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Can Your Business Survive a Catastrophe Like Hurricane Matthew?

October 13, 2016 / by Pete Denholm posted in Northeast Florida

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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.

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Accounting Services 101 | Top Ten Small Business Blogs of 2015

January 28, 2016 / by Pete Denholm posted in Northeast Florida

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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| Ensuring Proper Accounting Controls for Your Small Business

December 17, 2015 / by Pete Denholm posted in Northeast Florida, Accounting Services

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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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Bookkeeping Services Best Practice: 3 QuickBooks Tips for Non-Profits

December 3, 2015 / by Pete Denholm posted in Northeast Florida, Bookkeeping Services

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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: Reconcile Your Balance Sheet

November 6, 2015 / by Lisa Henderson posted in Northeast Florida, Bookkeeping Services

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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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Jacksonville Entrepreneur Offer’s Advice to Startup Companies: Get a Bookkeeper

March 19, 2015 / by Pete Denholm posted in Northeast Florida

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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.
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Is Your Company Ready For The Inc. 5000 List?

March 11, 2015 / by Pete Denholm posted in Northeast Florida

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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…
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Worth Reading: When to Bring in a Professional Coach

February 24, 2015 / by Pete Denholm posted in Small Business Advice, Northeast Florida

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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.

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