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Strategies for Virtual Selling Success in Challenging Times

From developing new skills to focusing on bringing value to your customer, sales expert Fred Diamond shares his tips on sales during the pandemic.

If you embrace this change, it could be a life-changing shift that leads to an amazing sales career.

The highest-achieving sales professionals have discovered there is unique beauty in this role right now. Although the number of transactions is generally lower than expected, many sales professionals have found ways to connect more powerfully with their customers, their teammates and, yes, themselves.

What I've Learned by Hosting Four Weekly Sales Webcasts
When the global pandemic started, my organization, the Institute for Excellence in Sales, immediately began producing Sales Game Changers Webcasts for sales professionals. We have since published over 50 episodes.

Here are three critical lessons we have learned about virtual selling during the pandemic:

How to Choose the Right Business Services Provider for Your Business

Are you ready to outsource your bookkeeping and controller services? Choose the best one for your business with these tips from Clutch.

Business services providers can supply companies with a return on investment that outweighs the cost of their services — if you select a service provider that best caters to your business needs.

Clutch is a B2B ratings and reviews company that facilitates connections between service providers and businesses in need of external services.

As experts in finding the right business partner, we closely examine what qualities make providers effective in outsourced roles. For this article, we will focus on finding a bookkeeping services provider. The terms bookkeeping and accounting are sometimes used interchangeably, though important differences exist when accounting refers to work done by a CPA. Note that we group bookkeeping and accounting business services together, emphasizing similar qualities needed for success in the industry.

Managing Accounts Receivable for Prompt Payment

From reviewing your A/R aging each week to knowing how and when to follow up, these collection strategies will help you get paid.

Considering the importance of cash, it's surprising collections is one of the more neglected processes for businesses. It easily gets out of control if not managed consistently. Especially in the current environment, you need to have a systematic approach in place.

Here's how to manage your accounts receivable to ensure timely payments.

Know Your Cash Status
Like brushing your teeth, getting paid requires consistent effort to avoid unpleasant surprises. While tools are available to automate certain aspects, you still must devote time to compiling and reviewing transactions as well as confirming your records are up to date and accurate.

It all starts with billing. Your invoices should contain all required information to be paid (accurate descriptions, P.O. numbers, bank instructions, etc.) and be sent as soon as possible. Having any missing information and/or not following a client's procedure just delays payment.

Case Study: Outsourced Bookkeeping for Online Ad Sales Tech Company

With his company generating 50,000 transactions a month, this internet entrepreneur relies on Supporting Strategies for bookkeeping and controller services.

Todd Garland was working as a front-end engineer when he created a couple of design-oriented websites on the side. Frustrated with negotiating complicated online ad sales for his sites, he launched his own company, BuySellAds (BSA), to simplify the process.

The result, according to the website Foundora, was "a game changer in online banner advertising," with Garland serving as matchmaker between advertisers and website publishers whose content is a good fit for the advertiser's product.

Finding a Bookkeeper to Count On
Having his new business take off was good news, of course. The bad news? "I realized I needed to do my taxes," Garland says. He had created a custom system for logging transactions — the advertiser and the publisher each maintain a cash balance, with BSA receiving a cut of each transaction — but it wasn't designed for bookkeeping purposes. Garland needed someone who could translate the information into a form that his accountant could use for filing taxes.

Better Bookkeeping Would Have Stopped These Embezzlers

Professional bookkeeping best practices, such as segregation of duties, could have prevented these real-world cases of fraud.

My colleague George Stephen has published a list of bookkeeping best practices that allow business owners to proactively prevent fraud. These measures include instituting cash controls, segregating duties, conducting a thorough month-end close and review, eliminating paper checks and running regular audits.

I can't think of a better way to illustrate the value of George's excellent advice than by looking at three recent cases of fraud — and highlighting the steps a more proactive business owner might have taken to prevent them.

Case No 1: Credit Card Fraud
The scam: The bookkeeper at a Tennessee tractor repair firm illegally used the company credit card to make over 200 unauthorized purchases totaling over $21,000 in less than a year. Purchases included groceries and personal utility bills. Also, the bookkeeper added her daughter to the company's health-insurance policy without permission, which resulted in an additional loss of more than $3,000.

Bookkeeping Best Practices: How to Prevent Fraud

Trust the process rather than the person: Here's a systematic way to safeguard your company from fraud with professional bookkeeping.

At Supporting Strategies, we've written before about the heavy toll that fraud takes on small businesses (e.g., a median loss of $200,000 per fraud scheme). And, unfortunately, a new report from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners warns that the COVID-19 outbreak has led to a 68% increase in fraud levels.

As a business owner, you don't have to accept that staggering losses are inevitable. You can proactively protect your interests by instituting proven financial controls.

Taking Control, Step by Step
The first step in protecting your finances is to adjust your mindset. Implement systems that are process-based, not people-based. You don't have to trust your employees to do the right thing if your system gives them no other option. Here are the practices you need to put in place to accomplish that.

Update Your Business Plan for the Pandemic

Learn how the process of planning can help you prepare your business for unexpected changes.

Remember when you wrote your original business plan before starting your company? And remember the last time you updated it, say, late in 2019? That seems like a different world now, doesn't it?

Well, that was a different world. COVID-19 changed everything, and you need to adjust your business plan accordingly.

A Business Plan Is an Informed Prediction
"In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."
– Dwight D. Eisenhower

I love that quote. What Eisenhower meant was that committing to a specific plan was foolish, because it doesn't allow any wiggle room when circumstances change — as they always do. However, the process of planning gives you valuable intelligence about what to expect so you can react appropriately.

Giglia Celebrates 5-Year Franchise Anniversary

More and more technologically savvy financial professionals are building successful businesses with Supporting Strategies' cutting-edge franchise formula.

Cheri Giglia, Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | North Shore Long Island, has achieved a significant milestone: five years at the helm of a successful outsourced bookkeeping services franchise.

"I can't believe it's been five years," says Giglia, who was the recipient of a Long Island Power Women in Business Award in 2018. "It's gone really fast. I've grown so much not only as a businesswoman, but also as a person."

According to Giglia, who previously held a series of financial executive positions in large corporations and technology startups, this is her first time owning and operating her own business. "To take everything I'd learned in my career and combine it with the Supporting Strategies model and be successful at it has been very rewarding," she says.

Talent Search: Hiring the Best Bookkeeping and Finance Staff

There's much more involved in handling your company's bookkeeping and finance needs than meets the eye. Here's how to find a team of qualified professionals.

We live in a world of specialists. As a business leader, you recognize the importance of hiring people with the knowledge base and experience to fill specific roles in your field. During a building project, for example, a commercial builder might hire an architect, plumber, electrician, roofer, drywall installer, masonry contractor and other support people.

You know what a commercial builder won't do? Hire one person and expect them to do all of those jobs. And yet, when it comes to enlisting various forms of operational support, including bookkeeping and finance staff, that's effectively what many business leaders do.

There's a much better way.

Is Your Business Ready for the Coming Bookkeeper Shortage?

Learn how you can prepare your business for the projected bookkeeper shortage.

A recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that America could lose almost 66,000 bookkeepers between 2018 and 2028. This trend could spell trouble for small businesses that fail to plan accordingly.

According to Strategic Finance magazine (SF), the decline in bookkeepers is being driven in part by increased automation — as well as a mistaken belief that software programs provide a "set it and forget it" bookkeeping solution that no longer requires human involvement.

In reality, the bookkeeping profession is transitioning to a more analytical role. The job is no longer about accumulating data, but about interpreting what all that data means. "There will still be a strong demand for these professionals," SF concludes. "Nevertheless, the combination of an aging population of current bookkeepers and fewer new entrants into the field will be insufficient to meet the needs of many companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)."

Case Study: Outsourced Bookkeeping Positions Law Firm to Handle COVID-19

Supporting Strategies established cloud-based bookkeeping and streamlined back-office operations at this successful law firm — just in time for COVID-19.

Pabian & Russell, LLC, is one of Boston's most respected law firms, with expertise spanning elder law, estate planning, dispute resolution and several other practice areas. Bookkeeping, however, was causing a number of frustrations.

The firm's previous solution — an in-house team responsible for day-to-day accounts payable, accounts receivable and client billing, plus an outside accountant to close the monthly books — and processes weren't working. Attorneys were tracking billable hours on paper forms. An inefficient billing protocol led to delayed payments from clients. The firm couldn't produce reports that could guide strategic decisions.

"We were in the middle of making a lot of plans, but the lack of data was holding us back," CEO Margaret Burke notes. "Eventually we realized it made sense to hire someone and not try to do this in house."

Updates on PPP Loan Forgiveness, Including Safe Harbors

Are you applying for loan forgiveness on your Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan? Learn about safe harbor provisions and coverage period restrictions.

Note: Please visit the Small Business Administration's PPP website for the most current details.

As of July 14, American businesses had received more than 4.9 million loans through the PPP. All of those loans — some $518 billion worth — are eligible for forgiveness under certain circumstances. Make sure you understand the requirements.

Payroll and Salary Criteria
Initially, the PPP stipulated that 75% of any loan had to be dedicated to payroll costs. But recent legislation revised that figure to 60%.

That's just one of many adjustments. The government's latest Loan Forgiveness Application revision, which has two application forms and two corresponding instructions, can be confusing. We will try to summarize the changes by focusing on a few key provisions.

Coverage period definitions and restrictions: Businesses that received their PPP loan by June 4 can still choose an eight-week period for their loan. However, just like post-June 4 borrowers, they may also elect to use a 24-week period. Among other things, choosing the 24-week option effectively increases the maximum amount you can pay any individual employee with PPP funds from $15,385 to $46,154 (prorated based on a $100,000 cap on annual salary).

Reopen for Business: How to Adapt to New Financial Realities

How can your company regain the momentum it lost due to the coronavirus outbreak? Here are bookkeeping strategies for finding your new normal.

If your business is among the many that have just reopened, or plan to shortly, after the COVID-19 shutdown, you might feel like you're starting all over again. And yes, there are some similarities between starting a business and restarting a business. But there are important differences, too. Let's look at how you can prepare for these new realities with bookkeeping best practices.

That No-Revenue Déjà Vu
The most vivid reminder of your startup days is probably the lack of immediate revenue to cover your expenses. There's no question that can be a source of stress, particularly if your business has substantial upfront costs or a significant burn rate.

In addition, depending on the nature of your business and your particular state's reopening guidelines, you might have to budget for additional expenses that you never had to worry about in a pre-pandemic world, such as Plexiglas shields or extra cleaning staff.

Reminder: $130 Billion in PPP Funding Is Still Available

The federal government has given businesses more time to apply for COVID-19 relief. Are your books up to date?

Money that was allocated but not used during the initial rollout of the Small Business Association's (SBA's) Payroll Protection Program is still available to small businesses. With Congress authorizing the extension of the deadline to August 8, access to funds totaling $130 billion is still an option if you haven't already applied for the PPP.

Small businesses that take advantage of the program will benefit in more ways than one, because the SBA has worked out some of the issues in the loan-forgiveness procedures. Basically, if businesses can prove they meet the newest guidelines, the loan will be forgiven before any interest is due. Get the PPP loan and forgiveness details here.

Don't Miss Out
For many small businesses, especially those in states that are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, this opportunity couldn't have come at a better time. But the word of caution that my colleague Craig Feltner offered in April about not waiting too long to apply for a PPP loan still applies today: "There will be a flood of applications, and banks will likely have difficulty managing them all."

Proven Value: Online Bookkeeping in the Time of COVID-19

With cloud-based technology and remote-work best practices, online bookkeeping services will help you strengthen your business as you prepare for the future.

For many businesses that had relied on onsite employees and desktop applications, remote work and cloud-based technology have become the new normal during the pandemic. Now that you've seen what's possible with remote work … what's holding you back from outsourcing your bookkeeping?

With outsourced bookkeeping, you can not only help ensure business continuity, but also gain expertise and financial insight you didn't know you were missing.

Stop By Your Bookkeeper's Desk — Online
You may have appreciated the ability to stop by your bookkeeper's desk to ask a question — back when your bookkeeper actually had a desk. But once the pandemic hit, many businesses had to transition instantly to a remote workforce. Any company that still relied on an in-house bookkeeper, and a desktop system that required them to physically be onsite to get access, was caught unprepared.

Opening a U.S. Subsidiary Is Still Possible During COVID-19

Although COVID-19 has created obstacles for overseas companies to set up U.S. subsidiaries, it has also presented possible opportunities to pursue.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on the world's economy, with some sources forecasting a decline of up to 8.8% in global GDP this year. In addition, ongoing travel restrictions prevent entry to the United States from many countries, which may have disrupted plans at some international companies to open subsidiaries here. (As a general rule, opening a U.S. subsidiary requires obtaining a U.S. bank account, which must be done in person.)

Even so, there are glimmers of optimism amid the gloom. The pandemic has also revealed new opportunities, especially for companies that specialize in technologies that enable e-commerce, telemedicine and remote learning. For international companies in those fields, the U.S. market could be more receptive than ever. Here's what you'll need to know about starting a U.S. subsidiary.

Reimagine Your Business for Long-term Success

Strengthen the core of your business by shifting your focus from how to why. Learn how reimagining your business can position your business for success.

Lately, there have been a lot of blogs about obtaining financial support to help your business survive the COVID-19 crisis. And while such advice can be helpful in the short term, it's like teaching someone how to tread water: It can prevent drowning, but it's not a long-term survival strategy.

I'm more interested in teaching you how to swim.

Focus on Your Why, not Your How
Business owners tend to get bogged down in the details of how they do what they do rather than why they do it. That can be an obstacle to progress even in the best of times. During the coronavirus pandemic, it can be disastrous.

You need to open your mind to a different approach — an "AHA moment," as we call it at Allan Hirsh Advisors. For example, I have a client who operates a retail outlet at a major airport. When the pandemic hit, she was forced to close her store for the time being.

The 7 Biggest HR Blunders (and How to Avoid Them)

Human resources tends to be a reactive field rather than proactive. In most cases, business owners don't look for an HR solution until they realize they have an HR problem. But in most of those same cases, a little bit of proactive planning would have prevented a whole lot of reactive grief.

With that in mind, here are seven of the most common HR blunders that small businesses commit — and steps you can take to avoid them.

1. Not Knowing the Difference Between an Employee and an Independent Contractor
I can't tell you the number of times I've heard a business owner describe a member of their workforce as "a 1099 employee."

That description is an oxymoron. A worker can have either "1099" status or "employee" status, but they can't have both.

The "1099" designation refers to the IRS form that businesses use to document payments made for (among other things) "services performed by someone who is not your employee" (emphasis added). Those services are performed by an independent contractor, in other words.

Market Revival: Marketing Strategies for Successfully Reopening

From maximizing your social media channels to re-examining your messaging, these tips will help you develop a re-opening marketing strategy.

The coronavirus pandemic has created the most severe economic disruption since the Great Depression. For many businesses, recovery will be extremely trying. Some of the greatest challenges will involve determining when (and how) to reopen your business.

The answers will be determined both by state laws and the nature of your business. In general, though, there are certain steps every business can take to make the process smoother. Let's look at some.

Be ready to adapt. I could just as easily have said, "Be ready to pivot." But to be honest, I'm ready to throw that word in the garbage and never use it again. And I guess that's my point: Before you reopen your doors, you need to take a fresh look around you and get rid of anything that has gone stale.

It's Not How Much Bookkeeping Costs, It's How Much Value It Adds

No one ever says "You get what you pay for" when describing a good deal. People say that only when they realize (too late) that the inexpensive solution they chose is inadequate.

In reality, it's possible to get much more than you pay for — and outsourced bookkeeping services are a prime example.

A Long-Term Solution to a Pressing Need
During the launch phase, few business leaders have a solid long-range plan for keeping their company's books. Often, cash flow is modest enough that the owner, office manager or other staff member can do the books.

When your business grows to the point where it's no longer feasible (or wise) for the owner or a staff member to continue doing the books, however, finding a dedicated bookkeeper becomes a pressing need. That can pressure the business owner into settling for a short-term fix.

The New Normal: Managing a (Sometimes) Remote Workforce

As various states begin to relax shelter-in-place directives prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak, employers face critical decisions in how to manage their workforces. Should they allow employees to continue to work from home (WFH) or encourage them to return to their places of business?

The "new normal" might involve a combination of these two approaches. Here are some suggestions for how to effectively manage the situation.

Step One: Determine What's Right for Your Business
To a degree, the nature of your business will make this decision for you. In some cases, such as with hair salons, WFH is simply not an option. If the state told you to shut down, you had to shut down.

Now that many states are allowing salons to reopen, the owner of a salon must first determine whether operating would be safe for employees and customers. This assessment must be done with the input of employees; some may not be ready to return to work due to concerns over their health or that of loved ones. From there, it's just a matter of following your state's guidelines.

Lessons From COVID-19: Three Reasons Cash Is Still Crucial

If you're like me, you're suffering from shutdown fatigue. But as we slowly emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, I think it's worth memorializing lessons learned (or reinforced) over the past few months.

One of the most important lessons? Managing your cash — from making sure you have cash on hand to forecasting cash flow — is crucial to the success of your business. Here are three reasons why that is — along with tips on how to keep the cash flowing in the future.

1. Cash = Flexibility
How many businesses had serious issues waiting for CARES Act funding to be disbursed? Based on our experiences with clients, about a month elapsed from the time the law was enacted on March 27 to when most of the programs were actually funded. It was stressful for everyone, but especially for those living draw to draw or paycheck to paycheck. (And of course, the stress level went up about tenfold for businesses shut out of the funding altogether.)

Case Study: Flexible and Consistent Bookkeeping for a Franchise

For Creative Colors International (CCI), one of the primary selling points for its franchises also created one of its biggest challenges.

The Illinois-based CCI, which specializes in repairing various types of furniture coverings, allows individual franchisees to tailor their offerings for their particular markets. For example, some franchisees contract exclusively with a single client for whom they work onsite, while others operate a mobile business with a variety of clients.

From a bookkeeping perspective, the result was a hodgepodge of reporting procedures that strained both franchisor and franchisees. Says CCI President and Co-Owner Mark J. Bollman, “For an owner/operator just starting out, doing the work all day and then coming home to a stack of invoices when they're tired hasn't been conducive to on-time reporting.”

Case Study: Nonprofit Bookkeeping for the Telluride Film Festival

Although it lasts just four days, the annual Telluride Film Festival (TFF) requires a year-round staff — and roughly 300 employees during festival season. Adding to the logistical challenges, the nonprofit that operates the festival is based in Berkeley, California, while the event itself takes place in Colorado. Moreover, each year the organization needs to be ready to cover major upfront expenses along with a flurry of event-related vendor invoices.

That all added up to a unique bookkeeping challenge — particularly for a nonprofit that was still using traditional paper-based processes and offline systems. So when TFF's long-standing bookkeeper retired, the organization jumped at the chance to modernize its back-office operations.

