the Fall River area and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Scott Severance at sseverance@supportingstrategies.com or 508-278-1787.

Bookkeeping Best Practices | Resolutions for 2016

Andy-Hale-for-Web-2.jpgI love the idea of New Years. What I like most is that it provides all of us an opportunity to look back at how things have been going (the good and the bad) as well as an opportunity to look forward to make changes to our trajectory by setting new goals. Each year I try to figure out changes I need to make to be happier, healthier, and more financially sound. I assume you do the same. Heck, there are even lists available of the top New Year’s Resolution ideas and how to achieve them should you need some assistance with personal resolutions.

The same holds true for businesses. New Years is a time to set new goals with aspirations of making your business happier, healthier, and more financially sound. As the Managing Director of a bookkeeping services company, I regularly talk to people about their personal and business resolutions. What’s most amazing is that our personal resolutions are often tied to our business resolutions. Getting your business finances organized not only helps your business’ bottom line, but will also help you to personally earn more money, spend more time with family, and reduce stress. Here is a four-step plan to help you assess and organize your business finances and hopefully knock out a few of the personal resolutions at the same time.

  1. Assess your current state.
    Take a few minutes and ask yourself the following questions: Are your books in good order? Are you keeping them up to date? Are you spending more time than you should on accounting and bookkeeping activities? Can you handle this alone or will you need help from a professional bookkeeping services provider? It is necessary to understand these before any changes can be put into action.

  2. Develop a plan to get back on track.
    Set a goal to keep your books current starting right away. Make sure to also add in time each month to get caught up on any bookkeeping that might not have occurred in the past. When you are behind, it's easy to postpone current bookkeeping while you are catching up on past bookkeeping. This is a mistake! If you wait until last year's books are done, you will be in the same position next year.

  3. Get organized.
    This can include everything from cleaning up your desk to making sure that you are using the most efficient tools. Develop an organized system to manage your documents electronically rather than getting buried in paper. Cloud-based accounting applications that you can access from any location will also help to maintain a work/file balance. A great list of these tools can be found here.

  4. Ask for Help
    If you are not good at bookkeeping, get help. If you don't have time to do the bookkeeping, get help. If the idea of looking at the bookkeeping makes you panic, get help! Reach out to your trusted advisors (CPA, Banker, etc.) and ask them who they know. I recommend you research at least two or three professionals, look at their backgrounds and choose the one you feel most compatible with. Don't just choose the cheapest option. FYI, most accountants and bookkeeping service providers will assess your books for free, and just the process of talking about your situation will make you sleep better at night.

Whichever way you go, getting your business finances in order will likely cost less than you realize, and the benefits are likely to be much greater than you imagine. Here’s to being happier, healthier and more financially sound in 2016. CHEERS!!!

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Four Business Challenges and how Outsourced Bookkeeping Services Can Help

Dawn-Hershik-for-web.jpgThere are common challenges that business owners face, regardless of the size of business. See below for ways that outsourcing your bookkeeping services can address some of these challenges.

1. Revenue Growth – Having worked with so many small business owners, I know that revenue is a top concern. Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for years, growing revenue will always be a priority. This is why you can benefit from having objective, expert financial advisors at your disposal. A good bookkeeping services provider will be able to do more than just the books. The data presented will allow you to analyze potential opportunities with existing clients and advise on new revenue streams.

2. Hiring Employees – Hiring and retaining good employees is key to any business' success. By outsourcing certain functions, such as bookkeeping services, you can lighten your employee management load, while still enjoying top talent through the outsourcing model. Using an outsourced bookkeeping services provider will likely save you money overall, as you are not paying for added costs such as payroll taxes, benefits and overhead expenses for your bookkeeping function.

3. Cash Flow – Understanding and controlling cash flow is an extremely important function for managing any type of company, but especially for companies that do a lot of seasonal work. Having a dedicated bookkeeping services team will allow you to analyze trends in the business and recommend best practices to smooth out cash flow, and can also focus in and manage collection efforts with your customers.

4. Raising Capital/Funding – Any funding source will want to know how healthy a company is before even thinking about offering money to a business. Being able to provide up-to-date books and audit-ready financial statements will help businesses secure capital. You’ll always have detailed and orderly information to show potential bankers and investors.

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Accounting Services 101 | Top Ten Small Business Blogs of 2015

Pete-Denholm-for-web-square.jpgThe business world is best navigated with a mentor. While it’s important to learn how to follow your inner compass, having a network of advice givers and sounding boards is always a boon to an entrepreneur. I suggest that small business owners make mentors wherever they can find. This can be your father, mother, accounting services provider, or even a beloved podcaster.

Speaking for myself, nothing gets me so motivated to start my morning workout routine as knowing I can pop in my headphones and listen in to Chris Drucker’s podcast “YOUPRENEUR.” I always finish my workout with fresh insights for my clients as well as for myself to be applied in my practice of accounting services. I love his openness and frank attitude when he gives advice to entrepreneurs – especially when that’s exactly what so many business owners are looking for.

As a provider of accounting services, many of my clients are business owners hungry for tips, news and wisdom. I’m quick to recommend Drucker’s podcast itself, but also the selections from his annual list of the “Top 10 Best Small Business Blogs for Entrepreneurs.

Here are a few of his notable 2015 picks:

1. Chris Brogan’s Blog
Chris Brogan is the only repeat appearance from Drucker’s 2014 list, which isn’t surprising. His blog’s sensible, inspiring and human approach to business is a great read for any business owner.

2. Smart Passive Income
If the title hasn’t convinced you already, check out Pat’s blog where he shares tips from his years spent as “the crash test dummy of online business.” He’s a self-proclaimed expert (from hard won experience) on “what works and what doesn’t” and delivers up usable tips on how to make your business work for you.

3. Amy Porterfield
Anyone navigating the changing world of social media marketing should turn to Amy Porterfield’s blog for guidance. With entries about building a successful webinar and creating more finely targeted ads for Facebook, she’s a number one source of wisdom on online marketing strategy.

4. Duct Tape Marketing
John Jantsch, creator of the “Duct Tape Marketing System,” has been dubbed “the world’s most practical small business expert.” His approach is simple and clear and his goal is to dispel the notion that marketing strategy is a labyrinth too complex for us mere mortals to navigate. Check out his blog for no-nonsense advice on how to tell your company’s story, create content and market yourself more successfully.

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Accounting Services 101 | What’s the True Cost of a New Employee?

img-mark-wald.jpgAs an employer, the true cost to hire an employee is more than just the wage or salary you offer them. When we build budgets & forecasts for our clients, the additional costs we consider are primarily employer payroll taxes, insurance, and employee benefits. Here are some tips to help entrepreneurs and small business owners budget for the total cost of adding staff:

Employer Payroll Taxes:
Employer payroll taxes are broken down into multiple categories, each with their own tax calculation rates and caps per employee. Estimating 9 or 10% of total wages is a good general rule of thumb for high-level forecasting, but in reality the employer payroll taxes for each employee can vary significantly depending on their individual earnings in each tax year. For example, the combined total employer payroll tax expense for California businesses start at over 12% of gross wages for new hires but then quickly decreases (after the first $7k of compensation per employee) to an average of around 8.5% for an employee earning $50k annual salary. Combined employer payroll taxes can get as low as around 6% of gross wages for employees earning close to $200k but then shoot up almost a full percentage point on an individual employee's earnings in excess of $200k in one year. At the bottom of this post is a nice infographic that summarizes employer payroll costs for CA employers.

Workers Compensation Insurance:
Most businesses with 5 or more employees need to budget for workers compensation Insurance, the cost of which can vary significantly based on the physical risks that individual employees face in their work environment--insuring workers in manufacturing facilities will cost more than clerical office environments, for example. As with any business liability insurance coverage, it is important to balance the coverage limits and exclusions with the premium costs. Plan on $500-$2k for the first year, depending on various factors.

Employee Benefits:
Medical and other fringe benefits are currently optional for small businesses (fewer than 50 employees) but offering these benefits may be an effective part of a small business' talent acquisition strategy and may not necessarily be as expensive as you might expect. Plan on $100-$1k per employee per month, depending on how generous you want your benefits plan to be and what the demographics are of your covered staff.

At Supporting Strategies, we have experienced accounting professionals who understand these costs from a strategic and a tactical perspective. We routinely review what our clients pay for insurance and benefits in case there appears to be an opportunity for significant savings. And we have the experience and skills required to accurately forecast employer expenses to help our clients budget for growth without any surprise costs.

If you have questions about this or any other topic related to business accounting, feel free to contact me directly at 310-625-6262 or mwald@supportingstrategies.com. Check out the infographic here

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Accounting Services 101| The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Deducting Entertainment Expenses

Scott-Severance-for-web.jpgAll small business owners know that entertainment expenses are a part of doing business. We take clients out to lunch, participate in charity golf tournaments, and try to catch a ball game every now and then. While these may seem like basic business activities, deducting these expenses can be a bit tricky. As an accounting services professional, I frequently get asked to clarify the rules around these expenses, so here’s the basic rundown on the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to entertainment deductions.

The good part of this discussion is that a 50% deduction on entertainment expenses is allowed by the IRS if a specific business agenda is conducted. Of course, documentation is required. The documentation should include the amount, date/time, place, business purpose, and the names of guests and their business relationship. It is often recommended to keep a journal or diary to capture the details of these events in addition to the credit card receipt.

More good news is that tickets to a sporting event that benefits a charitable organization can be deducted for the full price of the tickets. That means the charity golf tournament tickets are deductible. If you decide to give the charity golf tournament tickets to a client as a gift, you have the option to treat the deduction as entertainment or as a gift, whichever is to your advantage.

The bad part of the discussion is that the environment must be conducive to conducting business if you want the 50% deduction. The IRS once rejected the deduction of tickets to a baseball game because the volume level in the ballpark didn’t allow for a business discussion. Clearly, the IRS doesn’t attend the Tampa Bay Ray baseball games. You can grab a good three-hour nap in the bleachers at one of those games. Similarly, don’t invite your accounting services provider to a rock concert to close your books at the end of the month. You have to be realistic when considering the event to write off and the guest list. A one-on-one lunch with a potential client is a great example of a deductible expense. A boozy dinner with spouses and mutual friends is not.

The ugly part of this discussion is that according to tax attorney Barbara Weltman, author of J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes, this has been one of the most litigated areas of tax law. There is some gray area in deducting entertainment expenses. But don’t despair. Small business owners just need to make sure they approach every deduction sensibly with the proper documentation in place to back everything up. If you’re unsure of something, contact your accounting services provider to make sure.

 

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What to Consider When Hiring A Bookkeeping Services Provider

Jeff-Orchard-for-web-2.jpgHere’s some advice from a bookkeeping services provider on what to look for when hiring a bookkeeping services provider.

1. Understand who not to hire
Don’t go for the absolute cheapest option (think about the old adage you get what you pay for). Don’t choose your cousin over someone qualified. Don’t put all financial control of your business in the hands of one person (checks and balances are always a good thing, and some peer reviewing never hurt either), and don’t just do it yourself if it's really not your forte. A good bookkeeping services provider adds value to your business, after all, so it’s worth it to find the right people for the job. Now that you know the don’ts of choosing a bookkeeper, you’re ready to learn the do’s:

2. Know What You’re Looking For

Figure out what kind of bookkeeping services set-up works best for you. A complicated manufacturing business might decide that it’s worth it to have an in-house dedicated accounting team, while other businesses may discover that it’s more cost efficient to outsource this operation, as this is an easily scalable and reliable way to get your books into good hands. The great news is that with the plethora of affordable cloud-based accounting tools available across most industries, the outsourced option now makes sense for most businesses, at incredible cost and efficiency savings.

3. Make Sure They’re Using Current Technology

Don’t go for the guy in a green visor sitting at an old-timey tabulating machine. Your bookkeeping services provider should not only be up-to-date on all new accounting technologies but should be enthusiastic about them. When checking out different bookkeepers, ask about their methods and how they put technology to use. Old school methods may be fine for some, but the new technologies tend to save you money by saving time, increasing accuracy, and delivering more value overall. Make sure that your bookkeeping services provider is on the cutting edge when it comes to accounting technology tools.

4. Make the Best Selection at the Right Price

You want to make sure you are working with experts. Your bookkeeping services provider is a vital financial advisor for your business. They will be managing an integral part of your business' operation so you want to know that the bookkeeping services team you select is properly educated and experienced. The right bookkeeping services team that provides you with accurate and timely financial information to help you make better business decisions will pay for themselves, as they will allow you to control expenses and see opportunities to increase revenue. As mentioned above, this is not an area to look for the lowest cost provider. You are looking for the best provider that can provide you the most value within your business' budget.

5. Check References

When I speak with a prospective client, I typically provide them with references from my other clients that they can speak with to assist them in their decision-making process. In evaluating different bookkeeping services providers, talk to a few reference clients and ask them about the areas above to see who might be the best fit for your unique business and needs.

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How Bookkeeping Services Professionals Ensure Accuracy

John-Gleason-for-web.jpgWorking with a skilled bookkeeping services provider is a surefire best practice for your business. Outsourced bookkeeping services, in particular, have unique benefits. These services and their professionals have experience with a wide range of businesses and can become a part of your team while maintaining a valuable outside perspective on your operation. Still, when it comes to outsourcing any aspect of a business, many business owners will worry about how to remotely maintain quality control. This is why it’s important to understand just how your bookkeepers are self-checking for accuracy.

Being a provider of bookkeeping services myself, I like to think of my role as that of the “data conductor.” It is your bookkeeper’s job to manage all the various data flows relevant to your business’ finances, check it all for accuracy, and then bring it together – synthesizing the information into meaningful metrics for your business.

Outsourced bookkeeping services teams are always striving to be at the cutting edge of the latest accounting technologies and best practices to provide the best value to their clients. Utilizing consistent internal controls with checks and balances in place will help us detect small errors if and when they occur. But with the advent of data entry automation, these errors happen far less frequently than in the past. All work is double checked, which is one of the benefits of having a team.

While a good bookkeeping services team ensures quality assurance in preparing financial results, business owners can and should take an active role in their business’ finances. A great way for a business owner to get involved is to meet with their bookkeeping services team on a monthly basis to review the numbers. This could be done over coffee or via Skype. This ensures transparency and accuracy and keeps you in the know about your business’ financial wellbeing.

Ultimately, ensuring accuracy is a matter of proper bookkeeping practice. For us that means staying ahead of the game with the latest accounting technologies, as well as working as a team to check our work. For you it means staying involved, which not only promotes financial accuracy but also keeps you on top of the numbers, so you can make the best business decisions.

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Bookkeeping Services Best Practice | How Outsourcing Could Boost Your Business

Jeff-Orchard-for-web-2.jpgBy the time my clients get to me they’ve already considered outsourcing their financial operations to a bookkeeping services provider. Every year it seems that more and more businesses are sending certain operations, like accounting and finance, out of house.

But for business owners who haven’t yet considered this option, here are some of the ways in which outsourcing could benefit your business:

1. A Team of Experts

One perk of outsourcing your bookkeeping services is the assurance that your finances will be handled by specialists. It’s common for businesses to combine accounting duties with other functions, such as customer relations or clerical work. But sometimes this kind of multitasking results in poor results with two out of the three responsibilities. With outsourced bookkeeping services, you can be assured of that your bookkeepers are specialized experts focused only on the task at hand. This ensures that things get done efficiently and accurately.

2. Keeping Turnover Low

The sudden departure of your in-house bookkeeper can be a major disruption to your business, but outsourcing creates a model where turnover is very low, and businesses that outsource certain tasks may find that they spend less time on having to hire and train new employees after somebody leaves.

3. Focus Your Energies

If you do decide to outsource your bookkeeping services, you’ll be freeing up some of your own time. As a business owner, this extra time can be allocated towards management and growing the business. Just as your finances will be handled by experts in that department, you too will be able to specialize your role in the business, sinking less time of your day into your books and more into your core business and areas of expertise.

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Bookkeeping Services Best Practice | Projecting Profits for Your Startup

Georgean-Schmidt-for-web.jpgAs a bookkeeping services professional, I love working with new startups for a few reasons. These are people who are just starting out, hungry to grow, and enthusiastic about their new enterprise, usually with good reason. But one of the challenges I see startup owners running into time and again is profit projections. Sure it takes bravado to create your own startup business, and that kind of confidence will serve a startup owner well. But unrealistically high-profit projections can set the wrong expectations for you and any partners you may have in the business. Here are some things to consider when projecting profits for your startup:

1. Take a Look Around

According to American Enterprise Institute the public tends to overestimate the profits of most companies, assuming that most US firms make 36% profit despite the fact that this is about 5 times too high. It’s possible that business owners are also getting a little too optimistic about profits, especially in the early years of a business. Industry standards are widely available online and provide a good idea of what can be expected. This is not to say that an industry standard will define your company’s earnings. The nature of an average is that there are always outliers on both sides, but the average can be a good guidepost. You can check out industry standards for profit here on Yahoo Finance, and you’ll see that 7% seems to be the general average for American businesses. Speak to your bookkeeping services professional as well. If he or she has worked with other clients in a similar industry, it’s likely that they will be able to help you project a realistic profit margin for your company.

2. It Takes Money to Make Money

Starting your business and growing it are going to be expensive ventures. The early years of your business may prove to be costly as you work to get things off the ground and to expand. Don’t fret. This is a healthy part of your startup’s life and well understood by investors. Often it comes down to a decision to spare profits in return for investing in your own business. Allocating what could be profit for developing necessities like marketing and sales will ultimately pay off.

3. Focus on Breaking Even

Many startups will have to put their focus early on towards breaking even. Before you’re making profits, breaking even will be your goal and even this can take some time and patience. Startups are in need of startup financing for exactly this reason. Early in your business’ life, you will likely depend on loans, investors, and your own investment into your business as well. Later on, you will depend on your earnings. Having provided bookkeeping services for many startups, I know that losses early on are sometimes unavoidable. So don’t be discouraged or impatient. Rather, keep your eye on the prize and continue to do what you do best. Investors are going to be wowed by the quality of your team and your idea, not by an unrealistically high-profit projection. Work with your bookkeeping services providers to make sure your business plan is well thought out and details scalability, long-term prospects, and your plan for growth.

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Bookkeeping Services Best Practice | Understanding The Value of Your Time

Jeff-Orchard-for-web-2.jpgThey say that time is money, but they never say how much time or how much money. If only there was a time-to-money exchange rate printed in the daily papers. Maybe then it would be easier to determine exactly what our time is worth.

It’s common for business owners to devalue their own time by spending it on tasks that don’t add value efficiently to their business. As a bookkeeping services provider, I often meet business owners that believe it will take 20-30 hours per week to perform all the bookkeeping and accounting functions within their business. They look surprised when I inform them that my average client needs only 5 hours per week. Where is the disconnect? Perhaps the business owner was doing all the work of a bookkeeping services by him or herself. If it’s not his or her area of expertise, or if they simply aren’t sufficiently set up to handle the workload, this will surely have a negative effect on the time-to-money rate of exchange.

A bookkeeping services team is your financial advisor and consultant, there to help you handle your company’s back office in the best way possible. But as an advisor, your bookkeepers will also be there to help you spend your time more wisely as well. By working with accurate and timely financial information, you’ll have a better grasp on what’s going on in your business, and where the resources of time and money can be best allocated.

Your time as a business owner is the most valuable currency at your disposal! Imagine having an additional 20-30 hours each month to spend on business development, team management, strategy, client relations, and personal time with friends and family? Surely this would be worth it. When looking at the value of your time, don’t think of time spent in just hours and minutes but also in quality. Is your time adding value to your business? Could it be better spent on more valuable activities?

Thanks in part to cloud-based technology, working with virtual teams has never been easier, and therefore, the option to outsource non-core business functions has become a very attractive one for business owners not only for bookkeeping services, but for administrative, IT, HR, and marketing support. An excellent way for a business owner to focus their time on the most valuable activities is to leverage outsourced service providers where it makes sense for their business, allowing them to focus on a core internal team and business activities.

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Supporting Strategies Expands to Metrowest Massachusetts

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-webManaging Director John Gleason Launches His Second Franchise

Supporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, in Medfield, Mass. It is the second franchise led by John Gleason, who is also Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | North Shore.

Gleason, the North Shore franchisee since May 2015, is an award-winning business development and management consulting executive with over three decades of experience across a broad range of industries.

"We have been received extremely well on Boston's North Shore and so decided to open in Metrowest due to its thriving professional business community and proximity to Worcester, Framingham and Boston," Gleason said. "Many institutions for higher learning and startup and tech communities also dot our new landscape."

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like Gleason are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned accounting professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, vice president of franchise development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871.

If you are with a business in the Metrowest area and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact John Gleason at jgleason@supportingstrategies.com or 617-714-2085. 

Bookkeeping Services Tip | When and How to Deduct Business Meals

Lori-Coleman-for-WebTo be sure, deducting the cost of meals at restaurants is one of the more delicious parts of running a business. But as a bookkeeping services provider for many small businesses, I get a lot of questions about how to go about deducting these expenses in the proper way.

Generally speaking, you can deduct 50% of the cost of a meal or entertainment which is directly related to, or associated with business operations. But to truly enjoy that deductible meal, and make sure you’re doing things “above the table,” here are some guidelines from Norwood, MA-based QRGA, LLP about when and how to deduct business expenses pertaining to meals or entertainment. Make sure to coordinate the proper tracking and support of these expenses with your bookkeeping services provider.

1. Don’t Show Me The Money

Whether or not a business transaction actually occurs as a result of the meal or entertainment is not, as many think, the deciding factor of tax deductibility. If you take a client or a potential client out to dinner to discuss business, or directly before or after doing so, the meal qualifies as deductible (again, generally speaking 50% of the cost). So even if that potential client ends up not signing, you can still write off half of that lobster he ordered.

2. Plus One is Still Minus 50%

If you’re entertaining business guests and you invite their spouses along (and if your own spouse is present as well) the entire group will be part of this tax deductible expense. On the other hand, if you’re entertaining a group of three business associates or clients as part of your business’ operations, and a group of seven close friends (unconnected to the business) are also in attendance, you may not deduct expenses pertaining to those seven.

3. The Host with the Most (Deductions)

You can also deduct the cost of hosting clients and business associates in your own home. Like at the restaurant, if you have non-business related friends in attendance, you must discount the cost of hosting them from the deductible amount.

4. Keep Track and Keep Records

Make sure you keep accurate reports of the cost, purpose and nature of the business relationships pertaining to these entertainment and dining costs. Your bookkeeping services provider can ensure that these records are maintained properly to substantiate these deductions. Also, make notes of the best restaurants and your favorite things to order. A good restaurant choice might be the difference between landing that new client or not – and if your business is booming, you might just become a regular.

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Accounting Services Tip | What to Do When The IRS Gets in Touch

Lori-Coleman-for-WebRecently I was working at my desk and received an unexpected call. I picked up the phone and was immediately greeted by a brusque and forceful voice recording. “The IRS,” it says, “wants to take legal action against you.” It then urged me to call back and listed a phone number. My muscles tensed, my eyes widened. The jig is up… except… wait… there was no jig. I search my memory for whatever wrong I committed but came up blank. And then I remember a story I heard from a fellow accounting services provider. “I thought the IRS was trying to sue me,” he had said a few weeks back. “It turned out to just be a scam.”

We do not often think about how the IRS actually operates. Being aware of how this agency works and communicates with taxpayers will help you avoid being roped in by scammers. After I calmed down and took a reassuring sip of coffee, I turned to this blog post by Robert Kilkenny on how the IRS actually gets in touch with people, and how to handle it when they do. Here’s what I learned:

1. Don’t Panic

You see a letter in your mailbox from the IRS. It’s definitely not an invitation to a birthday party, but that doesn’t mean the news is bad. You might have a refund coming your way or the IRS might be simply requesting some information, or else letting you know that the processing of your return is delayed. So keep calm and resist the urge to sweep the letter away with the junk mail. You might have to take action on this notice if you owe more than you submitted, or if information is required, or if you need to verify your identity. Don’t delay. There might be a deadline for response.

2. Be Thorough

The IRS is a very thorough agency, so you should be thorough as well. Make sure you read the whole letter through to the end. If something doesn’t add up to you, contact them immediately to ask questions or to clarify. Make sure that when you call (the number should be listed on the letter) that you have your return and all related documents in hand. If you’ve been selected for an audit, refer again to rule one. Don’t panic. An audit doesn’t necessarily mean that the IRS suspects wrongdoing. A portion of audits are selected randomly. All the same, contact your accounting services provider or CPA firm immediately for guidance on how to prepare and what steps to take.

