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Why is Segregation of Duties Important in My Accounting Department?


Part 1 of 3
By Bob Swetz
Controller Consultant | Tier One Services, LLC
“Every business needs to be protected in order to survive and thrive.”

What is segregation of duties?
Segregation of duties is the concept of splitting key duties within the same accounting function among multiple personnel. For example, printing, checks and signing checks are in the same accounting function. Ideally, these duties should be performed by separate staff members.

Why is it important?
Allowing the same staff member to perform all or most of the duties in the same function creates an opportunity for that person to cover up improprieties. Let’s take the case referred to above and say that one staff accountant enters vendor bills, writes the checks for those bills, mails them and then to top it off does the bank reconciliation. That staff member could easily write checks to themselves, cash the checks and mark them as cleared in the bank reconciliation without anyone ever knowing about it.
It’s important to remember that controls such as adequate segregation of duties are not intended to point fingers or suggest someone is doing something wrong, they are just good business practice to safeguard the organization’s assets.

I have a small accounting department, so what can I do?
Creating and maintaining adequate segregation of duties is probably the most difficult control challenge a small organization faces. Check out how to face this challenge with a one-person accounting department in Part 2 of my series, How to Segregate Duties with Only One Accountant.

How to Consolidate Financial Statements from Multiple QuickBooks Files

 

Two ways to consolidate are:

EXCEL TRIAL BALANCES

[1] Export all trial balances to Excel, position them on the same tab but each below the previous one, tag add a column to tag each account with the entity name, combine the DR and CR into one DR (CR) column.
[2] Create your financial statements with your desired accounts and headings
[3] On your tab with the trial balances, create a column called Balance Sheet and assign a B/S account from your B/S page by linking to it…for all line items. Add another column for Income Statement Accounts.
Be sure to skip all intercompany accounts.
[4] On your financials, use the SUMIF function to pull from the columns on the T/B tab using your mapping.

Pros: You can easy-to-update, professional-looking consolidated financials.
Con: It takes a while to set up the first time.

 

QUICKBOOKS ENTERPRISE

[1] Make sure the Charts of Accounts are identical across all 3 entities for any accounts that you wish to consolidate. Account number, spelling, parent/sub status.
[2] Also make sure that any intercompany accounts are all on the same line, i.e. if you have an asset in one and a liability in the other, change one of them to an asset before consolidating.
[3] Use the tool in the Reports menu to consolidate.

Pro: Doesn’t take a lot of time.
Cons: You have to set up those intercompany accounts each time so they get zeroed out, and you end up with consolidated financials that are in Excel and are very cheesy-looking.

The Development Conundrum

Development Conundrum
I recently heard from a nonprofit leader who wished to hire a Development professional but was held back by a struggling financial status. However, the leader didn’t have enough time to devote to development activities personally.
It is worth exploring your organization’s financial status…exploring whether you can free up the capital to bring in a development manager or director.
From the perspective of the accounting department, common reasons why nonprofit organizations suffer financially include:
GRANTS/EXPENSES
  • overspending of grants >>> arises from no one giving you real-time financial clarity to manage grant spending
  • grant expenditures being denied by the grantor >>> arises from you not receiving receipts and other expense documentation in real time
  • portions of salaries being denied by the grantor >>> arises from no one knowing how to (or having the time to) allocate salaries and document the rationale for that
  • salaries unreimbursed by the grantor >>> arises from no one knowing how to efficiently create a clear, formal method for allocating salaries to grants
GRANTS/INCOME
  • grant money coming in too many days after grant funds were spent >>> arises from no one with the time to place follow-up calls to grantors
  • invoices to grantors sent out too many days after the grant funds were spent >>> arises from not having the information that you need in real-time, such as expenses incurred during the month
DAILY SPENDING
  • unauthorized spending >>> arises from lack of policies and/or not keeping the conversation of fiscal responsibility alive and vibrant with employees with organizational credit/debit cards, and/or lack of real-time monitoring of spending
  • overspending >>> arises from lack of real-time clarity regarding how much is available
PLEDGES
  • not materializing >>> arises from no technology being used to automate payments, pledges receivable not being tracked anywhere, and/or no one tasked with following up on pledges receivable
RISK
  • don’t feel like you’re getting an ROI from each team member >>> arises from misaligning salary structure and salary level with job duties/job performance/job level
  • theft >>> arises from weak internal controls, which are policies and procedures designed
TIME
  • Good people are not fulfilling their roles >>> arises from higher-paid employees spending time on tasks that could be delegated to a team member who costs less…or delegated to technology…or avoided altogether if steps hadn’t been skipped or done incorrectly in a process
  • Overpaying hourly employees >>> arises from weak internal controls over documentation of the number of hours actually worked

Five Ways to Ring in 2018

Happy new year! January is the month of new beginnings and a perfect time to strategize about projects that will boost your business prosperity. Here are five ideas to get you thinking about new beginnings for your business in 2018.