A Premier Nonprofit Bookkeeping Solution
TFF accomplished all its goals and more by outsourcing its bookkeeping and back-office operations to Supporting Strategies. First and foremost, Supporting Strategies successfully transitioned TFF to a set of integrated online tools to eliminate cumbersome paperwork and enable administrators to securely share financial information through the cloud in real time.

Moving Forward With Business Lessons Learned

Many of us are emerging from COVID-19 shutdowns with a greater appreciation of how important business relationships are to a company’s success. Read these tips on strengthening your relationships with your employees, vendors, customers and support networks.

Working Remotely Is No Longer the Future
Because the situation was forced on them with little warning, many businesses struggled to adapt to a remote workforce. It’s understandable if that created a negative first impression. But forward-thinking business leaders have since recognized that the remote-work model offers many advantages that they can retain once they resume normal operations. As Magnus Nicolin, CEO of Ansell, a major supplier of personal protective equipment, told the Wall Street Journal, “The way this company's going to be managed post-COVID is going to be quite different from the way we managed it before. We are probably going to be traveling less, because we've learned we can actually run this company virtually, quite nicely. We're probably going to have smaller offices, and the offices are going to primarily be for meetings and training and technical support and far less for sitting and doing your job. If our customer service teams can work from home with good system support, then why not let them?”

Good Bookkeeping Is the Foundation for PPP Loan Forgiveness

This article was revised on June 11, 2020 to reflect the latest updates to the Small Business Administration's (SBA's) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Please visit the SBA site for the most current details.

As a responsible business owner concerned about retaining your employees during the coronavirus pandemic, you immediately applied for a loan through the PPP. And you were fortunate to be among those who received one.

But your work isn't done. Being a responsible business owner also means following PPP instructions so that your loan will be forgiven. That may yet prove to be difficult.

A Work in Progress
The PPP initially stipulated that as long as 75% or more of PPP funds went toward payroll costs within eight weeks, the loan would be forgiven. When the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (PPPFA) was signed into law on June 5, these two thresholds changed. Now, businesses must put at least 60% of PPP funds toward payroll costs within 24 weeks for loan forgiveness.

The PPPFA also included revisions affecting the calculation of full-time employees and deferring payment of the employer share of the Social Security tax.

How to Plan a Successful Business Succession

Note: This blog first appeared on the NCACPA website.

It's not surprising that many new business owners devote little thought to their exit strategy. They have way too much going on today to worry about tomorrow.

Still, putting together a business succession plan as soon as possible is part of being a responsible business owner. After all, illness, disability or family obligations could force you to sell out sooner than you'd planned.

And even if you eventually do exit according to your own timetable, you'll want to do it properly, both to maximize your profits and ensure a smooth transition. This is especially important when passing the business on to a family member or longtime partner. You want to avoid misunderstandings that could strain the relationship and put a damper on your well-deserved retirement.

Visualize the Moment
The first step in planning your succession is deceptively simple: Stop and think of exactly what selling your business would mean in practical terms.

Bookkeeping Is Vital as Businesses Rapidly Adapt to COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic is testing the ingenuity of American businesses as never before. Companies are conducting major overhauls of their business plans, profit models, operating procedures and even human resources policies. These changes would normally call for months of careful research and planning but are now being implemented in a matter of weeks, if not days.

While speed is of the essence, any changes your business makes in response to COVID-19 must still be rooted in solid financial insight and intelligence.

Inspiration Amid the Devastation
It would be easy to give in to despair in response to the daily onslaught of grim news. But each day also brings inspiring stories of business leaders who have made agile adjustments that have not only enabled their companies to remain open, but also preserved employees' jobs and provided the public with much-needed services and products.

Bookkeeping and Back-Office Support for Modern Architects

A local IT expert, Holden Watne from GenIX, caught our eye with his recent blog post, "Embracing Technology for Greater Productivity in the Architecture Industry."

We see obvious parallels here. Since 2004, Supporting Strategies has embraced the power of technology for greater productivity in bookkeeping and back-office support. Just as modern architects have moved beyond drafting tables and cumbersome physical blueprints and into the digital realm, leading outsourced bookkeeping service providers leverage cloud-based software tools to reduce paperwork and increase efficiencies.

Let's look at the many ways in which outsourced bookkeeping services are a perfect fit for forward-thinking architecture firms.

By Promoting a More Efficient Use of the Architect's Time
Modern architects juggle multiple projects and responsibilities. They'll embrace solutions that enhance their mobility and let them collaborate seamlessly with clients and key team members from the office, job sites and home.

Welcome to the Virtual World: Remote Work and Video Conferencing Tips

Since its inception, Supporting Strategies has embraced the remote-work model. In fact, Forbes and CNBC have both included Supporting Strategies in their lists of growing companies offering work-from-home opportunities.

Now that so many people find themselves joining us in working remotely, we'd like to share some tips about working from home:

  • Have a designated spot to work. If you're fortunate enough to have an office at home, that's great. If not, find a space and set it up so you have everything you need in one place. It doesn't have to be fancy, just functional. Doing this will also help you focus and almost feel like you're in an office.

  • Try to stay on the same schedule (or a schedule). It's easy to sleep in when you can flex your work routine but you'll be more productive and feel better if you stick to the same schedule every day. A nice bonus: Since your commute is shorter, you can set your alarm for later.

Do More With Less: How Your Business Can Survive COVID-19

Note: For full information on the FFCRA, please refer to the Department of Labor website. For advice, please contact a legal professional.

With much of their customer base forced to stay home, many businesses have seen their revenues shrink during the COVID-19 pandemic. Press coverage has focused on companies' efforts to stay afloat through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — understandably so.

But some businesses that have secured funding to remain open face a secondary challenge: how to operate with a reduced workforce.

An employee doesn't have to be suffering symptoms of COVID-19 to be absent from work. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) guarantees employees, including part-time employees, up to 80 hours of paid sick leave (see the DOL website for information about calculating hours for part-time employees), at full salary, if they're subject to quarantine due to possible virus exposure. Another component of the FFCRA is that employees, including part-time employees, can receive two-thirds of their regular rate of pay, for up to 10 weeks, if they must stay home to care for children under 18 whose schools or daycare facilities are closed.

Adapt Your Business for Tomorrow With Outsourced Bookkeeping

As the COVID-19 crisis forces businesses to change how they operate, many companies find they need more financial analysis and bookkeeping support than ever before.

From emergency measures, such as determining the size of a loan request, to getting a better understanding of fixed-cost obligations, business leaders need up-to-date financial insight. That includes frequent cash-flow forecasts to keep pace with a rapidly changing environment.

Bookkeeping That Fits Your Evolving Needs
Outsourced bookkeeping and controller services offer a cloud-based, remote-work answer to these evolving business needs.

Now is the time to find a custom solution that not only addresses immediate concerns, but also improves your underlying operational efficiency by providing a bird's-eye view of your processes. And even when this crisis passes, you'll continue to enjoy the advantages of improved financial insights as well as time saved on daily tasks.

Small Businesses Must Look Beyond Short-term COVID-19 Impact

If you're a small-business leader, chances are you've been overwhelmed the last few weeks, trying to figure out a way through the COVID-19 crisis. Which aspect of the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) Act is best for your company: the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), Employee Retention Credits, or Deferred Payroll Taxes? Or can you get by with selective belt-tightening?

While it may be tempting to keep your head down and focus only on those vital details, it's equally important to lift your head up and figure out a plan for getting through the coming weeks and months, and positioning your company for growth once things return to normal.

PPP Status Update
The PPP funding that was designed to help small businesses meet employee payroll for eight weeks was out of money after just two weeks.

Eight Ways to Get the Most from Your COVID-19 SBA Loan

If your business has been able to cut through the red tape and obtain COVID-19 funding through the Small Business Administration's (SBA's) Economic Injury Disaster Loan program or Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), you're one of the lucky ones.

However, you still must determine the best application of those funds to secure the long-term health of your business.

Your Loan Is a Means, not an End
The most important benefit of receiving emergency funding is that it buys you time to catch your breath and make clear-headed decisions about picking the right path forward. But it's important not to squander this opportunity. You need to act decisively — and soon.

To some extent, the nature of your business will dictate your plan. If you have a business deemed "nonessential," such as a movie theater, you can't do much beyond using the emergency funds to pay your employees (and your bills) and hoping that the virus subsides before your money runs out.

Construction Pros Use Bookkeeping for Contingency Planning

Disruptions are the norm in the construction business. And while the COVID-19 outbreak — which has led to a widespread halt of building projects — is more extreme than most disturbances, successful construction companies are structured to handle multiple projects with long durations and to anticipate potential interruptions along the way.

When it comes to contingency planning, outsourced bookkeeping services are one of the most useful tools those in the construction trade can use.

Preparing for the Worst
Construction companies encounter cash-flow interruptions for a number of reasons, from routine weather delays to once-in-a-century pandemics. Even projects that stay on schedule often require a juggling act between making upfront vendor payments and collecting revenue from clients on the back end. Staying up to date on your finances is the best way to prepare for these interruptions. And the first step is to establish a cloud-based bookkeeping system.

Coronavirus Relief Options for Your Small Business

With both the coronavirus pandemic and the government's response evolving on a daily basis, it's undeniably a stressful time to own a small business.

Fortunately, several forms of relief are available or will be soon. Unfortunately, business owners are applying for them in record numbers. That means navigating the application process as quickly as possible, with all the proper financial records ready to go, is critical.

Weighing Your Options
Your two primary options for federal assistance are the existing Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and the new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that is part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Under certain conditions, any business that uses a PPP loan to pay employees for eight weeks will have the loan forgiven.

Three Tips to Stay Up to Date on Cash Flow in Your Business

If you're one of the vast majority of businesses feeling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, these are unsettling times. One way to protect your business' health is to regularly monitor and forecast your cash flow.

With that in mind, here are three tips to ensure your cash flow keeps pace with your business goals.

1. Review Your Cash Forecast Every Week
A cash-flow forecast is just that. It's a projection of how much cash you expect your business to have in the near future based on the information you have today. Simply put, cash flow is projecting your:

  • Cash In: sales, collecting accounts receivable, investments/loans
  • Less Cash Out: accounts payable, operating expenses, payroll, R&D expenses, sales and marketing expenses, owner’s draws, loan repayments

Keeping Your Doors Open With a Business Loan

The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc with businesses of every size and type. If yours is one of them and you're struggling to meet your obligations, you might be eligible for a loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) or other organization.

Here's what you need to know.

Basic Application Requirements Still Apply
In a recent blog on coronavirus preparedness, our colleague Andy Hale mentioned the new low-interest SBA loans that have become available. These Economic Injury Disaster Loans, which the SBA is offering in conjunction with state governors, can provide distressed businesses up to $2 million in working capital.

Although the SBA is expediting assistance through a streamlined three-step application process, you'll still need to provide some basic financial information, including:

6 Tips for Business Leaders Now Managing a Remote Workforce

As the coronavirus pandemic deepens, more and more businesses are having most or all of their employees work from home. While this change inevitably creates short-term disruption, maintaining a strong sense of teamwork and high productivity is still possible.

Here are six tips that business leaders need to know for managing a remote workforce.

1. Establish Clear Communication
This is first for a reason: Nothing derails a business faster than poor communication.

With in-person meetings no longer an option, it's imperative that you as the business leader make it clear from the beginning how you want your team members to communicate — with each other, vendors and clients.

Obviously, you'll need to use online communications. Chances are, you've been using some intra-office communications system anyway, whether simple email or a more specialized messaging or work-sharing platform. Be sure all team members have the latest version of the app and are fluent in its use. (Some probably used it considerably less than others at your workplace, so don't assume everyone is up to speed.)

How to Prepare Your Business for Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact

Every business in the United States will be affected, directly or indirectly, by the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The proper response on the part of your company depends to some extent on the severity of the outbreak and the nature of your business. Still, there are some steps that every business owner can take now to minimize the potential impact.

Prepare — But Don't Panic
Communication is key — both with your employees and your clients. Calm, clearheaded leadership that makes employee safety your top priority is of paramount importance during any crisis. Reach out to your clients to let them know you’re there to support them as best you can.

COVID-19 is no longer a distant threat. In addition to close communication with employees and clients, you also need to develop strategies to protect your core functions and incorporate business continuity planning that will help you keep your business running.

6 Tips for Growing Your Business With Purpose

There's a reason I called my book Growing on Purpose. It's because growing your business requires a plan, not just randomly throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.

With that in mind, here are six tips to help you start managing your growth with purpose.

1. Find Your Baseline

Change for the sake of change is rarely the solution to any problem. First, you must determine why you need to change.

If you're trying to grow your company, then by definition you're not satisfied with the status quo. So the first step for creating a reasonable roadmap for growth is to determine where you want to be relative to where you are now, as well as how long it will take to get there. If you're falling short of revenue projections, that's a much different (and more urgent) problem than if you're struggling to keep up with the demand for what you offer.

Suffering From Tax Anxiety? Don't Fret — You Still Have Time

Note: This blog first appeared on the NCACPA website.

Even the most competent, upstanding, conscientious business owners tend to fret over filing their taxes. And no wonder. Considering the legendary incomprehensibility of IRS regulations, who can blame business owners for feeling out of their league when trying to determine their tax obligations?

The result? They put off dealing with their taxes as long as possible. Which only compounds the worry.

Relax! You'll Be Fine
Okay, so before we continue, take a deep breath. There's no reason to panic. The first thing you need to realize is that you still have time to compile a comprehensive, clean-as-a-whistle tax return. If you have an S corp, partnership or multiple-member LLC, your filing deadline is mid-March, same as last year. (Technically, you get an extra day this year because March 15 falls on a Sunday, which bumps the deadline to March 16.) Otherwise, your filing deadline is the same as for most other Americans: April 15.

The Secret Formula for a Social Media Marketing Budget

It can be difficult to measure the effectiveness of a social media campaign. That makes it challenging for businesses to determine how much to budget each year for social media marketing. Don't you wish there was a simple formula you could use to help you figure out the right amount?

There is. But before I tell you the secret formula I've developed to determine your social media marketing budget, let's establish a few ground rules so we can be sure we're all measuring the same thing in the same way:

  1. There's no point in discussing raw dollar amounts for a social media marketing budget until we agree on how to define what a marketing budget is supposed to accomplish. The goal is to use your resources efficiently. To do that, you need to find a way to measure each social media campaign's effectiveness. If you're spending, say, $5,000 on a campaign that's ineffective, doubling the budget to $10,000 is not going to fix it.

Transform Your Business With 360-Degree Vision

The leader of a growing company needs eyes in both the front and back of their head. They must look forward to project cash burn and capital needs to support their growth. But solid financial projections require reasonable assumptions rooted in past performance — sales growth, profit margins, fixed vs variable costs, cash flow and other key performance indicators (KPIs).

The fact is, you can't do a good job of planning for the future (forecasting) without timely, accurate and thoughtful scorekeeping (bookkeeping) to give you clear insights about the past.

Looking Forward and Looking Back
"Scorekeeping" and forecasting call for different sets of skills. In some larger companies, they're even organized as separate teams: an accounting team that keeps score and a finance team that analyzes results and forecasts ahead.

Our 2020 Quiz on Business Tax Laws

There have been some recent changes in the tax laws — and, yes, they're going to be on the test. The answers, and your overall grade, are at the end.

1. We'll start with an easy one. In 2019 the standard mileage rate for using your car for business purposes increased by 3.5 cents. What's the new deduction (per mile)?
  1. 58 cents
  2. 51 cents
  3. "Your mileage may vary"
  4. If it's less than a dollar, I just throw it in a jar
2. Section 199A of the Internal Revenue Code allows businesses to deduct how much of their QBI?
  1. 0%
  2. 20%
  3. 40%
  4. Like tipping, the amount is up to you

The Top Three Reasons to Outsource Your Bookkeeping

Many business leaders are surprised to discover the many ways their company can benefit from outsourced bookkeeping services. We've boiled it down to the top three. Here's the rundown …

1. Gain More Time to Build Your Business

As a bookkeeping services provider, I work with clients in many different fields, with different levels of complexity in their financials. But they all have one thing in common: As their companies grow, eventually they all realize that they're spending too much time on bookkeeping.

The problem is twofold: Many business leaders find bookkeeping to be a stressful and time-consuming energy drain — and that loss of energy leaves them unable to focus on two areas that are absolutely vital to their company's growth: business development and strategic planning.

Why Telling Your Company's Story Is Vital to Your Success

In 2014, a journalist named Shane Snow wrote an article with the headline, "Why Storytelling Will Be the Biggest Business Skill of the Next 5 Years."

Well, five years later, I'm happy to say Shane was right. Very often I find that the difference between success and failure in today's business world is a company's ability to effectively tell its story.

Find Your True Story …
A surprising number of business leaders don't even realize they have a story. Often that's because they're wearing so many different hats, and so focused on solving the problem that's immediately in front of them, that they lose sight of the company's larger story arc as it unfolds.

If you're one of those business leaders and struggling to find your company's story, here's the first thing to understand: We're not talking about making up a story. It has to be true.

That's the whole point.

Simple Steps to Improve Cybersecurity at Your Small Business

How can a small business protect itself from cybersecurity threats? Start with a plan — and some free or inexpensive resources.

Here are some simple steps small-business owners can take to help keep their systems safe — even with a small staff and limited budget.

Be Proactive
Your plan doesn't have to be expensive or elaborate. It just needs to spell out some basic ground rules for you and your employees, such as:

  • Use password protection. The days of using a single all-purpose password are long gone. You need to change your passwords on a regular basis and store them offline. Fortunately, there are many low-cost password managers available for small businesses. If you aren't already using one, it's time to start.

Bookkeeper or Accountant: What's the Difference?

If you're having trouble deciding whether your business needs a bookkeeper or an accountant, don't fret too much. Chances are you'll need both — and you can probably meet those needs through judicious use of outsourcing.

Here's a look at some important distinctions between bookkeeping and accounting, and how to get the best of both worlds by using each for the right job at the right time.

Who Does What?
Bookkeepers tend to be involved in day-to-day functions, such as accounts payable and accounts receivable. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) must fulfill certain licensure requirements and generally focus on high-level tasks that occur at wider intervals, such as filing tax returns.

I've heard the difference between bookkeepers and accountants explained this way: Consulting an accountant is like visiting the dentist every six months for a checkup, cleaning and fluoride application. It's an important part of your dental health — but so is daily brushing and flossing. That's the bookkeeper's specialty. Let's start there.

Recession-Proof Business Planning

A strong economy can mask underlying problems at a small business. When the next recession hits — and historically speaking, it's already overdue — will your business be healthy enough to not only survive, but possibly even thrive? It can be — but only if you have the right plan in place.

