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Analyzing Employee Utilization Rates to Drive Profitability for Professional Services Firms

Analyzing Employee Utilization Rates to Drive Profitability for Professional Services Firms

How utilized are your employees? What percent of their time is being spent working on projects that are not billable to the client? How much is that costing your company in productive capacity? If you do not know the answer to these questions, you could be missing out on potential revenue benefits.

For service-based organizations, analyzing employee utilization is imperative. Knowing where and how employees are spending their time enables professional services firms to:

  • Appropriately set their rates
  • Properly assess how much to invoice clients accounts
  • Decide what to pay their employees
  • Determine if they are over or understaffed

Calculating Employee Utilization Rates

The resource utilization rate is a balanced relationship between billable hours and working hours available and is a key metric of employee productivity.

For example, if there are 168 eligible working hours in the month of May and Penny spends 100.80 hours on billable client projects then Penny’s utilization rate is 60%.

Billable Hours / Eligible Working Hours = Utilization Rate

Now let’s say that Penny’s annual salary is $50,000, or $4,167 per month. In the month of May, she spends the remaining 40% of her productivity time on business development efforts (10%) and general and administrative (G&A) tasks (30%). That would mean the company is paying Penny $1,250 in May to work on non-revenue generating processes.

Monthly Salary x Time Spent on G&A (%) = Employee Cost

If this general and administrative time is benefiting the company then it may be worthwhile. Otherwise, this time could be used for other work, clients, or spent attending networking and other events to help grow the productive capacity of the business.

If Penny were to increase her utilization from 60% to 80%, her general and administrative employee cost would decrease to $417 per month – increasing efficiencies AND generating additional revenue.

Improving Employee Utilization Increases Profitability

From a revenue perspective, let’s assume that clients are billed at an hourly rate of $150. At 60% utilization the company is making $15,120 in May; however, 80% utilization would bring in $20,160, or $5,040 of additional revenue. Furthermore, if you have 5 employees who can each increase their employee utilization rate from 60% to 80%, you could generate an additional $25,020 of revenue per month.

Higher Utilization = Increased Profitability

Using Utilization Rates to Guide Business Decisions, A Case Study

Earlier this year, Signature Analytics was hired by a professional services firm in San Diego to provide outsourced accounting services. In addition to performing monthly accounting maintenance and bookkeeping services (preparing financial statements, balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements, etc.), we put together a Utilization Summary Report so the client would have visibility into their employee utilization rates month over month.

The metrics report revealed that in the month of January the company’s average utilization rate for billable employees was 60% resulting in a $95k loss for the month. In February, average utilization was 63% indicating a consistent low utilization rate for the company. To show how utilization rates impacted the bottom line, we also compiled an “if-then” summary report which revealed that increasing average utilization to 75% would generate a profit of $130k for the month.

Using this utilization percentage information, the company decided to make personnel changes in the month of March that would increase their profitability. This included letting go of an underperforming non-billable sales associate. They also replaced a billable-time employee with consistently low utilization with a new billable employee whose skills capacity could be better utilized by the company. Additionally, the firm set personal billable utilization goals for every employee to help encourage the staff to improve productivity and maximize billable projects and hours.

Following the changes, average employee utilization increased to 76%, resulting in a profit increase of $230k for the month of March.

Read another case study: Unknown employee utilization causing unknown or inaccurate client profitability.

Improve Your Firm’s Utilization

At Signature Analytics, we have helped several professional services firms use utilization rates to make key strategic decisions that drive profitability. Preparing utilization summary reports and “if-then” analyses are one way we enable our clients to visualize the effect of increased utilization rates. We are also able to show the company key metrics for unbilled general & administrative time by applying utilization rates to salaries and separating these wages on the financial statements. Furthermore, we have helped clients implement time tracking systems – which is the first step in determining utilization rates – and assisted with the development of company policies to ensure time is accurately entered by employees.

Want to learn more about using utilization rates to drive profitability for your firm? Contact us for a free consultation.

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Do you know your numbers?

10 Tips to Help Improve Your Company’s Cash Flow

10 Tips to Help Improve Your Company’s Cash Flow

As a business owner, you run the risk of bankruptcy if you’re not on top of cash flow management. A full 82 percent of business failures are caused by poor cash management, according to a US Bank study.

So, is it easy enough to bring in more money than your business is spending? Although it sounds simple in theory, having a positive cash flow encompasses much more than profitability. Even if your company is currently profitable, it is still at risk for negative cash flow. One common example of this is if you have obligations for future payments that you cannot meet because you’ve mistimed incoming funds.

By maximizing your company’s cash flow, you can help your company receive profits faster, meet targets in a shorter time frame, and lower your operating expenses. Wondering how to improve cash flow in your small business? These 10 tips can help you improve cash flow for your company.

1. Anticipate and Plan for Future Cash Needs

Keeping accurate, timely, and relevant (ART) accounting records allows you to build a forecast for your business based on historical results. At the very least, businesses should be reviewing their cash flow monthly.

Being proactive with your cash flow enables you to forecast your anticipated funds and help prepare for historically painful periods or seasonal trends.

For example, if you find that you are anticipating a future need for extra cash, you may want to start talking to lenders about a bridge loan to help pave the way for future financing. Similarly, if you can anticipate large expenses ahead of payout, you’ll be able to plan your other obligations accordingly to avoid cash flow surprises.

2. Improve your Accounts Receivable

By actively managing your accounts receivable, you can stay on top of outstanding invoices and decrease the time it takes to get paid.

One way you can do this is by encouraging customers to pay early. For example, if your payment terms are net 30 days, consider offering a slight discount for customers paying net 10 days.

Are you currently waiting for checks to arrive? Offering a variety of payment options will make it as easy as possible for a customer to pay you, such as ACH or credit card payments. While these options may come with processing fees, getting money faster is better for your business if cash flow is tight and eliminates time & labor spent on collection. These options can help prevent you from stacking up credit card debt to cover expenses.

3. Manage your Accounts Payable Process

Establishing and organizing your accounts payable process will be essential to improving your company’s cash flow. If your accounting department doesn’t already use software to help manage your accounts, it is a good idea to invest in one. Next, you should communicate with your team which invoices are most important so they can be paid first. Remember, do not let unpaid invoices slip through the cracks.

Another tip? Try to get to know your vendors and extend payment terms as long as possible. Most vendors will ask businesses for net 30, but once you build up a positive relationship, they may be more inclined to offer net 45 or net 60. After all, the longer you have to pay, the more time you have to get money in. You can use a simple payment agreement template to help you when creating your financial contracts.

4. Put Idle Cash to Work 

Another way to improve business cash flow is by putting idle cash to work. Your idle cash is money that is not earning any income.

Chances are if you have large balances sitting in non-interest-bearing accounts, you can find a better place for them to live. You could consider moving them to an interest-bearing account that may earn .5% or 1% APY. Another option is to invest the money in expanding your business, use it to decrease your debts and lower your interest payments, invest in new technology, or prepay some expenses.

Read more: 5 barriers of growth every company hits and how you can break through them

5. Utilize a Sweep Account

Most commercial banks offer a sweep account, a type of account to help maximize earnings on your income by automatically transferring money from your business checking account to your savings account. The sweeps happen at the close of business each day, and you can set the amount, typically in $500 increments.

Should your checking account dip below your minimum requirement, the funds will be automatically transferred back into your checking account to cover the outlay. This risk-free option makes it easy to build your savings for a rainy day or your next major investment.

6. Utilize Cheap and/or Free Financing Options

If you are looking to invest in your company through low to medium-cost purchases such as upgrading your computer system, buying new furniture, or replacing your company vehicles, you should take advantage of financing options that have low or no interest for the initial period of the loan.

Using this strategy for a business loan will help you save money by cushioning the cash hit to your business. If you pay off the full loan upfront before the interest rates kick in, you will save even more, therefore, making the most of your investment.