3. Ask Your Accountant

Your accounting services providers have worked with the IRS enough to know the ins and outs. So before you start wiring money over to whoever called on the telephone, call your accountant! This call could be a scam, but it could be something real that needs to be dealt with. Either way, your accountant can help you spot the difference and move forward in either scenario.

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Bookkeeping Services Best Practice | The Importance of Reconciling Your General Ledger to Your Tax Return

Stephanie-Sangare-for-location-pageWhether you do your own bookkeeping or work with a bookkeeping services provider, you should aim to reconcile your books to your tax return every year. As a provider of bookkeeping services, one of the first things I do when I take on a new client is a reconciliation between their last tax return and their QuickBooks' general ledger. Ensuring that the client's QuickBooks file is on the same page with the CPA's records makes it much easier for my team, the client, and the CPA to communicate about the numbers, especially when it is time for tax planning as well as preparing for the next year's tax filing.

One of the most common reasons why the tax return and the QuickBooks file may not agree is due to the accounting method used for each purpose. Your tax return may be filed on a cash basis while your QuickBooks may be kept on an accrual basis. Under the cash basis method, income is not counted until cash is received, and expenses are not counted until they are paid. Under the accrual basis method, income is counted when the sale occurs, and expenses are counted when you receive the goods or services. It is very beneficial for the business to keep QuickBooks on an accrual basis as it will provide more meaningful information in terms of how the business is operating within a specific time period. The cash basis method will not match up the actual revenue earned and expenses incurred for that period, as it is reporting based on what is coming in and going out of the cash accounts. Therefore, when you reconcile your tax return to your QuickBooks file at the end of the year, understanding any differences between the QuickBooks numbers and the tax return due to this difference in accounting method is one of the primary components of this reconciliation.

You may also need to make adjustments or note differences related to depreciation expense, as you may wait for your CPA's entry to post this annually, or you may have a different calculation method for your books vs. what your CPA uses for the tax return. Another common difference is the accounting of meals and entertainment expenses, as 50% of meals and entertainment related costs are not deductible, but 100% will be included for the books. A reconciling item will then be needed for 50% of the business meals. You may also adjust the equity section of the balance sheet, especially in working with partnerships, so that the capital accounts for the member/owners are accurate.

To do your reconciliation, collect and enter into adjusting journal entries from the CPA, as well as their final trial balance. Post any adjusting journal entries and then compare the QuickBooks file to the final trial balance to determine if there are any differences. Any differences to be corrected you can solve through additional adjusting journal entries. There may also be differences, based on the difference of accounting method, above, which you can note on your reconciliation. It is a bookkeeping services best practice to share this reconciliation with the CPA so they understand the QuickBooks file numbers in context with the tax return. This will help the CPA to hit the ground running as the prepare for your client's next filing!

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Bookkeeping Services Trifecta | Three Ways to Optimize How You Run Your Business' Books

Dawn-Hershik-for-webThe bookkeeping services industry has evolved in recent years due to huge developments in technology and changes in the way we bookkeepers provide services to our clients. Here are three of the most important developments and how you can take advantage of them to make your business run smarter, faster and more efficient.

1. Outsourcing

If you’re a small business owner or manager, your most important resource is your time and your expertise. Your time, most likely, is already spread pretty thin, so knowing when and what operations of your business to outsource is crucial. When you outsource your bookkeeping services, you can be assured that your books will be handled by experts so that you can focus on your core business operations, putting your time and your expertise to good use. See Marja Slaughter's post on getting the best value from your bookkeeping services provider.

2. Technology

The technology available for bookkeeping has come so far in the past decade. One of the biggest benefits that this technology has given us is automation. Automatic data entry is not only much more efficient than manual data entry, but also far more accurate (and less tedious as well). Check out Amy Lyon’s blog post on her five favorite bookkeeping apps and software options to learn how Bill.com, Tallie, and other online options can revolutionize how you invoice, track your time, handle accounts payable and accounts receivable, and file your taxes.

3. Going Paperless and Cashing in on the Cloud

Maintaining your records electronically and moving your business operations into the cloud is a great way to ensure data safety and convenient communication between different departments of your business. Check out Smartvault, which is a great app for storing your documents online. It integrates well with QuickBooks and allows you to access your information from any device. Also check out Ivan Dodic’s post on how to transition to a paperless office using Bill.com.

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Law Firm Bookkeeping Services | How to Handle Client Trusts

Mary-Sue-Renfro-for-webAny bookkeeping services professional familiar with law firms will tell you that bookkeeping for a law firm is subject to its own set of rules and guidelines. One important thing to understand, as a legal professional or a bookkeeping services professional working with a law firm or practice, is how to handle client trust accounts. Set up properly, QuickBooks is very well suited for handling client trust accounts. If you’re wondering how to do it, here are some tips:

Know What an IOLTA is and How it Works

An IOLTA account is used by lawyers to transfer client funds when they are to be held for a short period of time, and/or they are too small to generate income for the client independently. This is a trust separate from the firm’s own money and all interest is transferred to the state. This system generates income to provide legal services to the financially disadvantaged at no cost to the client, lawyer or taxpayer and has proved to be very successful program.

Understand the Details

Rules and regulation surrounding IOLTA client trusts vary from state to state. Mishandling these regulations could lead to serious fines and, at worst, disbarment. It’s always a good idea to check with both your bookkeeping services provider and your local Bar Association to make sure you’re up to date on the local regulations.

Set Up Your QuickBooks Chart of Accounts Properly

In QuickBooks you’ll have to set accounts not just for tracking revenue and expenses, but also for client trust activity. Make an account in your Chart of Accounts for each IOLTA trust connected to your firm or practice. It can be helpful to set-up two Accounts Payable accounts to differentiate disbursements due for firm operations vs.client activities. You can set-up an "Operating Accounts Payable" account and a "Client Trust Accounts Payable" account to help you in the process of segregating these transactions.

Bank Accounts & IOLTA Tracking

You should also create a bank account and title it “Client Trust Checking” to monitor deposits of client funds into the IOLTA accounts. When accounting for these transactions in QuickBooks, record these against an "Other Current Liability" account called "Client Trust Account". The balance in the “Client Trust Checking” must always equal the balance in “Other Current Liability.” It’s important to remember that most states do not allow overdraft protection or ATM access for IOLTA trusts.

Remember also that you can check in with your bookkeeping services provider to make sure that your chart of accounts and business processes has been set-up for success in following these guidelines. Also, make sure that they are reconciling both the IOLTA bank accounts, as well as the associated liability accounts on your firm's balance sheet for accuracy.

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Accounting Services 101| Ensuring Proper Accounting Controls for Your Small Business

Pete-Denholm-for-web-squareI recently came across a shocking news story from Jacksonville, Florida, in which an accountant stole over $300,000 from her employers, Stellar Recovery, Inc, in the course of four years. It is unfortunate but true that these stories continue to be very common in small businesses that do not have the proper controls in place to protect themselves from employee theft. It’s crucial that you can trust your accounting team or accounting services provider, and also that you have in place key controls to protect your business.

1. Know Who You’re Hiring

When building your team, it’s important to hire people you trust. As part of the interview process, ensure that you cover your bases by completing a thorough reference and background check.

2. Put Controls in Place

Putting accounting controls in place is critical. This starts with separation of duties. Dividing up the tasks involved in the financial management of your business is the best way to ensure accountability. The person responsible for accounts payable should not also reconcile the checking account, and the person preparing the checks should not be the one to sign them. If you are running a small business with limited accounting resources, I suggest you personally review your bank statement on a regular basis to ensure that the transactions are valid. We have seen so many small businesses that provide their administrative staff with a signature stamp as they are too busy to sign the checks. While this seems like a great way to make your job more efficient, it exposes you to the risk of employee theft. Also, ensure that you have an approval workflow in place for corporate credit cards, expense reports, and bills so that all purchases are being monitored. Avoid simple online bill pay options that allow your accounting services provider to pay your bills without your approval. If your money is leaving the premises, you should be aware of it. We recommend Bill.com to our clients, which allows for proper controls and allows the bookkeeper to upload and code the bills before routing them through an approval and payment process. This way you’ll get a chance to see what’s being paid, where the money is going, and sign off on it before the transaction goes through. 

Accounting automation tools such as Bill.com and Tallie will provide both efficiency and controls on spending and disbursements.

3. Stay Involved

Small business accounting is a team sport! Ensure that you consistently review the numbers so you are close to your businesses' financial activities. Meet with your team at least monthly to check in and look at the results together. By creating a collaborative culture around the numbers, which includes the questioning, review and in many cases, the approval of transactions, it will not only give you the information that you need to run a healthy business, but will also eliminate the risks of employee theft.

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Supporting Strategies Expands to Ann Arbor, Mich.

Stephen Manasco Becomes Managing Director of New Franchise

 

Supporting Strategies is pleased to announce the opening of our latest office, in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Stephen Manasco, Ann Arbor Franchisee and Managing Director, is a senior-level leader with extensive experience in financial and IT management. Since beginning his career in the portfolio retention division of a large national mortgage servicer in 1991, he has developed an expertise in areas such as corporate finance, small business operations and development, acquisitions, financial reporting, auditing, and budgeting. Prior to opening our Ann Arbor office in July, he was VP of Finance and Head of IT at AccessPoint, a major provider of human resources services.

"Supporting Strategies is changing the way bookkeeping is done," Manasco said. "We provide top-notch accounting services at a fraction of the cost of handling these tasks in house, allowing clients to focus on what they do best and to enjoy their business. With businesses around Southeast Michigan beginning to grow and flourish, this market represents a great opportunity."

Supporting Strategies has developed a proven, scalable business model with highly automated systems and processes to deliver cost-effective accounting services. Franchisees like Manasco are leveraging our proprietary technology platform and team of virtual, seasoned accounting professionals to serve a growing roster of clients.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with Supporting Strategies, please check out an upcoming webinar or attend a future Discovery Day. You may also contact Stephen Schultz, Vice President of Franchise Development, at steve@supportingstrategies.com or 978-479-2871. 

If you are with a business in the Ann Arbor area and would like to discuss outsourcing your accounting needs, please contact Steve Manasco at smanasco@supportingstrategies.com or 248-924-1783. 

Bookkeeping Services Tip | The Importance of a Good On-Boarding System for Remote Employees

Dawn-Hershik-for-webHaving a solid on-boarding system in place for new employees is extremely important and can have a major impact on how long an employee stays with your company. If your company also employs remote employees, you need to ensure that each new hire feels welcomed and a part of the company despite the lack of physical presence, and you also need to ensure that your new team member has the tools, training, and support to hit the ground running. One thing I have learned in managing a team of remote accountants that provide our clients with bookkeeping services is that the following steps are critical in having each team member properly on-boarded.

1. Compliance 
One of the typical tasks that our bookkeeping services clients look for is assistance with on-boarding their new employees for payroll and benefits, and to gather and file all of the new employee's paperwork. In addition to an offer letter, and in some cases a non-disclosure or non-compete agreement, this also includes their direct deposit form, W-4 form, and any state-specific forms that are required. You also need to complete the Form I-9 with each new hire, and this is not something that you can do remotely. As an employer, you need to obtain physical verification of the Form I-9 in person either yourself or through a designated representation. See our blog article Meeting I-9 Immigration Verification Requirements When Employees Work Remotely for more information on this process. We provide our bookkeeping services clients with remote, secure storage of all employee records as we believe this is the safest, most reliable method for managing employee files.

2. Clarification 
Clarify responsibilities and performance expectations. How does the person fit into the organization? How does the organization operate? To accomplish this, we suggest that each new team member is presented with a detailed job description that outlines their major responsibilities and deliverables. If you have any corporate documents such as an organization chart, mission statement, or other information that can help the new team member fit into the organization, you can present this as well. Holding a virtual orientation video call is a great way to review this information and to engage your new team member.

3. Culture 
Establishing culture can be challenging in any organization, especially if all or some of your team works virtually. Ensure that you have a way of "virtually" introducing each new team member to the organization and that he or she has a way of being exposed to your team on a regular basis. If there are regular events or other company traditions, get your new hire into the loop as soon as possible. Consider using social media, such as a Facebook group or LinkedIn group for your new hire to connect with your team online.

4. Connection 
Ensure that your incoming team member has a primary point of contact established before their first day, and make that introduction immediately. This could be their Manager or a peer. Ensure that they have access to their contact person and that the contact person reaches out regularly to get in touch and check in with the latest addition to your team. This person can be helpful in answering questions and also helping the new hire find their way around your businesses' systems and processes.

5. Check Back 
Follow up with your new team member regularly at the beginning to ensure their on-boarding experience remains positive and productive. Request feedback to find out if anything can be improved for the next time.

The importance of a good on-boarding system cannot be overstated. Your business' talent is likely your most valuable asset. By investing time and resources in each new team member's on-boarding experience, especially for remote employees, will pay off handsomely in terms of team productivity, retention, and success.

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How Technology is Adding More Value to Your Bookkeeping Services

Anna-Sokolinski-for-webIn recent years, the accounting industry has been flooded with a wave of new technology solutions that have really shaken up the way we do things. It might seem natural to wonder if these developments are slowly replacing the bookkeeper to the extent that, sometime down the line, computers will do all of the work that bookkeepers have typically done. Speaking on behalf of bookkeeping services providers everywhere, these technologies are something to celebrate rather than to worry about. These new technology solutions are enabling us to automate the experience of routing and entering accounting transactions and have also allowed us to move our clients' books and records to the cloud, which allows us to focus on helping our clients keep their businesses on track and also gives us all real-time access to the information to make decisions and keep the business' operations moving.

For instance, automated data entry software is something that does a lot of the work that bookkeepers used to do manually. When it comes to all that number crunching, we’re happy to let the computer take the wheel. These "robots" are faster and more efficient in routing and recording transactions. The expertise of your bookkeeping services provider, however, is still needed to get those numbers ready for crunching. We act as a data concierge, ensuring that the data is coming in correctly and reconciling the information for accuracy. We also set-up and manage the various data feeds that come in and out the accounting system to keep the trains operating on time and ensuring that all systems are seamlessly working together.

Another area in which your bookkeeping services benefit from a human touch is tax rules. Taxation rules are very complex and are constantly changing. In addition to this, they vary from place to place and are dependent on any number of variables and nuances. There are lots of cases that are not black and white but are rather subject to interpretation. This is when you’ll turn to your bookkeeping services provider or CPA for an informed judgment call. Understanding the nuances of taxation, we’re able to look at your information in context and apply the right exemptions to save you money. A great example of this is the handling of sales tax filings or 1099 preparation and filing. Avalara and Track1099 are excellent cloud accounting tools that in combination with bookkeeping services, helps your business stay in compliance.

If anything, the increase in technological solutions for bookkeeping services has opened up the role of the bookkeepr. When we’re less busy crunching, we’re able to be your financial analysts, strategists, consultants and cheerleaders. Partnering with technology allows us to better partner with you, which is really what it’s all about.

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Bookkeeping Services Best Practice | Top 5 QuickBooks Reports for Tax Time

John-Gleason-for-webThe holidays are fast approaching, which can be a little overwhelming. Add to that the fact that tax season is upon us and you’ve got a recipe for stress. It is common that the business owner or their bookkeeping services provider will send to the company's CPA a set of data to get ready for tax time. I recently spoke with Scott French of Boston-based CPA firm, Giardina & French CPAs to get a little perspective on how his client's can best provide him with reports from QuickBooks to help him prepare for their tax return filings. Scott's listing of the following 5 QuickBooks reports can help your CPA help you wrap up your business' taxes for the year.

1. Trial Balance

Your Trial Balance is a complete list of all general ledger accounts and will include both revenue and capital. This report will show each ledger account and it’s balance, which will be either a credit or a debit balance. This report is especially important because the Profit and Loss Statement, as well as the Balance Sheet can be derived from the ledger accounts found on the Trial Balance.

2. General Ledger

Your General Ledger is a record of all detailed financial transaction made in the calendar year. This report allows your CPA to dig into the details of what occurred in the business and to ensure that revenue and expense transactions are accurately accounted for as it relates to your business' tax return filing.

3. Bank Account Reconciliation

Your bank account reconciliation is important because it maintains balance and consistency between your company’s books and your bank statements. Your general ledger will track money in and out of your company. Your bank statement performs this function as well in tracking all transactions pertaining to your bank account. The reconciliation will show consistency between these two records, or else it will show inconsistency. If there is an inconsistency, it is vital to be aware of exactly where and how it came about so that this can be rectified, and that the books are corrected if there are any erroneous transactions that have been recorded. Reviewing your year-end bank statement and bank account reconciliation report will helps your CPA to confirm the accuracy of the bank transactions in QuickBooks.

4. Fixed Asset Rollforward (showing additions/disposals)

Fixed Asset Rollforwards are a great tool to analyze information about changes in the cost of fixed assets (i.e. equipment purchases) as well as fixed asset depreciation, which is important information for your CPA to have to understand the tax implications of any equipment purchases.

5. Payroll Summary Report

The Payroll Summary Report gathers payroll totals by employee for a specified period of time. It will display a subtotal of net pay, as well as company payroll taxes by employee. This report can be easily prepared using QuickBooks and will include wages, taxes and adjustments by employee, sick and vacation time by employee, net pay, and employer taxes and contributions. Your bookkeeping services provider or CPA will likely also reconcile this report to your payroll provider's reports to ensure the accuracy of the information.

But while these are the most commonly requested reports, your CPA may ask you for additional information as well. Depending on your industry, other reports might become relevant as well. For more information, check in with your bookkeeping services team or CPA for guidance on how to best get ready for tax time!

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Bookkeeping Services Best Practice: 3 QuickBooks Tips for Non-Profits

Pete-Denholm-for-web-4Running a non-profit can be complex enough without having to sink your time into bookkeeping concerns. To better focus on your organization’s mission, you need real-time, accurate data on the performance of your programs as well as relevant and up-to-date information on your donor base. Most of all, you want to reduce the time your spending on manual bookkeeping. Here are three QuickBooks tips we provide to our non-profit clients for you to consider for your own organization:

1. Use QuickBooks Additional Tagging Functionality

The "Customer:Job" field in QuickBooks can be used to track funding sources and related expenses. In QuickBooks you can set up any given source of funding as a Customer, and then additionally track separate "jobs" to track restricted vs. unrestricted donations. Expenses associated with these funds can be tagged by the "Customer:Job" for restricted funding, which can be used to match up your related spending against the funds received. You can also use the QuickBooks “Class” function to manage programs run by your organization.

2. Align Your QuickBooks Chart of Accounts to the Form 990

You should confirm with your bookkeeping services provider that in addition to leveraging "Customer;Job" and "Class" tracking for managing funding and program data, that your chart of accounts is organized to align with the categories needed to complete the annual IRS Form 990. Form 990 is the informational return filed by non-profit organizations annually with the IRS. Taking a look at this form will give you a good sense of what accounts are necessary to include in your organization’s Chart of Accounts.

3. Automate Your Donor Management Operations

A great way to save yourself some time and headaches is to automate all work pertaining to tracking donations. Having provided bookkeeping services to a number of non-profit organizations, I’ve seen some great donor management apps that have really changed the game for my clients. One example is Donor Perfect (www.donorperfect.com). Its features are very comprehensive and it integrates well with QuickBooks, eliminating the need for data entry of donation transactions.

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Bookkeeping Services Best Practice: Easy Ways to Capture Your Business' Travel Expenses

Denise-Sheppard-for-webMany of my clients travel regularly for their businesses, hopping around the country and boarding planes as often as some of us get in a car. But no matter how seasoned a traveller they are, they often turn to me for some guidance about which travel expenses are tax deductible and which aren’t. As a provider of bookkeeping services, I deal with business travel expenses often.

It’s important to know the protocols surrounding business travel expenses to best organize your information for your tax preparer at the end of the year. For example, unless you are opening a spa and need to do so for market research, you probably shouldn't record that lavish hot stone massage as a business expense deduction (no matter how much you needed it after that long plane ride).

The first thing to understand is that your “tax home” is the city in which you do business. That means if you commute to your place of business, this commute will not count as business travel. Only travel from your “tax home” for business purposes will qualify. Naturally you can deduct most of your basic travel expenses. These include your tickets for the plane, train, or bus. If your ticket has been provided for you or if you are riding for free, the cost will be zero. When it comes to car travel, you can deduct for the actual expenses or use the standard mileage rate, as well as any toll fees and parking charges incurred during business-related travel.

When it comes to meals away from home, most of the time you can use a standard meal allowance (which will vary depending on the locale). This will save you from keeping records of all meal expenses and deducting the total. The deduction for business meals is usually set at 50% of the unreimbursed cost. You can consult with your CPA or bookkeeping services provider to get more guidance on what should be tracked as deductible business expenses and what should not.

What is the best way to keep track of all of these expenses? I’m a big fan of the new apps available to help track business expenses while your on the road. For example, check out MileIQ for help with mileage tracking. Tallie is another great tool, as it helps capture business expenses, including attaching receipts to the transactions . Its accessible on your phone (which is always helpful when travelling), is easy to use and integrates seamlessly with QuickBooks. Tallie can be used for employee expense reimbursements and for managing corporate credit cards. Chris Farrell, CEO of Tallie further explains, "Tallie has always been a digital solution that is committed to providing our customers with an automated expense management process that saves businesses significant time and money. Using Smartphone Technology and our QuickBooks integration has allowed us to deliver and update expense data seamlessly giving businesses another powerful tool to help them manage their internal infrastructure and their clients businesses more efficiently."

Speaking of QuickBooks, don’t forget to set up accounts in your QuickBooks chart of accounts for major business travel expenses. This will make it very simple for your bookkeeping services provider to quickly get you ready for tax time!

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Bookkeeping Services Best Practice | Leveraging QBO & Multi-Currency for Managing International Operations

Kathryn-Beres-for-webThese days it’s not so rare for a small business to operate internationally in addition to their U.S. operations. We live in an increasingly globalized world and businesses that outsource abroad and do business abroad are more and more common. Earlier in my career, I provided bookkeeping services to a company that was based in the Cayman Islands, developed its software in Ireland and had a sales office in the U.S. While this company enjoyed many benefits in setting up its operations in this way, it did create the bookkeeping challenge of dealing with multiple currencies.

The company used the international version of QBO (QuickBooks Online), which could handle multi-currency but had no support for U.S.-based users, which was a limitation to us working in the U.S. However, this version was a better fit than the other option of QuickBooks Enterprise, which did not have the ease of access that the online version afforded us. Thankfully, QBO just released a multi-currency feature for the U.S. version. If you are a U.S. based business operating internationally here’s what you need to know about using this new feature.

With the QuickBooks multi-currency feature, you will be able to assign different currencies to different customers, vendors, banks, and credit cards. QuickBooks will also track currency exchange rate fluctuations (and will automatically update this information every four hours by connecting with WOSD – Wall Street On Demand). And on a practical level, the feature will allow you to pay and to receive payments in different currencies from different locations.

Once you turn on the multi-currency feature in QuickBooks you can’t turn it off, so make sure before you turn it on the feature that it’s what you need for your business. Your bookkeeping services provider can assist you as needed with getting started with multi-currency in QBO. Activating the feature is simple enough. Go to Gear > Company Settings > Advanced > Currency. Select the multicurrency checkbox and confirm that you understand that this feature cannot be turned off and then hit save. From then on out your regular currency will be your “home currency.” A currency column will appear in your QB chart of accounts and you will be prompted to choose a currency every time you add a client or vendor.

From here you should be all set to manage your international business transaction in QBO. You can always turn to your bookkeeping services provider for assistance with your multi-currency transactions, just so long as you don’t forget to send him or her a postcard the next time you check in on operations in the Caymans.

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Bookkeeping Services Best Practice: 3 Key Financial Reports to Manage Your Business

Lori-Coleman-for-WebAs a provider of bookkeeping services to small businesses, I cannot stress enough how important it is for business owners to maintain insight and understanding into their financial statements. When business owners don’t check in with their own financial statements, they end up operating in the dark. Here is a look at the key reports to look at and how to make sense of them.

The Statements

The three main statements that you want to review regularly are your Income Statement, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statement. Let’s start by taking a look at what each of these reports are for:

Income Statement: the Income Statement (a.k.a., the Profit & Loss Statement) will give you a view of how your business is performing over a period of time by highlighting revenue earned as well as expenses incurred. This statement allows you to see trends in your business' profitability.