Be Ready When Opportunity Knocks
Every small-business owner says they want to grow their company. But how many are really prepared for the challenge?

Often, a vital step in growing your business is being able to raise cash quickly to capitalize on a sudden opportunity. Oddly enough, a recession can present some prime opportunities for growth, as some of your competitors might decide to sell off their assets at an attractive rate when faced with financial distress.

And the first step in raising cash is to have a lender-ready business plan.

SBA Loan Basics
Anytime you apply for an SBA loan, your package must include a business plan that meets the underwriter's requirements. Those minimum requirements include 12 to 36 months of:

How to Choose the Right Payroll Provider for Your Business

One of my clients' biggest concerns is finding the right payroll services company. And since we provide bookkeeping and controller services, they often ask us for recommendations.

There's a simple reason that this issue is so important to employers: because it's important to their employees. If your employees aren't getting paid on time, or if there are frequent issues with their withholding, bonuses, commissions or paid time off, you've got big problems.

Fortunately, there are plenty of capable, trustworthy, employee-friendly providers out there. Here's what to look for to ensure you get the payroll services you need to keep your employees happy.

Accuracy, Timeliness and Accessibility 
In an earlier blog, I covered most of the basic things you should look for when selecting a payroll services provider, such as affordability, scalability and security.

5 New Year's Resolutions for Your Business

The start of a new year is an ideal time for businesses to review and renew, and to resolve to make this year better than the last. Here's a five-step checklist to get your business started — or restarted in 2020.

Step 1: Review Your Business Plan 
You remember your business plan, don't you? Creating it was one of the many items on your checklist leading up to your launch. And while it probably contained a fair amount of boilerplate language, it likely served as a pretty good roadmap for your prospective business from day one all the way through your exit strategy.

You might be surprised how much you could gain by reviewing your plan today. Whether you're ending year one or year four of your five-year plan, it can be helpful to remind yourself of what your original goals were, along with your projected trajectory for achieving them. Has your business substantially changed since the day you opened your doors? If so, why? Is it because the market has changed? Or is it your company that's changed, based on what you've learned along the way?

Managing the Books for Digital Media Companies

The biggest change in media companies over the last two decades is the shift away from physical products — printed magazines, books, newspapers, catalogs, etc. — toward digital content such as blogs, native advertising and video.

Many people assume because there's no physical product in digital media, costs are automatically lower than in traditional media. This is simply not true. The digital ecosystem comprises many different fees, residuals, royalties and so on. Moreover, the abstract nature of these costs can present a bookkeeping challenge.

Five Percent of What?
The abstraction inherent in digital media can make it difficult not only to determine both revenue and costs, but also to clearly spell out the system of measurement. From publishing content to purchasing digital ads, it can be hard to tell exactly where your budget goes. If you're running an ad campaign on social media, for example, are you paying for clicks or conversions?

Power Your Business Growth

As your business starts to grow, two things happen: 1) You have more demands on your time. 2) You need financial insight to prioritize that growth.

Professional bookkeeping can help you address both challenges.

Financial Data Provides the Key to Growth
From meeting with prospective clients to managing your team, your day is full. Are you using your precious time as wisely as you can? As a business owner myself, I know how difficult it is to keep up with everyday business tasks, let alone set aside time for strategic planning.

The trick is to manage your time investments by leveraging focused financial information to inform your decision making. A cutting-edge outsourced bookkeeping services provider can furnish the kind of detailed financial intelligence you'll need to drive your company in the direction you want it to go.

Tips for Creating Your 2020 Business Budget

Creating a business budget for 2020 will not only benefit your business in the next year, it will help establish a roadmap for success well into the future. A year ago I explained why your business would benefit from having a budget. This year, I'll get into the details of how to create one.

The primary benefit of having a budget is that it sets parameters. It forces you to make reasonable assumptions about how much your business is liable to spend in the coming year. That, in turn, helps you figure out how much income you'll need to cover your immediate expenses and also plan for long-term investments in the business.

While a budget is never exact, it's not just a wild guess, either. A budget's main value is to create an accountability tool. By setting a budget, you create a gauge for determining whether a particular initiative is working or whether you should change course before sinking more time, money or other resources into a losing proposition. A budget can also help identify successes that you should double down on.

Want Less Stress at Tax Time? Know Your Business in Real Time.

Many people, including business leaders, think of "tax time" as an unpleasant obligation, like going to the dentist. But by preparing for it well before the year is done, you can avoid the stress that precedes tax season each year. Better yet, taking that deep dive into your financials can provide a wealth of insight that can help you meet or exceed your business goals.

Tax Prep: It's Not Just for Your CPA's Sake
As fall turns to winter, it's a good time to take stock of how your business performed this year. One simple way to do that is to gather the information that you're going to have to gather anyway, so your CPA can do your taxes. By keeping up-to-date books year-round, you'll make your CPA happy at tax time.

Beyond your CPA, have you ever stopped to consider the other people involved with your company who could make good use of detailed, accurate financial data? Depending on your business, that can range from your management team to your investors and shareholders.

Give Thanks to Your Employees — and Get Plenty in Return

Because Thanksgiving is such a family-oriented occasion, it's easy to understand why business leaders might not think to remember employees with their expressions of gratitude. But since employee retention is vital to maintaining a healthy business, it's important to thank your workforce as often as you can. This Thanksgiving makes a great time to start.

The Power of Appreciation
It's human nature. When someone thanks us for our efforts, we respond positively and are more likely to continue making the same level of effort, if not increase it. This is true whether we're thanked for simple acts, like holding a door for a stranger, or for more involved acts, like meeting a challenging deadline.

HR experts all agree: Thanking your employees helps keep them happy, which in turn helps keep them on your payroll. Whether you express your gratitude in the simplest, most literal way possible — by just saying "Thank you" — or by sweetening the deal with bonuses, gift cards or other perks, it's important not to neglect this important human connection.

How Outsourced Bookkeeping Can Help Grow Your Business

As your business grows, so do the systems necessary to support it. Whether you have DIY bookkeeping or an outsourced bookkeeping services provider, your business may get big enough that you consider setting up an in-house bookkeeping department.

Some businesses may consider it a natural progression to move from outsourced bookkeeping to having an in-house department. However, continuing with outsourced bookkeeping services has many advantages over the alternative.

An outsourced bookkeeping services provider can be a great partner to your business — offering not only the skills you need at the levels you need, up to and including CFO, but also contributing valuable financial insights. And it all comes without the added expense and responsibility of hiring and managing new employees.

The Bookkeeping Expertise You Need Right Now
An experienced bookkeeping services provider doesn't have a steep learning curve. As pros who are familiar with a variety of businesses, they can quickly determine how much support you need in specific areas — whether it's a basic level, such as recording daily transactions and month-end close, or more detailed assistance, such as budgeting, planning and analysis.

Nonprofit Bookkeeping End-of-Year Tasks

If you're new to the nonprofit sector, no doubt you've already realized that the financial standards are stricter here than they were in the for-profit world. That can make end-of-year bookkeeping a stressful process — especially at the end of this year, due to new procedures that the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has implemented for 2019.

So before any more sand slips through the hourglass, let's review the vital end-of-year bookkeeping tasks your nonprofit needs to accomplish to avoid fines or penalties — up to and including the loss of your nonprofit status.

Reconcile Your Restricted and Unrestricted Fund Accounts
As the names imply, the designations "restricted" and "unrestricted" determine how nonprofits can use different funds. Simply put, restricted funds can only be used according to the donor's specifications. This can be simple (e.g. funds for an event) or complicated (e.g. funds for the purchase of a particular item or to be held for a specified amount of time). These funds cannot be used or transferred without the consent of the donor and approval by the nonprofit's board of directors.

Scale to Succeed: Bookkeeping That Grows With Your Business

How you manage your business’ financial records when you open your doors can come back to haunt you if you don’t think ahead. Plan for success by setting up systems that will scale as your business grows — including your bookkeeping system.

Slicing a Bigger Piece of the Pie
Here's what we're talking about in practical terms: Say you have a side business selling home-baked blueberry pies at a local farm stand. Before you know it, your pies are the talk of the town and you decide to turn that sideline into a full-time business. Obviously, you can't just keep picking blueberries in your backyard and baking pies one or two at a time in your kitchen to meet the demand. It’s time scale up to a full-size bakery.

Moving into your new space is exciting and business is growing. You’ve made a substantial investment in new equipment, infrastructure, employees and vendors, so you might be tempted to try to continue with farm-stand-level bookkeeping. However, half-baked bookkeeping could be just as harmful to your business as half-baked pies.

Quick Tips for Restaurant Bookkeeping

Note: This blog first appeared in the Arlington Chamber of Commerce Blog.

Restaurant owners face unique bookkeeping challenges. Did you know, for instance, that if you include an automatic gratuity in the bill for larger parties, that's considered a service charge and not a tip — and thus has different IRS reporting requirements?

Combine potential regulatory banana peels with the long hours that restaurant owners typically work, and you have a compelling reason for outsourcing your bookkeeping responsibilities. But if you need additional convincing, here are a few more things to consider.

You Can't Combine Cash Accounting and Accrual Accounting
If you don't know the difference between the cash method of accounting and the accrual method — well, then we rest our case for why you shouldn't be keeping your own books.

But for the record, restaurants that generate more than $1 million of revenue per year must use the accrual method, while those that generate less have a choice — although you must formally notify the IRS before switching from accrual to cash. And under no circumstances can you use both methods at the same time.

Six Tips for Finding Angel Investors

With all the excitement around angel investing, many startups believe their good idea will make finding angel investors simple. In reality, it's not as easy as it looks in the movies and on TV. Most entrepreneurs hear a lot of "no" before they finally get to "yes."

I belong to a community of angel investors and regularly evaluate high-potential startups for early seed funding. I'm also a business advisor who works with companies on developing and executing key strategies, and on educating them about running their businesses. Helping small businesses achieve their goals is a passion of mine.

Here are six things you can do to improve your company's odds of finding financial benefactors.

1. Be Selective

Not all investment opportunities are the same because not all companies are the same. Some types of businesses are more attractive to investors than others. So the first thing you need to do is determine which type of business you have. That will make the process more efficient and less frustrating for prospective investors (and for you).

2020 Vision: Use Year-End Bookkeeping for Business Planning

As a business owner, you're probably not looking forward to getting caught up on your end-of-year bookkeeping. But with a simple change of attitude and approach, you can transform that process into something positive. Don't think of it as filing your financials. Think of it as tapping into a valuable source of business intelligence.

You Have to Do It Anyway — Make It Work for You
Okay, we get it. No matter how you dress it up, bookkeeping sounds like a chore. This is particularly true if the year hasn't gone as well as you'd hoped.

Actually, that's all the more reason to immerse yourself in those numbers. End-of-year bookkeeping can be an insightful process that reveals not only where things went off track, but also what you can do to set them straight again. Here are some of the important questions it can help answer …

Gauge Your Business' Health at a Glance With a Dashboard

Business leaders, take heart. If you don't have a head for spreadsheets or if you have to dig into several reports to get critical information you need to manage your business, you're not alone. Many entrepreneurs and business owners are frustrated by these circumstances. They want to know as quickly as possible where the numbers stand so they can dive right back into their most important job: growing the business.

The hunger for real-time information that's easy to digest has fueled a movement among savvy business leaders toward using various types of dashboards.

That qualifier, "various types," is critical. There's no one-size-fits-all dashboard for every business or every business leader. The numbers that matter most to you, also called key performance indicators (KPIs), might not matter as much to the leader of a different type of business or even to a leader in the same field but with a different personality or approach.

The key to key performance indicators is to figure out which ones matter most to you personally.

Case Study: Overcoming Bookkeeping Challenges to Ace a DCAA Audit

Not even the best-run businesses are immune to Murphy's Law. Take TeKONTROL, Inc. (TKi). Over the course of three decades, this Florida-based company developed reliable bookkeeping systems for its global engineering support projects — difficult to do in the world of government contracts. Then it got hit with a one-two punch at the worst possible time.

First, the company's longtime bookkeeper retired. Then the vendor that provided TKi's enterprise resource planning (ERP) bookkeeping platform discontinued its support. Finally, the clincher: a pre-award audit from the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA). "It was a crisis," recalls Tom Kornegay, the company's Chairman, CEO and Founder. "Believe me."

A Timely Bookkeeping Solution
A short-term bookkeeping hire, combined with the trial use of temperamental new ERP software, turned what should have been a bump in the road into a massive pothole. To get around it, Kornegay brought in his former bookkeeper to restore "ground-floor reference points." But he knew he also needed someone to quickly and decisively take charge of TKi's bookkeeping from there.

Artificial Intelligence and Bookkeeping Services

With bookkeeping software leaders Bill.com and Intuit incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into their products, it is clear that AI is playing a role in the bookkeeping field. How much of a role will AI play, and how will it impact bookkeeping services and businesses?

“Finance leaders will oversee the transition as robots take on more and more back-office functions … freeing people to grapple with high-level analysis and decision making that add value rather than ticking off to-dos.”

strategy+business, spring 2019

Building a Better Toolbox
The terms “artificial intelligence” and “robot” scare some people, perhaps because they bring to mind dystopian science-fiction movies. But in reality, AI and robots are merely extensions of the kinds of tools most of us already use, like Google for online searches. And now the same basic principles are being refined for various specialized uses in the bookkeeping services field.

How to Overcome Your Business Blind Spots

In business, the biggest problem is the one you can't see. And the reason you can't see it is that you have a blind spot.

One of your most important roles as a business leader is to help your team identify and address those blind spots. And one of the most effective ways to do that is to start by acknowledging your own blind spots. That also gives you the opportunity to set ground rules for delivering feedback in a positive way.

Hone Your Tone
I can't stress enough how important it is to set a precedent for positivity. Sometimes a simple change in tone can make all the difference in how your message is received.

I realized, for example, that one of my personal blind spots is a tendency to interrupt people. So, in order to break the habit, I asked the people around me to point it out when I do it. But I also asked that they do it in a respectful way — by calmly saying, "Hey, Dave, you're doing it again." That's so much more palatable for me to hear than if people were to sigh, roll their eyes and say, "You're doing it again, Daaaave!"

How to Choose the Best Location for Your US Subsidiary

Now that you have decided to go forward with the expansion of your business into the U.S. market, the next step in the process is to decide which state will serve as your U.S. headquarters. Choose the best location for your U.S. subsidiary by considering not only state tax laws and regulations, but also geographic location, local culture and the professional community available to advise you in this new venture. Learn how you can use a location to your business’s advantage by looking at the example of setting up a U.S. subsidiary in Miami, Florida.

Example: Setting up a U.S. Subsidiary in Miami
Let's say you want to open a U.S. subsidiary of your Latin American company. Or maybe you have a European or Asian company and want to expand not only into the U.S. market, but also into Latin America.

A good starting point would be to investigate areas of the United States with a significant Latin American population. That could facilitate the kind of professional networking that will help you make the proper contacts. At the same time, you'll want to locate in a state with a friendly business climate — one with lower tax rates and fewer regulations.

Using Employee Benefits to Recruit and Retain Top Talent

The concept of "coaching" has become overused, and even abused, in the business world in recent years. That's unfortunate for a company like ours, Coaching Financial Concepts. We've been around for over 20 years, and we apply legitimate coaching techniques that we've adapted from a sports environment to give our client companies that winning edge.

For instance: To turn your company into a champion, you need the best players. And just as professional sports teams will offer creative deals to sign the top free agents, businesses at every level need to offer the best possible benefits package to lure the top talent in their given field.

The Difference Between 'Perks' and 'Benefits'
Different generations often have different priorities. Many articles have been written about the importance of company culture to millennials, for example. One recent study even found that many millennials would be willing to take a $7,600 pay cut in exchange for an "improved quality of work life."

Reach Your Nonprofit's Goals With Bookkeeping Talent

For a nonprofit director, a budget is a blueprint, not a limitation. Once you realize this, you can drive your organization forward in ways you never dreamed possible. To get the absolute most out of your budget, however, you must find a bookkeeper with the proper combination of talent and expertise.

Nonprofit bookkeeping poses unique challenges, starting with IRS Form 990. At a minimum, you need a bookkeeper who is thoroughly familiar with the government's many nonprofit compliance requirements involving contributions and grants. Some grants carry specific classification guidelines that require tracking and categorizing expenses to a granular level rarely seen in the private sector.

There's no doubt that nonprofit bookkeeping can be intimidating. So, if nothing else, landing top talent will bring you peace of mind. You'll be free to focus on your organization's long-range goals without worrying that you or someone on your staff may inadvertently do something to jeopardize your tax-exempt status. You'll also feel more confident preparing for board meetings, knowing all your financial ducks are in a row.

How Builders Can Use Online Tools to Make More Money

Builders can now combine building management software with bookkeeping software to review real-time costs and monitor cash flow — right from the field.

Custom software applications have enabled many different types of businesses to operate more efficiently than ever before. New specialized cloud-based software tools, developed across broad sectors ranging from nonprofits to healthcare to information technology and professional services, are now essential tools required to enable entrepreneurs in their respective fields to compete and succeed in their markets.

Perhaps no industry could benefit more from this revolution in software than the building trades. Here's a look at how contractors can use these tools to be more successful.

Building a Better Toolbox
Even under the best of circumstances, the building trades are difficult to manage. It's the nature of the business. Buildings are big-ticket items that promise large potential profits, but only after the builder or developer lays out substantial cash upfront and waits patiently — years, in some cases — for the final big payday. Since most builders juggle multiple projects at the same time, while spending a lot of time in the field, keeping tabs on the company's expenses and cash flow is difficult, yet critical.

Case Study: A Mainstay During a Period of Impressive Growth

In 2006, Extension Engine was a $1.2 million business offering outsourced software development services. Fast-forward to 2019, and the company now focuses on creating custom online learning experiences and is projecting $15 million in revenue for the year.

Supporting Strategies has been there every step of the way, serving as the bookkeeping arm for Extension Engine's U.S. operations. We handle everything from data entry to financial analysis, providing accurate, up-to-date financials to guide leadership's strategic decisions.

Furqan Nazeeri, Partner at Extension Engine, explains that the business has undergone major changes in its bookkeeping over the past 13 years. "We've switched to new systems for time tracking and for expense tracking, and we've moved from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online," he says. "Throughout those and other transitions, Supporting Strategies has been great. They've always been flexible and always managed to figure things out."

Financial Insight for Business Loans

How much of a loan can your business really afford? Learn more about how lenders will determine your loan amount so you can evaluate your loan options.

Your Financial Picture
To understand where your company is financially, looking solely at the income statement can be misleading. Reviewing the balance sheet, statement of cash flows and understanding a company’s on-going capital requirements is crucial, and depending on the nature of your business and how you do your financial analysis, can be surprisingly difficult to nail down.