7. Control Access to Bank Accounts

To maintain positive cash flow, it is crucial to protect your assets. The best way to eliminate fraud and unauthorized use of your company bank accounts is to make sure the proper safeguards are in place.

Common safeguards include keeping the number of people who can access these accounts to a minimum, securing your IT infrastructure, frequently updating passwords, protecting your credit and debit card information and bank accounts, and using a dedicated computer for banking.

8. Outsource Certain Business Functions

It’s not necessary to hire full-time employees for every business function. You should evaluate your business needs and identify areas where it may be more cost-effective to outsource. IT management, human resources, accounting, payroll, and marketing are all functions that could be outsourced.

There are many firms, including Signature Analytics, that specialize in providing experienced professionals to handle specific business functions and manage cash flow issues. Outsourcing can save your business money, offers a flexible staffing model during the ebbs and flows of your business cycle, and it can also increase your efficiency.

9. Renegotiate Existing Service Contracts

Another tip to increase business cash flow is to review service plans and contracts regularly. Start by looking at your internet, phone bills, copiers, software support, and janitorial/building maintenance contracts to pinpoint opportunities to save.

Improved technologies and increased market competition have driven prices down on many services, so it’s worth taking the time to shop around for a better deal.

10. Maintain a Weekly Rolling Cash Forecast

A rolling cash forecast is a good practice for improving cash flow overall. You don’t need expensive programs to do this; Excel will easily allow you to project a weekly rolling cash forecast. You should include all estimated inflows, such as customer receipts, and outflows, such as vendor payments and payroll. Record this data on a weekly basis at least.

Your rolling cash forecast will help you plan staffing needs, commit to new vendors, and ensure funds will always be available to make payroll and vendor payments. As a bonus, your forecasting will help you estimate and understand your company’s sales cycle.

Read More: The Top 5 Financial Reports Every Business Owner Should Review

How Signature Analytics Can Help Your Company 

By implementing these strategies when managing cash flow, you will quickly get the upper hand on your company’s finances and learn how to increase cash flow within your business — so you will soon reap the benefits.

At Signature Analytics, we have a team of expert accounting and financial professionals including accountants, controllers, financial analysts, and CFOs; all dedicated to providing the best level of service at a price that makes sense for your business.

For additional assistance with cash flow management, developing detailed financial projections, or identifying capital requirements, contact Signature Analytics today for a free consultation.

When Should You Consider Outsourcing Your Accounting Operations?

When Should You Consider Outsourcing Your Accounting Operations?

  • Do you spend late nights and weekends struggling to keep up with your company’s accounting records? Or worse, does this time intervene with the time spent running the operations of your business?
  • Are you unable to assess the profitability of your business or perhaps have difficulty understanding the cash requirements for the next 60, 90, or 365 days?
  • Do you feel your margins could be improved but aren’t sure how to evaluate them when looking at your financial statements?
  • Would some assistance in projecting your business operations over the next few years help you establish priorities with your employees?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are in good company. Many business owners and executives feel the same way and there are ways you can get the support you need to move your business ahead.

Free Download: Discover how outsourced accounting can provide more visibility into your business

The first step is acknowledging that, although operations are the most key aspect of any business, accurate financial information is vital to making important business decisions. Having visibility into cash flow and knowing where your margins can be improved will enable you to take your company to the next level.

Now the next step is determining if hiring a full-time accounting resource to get your company’s financials in order makes sense from a cost and expertise standpoint.

  • Is there enough work for a full-time accountant? For many companies, a 40-hour a week accountant would be in excess of the time required to perform the basic accounting functions they may need, e.g., monthly close process, issuing invoices, entering and paying bills, performing payroll, etc.
  • Is there too much work for your current full-time resource? And are you asking them to do things beyond or below their skill set? This is a very common occurrence with any role in a growing business. This is a lose-lose situation for everyone involved and can lead to internal turnover.
  • What level of experience will they need to have – CFO, controller, staff accountant? If you are not in a position to support the costs of more than one accounting resource, will you hire a CFO and then over-pay them to do basic staff-level accounting? Alternatively, you could hire a staff accountant and task them with CFO responsibilities; however, both of these options can cost your company significantly and lead to ineffective decision-making.

If your company needs the resources of a complete accounting team but is not in a position to support the costs and management time of that entire, full-time team, then outsourcing your accounting functions is a very viable, flexible, and turn-key option for your business. 

Read more: 3 Ways Outsourcing Accounting Can Improve Your Business

Outsourced accounting companies such as Signature Analytics provide you with flexibility in terms of the number of hours of service to receive, provide a higher level of experience through oversight by more senior-level individuals, and ensure efficient service by experienced accountants (staff accountants through CFO level expertise). The accounting teams at outsourced accounting companies work with multiple clients so they have identified time-saving methods that allow them to complete challenging tasks in significantly less time than a typical bookkeeper.

In addition to acting as the financial arm of your business by providing the resources of a highly experienced accounting department on an outsourced basis, there are a number of other situations in which hiring an outsourced accounting company to handle your financial information might make sense for your business:

Preparing for a financial statement audit or review

Many business owners believe that a financial statement audit is a healthy process for their business and provides confidence to their investors in the financial information; however, most do not realize the resource drain that an audit can have on their business due to the significant number of requests for supporting information and the technical accounting expertise which must be applied to the financial statements. Due to independence restrictions, audit firms cannot assist in performing the accounting functions at the companies they audit and therefore must rely on management to determine proper accounting rules. These issues tend to cause significant overrun bills from the audit firm due to the inefficiencies experienced and can be extremely costly for a business. Engaging an outsourced accounting company can provide management with the peace of mind that they have a team of accounting experts – most of which have previous experience performing audits – that understand what audit firms are asking for and know how to produce that information in a timely manner.

Investors requesting financial projections

Investors love to see what the future of their capital will produce so that they can assist in both financial and operational decisions; however, many business owners do not have the expertise to prepare financial projections and therefore may provide information at a level not detailed enough for the purpose or may be missing significant costs which need to be considered. Outsourced accounting firms that provide support with cash flow management and projections have CFO-level experts who are experienced in understanding a business operation in a very timely fashion and can translate such information into the future potential results of the organization.[gap height=”10″]

Missing out on potential tax savings

When a tax provider receives your financial information they may not search into all of the accounts to find tax deductions. If transactions have been classified to incorrect accounts, tax preparers may not be aware of their existence and therefore not consider simple deductions. A simple example would be meals & entertainment expenses, often a deductible expense, in which some transactions may end up recorded in office expense categories or supplies or miscellaneous. Unless the tax preparer knows that such expenses may be improperly classified, the deduction will go unreported resulting in higher income tax. An outsourced accounting company can organize accounting information and work directly with tax professionals to help identify as many tax savings as possible.

Looking for capital investment from financial institutions

Perhaps you have a capital requirement in the near future and plan to approach different financial institutions. Providing financial information with obvious errors, inconsistencies, or lack of organization could severely impact your ability to raise capital as it may be challenging for the lenders to truly understand the results of the business without transparent financial information. When hiring an outsourced accounting company, you can be confident that the financial statements are timely and accurate. Furthermore, they will provide you with a high-level financial resource that can assist in preparing analyses of the financial information in a professional manner making the lender proposal process less arduous. These statements may be used as a resource to assist in conversations with those providing capital assistance to ensure a complete understanding of the business’s results of operations.

Free Download: Discover how outsourced accounting can provide more visibility into your business

If you think your company could benefit from outsourcing your accounting services, contact Signature Analytics for a free consultation.

 


 

Discover how outsourced accounting can provide more visibility into your business

How To Protect Your Small Business From Employee Fraud

How To Protect Your Small Business From Employee Fraud

Whenever a high-ranking executive from a prominent organization gets involved in a case of embezzlement or employee fraud, it makes headlines around the world.