Balance Sheet: the Balance Sheet lists all assets (i.e. cash, accounts receivable), liabilities (i.e. payables, loans), and your net equity (i.e. how much has been invested and earned over time). The balance sheet gives you a snapshot of your business’ financial health. Unlike the Income Statement, which gives information for a certain period of time, your Balance Sheet is a summary of key financial information on a given date.

Cash Flow Statement: the Cash Flow Statement will fill out the picture created by the Income Statement and the Balance Sheet by showing whether cash is coming in at a rate faster or slower than the rate at which its going out. Over the period of time for the Cash Flow Statement, you will see the sources and uses of your business' cash flow. Unlike the Income Statement, the Cash Flow Statement will allow you to see the business' total spending, as it will include expenditures on assets such as equipment and inventory.

How to Generate Financial Statement and Who to Turn to for Help

You want your financial statements to be prepared regularly and accurately, as you will be relying on this information to make real-time business decisions. Set up a schedule with your bookkeeping services provider to review these financial statements on a monthly basis. If you’re going it alone you can use QuickBooks as a tool to generate these reports To get started on the right foot, you may consult with a bookkeeping services provider or with a QuickBooks ProAdvisor. If you do use QuickBooks make sure that the QB Chart of Accounts is set up to best support the structure of the reports. More on this here.

In terms of collecting the information for these statements, you should make sure that you have a system in place in which you are closing your books monthly. Here you can get some advice on how best to make collecting, verifying, analyzing and discussing your month-end numbers part of your routine.

Why These Statements Are So Important

Your financial metrics, properly understood, can serve as a roadmap for your business. In examining profitability and cash flow, you’ll be able to spot where the issues are and learn how to address them. This information isn’t just important to your business’ survival and growth (though of course it is) but is also important for making presentation’s on your business plan and business’ financial health to banks and investors. These financial statements serve as a great business tool for you, the business owner, to run and grow a financially healthy organization.

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Accounting Services 101| Understanding the Difference Between CPAs and Enrolled Agents

BOS_HR_Spanos,-Joyce_Website-Photo_140520While you have likely heard of a CPA, or certified public accountant, you may not have heard of an EA, or Enrolled Agent.  There are only about 48,000 EA’s practicing in the US, compared to over 650,000 CPA’s.  EA’s can be a great resource to a small business with tax-specific issues.  EA’s are typically less expensive than CPA’s, but are also subject to a certification exam, and complete annual continuing education requirements, similar to CPA’s.  EA’s can represent any taxpayer anywhere in the U.S.   Below is a chart detailing the nuts and bolts of a CPA and EA. 

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There are so many options out there for businesses seeking different types of accounting services, whether you are looking for a CPA, EA, or even an outsourced accounting services firm.  No matter what the accounting service is that is being provided, a critical success factor is the ability for the business to have a productive working relationship with their accounting services provider.  In addition to working with an experienced and educated accounting services provider, it is important that your service provider develops a first-hand understanding about your business, and that they regularly communicate with you to ensure the best results in relationship with your accounting and tax support needs. 

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Helping Clients Stay Focused on Performance and Profits Through Accounting Services

img-mark-waldI recently read an interesting critique of the current state of California's investment culture. And it got me thinking about Supporting Strategies' place in it all.

Venture capitalist Fred Wilson shared a talk by Maciej Ceglowski, founder of the "antisocial" bookmarking site Pinboard. Ceglowski argues that California's VC and founder communities don't focus on "pursuing profit, or even revenue. Instead, the measure of their success is valuation — how much money they've convinced others to tell them they're worth."

It's a provocative viewpoint, and I'll admit there's some truth to Ceglowski's words. Nevertheless, I know of plenty of private investors in the state who value business models that aim to generate and distribute profits for their investors relatively soon after launch.

As a provider of accounting services, I love working with profit-focused businesses like these.[1] My team’s role often involves setting up and managing the systems and processes necessary to accurately and efficiently record revenues, costs, subscribers, inventory, etc. for our clients.  Then we analyze and deliver insightful, actionable reporting on key metrics that are critical for maximizing profits and sustainable growth while also keeping entrepreneurs and their investors appraised of company performance.

 

Case in Point

For example, Supporting Strategies | Santa Monica provides outsourced accounting services to PawPack, a company that ships an assortment of healthy, hand-selected pet products right to your door. Each month, subscription customers receive a newly curated selection of the finest-quality treats, toys and accessories from brands that are committed to the wellbeing of pets.

Behind the scenes, the Supporting Strategies team keeps busy recording and reporting revenue and costs using accrual-basis financial accounting principles. This gives PawPack's owners and investors timely and accurate visibility of company performance and profits.

Outsourcing their accounting services to us provides PawPack with a combination of systems, processes and highly skilled resources, resulting in the insights needed to keep prices as low as possible for its customers — and to operate a profitable business that delivers attractive returns for its investors.

I'm sure Mr. Ceglowski would approve!

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Footnote [1]: Don’t get me wrong, we also support plenty of amazing startups that are pre-revenue and who’s business models are not profit-focused early on. These businesses have bills and staff to pay, bank, credit card, and merchant account activity to reconcile, and a whole host of other accounting-related needs, so our client businesses that fit this “hyper-growth but not yet focused on profits” profile love us as much as we love them too. :) 

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Bookkeeping Services Best Practice: Tracking & Accounting for Paid Time Off

SSH_HR_Sampson-Jean_Photo_141014One of the first decisions you’ll have to make as an employer will be about vacation and time-off policies. There are a lot of options and, lately, a lot of buzz surrounding the issue as unlimited vacation policies gain popularity. Whatever path you choose, make sure that your decision reflects both your respect for your team’s work-life balance as well as your respect for your business. While the development of the policies may fall to your human resources go-to, we have learned as a bookkeeping services provider, that is is critical to establish a system to record and track employee's paid time off (PTO), and in some cases, depending on your policy, including your accrued vacation time liability on your company's balance sheet.

Having your team prepare for their time off by seeking approval from their managers in advance when possible ensures that your team’s time-off is a healthy and natural part of how your business operates, rather than an unforeseen disruption. By having employees place requests for time-off, managers can help to organize the flow of planned vacations in such a way that they are balanced and don’t interfere with important projects or cause work to pile up on the shoulders of other employees.

In terms of tracking the time off earned, or accrued, you can likely leverage your payroll system (i.e. ADP) to calculate this for you. Using your paid time off policy, you can set-up the parameters in the payroll system and the earned paid time off will automatically calculate for you. To track time taken against what has been earned, your employees can track this using a web-based time tracking system that may be an additional feature you can obtain from your payroll system, or you can use an app like TSHEETS, that will integrate with your payroll system. You then will have the time earned and the time taken recorded in the system to get the paid time balance information. You can also simply use a spreadsheet to calculate what is earned and record what is taken if you have few employees and this is more manageable. The management of this system can fall to your bookkeeping services provider, or the individual within your organization that handles the payroll administration.

If your PTO policy provides for accrued vacation time that may need to be paid out upon that employee's termination, you should carry an "Accrued Vacation Time" liability on your balance sheet and use the reports above to adjust this balance each month when closing your books. Your tracking and reporting of PTO not only allows for your understanding of this liability, but will also highlight If there are any employees who are, intentionally or unintentionally, taking more time off than they have earned, so you can follow-up appropriately.

This is just another instance of how process and reporting are crucial ingredients for your company’s success. Your bookkeeping services provider can help you examine how you track PTO and assist with this process, and help to put the right systems in place to best manage this aspect of your business.

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5 Reasons it May be Time to Outsource your Bookkeeping Services

Dawn-Hershik-for-webIf you’re looking through your books and feeling a little lost and overwhelmed or you keep seeing that pile of receipts that hasn’t been entered yet, it might be time to get some professional bookkeeping services support for your business. See the following checklist to help you assess if you are ready for this next step:

1. You Haven’t Been Invoicing

If you’re not sending out invoices to your customers, you won’t get paid, plain and simple. You’re doing great work and providing value to your customers. Don’t let a disorganized and inconsistent invoicing system get in the way of your businesses success.

2. You’ve Invoiced Clients but Haven’t been Paid

Maybe you’re too busy or reluctant to make collections for the invoices that have been sent out. A bookkeeping services provider can make sure that your buyers are being invoiced regularly and on time, as well as follow up with them on past due payments to keep cash coming in the door.

3. Your Business is Growing and Becoming More Complicated to Handle on Your Own

Remember the good old days when your business was just you, your laptop and a cappuccino? It all seemed so simple then but now keeping track of everything is getting a bit too much for you and your team to handle on your own. Well, the good news is that these ARE the good old days! Your business is growing and evolving and a bookkeeping services team can help you keep up with your own growth so that you can actually enjoy it. Not only will they handle the process of ensuring your books are up to date, they can also help set-up great processes for you and your team members to best help you to manage your business.

4. Your Books are not Up-To-Date

If your books aren’t up to date you’ll have as much luck making important decisions for your business as you would backpacking Europe with a map from the 1770’s. Keeping your books current means keeping them relevant. Your bookkeeper will make sure that your books are an accurate reflection of your business that you can use as a guide for making wise decisions, and they will provide you with regular, timely financial reporting.

5. You’re Consistently Filing Extensions for Taxes or Missing Important Deadlines

It’s never fun having to ask for extra time because you couldn’t get something done by the due date. When you have to file an extension for your taxes it’s even less fun and can cost you more money in interest and penalties. It wasn’t fun asking your professor for an extension on that big end-of-term paper in university, and it’s even less fun asking the government for tax filing extensions. It’s easy to miss these deadlines, or to butt up against them unprepared when you’re busy handling other things. But to thrive as a business you need to be on top of these deadlines, and a bookkeeper, like a boy scout, is always prepared. Plus, your bookkeeping team will have expertise in what your CPA firm requires, and will be able to provide them with the necessary information easily, accurately, and efficiently. This will not only save you needless stress but also money on your tax preparer.

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Bookkeeping Services Best Practice | The When, Why and How of Revenue Recognition

Dotty-Boyle-for-blogAs a bookkeeping services professional, I see that many clients become confused when it comes to the issue of revenue recognition. Specifically, the question is when to recognize revenue. Is it when you receive payment or when you start your contract? Or do you recognize the revenue over the course of the contract term?

We have to first take a look at the revenue recognition principle, which is a building block principle of accounting. Here’s a definition of the principle taken from “Accounting Explained:", "The revenue recognition principle tells that revenue is to be recognized only when the rewards and benefits associated with the items sold or service provided is transferred, where the amount can be estimated reliably and when the amount is recoverable." Earned revenue exists when your company has provided the service or product for which revenue will, at a determined point, be received. Realized revenue, however, consists of revenue generated when the company has actually exchanged products or services for cash or claims to cash.

“Matching efforts” is a principle that ensures that your business will not record expenses for production before sales, nor will it record revenue for goods or services it has not yet delivered. This principle helps keep your financial reporting consistent with your actual activities. This is why it is important to discuss your revenue recognition strategy with your bookkeeping services provider. You want to make sure that your financial statements and reports are accurate and consistent as well as transparent. This can be very important to shareholders and investors. For example, revenue on contracts paid in advance are typically recognized gradually over the life of the contract or all at once when the contract is first made.

You can use QuickBooks, or another accounting system, to keep track of your revenue earned on each contract. Set up a "Deferred Revenue" account, which is a current liability account. When you enter the sales receipt or invoice for that contract, enter it against that account. Then, create a memorized journal entry that will automatically adjust this account for the monthly value of the contract over the contract term. This entry will reduce the amount in the Deferred Revenue account, and add that revenue to your income statement. It is also good practice to keep an underlying reconciliation schedule or report that keeps track of your open contracts and the earned vs. deferred balances over time.

Your provider of bookkeeping services can help with this process in a couple of ways. First of all, they can steer you in the right direction as to when you should start recognizing revenue. Secondly they can help show you around QuickBooks.

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Bookkeeping Services Best Practice: Reconcile Your Balance Sheet

Lisa-Henderson-for-blogAs a small business owner, your company’s balance sheet is an extremely important report for you to understand and tool for you to use to manage your business. It is a key source of insight into the financial health of your company because it shows your assets, liabilities, as well as your equity position, all at a certain point in time. Here at Supporting Strategies, as an outsourced bookkeeping services provider, we are presented with business' balance sheets all of the time as they on-board with us as new clients. A very common theme is that the business's balance sheet is both out of date and incorrect. One of our very first tasks is to reconcile every account on the balance sheet to create an accurate report, which we then present to our client, the business owner. The result is a report that allows the business owner to best understand in real time, as an example, how much cash she has, how much her customers owe her, and how much she owes her vendors.

In my role providing bookkeeping services, I’ve seen that while most companies will reconcile their cash and credit card accounts, they sometimes fail to also reconcile the other balance sheet accounts, such as accounts receivable, inventory, prepaid expenses, accrued expenses, et cetera. These other accounts are just as important as cash because in most cases, the errors will flow through to the income statement, resulting in under or overstated earnings.

For example, if reconciling the prepaid expense account highlights that the account balance is too high, a resulting journal entry adjustment will typically debit to an expense and a credit to the prepaid expense account. This will then decrease net income. If a full reconciliation is not done, and the prepaid expense account balance is not adjusted, this error will not get caught and you’d find yourself with an inaccurate snapshot of the company’s assets, and also be under the impression that you have a higher net income than you actually do.

To maintain the accuracy of your balance sheet, it must be reconciled against any other supporting documents, or supporting calculations to demonstrate that the ending account balance is correct. This will ensure that your balance sheet is accurate and can also help identify errors in need of correction. In the case of accounts such as Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable, the A/R Aging and A/P Aging reports can be reviewed for accuracy to confirm these account balances are correct. An Inventory Valuation Summary serves as an underlying report that can be analyzed to confirm that your inventory balance is accurate. For other accounts, a series of reconciliation schedules, typically maintained with Excel spreadsheets, are developed and maintained to provide the support for these balance sheet accounts.

In my work, while looking at potential clients, the status of the balance sheets is one of the first things I check out. If the reconciliations are current and thorough, a transition to our outsourced bookkeeping services will go rather smoothly. If it’s not current, there is generally more initial clean-up work that needs to be performed. One of the benefits of working with an outsourced team is that your balance sheets will be reconciled on a monthly basis, without exception. If you are looking to integrate these processes internally, you may bring on a staff accountant to assist with this process, or get advice from your CPA firm to get you started. At a minimum, simply reviewing your balance sheet, and the supporting reports as mentioned above on a monthly basis gives you a good start to using your balance sheet as a tool to better manage your business.

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Why Closing Your Books Monthly Makes Sense and How to Do It

Ivan-Dodic-213-x-213If you are a small business owner and are using a program like QuickBooks to run your accounting function, you are likely interfacing with your books on a daily or frequent basis, entering in transactions to invoice your customers, pay your vendors, and perhaps even to pay your employees. All of these transactions are feeding into your business' financial reports in the background, so that at the end of the month, you can run the reports and see how your business is operating.

The process of closing the books is a very standard monthly task that is performed either by a business' staff accountant or outsourced accounting services provided. This process allows you not only to review the transactions that have been put into the system to ensure that they are accurate but also allows you to make other adjustments to properly reflect the business' activity for the month. This Houston Chronicle article highlights some of the key steps of this process. See the following for a few key steps to follow in closing the books for your business.

Start with the Balance Sheet 
The balance sheet is a point-in-time view of where your business stands at any given time, displaying cash, accounts receivable and other asset balances, as well as accounts payable, and other liability balances. In the equity section, you can see the amount of capital invested in the business, as well as the accumulated profits or losses in the business. Each account's ending balance as of the month-end date should be reconciled. For example, for your cash accounts and credit accounts, this means reconciling the activity to your statement for that month. For other accounts, you may need to make journal entry adjustments, as is discussed in the Houston Chronicle article, to adjust balances to accounts such as prepaid expenses or inventory. To learn how to properly record these entries, you may enlist the assistance of an accounting services provider or your CPA. After all adjustments have been made, review and confirm that the ending balances are accurate. Often, reconciliation schedules are created to support these numbers. The use of supporting reconciliation schedules is a best practice used by most businesses in closing the books.

Review the Profit & Loss Statement 
Most accounting transactions and journal entry adjustments are creating the results on your profit & loss statement. Run this report and customize the view to compare this month against historical months. Review the trends on your revenue and expense line items. Make sure you are not missing any key transactions or adjustments and make sure that the transactions are recorded in the correct category.

Run Your Financial Statements & Analyze the Results 
Now that you have closed your books, you can run the balance sheet and profit & loss statement for the month, and can also present this information to include monthly and even annual comparisons, or year to date results. This financial reporting package can also include other financial reports, and can be prepared by your internal team or your accounting services provider. Share the financial package with your management team and discuss the results. This process will allow you to identify potential issues in the business to be discussed and addresses. For example, your outstanding accounts receivables may be out of control, creating a cash flow issue, or your legal expenses are much higher than anticipated and you need to follow-up to determine what is driving this change. Closing your books in a timely basis gives you and your management team consistent reporting to keep a tight pulse on the business and to provide timely information to make the most informed business decisions.

 

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5 Tips to Get the Best Value from your Bookkeeping Services Provider

Marja-SlaughterIn my experience providing outsourced bookkeeping services to small businesses, I have learned that we can deliver considerably more value when our clients view their relationship with us as a partnership rather than a vendor relationship.  We serve as a virtual extension of our client’s team, supporting them on the financial and operational aspects of their business. Our job is to work with the client to make their transactional processes most efficient and to give them actionable data and meaningful financial reports to most effectively manage their business. The following provides some tips to help you make the most out of your relationship with your outsourced bookkeeping services provider.

1. Communication

Make sure you keep an open line of communication with your bookkeeping resource. The better we understand you and your business, the better we will be able to tailor our services to meet your specific needs. Additionally, understand that your bookkeeper can be much more than just a number cruncher—we can support you as your business changes, offering data and process suggestions along the way. Our best practice is to set a standard weekly or monthly check-in call with each client to review the numbers and discuss the client's current needs and questions.

2. Be Open to Advice and Changes

Keep in mind that your bookkeeping services provider brings to you the benefit of a collective experience of working with many different businesses. They can offer great advice on the best systems and processes to apply to your own business. As part of on-boarding with your provider, and ongoing as your business evolves, bring your bookkeeping services provider into the conversation on how to refine your operational processes to make them as efficient as possible while providing you with the best data and business results. We have a vast network of clients in nearly every industry that we learn from on a daily basis, and we’re constantly educating ourselves at industry events and seminars on the latest technologies and practices to optimize business for all of our clients.

3. Don’t Withhold Information

As discussed above, your bookkeeping services provider is a virtual extension of your team. Make sure you are actively communicating changes in your business and informing them about new initiatives that may have accounting process implications. Hiring a new employee out of state? Launching a new product line? Bring these headlines to your bookkeeper so they can best advise and support you on the right administrative or accounting steps that come along with your business decisions.

4. Review the Reports Your Bookkeeper Prepares

Your bookkeeping services provider should provide you a financial package at least monthly that at a minimum contains a balance sheet and profit and loss statement. You may also receive other financial reports and analysis on your business' performance. Review these reports and ask questions! Communicate any issues you find to your bookkeeper to ensure that you are getting the most value from the data you are being presented with. For example, perhaps there is an additional report or formatting change that would improve the value you get from the financial package. Make sure that results make sense and use this information to help inform your business decisions.

5. Ask for Assistance

If you’re suddenly faced with a new business challenge you’ve never encountered before, ask your bookkeeping services provider for assistance—chances are they’ve encountered something similar before and can offer advice and resources to best address the challenge.  Sometimes it can feel overwhelming when, for example, a business owner receives unexpected notices from the state labor board about their staff, when a client of theirs fails to pay, or when they get an exceptionally big order that they don’t have enough cash on hand to process.  Your bookkeeping services provider should be able to immediately take the administrative burden off your plate, follow industry best practices to help manage your client and vendor relationships, and connect you with specialized outside resources to address higher level legal and financing matters. 

When you approach the relationship like a partnership, your bookkeeping services provider can deliver much more value to your business than just paying bills and keeping score.

 

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Start-ups Attracted by More Than Just "Southern Charm" in the South

BStricklandWhen you think about the South you might think about the great food, the friendly people or the accents. But did you know that Southern cities are quickly getting a new association as a great place for scalable start-up businesses? Charleston, South Carolina is a perfect example of this new Southern business climate. According to Digsouth.com's blog, Charleston’s combination of affordable opportunities and friendly business atmosphere is what has attracted the likes of “Boeing, Mercedes, Volvo and Google.”

As a provider of accounting services, I like to keep my eye on trends in the business world. It’s impossible not to notice that certain southern cities are quickly becoming Meccas for start-ups, especially in the tech sector. Because my work deals specifically with accounting services, I can immediately spot a few reasons for this shift: one being that the South is more affordable and has business-friendly tax laws in many of its states. But the article on Digsouth.com highlights other pulls as well.

The article highlights some of the special cultural attributes of Charleston. For one, it is a city that seems to understand inherently that businesses are about people. “In the South, hospitality and customer service aren’t classes taught by human resources, they are bonafide traditions.” This can be the ideal setting for a business that views the welfare of its employees and their work-life balance as crucial both to the employees themselves and to the business.

But as the tech industry benefits from Charleston’s people-centric approach, increasingly people are benefitting from the city’s tech-centric approach. The people, the culture and business-friendly tax structures may have been the initial draw for these big businesses, but now there is a growing tech sector in the South that is providing its own kind of draw for the city. Cities like Charleston, Austin, and Raleigh have experienced huge growth in the tech sector in the last decade.

If you’re looking to move your business, or looking for the right place to start your business, consider the south. Talk it over with some other southern business owners as well as your accounting services professionals. Don’t let those delicious Waffle House restaurants that dot the highways in the South make the decision for you, but don’t write them off too quickly either.

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What’s the Deal With Outsourced Bookkeeping Services?

As someone in charge of a growing business you’ve probably considered outsourcing your bookkeeping services to an outside firm. You might also be thinking about bookkeeping software, hiring your own in-house bookkeeper, or trying to fill that role yourself. To help you make the best decision, read below to learn more about the outsourced bookkeeping option.

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1) A Trusted Advisor

Naturally your bookkeeper (whether it be an individual, a team of employees, yourself, or a bookkeeping services firm) is going to do bookkeeping. By that, I mean logging transactions and providing financial reports for your business. But the benefits of an outside firm go far beyond traditional bookkeeping services. More than just “keeping track,” your bookkeeping services firm will serve as one of your business's trusted advisors. They’ve worked with many small businesses before and know their way around a spreadsheet. They will tune into your business and help you make the wisest financial decisions available.

2) Easy to Scale With Growth

As time goes by you’ll find that your business doesn’t just grow, it evolves. Certain departments become more important and others become less of a priority. Both reassessing and reorganizing based on your needs and goals are crucial to continued development. If you do end up employing an outsourced bookkeeping services provider, you’ll find this solution easy to scale with you according to your needs. And if you grow to the point where it makes sense to have your own in-house bookkeeping department, you’ll find your outsourced team ready to help with that transition and get your new in-house team up to speed.

3) Focus on What’s Core

When you’re focused on your bookkeeping needs, you’re not focusing on your business’ core processes. For an outsourced bookkeeping team, bookkeeping is their core process. It’s where their skills and expertise lie. When you hand over these responsibilities to an outside team, you can reallocate your resources and time to your business' core focus and providing value to your customers.

4) Developing Good Financial Habits

Even if you don’t end up using an outsourced team forever, you may find that employing one in the early days of your business is a great way to learn the ins and outs of bookkeeping from a team of experts. They can help you develop good financial habits right from the get-go, and as time goes on these will become second nature to your business practice.

5) Providing Insight

Remember, your bookkeepers aren’t just looking at your numbers, they’re reading them. Your bookkeeping team will provide you with expert analysis and insight into your own business from an outside perspective. This can prove invaluable with time as these are the individuals who can make the most sense of your financial metrics, helping you understand, prioritize and respond to the financial information with which you’re provided.

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Bookkeeping Services | My Top 5 Favorite Business Bookkeeping Apps

As a provider of bookkeeping services at Supporting Strategies, I’ve had the opportunity to help optimize my client's bookkeeping processes using several great accounting apps.  These tools can save you and your team a lot of hours and effort, freeing up your valuable time to focus on other areas of your business. Your provider of bookkeeping services can show you around these tools and help you decide which ones are best for you.  Here are five of my favorites:

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1. Bill.com

Bill.com is a provider of digital business payments and can help simplify how your business processes ACH payments, all while automating and streamlining accounts payable and accounts receivable processes. Bill.com can be a major time saver and also allows businesses to manage accounts payable and accounts receivable from anywhere. Plus it syncs QuickBooks and QBO.