A good first step, for both your business and a prospective lender, is to be sure you have all the necessary documentation to obtain a loan. If nothing else, keeping a current balance sheet, P&L, etc., will give you an idea of where you stand financially at any given moment. (If you bring your financials up to date with the help of a bookkeeping services company, you might even find to your surprise that you don't even need a loan.)

An Award-Winning Team Effort Saves a Nonprofit

It's always gratifying to receive an award for your work — especially when you had no idea you were even nominated. But that was the case recently when our Supporting Strategies | Chicago Far West Suburbs learned we had received the Turnaround Management Association (TMA) Pro Bono Transaction of the Year award for our role in helping a distressed nonprofit straighten out its financials and position itself for sale.

Assessing a Community Asset
West Suburban Senior Services (WSSS) in Bellwood, Illinois, had long been a valuable community resource. The nonprofit has provided adult day wellness support for seniors in western Chicagoland since 1972.

When some of its government funding dried up, however, several key executives and staff members departed. WSSS fell behind and missed several deadlines. It would be very difficult for any organization to find a buyer with those unmet obligations hanging over it.

How to Increase Sales and Be More Productive

As a consultant to some of America's most successful entrepreneurs, I can tell you with 99% certainty the biggest obstacle keeping your business from becoming the success you envisioned.

But fair warning: You might not like the answer.

Time to Look in the Mirror
Simply put: The biggest obstacle to your success is you. Or, more accurately, it's your lack of self-confidence. You believe successful business owners are privy to some secret formula that has somehow eluded you.

Truth is, most of those successful entrepreneurs were once as tentative and full of self-doubt as you. The difference is, they made the decision to overcome those doubts and move ahead with confidence. They became comfortable with being uncomfortable — with pushing past their self-imposed limitations.

You can do it, too. You just need to develop what I call a "champion's mindset."

Case Study: A Game Plan for Managing Irregular Cash Flow

File this under "Good Problem to Have." SASKIA, a Brooklyn jewelry startup, grew so fast that its bookkeeping demands soon exceeded the capabilities of its husband-and-wife co-founders.

Of particular concern was the company's irregular cash flow. At the start of each year, SASKIA had a lot of upfront expenditures for the materials needed to create their unique designs. The company relied on no-APR credit cards for purchases of up to $50,000, knowing the return on that investment wouldn't come until much later in the year. But in the meantime, they still had to meet their regular expenses, including payroll for eight employees. The math on how to accomplish that could get a bit fuzzy.

Into the Right Boxes
As is often the case, the first step in solving this problem was to acknowledge it. Partner/COO Scott Kerns, who had been doing the company's books, realized it was time to outsource that responsibility to a specialist. "We needed someone who could put things in the right boxes in the right way," he says, "Then we could look at all of the data together and make informed decisions based on where the money was flowing."

3 Key Questions to Ask When Choosing a Bookkeeper

Note: This blog first appeared in the Arlington Chamber of Commerce Blog.

Small-business owners sometimes have trouble delegating responsibilities. We get it. Once you've invested so much time (and money, in many cases) in launching a business, it's difficult to relinquish control over key aspects of that business — especially the finances.

But as your business grows, you eventually realize there literally aren't enough hours in the day to do everything yourself. And unless your goal in launching the business was to become a full-time bookkeeper, that's one of the first areas you should consider outsourcing. Have questions regarding how to go about it? Here are some answers.

1. Will the bookkeeping services provider help you focus on your business rather than on bookkeeping?
The best bookkeeping services providers understand their role is to minimize your involvement in bookkeeping so that you can refocus on your core strengths. And they'll assert their expertise in accomplishing that — sometimes from day one.

Improve Franchise Efficiency With Bookkeeping

According to a 2016 government report, a new franchised business opens somewhere in the United States every eight minutes of every business day. Franchises are highly popular because they offer many advantages for both the franchisee and franchisor.

Standardized bookkeeping procedures, which enable everyone involved to compare apples to apples, are one of the simplest ways to fully leverage those advantages.

Look at Both Sides of the Ledger
Both entrepreneurs and franchisors have a lot to gain from the franchise business model. For an entrepreneur who wants to become a franchisee, it's a great way to jumpstart a new business. The list of benefits includes:

  • Instant brand-name recognition, which helps secure both bank loans and customers
  • Access to a proven business model, which helps the franchisee avoid costly rookie mistakes
  • Economies of scale that come with buying supplies in bulk quantities

Opening a US Subsidiary: Next Steps

The response to our post on setting up a U.S. subsidiary of a foreign company demonstrates there is great interest in this topic. Here is some additional information.

Determine Your Expectations
For a foreign entity, the thought of entering the huge U.S. market can be very enticing. But pursuing that market can also create a financial hardship if not done correctly. That's why, as we covered last time, you'll have to follow a specific set of parameters, including (in most cases) choosing a subsidiary over a branch office and setting up an LLC.

The most important step in setting up a U.S. subsidiary is to determine exactly what you hope to accomplish. Consider questions like these:

  • If you're selling a product, have you done the research to determine who your established U.S. competitors are?
  • Does your product meet U.S. safety standards?
  • Can you simply export your product to the United States from your existing manufacturing facility, or do exorbitant tariffs make it more cost-effective to build a manufacturing facility domestically?

How to Gain Financial Insight From Your Bookkeeper

As a business leader, you're laser-focused on doing everything you can to improve your company. You explore every possible lead. You network with influencers. You read everything from bestselling business books to the most obscure industry-related websites.

But there's one area of your business that you might not realize is worthy of a deeper dive. And yet, it's an area that can yield some of the quickest and most tangible improvements: bookkeeping. Here's a brief guide to how you can gain financial insight from your bookkeeping services provider — insight that can drive your most important decisions.

By Determining If (and When) You're Ready to Grow
Most anyone running a business has considered expanding at some point, whether by hiring another employee or two, moving to a bigger office or opening a second location. As a business leader, you want to think through each potential move. Will a new employee help generate enough revenue to cover their salary? Will moving to a new office create too big a disruption? Would a second location spread time and resources too thin?

Crossing State Lines: What Small Businesses Need to Know

The phrase "interstate commerce" used to have a fairly straightforward meaning: transporting goods or services from one state to another. But the advent of ecommerce has blurred those traditional state boundaries. If you are based in one state but are doing business, or intend to do business, in other states — even if only via the internet — how do you stay in compliance with all applicable regulations?

The answer depends on the precise nature of your business as well as individual state laws. Here's an example.

Let's Cover the Easy Stuff First
Let's say you live in Delaware and decide to open a seafood restaurant near the Pennsylvania border. You might not even realize this, but you're already off to a good start because Delaware has such a good reputation as a business-friendly state that more than 1 million businesses have made it their legal home.

How You Can Use Bookkeeping to Prepare for Business Growth

You've launched a small tech startup that makes an app for digital widgets. Business seems to be going well, but you can't tell for sure because the office manager who also does the books is always running behind and you don't know where your cash flow stands.

Finally, when your CPA prepares your taxes and straightens out some bookkeeping errors (running up a big bill in the process), you get confirmation: Business for the first year ran 50% ahead of what you'd anticipated.

That tells you two things. First, you should hire another sales rep and ramp up production. Second, you'd better get your bookkeeping squared away, and fast.

A Valuable Asset to Your Business
A strong bookkeeping practice can help you keep pace with your business today and better prepare to grow your business tomorrow. Here's how:

Reduce Nonprofit Admin Costs With Streamlined Bookkeeping

Most nonprofit organizations have multiple revenue streams. Tracking all those funds and their associated expenses can easily overwhelm the administrative staff, particularly at smaller organizations. Or, to put it another way: Admin costs often consume a disproportionate amount of a nonprofit's budget, measured in both money and time.

Here's how you can streamline your nonprofit's bookkeeping to cut admin costs:

Stay Current
Instead of allocating revenue and expenses as they occur, many nonprofits wait and assign them to funding sources as a separate process. But with so many buckets and so many costs, it's a poor use of time to do all that scrubbing, trying to back every dollar into where it needs to be. It can also be stressful, especially if mistakes or discrepancies start piling up.

Case Study: Modernizing a Mature Nonprofit's Bookkeeping

When he became Executive Director at Arlington Thrive in March 2016, Andrew Schneider encountered a problem common among mature nonprofits: "Over time, as in any organization, internal systems develop that make sense to the people who are operating them but might not make sense to new people coming in."

In fulfilling its mission of providing same-day, emergency financial assistance to residents of Arlington County, Virginia, the organization relied on a steady flow of cash. A legacy bookkeeping system, coupled with a nearly indecipherable method of donor classification, threatened to disrupt that flow. Schneider needed to resolve the problem quickly. Supporting Strategies | Northern Virginia and Managing Director Indre Bauza delivered a solution.

A Clearer View
Supporting Strategies took a proactive approach to solving the problem — from modernizing the bookkeeping system to establishing monthly conference calls with the finance committee. The result? Real-time financial reporting, enhanced communication, and greater financial transparency.

Supporting One of Our Own in a Unique Quest

This was not the usual request for vacation time. When she joined Supporting Strategies | Los Angeles, Financial Operations Manager Mary Rose informed me that at some point she'd need about three months off to row a boat across the Pacific Ocean. All by herself.

For a lot of employers, that would have been a deal-breaker. In fact, Mary, 48, had had to quit an earlier job the first time she took on the Pacific.

But Supporting Strategies is different. Yes, one reason we've been named to Entrepreneur magazine's Fastest-Growing Franchises list is that we consistently deliver top-notch customer service that puts the client first. But another key component is that we provide a flexible work environment for experienced bookkeeping professionals, with redundant systems and cross-training that give our team members the freedom to pursue their passions without giving up their careers.

Mary, Mary, Row Your Boat
Now, you might think that someone who sets out to row across the Pacific Ocean would have a track record of competing in extreme sports, or would at least be an elite athlete. But that's not the case here. Mary, a native of the Australian island of Tasmania, became a long-distance rower after attending an inspiring talk by Roz Savage, who used ocean rowing to raise awareness of her environmental advocacy.

Has Your Business Outgrown DIY Bookkeeping?

Are you frustrated by the amount of time you spend on bookkeeping? Do you put off sales and networking efforts to take care of daily bookkeeping tasks? Many small-business owners are surprised by the extent to which bookkeeping demands can distract them from building their companies.

Few business owners actually want to do the bookkeeping. But many feel they have to, at least in the early stages when money is tight and business is light. This is particularly true in companies that started out as a sideline, where the owner learned to do the books along the way. Some owners might even become competent bookkeepers and enjoy it.

But then comes that inevitable moment of reckoning. As the business picks up, the owner (or business leader) wants to take advantage of new opportunities to grow the company — and they no longer have time for the bookkeeping tasks that had fit easily into their schedule before.

Midyear Bookkeeping Best Practices

Now that the annual springtime flurry of activity that comes with filing your small-business tax returns has passed, you might think you can go on bookkeeping cruise control until you start processing 1099 forms next winter.

In fact, it's important to follow bookkeeping best practices throughout every season. This advice can be particularly beneficial to citizens of Procrastination Nation. Start with this: If you use contract employees or vendors, make sure they submit a W-9 form before you pay them. That way, you'll have that information on file and won't have to chase it down at 1099 time.

Here are some additional suggestions to help keep your organization's bookkeeping in order all year long.

Forward Thinking: How to Scale for Rapid Growth

The good news? Two new partners joined a small company and immediately increased sales. The bad news? The company's existing system of keeping the books — paying bills with handwritten checks and keeping tabs on the numbers through monthly visits with a CPA — was inadequate for rapid growth.

"We were losing tons of sleep because we didn't even know our numbers," says Brian Van Norman, ICU Technologies' Vice President and Co-Owner. "It was scary. Like, 'How much money have we got in the bank? What bills do we have?'"

Van Norman turned to the internet for a solution — and found Supporting Strategies.

Proactive Guidance
Karen Rinehart, Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | Central California, was on the case immediately. "Karen got the chart of accounts right, along with all the other stuff that we aren't experts in," Van Norman says.

Understanding the New Accounting Standards for Nonprofits

Change has become a constant in the nonprofit sector. Recently we saw new regulations under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that eliminated certain deductions. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has also been hard at work instituting sweeping changes in procedures aimed at reducing complexities while making it easier to understand nonprofit financial information — notably, updates to the accounting standards in 2016 (impacting 2018 financial statements) and in 2018 (impacting 2019 financial statements).

Here's a summary of the most significant revisions.

New Revenue Recognition Standard Focus Clarifies Contributions
You might think that, when it comes to charitable giving, a dollar is a dollar. But in the nonprofit sector, it's important to determine the giver's expectations in providing that dollar. Are the expectations nonreciprocal and unconditional, meaning the nonprofit can spend that full dollar however (and whenever) it sees fit? Or does the giver expect something in return of equal (or "commensurate," in FASB parlance) value, thus an exchange transaction? That return could range from "membership" status to branded merchandise, like a pin or a mug, to funding clinical drug trials, performing public services or conducting scientific research under a grant.

Outsourced Bookkeeping Services: Your Long-Term Solution

Many small-business owners start out doing everything themselves: sales, marketing, HR, IT, even keeping their own books. As they stretch themselves thinner and thinner, they try to offload as many responsibilities as they can in an attempt to keep up.

If you're thinking of starting a small business, you can learn from this common mistake. Identify what's core to your business, and what can be outsourced, before you open your doors. Take advantage of all the cost-effective expertise that's available today. Because the DIY, learn-as-you-go approach to things like bookkeeping can result in costly, easily avoidable mistakes.

From Recording Transactions to Financial Reporting and Forecasting
In simplest terms, a bookkeeper records a company's financial transactions at regular chronological intervals — day by day, in most cases. While the definition is fairly straightforward, keeping up with a company's financial reporting can be time-consuming and complicated, depending on the nature of the business.

Achieving Financial Fitness

Note: This blog first appeared in the Arlington Chamber of Commerce Blog.

Like many business leaders, you made a new year’s resolution to stay current with your financial reporting. Now that it’s Q2, it’s time to make sure your resolution is staying on track.

Don't Just Keep Up — Get Ahead
This is the perfect time to take a big-picture look at the health of your business. Are there ways you can optimize your approach to achieve efficiency and gain a competitive advantage? Technology advances quickly, and there may be better solutions available for your business today than there were when you started — or even a year ago.

For example, it's now easy for small businesses to know their financial status in real time. Using records that update automatically, you can analyze your key performance indicators. Your KPIs can tell you at a glance how your business is performing relative to your budgeting and forecasting (which, by the way, will also be vastly improved with better financial reporting).

How to Avoid the Top 3 Marketing Mistakes

No business can succeed if it's not marketed properly. In light of this simple truth, it's remarkable that so many businesses treat their marketing as an afterthought.

It's time to put your company's marketing efforts top of mind, starting with an awareness of the three most common mistakes — and how to avoid them.

1. Silver-Bullet Syndrome
We've all been guilty of this. Basically, it's deluding yourself into believing that one simple change in your marketing approach will fix everything. For instance: "If I just do social media, that will be a game-changer."

The problem with this approach is that it relies on tactics rather than strategy. In the military, we used to say, "You always stay focused on the mission but flexible on the details."

In the scenario above, "doing social media" is a detail. It's not the mission.

Tax Test: TCJA Edition

How did you do this tax season with the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act? The answers (and your grade) are at the end.

1. If your small business constitutes a "pass-through entity," how much of your net business income are you allowed to deduct?

  1. 0%
  2. 10%
  3. 20%
  4. I'm not sure what a "pass-through entity" is, but it sounds unpleasant

2. You spent $1.1 million in 2018 to repair your warehouse roof and buy much-needed new equipment. How much of that is deductible under Section 179?

  1. All of it
  2. $1 million
  3. $500,000
  4. Um … tell me what Section 179 is again

How to Accept Credit Cards Without Accepting Crippling Fees

There's often a narrow margin between a successful business and a struggling one. Something as simple as credit-card processing fees can spell the difference between black ink and red. But if you think those fees are an unavoidable cost of doing business, think again.

When the Fine Print Isn't So Fine for You
As we trend toward a cashless society, more and more businesses have begun accepting credit cards — which also means accepting the processing fees that come along with them. But what many merchants fail to realize is that those rates are flexible. And the merchants often end up paying way more than they need to.

To give you just one example: Let's say your business accepts different cards with processing rates that range from 1% to 3%. Some third-party processors simply round everything up to the highest rate and charge 3% for all cards. So even if you accept four cards that charge 1% and just one card that charges 3%, you end up paying your processor 3% across the board. The merchants are actually entitled to rebates in that scenario, but few know enough to ask.

How to Fund Retirement Through Your Small Business

As a wealth management strategist for more than 30 years, I advise clients on how to build and balance their three pools of money. Retirement planning isn't just a matter of saving money; it's a matter of investing money and allocating resources in a way that delivers the best return. So the goal is to get the longest compounding curve out of the assets that are taxed the least.

Unfortunately, not enough people implement a net after-tax plan early enough to generate the assets they'll need to have the kind of retirement they want — or even to have a solid retirement at all. This is especially true of small-business owners, who are often so consumed with the demands of operating the business that they fail to plan for the future.

Plan for the End Right from the Start
A detailed exit strategy should be a part of every business plan. But it isn't enough to map out an exit strategy for the business — you need one for yourself, too. In fact, if you start your own business, it's even more important to factor in retirement planning than it would be if you simply kept working at a job somewhere. You'll no longer have access to your employer's plan because now you are your employer.

Five Tips on How to Negotiate a Commercial Lease

If you have a great commercial lease for your business, consider yourself fortunate. And don't take it for granted. Things can change at any time.

I had a client who had been in the same location for more than 20 years when the landlord summarily decided to raise the rent by $25 per square foot. With just a few months' notice, we had to scramble. We found a good building, and the prospective landlord loved my client — but evidently not enough to avoid nickel-and-diming them to death when it came time to sign the lease. I guess the landlord figured he had my client over a barrel because time was so short.

The landlord figured wrong. My client nixed the deal and continued looking. In the end, we found them an even better location, with a favorable sublease. Moral of the story: You don't have to let the landlord call all the shots when you negotiate a lease — even in a tight market like New York City (where my firm operates). The following are five tips to help you get the best terms.

Financial Controls and Best Practices for Your Business

Like many small-business owners, you started out as a jack-of-all-trades. Whatever needed to be done to keep the doors open in those hectic first months, you did it: sales, marketing, IT, maintenance, administration and bookkeeping.

As your business grew, you added employees, vendors, an attorney on retainer. Now you couldn't do everything yourself if you wanted to. To support the continued growth of your business, you need to implement some basic financial controls and best practices. How do you go about it effectively?

Glad you asked.

First, Figure Out Where You Are
This is actually a good time of year to take your business' pulse. You need to put your tax records in order, and you should be compiling a forecast for the new year. That's not a burden — it's an opportunity. Good, thorough bookkeeping records aren't just an indication of how you've performed in the past year, but are a blueprint for growth — if you know how to interpret them.

