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Blogs by Mark Schanen


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

June 2, 2020 / by Mark Schanen posted in Milwaukee, Business Continuity

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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.)

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Adapt Your Business for Tomorrow With Outsourced Bookkeeping

April 28, 2020 / by Mark Schanen posted in Bookkeeping Services, Milwaukee, Business Continuity

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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.

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

April 21, 2020 / by Mark Schanen posted in Milwaukee, Business Continuity

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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.

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Tips for Creating Your 2020 Business Budget

December 10, 2019 / by Mark Schanen posted in Small Business Advice, Bookkeeping Services, Tips for Startups, Business Advice, Milwaukee

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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.

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3 Keys to a Successful Small-Business Launch

January 8, 2019 / by Mark Schanen posted in Small Business Advice, Business Advice, Milwaukee

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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.

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Scary Numbers on Small-Business Fraud

December 20, 2018 / by Mark Schanen posted in Small Business Advice, Bookkeeping Services, Business Advice, Milwaukee

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"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.

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What Does It Take to Finance a Startup?

December 11, 2018 / by Mark Schanen posted in Tips for Startups, Milwaukee

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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.
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Why Your Business Will Benefit from Having a Budget

October 25, 2018 / by Mark Schanen posted in Small Business Advice, Tips for Startups, Milwaukee

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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.

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