1.Learn new technology.

Every year, tens of thousands of new online software applications are invented that will save us time and money. Learning at least one new app will keep us sharp and hopefully improve our business. There are many to choose from, and one way to narrow it down is to find one that will help you do your job better.

Look for an app that supports your administrative work, such as a new phone system, video conferencing, scheduling, cloud storage, shipping, document management, or data entry automation. Or you might have a need for apps in marketing and sales, such as social media, customer relationship managers, email list management, or web applications. If you’re not sure where to look, ask your friends what has saved them the most time.

2.Upgrade your accounting system.

If your accounting system is not updated to the current version, it may be time to perform the upgrade. Check with us for advice on the current version and any new features that you can benefit from.

3. Develop your 2018 prosperity plan.

The word “budget” has somewhat of a negative connotation, but a prosperity plan sounds like fun. They are the same, of course, and the idea is to determine what goals you want to reach so that you have a clear path to making your desired prosperity a reality.

4. Create a theme or mantra.

Want to stay more focused in 2018? A theme or mantra can remind you to stay on track with a particular project or goal. Brainstorm a phrase that will guide you in 2018. Here are some examples:

  • Customer service excellence
  • More me-time
  • Enthusiastic, engaged employees
  • Expanding digital presence
  • Going green
  • A prosperous new product line

5. Delegate something that isn’t getting done.

One way to feel amazingly rejuvenated and re-energized about your business is to give someone an item that’s been on your to-do list for far too long. It magically gets done right before your eyes!

We’re wishing you a most prosperous and happy new year.

How to Write Your Mission Statement

Mission statements are not just for large corporations. As an owner of a small business, you can benefit from going through the exercise of writing your mission statement. It can not only re-connect you with your “why,” it can also communicate an important part of your business to all of your stakeholders.

What Is a Mission Statement?

A mission statement answers the question “What impact will you have on the world?” It’s your core purpose, your reason for being.

Here are a couple of mission statement examples from large companies you’ve probably heard of:

Harley-Davidson: We fulfill dreams through the experience of motorcycling, by providing to motorcyclists and to the general public an expanding line of motorcycles and branded products and services in selected market segments.

Darden Restaurants:  To nourish and delight everyone we serve.

FedEx will produce superior financial returns for shareowners by providing high value-added supply chain, transportation, business and related information services through focused operating companies. Customer requirements will be met in the highest quality manner appropriate to each market segment served. FedEx will strive to develop mutually rewarding relationships with its employees, partners and suppliers. Safety will be the first consideration in all operations. Corporate activities will be conducted to the highest ethical and professional standards.

Ford: We are a global family with a proud heritage passionately committed to providing personal mobility for people around the world.

Levi-Strauss: People love our clothes and trust our company. We will market the most appealing and widely worn casual clothing in the world. We will clothe the world.

At Microsoft, we work to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential. This is our mission. Everything we do reflects this mission and the values that make it possible.

NIKE: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.

The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. Using our portfolio of brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world.

A mission statement differs from a vision statement because a vision statement communicates what the company wants to be.

Ask yourself what your business’s core purpose is.  What is the impact you want to have on the world?  Once you know, you’ll be able to write your own mission statement.

Sharing Your Mission Statement

There are many ways you can share you mission statement.

  • Make sure your employees know it.
  • Display it in the About section of your website.
  • Add it to your marketing material where appropriate.
  • Use it when recruiting for new employees.
  • If it’s short, use it on promotional items such as mugs and t-shirts.
  • Frame it and hang it in your office.
  • Mention it in speeches you give.

A mission statement is something to be proud of and something that should make people smile. Yours should motivate and energize you. Once you’ve written yours or if you already have one, be sure to share it with us.

How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

The security breach at Equifax a few months ago left many people thinking once again about identity theft. The best thing is to do everything you can to prevent it from happening to you. Here are a few tips to help you reduce your risk of being a victim of identity theft as well as how to reduce the damage from security breaches of your personal data from sources you can’t control.

Discontinue paper statements that are mailed. 

