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Jeff Orchard

Jeff Orchard is managing director of Supporting Strategies - Tampa Bay.
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Supporting Your On-staff Bookkeeper with Outsourced Services

January 25, 2017 / by Jeff Orchard posted in Tampa Bay

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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?

January 20, 2017 / by Jeff Orchard posted in Tampa Bay

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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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Bookkeeping Services | How Sharp is Your Axe?

February 15, 2016 / by Jeff Orchard posted in Tampa Bay, Bookkeeping Services

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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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What to Consider When Hiring A Bookkeeping Services Provider

January 22, 2016 / by Jeff Orchard posted in Tampa Bay

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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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Bookkeeping Services Best Practice | How Outsourcing Could Boost Your Business

January 18, 2016 / by Jeff Orchard posted in Tampa Bay, Bookkeeping Services

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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 | Understanding The Value of Your Time

January 12, 2016 / by Jeff Orchard posted in Tampa Bay

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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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How Outsourcing Protects Small Businesses from Fraud

April 20, 2015 / by Jeff Orchard posted in Small Business Advice, Tampa Bay

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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.

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Proving the Value of Outsourced Accounting Services

April 15, 2015 / by Jeff Orchard posted in Small Business Advice, Tampa Bay

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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.

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