These are a few more well-known examples of fraud:

  • Dane Cook, an American comedian, whose brother who was his business manager and took advantage of him for about $12 million
  • Girl Scout parents who were caught stealing money from their daughter’s cookie sales (average estimates of $10,000)
  • Bernie Madoff, an American market maker, investor, and financial advisor, who committed the highest financial fraud in US history worth almost $65 billion

These examples might seem unlikely to happen to your company, and as a small business owner, you may believe your organization is immune to theft and fraud.

After all, who else knows and understands their employees best if not for you? In your heart of hearts, you likely believe they would never do something like embezzling money. If anything, you have a rigorous hiring manager who conducts thorough background checks, so, therefore, no potentially malicious individual could be brought on to your team.

Unfortunately, your thinking would be flawed.

Read More: 5 Ways to Improve Internal Accounting Controls and Oversight in Your Business

What Advice Do Fraud Experts Give?

Any employee, when presented with the right set of circumstances, is capable of committing fraud.

According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ (ACFE) 2018 Report to the Nations, asset misappropriation was by far the most common form of occupational fraud, occurring in more than 89% of cases and leading to losses upwards of $110,000.

Small businesses can be especially devastated by fraud, as these companies often have fewer resources to prevent and recover from malicious acts.

Organizations with less than 100 people often must trust their employees with more information compared to businesses with many more workers with the ability to have anti-fraud controls in place.

While employee fraud prevention may not be top of mind for you, consider that the median loss for small organizations was almost twice as high as those incurred by organizations with more than 100 employees.

The ACFE reports two key reasons why small businesses have an increased risk of employee fraud:

  1. a lack of basic accounting controls
  2. a higher degree of misplaced or assumed trust

In a small to medium-sized business, the employee handling the bookkeeping is most likely to be the one to commit a crime as they can see all of the numbers, and they have your trust. However, in small businesses, there is a 29% chance that the owner or executive is the one who will commit fraud.

Read More: How To Spot Employee Fraud

How Basic Accounting Controls Can Make A Difference

Often, company leaders believe that spending an excessive amount of money on implementing complex systems of controls will save their company from employee fraud. This is not the case.

Complex controls can surely make a positive impact, but most often, starting with the basics can set you ahead of the curve.

In the ACFE 2018 report, it was noted that internal control weaknesses were responsible for nearly half of all frauds committed. Businesses that had implemented anti-fraud controls had lower losses overall, which means that these controls are working to keep the company safe.

The report also found that when businesses routinely monitor and audit their back-office functions, fraud is reduced. Even with the information found on how these controls can make a difference, only 37 percent of businesses polled had these internal controls in place.

If you would like help implementing internal controls, even at the most basic level, you can reach our team of experts at any time. Our experienced team can make recommendations based on the industry you are in, the size of your company, and the budget you have in place. Protecting your business from fraud is imperative.

What Can You Do To Protect Your Business From Employee Fraud?

Don’t wait for a fraud to occur. It is essential to be proactive and preventative and put processes in place.

Studies show that the more employees believe they will get caught, the less likely they are to commit fraud. Below we have outlined some practical tips for small business owners to reduce the risk of loss due to employee fraud:

  1. Don’t depend solely on external audits: External audits are usually performed once per year and months after the year ends. Even if the audit uncovers fraudulent activity, it may have been occurring for 12 months or longer before being discovered.
  2. Segregate accounting duties: Avoid allowing the accounting function to be controlled by a single individual and segregate accounting duties in key areas instead. Such duties and responsibilities may include:
    -Recording and processing transactions
    -Sending out invoices
    -Collecting cash
    -Making deposits
  3. Routinely review financial information: If you have a small team and complete segregation is not possible, the business owner or an outside accounting firm should review the bank statements (preferably online or before the accountant has opened them) and bank reconciliations every month. Vendor payments should also be periodically reviewed. A common scheme is to set up fictitious vendors and manipulate bank statements with photo editing software before printing and filing them for review.
  4. Ensure accounting oversight: Hire an outsourced accounting firm to provide oversight, support, and possibly management of the in-house staff. They will start by reviewing your current accounting controls, workflows, and processes to make recommendations for improvements, implementing best practices, or even take on some of the accounting activities.
  5. Get fraud insurance: Purchase a bond or fraud insurance to protect your business if a theft does occur and/or have trusted employees who handle the finances bonded.
  6. Require your bookkeeper to take a vacation: Embezzlement and other types of fraud require a constant paper trail to go undetected. Therefore, business owners should insist that employees who perform the company’s accounting/bookkeeping duties take a vacation every year and designate a backup person to cover their responsibilities during that leave. Ideally, the vacation should be at least a week-long and occur over a month-end when the books are being closed. Assuming your books are closed monthly, this is not an easy request with a small team and another reason to build a trusted relationship with an outside firm.

According to the ACFE’s 2019 Benchmarking Report, 58% of organizations have inadequate levels of anti-fraud staffing and resources. For your company, this may mean conducting background checks will not be enough to protect your company from in-house fraud.

How Can I Protect My Company?

By partnering with the Signature Analytics team, we can recommend industry-specific suggestions for your company. We help our clients put preventative controls in place and provide an appropriate level of oversight of their financial books and records to ensure accuracy.

Signature Analytics provides small and mid-sized businesses with the resources of a full finance and accounting team. We utilize a fractional accounting model so clients can effectively segregate accounting duties without having to hire additional full-time accounting staff.

To learn more about how we can help ensure your business has fraud prevention, contact us for a free consultation.

How to Effectively Communicate Your Company’s Financials with External Stakeholders

How to Effectively Communicate Your Company’s Financials with External Stakeholders

Presenting financial information in an easily digestible format is essential when communicating with external stakeholders such as lenders, investors, and other strategic partners. These communications are vital to the long-term success of a business; however, it can be a struggle for many small and mid-size businesses. To help, below are three keys to successfully communicating the financial state of your business with external stakeholders.

#1 Be Concise

The easier it is for an external stakeholder to interpret results, the easier it will be for the company to achieve its desires from that stakeholder.

  • Banks. If you’re seeking a line of credit from a bank, it is important to distill the financial results of the company into a simple format that shows them they should lend to you. They want to know you have the cash to pay your bills. They want to know you have proven you can collect from customers. They want to see profitability that is consistent and stable. If any of these things require explanation, provide it.
  • Investors. Investors want to understand why and how your business can generate a return for them and provide comfort that their capital is reasonably safe.
  • Strategic Partners. A key strategic partner will want an understanding that they can commit resources to work with you in a manner that will be fruitful.

These stakeholders do not want to weed through a book. Furthermore, simply exporting your income statement and balance sheet directly from your accounting software is not enough. Summary narratives, graphs, charts, and reports can be very effective as they will enable the stakeholder to better interpret the financials of the business, as opposed to allowing them to develop their own conclusions.

At the same time, you do not want to show too much or too little financial information. Voluminous information will likely go unread. While not providing enough information can result in the investor or lender making incorrect assumptions about the business. If more detail is sought, it can be provided.

By making it easier to understand your business on paper, you are far more likely to get the answer that you want.

Case Study: How we improved investor reporting for a biotech client to increase board meeting efficiency.

#2 Clearly State Objectives

What is the business is trying to accomplish with the external stakeholder? You will have a higher rate of success if you anticipate and address the stakeholder’s questions upfront.

For banks, you need to clearly communicate why the money is being sought from the bank. What are the uses of the funds? For example, oftentimes an expansion won’t just require capital to purchase equipment, but could also necessitate additional staff, office space, etc.

The same applies to investors. Can an investor interpret in a quick read the high-level goal(s) the business is trying to achieve? Also, what are the risks involved for the business?

