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.
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.
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.
Whether you own a small company or a large corporation it is important to maximize the value of your accounting records so you can make the most informed and appropriate decisions for your business. The accounting method your company uses can have an impact on your ability to make these financial decisions, so it is important to choose the best method for your business.
There are two primary accounting methods that companies use to track their income and expenses – cash basis or accrual basis accounting methods. Below we will review the advantages and disadvantages of each accounting method, discuss the impact they could have on your company, and assist you in evaluating which method is the most appropriate for your business.
Here are some important criteria to consider when performing this evaluation:
Who are the users of the financial statements and information (management, investors, bank, tax advisors, etc.) and how will they use this financial information?
What method of accounting is the company using for tax purposes?
What is the vision of the company in the next 5 years?
Cash Basis Method of Accounting
With the cash basis method of accounting, transactions are accounted for based on the company’s cash inflows and outflows. For example, revenue is recorded by the company when the cash is received from customers and expenses are recorded when payments are made to vendors. Because all transactions are recorded based on the cash inflows and outflows, the company’s balance sheet will not include, or track, the accounts receivable or accounts payable. With this method, accounts receivable and accounts payable are usually tracked separately within the company’s accounting system or on the side.
Many small and start-up companies will use the cash basis accounting method because it is typically the simpler of the two methods from an accounting standpoint. At this point in a business, companies also tend to place a lower level of importance on the financial information of the company, so the cash method is sufficient for their purposes.
Accrual Basis Method of Accounting
Under the accrual basis method of accounting, transactions are accounted for when the transaction occurs or is earned, regardless of when the cash is paid or received. Income is recorded when the sale occurs and expenses are recorded when the goods or services are received.
Although it is slightly more complicated from an accounting and tax preparation standpoint, there are significant advantages for companies using the accrual accounting method. These advantages include:
The ability to “match” revenues and related expenses within the applicable periods so companies can appropriately analyze profitability margins.
Creating consistency as to when the revenues and the expenses of the company are recorded allowing for increased ease of budgeting and forecasting.
If the company is looking for additional financing opportunities, banks and other investors usually ask for the financial information in the accrual basis method of accounting.
In general, the accrual method of accounting provides a better picture into the financial results of the company. This allows users of the financial information to make more informed decisions, ultimately providing additional value to the company.
Which Accounting Method is Best for Your Business?
Based on the information above, let’s revisit our consideration questions to help you evaluate which method is best for your business.
1. Who are the users of the financial statements and information (management, investors, banks, tax advisors, etc.) and how will they use this financial information?
If the users of the financial information are strictly internal management and there are a limited number of transactions, the cash method may be appropriate; however, management will be limited to the financial information available when making decisions.
If the company has outside investors, bankers, or other advisors, it is highly recommended to utilize the accrual method. Not only will it provide substantially more insight and value to those users, it will also show that the company is sophisticated enough to take the next step as a company.
2. What method of accounting is the company using for tax purposes?
From a tax perspective, the accrual method MUST be used for the following companies:
Your company is a C corporation.
Your company has inventory.
Your gross sales revenue is greater than $5 million (there are some exceptions to this rule that you should discuss with your tax accountant).
If your company is required to report taxes on an accrual basis for any of the reasons above, then you should always account for your internal records on an accrual basis as well.
If your company does not meet the above criteria, then you have the option to report taxes on a cash or an accrual basis. Many times it is more advantageous to report taxes on a cash basis and these options should be discussed with your tax accountant. However, even if the cash method is the best option from a tax perspective, it may still be beneficial from a management perspective to use the accrual method for internal reporting purposes.
3. What is the vision of the company in the next 5 years?
If your company is small, has limited transactions, and there are no plans for growth in the future, then the cash basis method of accounting would likely be the preferred and most reasonable option.
However, if your company forecasts growth in the future, especially if you plan to have revenues in excess of $5 million, it is important to begin accounting for the company’s transactions on an accrual basis as soon as possible. This transition is essential as you prepare your company to enter into discussions with other advisors and begin seeking out potential financing opportunities. It will give your company and management credibility and allow you to make the most appropriate and informed financial decisions for your business.
Making the Transition
If your company is currently using the cash basis method of accounting and feel it may be time to transition to an accrual method, we can help. Our experienced accounting team has assisted several companies with this change – some to facilitate the growth of their business and others to provide better insight into the financial health of their company. Contact us for more information or to receive a free consultation.