2. Tallie

Tallie is a business expense report software solution that will streamline your entire expense management process – from point of purchase to accounting and reimbursement. This software will integrate with other online bookkeeping services and bill pay services like QuickBooks, QBO, Bill.com, and Xero.

3. Transaction Pro Importer

Transaction Pro Importer can make importing your data into QuickBooks Online easy. It’s an intuitive and highly customizable tool. Whether your data is in text, Excel, Access, or an ODBC compliant database, this tool makes it quick and easy to import your transactions and lists.

4. TSHEETS

TSHEETS allows for easy web-based time tracking, web-based approval, and quick reporting. Instead of letting those billable moments slip through your fingers, you can easily and accurately track and organize your hours.

5. Track1099

Track1099 allows for the easy on-line filing of 1099 – MISC; and syncs up with QuickBooks and QBO. This is a great solution for those tired of sinking needless hours and human resources into IRS-related solutions.

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Accounting Services | Why Your Business Should Be Forecasting

Living in New England, the first thing I do each morning is check the weather forecast. A little forward thinking can go a long way and can be the difference between being caught in that summer storm with an umbrella, or without one. Forward thinking is crucial for your business as well. Preparing a budget will help you predict where your business is going, and a forecast will help you track progress and respond to changes along the way. As a provider of accounting services, I know that running a business can be just as prone to sudden changes as the weather in New England. But if you budget and forecast well, you’ll be able to prepare your business to best handle the weather any unexpected storms.

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A budget/forecast will also give you both a short-term and a long-term view of your business and help answer questions about future profitability, expenses, how your cash flow will develop, and what your capital needs are. These projections are crucial to management and making day-to-day decisions. Here are some tips to use in creating your budget/forecast:

1. Use Excel

You can create your budget/forecast by using an Excel-based model. Once complete, this budget data can be uploaded onto your business’ accounting services platform (i.e. QuickBooks) and this will make it simple and efficient to check your actuals against your budget on a monthly or quarterly basis.

2. Learn from History

Use historical (prior year) financial data as a baseline to create your model. I recommend starting your model to include your actual profit and loss, balance sheet and statement of cash flow actuals from the prior year.

3. Create a Worksheet for Revenue Assumptions

If you have revenue, you will want to create a separate worksheet in your Excel workbook to project this data based on the key inputs and metrics driving revenue in your business.

4. Create a Worksheet for Expenses

You will want to do the same for your expenses. Forward thinking often involves taking a look backward. So look back at what your expenses, expected and unexpected, were in the previous year as you create your expense forecast model for the future.

5. Consider Your Team

List your headcount with salaries and an assumption for benefits. Work into this your hiring plan if you have one so that you’re projecting not just for the team you have, but those who have yet to come aboard.

6. Tune Into Your Operating Expenses

Lay out your operating expenses by month for all of your expense categories. Take into consideration things like rent, travel and entertainment, and any other consistent expenses not yet covered in your budget.

7. Connect Your Assumptions Into Your Financial Reports

One great thing about Excel is the ability to manage multiple spreadsheets in a single file, and then link them together. The detailed worksheets discussed above should then link to drive the summary numbers on your budgeted Profit & Loss worksheet, so you can see the final results of all of your revenue and expense assumptions. You can then take that budgeted Profit & Loss statement to work on projecting out your future Balance Sheet and Statement of Cash Flows.

8. Figure Out How to Use It

In terms of frequency, I recommend that you create a budget before every fiscal year. You may want to re-forecast throughout the year after establishing your annual budget. In my opinion, it’s most beneficial to update quarterly as your business will evolve as the year progresses, and the assumptions used in the budget should be reviewed to ensure they are still valid. Revenue may be greater or less than expected and maybe your hiring plan has changed. When you re-forecast on a regular basis you will get a clearer picture of the expected operating results for the year. Make sure, when re-forecasting, to include the actuals for the prior months and forecast the remaining months for the fiscal year.

As a provider of outsourced accounting services, I’ve created annual budgets and forecasts for several of my clients throughout the years. I have learned that these tools have added a lot of value, not only for the business owner/manager in terms of decision making, but also for the finance staff and accounting services providers to understand where the business is going and how it operates.

 

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Help me to fight ALS!

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-webDid you know that every 90 minutes, someone is diagnosed with ALS and every 90 minutes someone loses their battle? Help me in joining the fight for a cure! 

In just under a week, I will be running the Chicago Marathon in support of The ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) Association Greater Chicago Chapter.  Over 8 million dollars has been donated to local, national, and international research projects since the Chapter was founded in 2004.

I am running in memory of Margaret Sullivan, who lost her battle with ALS in August of 2005.  Mrs. Sullivan, as she was known to me, was one of the greatest women I have ever met.  She raised 7 amazing children, yet despite this large family, she managed to have enough time and energy to open her home and heart to countless others, including myself.  Your support will fund assistance to other families like the Sullivans who have been affected by ALS, as well as to fund research to help find a cure.  Click Here to Donate!

Thanks in advance for your support!

Bookkeeping Services | Going Paperless With Bill.com

If you’re trying to go paperless at your office (a great way to simplify organizational systems and communication, save money, as well as help the environment), Bill.com can help you make this transition.

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At Supporting Strategies, Bill.com is one of our favorite tools in providing bookkeeping services to our clients. We use Bill.com mainly for our clients’ payables and receivables workflow, and use Smartvault (www.smartvault.com) for our client's paperless document storage. However, Bill.com also has a light document management feature which is a great option for small businesses looking for a simple way to get all of their documents in one place. Here’s some info we found in an article on Sleeter.com about how to use this great feature:

Documents are sent to your Bill.com inbox via email, fax, upload or even just by dragging and dropping. Within your inbox, you can choose to process the file as a company document and classify it according to following six options: Account, Vendor, Company, Customer, Invoice, and Payment Received .

Here are Sleeter.com’s tips for what to store under each category.

Account: Use the Account category for documents with a GL account, as well as receipts for major purchases, extended warranties and charitable donations.

Vendor: This is a place for different kinds of vendor related documents like tax documents, price lists, contracts and certificates of insurance.

Company: This is your place for company documents and information needed for your whole team, like lists of resources and contacts. It should be noted that Company will be the only category that won’t allow selection of “associated components of the related list you would like the document associated with.”

Customer: The great thing about this folder is that it makes it easy to share all your relevant customer documents (this might be a contract, a W-9 or, if necessary, a list of company contacts) with your clients through their own portal.

Invoice: The invoice folder is another one you can share with your clients, making it easy to invoice for payment and follow up.

Payment Received: Here you can store documents related to payment like a check image or a payment confirmation. This and the invoice category will be a great place to storing those documents needed by your bookkeeping services provider.

Your business’ provider of bookkeeping services will be able to walk you through the feature thoroughly and help you get set up on the new system. You definitely won’t regret the switch to paperless, and you’ll be thankful for the reduction of clutter and the ease with which you and your team can access and manage important documents.

 

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Critical Financial Controls to Avoid Bookkeeping Theft in Your Business

BryceLedetforWebI recently read an article about a woman arrested for stealing over $200,000 from her employer over the course of a year. These kinds of articles are all too common As many small businesses employ an internal bookkeeping staff comprised of one person, it is quite common for the business owner to place 100% trust in that individual, and throws oversight to the wind.

Most likely your bookkeeping services, as well all of your business’ operations, are executed by trustworthy and reliable individuals who you are happy and privileged to have on your team. But when it comes to running a business, it is critical that proper checks and balances are put in place, and that you, as the business owner, have an oversight role in the accounting process. Not doing this could cost your business substantially, as you can see in the article referenced above.

If you have provided your bookkeeper or office manager a signature stamp to use for signing checks on your behalf, throw it in the trash barrel! Ensure at a minimum that you, or an individual other than your bookkeeper, like your CFO or COO, reviews and signs all checks presented for signature. The same goes for the use of online bill payment. Do not, I repeat, do not, give your bookkeeper access to pay your bills online through your bank's website. If you want to pay your bills online, set up Bill.com so that your bookkeeper can set-up the bills for you to release payment on. Ensure that your bookkeeper does not have direct authority to directly spend your money, period.

Other controls you can put in place include comparing your sales reports against your cash deposits to ensure all cash is accounted for, and reviewing your bank statement for questionable or unauthorized transactions on a monthly basis.

Above all though, it’s no use checking in with your numbers if you don’t check in with your team as well. Ensure your internal bookkeeper or bookkeeping services provider understands the processes put in place and that you regularly check in on the numbers. A combination of financial controls and a team approach to your business's accounting department will not only sniff out any wrongdoing, but will also keep you tuned into your business’ financial life and promote a culture of accountability and transparency.

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Accounting Services | Is There a Future Accountant in Your Family?

If you ask any child what they want to be when they grow up, you’ll probably hear “firefighter,” “princess,” or “Spiderman.” A little bit older, and they might tell you they want to be a rock star or a video game tester. But if you think you see a future accounting services provider at the table this Thanksgiving, here’s what they need to know going forward.

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1. Why Work In Accounting Services 

There are a few reasons to work as a provider of accounting services. The salary is good, the demand is consistent, it’s highly transferable, and there exists a wide range of options for specialization in the field. For someone who likes working with numbers, it’s a great profession to get into. An accountant may not be Spiderman, but using your expertise to help others manage their finances feels great. Plus, having this expertise means that you’ll always be a valuable asset, wherever you work.

2. Decide If You’re Interested in Becoming an Accountant or a CPA 

An accountant is anyone employed to work on someone else’s business or personal finances. A CPA (Certified Public Accountant), however, has passed a state certification exam and has necessarily completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. CPAs may have a greater range of options in employment as specialists and business consultants, but both non-certified and certified accountants will be able to find meaningful work with clients. Both accountants and CPAs are required to take an exam in order to work with tax returns.

3. How to Become an Accountant 

There are a few different types of degree programs that will prepare you for a career in accounting services.  The knowledge and expertise gained from your program is invaluable and which type of degree program you choose will offer a different perspective and set of skills. You can get an Accounting Degree, which can be pursued at the Associate, Bachelor, Masters and PhD levels. This degree will cover financial recording, non-profit management, business management, income tax and government regulations. There are also more specialized degree programs (generally at the graduate level) in accounting such as Auditing, Finance and Taxation.

4. How to Become a CPA 

To become a CPA you will need, as a minimum, a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. In addition to this, graduate level work can be valuable as well, though it isn’t required to become a CPA. Depending on which state you live in you will have a certain number of instruction hours before you even sit for your certification test. Check to find out what the specific regulations are in your state, as you may be required to complete a number of instruction hours for accounting as well as for business. After that’s done, it’s time to study for your CPA exam, which will cover auditing and attestation, financial accounting and reporting, regulation, as well as business.

5) What’s the Most Important Thing in Accounting? 

I always tell my kids that the most important thing in accounting is accuracy. Accuracy is of course crucial when you’re working with numbers, but it is not the only virtue for an accountant. The next most important thing, then, is passion. This is as true of accounting as it is of all jobs. So if you love working with numbers, are interested in how businesses work, and want a job providing a crucial and highly valued service to clients in need, accounting could be for you.

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3 Ways Technology has Revolutionized the Accounting Services Industry

Let’s face it, accounting services hasn't historically been seen as the most glamorous and exciting profession out there. However, in recent years, new accounting-centric technology solutions have brought a lot of new energy to the accounting industry. Here are three ways in which technology has revolutionized how outsourced accounting services providers add values to the businesses' they serve:

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1) Automation Reduces Human Error and Frees Up Human Resources

When it comes to accounting, automation is a great thing. It allows your computers to do what they’re best at (processing data quickly and accurately), while your accounting team focuses on what they do best (being creative and critical thinkers). Not only does it drastically reduce human error in data entry, it also frees up valuable human resources, i.e. your actual accounting team. Automated data entry will allow your accounting services provider to be more than just a number cruncher, but a financial analyst and champion for your business, working with you to make decisions, and to help you with financial planning so you can better manage your business. In fact, before accounting automation tools were available, companies overwhelmed with a high volume of manual transactional work simply carried the fixed expense of in-house employees whose sole function was to manually process accounting data. Now, companies can effectively outsource their accounting  function.  The accounting services provider, with new technology at their disposal, can replace the heavy lifting formerly done by employees, greatly reducing the company's accounting costs.

2) Accounting Apps Make Accounting Accessible

Cutting edge accounting apps that have come on the market have been a boon to accounting services providers and their clients. The newly redesigned QuickBooks Online Accountant allows outsourced accountants to manage a portal where they can work with all of their clients and also affords them wholesale pricing to offer to their clients as well. For about $15/month, each client can share their books to up to 5 users, and give their accountant access to boot. QuickBooks Online has integrations with 100's of ancillary accounting apps, such as Bill.com for payables management, and TSHEETS for employee time tracking. All of these applications allow a business to operate its accounting function completely online in a fully integrated environment, that not only speeds the pace of their accounting workflow, but gives all of the players real-time access to the accounting data from anywhere. Many outsourced accountants will set-up the right cloud technology platform to meet the business' as part of their new client onboarding process.

3) The Cloud Saves Space, Time, and Stress

The Cloud has completely revolutionized how we think about data storage. When your accounting team puts your information in the cloud, this is more than just a storage solution. This becomes a back-up for your most vital financial information, as well as your disaster data recovery plan to ensure that after a catastrophe, your data can be recovered without you and your clients losing any sleep. We once had a client that had a fire in their office building, and lost access to most of their business data for about a week, as they could not access their on-site file servers. They, however, had no downtime in accessing their QuickBooks file and other accounting records, as these were all managed in the cloud as part of our services package. Just make sure to understand your cloud storage provider has solid security and data recovery procedures in place as part of your vendor selection process. Also, as part of your internal process, ensure all employees save 100% of their documents in the cloud, and don't save anything locally.

To learn more, Download our Cloud Accounting Tools eBook

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How Best to Support Your Remote Employees

Liz HomemAs a Financial Operations Director at Supporting Strategies, I'm always looking for new ways to help our remote employees feel like they're part of a cohesive team.

One approach I've shared with other managers is keeping a flexible agenda for regular meetings, so informal conversations can mimic the spontaneity, creativity and connection that happens in office interactions.

When I spotted this fun article advising telecommuters on how to succeed, I thought I'd reach out to some of our seasoned managers for their best ideas on making the arrangement work. Here's what Financial Operations Managers Diane Fulginiti and Denise Rosenstein had to say on the subject.

Our top tips and pitfalls when it comes to supporting remote staff:

DO try to talk or text with every associate regularly — even a daily check-in is not too much. Conversations can be client-related or a simple, "How's your day going?"

DO consider offering cross-training opportunities specific to particular clients. This not only makes it easier for associates to take time off, but also gives them a chance to work together and build rapport.

DO encourage associates to look for each other online. Those virtual connections go a long way toward helping them feel comfortable with one another — and willing to ask for help.

DO share your cell number with all associates, and encourage them to use it. Make sure they know they can always call you to brainstorm issues large and small. A phone conversation can be a better place for you to gauge the issues they face and brainstorm solutions together.

DON'T shut yourself off from the team when you're facing down a deadline. It may seem like you're saving time, but it will cost you in the long run.

DO consider setting up informal get-togethers at a local coffee shop or even someone's home. Opportunities to socialize are a great way to build strong relationships across the team.

Thanks, Diane and Denise, for your insights. I thought all of these suggestions were spot-on. For those of you reading, whether managers or associates, what tips would you add to the list?

Five Reasons to Outsource Your Bookkeeping Services

If you’re like many other small business owners across the States, you’ve probably considered outsourcing your bookkeeping processes to an outside firm. As a provider of outsourced bookkeeping services, I’ve advised many potential clients on this issue before. Here are the top five reasons to make the switch.

1. A Bookkeeper Will Save You Time & Money

Outsourcing your bookkeeping will allow you to pay only for the time you actually need. Rather than paying an in-house full-timer, an outsourced bookkeeping services firm will bill you a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee. In addition to this, if you’ve been trying to do your books on your own, you’ll probably find that those in the bookkeeping business will do the same work faster and more effectively than you can do yourself. 

2. Bookkeepers Do More Than Just the Books

Your bookkeeper will be doing more than just logging transactions for you and giving you a bottom line at the end of the quarter. Your bookkeeper is there to provide you with valuable financial metrics on your business allowing you to see how you’re progressing financially.

3. Bookkeepers Have The Latest Knowledge

Your bookkeeping services provider is the first to know about the latest regulatory changes and how to handle them. This will ensure that all your financial operations are in compliance with the most up-to-date regulatory changes affecting payroll, hiring, and other vital processes. Without this expertise, you could end up having to do the same work twice to make sure you’re in line with the latest compliance standards.

4. Bookkeepers Provide Up-To-Date Records

Your outsourced bookkeeper should be providing you with up-to-date financial records on a monthly basis at the very least. This will be extremely helpful when it gets to be every CPA's favorite time of the year: tax season. Having up-to-date records will make it very easy for your accountant to file your tax return, and this way you can avoid staying up till 4:00 AM the night before with two filing cabinets and a shoebox of receipts.

5. A Bookkeeper Can Help You Understand Your Business

Most importantly of all, a bookkeeper is an outside eye on your business. Your provider of bookkeeping services is especially valuable for this because, while they’re on your team, they’re also on the outside, which gives an invaluable outsider perspective. Your provider will be well versed in the most vital financial processes of your business, and will be able to help you examine your profits and losses when making your financial plans and business strategies. Remember, your bookkeeper isn’t just there to crunch the numbers. They’re there to help your business thrive.

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Don't Let Zenefits/ADP Strife Impact Your Payroll Administration

img-mark-waldIf you follow the payroll administration world, you've probably heard about the dispute between red-hot startup Zenefits and payroll services giant ADP. Unfortunately, some innocent bystanders — i.e. shared customers of the two companies — are feeling the effects. Perhaps you're even one of the affected customers.

Some brief background: The Silicon Valley-based, venture-backed Zenefits provides a free platform to "manage all your human resource needs — payroll, benefits, compliance and more" in one place. Optional paid features and services are also available, which is how Zenefits makes money. ADP, of course, first made its name in payroll services decades ago and now also offers a variety of complementary employee benefits administration and human capital management solutions.

Until recently, some form of integration existed between the two services to programmatically synchronize data from one to the other. According to Zenefits, "ADP systematically de-activated Zenefits accounts within ADP" in late May and has since refused to restore access. This has prevented Zenefits software from accessing payroll data within ADP-run accounts, creating problems for companies that use both products.

ADP counters that they "have never integrated with Zenefits in any sense and have never authorized their method of extracting data from our RUN payroll system." ADP adds that they disabled access because Zenefits software "had been responsible for up to 25.0% of the total user traffic" despite "serving less than 0.25% of the clients on our system."

In early June, the clash reached a new level when ADP filed a defamation lawsuit against Zenefits. Shortly thereafter, ADP introduced what Zenefits describes as a competitive offering called "Opum."

Where Does This Leave Zenefits/ADP Customers?

I'm not about to take sides here, but I will say it's sad to see so many businesses suffering as a result of this quarrel.

If you're a customer of Zenefits and ADP, you can't let payroll administration fall by the wayside while the two duke it out. Since an automated data sync no longer exists, you should assign qualified resource(s) and establish the appropriate processes to manually reconcile data between the two systems as you make new-hire, pay-rate, title and department changes, and other updates to your employee and contractor data in either system.

If you don't have the time or personnel in-house to take on this responsibility, consider enlisting the help of an experienced service provider with expertise in payroll and benefits administration as well as business accounting, operations management and more.

At Supporting Strategies | Santa Monica, we have experienced accounting professionals who understand this issue from a strategic and a tactical perspective. We've worked extensively with both systems and can implement the most efficient processes to mitigate the impact of the Zenefits/ADP conflict on your business.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly at 310-579-9206 or mwald@supportingstrategies.com. Good luck!

Bookkeeping Services | Does QuickBooks Online Do Progress Billing?

Recently an acquaintance approached me with an issue regarding Quickbooks Online – specifically how to do progress billing.  Sometimes it can be helpful to have a friend in the bookkeeping services business, for just these kind of situations. Having worked with this software quite a while now, I turned her towards the following work-around for this problem, sourced from fundera.com.  Once you get it, you’ll never have trouble with progress billing on QBO again.

Janelle-Thunhorst

Progress billing is typically used for big jobs when it’s necessary to bill at different intervals.  This can be done in Quickbooks Online by duplicating the approved estimate and adjusting the estimate entries to reflect the amount you want to bill for.  

For example if you were a web designer and your client had just approved your $4,000.00 estimate to redesign their site, you might want to bill in progress payments rather than all at once.  Let’s say you decide to bill three times throughout the progress of the work and then one final payment upon completion. 

1. First make sure that “Custom Transaction Numbers” is turned on your company settings. 

2. Add the description of the total project to the description of the estimate so that your customer can see the details.  At this point you can duplicate the estimate by clicking the “copy” button at the bottom of the screen, and do this as many times as needed.  In the case of our web design example, you would do this three times (resulting in four entries).

If the original estimate approved was numbered in QBO as #1000, for instance, change it to #1000.1 to reflect that this is the first installment.  Follow this up with #1000.2, #1000.3, and #1000.4, each in the amount of $1,000.00.  You can now edit the line items of the new estimate to show the remainder of the project.

3. If you have multiple line items that make up the $1,000.00, simply do a calculation on each line and QBO will do the math for you, i.e. enter *25 behind each number on each line of your estimate.

These softwares are invaluable tools, but can be difficult to navigate to those who are new to them and unfamiliar with the ins and outs of their features.  For this reason it can be helpful to enlist those with a particular expertise in bookkeeping services.  Whether outsourcing your business’ bookkeeping services, searching websites like fundera, or simply asking a friend for some pointers, a little help can go a long way.

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The Importance of Financial Management in the ‘Trinity of Management'

Andy-Hale

For all you small business owners out there, I thought you might like to learn about a useful framework for basic business management. It's called the "Trinity of Management."

Patrick Brower, Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative, explains the concept in this article. He says the trinity has three legs, all of which a business needs to succeed: 1) a superb product or service, 2) strong sales and marketing, and 3) solid financial management.

Naturally, item #3 caught my eye. I urge you to read the article to learn about the three key aspects of financial management, including one vital piece that many businesses miss. How about your business?

5 Tips to Optimize Your Chart of Accounts in QuickBooks

According to Chicagonow.com, 80% of small businesses using financial management software are using QuickBooks. It’s safe to assume that these businesses are generating their internal financial reporting using QuickBooks. Therefore, the structure of the QuickBooks chart of accounts is critical, as it's list of categories will be what builds up the labels on many of the QuickBooks financial reports, including the income statement and the balance sheet.

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Having provided bookkeeping services to hundreds of small business clients using QuickBooks, I’ve seen the chart of accounts neglected time and time again, overrun with useless categories and so disorganized that the financial reports coming out of the system are essentially useless to read. Here are five quick tips for optimizing this critical feature:

1) Don’t Stick With the Default

The default chart of accounts in QuickBooks will provide you with a canned set of reports based on the industry you choose. This is a helpful starting point, but you can and should customize it further to reflect your unique business. Create the accounts for your bank, credit card and loan accounts, as well as any other asset or liability accounts. What are your major revenue sources and cost drivers? These are the line items you should be seeing on your income statement. Go through the default chart of accounts, add any new accounts you might need, modify the names of some of the accounts already there, and simply delete those which you don’t find valuable.

2) Order is Everything

The default chart of accounts will list your accounts in alphabetical order. This would mean that an account with limited annual expense activity, such as “Dues and Subscriptions” would show up near the top of your Income Statement, while a major expense account such as “Salaries” will show up near the bottom. Re-order this chart to make sure it's accurately reflecting your priorities, with the most meaningful income and expense accounts at the top. In QuickBooks Desktop, you can simply drag and move the accounts in the order you would like while QuickBooks Online will not allow you re-order your accounts outside of alphabetical order unless you use account numbers as a way of prioritizing the order. In the case of using QuickBooks Online, therefore, I suggest the use of account numbers.

3) Take Advantage of Parent and Subaccounts.