It is also best to take objections off the table proactively. If new competition is coming to the market, what is your plan to combat it? If opening a new market, what makes you think you can be successful there? Laying out potential obstacles tells the stakeholder that you have thought about them and gives them confidence in your business.

#3 Be Honest and Direct

This can often be the toughest of all. No one likes to share bad news. Far too many businesses choose not to communicate at all when this happens; however, when things are not going as well as planned, this is perhaps the most important time to communicate with external stakeholders. Don’t hide a bad quarter; explain what happened and what you are doing about it. Again, this demonstrates that you have a handle on the business and that there is no cause for undue worry. Every business will experience some hard times, but having your key allies informed and confident in your abilities will greatly enhance your ability to weather the storm.

We Can Help

Presenting financial information in an easily digestible format is essential in communicating with external and internal stakeholders. If you’re seeking an increased line of credit, looking for potential investors or strategic partners, or want to improve your internal reporting to management and/or board members, Signature Analytics can help. Contact us today for a free consultation with one of our CFOs.

Internal Controls That Protect Your Business From Fraud

Internal Controls That Protect Your Business From Fraud

News headlines involving embezzlement, fraud, data breaches, and other scandals may have you nervous, especially during the current economic climate. “What is happening within my organization?” might be a thought regularly occurring in your head. After all, fraud is one of the most common ways that companies lose money.

To protect your business from fraud, you must continually evaluate internal controls. These protocols help keep a business safe from specific types of company risk.

Incorporating internal controls can ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of operations and support reliable reporting.

Read More: This Is How To Protect Your Company From Employee Fraud

These Internal Controls Can Protect Your Company

According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), organizations can reduce the impact of fraud by pursuing internal controls and policies that actively detect fraud. Some examples may include management review, account reconciliation, and surveillance/monitoring.

Here are four other simple and straightforward internal controls for your company to consider:

1. ACH Payments
Do you have a custom signature stamp for your office? If you do, we advise against this option. Even if you keep it locked up or only allowed specific employees to use it, there are still issues with this kind of system.

A better option is to implement an electronic system such as Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments. By sending payments through ACH, businesses can use fewer resources than traditional paper checks, and they can more easily track income and expenses with electronic records.

eGuide: What Business Should Expect From Their Accounting Department

2. Separation of Powers
Separation of powers is as crucial to your business as it is to the government. When one person has all the power, the system is likely to fail. Just like a system of checks and balances, having dual control in place is ideal for any business.

One employee can be responsible for setting up ACH payments and wire transfers, while another employee can be responsible for approving these numbers.

Reviewing and catching critical errors is a vital part of this process. If there is oversight by more than one person, the possibility of theft and fraud significantly decreases. When dual control is in place, the system can often be effective in combating asset misappropriation.

By practicing the separation of powers, three main functions are able to occur:

1. Custody of assets
2. Authorized use of assets
3. Record keeping of these assets

It might seem that having two employees dedicated to managing assets is overkill for your small business. While it might be challenging to achieve, it should be implemented whenever possible to improve the overall performance of the organization.

3. Single User/Password
Every day you and your employees access websites to conduct business as usual. Many companies share one login to their bank, accounting software, credit card, and other financial accounts. Where do you store your vital login information? In a spreadsheet? On your phone? Printed out and next to your computer?

Either way, these are not secure ways to save your password information. These logins are so easy to hack and steal that it is up to your company to protect itself.

Make sure each user/employee is set up as an authorized user, and you can set the rights for each person. You can also research inexpensive and secure apps or websites to hold your logins, ensuring that the hacking rate drops significantly. When people leave the organization, make sure to delete the username and change common passwords.

4. Expense Reimbursement
Implement a process for all employees to follow regardless of hierarchy. Make sure to have an annually updated policy and require receipts/invoices over a certain dollar amount.

If you have corporate credit cards, you can utilize merchant category codes to restrict the types of goods/services for which they are used. For more information on this process, you can reach out to your card company for assistance.

Read More: The Three Main Internal Controls for Accounting and How They Protect Your Assets

How Should Internal Controls Be Implemented?

Has your business ever completed an internal control audit? If not, this is a great place to start. By completing an audit, the effectiveness of any current controls is tested, and the audit can also highlight weak points for the company.

When your organization takes part in an audit, there are essential processes and paperwork that need to be reviewed by a CPA. Having a set of eyes outside of your organization can be vital to the success of this audit.

While it might require preparation and a lot of documentation, the result will provide your organization with information that is consolidated all in one place, making it easy to access financial reports and statements in the future.

The implementation process itself can be quite an undertaking for a company to manage itself. For this reason, we recommend you find an expert to take on and manage this audit.

eGuide: What Business Should Expect From Their Accounting Department

How Often Should Internal Controls Be Updated?

All of your company’s internal controls should be updated yearly. One easy way to remember to do this is to make it part of your annual shareholder meeting where the control details can be documented and voted on.

While these are examples of simple internal controls to implement, the Signature Analytics team of experts can make recommendations based on your industry and the nuances of your business.

If you need assistance, please contact us to have internal controls set in place or feel free to ask us any other accounting and finance questions.

 


 

Discover how outsourced accounting can provide more visibility into your business

How to Proactively Recession-Proof Your Business

How to Proactively Recession-Proof Your Business

The onslaught and massive outbreak of Coronavirus causing COVID-19 in the last two months has caused the world to turn upside down. Economies have tanked and the DOW has seen the most highs and lows since the 1930s. In this blog, we provide a breakdown to support:

    • The current state of affairs given COVID-19
    • Key things we learned from the great recession and what we can apply today
    • The official definition of a recession and are we headed there?
    • And 10 tips to consider to get through this and come out on the other side

Prior to COVID-19, Economists around the world had been warning that another recession was possible in late 2020. Along with those warnings, there have been many articles to suggest businesses should start preparing given the looming economic downturn. While Economists might feel somewhat vindicated, most (if not all) were definitely not prepared for a downturn of this magnitude.

To say that a coming recession wasn’t written on the wall would be inaccurate. Forbes reported back in January that there were causes for concern for 2020 being a recession year. The two significant indications cited included:

  • an inverted yield curve in 2019
  • slow growth in the manufacturing industry

When on the lookout for a recession, the unemployment rate is another major area to consider. In February, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted the unemployment rate was at 3.5% or roughly 5.8 million people.

The Los Angeles Times just recently reported in late March 2020 on California’s numbers citing, “The state’s Employment Development Department processed 186,809 claims for unemployment benefits last week, up from 57,606 the week before… The total last week was 363% higher than the number of claims processed during the same week last year.”

In an article from March, Forbes reported that this is the quickest peak to bear market in history. The decline only took a record 22 days.

With all of these statistics and influx of information coming to light, indicators make it seem that the United States is on its way to entering another recession. However, it requires two consecutive quarters of economic decline to meet the technical definition of a recession, and only the experts can officially declare we are in one.

With what seems like mostly all bad news, we wonder if there is anything hopeful we can latch on to for the future?

International Monetary Fund Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, released a statement following the G20 Ministerial Call on the Coronavirus Emergency where she said, “First, the outlook for global growth: for 2020 it is negative—a recession at least as bad as during the global financial crisis or worse. But we expect recovery in 2021.”

If we know going into this period that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we can have the stamina to survive. Looking back at our last recession can provide some learning lessons too.

What We Learned From The Great Recession

Remember the story of Lehman Brothers? Before the 2007 recession, Lehman was the fourth-largest bank in the U.S.

Since its inception in 1850, Lehman had weathered many economic changes. The company survived the Great Depression, two world wars, and the near-collapse of hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management in 1998. But Lehman’s rush into the subprime mortgage market proved to be its downfall. To make matters worse, the bank paid little heed to the signs of the oncoming Great Recession. Lehman was still confident about the firm’s record revenues even in March 2007 as the market was beginning to collapse.

