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

December 8, 2016 / by John Gleason posted in Metrowest, MA, North Shore

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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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Bookkeeping Services Basics | What Is Double Entry Accounting

July 18, 2016 / by John Gleason posted in Metrowest, MA, North Shore

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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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Bookkeeping Services | Learning from Your Trial Balance

June 28, 2016 / by John Gleason posted in Metrowest, MA, North Shore

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

March 11, 2016 / by John Gleason posted in Metrowest, MA, North Shore

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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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Bookkeeping Services 101 | Understanding Off Balance Sheet Financing

March 2, 2016 / by John Gleason posted in Metrowest, MA, North Shore, Bookkeeping Services

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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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Bookkeeping Services | A Bookkeeper's Guide to Payroll

February 23, 2016 / by John Gleason posted in Metrowest, MA, North Shore, Bookkeeping Services

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

February 17, 2016 / by John Gleason posted in Metrowest, MA, North Shore, Bookkeeping Services

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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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Bookkeeping Services 101 | Using QuickBooks Online For Inventory Management

February 9, 2016 / by John Gleason posted in Metrowest, MA, North Shore, Bookkeeping Services

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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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Supporting Strategies Expands to Metrowest Massachusetts

January 6, 2016 / by Leslie Jorgensen posted in Metrowest, MA

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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. 

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