The One Financial Report Every Healthcare Practice Must Have

At Supporting Strategies, we stress to small-business owners the importance of acquiring a basic understanding of key financial statements. From balance sheets to cash flow statements, we cover just about every financial report a business might need.

For the most part, healthcare practices are no different from any other type of business. A healthcare practitioner needs to understand, say, a profit and loss statement. However, one financial report that all practitioners must be familiar with is the accounts receivable aging report.

Why the Healthcare Industry Has Different Priorities
Although governed by the same accounting principles as any other business, healthcare practices face unique challenges. Government regulation, for one, including compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). If you operate a healthcare practice, it's critical not only that you understand HIPAA laws, but that your bookkeepers and/or accountants do as well. (Here's one example of why this is so important.)

Suffice to say that if you want to avoid violating privacy laws, and the financial penalties that can result, you must carefully monitor the information you enter into the bookkeeping system.

Business Owners: Beware the Deadlines of March

"Beware the ides of March," Shakespeare wrote. Well, we have no idea what "ides" are, but we do know our tax deadlines.

Are You Prepared for the March Tax Deadline?
It never hurts to have a reminder about changes in tax laws, because each year brings new ones — especially this year.

You might have changed the structure of your business this year, which could in turn alter your filing status. For example, have you switched from an S corporation to a C corporation? If so, not only are you positioned to possibly pay a lower tax rate — a flat rate of 21% instead of the graduated scale from 15% to 39% — but your filing deadline also moves back from March 15 to April 15.

For S corps, partnerships and multiple-member LLCs, the deadline remains March 15. And don't think that the partial shutdown of the federal government will buy you any additional time. It does not affect any filing deadlines.

Give Your Healthcare Bookkeeping System a Checkup

Is your healthcare practice's cash flow suffering from clogged arteries? Take our checkup and find out.

Open Your Mouth and Say "Aargh!"
Most practitioners enter the healthcare field because they want to help people, not because they want to run a business. But failing to observe good business practices can create cash-flow problems that impede your practice's ability to provide quality care. Furthermore, insurance reimbursements and a thicket of regulations make healthcare an especially complicated business.

The complexity starts with third-party billing systems, which have become as much a part of healthcare as jokes about hospital food. Any healthcare provider who accepts insurance as payment is required to submit a bill with a current procedural terminology (CPT) code to the billing department. While larger hospitals typically have an in-house billing department, most smaller practices outsource that responsibility to a third party.

“Strap yourselves in…

This blog was originally published on the ricklochner.com website.

…we’re going to jump to light speed!”

I still remember the audience’s reaction to this scene in “Star Wars: A New Hope” in 1977. We had never seen anything like it on the big screen until then and, of course, now it seems almost archaic! Today’s 21st century business environment can feel very much like everything is moving at perpetual light speed. It is also this metaphor we use to highlight the first of five Keys to Success initially mentioned in last month’s newsletter (click here to read). The first Key to Success is Get Ready to Warp (warp speed is faster than the speed of light). Simply stated, it is not the ability to adapt that matters as much as the speed at which the leader is able to adapt in order to stay relevant. Here are three things a 21st century leader can do to stay relevant:

  • How well do you know your industry? While I was once asked if I had a crystal ball to see the future, no one has that ability. However, we do have the ability to understand our industry well enough to understand key trends and how those trends impact the leader’s current and future business. In the May-June 2018 issue of “Harvard Business Review,” Jason Trujillo, IBM’s Director of Leadership Development sums up this dynamic with one sentence. He states, “IBM’s cultural transformation is aligned with the reinvention of our business, with almost half our revenue coming from businesses we weren’t in six years ago.” Six years to a company as large as IBM is virtually light speed!

Good Bookkeeping Involves More Than Keeping the Books Current

Whether you own a startup or a growing business, a professional bookkeeper will help ensure you're following standard business practices and provide the financial information you need to make better business decisions.

From recording daily transactions in the general ledger to delivering in-depth financial reporting, here are several of the key tasks a professional bookkeeping service can perform:

1. Compiling Key Financial Reports
At a basic level, the goal of any business is to take in more money than it spends. But figuring out if the business is actually doing that can be surprisingly difficult. In order to fully understand what's going on, you need to review an array of financial reports. Of particular importance — especially in the startup phase, where cash is often in short supply — is the cash flow statement. If you or your bookkeeper don't understand the implications of this statement, the results could be disastrous.

Case Study: Empowering a Nonprofit to Pursue Its Goals for Growth

The Sierra Nevada Children's Museum, a popular family destination in Truckee, California, is poised for growth with a projected 80% increase in visitation over the next 20 years. To keep pace with this growth, the museum needs to boost fundraising to finance building a larger facility.  

Working with a complex chart of accounts and item list, combined with a slow, server-based software system, occupied much of Executive Director Carol Meagher's time. She wasn't able to fully focus on fundraising and community outreach — which were vital for the museum to keep pace with its projected increase in visitation.

To compound this problem, the museum's bookkeeper decided not to return from maternity leave, and a prospective replacement didn't pan out. In order to reach its potential for growth, the museum needed to establish a strong foundation in bookkeeping that included special events tracking, operational reporting, grants management, and preparing financials for the board.

3 Keys to a Successful Small-Business Launch

Fifty percent of new small businesses fail within five years. That statistic has held steady for so long, it might lead you to conclude that business is a game of chance and success is as random as the outcome of a coin flip.

That's not the case. With research and preparation, you can push your odds of a successful launch well above 50/50.

1) Do your market research.
Too many entrepreneurs think with their hearts instead of their heads. Just because you love to do something doesn't mean people will pay for your product or service in sufficient numbers for you to turn your avocation into a vocation.

So before you quit your job and sink your life savings into pursuing your passion for cupcakes and baking, you'd better figure out how many people would be inclined to buy your cupcakes, how much they'd be willing to pay, and whether you can bake your cupcakes cheaply enough at scale to turn a profit. If the numbers work, then go for it. If not — and you need to be brutally honest with yourself — then don't quit your day job.

Would Your Small Business Be Better Off as a C Corporation?

With special thanks to Mariya Luqmani, CPA, MST, President of MLCPAS Inc specializing in business and international taxation, for her contributions to the article.

Lately a lot of my small-business clients have been asking me about C corporations. I understand why. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has bestowed a very preferential 21% flat tax rate on corporations, replacing the previous graduated tax rate of 15% to 35%.

Does converting to a C corp make sense for you? Since the graduated rate was based largely on taxable income, the simple answer would appear to be to determine whether your company's taxable income is closer to the 15% mark (in which case converting would be a bad idea) or the 35% mark (in which case converting could be a great idea).

But as with most simple answers, the reality isn't so simple. This is particularly true of businesses that are still in the planning stages, where projecting the bottom-line taxable-income numbers is just that — a projection.

So what's a small-business owner to do?

New Year's Resolutions (and Reconciliations) for Businesses

If you run a small business, the holidays can be a distraction. It's easy to lose focus during the rush (if you're in retail) or the lull (if you're not). Either way, this is a crucial time. You need to take stock of where your financials are as this year ends and the next begins.

Don't drop the ball before watching the ball drop in Times Square. As the year ends, resolve to …

Keep good records all year long. Yes, we offered the same advice at this time last year. Did you follow it? And if you didn't, don't you wish you had? Wouldn't it be nice to relax and enjoy some holiday time with family and friends instead of scrambling to pull together 12 months of records?

It's worth repeating: At a minimum, performing monthly reconciliations and keeping accurate, up-to-date records — including all expenses, such as equipment updates or mileage, as well as W-9 and 1099 forms — will make your life (and your bookkeeper's life) much easier at tax time. It will also prepare you for any unexpected audits. Perhaps most important of all, thorough records give you insights into your business that can make it easier to create accurate budgets and forecasts.

Scary Numbers on Small-Business Fraud

"Small businesses lose almost twice as much per scheme to fraud" as larger businesses. That's just one of the disturbing findings in the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) "2018 Global Study on Occupational Fraud and Abuse."

According to the study, small businesses (which the ACFE defines as having fewer than 100 employees) sustained a median loss of $200,000 per fraud scheme, compared to $104,000 for larger businesses. Moreover, the study found that "a majority of the victims recovered nothing."

A Big Problem for Small Businesses
Why are small businesses particularly vulnerable to fraud? There are several reasons. First, many small-business owners start out in the corporate world (where high-level financial controls are part of the infrastructure) before venturing out on their own. So they tend to take security measures for granted and are too trusting of the people they bring onboard to operate their new business. Let's face it: No one hires an employee whom they think will try to defraud them.

What Does It Take to Finance a Startup?

Congratulations — you have an idea for a potentially lucrative small business. All you need is the funding. Several avenues are available, and you should take the time to explore them all before deciding what's best for you.

In case you missed the emphasis, the operative word there is best. With that in mind …

  1. When evaluating financing options, remember that it's not always about the interest rate. Terms and conditions matter quite a bit. Even as a C corp, S corp or LLC, you can lose what you've invested, and you may be asked for "personal guarantees" that will entangle you long after a business fails.
  2. Match the duration of your financing with the duration of your assets. If you have two-year loans with a big balloon payment at the end and you can't roll your debt in two years because of a major recession, that's a big problem. Ever hear of Lehman Brothers? Yeah, they did that.

Case Study: Providing Comprehensive Bookkeeping Services to a Busy Surgeon

Like many medical professionals who operate their own practices, Beverly M. Shafer MD, FACS (Fellow, American College of Surgeons), is under tremendous pressure to manage her time as efficiently as possible. "It drives me crazy when there are gaps in the schedule," says Shafer, a renowned plastic surgeon who has practiced on the North Shore of Massachusetts for over 30 years.

Shafer's combination of compassion and surgical artistry has created a high demand for her services. Meanwhile, her practice's back-office functions have become more time-consuming over the years, due to the growing complexity of insurance-reimbursement bureaucracy and a migration from paper-based to digital bookkeeping. Staff turnover compounded the problem; an outside CPA firm wound up doing many basic bookkeeping tasks. That wasn't cost-effective.

Specialized Bookkeeping Services for Healthcare Practices
A business contact encouraged Shafer to reach out to Supporting Strategies Founder and CEO Leslie Jorgensen. "I loved her immediately," Shafer says. A leading provider of outsourced bookkeeping services and operational support, Supporting Strategies began reconciling all of the practice's accounts on a monthly basis, "which is super-complicated, honestly," Shafer says. "They interface with my CPA to provide them the necessary information to do what they need to do, and they also interface with my paychecks company to get my staff paid and make sure that their taxes are correct."

Case Study: Helping a Healthcare Clinic Take its Bookkeeping into the 21st Century

Since 1979 Evergreen Speech & Hearing Clinic (ESHC) has become a respected source of comprehensive hearing evaluations and rehabilitation in the Puget Sound region. The healthcare practice has expanded from one location to three, with a staff of 28 that includes five audiologists and six speech therapists.

With the clinic’s growth came bookkeeping and back-office complexities. While ESHC used a robust, mid-market accounting system, they still entered vendor invoices and cut checks manually. Then ESHC's in-house bookkeeper gave two weeks’ notice.  

21st Century Bookkeeping
On the recommendation of a business associate, ESHC called on Supporting Strategies. Despite some initial misgivings about outsourcing bookkeeping, ESHC soon saw the advantages. "The Supporting Strategies team optimized our entire system and brought us into the 21st century," says ESHC Project Manager Chris Norwood. "What felt like a crisis turned out to be a great opportunity."

Give Thanks to (and for) Your Clients

Thanksgiving is a good time to pause and reflect on what matters in our lives: our family, friends and freedoms, our good fortune and good health.

It's also a good time to acknowledge something else that's essential to our sense of well-being — something that some small-business owners may take for granted: our clients.

Gratitude Is an Attitude
Do you remember when you landed your first customer or client? Remember how special that moment was? Your goal of running a business was no longer an abstract dream. It was real — and all because that first client had faith in your ability.

Remember how grateful you were? You vowed to reward that vote of confidence. Your goal wasn't merely to satisfy your client, but to delight them.

That should still be your goal today with every client. Delighting clients isn't just good for the soul; it's good for business. And it can lead to more business.

Employee and Independent Contractor Documentation Every Business Needs

Disagreements with employees, clients, and independent contractors can create risks for your small business. By having certain employee and contractor documents in place, you can help safeguard your company.

Here's a quick look at some of those key documents:

  • Employment records: Organize your employee records (e.g. applications, performance reviews, W-2s, non-compete agreements) and keep them in a central location. Plus, confirm the records for each employee are complete and up-to-date.

A Closer Look at New Pass-Through Rules Under the TCJA

One of the most important — and complicated — changes established by the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is Section 199A, which concerns the type of businesses known as "pass-through entities," also known as flow-through entities.

Basically, these businesses pass their profits on to their individual owners. That's how most small businesses work, including S corporations, partnerships and LLCs. (Sole proprietorships handle business income in a similar way using Form 1040 Schedule C and are also covered by the new rules.)

The good news is that if you own one of these businesses, you may get as much as a 20% reduction in taxes on business net income under the new rules. The calculations can be very complex, however. Several factors — including your level of income, your profession and the amount your business spends on wages and property acquired during the year — determine the actual deduction. Let's take a closer look.

Does Changing the Clocks Save Money as Well as Time?

Senator Marco Rubio has sponsored legislation requesting federal permission for Florida to switch to daylight saving time (DST) year round — or, failing that, for the entire country to do so.

I used to live in Indiana, which switched from year-round Eastern Standard Time (EST) to Eastern Daylight Time in 2006. Like DST proponents in Indiana, Senator Rubio and his supporters insist that later sunsets provide an economic benefit.

But do they really? That depends on who (and where) you ask.

Paying by the Hour
To anyone with a bookkeeping mindset, the economic argument for DST is a little unsettling. For starters, no one "gains" an hour of daylight with DST. Obviously, the extended daylight at the end of the day comes at the cost of an added hour of darkness at the beginning of the day. It's a zero-sum game.

That's just bookkeeping 101.

Why Your Business Will Benefit from Having a Budget

Many business owners think of a budget as a limitation. Instead, they should think of it as a set of guidelines.

The purpose of a budget is to identify the points at which you need to implement various contingency plans. And the process isn't necessarily restrictive; a budget prepares you to react not only when something bad happens, but also when something good does. If you find that a competing company is unexpectedly for sale, for instance, can you adjust your budget in order to buy them out?

You Can't Do the Math Without the Numbers
For a small business, creating a budget shouldn't take more than a couple of hours, and the benefits are tremendous. If you're doing it right, it forces you to consider the financial metrics that are actually driving your organization. Where is your company, and what can it achieve in the next year? Or three years? Or five years? What steps do you need to take during the next several months to get started toward those goals?

Once you've set your annual budget, you need to reevaluate at least once during the year to determine where you are relative to your projections. That simple process can make your company proactive rather than reactive.

DCAA Compliance Quiz: Bookkeeping for Government Contractors

Pop quiz: Your business recently landed a $50 million Department of Defense contract. You've let a couple of smaller jobs expire in anticipation of taking on the government work. You've invested in materials and lined up a series of subcontractors to help you meet the contract terms. Everything's humming along beautifully.

Then the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) pays a surprise visit and determines your accounting system isn't in compliance with their standards. What happens next?

A: The DCAA immediately terminates the contract.

B: The DCAA sets a reasonable deadline for bringing your system into compliance, and the work continues.

C: The DCAA suspends the contract until you come into compliance. You're solely liable for any lost revenue and for any money invested in materials and subcontractors to date, as well as the costs of reaching compliance.

D: None of the above.

Case Study: How a Small Business Gets Government Contracts

With its cutting-edge shelter construction, World Housing Solution (WHS) addressed an obvious need for the U.S. Department of Defense. The small Sanford, Fla., company creates modular buildings that could be raised quickly in challenging circumstances ranging from refugee crises to natural disasters to rapid military deployments.

But securing government contracts meant negotiating a complex regulatory maze that included the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA). "Once you are a government subcontractor, you have to run all of your accounting through a DCCA system regardless of whether it's a commercial sale or a government sale," says WHS Director of Administration Michelle Theodoseau. "Our original accounting firm did not have the experience that these very specialized government contracts require."

Florence Illustrates the Importance of Disaster Preparedness

You never know when or where the next hurricane will strike the United States. You only know that it will. As Hurricane Florence violently demonstrated once again, it's vital that your business have a solid continuity plan in place for the worst-case scenario.

People tend to use the term "major disaster area" generically to describe any region where a calamity has occurred. But when it comes to relief, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has specific guidelines that enable the president to issue a major disaster declaration, releasing federal funds for assistance in the stipulated region. While much of the relief funding is used to repair public infrastructure, some can also benefit businesses, often in the form of loans through the Small Business Administration.

If a business needs to be completely rebuilt and will be offline for a while, its employees or contractors might be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. In addition, the IRS grants many businesses in federal disaster areas extensions on certain filing deadlines.

Which Documents Does Your Small Business Need to Secure a Loan?

Do you have a new business that shows promise or an established business that's having a growth spurt? Either way, at some point you'll probably wonder whether an infusion of cash could help you reach that highly desirable (though difficult to define) "next level."

Getting Your Priorities in Order
As a first step, make sure your records are organized and up-to-date. A number of bookkeeping issues, from misclassified expenses to improperly applied COGS, can jeopardize your loan application.

The key reports and documents you’ll typically need to provide are:

  • Current P&L: This represents your revenue minus your operating expenses for a given period of time. If it's a negative number, then a loan won't fix your problems.
  • A balance sheet: I covered this one in an earlier post. Basically, the balance sheet is a snapshot of your company's liability, assets and capital on a specific date.

How Your Small Business Can Become More Profitable

Business owners strive to maximize the profitability of their companies. Determining your company's profitability can be trickier than you think, however. For example, say Business A generates $10 million in annual revenue against $9.5 million in total costs, while Business B generates $250,000 in annual revenue against $50,000 in total costs. Which is more profitable?

Measured in raw dollars, Business A comes out way ahead, $500,000 to $200,000. But in terms of profit margin, Business B trounces Business A, 20% to 5%.

The point is, there are different ways to measure profitability. There are also different ways to maximize your company's profitability. Let's take a closer look.

Now Is the Time to Prep Those Pesky 1099s

For small-business owners, eternal vigilance on important documents is more important than ever. That includes those seemingly routine year-end 1099 forms.

If You Wait, It Could Be Too Late
In an ideal world business owners would keep up with their 1099s all year long, as my colleague Jeanne Richards recently suggested they do. Haven’t given 1099-prep a thought yet? Don’t worry — it’s not too late. Now that it’s September, it’s the perfect time to check the status of your records and get them in shape before the end of the year.