Five months later, as the credit crisis took hold, Lehman’s shares took a sudden dive. Throughout 2007, Lehman had underwritten more mortgages than any other financer, leading the firm to accumulate a portfolio of around $85 billion. In the fourth quarter of 2007, despite the cracks in the housing market, Lehman’s stock briefly regained buoyancy.

However, the company failed to cut back its mortgage portfolio while it had the chance, and it would never have the opportunity to do so again. On September 15th, 2008, the firm was forced to declare bankruptcy, wiping out more than $46 billion of its market value.

The greatest thing Lehman Brothers ever did was go through this experience to be a learning lesson for future generations. We can confidently say, don’t be like Lehman. Take actionable steps now for the oncoming recession to protect the future of your company. The first step is educating yourself and the other financial leaders of your company on what an economic slowdown truly means.

What is an Economic Recession?

As we mentioned earlier, an economic recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth. It is usually accompanied by a significant drop in the stock market, increased unemployment, and a slump in the housing market. Some factors for a recession include:

  • Falling interest rates
  • Rises in bankruptcies, defaults, foreclosures
  • Falling assets and dip in stock market
  • Reduced wages and rising in unemployment
  • Reduced consumer spending and confidence

Some recessions occur back-to-back, while others may occur up to ten years apart. Since World War II, recessions have lasted, on average, for eleven months each. A notable exception was the so-called “Great Recession”, which occurred toward the end of 2007 after the housing bubble burst and lasted for 18 months.

Fast forward to today, and we are faced with what individuals are already considering a recession. Technically, the committee who decides these matters could not formally state we have hit a recession until two quarters have passed.

Until then, we must consider how to forge ahead of this impending hardship. If you want your business to survive the next economic downturn, you will need to take tangible steps to make it recession-proof. Here are some ways you can protect your company from tough economic times that may be coming.

10 Tips to Recession-Proof Your Business

So, with a recession on the imminent horizon, where does that leave businesses today? Planning for your company’s future seems impossible in these times of uncertainty. What we do know is that an economic recession can wreak havoc on business leaders, companies, employees, vendors, and customers.

These are the ten tips our team of experts has compiled to help you navigate through these uncertainties:

1. Financially Prepare for a Downturn Before It Happens

Whether now or in the future, don’t wait for the first signs of a recession before you start to do something about it. By then, it may be much too late. If you don’t have a strategic financial plan, it’s time to get one.

Your strategic plan will help you understand how financially sound your company is today, so you can start saving to weather the next storm.

If you already have an updated financial plan, it’s time to start building a cash reserve. This may be the most crucial step you take. Start saving money in a bank account. Consider building enough reserve cash to cover at least six months’ worth of essential business expenses. Doing so will help you to sustain your company, and the longer you can maintain your company through the recession, the more likely you are to survive in the long-term, through good times and bad.

And if you’re unable to do this now, keep reading below.

Read More: Download our Strategic Budgeting eGuide

2. Develop a 13-Week Cash Flow Forecast

When faced with the unknown, the best way to set your company up for success is with an actionable plan. The critical steps here are to understand where your incoming cash is coming from, how much of it you are receiving, and how it is spent.

Having a grasp on this information can help to visualize the future from a cash perspective. Creating a 13-week plan will allow company leadership to account for all money, make adjustments where needed, and see where to adjust strategically. Be sure to review this document weekly.

Read More: Part 2: Actionable Advice from Our Founder to Improve Your Cash Flow

3. Scenario Planning

Preparing for an uncertain future is possible with tools like scenario planning. Taking a few different visions on what your company’s future could look like enables you to think through those possibilities and understand which outcome best sets up the business for success.

The three main scenarios to plan through would be the original plan, the probable plan, and the worst-case plan. As a business leader, working through each of these scenarios can bring forth thought driven data that should put forth solutions better than any reactive, gut feelings you might have during stressful situations.

Read More: Your Guide To Financial Modeling and Scenario Planning

4. Talk To Your Bank Today

Taking control of your finances today might be the single most crucial step you can make for your business. By proactively communicating with your banker and setting up a conversation with them, you are illustrating that your company is reliable.

You will first want to stay informed on how the bank currently views your business in three areas.

Ask which loans have been downgraded and what industries are being impacted the most. Is your sector secure or not? Honest conversations like these can help you understand how the bank will treat you going forward.

Ask about your business’s risk rating. If the bank decides to downgrade your loans, they will receive a higher risk rating, which ultimately means the bank will try and pass along costly expenses to you if you’re forced to leave the bank.

Read More: Planning and Managing Your Banking Relationship During COVID-19

In that same vein, you will want to maintain good credit. If you are asked to leave the bank and need to find another one, a high credit score is essential to borrow money. If you maintain good personal and business credit, you stand a much better chance of being able to take out a loan when you need it most.

5. Know Your Liquidity Options

One of the most important aspects of your business is its liquidity. It’s critical for paying employees and company bills, but it’s also crucial if you are conducting scenario analysis to help with decision making at your company.

There are many options to choose from when it comes to freeing up liquidity. Your best bet right now is to take advantage of special government programs that have been developed during the COVID-19 outbreak. Other options can range from alternative financing solutions, to using business assets, or even considering private equity investors who can give you cash in return for a partial stake in your business.

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and to negotiate for the best possible terms and options. To get ten more liquidity tips, be sure to check out our recent blog below.

Read More: 10 Liquidity Options for Businesses During COVID-19 Outbreak

6. Communicate With Your Vendors

With the current state-of-affairs, we do not know when things will get back to “normal.” If you’re lucky, your business and customers have not been affected at all by COVID-19. What’s more likely is you have. The question to be asking is, how has the Coronavirus impacted your company?

The only way to answer this question is through communication with your vendors and your customers to be sure your cash-flow is not compromised. Start by reviewing your contracts, then talking to your clients and customers. Analyze where the risks are and make decisions from there.

Obtain a full understanding of the bigger picture and create a strategic plan to maintain positive cash flow.

Read More:  The Importance of Proactive Communication & Talking to Your Vendors In This Crisis

7. Strengthen Your Customer Relationships

Your customer base is the most significant source of income. You can’t afford to lose them, especially during a recession, so make them your number one priority. Now is the time to make sure that your customer service is the best it can be. This will give you a higher chance of retaining your current customers and attracting new ones, even during a recession.

Show your customers they’re a priority by adapting your products and services to suit their needs better, as well as offering them incentive programs. During a recession, it’s more important than ever to keep your customers loyal by providing excellent after-sales service.

Read More: Determining Profitability Within Your Business: Analyzing Profits by Employee, Product and Customer

8. Master What Your Company Does Best

When you’re preparing for a recession, don’t stray away from your strengths and start something new.

Diversifying your business is not necessarily a bad thing, even if your company is small. But adding on products or services just to try something new isn’t a good way to protect yourself from an economic downturn.

Experimentation is making you more vulnerable. Instead, analyze the industries of your customers. If you have a decent number in recession-resistant sectors, focus on catering to their needs. How can you save them money, or even better, time? Can your services alleviate something on their plate that will give them peace of mind knowing you are handling it?

Focus on what your company does best and do it even better. This will ensure that you will have a stable foundation when the economy shifts.

Read More: Challenges of aggressive growth and how it can destroy your business

9. Beat Out the Competition

Not every company within your industry is going to ride out a recession. Make sure your company is the one that does.

To gain a lead on your competition, you will first need to research them. What areas are they outperforming you, and how can your company step up to the plate? Doing your research now can save your business in the long run.

With your out-of-the-box thinking, you may need to bring in the help of some automated software to help you drive more leads. Spending a little money now can help secure an active pipeline of good prospects in the right industry to carry you through the recession.

Implement more robust strategies into your business and hone them until they become second nature. Go beyond expectations and offer products or services that they don’t have on hand. During an economic recession, this will put your company ahead of your competitors in the eyes of your target market.