Paper bank, brokerage, and credit card statements that are mailed can be misboxed, intercepted, lost, or stolen, and the information can fall into dishonest hands. Instead, discontinue paper statements, and access them via your online account where you can review, print, or save them each month for your records.

Rent a private mail box.

If you have trouble with mail theft in your area and can’t check your mailbox as soon as the mail is delivered, consider renting a post office box or a private mail box. These are especially handy if you travel a lot or have many packages delivered and no one is home to sign for them. They cost up to $300 per year, and you can find them at places like The UPS Store, Mailboxes Etc., Postal Annex, or your local post office.

Shred your trash.

If you throw out junk mail offers for new credit cards or bank accounts, be sure to shred that paper and anything else that might contain private information.

Don’t email secure data. 

Credit card numbers, social security numbers, and passwords should not be sent via email unless the email is encrypted or secure. The odds of something happening are low, but could happen.

Use different passwords for different account groups. 

Even the most secure-minded person uses the same password for many different accounts. You can too, but be smart about it. Use a unique password for your bank that you don’t use anywhere else. You might use the same password for all of your social media accounts because it’s just easier. Or another one for all of your free accounts; just don’t use those for any banking or credit card activity. Be smart about your password use, and make your password difficult based on the level of information that is at risk.

Choose hard passwords.

It’s painful, but choosing long, hard passwords can help throw off thieves. Include at least one capital letter, one special character, and one number in your password.  Make it nice and long. And don’t use common words, your birthday, parts of your social security, or your phone number in your password.  When it’s provided, use a random password generator.  And don’t let your browser automatically save your banking passwords for you.

Close inactive accounts.

If you no longer use an account you signed up for, close it rather than let it linger. It will reduce your risk. Be mindful, though; if you close some credit card accounts, your credit score could be adversely affected even if there has been no activity for a while.

Consider freezing your credit.

If you don’t need a new credit card or loan or are not planning a large purchase soon, consider freezing your credit. When you credit is frozen or secure, no one can run checks against it. Any identity thieves would not be able to take a loan out in your name.

Avoid unsecure wifi.

Although the ambience is nice at a Starbucks, the wifi is not secure, and connecting and doing your work all day long there is a big security risk.

Monitor all account activity.

Check your bank and credit card accounts frequently, and turn on all alerts and fraud notifications. You can turn on alerts for when transactions exceed a dollar amount and when your bank balance goes below a certain amount. Getting emails or text messages on your activity can help you stay on top of things.

Consider identity theft insurance.

Identity theft insurance is now common, and you can get it and fraud protection for your business as well as for individuals. If you are a victim, it reimburses you for the cost of restoring your credit. Check with your local insurance agent for more information.

We hope it never happens to you. Try these tips to reduce your risk of identity theft.

Giving a Workshop? How to Short Yourself in One Easy Step

 

Pricing your workshop by using your materials cost as a point of comparison is an approach that is likely to leave money on the table and keep yet another entrepreneur playing small-time by default, all for lack of design.
Long ago, I made the mistake of using my costs as a determining factor for my price point. I practically gave away my product because my materials cost was tiny…but my expertise was exceptional.
Consider the following:
Charge what the market will bear.
See what other people in the area have charged for similar workshops. If it’s more than you were contemplating, yippee! Charge market rates if your audience is the same and your value proposition is the same.
Be aware of who you’re attracting to your workshop and what’s in it for them so you can decide who you want to attract and put together language accordingly.
When you attract people to your workshop who stand to make a financial gain (make or save money) by coming to your workshop, this can drive up the price.
When you attract people to your workshop who stand to save time by coming, then if the opportunity cost of their time is worth anything, this can drive up the price.
Your opportunity here is to decide who your audience is and then tailor your workshop message to help them realize the real value that’s on offer.
Take into account the relationship of risk to price.
The lower the risk for the attendee, the higher the price can be. There are many ways to lower risk, such as guarantees. If you want a list, I can start a list.
Take into account the social value of the event and the relationship to price.
Price something at $10 and you’ll attract people who are willing to pay $10. Nothing wrong with that. But you’ll have to generate a lot more volume to cover your house nut, much less create a real profit. If you’re a volume-generating machine and you want to make the results of a $10 workshop available to many people, go for it.
However, don’t believe that this is your only option.
Price the same thing at $5,000 (and have the value proposition aligned with that) and you’ll attract people who want to be in the same room as other people who can pay $5,000 for a workshop.
My point is that you can design how this goes and not assume that it has to be a certain way.