Periodically evaluating your records keeps you up to date on which vendors or independent contractors (IC) are above the $600 threshold that requires a 1099. That’s a threshold that is easy to meet without realizing it. You might have given someone several small projects that were each well under $600, but together meet the threshold requirement. Or perhaps you forgot about an IC you used for a project early in the year — now is the time to make sure you have the records you need.

Course Correction: Tweaks that Could Help Your Small Business Before Year’s End

Like all good business owners, you started the year with a solid plan. But is your plan still as solid as you thought it was, or are there areas that could use shoring up? Here are some revisions to consider as the year winds down.

Look for Over- and Underperformers in Sales
This is the area that offers the greatest potential for improving your bottom line. It is also one of the easiest to analyze. Basically, all you have to do is review your year-to-date sales figures to see if you can root out both winners and losers — products or services that performed better than anticipated, as well as “dogs” that yielded disappointing results. (Here’s where budgeting, forecasting and ongoing analysis of your finances can be invaluable.)

With those figures in hand, it’s a simple matter of applying a little common sense. Increase your inventory and/or marketing efforts on whatever is performing well and sell off the underperforming products at a deep discount to generate cash. In the case of a costly or time-consuming service that isn’t generating a sufficient return, you can simply discontinue it — be careful to honor any commitments you have already entered into, of course.

Get Your Small Business off the Filing-Extension Treadmill

Two years ago, I blogged about how outsourced bookkeeping services can help you keep your financial records up to date and enable you to avoid filing for an extension on your business tax returns. With the September drop-dead nearing once again (this year it's September 17 instead of September 15), it's a good time to revisit the topic.

Putting the Tension in Extension
The deadline extension exists to give businesses a break in the event of unforeseen circumstances. For example, if a natural disaster impacts the business or a personal health crisis affects a key employee just ahead of the March 15 deadline, it would be unreasonable for the IRS to fine the business for filing a late return. (To be clear, we're talking about small businesses that are structured as partnerships or S corporations. Note that the Final deadline for C Corporations and individuals (with extension) is October 15, 2018) An additional six months ought to be ample time to resolve any issues.

Supporting Strategies NYC Supports New York Maker Community

“As Told by Makers” is an event produced by Alice Chin of Your Other Half and the Supporting Strategies NYC team. The goal is to build a community of business people who want to support Makers as they develop their businesses. The event will be held on Wednesday, September 12th from 5:30 pm - 7 pm at WeWork on W 41st St. 

This is a structured Q&A event designed to give attendees the opportunity to listen, learn and ask questions. Each Maker is different and we want to give our guests and speakers the opportunity explore topics together.
 
What is a Maker?
For us, a Maker is someone who makes a tangible product that can be eaten, worn or held in your hand. We support this community of business people because they are making great things, improving our lives and creating local jobs.

4 Tips to Stop Fraud

Originally posted on the Bill.com blog.

You’d like to think your business is safe from fraud. But there are many, sneaky ways that those with ill intent — both inside and outside your organization — can take advantage of your company.

But, by noting the below risks, you can begin to plug any leaky opportunities for fraudulent activities.

Using paper checks
According to this survey of finance professionals, three out of four businesses were victims of check fraud and check forgery in 2016. Yes, you read that right. Seventy-five percent of businesses have been subjected to financial crimes.

The true culprit? Paper checks.

Those little pieces of paper give fraudsters everything they need to steal your money — account number, routing number, and even your bank and address. It’s like handing burglars the key to your house.

Case Study: Bookkeeping Services Help a Franchise Avoid Fines and Focus on Strategy

In 2009 Steven Conyers acquired a CMIT (Completely Managed Information Technology) Solutions franchise in Brooklyn, New York.

Demand for his franchise’s services, which range from IT troubleshooting to data security upgrades, grew steadily. So did the demands on Conyers’ time. Desktop-based bookkeeping, which lacked real-time functionality or integration with his project management platform, was a particular drain. Supporting Strategies found a solution.

More Time — and No More Fines
Although he had an outside accountant, Conyers still had to input much of the bookkeeping information himself. He often fell behind, which proved costly. "Like most franchises, we have to report on a monthly basis," Conyers says. "I was reporting late, and the fines were costing me money."

Build Your Business Through Your Customers

Originally posted on the Bill.com blog.

You love your B2B business — building it, adding new products and services, growing revenue.

And, most likely, winning new customers.

For most companies, the sales focus is on prospects. When new customers come on, they bring money, prestige, and great numbers to share on quarterly reports. But you still have to build trust, deliver as promised, and work to retain their business beyond the honeymoon stage.

Never forget that you already have a built-in source of contacts who trust your company and what it does: Your customers. And you shouldn’t overlook selling to them.

Studies show that it costs five times more to get new customers than keeping existing ones.

Another asserts that growing customer retention by 5% can lead to a 25% increase in revenue. Finally, this book discovered that the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5%-20%, while the chances of selling to an existing customer are closer to 60%-70%.

Eight Tips for Boosting Client Delight in Your Organization

This is the final article in our three-part series on Client Delight. Click here to see the first article, "Why Client Delight Is Critical to Your Business." Click here to see the second article, "Measuring Client Delight: Are Your Clients Happy?"

Mastering the concept of Client Delight starts with seeing client/customer satisfaction as every employee's responsibility — and recruiting, training and treating your staff accordingly.

Since 2004, we at Supporting Strategies have built our business around a commitment to client service. Along the way, we've continually picked up best practices from experts in the field, our customers and our team members.

Here are eight points you should keep in mind with regard to Client Delight:

  1. Client delight is a human resources issue. Keep it at the forefront of managing staff — from recruitment through evaluations, perks and promotions. Provide ongoing staff training around expectations, and include client satisfaction as a key measure of employee performance.

Measuring Client Delight: Are Your Clients Happy?

This is the second article in our three-part series on Client Delight. Click here to see the first article, "Why Client Delight Is Critical to Your Business."

Too often, we learn our clients are disappointed only after it's too late. After all, even the closest client relationships don't always offer up the information needed to measure client satisfaction.

The good news? Getting that information isn't as difficult as it may seem. While technology and social media have reduced business owners' control of the message, they've also provided new ways to assess Client Delight. The key is taking a multifaceted approach that includes a range of tools and strategies.

Surveys help you understand how you're measuring up in a client's eyes.

  • Create quick surveys that take only two to five minutes to complete.
  • Send exit surveys to clients when a project is coming to a close (e.g. if you're a landscaper wrapping up a one-time job with a client).
  • Schedule bi-annual surveys for clients with whom you have an ongoing relationship.
  • Always follow up on negative survey feedback as quickly as possible to salvage the relationship, if possible, or at least stem the tide of negative word-of-mouth.

Why Client Delight Is Critical to Your Business

This is the first article in our three-part series on Client Delight.

Client Delight is all about exceeding client/customer expectations and fostering long-term relationships. When done well, this strategy can boost referrals, increase revenue and set your business apart. HubSpot pushes the concept even further, making the case that client delight is about pleasing not just existing clients, but also potential ones, at every opportunity and brand interaction.

Focusing on Client Delight is much more than the marketing trend of the moment. In fact, mastering Client Delight might make the difference between seeing your business fade or flourish. We even have the data to prove it. Research shows:

  • It's 50% easier to retain an existing client or customer than it is to attain a new one.
  • It costs between five and 30 times more to attain a new client or customer than to retain one.

Those numbers make a compelling case that ignoring Client Delight can do significant damage to your company and its brand.

Want to Organize Your Business? Organize Your Mind First.

Starting a business is hard. Sustaining a business is even harder. And growing a business is hardest of all.

There are so many ways that even the best-conceived businesses can go astray once they open the doors. What seemed like a well-organized business plan in theory can wash away in a flood of day-to-day details. How can you avoid drowning?

It's Your Responsibility
When businesses fail, it's usually because key people lose sight of what's important. This insidious affliction starts when those at the top try to do too many things themselves.

Many small-business owners think they have no choice but to wear every hat. Those same owners also complain they have no time to devote to business development because the day-to-day stuff is all-consuming.

Guess what? If you find yourself in that situation, your problem isn't a lack of time — it's an inability to prioritize. Step back and be honest with yourself. Yes, you're busy, possibly to the point where you're approaching burnout. Feeling busy, however, doesn't mean you're being effective. Having a long to-do list might make you feel important, but many of the things on that list probably aren't the best things to be spending your time on.

Seven Attributes all Salespeople Need

Originally published on the Corporate Strategies & Solutions website.

I train and coach thousands of salespeople each year and have taken advantage of this incredible opportunity to collect important data that is significant in helping my audience understand the complex nature of the “sales beast.” I have learned volumes about the motivation, behavior, skills and beliefs that propel high performers to be the best and have concluded there are real hidden drivers that provide fuel for high-flying success.

Recently, I spent time identifying the critical attributes I believe drive sales success and their relationship with salespeople to impact their sales success. Initial interviews with my sales audience surfaced attributes like: persistence, personality, intuition and likeability as well as time management, however, when I dug deeper and even took a behavioral x-ray, I found a totally different set of characteristics. Many salespeople just don’t know what their success drivers are and never try to dig to determine them. They just blindly accept their success, whether limited or not, as a bi-product of their hard work.

A Real-World Example of How to Prevent Bookkeeping Fraud

Perhaps nothing hurts a small-business owner more than learning they've been defrauded by a trusted employee. Let's take a closer look at a recent case in which a bookkeeper embezzled $600,000 from a pair of Chicago restaurants and see what business owners can learn about safeguarding their finances.

Never Let One Person Handle the Bills
This is one of those lessons that seem obvious in hindsight. In the Chicago case, the bookkeeper was responsible both for cutting all checks to the restaurants' vendors, with no oversight, and for performing reconciliations. Over a six-year period, she wrote herself $604,113 worth of checks from the company account, then cut checks with the same numbers for the vendors. The restaurant owners didn't discover the scheme until a company accountant was setting up a new bookkeeping system and noticed the discrepancies.

The guilty party had been with the company for almost 20 years. But she found herself "in over her head" with credit card bills and other debts and yielded to temptation, according to the Chicago Sun Times. The paper also reported that "on her way out of the office, she offered some advice: 'Make sure the next bookkeeper you hire doesn't do the bank reconciliations as well,' the complaint states."

How Tax Law Changes Regarding Ecommerce Will Impact Businesses

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that has been hailed as a victory for tax collectors could also be a blow to small businesses. If you conduct online sales to out-of-state customers, you need to start paying close attention to laws regarding sales/use taxes (SUT) in every state where you do business.

The backstory to the landmark case, South Dakota v. Wayfair , stretches back decades. In 1967 the Supreme Court ruled that mail-order companies had no SUT obligation on out-of-state transactions. In 1992 the Quill Court decision upheld the physical presence standard for SUT nexus.

Before the Wayfair decision, the same laws governing mail-order sales also applied to sales made through the internet. In other words, if you ran a business in California that made online sales to New York residents, you weren't obligated to collect New York sales tax because you didn't have a physical presence (or "nexus") in that state.

Can the Cloud Improve Your Business?

For a small-business owner, there's perhaps nothing worse than the shock of losing all the data on your computer. It happened to me years ago, even though I thought I had been following proper backup procedures.

If you've ever had a similar experience, you might have some healthy fears about relying on online systems, especially for your business. But having a better understanding of today's cloud technology — and its ability to keep your stored information safe — could put your mind at ease.

Not sure exactly what "the cloud" is? You're not alone. But chances are, you're already using it — e.g. if you use an online payroll services company.

In simple terms, using the cloud means your data is stored offsite, at a series of servers (and backup servers) in different locations. It's not stored on your laptop, phone or tablet (or on an expensive onsite server).

Fraud Prevention: How to Keep Your Books Secure

Bookkeeper Pleads Guilty to $1.5 Million Fraud Scheme

That headline represents a small-business owner's worst nightmare. The person you trusted to ensure your finances were handled properly and professionally instead exploited your trust for their own gain.

How can you be sure this will never happen to you?

Segregation of Duties Is Key
It's shocking how much damage an unscrupulous employee can do to a small business. In the case cited above, a bookkeeper at a Virginia construction company pleaded guilty to funneling $1.5 million into her own account over eight years.

The devastation can be psychological as well as financial. That's certainly the case when the guilty party is a trusted friend or even a family member.

From day one, you need to establish a system of internal controls that includes segregation of duties. It might feel awkward, particularly in a small family business. But delegating responsibility for, say, reviewing invoices to one person and paying invoices to another person is vital.

Our Northeast Florida Office Named a 'Top Accounting Firm'

Supporting Strategies is proud to announce that our Northeast Florida office has been named a Top Accounting Firm in an annual ranking by the Jacksonville Business Journal

"We've been in business for three years, and this is the first year we've made the list," says Supporting Strategies | Northeast Florida Managing Director Pete Denholm. "I'm excited to be on the list with national firms and with regional firms that have been around for decades, and I look forward to continuing to grow and climbing up the list in the years ahead."

"This is a testimony both to the hard work that Pete and his team have put in, and to the basic soundness of our business model," says Supporting Strategies Founder and CEO Leslie Jorgensen. "It's gratifying when outside organizations recognize our franchisees' success."

Calif. Cracks Down on Independent Contractor Classification

California businesses might soon need to overhaul their staff compensation models, thanks to a ruling from the state's Supreme Court that sets a more rigid standard for determining "independent contractor" status.

As detailed here, the ruling puts the onus on employers to prove a worker's independent contractor status by satisfying all three components of a rigid new "ABC" test.

According to the court's decision, this test presumptively considers all workers to be employees, and permits workers to be classified as independent contractors only if the hiring business demonstrates that the worker in question:

  1. is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact;
  2. performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity's business; and
  3. is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.

Paperless Bookkeeping: It Can Work for Any Business

The iconic portrait of a bookkeeper — hunkered down with an adding machine, an eyeshade and a stack of paper — is hopelessly outdated. Bookkeeping has gone digital. And the way paperwork is done has changed too, with most documents now stored online, in the cloud.

If you run a business that traditionally generates tons of paperwork that must be tracked, logged and stored in space-hogging filing cabinets, this is wonderful news.

Scrap That Paper
Have you made the transition to online banking with your personal finances? Well, just as you can now pay certain bills automatically, or transfer funds remotely without filling out deposit or withdrawal slips, you can simplify many of your business transactions. And you can eliminate a ton of paper in the process.

Checklist: How to Start a Business

One of the hardest things about starting a business is, well, just getting started. Here's a checklist to help you organize and prioritize.

Research your market:
You've been working at a sideline — more of a hobby, really — for years. Now you're finally ready to quit your day job and pursue it as a full-time business. Before you take that plunge, here's what you need to explore:

  • What is your target market?
  • Is your target market large enough? Are enough people interested in paying for your product or service for you to make a viable living?
  • Who is your competition? What can you do better than they do?

Write a business plan:
As this article suggests, your business plan doesn't have to be elaborate — nor will it ever truly be finished. Still, in order for you to get started, it should include the following:

Working Too Much on Bookkeeping? Consider Outsourcing

Small-business owners often get themselves into trouble by taking on too many responsibilities. Bookkeeping is one area especially prone to DIY-itis. The consequences can range from burnout for the owner to stunted growth for the business. Learn from other entrepreneurs in these examples from some of our recent case studies.

Can You Scale for Success?
Some business owners with a knack for numbers find they can do their own books quite well during the launch phase, when the volume of work is low. But what can start out feeling like a cost savings can end up feeling like a quickening treadmill as business picks up.

It worked that way for Adam Merrill. In 2016 he launched a custom home building business in Florida. With a modest goal of five homes per year and what he called an "accounting mindset," he assumed he could do the books himself. But as his business boomed, Merrill quickly revised his projection to 12 homes a year. Before long he was devoting a full day each week to bookkeeping rather than focusing on the growth of his business.

Are you in Compliance Today? California Supreme Court Adopts New Test for Independent Contractor Status

Originally published on the Hackler Flynn & Associates website.

On April 30, 2018 the California Supreme Court issued an opinion that makes California one of the least hospitable jurisdictions in the nation for utilization of independent contractors. As a result, many companies that were in compliance with the labor laws in California related to independent contractors yesterday may be out of compliance today.

The ruling came in a case originally filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by a worker named Charles Lee. Lee claimed that Dynamex Inc. improperly classified him as an independent contractor. The case drew attention from the media and legal minds alike because it involved the hot-button issue of independent contractor versus employee. The distinction is that an employee is subject to wage and hour laws and entitled to benefits such as workers’ compensation.

SMB 101: 5 Ways to Build a Successful Business

Originally posted on the Bill.com blog.

You’ve done it! You’ve successfully transformed your passion into a viable business. But before you deem yourself the “Ultimate SMB Rockstar” you need to face the cold, hard reality of business.

80% of new companies will fail in the first year.

Now, we don’t say this to scare you. In fact, we think you're awesome — we want your business to succeed! And the best way to do this is through your finances.

Sure, 80% of businesses may fail, but what are the key reasons why? According to this report:

  • 29% of small businesses fail because they run out of cash.
  • 82% fail because they experience cash flow problems.

Which is why we’ve compiled our top five ways to ensure your business's financial success.

Tip #1: Go digital.
Small businesses don’t run at a leisurely pace. And your payments shouldn’t either.

The days of printing and mailing communications, invoices, and payments have gone, and what’s replaced it is technology. The cloud can now easily handle tasks that were formerly bound to paper.

Giglia Named One of Long Island's Power Women in Business

Congratulations to Cheri Giglia, Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | North Shore Long Island, who was an honoree at the Long Island Power Women in Business Awards & Networking Event on May 9.

The event recognized some of Long Island's most successful business, community, cultural, political, civic and religious female leaders. The evening included a business expo and trade show with networking, followed by a dinner and awards ceremony. Proceeds from a raffle benefitted rock CAN roll, a nonprofit hunger relief organization and think tank.

"It was a thrill to be part of this event and inspiring to share the spotlight with so many amazing women," Giglia says. "I'm very grateful for the award."

Prior to becoming a Supporting Strategies franchisee in 2015, Giglia held a series of financial executive positions in large corporations and technology startups. She has enjoyed applying her expertise at Supporting Strategies to serve growing businesses across the North Shore.

We join the Long Island community in recognizing Giglia's excellence and consider ourselves fortunate to have her as part of the Supporting Strategies family.

Case Study: Custom Bookkeeping for a Custom-Home Builder

Since 1983, Chris Ledet has created affordable dream houses for clients in and around his hometown of Thibodaux, Louisiana.

His company, Chris Ledet Homes, later expanded to include Building Specialist Nancy Bernard and Chris' son, Paul, who is now the Owner and Project Manager. With this growth, and up to 12 building projects a year, old-school bookkeeping became a time-consuming challenge.

Spread Too Thin with Spreadsheets
As a Building Specialist, Bernard was responsible for meeting with clients to help them plan the details of their custom homes. But after bookkeeping was added to her list of duties, she found herself spending additional time creating spreadsheets to track expenses. This approach worked while the business was small. As the number of clients and spreadsheets grew, though, she was soon spending too much time in front of her computer and not enough time sitting with clients.