10. Don’t Let Marketing Fall Through the Cracks

It’s always good to review your marketing practices from time to time. If you’re expecting an economic downturn, it’s even more critical. Most companies will cut back on their marketing, creating an opportunity for you to gain more brand awareness and stand out from the competition.

In a recent article from Entrepreneur.com, the idea of perfecting your copywriting was a critical aspect of upping your marketing game. As more remote work is being implemented to cut down on social distancing, more individuals are looking for research and data on the novel Coronavirus. This creates an opportunity for your company to leverage its marketing materials, copy on the website, advertisements, and social media, and gain more engagement from your audience. Persuasive copywriting is the only way this can happen.

Brainstorm with your team other ideas to boost sales and maximize how you use your marketing dollars for the future. Identify your competitive advantage – what separates you from your competitors – and develop a unique selling proposition to push your company’s unique qualities.

Another idea is to productize service-based businesses. If you’re a service, identify how to productize some of what you do. Keep things simple to start and pick one area of focus. Products come in all shapes and sizes, from digital SaaS products to courses, to e-books, to anything that can be purchased and paid for online. Products can bring in additional sources of revenue, and if the customers are happy, they can drive word of mouth sales as well.

These strategies will help to keep your customers loyal through an economic recession while ensuring that you are making the most out of your marketing budget.

11. Bonus Tip from Chief Outsiders

Chief Outsiders recommends launching new offerings to help capitalize on delivery services to your clients in fresh ways. This could be through virtual offerings, digital assets like teaching, training, or coaching, free or limited subscriptions, or other services you can provide. Finding unique and creative ways to meet your clients where they are can keep your business on their mind while supporting them in their new work environments and compiling with government-mandated behavior.

Final Thoughts

Although we can’t be 100% certain that the Coronavirus will lead the US into a proper recession, it’s essential to prepare now. Don’t be caught off-guard in the event of an economic downturn.

While nothing can guarantee your business will make it through a recession, strategic planning can help to give you a fighting chance and may help you keep your head above water while your competitors may sink.

Need help taking the steps to recession-proof your business? Our team of experts can help! Contact us when it is most appropriate for your organization, and we can help give your company a fighting chance to ride out the looming economic storm.

The Importance of Cash Flow Management for Small and Mid-size Businesses

The Importance of Cash Flow Management for Small and Mid-size Businesses

“Cash is King.” We hear this phrase time and time again, but why is it so important for small and mid-size businesses? The short answer – if you run out of cash, your business fails. Seems obvious, right? However, what may not be as obvious is that being profitable is not the same thing as being cash flow positive. In fact, many businesses that show profitability within their financial statements have ended up in bankruptcy because the amount of cash coming in does not exceed the amount of cash going out.

As an example, consider a service company that just started with a new customer. In January, the company provides the service and invoices the customer on January 31st. The company recognizes the revenue from that customer in January, but probably does not collect the cash until February or March. Meanwhile the company had to pay its’ employees on January 15th and the 31st. Thus cash outflow exceeded cash inflow in January. When you multiply this scenario by hundreds of customers, or consider a month with significant customer growth, you can see how the company could run into cash flow issues.

If a company cannot balance the cash inflows with the proper cash outflows then their profits on paper or supposed net-income are meaningless. Firms must exercise good cash management otherwise they may not be able to make the investments needed to compete, or might have to pay more to borrow the money they need to function.

What the Experts Say About Cash Management

Several industry leaders and associations have all found that cash flow problems can be one of the leading causes of failure for businesses…

82% of businesses fail due to poor cash flow management / poor understanding of cash flow.
— Jessie Hagen of US Bank

Despite the fact that cash is the lifeblood of a business — the fuel that keeps the engine running — most business owners don’t truly have a handle on their cash flow. Poor cash flow management is causing more business failures today than ever before.
— Philip Campbell, author of Never Run Out of Cash (Grow & Succeed Publishing 2004)

Insufficient capital is one of the main reasons for small business failure, coupled with lack of experience, poor location, poor inventory management and over-investment in fixed assets.
— U.S. Small Business Association (SBA)

A Case Study: Importance of Monitoring & Analyzing Cash Flow

One of our clients, a media company, believed they needed a significant capital infusion to support their growth plans, but were uncertain when and how much capital would be required. So we generated a detailed five year cash flow projection to forecast and identify all the time periods in which the company’s cash balance would become negative.

Analyzing the company’s cash flow projections revealed that they would require additional capital even after reaching profitability which is actually typical for early-stage companies, or companies in a high-growth mode. The projections also revealed that the amount of capital required to remain cash flow positive was 50 percent higher than they had initially anticipated.

Knowing their true capital needs allowed the company to raise the appropriate amount of capital required to support their growth plans and, more importantly, ensured they would not run out of cash.

Read the full case study here.

Monitoring Cash Flow for Your Business

Achieving a positive cash flow does not come by chance. You have to work at it. Companies need to analyze and manage their cash flow to more effectively control the inflow and outflow of cash. The Small Business Association recommends monitoring cash flow on a monthly basis to make sure you have enough cash to cover your obligations in the coming month.

By proactively getting in front of your future cash needs, you can make the right business decisions to solidify your cash position, and establish a foundation for growth.

Read More: 10 Tips to Help Improve Your Company’s Cash Flow

 

We Can Help

The process of creating and managing to an operating cash flow budget is not intuitive or easy for most small and mid-size business owners. If you need assistance managing your company’s cash flows, developing detailed financial projections, or identifying capital requirements, contact Signature Analytics today for a free consultation.

Download our latest e-book:

Why You Need Financial Scenario Planning for What Ifs

Why You Need Financial Scenario Planning for What Ifs

If you’re not familiar with “what-if” scenario analysis, it’s time you familiarize yourself and jump on board. This type of planning can reveal unanticipated difficulties that can destabilize a project, making it a valuable analytical tool.

By helping you prepare for such adversities, financial scenario planning gives you a proactive edge on the situation. What-if analysis might seem like a daunting process, but it will help you make decisions to help your company thrive – or become more prepared – especially during more undesirable times.

Why You Need To Plan For What Ifs

What-if scenario planning can give you a distinct edge over the competition because your company will be prepared for a quick response and viable solution for problematic situations.

Once you incorporate scenario planning into your operations, you will have strategies on hand for virtually any situation.

For example, let’s say you want to see how a supply delivery at a later date will affect your project costs. You create a scenario around this idea and add in the appropriate circumstances that could impact your business, whether positive or negative. Running through the scenario will show you the potential outcome, and help you determine the best course of action.

Financial scenario planning is also a vital part of the business decision-making process. It helps you figure out the best and worst-case scenarios so you can anticipate possible profits or losses.

eGuide: What Business Should Expect From Their Accounting Department

What are the Three Stages of Scenario Planning?

When you’re planning for various financial scenarios, you will generate several probable future contexts for your company, the industry you are in, and also the economy. These possibilities will include individual scenarios, like variables such as operating costs, product pricing, inflation, customer metrics, and interest rates.

Typically, you will begin with three separate scenarios:

  • Base case scenario: You can use your data from the previous year in this situation, as this is a good predictor for the next twelve months. If you saw growth within your company during the last year, say 10%, you can assume the same growth rate will follow in the next year.
  • Best-case scenario: The best-case is to think outside the box and try to imagine a situation in which your sales projections turn out as you hope over the next year. For example, holding onto your current customers, adding new ones, or making an acquisition. Although you are creating a best-case scenario, the data you use should still be realistic. For example, if your company is experiencing an 85% monthly retention rate, you could increase it to 90% for the sake of this scenario.
  • Worst-case scenario: The worst-case will prepare you for potential problems. It can help you avoid issues or at least prepare for them by creating an action plan.