Similar to prioritizing your most important categories, you should also use parent and subaccounts to allow you to see your business’ results in the most useful way. For example, you may have a parent account called “Facilities Expenses” and underneath it, the subaccounts of “Rent Expense”, “Utilities”, “Cleaning Expenses”, etc. A rent expense line may run 10’s of thousands of dollars annually, while cleaning expenses may be a few thousand. Without the use of the parent account to “roll-up” these similar expenses, each of these accounts will get the same priority on your income statement, and will then cause the report to include dozens of line items. This will make it hard for you, as the business owner, to see the forest through the trees, and could make it difficult for you to quickly get a pulse on how the business is performing. Using parent accounts allows you to run a “Collapsed” or “Expanded” report, so you can see the summary performance of the business AND get at the details, giving you the best of both worlds.

4) Use Classes and Customer: Jobs in Addition to the Chart

I have seen many of my clients try to use the chart of accounts to not only analyze their overall business but to see project profitability, cost center performance, etc. Keep your chart of accounts simple, and instead, use the additional dimensions of “Classes”, “Customer: Jobs”, and in QuickBooks Online, “Locations”, to add these additional categorization tags to your income and expense transactions. By doing this, you are able to produce a clean, summary-level income statement as well as additional reports used to analyze these different aspects of your business. Work with your bookkeeper or bookkeeping services provider to determine the right use of these lists so that you maximize your reporting results.

5) Don’t Guess When It Comes to Your Bookkeeping!

Make sure transactions are coded properly. Ever hear the saying “garbage in, garbage out?” Your financial statements are only as good as the information going into them. Make sure that whoever is recording your company’s revenue and expense transactions, whether it is you, a bookkeeper, or an outsourced provider of bookkeeping services, that they have a solid understanding of how to use your chart of accounts, as well as your class list, and if applicable, how to categorize project expenses as well. Set-up a “placeholder account”, such as the “Ask my Accountant” account that is generated by QuickBooks. This account is the place to send any transactions for which it is unclear where they should get coded. Make sure to request that this is where they end up. As part of closing the books at the end of the month, review this account and re-categorize these expenses as necessary.

Interested in learning more? Contact us for a free QuickBooks consultation. We would be happy to review and provide you with advice on how to best attack your chart of accounts.

Free QuickBooks Consultation

Overcoming 3 Common Small Business Accounting Hurdles

When taking stock of your own small business, it’s important to seek out new approaches to old problems.  This becomes especially vital when examining your approach to your accounting.  Here are three easy-to-overlook hurdles facing many small businesses today, and how your business can overcome them.

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1.  Lack of Timely and Accurate Financial Statements

Your financial statements are important for more than just meetings with banks and investors.  Most business decisions that you’ll make will have financial implications, and that’s why timely and accurate financial statements are so crucial. Without the up-to-date financial stats, you’ll be operating in the dark when it comes to these decisions. Outsourcing your accounting services is one way to address this challenge and take your business to the next level. The outsourced accounting services provider will be able to keep you in the loop, reporting back the numbers each month on a specified date, and partnering with you on the format and criteria of your financial statements to make sure you’re getting the most relevant and helpful information.

2. Poor Cash Management

Ever hear the saying that cash in king? Cash flow is a necessity in any small business, and managing cash can be greatly simplified by asking your accounting services firm or accounting department for a weekly cash flash. This tool will give you actual bank balances and recent cash flow activity, and also project the short-term cash flow in your business. 

This process should be tied into the accounts payable and accounts receivable process. This way, your entire vendor payments process is tightly managed and you can address any late customer invoices. Remember to work with your accounting team, whether outsourced or internal, to actively manage your cash flow as a critical part of the weekly accounting schedule.

3. Lack of Documented Policies and Procedures

Most companies’ core business processes are loosely understood and under-documented. I cannot count how many times I have walked into a new client’s office where key tasks such as how to prepare customer invoices and how to get the staff paid was completely unknown to the business owner, the details of the process having left with a former employee who’s already out the door. A key benefit to outsourcing your accounting services is the improvement in documenting these processes.  During the on-boarding process, all of our accounting business processes will be well documented, and in many cases, reviewed for improvements and optimization.

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Where Boston's Fastest Growing Firms Get Their Bookkeeping Services

Supporting Strategies Boston was proud to see several former and current clients highlighted by Inc. Magazine as some of “Boston’s Fastest Growing Firms.  Supporting Strategies, a provider of outsourced bookkeeping services , looks back at their time with these clients.

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Financial Operations Associate Carrie Decatur recalls when Pixability first came to Supporting Strategies in 2009 “when they were a company of just a half-dozen employees producing and editing videos out of a tiny office.” As Pixability has evolved and grown (now providing ad-buying and video marketing services for the likes of Google, Viacome and Gillette) Supporting Strategies has continuously evolved in its approach to serving their dynamic and growing needs for bookkeeping services.

Carrie notes the centrality of the personal relationship she was able to develop with Pixability, as well as flexibility in her approach to their needs. “Pixability’s exponential growth led them to hire in-house HR staff.  We were very engaged in the transition and continue to play a key role while partnering with their staff.  The changes have actually led to more work for us, not less.”

Amy Lyons of Supporting Strategies first started working with Localytics when it was "just a few employees wearing many hats."  This software firm, enabling personalized push and in-app marketing campaigns for mobile apps, was another business singled out by Inc. Magazine for it's remarkable progress.   Localytics came to Supporting Strategies in 2010 for bookkeeping services, and Lyons notes that Localytics "experienced explosive growth and has transformed the way their customers connect with their favorite products and services."  

Diane Fugliniti, a Financial Operations Manager at Supporting Strategies, has been working with Next Step Living, a provider of residential and commercial energy saving solutions, since 2009.  "At that time they had been in business for just over a year and were looking to grow and expand."  Like the rest of the team at Supporting Strategies, Fugliniti was proud to see the Inc. Magazine ranking highlighting their growth.

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Leveraging Bookkeeping Services to Focus on Your Core Processes

Assuming you are not a CPA or bookkeeping services company, the recording of financial transactions including purchases, sales, receipts, and payments is likely not one of your business' core processes, but rather a "supporting" process.

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By definition, core processes are defined as those activities that your customers are willing to pay for because they add value.  While your customers hope you have an efficient hiring process and that you have security in your corporate headquarters, they are generally not willing to pay for those activities because those activities do not add value to your product or service.  For example, a parent buying a toy for a child is willing to pay a fraction of the cost associated with designing the toy, manufacturing it, safety testing it, as well as the cost of shipping it to a location where it can be purchased.    

These core processes make up the value chain.  The most successful businesses in the world know and understand their value chain and are focused on making it the best it can be to stay competitive.  Companies such as Apple, Coca Cola, IBM and Ford spend billions of dollars a year to make their core processes the best that they can be.

Other processes, such as bookkeeping services, are necessary to run a business, but are not typically part of that business' value chain, and are supporting rather than core processes.  Supporting processes are crucial to the growth and development of any business, but do not directly add value to that business' product or service.  Therefore, it makes sense for the business to structure its supporting processes to meet the business' objectives as efficiently and as inexpensively as possible.  For that reason, supporting processes are often outsourced to other companies that specialize in that process.

For example, while the toy company above would likely retain control of its value chain activities, it likely is not having its employees wash the windows of their office building, but instead, contracts with a local window washing company to manage the process of getting the windows washed.  This makes sense because the toy company is expert at producing toys and not cleaning windows.  Their customers' expectation is that the company is focused on bringing the most amazing toys to the market, not on window washing.

While a company's bookkeeping function needs to be managed well, it is not a core process for most companies.  Therefore, outsourcing to a bookkeeping services company makes a lot of sense for businesses, as it enables the business to focus on its core competency and creating value for its customers and in the business.  

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21st Century Bookkeeping Services

Bookkeeping has come a long way from its development in 13th Century medieval Europe, yet for too many people trying to find the best in bookkeeping services for their businesses, medieval bookkeeping reigns. One pictures a solitary bookkeeper, dressed in monastic robes, slowly logging transactions into a ledger in a candlelit chamber. 

From these humble beginnings in medieval Europe all the way to 19th century America, bookkeeping has remained essentially the same.  While larger companies have realized process and technology advancements in the past 100 years, bookkeeping for many small business owners has remained locked in the dark ages until recently.  

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A 21st Century approach to bookkeeping brings trained accountants and streamlined processes to the table, and makes use of new technologies which advance the efficiency and effectiveness to meet the business’ needs.  The needs of a modern business are not the same as a medieval merchant, and so today’s business owners must update their approach when seeking out bookkeeping services.

Bringing bookkeeping into the 21st century shouldn't be as difficult as removing King Arthur's sword from the stone.  To get your business there, look for a solution that provides the following types of improvements to unlock the bookkeeping magic:  

1)  PEOPLE - Get the best resources you can find.  If you are counting on your books, find best in class resources to manage them.  Local, CPA level expertise that can handle "bookkeeper through controller" activities is available at rates that will surprise you.  These fractional resources can even work from their own castle which will save you money and headaches.

2)  PROCESS - Use standard processes, workflows, and oversight to ensure accounting standards are met.  Make sure you build continuity into your process by going with a team-based approach.  Reduce transition risk associated with employee departure or unscheduled absence by creating your own round table so you don't have to re-train your troops ever again by going with a bookkeeping services company rather than an individual.

3)  TECHNOLOGY - The dark ages are over.  Even if you are a small business, you should have an integrated, full-cycle accounting software solution - A/R, A/P, cash management, payroll, audit-ready financials with document storage and sharing.  Utilize current accounting software packages that increase automation and minimize manual data entry.  Don't get on any accounting horse that does not have access to best-in-class tools such as TSHEETS, Bill.com, FundBox, SmartVault, InfusionSoft, etc.

If you are stuck in the accounting and bookkeeping dark ages, feel free to stop by our village for additional information:  http://www.supportingstrategies.com/texas

Keeping Your Business’ Eye on the Scoreboard by Leveraging Accounting Data

Imagine attending a basketball game without a scoreboard. This is the scenario put forth in an article on insightfulaccountant.com.  While the scoreboard might not seem so crucial (someone on the sidelines can always keep track) it greatly affects the viewer’s experience – where’s the tension if you don’t know who is winning and who is losing and by how much?  Even more crucially, it affects the players' performance.  The scoreboard, it turns out, is more than just a way of keeping track of numbers. It’s a way of evaluating performance which has the potential to change the outcome of the game.

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We should take the same approach when it comes to accounting.  Most people think of accounting services merely as a way of keeping track, and generally these people only check in on their scoreboard quarterly or even annually. At Supporting Strategies we recommend that every business owner looks at their financial statements (income statement, balance sheet, statement of cash flows, as well as their A/P and A/R aging summaries) on a monthly basis at a minimum.

In addition to this, business owners will gain a lot of insight into reviewing a weekly scorecard to keep their pulse on the key metrics of their business. These metrics can include cash balance, status of aging A/R, sales against plan, and even information on the sales pipeline, such as close rate, and number of leads and lead source. The scorecard can also inform operational performance.  For example, in our business of providing accounting services, we look at our available staff capacity, and how effectively our staff worked during the prior week (i.e. our realization).

An outsourced provider of accounting services can do more than just keep track of the numbers for a quarterly check-in. As providers of these crucial metrics, your accounting services can strengthen your insight into your business and help you make that game winning buzzer-beater.

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Accounting Professionals Prefer Paperless Payments, Study Finds

Andy-HalePaper or paperless payments? For many accounting professionals, the answer is clear: Paperless payments are the way to go, due largely to the reduced risk of fraud.

This is the big takeaway from a recent survey of accounting practitioners sponsored by Bill.com. According to the study, "More than 50 percent of accounting professionals support the idea of moving to paperless payments, with 41 percent intending to adopt a cloud-based client payment solution in the next six months."

I encourage you to download the complete report here.

Proposed Changes to Overtime Rules & Their Impact on Payroll Administration

BryceLedetforWebMaking sense of the proposed changes to overtime rules may seem daunting when it comes to payroll administration, but it's important that small businesses take the time to get it right. Although the rules haven't yet become law, it's not too early to consider their potential impact.

In some cases, the rules changes will reduce the overtime threshold for small businesses with salaried employees. Simply reviewing salary isn't sufficient; a duties test also applies. Determining which employees are affected will take some coordination between management and those dealing with payroll administration.

This article from our payroll services partners at ADP lays out the basics.

Steps You Can Take

Beyond determining who on the roster would be affected by the rules change, what can a small business owner do?

Start with answering key questions like these:

  • Is your business in a position to absorb these increased costs?
  • Does the business need to raise prices?
  • Are there changes to be made that would increase efficiencies to get the same amount of work done in less time?
  • Does it make sense to hire additional employees and reduce the overall work week to 40 hours?

For small business owners concerned about cash flow, then, the choice is whether to fund additional efficiencies, uncover ways to manage costs or increase prices, or recalibrate the number of employees to try and reduce overtime.

As payroll services experts, Supporting Strategies is well-positioned to help clients face these challenges. Working together so closely from an operational perspective gives us added insight — knowledge that can help clients take the steps to stay in compliance and minimize the impact on the bottom line.

That's the kind of contribution that serves clients and their employees across the board.

Tips for Steering Clear of Bookkeeping Pitfalls

Andy-HaleIf you don't enjoy bookkeeping (and what small-business owner does?), Business 2 Community author Catherine Lewis has good news: "It is now easier than ever to manage your business finances."

In her Business 2 Community article, "Make Every Dollar Count: 5 Bookkeeping Mistakes to Avoid," Lewis explains that cloud-based accounting software is taking the pain out of bookkeeping for small-business owners. But, she adds, you have to be sure to avoid certain bookkeeping pitfalls.

What are those key pitfalls? Check out the article for a quick rundown.

Guest Article: Paying for Qualified Employees Pays Off

One of our referral partners, Christine Searle of Searle Business Solutions, has a great blog. She recently posted an interesting article on the benefits of paying for qualified employees that she has graciously allowed us to republish here. Thanks, Christine!

Without the right tools or equipment to get the job done, it takes longer. Often, things have to be done over. It's the same with people. Trying to do the job with lower-paid, but unqualified, employees will cost your organization more in the long run.

Small businesses and non-profits often think that their budgets aren't big enough to invest in the people they really need. Especially finance and administrative staff, who provide information and support for the entire organization. What does it cost not to invest in knowledgeable and experienced people for finance and administrative roles?

Organizations are exposed to five risks by not investing in the right people:

1. Limited Capacity and Lack of Innovation

People without the necessary skills and experience may not even be aware of what to do, let alone good practices. Organizations planning to grow, or to stay competitive, need people who can keep up with changing conditions and new methods.

2. Turnover

Having unqualified employees often results in high turnover. Hiring and training takes time. Vacancies on your team put stress on your other employees. Time and stress are not expense items on your financial statement. But they are real costs you cannot recover.

3. Time Spent Correcting Errors

Unqualified employees are more prone to errors. Errors are time-consuming and expensive to correct, assuming they are detected. The cost of undetected errors is incalculable.

4. Inefficiency

Experienced people know what to do and how to it. They've seen it before. They assess new situations quickly and accurately. Inexperienced people take more time because they are figuring it out as they go. 

5. Regulatory or Legal Compliance Issues

Employees must be aware of compliance issues that can hurt the organization. It could be issues particular to your industry or general business considerations, such as taxes and payroll. Getting any of that wrong can be very costly.

Getting the right people on the team isn't easy. It's pretty much impossible if the pay isn't enough to attract and retain them. Considering the five risks of failing to invest in the right people will head off the expensive issues that arise from making the cheapest decision. 

Guest Article: Do Sales Cover My Costs?

One of our referral partners, Christine Searle of Searle Business Solutions, has a great blog. She recently posted an interesting article on breakeven analysis that she has graciously allowed us to republish here. Thanks, Christine!

Knowing whether your small business is producing enough income to cover costs seems pretty straightforward, right? Not necessarily. If you don't plan your income and expenses appropriately, you could have a nasty surprise. It's good practice to perform a breakeven analysis to make sure your sales are covering your costs, or to work with an accounting professional to get it done.

Breakeven analysis is an approach to find the point at which you have enough sales to cover your production or service delivery costs and overhead. Knowing when you are selling enough to sustain your business involves more than looking at your bank balance; it starts with understanding and documenting your costs.

Know Your Costs

Documenting all the costs of doing business should be part of budgeting and pricing your product. If you haven't documented all your costs yet, this is the time to do it, or to see the aforementioned accounting professional.

For a breakeven analysis, your costs fall into one of two types: variable costs and fixed costs. A variable cost changes when the level of production or service delivery changes. Typical examples include materials and supplies. Fixed costs do not vary depending on the production level, such as rent, insurance, and other overhead expenses.

Some costs are not as clear to categorize. Compensation is typically a fixed cost, unless it is paid as a commission tied to production. Utilities are generally a fixed cost; however, if it is possible to effectively monitor the electricity used by machines in production, utilities could become a variable cost.

Breakeven Sales Point

First, determine your contribution margin, the amount that each sale "contributes" to covering fixed costs. It is calculated by dividing the total fixed cost by the price minus the variable costs. For example, a business with $50,000 in fixed costs that sells a product for $15 with $10 in variable costs has a contribution margin of $5. This means that 10,000 products sold will cover fixed costs. Fixed costs are covered with the 10,001st sale.

Small businesses need to know their costs and understand their breakeven point to avoid nasty financial surprises. For assistance, consult your accounting professional.

Useful Advice for Choosing Professional Accounting Services

Georgean-Schmidt-for-webIf you own a growing business, chances are you'll hit a crossroads at some point: Continue using free or inexpensive online accounting tools or upgrade to professional accounting services? And if you choose to step up to the latter option, how can you make sure you pick the right resource?

Entrepreneur.com's Kim Lachance Shandrow has written a useful guide to help you with this important decision: "10 Questions to Ask When Working With an Accountant." For example, question #3: "What are some considerations I should consult with you about on an ongoing basis?"

Find out the 10 questions you should ask — and why — in this Entrepreneur.com article.

Supporting Strategies Client ClearView Audio Raises $1M in New Equity Funding

Paul_AudetSupporting Strategies client ClearView Audio is making waves with its award-winning Clio™ speaker, and we couldn't be happier for them.

A recent Boston Business Journal article described the company's success in securing $1 million in investments. The Clio, an ultra-thin, acrylic, wireless speaker, was unveiled at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Supporting Strategies has worked with ClearView Audio since November 2013, with Financial Operations Associate Sharon Skahen providing bookkeeping and operational support. Sharon's work has included accounts payable management, payroll administration through Paychex, bank reconciliations and other month-end closing work.

"ClearView Audio relies on Supporting Strategies to manage a number of our operational needs," said ClearView Audio CFO Gregory Galliford. "We value their assistance highly, as it allows us to focus on strategic priorities such as product development, strategic partnerships and fundraising."

The Clio earned Best of CES2014 recognition at the Las Vegas unveiling and went on to win the 2015 Edison Gold Award and the Red Dot 2015 Product Design Award.

We send our congratulations to ClearView and look forward to continuing our relationship as the company continues to grow and thrive.

When is the right time to hire a full-time CFO versus a Controller or simply a Bookkeeper?

An entrepreneur recently posed the following question:  “When is the right time to hire a full-time CFO versus a part-time CFO, a Controller or simply a Bookkeeper?”  I believe that the core considerations should be to best address the needs of the company while minimizing spend. How many hours are required of a CFO-level resource, vs how many hours are required to complete lower level tasks? A good CFO or Controller will hold the company's cash preservation as a top priority and should identify opportunities to bring in lower cost resources to do as much of the time-intensive lower level tasks as possible, minimizing your time demands and cost for higher-level resources.  So working with a responsible higher-level resource on a part time basis can yield more value while saving you time and expense.

Let's draw a parallel between startups and sports for a minute. The bookkeeper is like the score keeper--recording numbers in the appropriate boxes for reporting and (for others to perform) statistical analysis.  Often a bookkeeper won't have a deep understanding of accounting, they'll just know how to keep score.  But accounting professionals with more technical experience and expertise can add incremental value to the bookkeeper role. The controller is like the referee--they should have a deep understand of accounting rules and are responsible for the systems and processes that manage the company's financial data.  Controllers ensure the accuracy and efficiency of a company's financial operations and reporting.  The CFO is like the special teams coach, leading the strategy on technical plays and partnering with other coaches to lead the team to success. CFO's will also negotiate strategic partnerships with other teams (businesses) and service providers, participate in key staff recruiting process, help manage and raise capital, etc.

Speaking of teams, fulfilling the accounting and finance responsibilities of a business should be a team-based approach. Accounting and financial reporting can be very technical work in which mistakes can be costly to the business, so it pays to have systems of checks and balances and a second set of eyes to review the work to help ensure accuracy and consistency. It is difficult for one person to cover all this by themselves, especially when the work volume is unpredictable or is scaling up quickly.

Besides, each role requires a different skill set and personality type. Many CFO's can perform some or all of the lower level functions, but why would you want to pay their higher price to do lower level work? And if a "CFO" is charging a Controller's rate and/or is happy to perform lower level tasks for an extended period of time, are they really CFO material looking out for your bottom line or are they a lower-level resource who's trying to wear the CFO title? How do they justify charging the company a high rate for their time to perform recurring tasks that a lower level resource can/should do for less money?

So to answer the question more directly, the right time to hire a full time CFO is when your business requires so much of a CFO's time on a consistent, ongoing basis that it is more cost-effective to hire a full time CFO than to outsource the role to an interim consultant. The same applies to the Controller and Bookkeeper position. And until then, outsource all three roles to a qualified team of resources who posses all the necessary skills, experience, and bandwidth to service your company's evolving needs on a variable priced billing model. I offer this service through Supporting Strategies and would be happy to discuss further with you any time.

Check this out:
Part-time CFO vs. controller?

3 Key Benefits of Using Alternative Dispute Resolution

Commonly abbreviated as ADR, Alternative Dispute Resolution refers to any means, process or method of mutually resolving conflicts & disputes outside the court. ADR typically includes early neutral evaluation, negotiation, and conciliation, however mediation, and arbitration remain two primary forms.

Arbitration is an informal and private process to resolve disputes. The decision made by the arbitrator is binding on the parties as well as enforceable. The hearing process is less formal and allows using flexible timing for the convenience of the parties in a dispute. Each party has the opportunity to present evidence as well as argument to an impartial arbitrator. In arbitration, the parties let go of their rights to create their own solution and instead place their trust in the hands of the arbitrator to choose a suitable solution for their dispute.

There are several benefits of arbitration, 3 of them are discussed below.

Faster than litigation
Normal court proceedings take time while completing a case's due course. And in business, this time has a real cost to your bottom line.  Both parties are required to submit relevant documents in order to take proceedings to the next step all the while racking up attorney’s fees for this preparation. This happens for as long as it takes the court to decide on the case or even refer it to another court which would drag the timeline out even further. One study suggests that it takes 18 months to three years for courts to decide on cases which could be resolve within just a few weeks in arbitration.

Arbitration tends to take least timely course when it comes to dispute resolution. The very purpose of arbitration involves a quick, yet thorough approach towards resolving the matter. Moreover arbitrators do not face caseloads or crowded courtrooms, therefore it results in a quicker final resolution between the parties.

Avoids hostility
In case of normal court proceedings, it is usually seen that a high amount of tension as well as hostility persists among the parties no matter how small the dispute. Taking a dispute to public trial fuels someone's long-standing grudge against the other party. This hostility could result in taking a destructive course that involves publicly airing grievances you would rather remain private.  And as the legal fees continue to mount, hostility can grow causing each party to dig in and demand their own version of a victory.  However, while in alternative dispute resolution, it is less likely for the parties to become hostile and therefore it is easier to keep an open mind on reaching a mutually agreeable solution to the dispute. Since the parties are encouraged to become active part of the resolution process, they channel their energies and resources to structure the resolution instead of aggravating the process. During arbitration, the parties more often work together to resolve the issue instead of escalating their angst toward the other.

Confidentiality
In contrast with legal proceedings in court, arbitration holds its proceedings in private. This is extremely important since many parties will be better off keeping the terms and consequences of their dispute private. This need of privacy can have any reason from prestige to family name or even goodwill. Several corporations opt for arbitration and tend to choose a softer path in their dispute resolutions as well as avoid limelight. This holds particular importance in commercially sensitive cases. 

The proceedings of arbitration are not held in a public courtroom and are often held in an arbitrator’s private conference room. This is to give both parties all the chances they need to bring all possible, legal solutions to the table without fear of public outrage or reaction that might hamper their standing, name or even stock price in the market. Think of it as a confidential and constructive conversation.  This is given extreme consideration because the dispute itself or the final resolution might reveal private information like client's list, key financials, or even personnel or HR records.

