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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.

Cash Crunch! Nonprofit Edition

 

The best paths out of a cash crunch depend on the cause of the problem. Some examples are below; I hope one or more is helpful.

We’re going to skip the obvious “Get more grants! Do more fundraising!”

Cause: Solution

Embezzlement: Plug the leak, make them give it back, get a line of credit if necessary to see you through until you do.

Unreimbursed grant expenses: Speed up your processes so you can invoice faster. Engage in faster communications with grantors so they don’t forget about you. Set up electronic inbound payments for the grant funds.

High monthly burn not covered by grants: Take a look at any expenses that aren’t providing the organization with value and cut them. Start with the largest ones, not your deluxe paper clips.

Typical seasonal flux: Consider a line of credit. This financing tool is what a lot of seasonal organizations use to get them through the predictable, seasonal tough times if they haven’t saved up from the abundant times. And next season when the organization has plenty of cash, squirrel more of it into a savings account and then you’ll be your OWN line of credit!

Disallowed grant expenses: Use technology to collect backup documentation so you can submit all of those documents to grantors. For example, use Expensify or Entryless so authorized employees can snap a photo of their receipts or scan them, and send them ultimately to the accounting system. And review grants/authorizations with everyone empowered to spend so no one spends on something not covered by a grant.

Overspending grants: Quickly realign your authorization policies for spending as well as the clarity of your accounting on a grant-by-grant basis. Even basic accounting systems such as QuickBooks and Xero are able to produce an income statement by grant if you set them up to do so.

Do members of a team want a guided approach to complete a project, or be left to their own creativity?

Do team members want a guided approach?

Be absolutely, crystal clear on the problem to be solved by the project.

Be absolutely, crystal clear on what sorts of things matter and don’t matter on the project and what is flexible/not flexible, for example:

  • timeline
  • method for solving the problem
  • technologies used
  • processes used
  • people involved
  • team-level communication channel & schedule
  • what, specifically, constitutes success

Be absolutely, crystal clear on your level of commitment and your “why.”

Then let each team member know that you are (or whoever is) available for whatever degree of support they require to get the job done and enhance their own value.

If a team member wants checklists, provide checklists.

If a team member wants to be left alone to do the work with latitude and independence, provide a deadline and a problem to solve.

If a team member wants daily meetings, provide daily meetings.

If a team member wants to you to be available via IM, be available via IM.

If a team member wants you to review completed milestones, set up a system to be notified of those milestones.

Is it worth it to track inventory quantities, not just dollars?

 

How much money do you stand ready to make & keep from this data?
Uses of quantity-specific inventory information include:
* prevention & detection of theft and loss
* guard against being overcharged by the supplier
* highest ROI on giving of samples
* shaping of messaging & promotion strategy to focus on highest-margin products, not just highest or lowest sale price
* cash flow management from clarity on reorder points so disbursements aren’t accelerated, or on the other end of the spectrum, she isn’t left without product when a customer needs it
* prevention of losses when she has too much of a non-selling or slow-moving product and has to let it go at a fire sale
* once her business is large enough such that she has to file on the accrual basis, you can help her to make sure she’s not paying too much in income taxes (or too little and then pay extra for it later with money and time)
* assist in setting sales targets & plans for achieving those targets
Track.
Profit.
Repeat.

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.

Accepting a Payment Plan from a Donor or Customer

 

If you accept a payment plan in any situation for any reason, bear in mind that risk is something you can play with and not just be subject to.
A payment plan introduces risk into the equation, because it’s replacing a certainty with an uncertainty.
So if you do ever accept a payment plan, propose terms that then reduce your organization’s uncertainty and/or compensate for the additional uncertainty.
Examples:
* AutoPay only
* Weekly payments, not monthly payments
* Pull from their bank account instead of the credit card account – lower fees for your organization – and only pull from the cc account if the bank account pull bounces, and of course if so then include that fee to get reimbursed plus a surcharge to cover the cc fees (check your state’s laws on this).
* Charge a financing fee
In my experience, a lot of organizations suffer for lack of training about how to identify and counter financial risks. My life certainly suffered for it. I did what I knew…and when I knew better, I did better.

