An Exit Interview with Jim Ramstad

Jim Ramstad is no stranger when it comes to business. From starting businesses to selling businesses and every step in between, Jim has done it all. After all his time and experience, Jim has decided it’s time for a new path in life – retirement!

Jim has been an important part of our work here at Eide Bailly, and we know his advice and knowledge will be missed. We sat down with Jim to ask him to share some of his thoughts and advice with you, fellow business owners and entrepreneurs.

How long have you worked in the business world?

Altogether, I’ve spent 49 years in the business world, involved in various aspects of business.

How/what made you want to get involved in business?

Growing up and in high school, I never even thought of getting involved in business. In fact, I wanted to be a teacher and a coach. As I grew up, I watched as my dad’s family did very well for themselves in business. As I watched their successes and trials, I became more and more intrigued, and decided it was the right path for me.

If you weren’t in business, what would you be doing?

As mentioned before, I thought about being a teacher and a coach when I was younger. Now looking at it, I think it would be fun to be in politics. Twenty some years ago, I took a personality test that determined the top two areas that would make sense for me career wise. My top two were politician and ambassador, and accountant wasn’t even on the list. I feel like ambassador made sense, and I’ve gotten to do some of that in being an ambassador for other businesses.

How long have you been at Eide Bailly?

I’ve been working at Eide Bailly for 12 years, and I was a client here before I started working here. I’ve always had a connection with the Firm, which has led me to some of the career positions I’ve been in.

What positions have you held prior to being at Eide Bailly and at Eide Bailly?

Prior to being at Eide Bailly, I held many different positions. I’ve been an accountant, controller, CFO, COO and CEO. I’ve also done business development and government relations for a company in which I got to propose a piece of legislation that actually got approved into law in the energy bill.

Here at Eide Bailly, I’ve always worked in business advisory. In 2005, I started working with entrepreneurs to help get their businesses to take off. Throughout this role, I’ve been blessed and fortunate to take my personal experiences in business and apply it to other clients and help them learn from it.

What was your favorite position and why?

I don’t think I could really pick a favorite – I’ve enjoyed them all! I’ve really enjoyed the last twelve years here at Eide Bailly. I’ve enjoyed getting to apply my past experiences while also learning new things from our clients. Although there have been challenges, I’ve found it very rewarding.

What changes did you see take place in the business/accounting world during your tenure?

The biggest and most obvious change I’ve seen is in technology. From everything being completely manual to now being nearly all online and in the cloud, it’s been a total change. When I was 26, I worked with for a trucking company that completed everything manually. I gradually helped introduce them to technology, which was a process. Now, they use technology for everything.

What advice would you offer small to mid – sized businesses just getting started?

Get an advisor. It’s important to find people who are truly and genuinely interested in you and your success, not just in selling you something or getting a fee for the job. Find these people and rely on them – don’t try to do it all on your own.

What will you miss most about Eide Bailly?

The people, hands down. I am also sad that I won’t be around to watch the Possibilities Center grow into a bigger, Firm-wide practice, but I will be paying attention and willing to help if the need arises.

What are your plans after retiring?

I’m going to stay busy. I’m going to use my facilitation skills to start some groups in the FM area, such as mastermind groups and a bible study type group. I always want to continue to be a mentor and resource for Eide Bailly professionals who may need my help. The rest of my time will be spent with family, being a grandpa and a great grandpa.

While Jim isn’t leaving us for a few more weeks, please join us in wishing him well and thanking him for all his hard work and dedication.

Three Components You Can’t Ignore

Like you, your business is alive. But is it thriving? Are you giving it the fuel it needs to grow?

Many components of business require the time of owners, founders and management. And three critical components stand out—accounting, culture and systems. Sure, it’s possible to make money without these, but it can be extremely difficult to grow or reach goals. Surprisingly, these three components are typically ignored or left to chance. Don’t leave your success to chance.