At times parties even agree to have the proceedings as well as the resolution completely confidential, so as to keep any prying eye out of reach from their private matters & disputes. 

Four Reasons to Outsource Your Business' Bookkeeping

Scot-Turner-for-web-2As businesses strive to stay ahead of the constantly changing economy, outsourcing is becoming more and more common. Many businesses have discovered the benefits of outsourcing not only for IT, but also for other departments and job functions. One area to seriously consider: bookkeeping.

Here are four key reasons to outsource your bookkeeping.

1. Every minute you spend on the books is one that could be better spent elsewhere.

You don't need to be told how difficult it is to run a business; there are always fires to put out, be they internal or external. Trying to handle these problems while also performing everyday functions like bookkeeping is bound to hurt your overall productivity.

2. Outsourced bookkeeping means saving on benefits.

These days, everyone is looking to cut costs. One of the best ways to do so is by outsourcing. The costs of employing full-time staff to keep your books go far beyond salary, such as:

  • Health insurance
  • Workmen's comp insurance
  • Increased tax burden
  • Matching retirement contributions
  • Other associated HR costs

3. Keeping your technology current costs money.

Having the latest technology on hand means constant updating. This means incurring the costs of updating your computer systems every few years. And with accounting organizations such as the AICPA constantly redefining best practices, bookkeeping software can also require frequent upgrades.

4. Employee education is expensive, too.

When combined with constantly changing best practices, yearly tax law changes make regular employee education a must. In fact, CPAs are required to attend a number of continuing education courses to renew their certification. And don't think you can just skip your bookkeeper's education. If your business doesn't comply with a new tax law, it could cost you thousands in back taxes and fees.

Whoever said, "If you want something done right, do it yourself," probably never ran a business. Or at least not a successful one. Running your bookkeeping operation in-house costs you time and money, both of which are precious commodities for growing businesses. Outsourcing could make the difference in maximizing your business's potential.

Mark Cuban Weighs in on the Most Common Problems Plaguing Entrepreneurs

Andy-Hale-for-Web-2Businessman. Investor. NBA team owner. Top Shark on TV's "Shark Tank." Mark Cuban has enjoyed success in a variety of areas, so I'm inclined to listen to what he has to say.

Recently, Cuban took part in a panel discussion at the iCONIC conference in Chicago. With regard to the many businesses in which he's invested, he was asked to identify which problems are most challenging for entrepreneurs.

His first response — accounting — came as no surprise to me. "All you entrepreneurs think you have accounting, but Quickbooks and a shoebox does not count," Cuban said, according to Inc.com's Graham Winfrey.

Check out "Mark Cuban on the 3 Things His Shark Tank Companies Get Wrong" to see which other issues made Cuban's list.

Study Confirms Texas Is Home Some of the Best Cities for Small Businesses

Andy-HaleWalletHub, which bills itself as "the social network for your wallet," recently ranked cities across the United States for their small-business work environments, based on factors like job growth and variety, health insurance offerings, and employee earnings.

Many of Texas' major cities scored quite well, with the Austin, Dallas and Houston metro areas all placing in the top 10 nationwide. Check out this article for a summary of study findings and a link to the full list.

By the way, if your business is interested in outsourcing its bookkeeping needs, please contact Supporting Strategies | Texas today

We Never Compromise on Security — and Neither Should Your Business

img-mark-waldMany startups, small businesses and nonprofits overlook basic security standards because they have many competing priorities to focus on. That's an unacceptable excuse.

Securing your customer and donor data must be a high priority, which means making sure you have the proper systems, processes and controls in place. Supporting Strategies understands this challenge well, and we take our clients' data security very seriously.

For example, we have a secure password management system that keeps our clients' passwords safe and eliminates the need for anyone on our team to share passwords over email, text or another unsecure channel. And rather than emailing other sensitive financial and client data back and forth, we use secure online file collaboration software designed specifically for accounting professionals.

Furthermore, we have a dedicated, enterprise-grade email system for all business communications as opposed to a free, consumer-level Gmail or Yahoo email account. Bottom line: We care immensely about protecting what's important to our clients, so we've designed our systems and processes to make that a top priority with everything we do.

Ask the Tough Questions 

Who's handling your business accounting and finance responsibilities, and how attuned are they to your data security needs? Do they keep your passwords saved in a file on their computer or written in a little black book? Do they use free consumer-grade email to send and receive important information about your business with your staff, vendors and clients? How secure is their electronic file storage system, and what are their security and disaster recovery procedures?

Reach out to me any time to discuss this issue further and to see how Supporting Strategies can take care of all your business accounting needs while also addressing important security concerns.

Plus, check out the article that inspired this thought process for me: What Early Stage Startups Should Know About Security.

Supporting Strategies | Texas Welcomes Stacy Conrad, CPA

Stacy-Conrad-for-webI'm pleased to announce the newest member of the Supporting Strategies | Texas team: Stacy Conrad, who will serve as a financial operations associate.

A licensed CPA, Stacy graduated from Texas A&M University's Professional Program in Accounting, Financial Management and Information Systems in 2002. She subsequently started her professional career as an external auditor with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Since moving on from PwC in 2004, Stacy has excelled in roles including internal auditor, senior auditor, assistant controller, controller/CFO and senior external auditor for various businesses. She has also taught accounting courses at several institutions since 2011.

I'm confident that Stacy's experience and skills will make her a valuable asset for our office and clients. Welcome aboard!

If your business is interested in outsourcing its bookkeeping needs, please contact Supporting Strategies | Texas today

MarketWatch Calls Dallas America's Friendliest City for Business

Andy-HaleAs a Dallas/Fort Worth local, I've long known about the area's welcoming attitude toward businesses. Now a few more people do, too.

A May 22 MarketWatch article hails DFW as America's most business-friendly metro area. "Indeed, the area has become a promised land of sorts to which businesses are flocking — and, once there, thriving," writes Russ Britt. "Think of just about any U.S. company, and there's a good chance it's got operations of some kind in the area."

Better yet, with plenty of empty space standing between Dallas from Fort Worth, there's ample room to grow for years to come. Without question, the future here is bright.

Read the entire MarketWatch piece here. And if your business is interested in outsourcing its bookkeeping needs, please contact Supporting Strategies | Texas today

Business Book Recommendations from Three EY Entrepreneur of The Year Award Finalists

As I reported a couple weeks ago, Supporting Strategies founder and CEO Leslie Jorgensen was named a finalist for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2015 Award in the New England Region.

Award winners will be announced on Thursday, June 4. In advance of the event, we thought it would be fun to pose a question to a few of the finalists: What are one or two of your favorite business books? And what did you learn that has contributed to your success as an entrepreneur?

We'll get things started with Leslie's recommendations …

Getting Things Done by David Allen: As the CEO of a fast-growing business and mother of three boys under the age of 10, effective time management is critical to my success (and sanity). Allen's approach to email management was literally life-changing: "Do it, Defer it, Delete it, Delegate it!"

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain: This book has really helped me frame my own leadership skills, accounting for the unique qualities that introverts like me bring to the table.

Robert_GlazerRobert Glazer
Founder & Managing Director, Acceleration Partners

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand: One of the most influential books I have ever read. It does a great job of capturing the entrepreneurial spirit and the courage it takes to make a new idea successful when the rest of the world doesn't see your vision.

The 4-Hour Work Week: Despite its title, Tim Ferris' best seller teaches us how to get out of the day-to-day of our business, work on the business from 30,000 feet and design a work/life balance that is not about just enjoying yourself in retirement.

Nathan_EagleNathan Eagle
Co-founder & CEO, Jana

I generally have absolutely no patience for traditional business books. However, there is one particular business book that I found extraordinarily insightful: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.

Ben gets it. He understands what it is like to be in my shoes because he has been on the rollercoaster as well, seeing his company through the very bad times and the very good. The book contains no academic theorizing; rather it presents a first-hand, authentic perspective on what it is really like to be an entrepreneur. 

Supporting Strategies' Leslie Jorgensen Named an EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2015 Award Finalist

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-webEY announced last week that Supporting Strategies founder and CEO Leslie Jorgensen is a finalist for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2015 Award in the New England Region.

Now in its 29th year, this awards program recognizes entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. Jorgensen was selected as a finalist by a panel of independent judges.

Award winners will be announced at a special gala event on June 4, 2015, at the Boston Marriott Copley Place.

"It's a thrill to be honored by a respected organization like EY and to be part of such an impressive group of finalists," said Jorgensen.

Regional award winners are eligible for consideration for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year National program. Award winners in several national categories, as well as the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year National Overall Award winner, will be announced at the annual awards gala in Palm Springs, California, on November 14, 2015. The awards are the culminating event of the EY Strategic Growth Forum®, the nation's most prestigious gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies.

Sponsors

Founded and produced by EY, the Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards are nationally sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and SAP America.

In New England, sponsors also include Red Thread, Goodwin Procter LLP, Nixon Peabody LLP, fama PR, RR Donnelley, True Capital, Scherzer International, The Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, Accounting Management Solutions, Inc., T3 Advisors and Murray Devine & Company.

About EY Entrepreneur Of The Year®

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year is the world's most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The unique award makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global award of its kind, Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 145 cities in more than 60 countries.

About EY's Strategic Growth Markets practice

EY's Strategic Growth Markets (SGM) practice guides leading high-growth companies. Our multidisciplinary teams of elite professionals provide perspective and advice to help our clients accelerate market leadership. SGM delivers assurance, tax, transactions and advisory services to thousands of companies spanning all industries. EY is the undisputed leader in taking companies public, advising key government agencies on the issues impacting high-growth companies and convening the experts who shape the business climate. For more information, please visit us at ey.com/us/strategicgrowthmarkets, or follow news on Twitter @EY_Growth.

About EY

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit ey.com.

Supporting Strategies Launches Partnership with Remodelers Advantage

Remodelers_AdvantageI'm pleased to announce that Supporting Strategies - Northern Virginia has joined forces with Remodelers Advantage, a Maryland-based support organization for owners of remodeling businesses. Remodelers Advantage has worked with thousands of firms of all sizes to help business owners improve company performance along with their quality of life.

Our partnership came about thanks to Supporting Strategies vice president of franchise development Steve Schultz, who developed a relationship with Remodelers Advantage and made the introduction.

We look forward to this opportunity to reach a new audience — and to delivering a valuable service that will benefit all involved.

See the official Remodelers Advantage announcement.

How Can Your Business Tap into the Millennial Market?

QRGA__LLPAs the "Millennial" generation grows up — and expands its purchasing power to rival that of the baby boomers — it's worth considering what sets this group of consumers apart from the generation that came before it.

This article from the accounting and auditing firm QRGA, LLP, highlights findings from the Pew Research publication, Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends. It discusses what's different about Millennials and offers recommendations for marketing your business to them. Beyond the familiar call to "use social media," tips include demonstrating sensitivity to social issues, exploring "sharing" models (e.g. Zipcar) and hiring Millennials as staff members.

It's always useful to have marketing ideas that are grounded in real research rather than simple speculation. I'm sure you'll find the insights and strategies discussed here to be valuable to your business.

Client Profile: Online Trading Academy

It's exciting to work with businesses that are innovators in their field. That's why we're so happy to count Online Trading Academy as one of our clients.

Luis Molina, managing director of our Hudson Valley office, has worked with Online Trading Academy in Norwalk, Conn., since last September. The company, which has about 35 locations worldwide, offers financial education to help consumers make smarter investment decisions.

Steve_FlegeSteve Flege (pictured to the left) has owned Online Trading Academy's Norwalk (formerly Stamford, Conn.) franchise since 2012. He learned about Supporting Strategies through Molina, who took classes there. "They've been an extremely good client," said Molina. "They follow the Supporting Strategies process without hesitation, and we appreciate that they've recommended us to other franchises within their network."

Flege was kind enough to answer a few questions for us recently …

Tell us about your students.

"They come from every walk of life. These are people who are interested in generating some extra income or feel like they could do a better job managing their retirement savings than someone else."

How's business — is your franchise growing?

"Business has been great. We've tripled our business — revenue and profitability — over the past three years. We had to move from Stamford to Norwalk to get more space. Classes are full, and things are really humming."

Before Supporting Strategies, how did you handle your bookkeeping?

"My assistant Rachel would take all our receipts and put that information into QuickBooks. My accountant would then clean up QuickBooks each quarter. But that wasn't a good use of Rachel's time, and it was costly to have an accountant do that kind of work.

"Luis did an audit of the business and came back with a plan. It looked good from a cost perspective, so we signed on. It's worked out great. Luis manages QuickBooks, updating the information in real time, rather than once a quarter. Now I have confidence that I'm basing my business decisions on information that is accurate and timely. Plus, Rachel can focus on our students, our classes — the important things that drive our growth."

Would you like to add anything else?

"The amount of attention I'm getting from Luis has been impressive. I get an appropriate number of emails from him each week, keeping me updated on his work and asking questions when necessary. Overall, I'm seeing a level of benefits from this arrangement that I hadn't expected."

How Outsourcing Protects Small Businesses from Fraud

Jeff-Orchard-for-web-2"But how do you guard against employee fraud?"

This is the question I hear over and over again from business owners and other professionals considering outsourced bookkeeping and accounting services. The question is an important one. What surprises me is that I rarely hear it asked in relation to hiring internal bookkeepers — the scenario that truly leaves small businesses vulnerable to exploitation.

Compared with internal bookkeeping arrangements, the Supporting Strategies model has built-in protections that significantly reduce the potential for fraud. For example:

  1. Barriers to access: Supporting Strategies' associates and managers don't have access to cash, checks or credit/bank cards. This creates an immediate and significant barrier to fraud.
  2. Oversight and transparency: Every Supporting Strategies client is served by an associate, manager and general manager. This critical checks-and-balances model is cost-prohibitive for small businesses to replicate internally.
  3. Electronic safeguards: With our model, all financial-related activities are tracked and reviewed electronically. The owner can see all communication and actions of the general manager, who can in turn monitor the manager and associate. Every employee knows that activities are recorded and reviewed.

Small Businesses, Big Risks

Most fraud cases begin simply and incrementally, which means they're likely to go unnoticed in a small business staffed by trusted employees. But the ultimate costs and consequences are devastating. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners' 2014 Report to the Nations, the estimated median loss due to fraud was $145,000. The report added that "the smallest organizations tend to suffer disproportionately large losses due to occupational fraud."

Fraud Magazine's article, "Small business fraud and the trusted employee," provides a hypothetical example of fraud in a small business setting. The case is eerily similar to one I know well. In my first accounting position out of college, I was involved in the investigation of an employee who committed fraud in almost the exact same manner. In my case, the fraud actually occurred in a larger department with much more oversight. But in both of these cases, the fraud occurred over several years and cost a business owner dearly.

Every business owner must realize that fraud is one of the biggest threats to a company's health. Whether you're relying on internal staff or considering outsourcing, staying on top of the risks and remedies is key. We're always happy to talk with clients and others considering these issues about how Supporting Strategies can help reduce fraud exposure.

Helping the Next Generation of Innovators See Their Future

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) is a program that helps middle and high school students succeed by teaching them the entrepreneurial mindset — non-cognitive skills that help place education in a context of real-world success.

Network_for_Teaching_EntrepreneurshipNFTE was founded in 1987 by Steve Mariotti, a former entrepreneur turned high school math teacher. According to the organization's website, Mariotti's business background and desire to teach at-risk students helped him see how teaching the entrepreneurial mindset can give young people "the tools and attitudes to overcome adversity and address future personal, economic, community and global challenges."

Through NFTE, I started coaching a group of young entrepreneurs earlier this year. Together, we've explored the process of forming business plans around innovative ideas that they're passionate about.

Recently, I was also invited to coach top NFTE students from Southern California and help prepare them for a semi-final pitch competition in which they'll compete for cash prizes. I'm honored to have also been selected as a judge for the pitch event itself. I'm looking forward to being in front of so many creative minds at this event and can't wait to award the strongest competitors with a chance to compete for a $25,000 prize at the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge finals this fall.

America's economic future resides in the hearts and minds of these exceptionally motivated young people. I'm grateful for the chance to have a front row seat!

Proving the Value of Outsourced Accounting Services

Jeff-Orchard-for-web-2I'm an accounting and finance professional who has worked both as an internal and outsourced bookkeeper. My experience has highlighted for me the benefits of the outsourced model.

However, I also know that until they actually make the leap to outsourced accounting services, many business owners may be skeptical about its value. This can be especially true when it's the accountant making the sales pitch.

I set out to find an independent article that summarized the value of outsourcing, and it turns out I didn't have to look very far. Hussain Sultan of Yahoo Small Business authored "6 Reasons to Outsource Your Accounting Operations," a clear and concise validation of outsourcing.

Just as important as making the initial decision to outsource is finding the right accounting partner for a particular company's needs. The article "How to Build a Better Business with Outsourcing," by Entrepreneur's Nancy Mann Jackson, offers practical guidance and suggestions for business owners facing this decision. 

I may be biased in my enthusiasm for Supporting Strategies, but there's a very good reason I'm here: Supporting Strategies has a proven track record of excellence when it comes to offering stellar outsourced services at a fair price.

The above resources are a great introduction to the benefits of outsourced accounting services. But if you're weighing the value of outsourcing or have any questions at all about the approach, please get in touch with Supporting Strategies to learn more. We like nothing better than making connections with small business owners who are enthusiastic about seeing their companies reach their full potential.

Shining the Spotlight on DFW's Vibrant Startup Community

Startup_DallasLaunch DFW's Raj Daniels, an official Friend of Supporting Strategies, recently got some nice publicity for a podcast that he promotes, "Startup Dallas."

Daniels was a guest on the inaugural edition of "Startup Dallas" last month. He has subsequently aimed to spread the word about the podcast, which is produced by Jason Croft of Magic Production Group in Carrollton, throughout the area's vibrant startup community.

"You hear about East Coast and West Coast," notes Daniels in the Carrollton Leader article. "You hear about Silicon Valley. You hear about Boston, New York. But Dallas is No. 5 in tech companies in the United States right now, and I don't think people know that."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Be sure to check out the podcast at "Startup Dallas" here.

Supporting Strategies Helps Startup Keep the Momentum Going

Linda-MelansonCongratulations to Supporting Strategies client Ditto Labs, which recently revealed it has raised $1.3 million in its latest round of funding. According to a Boston Business Journal article, "the company has now raised more than $4 million in funding since its founding in 2012."

Ditto's proprietary platform scans public photos shared on social media (e.g. Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr) for company logos and other brand information, giving marketers valuable insights into their customer base.

"Picture sharing has become a preferred method of peer-to-peer communication on social media," said Ditto president Josh Wachman. "As this trend continues with the ubiquity of smartphones and cameras, we're excited to be the company that helps brands harness and extract meaning from this rich new source of data."

Ditto, which is based in Cambridge, Mass., has been a Supporting Strategies client since 2012. We handle basic bookkeeping tasks like invoicing, payroll and bank reconciliations, but also help with higher-level challenges, like budgeting and sales tax issues.  

"Supporting Strategies is a great partner," said Wachman. "The notion of an outsourced CFO is perfect for a fast-growing company like ours. We spend our time focused on improving our platform and helping customers, with the knowledge that Supporting Strategies is taking care of the day-to-day operations our business needs to operate."

I've served as financial operations associate on the Ditto account since January. Like Josh said, Supporting Strategies is a good fit for the company right now. If they hired a full-time finance person, he or she wouldn't have enough to do day to day. Working with us is more cost-efficient — and we can scale up as their needs grow.

It's been really interesting to work with Ditto. They're growing and hiring a lot of people, so they're facing new challenges all the time. And it's been fun to engage with employees who are so pumped up about what they're doing.

How Long Should You Hang on to Records, Receipts, Reports and Registrations?

Leslie-Jorgensen-for-webAccounting and business advisory firm Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co. offers a handy record retention guide that lays out how long to keep records of all kinds. Time cards for hourly employees? Four years. Expired contracts and leases? Seven. Accident claims? Forever and always.

I bet you'll find yourself consulting this two-page resource more often than you think. Share it with clients to save them time, effort and storage space — and save you more than a few phone calls.

You can download this guide at the KLR website.

The Parallels Between Outsourced IT and Outsourced Accounting/Operational Support

img-mark-waldSupporting Strategies - Santa Monica services the accounting needs of a growing number of managed IT service providers, commonly referred to as MSPs.

Just like Supporting Strategies, these outsourced service businesses help small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to operate and scale as efficiently as possible. In the case of MSPs, they provide a broad range of IT services and expert resources at a fraction of the cost of hiring a single employee.

I recently came across this infographic from Continuum, a B2B vendor in the MSP space. It presents some facts about the MSP industry and the customers they target, and I couldn't help but draw some parallels between outsourced IT and outsourced accounting/operational support.

In the infographic, I noticed that reducing costs, improving operational efficiency and improving staff productivity/capabilities are three of the top four priorities for SMBs. No surprise there. It's also no surprise that SMBs rank reaching new customers as their second priority.

All of these priorities tie together. By leveraging outsourced service providers (IT, yes, but also accounting, financial reporting and HR) to reduce costs and improve operational efficiencies, SMBs can also free up management and operational resources to spend more time engaging with and servicing new customers.

Intrigued? Call me today at 310-579-9206 to discuss how this might apply to your business.

What Does It Take to Do Business in Multiple States?

S-TuttyAs your corporation or LLC grows, you may begin to consider expanding outside of the state where you do business. This article will help you understand what's involved in getting up and running in a new state.

Once you've made the decision, the first thing you'll need to do is register as a new business with the state. This lets the state know:

  • Your intentions to do business there
  • What kind of business you're in
  • Your contact and governance information

The Process Varies by State

Each state has its own process that you'll need to follow to get registered, but most offer online business registration with one of the following state agencies: the Department of Revenue, Secretary of State or Department of Treasury. To find out how to register, start by doing a Google search for "new business registration [state name]." Click on the state's official page in the search results.

Depending on the nature of your business in the state, you may also have to set up an account with the following agencies:

  • Department of Revenue (for payroll withholdings and sales tax remittance)
  • Secretary of State (for annual reports and additional corporation/LLC filings)
  • Department of Labor (for employment taxes)

In addition, you may have to file license and permit applications as well as determine if you'll need to file a state tax return or pay business-specific taxes. I suggest calling the state agency with which you're required to register to determine what's involved based on your situation.

Strength of Nexus Is Important

When you call, the state will determine the strength of the nexus (i.e. connection between your business and the state). A stronger nexus, such as opening up a physical office in the state, usually entails more filing requirements than just hiring a home-based employee there. But it all depends on the state.

For example, suppose you hire a home-based employee, but are not opening up an actual office in State A. This state may determine that in addition to filing employment taxes, you have enough nexus to collect sales tax in that state. State B may require that you file annual reports, employment taxes and sales tax, while State C may only require that you file employment taxes.

Depending on your nexus, the Secretary of State may require your business to search the corporation database to make sure there isn't already an entity doing business with a similar business name as yours. If there is a duplicate name, you'll need to select another business name under which to operate in that state (a "doing business as," or DBA, name).

Do You Need a Registered Agent?

If it's determined that you must file annual reports, then you'll also need to designate someone to be the company's "registered agent" (a.k.a. "resident agent"). A registered agent is a person or business legally residing in that state. The registered agent's job is to accept mail and documents, usually legal documents or government communications, on the company's behalf and to communicate those notices to the business. The registered agent may or may not be responsible for filing the annual report. It's important to select a trustworthy registered agent, as that person serves as the corporate contact in that state.

If you're required to file annual reports, but do not know anyone who can serve as the registered agent, you can hire companies like Corporation Service Company (www.cscglobal.com) to act as your registered agent and file the annual reports for your business. Law and accounting firms may also offer this service.

If you've incorporated in a state other than where you do business (e.g. Delaware), then you're already familiar with the job and importance of a registered agent.

Once you're registered, the state will give you a state identification number, similar to a federal identification number, to use on your communications and filings with the state. You may also be given additional identification numbers for sales tax and employment taxes.

Cover All Your Bases

Even if you're not opening an office in a new state, but simply hiring an employee in another state to work from her home office, you should take certain steps to be safe.

Start with your payroll services provider. Find out what they need to get the employee set up in the payroll system. This process might also require:

  • Contacting the state's Department of Revenue to register for filing state income taxes (as applicable)
  • Asking your workers compensation insurance carrier or insurance broker what you must do to make certain your new employee is appropriately insured
  • Determining the state's process for registering for any applicable unemployment insurance that should be paid in for the employee

Keep in mind: Your benefits plans may also have some state-specific restrictions, so also contact your benefits provider to learn more about your new employee's options for benefits.