Read More: How to Effectively Communicate Your Company’s Financials with Internal Stakeholders

How to do Financial Scenario Planning

It’s crucial that you build scenarios into your company’s financial model so you have a full understanding of how different variables can impact your company. Here are some steps you can follow to get started with financial scenario planning:

  • Make a list of all the potential occurrences you want to develop scenarios for
  • Flesh out the details for each scenario
  • Make sure to include the three stages for each scenario: average case, best case, and worst case
  • Make sure you are consistent throughout the planning of each scenario

What are the Benefits of Scenario Planning?

Analyzing your company and predicting its future is a risky business. Financial scenario planning can give you the edge on different possibilities and you and your company can benefit in many ways, including:

  • Planning for the future: Scenario planning allows you to give investors a preview of the potential returns and risks involved in future investments. Your goal is to increase your company’s revenue, and the best way to do so is by using up-to-date calculations.
  • Avoiding risks and failures: Financial scenario planning can help you avoid making poor investment decisions. As you are taking the best and worst possible case scenarios into account, you can make more informed decisions.
  • Keeping you proactive: By being proactive and staying on your toes, you can minimize potential losses from factors beyond your control. Creating worst-case scenarios allows you to assess possible damage and avoid these circumstances, or at least prepare for them.
  • Enabling you to project investment returns or losses: Financial scenario planning gives you the tools to calculate potential investment gains and losses and provides you with measurable data. You can use this data to maximize the outcome.

Read More: Creating the Perfect Annual Budget for Your Business

Who Can Help With Financial Scenario Planning

A CFO is an ideal person to help with financial scenario planning. They can play an important part in this process because they are a successful executive who is an expert in strategic financial management. As an expert, they are responsible for managing short-term assets and available resources and developing strategies to leverage these resources.

Furthermore, a CFO should be able to maintain the company’s long-term financial health and profitability. A good CFO will analyze the cash flow, income statements, and balance sheet to monitor the company’s well-being while simultaneously making the most of the assets.

To do this, they need to have certain information at hand. Financial scenario planning can help them acquire this information by answering the following questions:

  • How can the company combine short and long-term assets to maximize profitability?
  • How can the company best finance upcoming projects?
  • How can the company maintain a healthy balance between debt and equity?
  • How can older assets generate future revenue?

What are the Benefits of a Fractional CFO

If you’re running a small- to medium-sized company, you may believe hiring a CFO is out of the realm of your budget. However, this is not the case. If you hire a fractional CFO, you can reap all the benefits of their financial expertise without it costing a small fortune. Here are a few of the benefits:

  • You’ll save money because you won’t have to pay a salary or benefits
  • You’ll save time because you won’t have to advertise, interview, or train
  • You can ensure that you have a CFO who is qualified and experienced

No matter how effective your company is, it won’t be able to maintain steady growth phases if future projections and developed strategies are not made for when issues arise. Your business potential relies on your ability to evaluate your company honestly daily. This ability includes the evaluation for ways to improve efficiency, minimize waste, boost performance, and develop solutions for how your company can succeed through positive and negative economic conditions.

eGuide: What Business Should Expect From Their Accounting Department

Hiring an outsourced CFO can make a big difference to your company when it comes to these endeavors and securing a financial plan to ensure you’re making the right business decisions.

Having an experienced financial business advisor to run through scenario planning and caution you of the possible outcomes can make the difference between a successful organization and a failing business.

If you are considering hiring a fractional CFO, contact Signature Analytics today. We can provide you with qualified and experienced CFOs, regardless of your industry.


Do you know your numbers?

What Should Small and Mid-Size Businesses Expect From Their CFO?

What Should Small and Mid-Size Businesses Expect From Their CFO?

The CFO’s role within an organization depends on several factors. These components may include the expectations coming from the CEO and board of directors, and may also vary depending on the industry, corporate strategy, and the goals of the business. A company’s size can also have a significant influence on the CFO’s role.

Below, the Signature Analytics team has outlined some general responsibilities that every business should expect from their CFO.

The Importance of Forward-Looking Financial Analysis

The foundation of any company’s accounting and finance function is to produce timely and accurate financial information for the business. The CFO oversees these accounting and finance functions, but their true value comes from the ability to provide forward-looking financial analysis. This analysis should be focused on driving additional profitability and value to the company.

Read More: Outsourced CFO Services – Benefits of a Part-Time CFO

Whether you have a full-time, part-time, or outsourced CFO, below are some examples of the forward-looking financial analysis you should expect from the CFO role:

1. Cash Management & Forecasting

Can you predict when your business will have a surplus of cash that needs to be managed or when you will have a shortage of money that requires financing?

Cash flow problems can kill businesses that might otherwise survive. Your CFO should be monitoring cash flow and analyzing cash flow projections regularly to ensure your business does not run out of cash.

2. Budgeting & Expense Control

Does your business have a budget? Do you receive an analysis comparing prior year actual, current year actual, and current-year forecast on a regular basis?

Your CFO should own the budgeting process by incorporating input from each department for the most accurate and complete projections. They should also be monitoring budgeted versus actual results on a quarterly or monthly basis and reforecasting accordingly.

Read More: How CFOs Add Value To Your Business

3. Compensation Plan Development

Is the compensation of your employees aligned with the goals of the company?

The CFO of a company should help to structure employee compensation plans that incentivize efficiency and align with the financial goals of the company.

eGuide: What Business Should Expect From Their Accounting Department

4. KPI Development & Analysis

Are you maximizing margins? Are profits analyzed by revenue stream? Are employees being utilized appropriately to maximize profitability?

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are different for every business. They should act as the company’s compass, and the CFO serves as the navigator.

It is the responsibility of the CFO to work with those in operations to help develop KPIs applicable to the company and support the analysis of those KPIs regularly. The CFO should be using the data from the KPIs to assess business performance in real-time. Making changes that directly improve KPIs can help build the future value of the company.

Read More: What Are Key Performance Indicators and Why Are They Important?

5. Board & Investor Communications

Are you providing valuable financial information to your Board of Directors so they can review the trends of the company’s operations and assist in making appropriate decisions? Is the information presented professionally?

Your CFO should be preparing presentations for your board members that effectively communicate the company’s financial information in an organized manner. The information should illustrate trends to visualize projections so the data can help drive business decisions.

6. Securing Financing & Raising Capital

Do you review your banking relationships regularly? Are you confident you have access to financing on the best possible terms for your business? What are the capital needs of the company now and in the future? What is the best way to meet those needs?

Your CFO should play a key role in identifying and securing investment and financing. They should identify capital requirements before approaching financial institutions and investors to ensure you raise the appropriate amount of capital required to support your growth plans.

A successful CFO should also prepare presentations of the company’s financial information, allowing potential investors or lenders to understand the data and the companies performance.

7. Tax Planning

How often are communications occurring with the company’s tax advisor to maximize all tax-related strategies?

Your CFO should maintain consistent communication with tax preparers to minimize your company’s potential tax liability.

8. Ongoing Analysis & Review

All of these responsibilities should be considered ongoing processes that are revisited on a regular pre-determined schedule and modified based on the most recent financial information available.

Furthermore, all of the results should be measurable to track the success of the performed analysis.

eGuide: What Business Should Expect From Their Accounting Department

A Solution That’s Right For You

If your CFO is providing forward-thinking analysis, they are providing infinite value to your company.

Each of the outlined goals above can help maximize profitability and value for the business, and, if managed appropriately and adequately, companies with the correct financial infrastructure can witness significant operational improvements and growth. Having this kind of efficiency will allow you to think about your business in new ways and likely uncover new possibilities for what’s next.

If your business requires any (or all) of the forward-looking financial analysis mentioned above, but you’re not in a position to hire a full-time CFO or may have a team that just needs additional support, the team of experts at Signature Analytics can help.