Accounting, culture and systems are equally important, although one might take priority over the other two, depending on your business and its current development stage. But no matter where you’re at, it’s important to be aware of how these three components contribute to your progress.

Accounting

Accounting is usually most ignored by small and beginning businesses. However, we’ve seen many well established, profitable companies that don’t have or can’t produce reliable financials on demand. Without that, management loses all ability to gain valuable information that’s provided in financial statements.

So, why is accounting often ignored? While each business likely has its own, unique reasons, there are some common themes we see. Often times, small businesses just can’t afford to have in house accounting people, so these functions get pushed to the back burner. Another common theme we see stems from lack of understanding. Accounting can be tricky, and when businesses don’t understand their numbers, they often times just ignore them and hope for the best. This can lead to some serious financial issues that, if ignored, can take a business downhill fast.

Culture

Culture is your company’s personality. It’s how your staff interacts with each other and customers. If you don’t identify and define your culture, you can stunt your business’s efforts to grow. For example, one business owner almost completely replaced her staff. Her former staff wanted to keep the “mom and pop” feel. In her long-range planning, which her former staff was part of, they identified strategies for growing the business, complete with revenue targets. It wasn’t until the owner began taking the necessary action to achieve the growth did she realize her staff wasn’t actually on board. Her views of change and growth for the company differed from her staff, which created a cultural nightmare.

It is imperative for everyone to believe and share the company culture. Maybe this means creating policies and procedures that directly align with your company culture, or hosting meetings and events to help your staff understand and adapt to the company culture. However you implement it, culture is too important to ignore – after all, your people are at the heart of your business.

Systems

Proper systems are more than writing down the process. The systems should be both quantifiable and qualified. Quantifiable means it should be set up to measure if things are being done the same way every time, and if the desired results are being achieved. A qualified system is one that’s performed the same way and the way it was written, even if you or management is not present. It should be pointed out that it’s not necessary to systematize your entire business. Focus on areas that create consistent and reoccurring frustrations, are important to the operation and growth of the business and where consistent results are needed.

To sum it all up, all components of your business are important. Your accounting needs, culture and systems and processes are three components that stand out because unfortunately, they are often ignored. By devoting more time, effort and resources into these, you can help your business stay on track for growth and continued success.

*Shameless plug: These three components may seem confusing, scary and downright challenging, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have talented professionals who dedicate their time and skills to helping your business succeed. If you need help, let us know!

Meet the Team: Angie Ziegler

6147What is my role?

My role is to make sure that all business owners feel understood and educated with what the team provides them, whether it be accounting or payroll. I want to make sure business owners understand the information they are being provided so they can make smart, informed decisions about their business. I strive for the team and me to connect with the business owners in order to build a trustworthy relationship.

Why are numbers important for business?

Numbers are a road map! This map is a journey for the business owner to visually see how their risk and rewards play out, and where these decisions might lead them. The numbers allow us to show a business owner the past, present and future of their business, which can help them make better decision for the future.

Why do I want you to succeed?

I enjoy that feeling you get when you walk out of a business and realize they really value the service you provided them.  If they feel success, then so do I!  A lot of business owners don’t understand and/or really struggle with accounting and payroll, so when I can come in and explain it in a different way that makes sense, we all win and feel a sense of accomplishment.  When the payroll makes sense, everything else rolls along smoothly!

#ILoveSmallBiz

I love to see someone take a leap of faith and start a new business (seriously, how cool is it seeing someone chase their dreams?). I find it so rewarding to be a part of that leap of faith and to help them get where they want to be.  I love hearing the stories from our clients that start out in a basement or garage and then move into a large facility. The business owners have such pride in what they do and I enjoy when they share that with me.

When it Comes to Accounting, Communication is Key

By: Kristie Rants, Eide Bailly LLP

We get it: the thought of sitting down and talking with your accountant might be a little scary. After all, all they do all day is sit and stare at numbers and do math, and their jargon and lingo is hard, if not impossible, to understand, right?