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.

Get Ahead on Year-End Tasks

Year-end is just around the corner, and that means a couple of administrative tasks are necessary to take care of bookkeeping and tax chores. Here are a couple of tips to make year-end go smoother.

Cleaning up

Things will go a lot smoother if you reach out to your vendors and employees and get their help to update your records.

  • Send a notice to all employees, asking them to verify their address so they will get their W-2s without delay.
  • Make sure you have the right information for vendors that you need to produce a 1099 for. Before you pay your vendors more than $600 in one year, ask them for a W-9 so that you have a current address and taxpayer ID number on file.
  • Check to make sure you have any sales tax exemption certificates from vendors that you are not charging sales tax to.

It’s also time to clean up any account balances that need to be reclassified or corrected.

  • Any clearing accounts, such as undeposited funds, should be zero.
  • Bank reconciliations should be caught up and book balances should match the bank or be explained.
  • Inventory should be adjusted to reflect accurate quantities.
  • Loan balances should be adjusted to correctly reflect interest and principal allocations.
  • Depreciation entries should be made.

Maximizing deductions

Here are a just a few ways to maximize deductions:

  • Any bad debts that aren’t expected to be collected can be written off.
  • Any inventory that is not saleable or worth less than you paid for it can be adjusted on your books.
  • For cash basis taxpayers, pay any large bills before year-end if you have excess profits.
  • Pay employee bonuses prior to year-end.

Getting organized

Create a place in your home or office or a special file on your computer to store tax-related documents, such as W-2s, brokerage statements, and tax returns. Convert them to PDF format if they are not already, and upload them to your accountant’s secure client portal as you get them.

With all this great preparation, you’ll find tax season easier than ever and a chore that you can mark off your to-do list early.

 

The Perfect Chart of Accounts for Your Business

Your “Chart of Accounts” is the list of accounts in your accounting software.  The accounts are listed in your reports, and the totals allow you to determine how much you’ve spent, made, own, or owe depending on the type of account.

It’s essential to create a list of accounts that you need in order to make better business decisions.  Your chart of accounts needs to be designed intentionally.  If it hasn’t been, it’s never too late.

Two Types of Accounts

There are two major types of accounts:

  1. Balance sheet accounts that tell what you own and owe.  These are determined by your checking accounts, inventory, and credit cards.
  2. Income statement accounts that tell you about current period operating results.  These, in turn, have two major categories, income and expenses.  For companies with inventory, expenses are further broken out into cost of goods sold and other expenses.

Three Purposes

A chart of accounts should meet three needs:

  • Make it really fast for you to do your taxes
  • Give you all sorts of “Aha’s”
  • Allow you to spend far more time on revenue analysis than expense analysis because that’s where success lies for small businesses

Taxes

Your accounts should be the same as (or be able to be grouped into) the lines on your tax return.  You can find a copy of the tax form you fill out. For example, a sole proprietor will use a Schedule C of the 1040, and a corporation will complete an 1120.

There are a few special needs, such as meals and entertainment which are only partially deductible, that you need to pay special attention to. We can help you with that.

Aha

As small business owners, we work with a gut feel, but when you see what you’ve made or spent in black and white, it takes on a whole new level of meaning.  Your income statement and other reports should do that for you.  If they don’t you may not have your accounts set up right.

Revenue

Think about how you want to see your revenue:

  • By product line
  • By major supplier
  • By category of solution to the customer
  • By customer type
  • By service type
  • By location (you can also use Class for this)
  • By job
  • By distribution method

We can help you brainstorm based on your industry and type of business.

Actionable Intelligence

If you’ve been putting all your revenue into one revenue account, it will be exciting the first time you see your new Profit and Loss statement.

If you’ve been breaking out your revenue but it hasn’t led to any actionable change in your business, then there may be a better way to break it out.

If you’re happy with the way your revenue is broken out, then think about how you can take it to the next level.

Once you see your new chart of accounts, you will likely have even more questions.  The chart of accounts can be an evolving entity, designed to serve your business needs.

Contact Us

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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