If You Need Help …

This may seem like a lot to take on. As a Supporting Strategies client, you get the added benefit of having someone to manage these processes for you and ensure they're done efficiently and correctly. Besides assisting in the process, we can also file your annual reports and keep track of filing deadlines, which vary by state.

If you're thinking about expanding into new states, Supporting Strategies can help you to be in two or all 50 states. Contact us today to learn more.

Jacksonville Entrepreneur Offer’s Advice to Startup Companies: Get a Bookkeeper

In a recent article by Joe Daraskevich in The Florida Times Union Jacksonville.com, Ben Davis, owner of Intuition, a craft brewery located in Jacksonville, offers advice to others about starting a brewery. Davis passes along his advice in the form of 5 Do’s and Don’ts. It does not surprise us that Davis site not hiring a bookkeeper as one of his 5 biggest mistakes during the startup phase. He ended up doing what many other entrepreneurs do: overtasking someone who’s talent should be focused on managing and/or growing the business rather than entering transactions and reconciling bank accounts. In his case Davis hired a General Manger, who was responsible for “anything [Davis] didn’t want to do himself and that was way too much on top of all the accounting duties”. Many other entrepreneurs end up doing the bookkeeping themselves, which, for the same reasons, can inhibit the ability of the business to grow. At Supporting Strategies we specialize in helping startup businesses get off on the right foot with efficient and effective bookkeeping processes.

Is Your Company Ready For The Inc. 5000 List?

In the past four years have you been able to increase your revenues from at least $200,000 to over $2 million? If you answered “yes” to this question, then you are off to a great start and you deserve recognition. Inc. magazine may have the right venue for you to showcase your story. Check out this blog from our friends at Chief Outsiders. There a great video with Alan Taylor of Chief Outsiders discussing in an interview “What Does it Take to Make the List?” The application is due April 31st. Sharpen your pencil or warm up that keyboard it is time for your company to get the word out…

A Nice Overview of Why We're Here, Doing What We Do

IvanDodicRunning afoul of [federal and state] laws, licenses, permits and regulations can result in steep fines and IRS penalties." That's one strong argument in favor of entrusting your bookkeeping needs to Supporting Strategies.

This short but meaty article from enlightenme.com makes several other points about when and why it makes sense to outsource bookkeeping to the pros. (Another good one: The more successful a business, the more time you'll need to manage the books — and the less time you'll have to do it right.)   

Check out this quick but worthwhile read for a nice summary of the importance of our work.

Managing Multiple Payments Due for a Vendor

Leslie_JorgensenAt Supporting Strategies, we strongly encourage information sharing among our team members. Recently, some of our team members discussed the best way to handle managing a single bill that will be paid out in installments over time …

Michael Kramberg in Santa Monica suggested referencing the original invoice number multiple times and adding a suffix to it (#1234-A, 1234-B, etc.).

Kathy MacNeil in Boston offered another recommendation: using the "Recurring Bills" feature in Bill.com, which allows you to specify the number of payments you'll be making.

Another great feature in Bill.com is the ePayment option, where the vendor can be set up for ePayment. This approach results in direct deposit payments, ensuring each payment gets where it needs to go in a timely fashion.

We love Bill.com and find it a great tool to help our clients stay on top of their accounts payable and accounts receivable. We especially love that each of our team members has the option of becoming Bill.com certified. Learn more about their certification options, which are part of the Bill.com Accounting Firm program.

How to Vet Online Business Lenders and Other Small Business Borrowing Tips

Andy-HaleWriting about small business loans for The Simple Dollar website, Saundra Latham makes the case for exploring online loan options. She also touches on traditional loans from banks, credit unions and the Small Business Administration.

Latham includes a list of top online choices for small business financing, along with her own search criteria and pros/cons for each. In addition, she reviews her own application success story and offers tips for getting approved.

One of the article's big takeaways is the idea that, for many of us, the time to borrow is now. "Better economic conditions and a big increase in competition mean lenders are willing to slash their rates for good prospects," Latham notes. So if you've been hoping 2015 would be your year for getting a loan, you may want to put applying at the top of your to-do list.

Worth Reading: When to Bring in a Professional Coach

Pete-Denholm-for-webYou might already have concluded that coaching can be a critical piece of employee development. But as someone who has experienced the benefits of coaching from all sides — as a manager, employee and coach myself — I know how important it is to get the timing and circumstances right.

From an employee who is a star and needs expert-level coaching to someone who has no interest in feedback at all, this Harvard Business Review blog post explains when the situation is right for bringing in a pro.

This useful read also outlines the ways you, as a manager, can set up the coaching relationship for success. Kudos to author Robin Wynn, managing director and global head of employee relations at the global asset management firm Blackstone.

To Keep or Not to Keep: An HR Primer on Employee Records

ADPSorting out what belongs in your employee files can be a big task. And getting it right is extremely important.

Fortunately, we've found a resource that presents a long list of what does and doesn't belong, by category, and succinctly answers some commonly asked questions (as well as some questions that won't occur to most of us.

An ADP guide, Record Storage Best Practices, covers:

  • The different types of confidential documents
  • How they should be stored and secured
  • How to properly dispose of these documents when the time is right

This 10-page doc is an easy read. It's worth taking a look at now and keeping handy for the next time you have a new hire question.

Taking Control of Your Supply Chain

Scott-Gerken-for-Web-2Second only to labor costs, supply chain management can eat up a hearty chunk of your operating expense budget. The process of negotiating with suppliers can also take up a hefty amount of another valuable resource: time.

Don’t let your supply chain manage your time and money. Take back control!

It's no surprise that businesses in control of supply chains are those who build management strategies into their long-term operations plans. Small businesses tend to struggle when they neglect to manage the chains individually.

Also keep in mind these tips for supply chain management:

  1. Track all materials in the manufacturing process. Detailed sourcing reports can enable investigation into the lowest-cost, highest-quality options.
  1. Identify risk and note key components to the chain. This detailed visibility will provide a safety net in case things start to fall through the cracks.
  1. Allow for participation at all levels. Adequate employee training and an established level of trust in their abilities will allow the chain to flourish. Strengthening each link individually increases the overall power of the chain.

A few final strategies include improving supplier performance, compressing cycle time and increasing inventory speed. Also consider utilizing supply chain management systems, such as online software programs.

These changes, even if made incrementally, are sure to have an impact in the long run.

Scott Gerken, BS, CPA, is general manager of Supporting Strategies' Orlando and Rochester offices.

Protecting Your Cash Flow

Scott-Gerken-for-Web-2Cash flow refers to the balance available after allowing for all receipts and payments from your business. This includes rent, payroll, taxes, supplier invoices, loan payments and asset purchases — the lot.

Most of us know that managing and protecting cash flow is pivotal to long-term success as a small business owner. The inability to manage the ebb and flow of cash can cripple inventory, negatively impact growth and create a backup in bills that can be hard to overcome.

Even a business that's "good on paper" can suffer from negative cash flow. So how do you stay ahead of the curve?

It's All in the Planning

Begin by mapping out the financial year. Call upon past years to build a realistic timeline of financial peaks and valleys. Pay attention to when your business tends to experience a fluctuation in cash flow. Just being aware of this timeline in advance can help you withstand tight times.

Once you've mapped out this timeline, use it to create financial projections on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. These projections should be an inherent part of your business plan, but remember that they'll require frequent reviews.

Next, define your cash cycle. Examine how much cash is generated in each cycle. Then determine how much of your resources are tied up in these cycles and what they're tied up on. Incorporate this knowledge into your projections.

Know Your Business' Pitfalls

Beware of cash flow black holes! Plan well in advance for any expansion, heavy business-to- business sales or inventory purchases. If you're planning on acquiring new equipment, consider using leases or long-term funding to ease the burden of major purchases.

Next, understand your fixed and variable costs. See how you may be able to improve the return on each.

You should also note your most "difficult" customers, including late payers. Billing those customers early (when possible) can help improve cash flow during tight times. Offering incentives for early payment can be extremely helpful for banking receipts a lot earlier than usual.

Finally, examine these three vitals as identified by business experts:

  1. Collection days: the length of time customers have to pay invoices
  2. Inventory turnover: how long inventory sits on the shelves waiting to be converted into sales.
  3. Payment days: the length of time you wait to pay your own bills

In order to maintain a lifeline of cash in the long run, these items should also be monitored at each step of your projection phase.

Scott Gerken, BS, CPA, is general manager of Supporting Strategies' Orlando and Rochester offices.

New "One Transfer per Year Rule" Impacts IRA Rollovers

SPS_MKTG_Headshot_SchultzIf you missed this headline in the bustle of the holidays, you may want to take a look now. As of January 1, 2015, the IRS has made changes to the IRA rollover rules in the wake of the U.S. Tax Court's decision in Bobrow v. Commissioner.

The devil is in the details, but an alert from Alexander Aronson and Finning lays out the new rules. Check out their article for an understanding of the changes and how they might impact you.

Stephen Schultz is vice president of franchise development at Supporting Strategies.

When Customers Don't Pay: The Benefits of Using a Factoring Firm

SPS_MKTG_Headshot_SchultzIf you're in the business of sending invoices, no doubt you've experienced the frustration of sending second, third and fourth requests while the bill remains unpaid.

It sometimes makes financial sense to sell off stagnant accounts to specialized collection agents. For cash-strapped businesses, turning unpaid invoices over to factoring firms like A/R Funding can mean money in hand in less than 24 hours.

Read up on the details of this strategy and why it works for companies in need of a cash-flow bump in the November newsletter from A/R Funding.

Stephen Schultz is vice president of franchise development at Supporting Strategies.

Supporting Strategies Client Sells for $75M

SmartererWe often boast about the value our clients bring to the marketplace, but it's nice to see our opinions backed up by hard numbers. Boston-based Smarterer, a Supporting Strategies client, recently sold for $75 million.

Founded by entrepreneur Dave Balter, Smarterer is an online testing service that assesses job skills. Among other accomplishments, media reports cite Smarterer's success in attracting venture funding: Prior to this news, the business had raised about $4.6 million investment dollars since its founding in 2010.  We've enjoyed watching that impressive growth from front-row seats.

Smarterer was bought by the online tech training company Pluralsight. We look forward to seeing the big things this new partnership brings.

Understanding the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014

Scott-Gerken-for-Web-2Congress finished up 2014 with a bang, passing the mammoth HR 5771, Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014. The bill extends several dozen tax breaks retroactively for one year, through 2014.

The new regulations affect both individuals and businesses. Highlights include extensions for state and local sales tax deductions, mortgage debt forgiveness exclusions, and 50 percent bonus depreciations.

Check out this publication from Wolters Kluwer for an analysis of this bill. There's a lot to absorb, but — as always — feel free to get in touch with us for help sorting it all out.

Volunteering at Boston Civics Day and Talking Shop with a Whole New Audience

Generation_CitizenAs business development manager for Supporting Strategies – Boston, Jared Gould's days are filled with opportunities to discuss goals, challenges and strategy with people in different fields. A recent day spent at the Massachusetts State House touched on similar themes with a very different — and much younger — audience.

Jared was invited to serve as a judge for Boston Civics Day, an annual event held by the

not-for-profit group Generation Citizen. A connection of Jared's from the Cambridge Innovation Center, Robin Hamilton of Boston Business Operations Group, suggested his participation.

Generation Citizen works to engage middle- and high-school aged kids with local leaders through community projects. Civics Day is the students' opportunity to showcase the work they've done building solutions to real-world problems in their own neighborhoods. The young people in attendance at this science-fair type event represented a half-dozen different Massachusetts communities.

"I was really impressed with the level of dedication and commitment the students put forth — and on a voluntary basis," Jared said. "The whole experience left me with such an uplifting feeling. I think a lot of young people don't feel they have a voice in the community. This organization is allowing them to see how they can enact change."

The five projects Jared evaluated included efforts to improve bicycle path access and to integrate more racial education into the classroom.

"My role at Supporting Strategies is business development," Jared said. "It was great being able to talk to kids about some of the things that I do — like building relationships. It felt good to be there alongside the 50 or so judges who are part of a community trying to better educate our kids and build up young people in Boston."

Sales Savvy: Six Quick Tips to Boost Your Confidence

Scott-Gerken-for-Web-2It's official! Working in sales is one tough gig. The constant up-and-down rollercoaster ride can be stressful — and can really test your motivation.

Keep your confidence up with these six tips:

1. Remember that confidence is a state of mind. 
Your own belief in your abilities is one of your strongest allies. Knowing you have gotten the job done in the past and and are perfectly capable of doing so again works wonders for your confidence. Paired with a big dose of positivity, belief and determination do a lot of the work for you.

2. Define yourself as an expert in your field. 
Just as it's important for you to believe in what you're selling, your clients need to feel this faith you have in yourself. Sales can be an intimate process, and the more your clients trust your abilities and knowledge, the more likely they are to take the purchase plunge.

3. Create an arsenal of testimonials to be called upon at any time. 
The more you can prove your track record of success, the more likely the prospect will feel inclined toward the sale. Keep track of your wins, be ready to point customers to client praise and remind yourself of your successes when you're feeling doubtful.

4. Set weekly goals and strive to accomplish them quickly. 
The faster you rack up accomplishments, the more confidence you'll feel. One step at a time? Absolutely. Make daily lists and keep track of your progress. Ticking things off "to-do" lists has a way of fueling drive and motivation while also boosting confidence.

5. Keep your eye on long-term goals and see challenges as opportunities.
Think back to a stressful point in the past. Look how far you may have come since then! The power of positive reflection is often understated. Apply it forward for an extra boost to get you through the times that test you.

6. Work constantly on your communication skills.Improving your ways of interacting with others is an ongoing job. Learning to become a stronger speaker — and especially a better listener — will boost your confidence when going into new and unique situations.

Even the most skilled salespeople have moments of doubt. Some are just better at hiding it than others. Finding ways to boost your confidence, and learning to fake it in the meantime, really can make all the difference.

Scott Gerken, BS, CPA, is general manager of Supporting Strategies' Orlando and Rochester offices.

Supporting Strategies Highlighted on "Against the Grain" Podcast

UR_Business_NetworkWant to get some interesting insights into the Supporting Strategies back story? Check out a recent interview with Steve Schultz, our VP of franchise development, on the "Against the Grain" podcast.

"Against the Grain" takes "a deep dive into the rebellious mindsets and back stories behind today's innovators in business, science, arts and technology." The UR Business Network's podcast is hosted by Todd Greenberg, president of TSG Advisors.

Listen to this episode to learn about Supporting Strategies' origins at what is now called the Cambridge Innovative Center. Steve explains how our founder, Leslie Jorgensen, recognized the need for outsourced bookkeeping services among small businesses and how our business model would help attract talented accounting professionals seeking home-based job opportunities.

Why We'll Stick by Our Startups

LaunchpadLADear Southern California-based entrepreneurs: If you're a little unsettled by LaunchpadLA bowing out of the startup accelerator market, we're here to put your mind at ease.

Citing a blog post by LaunchpadLA cofounder Mark Suster, socaltech.com reported that the company will be "shifting its model and getting out of the startup accelerator market." But that kind of change doesn't necessarily surprise us. In fact, we believe that honing in on the market that works for you is smart business. That's precisely what we help our clients do, and it's why Supporting Strategies is standing by our startups.

Supporting Strategies is all about helping startups build for success. We're good at it, we have a lot of fun doing it, and I'm happy to say we'll be at it for a long, long time.  

Mark Wald, BA, is managing director of the Supporting Strategies office in Santa Monica, Calif.

InsightSquared Teaches SaaS Companies How to Wow the Board

InsightSquaredFacing a group of board members with a pile of presentation notes brings its own particular brand of queasiness. Fortunately for all of you SaaS companies out there, InsightSquared quizzed financial leaders on the five key performance indicators your board needs to hear and how best to present them.

InsightSquared, a Supporting Strategies client, builds analytics software for small and midsized companies. In fact, they're the name behind today's top Salesforce analytics app used by business execs. Recently, InsightSquared put together a handy e-book on financial reporting, Board Essentials: SaaS Finance KPIs.

Find out what you need to focus on when reporting out your financials to your board — and exactly how to present this information. It turns out, for example, that saying too much can be as damaging as leaving out essential indicators, because the critical details get lost in the telling.

Nothing beats seeing our clients create cool tools that can benefit the rest of the Supporting Strategies community. If you have some news to share — a new product or publication, an award, an upcoming event — let us know. We're always happy to pass the word along.

SaaS_Finance_KPIs

A New Lens on Customer Loyalty, from Half a World Away

mark-wald

Not everyone could turn a stirring moment on a Moroccan mountaintop into an important lesson in customer relationships, but that's exactly the kind of thing we expect from Mark Jaffe.

The article that caught our attention described Mark's travels and his experience of immersing himself into another culture. But the deeper reflection relates to how he came to have such a powerful experience — with the help of a travel company that excels at what they do because they have a deep understanding of their clients.Mark's work at Strategic Growth Consulting is all about getting to the heart of what makes companies thrive, and he brings that perspective to everything he does. Fortunately for the rest of us, he's also generous about sharing his insights on his highly regarded blog, New Revenue Now.

"It's not for everybody," Mark says of his immersive cultural experience. "But then again, companies that truly understand their core value proposition are never for everybody — but they inspire their core, and secure intense loyalty from their customers. No wonder Intrepid Travel has grown into a $400 million company in the last twenty years since they were founded."

Read more of Mark's analysis in his post, "Is Your Company Asleep in a Cave?" Visit New Revenue Now and scroll down to the post, dated December 2012. 

Mark Wald, BA, is managing director of the Supporting Strategies office in Santa Monica, Calif.

Employee Theft Case: When Accounting Processes Get Murky, Someone Pays

mark-wald

We know there are some critical pieces to accounting done right — core elements like separation of duties, process controls and independent bank reconciliations each month. Jim Counts, CPA/CFTA, brought to our attention a recent case of employee theft that illustrates what can happen when those basic principles aren't met.

This California case involves an employee trusted with far too many accounting duties. Over a year and a half, she used three different check cashing companies to cash checks made out to her employer, HH Computer Systems, to the tune of $650,000.

Upon discovering the theft, HH Computer Systems sued the banks that took the checks from the check cashing companies. While HH Computer Systems lost the initial case, a court overturned the decision in their favor upon appeal.

You can read the details of the case here. But the lessons are already spelled out in black and white in an excerpt from the introduction of the court's decision:

This case about stolen checks and check cashing services presents a distressingly common scenario: An employee of a corporation with responsibility to gather incoming checks made payable to the corporation and deposit those checks into the corporation's bank account — in this case, the corporation's accounting manager — steals some of the incoming checks and takes them to a check cashing service where she forges the signature of one of the officers of the corporation and receives hard cash in return.

Though the outcome was favorable in the end, imagine what HH Computer Systems lost in time, resources and legal fees. All of this could have been prevented if the company had turned to reputable outside accounting services with the right checks and balances in place.

Mark Wald, BA, is managing director of the Supporting Strategies office in Santa Monica, Calif.

Cloud-Based Financial Analytics Made Easy: InsightSquared for QuickBooks

InsightSquaredAs we mentioned in our latest e-book, "What You Need to Know About Cloud Accounting," most small or medium-sized businesses can manage their accounting needs using QuickBooks. But there's a big gap in what QuickBooks offers: financial analytics that laypeople can understand. Supporting Strategies client InsightSquared is filling that gap.

Financial analytics allows you to make sense of your business' finances so you have a better grasp of its financial health and can make more-informed decisions. QuickBooks contains all of this raw information, but can't present the data in an easily digestible manner.

As InsightSquared content manager Mike Baker explains, companies often struggle to get a handle on cash flow and cash position — exactly where your company's cash is coming from, where it's going and why. "Many of our prospects mention how QuickBooks may show you those numbers, but won't give you granular detail of where you can cut back expenses or ramp up successful programs," he says.

CEOs, especially of small companies or startups, need this perspective. However, whoever manages the finances serves as the gatekeeper to the information. And once the CEO gains access, there's no layperson's explanation of what's going on.

Enter InsightSquared for QuickBooks. Among other things, this cloud-based financial analytics solution produces a cash waterfall report, which clearly shows "your company's direct cash flow statement in a single visualization." Now it's fast and easy to get an accurate picture of how your company is doing financially.

InsightSquared for QuickBooks has many other features that are useful for small businesses. Be sure to check it out. While you're at their site, you can also download an e-book designed to help CEOs at young companies understand the right finance KPIs to report at their board meetings.

Bill.com Customer Support Makes Cloud Accounting a Breeze

Bill.com_cloud_accountingThere are many reasons why we've had so much success using the cloud accounting tool Bill.com, not least of which is their superb customer service. The company's commitment in this area is well-known, with founder Rene Lacerte covering the merits of it, along with the how-to's, in his popular public speaking appearances and on Inc.com.

Bill.com tracks customer satisfaction closely, fine tuning its approach along the way. Its own recent findings bear out our experience and underscore why, when we call out our favorite cloud accounting tools, Bill.com always makes our list. The rigorous review found the company's customer satisfaction levels were an astounding 81% — this, in an industry where 50% is considered pretty good.

As for our own experience, we're most grateful for Bill.com's highly accessible system for training. That, combined with extended live chat hours, makes for speedy resolution of issues that arise. Furthermore, customers encountering a problem can turn to a searchable index of troubleshooting questions and subscribe to updated answers so they are notified about new details.

For these reasons and more, Supporting Strategies is comfortable relying on Bill.com and recommending it to our clients. To learn more about the advantages of using effective cloud accounting tools like this, download our free e-book, "What You Need to Know About Cloud Accounting."

Download Our E-book:   What You Need to Know About Cloud Accounting

How to Protect Your Small Business from Embezzlement

Lori ColemanI just heard yet another story of a trusted employee embezzling funds from a small business. It happens time and again: A small family business has a trusted employee who handles the deposits and bill paying — while also taking a little something off the top. In this most recent example, the guilty party was a bookkeeper who had worked for the business for years and had become, they thought, like part of the family.

The unfortunate reality is that every employer should know how to protect a small business from embezzlement. But how do you do so without feeling you have to retain day-to-day ownership of the books?

The good news is that when it comes to bookkeepers, you can take some effective steps to protect your small business from embezzlement. Here are five recommendations:

  1. Hire a bookkeeping company with a solid reputation. Ask your certified public accounting agent for a referral. A good bookkeeper helps the CPA by ensuring day-to-day tasks are processed correctly. Your CPA will be happy to refer you to a good bookkeeper who will minimize errors and have an open line of communication.

  2. Build a firewall between your money and your bookkeeper. Read-only access to accounts prevents a bookkeeper from creating payees and processing payments without your knowledge. Consider using an online payment system such as Bill.com to pay your bills or even to automate the receipt of invoice payment. Systems like this allow the bookkeeper to enter bills and invoices while keeping the approval and payment process with a business' CFO or CEO.

  3. Have more than one person review monthly financials. Accounts should be reconciled monthly and reviewed by the business owner and the bookkeeper. A regular, proactive review of the financials by management should shed light on any irregularities, inconsistencies or questions about the numbers.

  4. Establish well-defined policies and procedures. Accounting operations should be outlined through specific policies and procedures detailing daily, weekly and monthly practices as well as who is responsible for what. Your bookkeeper or CPA can offer guidance on best practices to ensure all processes have proper controls and reviews in place and to safeguard those practices if you need to make a sudden change.

  5. Know who can access your data and when. Security means considering where your data lives and what kinds of security protections are in place. Cloud technology allows outsourced bookkeepers to access your data without storing it on their desktops. If you outsource bookkeeping, ask how the provider stores your records and controls access to your data.

Although it may feel counterintuitive, outsourcing your bookkeeping is a great way to protect your small business from embezzlement. Established companies like Supporting Strategies have the policies and procedures in place to process and secure your data, ensure monthly account reconciliation, and provide a team of professionals to support your business and protect your investment.

Lori Coleman, BS, is director of business development at the Supporting Strategies location in South Shore, Massachusetts.

Texas and South Carolina Cited Among Top States for Doing Business

Area_DevelopmentWe already knew that Texas and South Carolina are great places for growing companies. After all, both states are home to Supporting Strategies offices where we've seen clients thrive. Now Area Development magazine has chimed in, counting Texas and South Carolina as two of the top states in which to do business. That's good news for all of you out there working to grow your business — or your clients' businesses.