Not exactly.

While the thought of having conversations with your accountant might be intimidating, it really shouldn’t be. More often than not, your friendly number cruncher wants to talk to you, too (and we promise to use words that make sense)!

To help the conversation go smoothly, we came up with some tips to help you have successful conversations with your accountant.

Communication is key

  • First and foremost: figure out the best method for communicating with your accountant. Whether it’s in person, email or even Skype, agree on what works best for both of you.
  • Decide on frequency for communicating. Some businesses may need to have meetings weekly, while others may be on a monthly schedule. This is usually driven by business needs.
  • Make sure you’re both on the same page. It’s important that your accountant understands your business, just as you should be able to understand what they’re talking about. If you are unsure about the topic being discussed, don’t nod your head – ask more questions!
  • Establish a relationship. Create an environment where both you and your accountant are comfortable with each other. When you have a solid relationship with your accountant, it’s often easier to ask whatever is on your mind, no matter how basic it may seem.

 

Be prepared

  • Come prepared to each meeting. Make sure you have organized and complete information to share. If you’re not sure what exactly to bring, ask your accountant. He or she can give you a list of documents and information that might be needed.
  • Be prepared to share any changes occurring in your business. This keeps your accountant in the know and decreases the likelihood of any unwanted surprises in the future.
  • Ask questions throughout the year and as they arise rather than holding them all in. It’s easier to remember and examine information right away, rather than waiting six months down the road.
  • If your accountant sends out newsletters, articles, etc., read them! These often contain current and important information that can impact your business. If your accountant thinks it’s important, you should give it a read as well.

Accountants wear many hats

  • Your accountant likely has access to many resources to help you with any phase of your business. Your accountant can do all sorts of tax planning, whether you’re interested in putting away additional money in a retirement plan or wondering what your options are for depreciating equipment. Maybe a cost segregation study to accelerate depreciation or a 179d study makes sense for you!
  • Accountants can even help train you or your staff. Ask them if they offer an on-site service. Sometimes a few hours of training makes all of the difference. (Shameless plug: our accounting coach services do just that)!
  • Consider what stage your business is in. If you’re thinking about selling (or buying) or even retiring, your accountant can likely help you or introduce you to someone who can get you on the right track for a successful transition. They have the expertise to help you succeed.

The moral of the story…

Communicating with accountants can seem intimidating and confusing. Using these tips can help you have successful conversations. If you’re still intimidated, reach out. We promise to help you understand the accounting side of your business so you can get back to doing what you love.

An Inside Look at the GFMEDC

Guest blog by John Machacek, Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation

It’s no secret Fargo-Moorhead appreciates and supports its startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses (think 1 Million Cups, Startup Weekend, CoStarters, Financial Planning Day… we could go on and on.) These people and businesses are helping shape the economic ecosystem, as well providing the area with many new, fun opportunities for shopping, dining and entertainment.

The bottom line: startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses are important to our community. In fact, there are organizations in the community that have resources dedicated to helping businesses grow and thrive. One such organization is the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation (GFMEDC).

The GFMEDC is a great resource for those who want to live, work and play in the FM area. The Mission and the Vision of the GFMEDC do an excellent job of explaining who we are as an organization and what we aim to do.

Mission: The Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation is a catalyst for economic growth and prosperity. Using a comprehensive approach to economic development, the GFMEDC accelerates job and wealth creation in Cass County, ND and Clay County, MN.

The Vision includes points such as:

  • Lead the development of a robust economy where people and businesses thrive
  • Strategically pursue job creation and business attraction
  • Work with K-12, higher education and industries to ensure a strong talent pipeline
  • Support a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem
  • Create collaboration between public and private sectors

In other words, the GFMEDC wants to see the area’s economy and ecosystem thrive, and it understands the importance of small businesses in making this dream a reality.