Our highly experienced accountants can act as your entire accounting department (CFO to staff accountant). If that solution isn’t the right fit, our team can complement your internal accounting staff, to provide the ongoing accounting support, training, and forward-looking financial analysis necessary to effectively run your company, analyze operations, and guide business decisions.

Have questions about our process? Contact us today for a free consultation.

 


 

Do you know your numbers?

The 3 Financial Statements Every Leader Needs

The 3 Financial Statements Every Leader Needs

As a business owner, financial data is critical to your success — but only if you know how to interpret the meaning behind the numbers correctly. Most owners or leaders within an organization rely on the aid of an accounting team to accurately analyze and organize financial data. Still, when it comes time to make a big decision, it’s up to you to do so based on the gathered information.

There are at least three primary financial statements your accounting team will (read: most definitely should) be presenting to you regularly: income statements, balance sheets, and statements of cash flow.

With a solid understanding of each financial statement, you can unlock powerful insights to help you compete more effectively in the marketplace, achieve better terms from vendors and suppliers, and offer accurate projections to both internal stakeholders and lending companies alike.

Income Statement

The income statement (also called a profit and loss statement or P&L statement) measures the profitability of your business during a specified accounting period. This statement assesses all of your business’ revenue and expenses, and then reports a net profit or net loss.

By industry standards, this is the most influential of the three significant statements. This report shows where the money is allocated and breaks down business costs into categories.

Importantly notated are costs directly related to goods and services. It also calculates your company’s earnings from multiple viewpoints, reporting not only the net earnings (your bottom line) but also an assessment of the business’ productive efficiency before the impact of taxes and financing.

Read More: Understanding Your Financial Statements

It’s helpful to compare multiple income statements from different accounting periods to monitor whether your business is becoming more or less profitable over time — allowing you to adjust your spending and production processes accordingly.

Balance Sheet

The information on the balance sheet is monumentally more valuable when viewed in conjunction with your income statement. For instance, you can use the data from the balance sheet to determine how many investments are required to support the bottom line shown on your income statement.

While the income statement focuses on one specific accounting period, the balance sheet shows a snapshot of your overall financial health on a particular day by using a simple equation: liabilities + equity = assets.

These factors give you an idea of what the business owns (assets), what it owes (liabilities, including short-term expenses and long-term debt), and how much capital shareholders have invested (equity). As the name suggests, the two sides of the equation in your balance sheet should balance out.

Read More: Financial Tips From Successful Leaders

Statement of Cash Flows

The cash flow statement does just what the name implies — it reports on the flow of cash into and out of your business. Unlike the income statement, which breaks down earnings and expenses into more specific categories, the statement of cash flows focuses on the overall amount of money coming in (inflow), compared to the amount of money going out (outflow).

To find this data, it takes precise calculations using the following equation: starting cash balance + cash inflows – cash outflows = ending cash balance.

Cash inflows include sales, loans, and accounts receivable collections. Alternatively, cash outflows include equipment costs, inventory, and expenses paid. The statement of cash flows presents the most transparent view of a company’s cash variation. In other words, what caused the balance in your bank account to increase or decrease.

Read More: 10 Tips To Help Improve Your Company Cash Flows

Even Harvard Business School agrees that the number one finance skill a leader needs is an understanding of their financial statements and you can’t argue with Harvard right?

Once you have an understanding of these top three financial reports, we encourage you to have your accounting team run the Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable, as well as Net Profit Margin Over Time.

Comprehensive knowledge of the financial side of your company will be incredibly helpful when it comes to making smart business decisions.

If your accounting team needs help or are not sure how to gather the information for these reports, have them contact us. Our expert team of accountants and business advisors are here for help in situations just like these.

Top 10 Things Every Business Needs to Know About Sales Tax

Top 10 Things Every Business Needs to Know About Sales Tax

As a business owner, you are used to facing never-ending checklists to help get your new ventures up and running. Before the first customer walks through the door, the new owner has already tackled seller’s permits, licensing, zoning, and registration, among other hurdles. Even after these boxes have been meticulously checked, businesses selling tangible personal property, and even some providing services, have another primary consideration – sales tax.

Depending on your business model, the idea of staying compliant with sales tax regulations can be overwhelming; however, if you get your shop set up correctly, compliance is relatively simple.

The following are answers to the most common questions business owners have about sales tax.

1. What is sales tax?

Typically, sales tax is an amount of money that is calculated as a percentage and added to the cost of a product or service. Retail sales receive tax, and 45 of the 50 United States enforce this rule.

2. Do I have to collect sales tax on all of my sales?

Not necessarily. If you make a sale to a customer to resides in the same state as your business, you collect sales tax. If the customer purchases from outside the state, you do not collect sales tax. For example, if your California business makes sales to California residents, you would need to collect sales tax.

Deliveries made to a state in which you do not have a physical location are generally not subject to state sales tax. However, the purchased product must be shipped directly to the purchaser’s out-of-state location and must be intended to be used outside the state. In this case, neither the purchaser nor its agent may pick up the purchased property within the state.

Read more: Top 10 IRS Tax Issues

3. What rate do I charge my customers?

The state or other governing municipality determines the rate.

For example, California’s sales tax varies depending on the district. It can range from as little as 7.25% (the statewide minimum) to as much as 10.5% in the Los Angeles County suburb of Santa Fe Springs.

4. Am I supposed to charge a rate based on where the customer is located?

When determining the rate to charge, you must first learn whether you are operating in an origin- or destination-based state. California is a hybrid, modified-origin-based state where taxes of the state, county, and city are based on the source of the sale, while district taxes are based on the destination of the sale. California gives you two options in applying this; both are acceptable.

  1. The first option is to charge the state rate plus your district rate on sales shipped within your district. For sales shipped outside your district, collect the state rate only. If you choose this option, the customer is technically liable to remit the omitted district tax to the state.
  2. The second option is to charge the state plus the district rate for every single sale shipped to a customer in California. This process ensures that the local district tax always gets collected.
    It is worth noting that collecting the same sales tax rate from every customer in California is technically wrong. If you do this, you are most likely not collecting the correct rate on every sale.

5. If the customer does not pay the sales tax, do I still have a liability?

Yes. The seller is responsible for the sales tax, not the purchaser. The law allows that the retailer may be reimbursed by charging the sales tax to their customer. However, even if the customer does not give an extra amount of money intended as “sales tax,” you are still liable for remitting the full amount of the tax.

6. If the tax I withhold is higher than the tax owed, what do I do with the difference?

Technically, if you collect more than the amount of tax due, you must either return the excess amount to the customer or pay it to the state.

7. What if the customer does not ultimately pay for the product provided?

Sales tax is imposed on completed sales, not collections. Even if the customer account becomes uncollectible, the retailer is still responsible for tax on that sale. Keep this in mind when preparing sales tax returns. If an account is not yet collected, gross receipts from the sale must be included in the tax base for sales tax purposes.

8. Are any sales exempt from sales tax?

Yes. Some common examples of exemptions and deductions include:

  • Sales for Resale (if supported by resale certificate or purchase order)
  • Some Food Products (for example, cold food sold to-go)
  • Labor (Repair and installation)
  • Sales of prescription medication
  • Sales to the U.S. Government

9. When are my taxes due?

Businesses are assigned a filing frequency based on the total sales tax collected. Your business may need to file monthly, quarterly, or yearly.

10. Is a sales tax return required even if my liability for the period is zero?

Yes. Every business with a sales tax license is required to file a return even though no sales were made during the period covered by the return. However, if you have seasonal sales or your sales tax liability has declined, you may request less frequent filing from the state.

Read more: How To Reduce Your Tax Liability

This Is The Bottom Line

Sales tax is an essential source of revenue for the state, and you should strive for full compliance in this area to avoid costly penalties and fees that result from a sales tax audit. By setting up your business early with a system that ensures correct collection and remittance of sales tax, you can avoid unnecessary expenses and fees in the future. Contact us if you need help.