“Compensating” Volunteers in Your Not-For-Profit Organization

Volunteers have their own reasons for devoting their time to your organization. If you’d like to offer them some perks but need to watch the cost of those perks, watch out.
If you have someone in charge of volunteers, it can be tempting for that person to start creating a lot of rules around those perks. Although some people will do this for a power trip or because that’s the only example they know, most people do it out of a well-intentioned desire to keep costs low for the organization.
However, beware: This will chase away volunteers, guaranteed. Don’t overcomplicate and overadminister something that is a huge arbitrage opportunity.
If your organization provides meals, for example, giving a free meal and beverage is a tiny price to pay for the labor required to make it all happen. Tiny. There’s your arbitrage, turning a tiny financial cost into a huge benefit. Don’t go making rules about which food they can eat or how many cups of coffee they can drink.
Find other ways to increase revenues and reduce costs. When reducing costs, choose expenditures with the greatest financial impact and the least benefit impact.
Start by looking at your financial statements for the greatest cost areas.
Typical cost areas that are worth looking at include:
* office supplies
* leases
* number of users for a technology subscription
* memberships that aren’t being utilized
* items that get renewed automatically on a monthly or annual basis
* insurances
* penalties being paid for being out of compliance
* bank fees
* costs related to having everything on paper instead of paperless back-office operations
* income tax preparation and/or independent audit services – can cost less if your internal staff does work that doesn’t require correcting by the tax preparer and/or auditor (who typically cost more)
* any outside services for which you are paying someone hourly – this is a misalignment of the service provider’s interests with your organization’s interests
* lost opportunities to get not-for-profit rates on technology, products, and services
Which areas might be available to help your not-for-profit save some money this budget cycle?

After the Storm

 

Be careful of working with contractors and repair professionals who might be overwhelmed with business after a natural disaster.
Not everyone has a solid business model; many small business owners act without planning and then get into trouble. There are too many entrepreneurs who say “yes” to too much work, they don’t manage their receivables, they don’t forecast and plan their cash inflows and outflows…
…they’re paying for labor and materials on time but the insurance companies or other customers are slow to pay them…
…and then *your* project stops without warning because this has multiplied in a dramatic business uptick and they’re insolvent.
There’s a name for this. It’s called “growing themselves out of business.”
Business owners aren’t going to tell you about this. So when you choose someone, do it on a warm referral, not just based on their quality of their work and the timeliness with which they keep their promises, but also how solid the business itself is.
If YOU’RE the owner of business with a sudden uptick, share your own successful business model with potential customers. Mention your consistent stream of employee candidates who want to work for you, your automated hiring and vetting process for employees, your diversified supply chain, your sparkling accounting records and low/no receivables that make your cash flows work, mention that you get a good night’s sleep daily because you have an amazing administrative team, not just the people on the front lines providing the services. (And if you don’t have these, you know how to reach us…don’t you??)
They’re shopping around. You know they are. So share with them the above warnings. Educate them as to what to watch out for with others in the industry, build credibility while you’re doing so, and position you own business as the one to trust.

The Power of Influencer Marketing

One of the hottest buzzwords in marketing this year is influencer marketing. Influencer marketing uses key people in thought leadership positions to spread the word about your brand.  These people may be paid or unpaid spokespersons for your brands, products, and services.

The profitable thing about influencer marketing is the leverage.  Instead of marketing or selling to one person at a time, you are marketing to key leaders with followings who can influence many people at once.

Influencer marketing varies by industry; here are some common examples:

  • Locating photos of your product already on social media and reaching out to those people to do more
  • Hiring a social media expert with a large following to talk about your clothing line
  • Having a prominent lifestyle blogger post a photograph containing your juice product
  • Starting a referral program for a makeup company so “regular” women will spread the word

The common theme to all of the above examples is finding people who have a huge number of followers that just happen to be your ideal customers.

To take advantage of this marketing method, ask yourself who is influential in your industry that has the ear and respect of your customer base. How could you partner with them so it’s a win for you, them, and their following?  You may or may not need to compensate them, depending on their revenue model.

There are plenty of apps to help you locate influencers relevant to you. A favorite is Ninja Outreach at ninjaoutreach.com.

Try reaching out to influencers to leverage your existing marketing and make your marketing dollars go farther.

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CFO and controller services for small and mid-sized businesses in Naples, FL as well as throughout the U.S.

www.tieroneservices.net

844-884-3766 | david@tieroneservices.net

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