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“Don’t buy a Fiat 500e electric car” says the company’s chief executive, Sergio Marchionne. According to Mr. Marchionne, it has nothing to do with the quality and price of the car, but rather the cost associated with producing the car – specifically the battery – and its impact on the product’s profit margin. The chief executive admitted at a recent appearance, “I hope you don’t buy it because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000.”
As a business owner, it is easy to see if you are profitable, just take a look at your company’s net income; however, that number alone does not provide a complete picture. Fiat is a perfect example. Overall, the company is profitable; however, when you look at the profit margins for their individual products, they are actually losing money on one of their product offerings.
For a more accurate measure of how your company is doing, it is imperative to calculate your profit margins by product line.
Calculating Profit Margins
Profit margin is an accounting measure designed to calculate your profit as a percentage of sales. It can be used to evaluate your business as a whole or for each individual product line.
Why is this useful? The two main reasons are 1) to compare your profit margins on a monthly and/or yearly basis and 2) to establish your position against other companies in your industry.
To calculate gross profit margin, divide your gross profit, which is sales minus cost of goods sold, by sales.
Analyzing Profit Margins by Product Line to Increase Profitability
Let’s assume your company has $10,000 in sales for the month and your gross profit for that same month is $5,000. That would mean your company’s gross profit margin is 50%.
Some business owners may see these numbers and think “we’re doing great” and they might be; however, by taking a closer look at the company’s profit margins by individual product line, they may be able to identify opportunities to increase profitability even more.
Using the same example above, let’s assume that Product A generated $7,000 in sales for the month and had a gross profit of $3,000. Product B generated $3,000 in sales and had a gross profit of $2,000. In this example, the gross profit margin for Product A would be 42.9% and for Product B would be 66.7%.
Using this information, a company could consider adjusting their pricing and distribution strategies to increase their overall profits. One way to achieve this would be to increase the price or reduce the cost of goods sold for Product A to improve the gross profit margins for that product line. Alternatively, the company could adjust their promotional efforts to focus more on selling Product B since the margins are greater.
Referring back to the Fiat example, the company is unable to increase the price for their electric vehicle because the market will not bear it. They should eventually be able to reduce the manufacturing costs of the car battery, but that will take time. So for now, it seems that Fiat is taking the alternate approach and focusing their promotional efforts on their other product lines.
Improve Your Company’s Profitability
At Signature Analytics, we work with our clients’ management teams to properly identify and understand the profit margins of their business. This is accomplished by producing a detailed understanding of the cost structure and related sales price associated with each product line and revenue stream of the company. This profit analysis can also be shared with company investors and banking relationships to enhance investor relations and participation.
In addition to profit margin analysis, we can provide accurate forecasts and budgets that enable our clients to properly project EBITDA growth and allow for better cash management strategies. All of these accounting and financial reports – profit margin analysis, forecasts, and budgets – empower our clients with the financial information they need to make informed business decisions that help to increase overall margins and improve profitability.
Signature Analytics was engaged by a rapidly growing San Diego brewery which, at the time, did not have an internal accounting function. The brewery’s management team spent the majority of their time on the operations of the business, so it was not possible to make maintaining proper account records a priority; however, they recognized that it was critical to have accurate financial information to make proper business decisions. So they reached out to Signature Analytics to provide outsourced accounting services.
Within a one month period, the Signature Analytics team was able to update all of the accounting records for the previous months which had been neglected. Our accounting team also set up a monthly close process which included proper reconciliation of all bank and balance sheet accounts, the implementation of a system to track inventory, and ensured proper Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and accrual basis of accounting. Additionally, we established monthly meetings with brewery management to review historical performance and discuss future activity and projections. Communications with the Brewery’s management were ongoing and imperative, allowing the engagement to maintain flexibility and drive effectiveness.
While these procedures were exactly what the management team expected of Signature Analytics, we knew there was more that we could do to assist with the most crucial business decisions. During the month that the accounting information was updated and while we learned about the business, the Signature Analytics team noted that more focus should be placed on the gross profit margins of the brewery’s products. Once the data was properly structured and accurate, a seasoned CFO put together a custom margin analysis and was able to identify several opportunities for improvement. The insights from this analysis enabled the Brewery to properly evaluate profits and increase margins.
In addition to getting the Brewery’s accounting records in order and providing a custom margin analysis, the Signature Analytics team prepared a 13-week cash flow forecast to assist with cash management and the payment of bills. This analysis helped the management team better understand each of the inflows and outflows the Brewery experienced and identify areas where they could improve the business financially.