Read Our Tips for Better Bookkeeping on the Bill.com Blog

One of our favorite business payment solutions, Bill.com, recently asked me to share my top tips for better bookkeeping. I shared five quick tips that will help entrepreneurs start a business or take their business to the next level.

Proper bookkeeping is essential to the success of any business. Accurate, up-to-date books not only ensure compliance with tax laws, but can also offer insights into how your business is performing and highlight potential opportunities for growth. Whether you are just starting a business or are preparing for significant growth in your business, establishing proper bookkeeping procedures and leveraging cloud technology will help you build a stronger business. Learn how to use forecasting to stay on track and find out which financial reports you can’t do without in my

Plan to Sell Your Business (Even if You're Not Planning to)

You launched a small business several years ago. Things are going well after a few early missteps. You have a vague notion that you'd like to sell the business at some point, but for now you're just enjoying the ride. Beyond including some boilerplate language in your business plan, you haven't even thought about an exit strategy, let alone put one in place.

That's a mistake.

Plan Your Plan
You can't sell a business overnight. SCORE, a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, estimates that it takes six months to two years to complete the process. And that's once you've decided to sell. Just getting to that point takes even longer. "Start planning two to five years in advance," SCORE advises, "and learn the due diligence process."

Case Study: Helping an Escrow Agent End a Flood of Paperwork

When he launched River City Title in 2016, President and CEO Eric Blocker knew he'd have to process reams of legal paperwork. That goes with being an escrow agent in a growing Florida real estate market. What he didn't anticipate was a separate stream of bookkeeping paperwork, which soon became a flood.

Spurred by positive reviews and referrals, River City Title grew rapidly in its first year. Blocker quickly expanded his staff from two to six, including an office manager who was responsible for bookkeeping. When Blocker saw that part of his company's financial records consisted of paper receipts taped into a binder, he realized he needed to adapt this system to an online world.

A meeting with Pete Denholm, Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | Northeast Florida, led to an efficient, cost-effective solution: outsourced bookkeeping services.

Tax-Season Test: The Sequel

Did you take our tax-prep quiz last year? If so, you were probably a lot better prepared for tax time this year.

We've updated our test for 2018 — take it, and see how you do. The answers (and your grade) are at the end.

1. You made a $100,000 equipment purchase in October. What's the maximum amount of that cost you could deduct this year?

  1. 0%
  2. 50%
  3. 100%
  4. A $100,000 equipment purchase? I wish.

2. Now that you've filed your employment taxes for 2017, you can safely discard your records from:

  1. 2016
  2. 2015
  3. 2014
  4. 1973

Why It's Vital to Keep Personal & Business Expenses Separate

When starting a small business, it's important to keep your business finances separate from your personal finances — particularly when it comes to expenses.

Tempting though it might be to use your personal credit card to buy a smartphone as you launch your business, that sets a dangerous precedent. If you don't treat your personal finances and your business finances separately, the law won't, either. This is known as "piercing the corporate veil." And it could mean, among other things, that you lose the liability protection that ought to come with incorporating.

Here are some tips on how to avoid that potentially disastrous scenario.

Don't Jump the Gun
Starting a small business can be stressful and time-consuming. It's easy to fall into "just-for-now" rationalizing. You'll purchase equipment and other startup essentials from your personal checking account. And then once you get up and running, you'll file all the proper paperwork to become a corporation and open a bank account dedicated to the business. No problem, right?

Value Stream Analysis: Creating More Value in 30 Days or Less

As part of my presentation on value stream analysis, I often ask business owners what their most difficult problems are. The answers are all over the place: inventory, communication, costs, cash flow, late fees, etc. But what most business owners identify as problems are actually just symptoms.

To determine the root cause of these issues, I conduct a value stream analysis.

A Five-Step Process to Solve Business Problems
I can't do a value stream analysis alone. Someone from the business needs to be a willing participant. And they have to be honest. Only then will they benefit from the full value of this five-step process:

  1. Identify your company's value streams. (I define a value stream as any process that creates value within a company for either external or internal customers. There are multiple value streams in any organization.) Decide, as a group, which value stream to examine first. Choose one of the value streams that either needs the most attention or creates the most opportunity for increased value.

Case Study: Helping a Florida Homebuilder Keep Up with Growth

A year after launching John Merrill Homes, a custom builder in Jacksonville, Florida, Adam Merrill, had an enviable problem: His business was growing three times faster than anticipated. Realizing it would be nearly impossible to keep up with this growth using DIY bookkeeping, Merrill turned to an outsourced solution with Supporting Strategies.

A Built-in Challenge
Building custom homes is a business that's especially susceptible to bookkeeping challenges. "It's heavy on payables," Merrill says. "There's a lot of check processing. We take in five to seven checks per job, but we write about 500 per job."

In addition, building homes is a long-term process. It often takes a year for John Merrill Homes to see income from a project. That could easily lead to cash-flow problems, particularly at a rapidly growing startup. "I knew the bookkeeping could get overwhelming," Merrill says. "So outsourcing made a lot of sense." He reached out to Supporting Strategies | Northeast Florida for help.

How the New Tax Law Will Impact Your Business

The new-for-2018 tax bill, a.k.a. the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), will have a wide-ranging impact on businesses of every size. And while it's too soon to fully process all the implications of such a massive piece of legislation, we can certainly take a high-level look at some of the changes.

Focusing primarily on small businesses, we've broken the changes down into government "giveaways" and "takeaways."

Giveaways

  • 100% depreciation: A big potential giveaway for small businesses involves depreciation. Businesses can now claim a 100% deduction for any equipment, new or used, placed in service not just in 2018, but retroactive to Sept. 27, 2017. This will provide a major benefit to businesses that are equipment-intensive, such as construction. For retail and service businesses that might need to replace only a couple of computers over the course of a normal year, the benefit will be far less significant. (The 100% depreciation will begin to phase down in 2023.)

More March (Tax Deadline) Madness

Two years ago, I compared the annual "March Madness®" of the NCAA Division I college basketball tournament to the madness that surrounds the March 15 deadline for corporate tax filing. With basketball's March Madness upon us once more, it's a good time to revisit (and revise) those guidelines.

Buzzer-Beater
A game-saving shot at the final buzzer is the most exciting moment in basketball. But if you own a small business, being behind late in the game by not having complete, accurate records to present to a tax preparer isn't exciting; it's just stressful. This is especially true if your last-second attempt at a buzzer-beater is off target. Spare yourself (and your tax preparer) this anxiety by maintaining good financial records all year long. An outsourced bookkeeping services provider can help on this count.

New for 2018: Less-Charitable Laws for Charitable Giving

Individuals and tax preparers need to be aware of a significant impact on charitable giving that likely will result from a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

While the consequences of the law, passed in December 2017, might be unintended, they are no less real for taxpayers — especially for charities. Vikki Sprull, President and CEO of the philanthropic network Council on Foundations, projects the new law "will result in a decrease of $16–$24 billion in charitable giving every year."

Subtraction by Addition
The bad news for charities came about as a result of what was supposed to have been good news for taxpayers. Under TCJA, the standard deduction doubles to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples.

Managing Client Trust Accounts: A Back-Office Balancing Act

For lawyers managing a small or independent practice, maintaining client trust accounts (CTAs) can present serious challenges.

Attorneys establishing a practice must set up a CTA or accounts designated specifically for funds that a client or third party pays against future services, such as advances on fees, costs, legal settlement amounts or escrowed amounts (e.g. for business or real estate transactions). Such accounts must be kept separate from personal or business bank accounts.

Rules governing the above accounts vary by state, but one thing is true across the board: The rules are complex, and violations can result in significant consequences — even disbarment.

In our work with growing law practices, we've identified several guidelines that are key to managing CTAs:

Case Study: How Outsourcing Helped an Entrepreneur Stay on Mission

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Experience had taught Florida entrepreneur Jeff Davis that tackling too many responsibilities could lead to burnout. When he launched an executive networking startup in 2013, he identified one of his weak spots, bookkeeping, as a prime area for outsourcing.

Helping Others by Helping Himself
Having previously built and sold a successful business, Davis knew how valuable it is to be able to meet regularly with other entrepreneurs. That inspired his next business: Plan the Attack/12 Mavens. The idea was to sell memberships to a think tank in which Jacksonville-area business leaders would gather periodically at high-end locations to exchange ideas and map strategies.

How Better Bookkeeping Makes Better Managers

Background image with sketches and drawings on grey wall.jpegAt small- and medium-sized businesses, business owners have many roles. One role is business manager. As business manager, many approach bookkeeping with dread, particularly during tax season. They want to get the process over with as quickly as possible so they can get back to the important business of managing the company.

What many managers fail to realize is that a trained bookkeeping professional can provide information that is not only vital to satisfying the company's tax obligations, but also to managing the company more effectively. The key is to know what to look for.

Getting Ahead of the Game
Imagine coaching a basketball team without ever looking at the scoreboard. You'd have a hard time knowing whether you were winning or losing, let alone what steps you could take to make the team better. That's essentially what you're doing when you try to manage a business with no understanding of basic bookkeeping principles. You might think your team is playing well, only to learn after the final buzzer that you lost by 20 points.

Once you see bookkeeping for what it is — a way to analyze vital data to make informed decisions — you can become a much more effective manager.

Miscalculating COGS Can Cost You

The cost of goods sold (COGS) is a key component of many small businesses. To determine the profit you make by selling something, you must know how much you spent on the raw materials to create it.

Miscalculating COGS can cause you to pay higher taxes than necessary. It can also give you an inaccurate picture of your company's financial health and lead you to make poor decisions when making strategic plans for your company.

COGS vs. CODB
The level of complexity of COGS, and the method used to calculate it, vary greatly from one business to another. But in general, to determine COGS for a given year, you start with the total value of the inventory at the beginning of the year, add the total of all materials and labor used to create additional inventory during the year and subtract the year-end inventory (inventory remaining after sales, in other words).

Does Your Small Business Need a Loan — or Better Bookkeeping?

With Special Thanks to Jay Bloom

Small Business Administration (SBA) loans have steadily increased in recent years, and it's easy to understand why. With funding available from as little as $500 to as much as $5.5 million, an SBA loan can be just what you need to launch a startup or take a growing business to the next level.

Could you get an SBA loan? Do you even need one? To find out, consult a bookkeeper.

Time for a Credit Check
The SBA doesn't make loans — it merely guarantees them (up to 85%). That gives the lender more flexibility with its credit requirements, which makes SBA-backed loans ideal for early-stage companies that don't have sufficient collateral or profitability track record for a traditional bank loan. 

Three Tips to Maintaining Strong Service Provider/Client Relationships

The key to an effective business services relationship is for each side to make a good-faith effort to understand the other's goals, priorities and methods. Here are three simple ways to meet that objective.

1. Manage Expectations
For service providers: Be very clear about your available scope of services, working hours, turnaround times and pricing. While there are some areas where they can be more flexible and adapt to a client’s specific needs, sophisticated service providers should primarily stick with a set of core processes, systems and protocols that they work best with for optimum efficiency and results.

Focus on what you can do exceptionally well and be transparent about what you can't. Put yourself in your client's shoes and understand the intended value of your relationship from their perspective. Also, take time to clearly communicate what you expect of your clients to enable a productive, collaborative relationship.

8 Time- & Money-Saving Technology Tips for Small Businesses

Note: This blog first appeared in the Arlington Chamber of Commerce Blog.

In managing your small business, you're always looking for ways to boost efficiency, reduce costs, increase profitability and improve performance. The right software solutions can allow you to do all of that and more.

At Supporting Strategies, we often steer clients toward software and other technology solutions that help them run their business better. Here are eight examples. 

1) QuickBooks Online
Remember the huge improvement you gained in efficiency by switching from paper-based bookkeeping to QuickBooks for your desktop? (And if you're still using paper-based bookkeeping, we really need to talk.) Well, as Georgean Schmidt, Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | Central Ohio, noted in a recent blog, the upgrade from the desktop version of QuickBooks to QuickBooks Online (QBO) can be just as dramatic.

Before You Ask for Money, Make Sure Your Records Are Right

If you need funding to take your business to the next level, it's vital that you button up your financials at this level first. Make sure your records are organized and complete to help the process proceed smoothly.

Here are some of the common issues that can jeopardize a funding round.

  • Misstated revenues: Deliberately misstating revenues — such as recording sales before you've received payment — constitutes fraud. And even if you misstate revenues through ignorance rather than by design, prospective investors will take an exceedingly dim view of it.

  • Misclassified expenses:
    If you run a business, you might be tempted to use the company's credit card or checking account to purchase a personal item, with the idea that you'll reimburse the company later. But if even one of those expenses ends up being charged to the company, that undermines the integrity of your entire financial history.

Time-Saving Tax Preparation Tips to Close out the Year

Staring down tax-related deadlines can be the stuff of nightmares if you haven't prepared in advance. Taking a few simple steps sooner rather than later will make life a little easier for your small business this coming tax season.

Here are our essential time-saving tax preparation tips to close out 2017:

  1. Clean up your vendor records. Confirm that you have W-9 forms on file for all vendors. Plus, merge duplicate vendors and deem as "inactive" any vendors that have gone unused for two years.

  2. Collect W-9s. Each time you take on a new vendor, be sure to collect a W-9 form to determine eligibility for 1099 status. In fact, make submission of a W-9 a requirement before issuing the first check — you'll find vendors will comply faster. When requesting W-9s manually, don't use email (which is notoriously non-secure). Rather, use a tool like Track1099, which allows you to request, obtain and store W-9s securely.

Year-End Financial Reporting Can Make or Break a Small Business

Yes, a competent and reliable bookkeeping team is important at tax time. But that can be just as important at year's end, if not more so. Having clean, audit-ready books will not only help you at tax time, but can also help you prepare accurate budgets as you a build a business blueprint for the coming year.

Garbage in, Garbage Out
That saying is as true of bookkeeping as it is of computer programming. If you've neglected to keep organized, accurate financial records throughout the year, there's only so much your accountant can do for you. Lost a stack of receipts? Forgot to record your mileage last March? Inaccurately logged a sales transaction last summer? You might be out of luck. And even if you're able to enlist a CPA to straighten it all out, it's not a good use of their time or your money.

That's why if you don't have the in-house talent, it's critical to use an outsourced bookkeeping services provider all year long. By establishing thorough, transparent procedures and employing shareable online tools, your bookkeeper will keep an eye on the critical details that business owners often overlook.

Getting the Most out of a Law Firm's Back-Office Budget

If you are starting a law firm, or have an established firm and are looking to expand, you might find invaluable support where you'd least expect it.

Outsourced bookkeeping services.

A Scalable Solution
One of the great challenges for any new law firm is deciding how much to budget for full-time staff. Given the importance of thorough, accurate trust account management, there might be a temptation to bring on a full-time bookkeeper from day one. But if your billable hours are lean early on, you could find yourself with a budget shortfall.

On the other hand, if you try doing the books yourself, or if you delegate the job to a paralegal or office manager, you run the risk of making a crucial mistake with billing or trust accounts.

3 Ways to Survive the January 1099 Blizzard

Note: This blog first appeared in AccountingWEB.

A lot of people assume April is the most stressful time to be an accountant. But if you specialize in accounting for small- to medium-sized businesses, January can be just as bad.

Come January, your clients have barely closed their books for the year, and they have to scramble to distribute their 1099 forms by the end-of-month deadline. And if your clients are scrambling, that means you're scrambling.

Here's a trio of tips to help you protect your sanity when filing that flurry of 1099s.

1. Get Clients to Focus on 1099s All Year Long
The 1099 season was bad enough when clients had a cushion between the filing deadline for distributing 1099s to vendors and the filing deadline for the IRS. Starting in 2016, though, employers had to submit 1099s for "non-employee compensation" (a.k.a. "box 7") not only to their independent contractors but also to the IRS by the same deadline, January 31. That's eliminated any margin for error.

The End is Near – Stop Procrastinating and Start Planning

As we inch closer to the end of another year, now is a great time to think about how you’re running your business. Have you been putting things off because you don’t enjoy doing them or you think, “I’ve got plenty of time to get that done”?

In general, people tend to procrastinate about tasks they don’t enjoy performing. Unfortunately, for most business owners, one of the tasks that frequently tops that list is bookkeeping. Without good, up-to-date books and accounting procedures in place, any plans you make for the future will not be accurate.

It’s not too late—now is a great time to reflect, catch up, and plan.

They've Redesigned Clio — and It Works Great with QBO

At Supporting Strategies, we're always on the lookout for industry-specific software integrations that can improve bookkeeping efficiency. Clio, which is designed for the legal profession, is a great example.

A New State of the Art
If your law firm isn't already using the cloud, you need to make the switch now — particularly if you have a startup or a small independent outfit. My colleague Pete Denholm already made a case for the cloud, with an airtight argument that would make any lawyer proud. So rather than relitigate that topic, I'm going to focus solely on the advantages of Clio.

Why Clio? "If you are shopping for law practice management software for your firm," lawyerist.com noted in a five-star review, "Clio should be on your short list of options to test."

Case Study: Freeing Up Busy Software Startup to Focus on Growth

Investment banker Mark Quigley founded Deziner Software in 2014 to help entrepreneurs land investors. He quickly realized that building his own successful business meant optimizing the use of his time, with the help of reliable partnerships. Enter Supporting Strategies.

Filling the Missing Link
Quigley is exceptionally talented at identifying the missing link in a startup's success story — and filling it. In 2014 he launched Deziner Software to help entrepreneurs create custom business plans and tailor proposals for potential investors.

As he built his business, Quigley grew active in networking circles, where he connected with members of the Supporting Strategies | Chicago Far West Suburbs leadership team. He took particular note of the Supporting Strategies outsourced bookkeeping model, knowing he'd soon be ready to reap the benefits of their services.

Bookkeeping Services and CFOs: Which Do You Need When?

If you're wondering whether your business needs a bookkeeping service, it probably does. If you're wondering whether it needs a chief financial officer (CFO), that answer is a little more complicated.

Even the smallest of small businesses needs professional bookkeeping. There are simply too many ways you can get yourself in trouble, either with cash flow or with the IRS, if you don't follow the proper protocols. And while you can certainly learn to do it yourself, chances are you'll be too busy with other aspects of running the business to risk spreading yourself too thin and perhaps making a critical error.

What Is a CFO?
The first thing you need to know about CFOs is what their job is. Unlike a bookkeeper, a CFO generally doesn't get involved with day-to-day record keeping. It is the CFO's job, however, to ensure the company's financial records are complete and accurate. These numbers are the foundation of your company's future. They must be solid.

6 Information Security Tips for Your Small Business

At Supporting Strategies, we're committed to staying on the front lines in the fight against hackers. We encourage small businesses to do likewise, and there's no shortage of advice available on the web when it comes to installing the latest antivirus software.