The findings are based on the fifth annual survey of site consultants ranking states based on categories like business environment, labor climate, infrastructure and global access. According to Area Development, Texas was responsible for about a third of America's net-job gains in the 10 years leading up to 2012: "The pillars of its success include a pro-business environment, strong work force, improving schools, and an infrastructure that allows efficient access to global markets."

As for South Carolina, the state was called out for the high quality of its workforce. The survey findings also identified advantages like the state's lower costs of doing business as well as its great incentive programs and supportive state government.

The Supporting Strategies teams in Texas, headed up by Andy Hale, and South Carolina, headed up by Brad Strickland, say the findings underscore why owning a Supporting Strategies franchise is such a great opportunity. We all understand how rewarding it is to put the necessary support infrastructure in place that allow small businesses to get off the ground, and then really take off. Congrats to both states on a terrific showing.

Cash Flow Solutions

 

Companies facing a cash-flow squeeze and slow-paying customers often sell their invoices or accounts receivable to specialized companies such as A/R Funding. The factor advances most of the invoice amount — usually 80% to 90% — after checking out the credit-worthiness of the billed customer. When the bill is paid, the factor remits the balance, minus a transaction (or factoring) fee.

Companies that use factoring like it because they get money quickly, rather than waiting the usual 30 or 60 days for payment. After sending an invoice to a factoring firm, a business can have money in its hands within 24 hours. Read more

The Season of Giving Also Helps You Save on Taxes

 

As we enter the time of year to give thanks and prepare for the holidays, we see around us many ways to help others in need. Helping your favorite charity this month just feels right so is it naughty that you can also receive an added benefit of tax savings for both on your 2014 return and in future years? Absolutely not!

Here are Individual Year End Tax Planning Ideas & Eight Tips for Deducting Charitable Contributions as recomended by Dalal Associates, CPAs.

 

Why QuickBooks Online Still Beats Out Intacct, Xero & Others

Intuit QuCMIT_SolutionsickBooks has long been the 800 lb. gorilla in the accounting software space. But with competitive cloud products like Xero and Intacct gaining steam, is its dominance coming to an end? 

No way, according to Nick McGregor at computer services provider CMIT Solutions. McGregor cites airtight security measures, superb tax accounting capabilities and continual enhancements as some of the reasons why QuickBooks Online continues to be the best solution out there.

Since we mentioned QuickBooks Online, Xero and Intacct in our recent e-book, "What You Need to Know About Cloud Accounting," we thought you might like to read CMIT's blog post. Check it out here: "9 Reasons Why QuickBooks Still Rules The Accounting World, Even As The Cloud Takes Over."

Gauging Small Businesses' Perceptions of Cloud Accounting Solutions

Software_AdviceWhat is small businesses' confidence level in cloud-based accounting software? A new study provides some interesting insights.

Software Advice, a review website for small business accounting technology, recently surveyed accounting professionals at U.S. small businesses on this topic. Among the key findings:

  • Just 16% of survey respondents were already using cloud-based accounting software. The most common solution: on-premise accounting software (46%).
  • Fifty-one percent of respondents "expressed moderate to high levels of confidence in the reliability and safety of cloud-based accounting software," while 38% were minimally or not at all confident.
  • Over half of on-premise accounting software users considered themselves either moderately or very likely to make the move to a cloud-based accounting solution.
  • The no. 1 concern about adopting cloud-based software for accounting? Security, as cited by 46% of survey respondents.

What does it all mean? According to Software Advice, "Current adoption rates and consumer sentiments about cloud-based accounting … [show] that the small-business accounting software market has great potential for growth." To learn about other possible implications — and get more details on this study — see the "Consumer Confidence in Cloud-Based Accounting" report.

And for Supporting Strategies' take on cloud accounting products available today, download our e-book, "What You Need to Know About Cloud Accounting."

Cloud Accounting Quick Tip: Use Free Software to Split Multi-page PDFs

In my role as Financial Operations Associate at Supporting Strategies, I often handle cumbersome, multi-page PDFs with only a page or two that I actually need. I've tried different ways to split those unwieldy documents. But the options were expensive, took too much time to use and/or pointed me to an online site I didn't trust with such sensitive material.

CutePDFThen I had a thought: Could I use CutePDF, the software program I use to generate PDFs, to save only the pages I needed? I tried it and it worked like a charm. The solution is simple, reliable and — best of all — free. If you work with a lot of large PDFs, this trick will save you time and trouble.

Here's how you do it:

  1. Open your PDF as you normally would.
  2. Hit Print Preview or Print (don't use Quick Print).
  3. Select CutePDF (or RightNetworks PDF Writer if you're working in our cloud-based server) as your printer.
  4. In the Print Dialog box, type in the page number(s) you want to print. Then hit Print.
  5. When the Save As dialog box opens, name the document and hit Save. Your selected page(s) will now be saved as a separate document.

Voilà. That's it.

I'm cautious about downloading free software onto my machine. But I've used CutePDF for over four years without a hitch. Now that I've discovered how to repurpose that software in a way that makes my job simpler, I'm an even bigger fan.

Have you come across any clever cloud accounting shortcuts or new uses for free programs? Let us know. We'll keep using this space to let you in on our own software secrets. In the meantime, be sure to check out our free e-book, "What You Need to Know About Cloud Accounting," for our insights on useful cloud accounting software.

Shelby Tutty, MHA, is a Financial Operations Associate at Supporting Strategies.

Track1099: A Great Cloud Accounting Solution We Use to Serve Clients.

Track_1099Not so long ago, managing our clients' 1099s was a paper- and time-intensive process for Supporting Strategies. That was before our associates started using the cloud accounting solution Track1099.

Distributing and filing 1099s was traditionally an inefficient, paper-intensive process for us. At year end, paper copies of 1099 forms were mailed to vendors and then to the IRS along with the 1096. All information was then scanned and saved in our client files.

Using Track1099 last year made this process paperless and painless. 1099 vendor information is uploaded to Track1099 in a few simple steps. For one low price, which scales with quantity, Track1099 sends the 1099 to the vendor via email (or mail, if the email address is unavailable). All information, including the 1096, is then e-filed with the IRS.

Easy to Use, Excellent Customer Service

I've used Track1099 myself and found it easy to use — you can get up and running pretty quickly. Compared with other cloud accounting solutions, Track1099 also has excellent customer service. I always hear back from my support representative quickly. And the company is clearly committed to incorporating customer suggestions into product updates.

Furthermore, Track1099 has made Supporting Strategies even less reliant on paper than we were before, which complements our virtual model. Better yet, it saves our associates time and is less expensive, so we save our clients money. By switching to Track1099 in 2013, we saved the average client over 37% in comparison to the previous year.

Our free e-book, "What You Need to Know About Cloud Accounting," highlights some useful cloud products for managing your accounting and other needs. Do you have any cloud accounting solutions you'd like to recommend? Let us know below.

Jeanne Richards, BA, CPA, is Director of Service Excellence at Supporting Strategies.

Striking the Perfect Work/Life Balance at Supporting Strategies

Laura_BottinoLaura Bottino had a good thing going in the corporate world. Her career was progressing nicely, and she liked the work. But with a young daughter at home, she decided earlier this year it was time for a change. The path led her to Supporting Strategies, where she now serves as a financial operations associate for our Stamford, Conn., office.

Working part-time at home, Laura is always there when her daughter gets back from school and can attend school functions or engage in volunteer activities during the day. The flexibility has made a major difference in her life.

"I thrived in the corporate environment, and it suited my life stage at the time," she says. "But Supporting Strategies suits me now. It's been hugely life-changing for my family — the work/life balance I've struck is perfect."

The Right Opportunity

After seeing an online job posting for Supporting Strategies, Laura connected with Stamford owner Jeff Coombs. She realized the opportunity was exactly what she was looking for and became Jeff's second hire in June 2014.

While she now works with small businesses, Laura enjoys putting to use the skills she developed during all those years in the corporate world.

"I call on what I learned back then — things like process improvement and putting controls in place — to assist business owners who were probably handling their books on their own and realized they needed help," she says. "Much of my work has involved getting our clients what Jeff calls, 'caught up and cleaned up.' It's a pleasant challenge. I really thrive on addressing those needs and coming up with a professional set of books."

Saving the Day

One of those "caught up and cleaned up" situations came about with a client that had become overwhelmed by managing its books. Laura sorted through about 10 credit card and bank accounts along with thousands of transactions to identify business expenses for the client's 2013 tax returns. It was the type of task that a non-bookkeeper would find impossible to complete.

"It's a great feeling when you're able to do that for a client," says Laura. "Saving the client a significant amount of money and directly affecting their bottom line is the kind of impact you generally can't make in the corporate world. You get to see the tangible benefits of your work here, and that's very satisfying."

We're thrilled to have Laura as part of our Stamford team and look forward to her serving many more happy clients for years to come.

To learn more about our team, visit our Meet Our Team page.

How Committed Are You to Year-End Business Planning?

Michael_MenereyWith everything a business owner has to do on a daily basis, it can be hard to find time for strategic and business planning. And yet with 2014 drawing to a close, now is the perfect time to do just that.

Michael Menerey (pictured here), a colleague of mine who's also a partner at CFO Edge, recently posted an interesting article that I encourage you to read. In "Now is the Time for Year-End Business Planning," he offers up a list of 10 items you should tackle before Jan. 1. Recommendations cover employee incentives, accounting closings, tax planning, forecasting and budgeting, and more.

As Michael writes, "Proper year-end planning will help support sound decision-making in 2015, which will lead to improved operations, increased cash flow and higher profits." I couldn't agree more.

Check out "Now is the Time for Year-End Business Planning" now.

Mark Wald, BA, is managing director of the Supporting Strategies office in Santa Monica, Calif.

Supporting Strategies Opens New Offices in Virginia & New York

We're pleased to announce the recent openings of two more Supporting Strategies offices, in Northern Virginia and Manhattan's Financial District.

Indre_BauzaIndre Bauza (Northern Virginia) brings expertise in delivering accounting, bookkeeping and QuickBooks support services to small businesses. A Certified QuickBooks Advisor and Xero Certified Advisor, she looks forward to developing long-term relationships with small business owners who want to spend more time growing their business and less time managing company finances.

Indre holds a BS in business and accounting from Baltic International Academy and further deepened her knowledge in accounting while studying at Strayer University-Virginia. Fun facts: She was born on Christmas Day and speaks four languages: English, Lithuanian, German and Russian. Email Indre Bauza.

 

Susan_BlogSusan Blog (Manhattan Financial District) has provided operational support to small businesses since 1985 as controller or director of finance for a variety of businesses, primarily in the not-for-profit sector. Her background spans accounting, financial reporting, budgeting, financial analysis, investing, payroll, benefits administration, office management and software conversion.

An innovative thinker and problem solver, Susan believes every business is unique and deserves professional oversight of its individual needs. She holds an MBA from New York University and a BA in English from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Email Susan Blog. Email Susan Blog.

Welcome, Indre and Susan!

Meeting I-9 Immigration Verification Requirements When Employees Work Remotely

Daniel_FieldFederal immigration rules require that U.S. employers verify the identity of all newly hired employees. Employers must also confirm each new hire's authorization to work. A form called a "Form I-9" must be used for this purpose.

Morgan_Brown__Joy,_LLP

Although the form is relatively short, the government requires that exacting rules be met when completing it. Because failing to complete the form properly can result in substantial fines, and even criminal prosecution, it is crucial that employers ensure they are complying with DHS Form I-9, Instructions for Employment Eligibility Verification.

For companies that hire and employ employees who do not live near a work site, completing Form I-9 is particularly challenging. These employers are also obligated to create a legally compliant process for verifying new employee identities.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "Employers must complete Form I-9 to document verification of the identity and employment authorization of each new employee (both citizen and noncitizen) … to work in the United States" before the employee begins working. Also, employers are required to complete the bottom section of the form, called "Section 2," and must keep copies of the completed I-9.

Section 2 requires an employer to look at required listed identity documents in their original form, and then certify that they appear legitimate. The employer must also affirm that they pertain to the employee presenting the documents. Note that an employer cannot accept documents not listed on Form I-9, nor can an employer require an employee to present more documents than required in the form. Photo copies or video recordings of documents will not suffice.

The requirements of Section 2 are tricky for employers of remote employees because Section 2 must be completed with the newly hired employee in person, within three business days of making that hire. If a new hire lives many miles from an employer's office, this creates significant complications. Employers may not ask employees to fill out Section 2 on their own and then send a copy of the form. Accordingly, it is preferable to require all new hires to travel to and report to your work site for this purpose.

Best Practices for Complying with I-9 Verification Remotely
Although in-person inspection is strongly recommended, there are alternatives. Employers should follow one of two options in obtaining and verifying Section 2 of Form I-9, which are described in more detail here.

First, as noted above, an employer may meet with a new hire personally. Set up an in-person meeting, preferably on or before the first day of work. In the meeting request, include a link to Form I-9 and ask the new hire to complete Section 1 in advance. Also have the employee bring to the meeting original documents required on the "List of Acceptable Documents" at the end of the form.

At the meeting, examine the documentation and verify that they appear authentic. Then, complete and sign Section 2. After the meeting, scan the completed form and keep it in a safe location.

Second, an employer may engage an authorized representative to meet with the new hire on its behalf. Employers are permitted to locate and establish a limited engagement with an authorized agent, such as a notary public, in the employee's area. The agreement with the notary or other representative should outline the responsibilities that the agent is assuming on the employer's behalf, including understanding the requirements of I-9, inspecting the required identity documents and then completing Section 2 of Form I-9. Here's an example of such an agreement.

After verifying the documents, the agent must send you the original Form I-9 for your records. Note that employers are legally liable where the agent fails to comply with I-9 rules.

Timing Is Important
Newly hired employees must complete Section 1 of Form I-9 no later than their first day of employment. Employees may not be asked to produce documents before an offer has been made. Therefore, it is best not to have the employee fill out Section 1 until he or she has accepted the job offer.

Finally, over the past several years, the government has made changes to the I-9 form. For this reason, it is important to check to ensure your company has and is using the most current version of the form.

______________

Daniel S. Field, an attorney with Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP, may be reached at 617-788-5016 or at dfield@morganbrown.com. Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP, focuses exclusively on representing employers in employment and labor matters.

This article was published on October 1, 2014.

 

This publication, which may be considered advertising under the ethical rules of certain jurisdictions, should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances by Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP, and its attorneys. This newsletter is intended for general information purposes only, and you should consult an attorney concerning any specific legal questions you may have.

Jeff Coombs of Stamford, Conn., Office Celebrates First Anniversary

Jeff_CoombsLast year, Supporting Strategies began offering franchise opportunities. Earlier this month, Jeff Coombs of Stamford, Conn., our first franchisee, celebrated his first year in business. He's building an impressive success story for our other franchisees to emulate.

Jeff didn't come to Supporting Strategies with an accounting background. He studied engineering at Purdue University — an experience he says "teaches you how to solve problems." In 1994 he cofounded the business managing consulting firm RainmakerThinking, Inc. While his partner focused on writing books and giving speeches, Jeff served as COO and managed operations back in the office.

"It was a great fit for me and taught me a lot about running a small business," he says. "I did everything from doing the books to the sales to the website, just like a lot of people in small businesses. Looking back, it has really helped me understand where my clients at Supporting Strategies are coming from and what kinds of issues they face."

Ready for Something New

After two decades at RainmakerThinking, Jeff was ready to try something new on his own. His sister-in-law, who owns a Boston-area medical practice that is a Supporting Strategies client, mentioned that we were looking for franchisees. Right away, he was intrigued.

"I am good with numbers and have a lot of experience managing people and running a small business, so it seemed like a great fit," he says. "Plus, after doing a little research, I saw that CPAs in my area generally don't offer bookkeeping services. Almost all of the referrals I get now come from CPAs."

Jeff signed on with Supporting Strategies and opened his business following Labor Day 2013. When his first associate left unexpectedly (her husband was transferred to London), Jeff rolled up his sleeves to manage a client's bookkeeping himself, which allowed him to pick up some valuable hands-on training.

Today, Jeff manages all of Stamford's clients and has three associates working for him. He hopes to promote one of those associates to manager by the end of the year so that he can focus on business development. His 21 clients include small businesses across a variety of industries.

"My goal is to have 50 clients by the end of our second year, and I think that's realistic, assuming I can be on business development full-time beginning in 2015," he says.

A Strong Support System for Franchisees

Jeff appreciates the support system that is part of the franchise arrangement. We help franchisees with various aspects of recruiting new hires and even refer prospects (which is how Jeff landed his first client).

"Their relationships with vendors are very helpful, too," he says. "One time, late on a Friday night, I got a call from a client struggling with Bill.com. I reached out to [Supporting Strategies CEO] Leslie Jorgensen. She contacted Bill.com, and the issue was resolved within an hour. I couldn't have done that on my own."

We're pleased Jeff has had such a great experience with Supporting Strategies and hope he'll be with us for many years to come.

Client Profiles: 603 Brewery & ISI Technology

Through our 15 office locations, Supporting Strategies serves hundreds of small businesses from coast to coast. Hear from two clients who rely on us for expert bookkeeping and operational support: 603 Brewery and ISI Technology. 

Geoff_Hewes_portrait603 Brewery
Client since April 2014
Franchisee: Lori Kunkel, Southern New Hampshire

603 hand crafts a tasty array of ales on a 15-barrel steam-heated system at its brewery in Londonderry, N.H. "Supporting Strategies spent numerous hours over the course of two months working with our accountant/investor to clean up our financials," said Geoff Hewes, one of the three owner/founders. "Since then, we've been running on all cylinders. They've helped us communicate with our investors using a common accounting language."

Jerry_CallahanISI Technology
Client since January 2014
Franchisee: Brad Strickland, South Carolina

ISI has developed and patented a revolutionary all-tankless water heater for commercial and residential applications. "The response time with Supporting Strategies is terrific, and the quality of work is flawless," said founder and CEO Jerry Callahan. "In addition to accounting and related tasks, they're helping us with our next round of fundraising, which is an added benefit. Great results and great value!"

To get in touch with a Supporting Strategies representative, please contact us today.

Crowdfunder.com Raises $3.5M Series A Round

Posted By: Mark Wald

Crowdfunder.com just raised a $3.5M Series A Round - this is exciting news for the startup community! Crowdfunder will use the funds from the Series A to continue its market-leading growth and expansion in funding leading companies in the growing cross-over area between technology, digital media, and entertainment. Read the full press release on their website here.

Why You Should Use Tallie, Bill.com & QuickBooks Online Together

Posted By: Leslie Jorgensen

If you read our recent e-book, "What You Need to Know About Cloud Accounting," you might have noticed that Tallie, Bill.com and QuickBooks Online made our list of great cloud software. But did you know that these three products work great together as a team? We have several clients that are using all 3 tools and have them all working together, which has made the processing of employee expense reimbursements highly automated. Employees are able to get their reimbursement faster, and the information is accurately passed into QuickBooks. Using the approval functionality in these systems ensures proper controls in the process as well.

 

Tallie recently devoted a blog post to the beauty of "Tallie, Bill.com and QuickBook Online's cloud accounting ecosystem." Among the key benefits: seamless integration across all three products and robust functionality on mobile devices.

 

For more details, check out "The Dream Team: 5 Reasons Tallie + Bill.com + QuickBooks Online is the Cloud Accounting Solution for You."

Check Out Our New E-book on Cloud Accounting

Posted By: Leslie Jorgensen

You know Facebook and Gmail. What you may not know is that these are just two examples of the many cloud computing applications that are becoming mainstays in our personal and professional lives.

The accounting world is no exception to this trend, as you can choose from more and more cloud products for handling general ledger and business accounting tasks. It's a dream come true for small and medium-sized businesses that want robust functionality at an affordable price.

Our free e-book, "What You Need to Know About Cloud Accounting," has the scoop on which cloud accounting products you should consider. We also highlight a few complementary cloud products for streamlining other business processes, such as time tracking and expense reporting.

Hope you like it!

Top 7 Benefits of Outsourcing Your Bookkeeping Operations

Posted By: Lori Coleman

When I meet with a business owner who is interested in understanding how Supporting Strategies - South Shore works, I explain how we use great people and great systems to delivery bookkeeping services using cloud technology. Our discussion weaves through our model demonstrating both the exceptional level of support our Financial Analysts deliver and the security they receive using our backend system. After reading this article found on Small Business Advisor on Yahoo! I will be sure to list off these Top 7 benefits to outsourcing bookkeeping operations. Read Full Article

 

 

It's Great to Be a Working Mom

Posted By: Leslie Jorgensen

I loved this LinkedIn article regarding working moms! As I'm a working mom myself, I know all too well the benefits and challenges of balancing it all. And I also am extremely blessed to work with a team of extraordinary women that balance the work of providing excellent accounting support to our clients with being present and involved with their families. I am so glad to be living in a time where so many incredible technology tools make all of this possible. Today I was able to finish a few projects, get current on my e-mail, attend a handful of meetings and make it for my 8 year old’s theatre camp performance. A productive and fulfilling day as a working mom! Read Article Here

Workshops for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

Posted By: Mark Wald

I’m partnering with the Santa Monica Small Business Development Center and Process Green to present 2 workshops for entrepreneurs and small business owners this month—they’re FREE so register today!

 

1) Accounting for Emerging Companies & Credit Card Processing Fundamentals

When: Tues, 8/19 from 7-9PM

Where: Santa Monica City College, Bundy Campus: 3171 S Bundy Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90066

Register

 

2) Financial Modeling for Startups & Understanding Your Credit Card Processing Options

When: Tues, 8/26 from 7-9PM

Where: Santa Monica City College, Bundy Campus: 3171 S Bundy Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90066

Register

 

Accounting for Emerging Companies - Now that you have a business plan for your company, do you have a plan in place to do all of the "business" of your business? Come learn about the key financial and accounting functions, systems, and processes that will be integral to your company's success!

 

Credit Card Processing Fundamentals - Many merchant service providers have contacted you and offered you low rates and fees. Learn how to understand what you can really expect to be charged and understand what your processing statements and monthly charges will consist of.

 

Financial Modeling for Startups - Raising money? To understand the value of what they are getting, investors want to maximize their return and minimize their risk. Your job is to appeal to their greed and minimize their fear-but their biggest fear is YOU! You need to demonstrate that you understand business and your business model, that you know how to make money, and that you can be trusted. Learn how to build and understand your financial model so you can demonstrate credibility by presenting it to investors and win their confidence in you.

 

Big Thank You to Marina Lee

Posted By: Mark Wald

Big thank you to Marina Lee of the Women in Tech Network for inviting me to the awesome workshop this past Friday at ROC in Santa Monica! The Application Developers Alliance put on an excellent event with a great set of panelists and a very energetic, interesting mix of attendees. Shout out to the event sponsors too, especially Mike Brough from m2catalyst – looking forward to doing some business with you soon, Mike!

 

Don’t miss the next event--follow Marina and the Women in Tech Network on all social media platforms from the links at the bottom of the womenintechnetwork.com home page.

How To Survive Practically Any Litigation Challenge

originally posted by Gesmer Updegrove

How To Survive Practically Any Litigation Challenge

You've come to know Gesmer Updegrove for things like growing a new venture, negotiating a contract, drafting a technology license, arranging financing and preparing for acquisitions. But these aren’t the only issues you face. The firm provides a wide range of litigation services to help you take on the myriad challenges confronting you every day. These tips will help you survive in a way that makes the most business, economic and common sense...

http://www.gesmer.com/announcements/litigation.html

One Hundred Club Workshop: The Five Things You Have to Know to Run a Business Well — 12 June 2014

The Five Things You Have to Know to Run a Business Well

Presented by: Vital Growth Consulting Group

What are the five most important things to focus on if you’re running a business (or part of a business)? In our view, the top five are:

  1. Does your “brand promise” grab your customers?
  2. How to identify and get the most important things done?
  3. How to free up resources and reduce waste?
  4. How to align people?
  5. How to get people to function well as a team?

The workshop will explore all five things in greater detail and provide tools that will help you answer the questions affirmatively for your organization.

How to succeed in Business Services

Contributor: Mike Gammage

History isn’t necessarily obvious when you’re involved in it. But my hunch is that we’ll look back on the SSON events this year and see that they marked an inflection point.

This is the year when things came together. A shared vision of the future is rapidly emerging. The alignment of buyers, vendors and advisers around that common vision will accelerate the pace of change. By the time of the Rio Olympics in 2016, we’ll look back on this as the year when we realised just how big the tidal wave of change called “Business Services” would