But it's a mistake to assume that simply installing antivirus software ensures your small business' information security system is impregnable. No software can safeguard against the greatest threat: human error. You and your employees must remain ever vigilant. Here are six tips to help.

1. Be Sure Every Computer Is Secured
This applies on two levels. First, all computers — desktops, laptops, tablets — must be physically secure with a lock or some other device. On that note, employees should never leave a laptop or tablet unattended in a car, hotel room, airport lounge or anywhere else, no matter for how short a time period.

How to Integrate Manufacturing and Bookkeeping

Manufacturing is a complicated business. The actual manufacturing is often the simplest part. It's all the other steps that make it so challenging.

For example, you have to locate a supply of raw materials at a reasonable price. In addition, you have to plan your inventory so you avoid a costly overstock that will leave you strapped for cash, but also keep up with demand so you don't lose prospective sales. Add inventory storage and shipping, along with all the bookkeeping requirements that are part of any business, and — well, again, it's complicated.

Software Solutions
At Supporting Strategies, we noted in an earlier post that QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise Advanced Inventory is an ideal solution for a small manufacturing enterprise (SME) whose greatest challenge is integrating inventory tracking with bookkeeping.

Case Study: Helping an Overseas Firm Establish a U.S. Subsidiary

In 2016, Autex Acoustics, a New Zealand-based company that uses sophisticated fiber technology to manufacture ceiling tiles, panels and flooring, decided to open a U.S. sales subsidiary. They needed help navigating complex regulatory filings and tax codes. Supporting Strategies provided that — and more.

Flattening the Learning Curve
The United States was the key market in Autex Acoustics' planned international expansion. But the company feared their lack of familiarity with U.S. regulations could disrupt that effort. "The U.S. is so different from our other markets, and we really had a steep learning curve," says Phil Goodin, Autex Acoustics' General Manager in North America.

Supporting Strategies stepped in to help. "We've had to lean heavily on Supporting Strategies to make sure the taxes and filings were set up," Goodin says. "They've also helped us navigate all the different rules state by state." In addition, Supporting Strategies helped Autex Acoustics clear various logistical hurdles, such as setting up merchant card-processing services so the company could accept credit card sales in the United States.

Staying in Business When Your Business Is Interrupted

Supporting Strategies has addressed the importance of disaster readiness for small businesses in recent posts by Pete Denholm, Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | Northeast Florida and Andy Hale, Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | Austin and Dallas. But it's important for business owners to understand that it doesn't necessarily take a widespread natural disaster to shut a company down.

Unfortunately, even a small, localized event can have disastrous consequences. In fact, small disasters can be even more devastating because, unlike major hurricanes, they often happen without warning.

A Flood from Above
Let's say a pipe bursts on an upper floor in your building over the weekend and water leaks down to your ground-level office. The damage is significant enough to shut your physical place of business down for a week or two. How will you stay up and running while your office is closed?

Deductive Reasoning: A Deferred Revenue Detective Story

Multiple sales platforms and fulfillment centers enable ecommerce companies to accumulate revenue through a variety of channels. But the hodgepodge of reporting timeframes, formats and protocols can create a nightmare for any company committed to following GAAP-compliant revenue recognition and inventory reconciliation processes.

Recently, Supporting Strategies | Los Angeles partnered with a client that purchases large quantities of inventory at a time. The company then sells the products through various channels and collects upfront payments from many customers before shipping fulfillment. (This business model requires that we record the company's revenue and expenses on an accrual basis rather than a simple cash basis.)

Case Study: Becoming a CPA's Trusted Partner

Boston-area CPA firm Moody, Famiglietti & Andronico (MFA) found a bookkeeping resource they can trust in Supporting Strategies.

The Need for Consistent Bookkeeping
Moody, Famiglietti & Andronico (MFA), like many CPA firms, relies on clean, consistent, audit-ready financials from their clients. Working with books that are missing information can cause delays, unexpected work, and additional cost. One way to ensure consistency is to provide bookkeeping services directly to your clients. However, this may not make business sense for many CPA firms.

Referring your clients to a bookkeeping services provider is a great solution—if it’s a company you can trust.

Better Bookkeeping Practices for Nonprofit Organizations

To maintain good financial health, nonprofit organizations should adopt the same bookkeeping best practices as for-profit organizations.

Here are some simple bookkeeping tips to help keep your nonprofit on the plus side of the ledger.

Get with the (Software) Program
There's no shortage of bookkeeping software you can use at your nonprofit. However, you should also consider applications that will integrate with your accounting software to drive operational efficiencies through workflow automation. If you haven't already graduated from using basic accounting software, now is the time to do so.

Case Study: Finding the Right Outsourced Bookkeeping Solution for a Law Firm

A law firm set up their bookkeeping processes right by hiring professional bookkeeping resources. However, they found that bookkeeping services are not all the same — and they needed to rethink their approach to find a successful solution.

Losing Billable Time
Founded outside Boston in 2002, Company Counsel is a boutique law firm that provides virtual general counsel services to emerging companies, venture funds and angel investor groups.

As their business grew, Company Counsel tried the

 same outsourced approach with their bookkeeping and operational support, working with individual bookkeepers and then a small bookkeeping company. However, the firm's partners were soon spending too much time handling operational matters and answering questions from the bookkeepers — time that could be better spent on client work.

Ensuring DCAA Compliance for 8(a)-Certified Businesses

If your company was formed through the Small Business Administration's 8(a) Business Development Program, you're in excellent position to secure government contracts — just like major defense contractors.

That's the good news. The bad news? You'll be required to meet Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) requirements — just like major defense contractors.

Get Your Foot in the Door (Without Getting It Slammed)
When people think of defense contractors, they tend to think of companies like Lockheed Martin, the international corporation whose core business is supplying sophisticated technology systems to the U.S. government. It's no surprise that Lockheed Martin has to contend with massive amounts of red tape. (The company is subject to 70 different DCAA audits.) But with an estimated 97,000 employees, Lockheed Martin is also large enough to maintain a dedicated staff to focus strictly on compliance issues.

Fall Bootcamp Series: Business Fundamentals Bootcamp

Hosted by Supporting Strategies, the Business Fundamentals Bootcamp is designed for the CEOs and CXOs of early- and growth-stage companies. The events include speakers and panelists who lend their expertise on tactical issues and opportunities for growing businesses focused on topics in marketing, finance, law and human resources. View the full schedule online and register to join us at one of these events.

What Is Cryptocurrency, and How Does It Work?

If your business isn't already conducting transactions in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency, it probably will be eventually. Here's what you need to know.

The biggest differences between cryptocurrency and conventional currency are that cryptocurrency isn't issued by a specific government, and there are no banks serving as middlemen when cryptocurrency "tokens" are traded from one party to another.

In the traditional banking system:

    • First, a government's central bank issues money in the form of their national currency.
    • Then people invest in that government's currency by trading it for other foreign currencies or by accepting it as a form of payment for goods and services.
    • When one party wants to pay money to another party using a check, a credit card, automated clearing house (ACH) or wire transfer, the payer's bank records the transaction in its own ledger, and the recipient's bank records the same transaction in its own separate ledger.
    • Each day, all the banks around the world spend a substantial amount of time and resources comparing their respective ledgers with each other to agree on how much money each bank has to transfer between the other banks to settle their customers' trade debts.

Case Study: High-Tech Bookkeeping Support for a High-Tech Firm

To keep pace with its robust growth, Solarus Technologies needed an upgrade from its legacy desktop bookkeeping technology.

The challenge for the IT support provider was to integrate an online interface between ConnectWise, the industry-standard software among IT service professionals, and QuickBooks Online, the leading software provider for in-the-cloud accounting.

Solarus Cofounder and President Matthew Nikravesh turned to Supporting Strategies for a solution. After reaching out through its extensive in-house email support network, Supporting Strategies | North Shore Long Island recommended Wise-Sync, an app created for the specific integration challenge at hand. That enabled the development of a customized platform tailored to Solarus' growing needs.

"With us, it's all about gaining efficiencies through technology," Nikravesh says. "That's exactly what Supporting Strategies helps us do."

Are You Up to Date on New York State's Tax Changes?

In April, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the approval of a 2018 budget that included straightforward tax cuts for the middle class along with more complex fiscal measures. Let's unpack how those changes affect accounting professionals and tax preparers.

Sweeping Personal Income Tax Cuts
The tax cuts, also called the Middle Class Recovery Act, will eventually benefit 6 million New Yorkers. The cuts apply to two income brackets: those making between $40,000 and $150,000 a year and those making between $150,000 and $300,000 a year.

The lower bracket will see a reduction of 0.12% a year, reducing the rate from 6.45% to 5.5% by 2025. Those in the higher bracket will be see a reduction of 0.08% over the same time period, decreasing their rate from 6.65% to 6%.

Can Your Business Finances Weather a Natural Disaster?

With two major storms, Harvey and Irma, already having made landfall in the United States this hurricane season, it's a good time for small businesses to put emergency financial preparedness top-of-mind. After all, research has shown that 90% of businesses fail within a year of being taken offline by a natural disaster if they're unable to reopen within just five days.

Having spent 10 years building and implementing disaster recovery plans for several Fortune 100 companies with headquarters in Texas and offices/distribution centers throughout North America, I've seen how basic preparation can save lives, save business assets and speed up the recovery effort.  In a previous blog post, my colleague Pete Denholm, who is based in Florida, outlined the basics of a business continuity plan, such as storing financial records in the cloud.

Bookkeeping for Nonprofits: What Constitutes a 'Fundraiser'?

Not all events that raise funds are fundraisers. If you operate a nonprofit, it's critical that you know the difference. Because holding an event that isn't properly identified and recorded appropriately in the general ledger could cause problems for you down the road.

Here are a few things you need to know.

Is the Event Tax-Deductible?
Nonprofits have lots of ways to raise money. Awards banquets, raffles, "fun runs" — there's no shortage of creative ideas.

Whether you call an event a "fundraiser" matters less than whether any of the amount guests pay to attend is tax-deductible. Organizations should always publish a full disclosure (on invitations, electronic media, etc.) of all information related to tax-deductibility. This is usually done through fine print with wording such as this: "Amounts over $xx are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law. (Organization name) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, federal tax ID number xx-xxxxxxx."

Hartford's Maher Connects with Central Conn. Businesses

Since becoming Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | Hartford in May 2016, Tanya Maher has helped the company establish a positive presence in Central Connecticut. Recently, she was featured as a West Hartford Chamber of Commerce (CoC) Spotlight on Success recipient and was interviewed by the Innovation Hartford website.

The Value of Networking
"I was really inspired to see this large group of people who were dedicated to building their businesses," Tanya says in the Spotlight on Success video, explaining the value of joining the West Hartford CoC. It's a prime example of how Supporting Strategies franchisees can quickly establish themselves by networking with other small-business owners.

"We really do view ourselves as their partner," she adds, emphasizing the collaborative nature of the relationship between Supporting Strategies and its clients.

Case Study: Guiding a Business from Startup Through Ramp-up

In 2016 EV Connect reached a critical point in its development. The California company, which provides a cloud-based platform for electric vehicle charging stations, had evolved from a startup to a mature company with millions of dollars' worth of contracts.

Bootstrap bookkeeping was no longer enough. The company needed more robust support, from establishing efficient, scalable accounting processes and improved financial reporting to cash flow management and strategic financial planning. Essentially, the company needed a bookkeeper, a controller, and a CFO, but it couldn't afford three full-time staff members for each of these roles.

The solution? Establish outsourced support for financial leadership, streamlined bookkeeping services, and small business operations.

Do You Need Key-Person Insurance for Your Small Business?

Just as life insurance can protect a family from financial distress if the head of a household dies unexpectedly, key-person insurance can help a small business survive the untimely death of its owner or a crucial employee.

In fact, key-person insurance is life insurance. The only difference is that instead of providing benefits to the deceased's family, the policy provides money to the deceased's place of business. What the business does with those death benefits depends on the circumstances.

Can Your Business Live Without You?
If you work strictly for yourself, the question of key-person insurance is moot. When you die, so does your business. (You should have a conventional life insurance policy to protect your family, however.) But if you have one or more employees, you ought to consider how your sudden death would impact them.

4 People Who Will Help Grow Your Business

I’ve run in to a few business owners who are foggy about the different finance professionals who help businesses make money and grow. It’s not that surprising; unless you’ve owned a business or worked in accounting or business finance, why would you know about their roles?

However, these professionals are critical to the success of your business, so let’s take a look at each.

What Does a Bookkeeper Do?
Bookkeepers are business historians; they track what has already happened. They look at all the transactions that have occurred within a defined period and organize them. This activity provides the data needed to create basic accounting reports (e.g. income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements).

Case Study: Solving Both Bookkeeping & CRM Issues at Once

Westwind Recovery Residences needed help with bookkeeping, financial reporting, cash management, and also with customer relationship management (CRM).

The organization never expected to find a single solution for all of this…until they met the Supporting Strategies team.

Growing Pains
Westwind is part of a group that operates 16 sober living homes in the Los Angeles area. Soon after its founding in 2014, the company started experiencing rapid growth. While that was a welcome development, it also stressed the company's finances. "It became clear that we could no longer run the business based on how much cash we had on hand," said Westwind Co-Owner and Intake Coordinator Justin Wells.

Business Changes Can Lead to Bookkeeping Challenges

At every growth stage, companies tend to accentuate the positive and project the best possible outcome for investors. But as any good business attorney knows, most investors also want to minimize risk by eliminating as many unknowns as possible. The best way to do that is by preparing solid financial records.

Here's a look at what should be a company's top financial priorities at each stage.

Planning a Successful Launch
Even small businesses need to raise funds to get off the ground. Determining how much money you need to get started — and who might be willing to provide it — is one of the most daunting aspects of starting a business. It's important that you secure enough financing not only to open the doors but also to sustain you through the startup phase.

Be Sure to Guard Against a New Online Threat Called PRMitM

At Supporting Strategies, we take great care to protect ourselves and our clients from online hackers. We're committed to training our staff in the latest security protocols and online practices.

Along those lines, we often issue staff bulletins warning of new threats from hackers. For the benefit of readers of this blog, we've decided to publicly share information from one of these recent bulletins. Please read on to learn about a dangerous new online hazard.

Beware of PRMitM
We all have online accounts that require personal information for password-recovery purposes, such as "mother's maiden name." Hackers have devised a way to steal that information to hijack your account. It's called PRMitM, for "Password Reset Man-in-the-Middle."

Streamlining a Nonprofit’s Operational and Financial Processes

Meals on Wheels West (MOWW), a nonprofit based in Santa Monica, California, was looking for something more than data entry from its bookkeeping services provider. As a nonprofit, it needed someone who understood the nuances of bookkeeping for nonprofits, could implement systems to streamline the audit process, and prepare detailed financial information for their Board of directors.

MOWW delivers more than 80,000 healthy meals and services per year to the coastal communities near Los Angeles. Supporting Strategies | Los Angeles assigned their Nonprofit Practice Leader, with 30 years of nonprofit expertise, to evaluate MOWW’s needs.

Why Monthly Bookkeeping Is Important for Startups

Note: This blog first appeared in the Arlington Chamber of Commerce Blog.

When you're overwhelmed with all the details of launching a startup, it's easy to convince yourself that you can figure out the bookkeeping later. But "later" might be too late to save your business.

Before you launch, it's important to determine how you'll track your company's financial health on a monthly basis. Regular reports can not only alert you to potential financial problems, but also help you chart the most direct course to growth and profitability.

Why Smart Law Firms Use the Cloud for Case Management

Large law firms have long had advantages over new or small law firms — an established name, existing clients, support staff and resources. But newer technology has helped level the playing field for small law firms when it comes to system infrastructure and management.

Small startups are often in a better position to take advantage of cloud-based case-management and accounting software. Harness the power of the cloud, and your firm can move with speed and efficiency well beyond your numbers.

A Case Management System Case Study
Let's say your firm lands a new client that posts an initial $10,000 deposit to handle their case. That money immediately is recorded in the trust account on your case-management system. From that point on, every increment of time, whether it's 15 hours or 15 minutes, gets logged into the case-management system for that particular case. The time of anyone at your firm who is working on the case is recorded at the appropriate billable rate. You can also invoice your clients directly out of that system while accounting for all relevant expenses.

Fight Burnout with Bookkeeping

The bootstrapped solopreneurs of New York City impress me. You can balance sales, marketing, operations and administration: you're all warriors and you have my respect. As your clients multiply there comes a time when you need to let go of some of your responsibilities. Giving up control can be scary, we get it, but so is burnout. Let's look at a common scenario.

Weekend Bookkeeping
Here is a story we often hear from solopreneurs: you just finished a super productive week. Suddenly it's Sunday and you must choose between spending time with your friends or family, doing client work or catching up on administrative tasks.

The solution? Outsource the tasks that someone else can do better, and focus on building your business and fitting in relaxation time with friends and family.

Presenting Financials to a Nonprofit's Board of Directors

Nonprofits pose a special challenge to providers of bookkeeping services. The financials are complex and multilayered — and they must be presented to a board of directors that often lacks financial expertise and experiences frequent turnover.

Because maintaining a variety of funding streams (public, private, grants, events, etc.) is vital to a nonprofit's survival, the ability to make clear, easy-to-follow presentations is critical.

Strike the Right Tone
A good nonprofit financial presentation is a tightrope act. You have to balance a high-level overview with enough specifics at the individual program level for the board to carry out its fiduciary responsibility and achieve the organization's mission.

Networking Tips for Small Business Owners

Growing a business involves many tasks that aren't directly related to the core product or service that you're selling. From bookkeeping and operations management to raising capital and sales and marketing, small business owners wear many hats! As Director of Strategic Accounts for Supporting Strategies | Los Angeles, I've heard from a number of emerging business owners that one of their biggest challenges is networking.

Networking is a great way to build your business, whether you're looking to raise money, recruit talent, find new customers or establish strategic partnerships. And just like business owners can learn how to read a profit and loss statement, they can also learn how to make the most of a networking event.

Midyear Tax Preparation Tips

Depending on how they're structured, different businesses have different tax-filing requirements at different times of the year. But regardless of the type of business you have, taking the following steps at midyear will help ensure you're ready come tax time.

Keep Up to Date on Your IRS Forms
Many small businesses rely on a network of "service providers" — e.g. accountants, electricians, contract laborers — in addition to full-time employees. If you pay an unincorporated service provider more than $600 during the year, you must provide them with a 1099 form at the end of the year. It is good practice to have all new service providers fill out a W-9 form before paying their first bill. Take the time now to make sure you have a W-9 form for each service provider. If the service provider is a corporation, then there's no need to send a 1099, with one exception: All attorneys (paid more than $600) need a 1099 whether they're incorporated or not.



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