Innovation and new businesses contribute to a stronger economy and job creation in the area, and the GFMEDC serves as a resource to support this emerging ecosystem.

On a high level, one role of the GFMEDC is to encourage the idea of being an entrepreneur and the importance of them on our economy. The FM area has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, so it isn’t realistic to rely on the attraction of new businesses into the community. That’s where the entrepreneurs and startups come in.

By increasing the awareness and support of entrepreneurial development, the GFMEDC helps connect startups, builds confidence and portrays the community as a great place to build a business (and it truly is). This message is conveyed through a combination of messaging and events, which come from traditional organizations like GFMEDC, as well as help from non-traditional organizations like Emerging Prairie and Folkways which help us reach a wide variety of audiences.

On a more personal level, another purpose of the GFMEDC is getting to know the entrepreneurs on an individual basis and to be there for them throughout the various stages and needs of their business. The GFMEDC aims to engage with startups to listen to their story, learn what they need and be all ears about how they can help down the road. By building these strong, trusting relationships, the GFMEDC helps make entrepreneurial connections and strengthens the network of all those in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Although the GFMEDC wants to see all types of businesses succeed, there is a special interest for those in the primary sector. These businesses are those who are adding value to a product/service and a significant portion of their customer base is outside of the region. Think of software and application developers, manufacturers, value-added ag services, etc. These companies could be located in nearly any part of the country and it wouldn’t change their customer base much – yet they’ve chosen to make the FM area the home for their business because they know the benefits of doing business here. These companies bring new wealth to the communities, which then gets passed on to employees who have spending needs which grow other industries in the area. The support of the GFMEDC helps fuel the economy by creating an ecosystem where businesses and industries all benefit from each other.

The GFMEDC also likes to stay on top of what and how these businesses are doing so we can better help them with any needs that may arise. For the more established businesses, routine visits are scheduled with them to check how things are going, but also to stress the importance of remaining in contact, especially if the business is planning an expansion in employment, facilities or financing needs. For startups, the GFMEDC aims to be in contact with them right from the start to better understand their growth stages and to be a better guide for them.

The positive approach from the entrepreneurial ecosystem (GFMEDC, Emerging Prairie, SBDCs, universities, fellow startups, etc.) has increased entrepreneurial confidence, community pride and the innovative image of the metro area around the country. Startups and small businesses are better aware of programs available to them to help them progress faster.

The Fargo-Moorhead community is friendly and caring, and entrepreneurs should know they’re not in this alone. At the GFMEDC, we pride ourselves on knowing people and programs, and we simply cannot expect businesses to know all this on their own. The GFMEDC is here as a resource to listen and learn about the current stage and future plans of each business, and to help them take advantage of what is available in the community in order to help them grow and thrive.

Meet the Team: Stephanie Berggren

StephWhat is my role? My role is to help business owners by sharing and teaching what I love – accounting. Owners can focus on the fun stuff, like making their business grow, while my team and I can provide the accounting skills and knowledge to help them make smart growth decisions. My team and I can help them interpret the story the numbers are telling so they can have a better understanding of where their business is and where it’s going.

Why are numbers important for business?  Numbers are the story of your business. They tell the owner important statistics that, when understood and applied correctly, can help the business owner make informed decisions. Numbers tell the business owner what works and what doesn’t.

Why do I want you to succeed? When you succeed, we all succeed. I love the feeling of seeing businesses I worked with become successful. It develops a sense of pride in what I’ve accomplished, but also makes me excited to see where your business will go next!

#ILoveSmallBiz – Small businesses truly make the world go round. From job opportunities to innovative ideas, small businesses provide success and growth opportunities for our communities, which is a win-win for everyone.

Preparing for Month End

It’s the end of the month, which means it’s time to see how your business did. All you have to do is run the magical reports out of your accounting system, and you get to see how much money you made, right? Probably not. Technology has made things a lot easier and gives us quicker access to our information, but there are still certain items that need to be taken care of, or at least looked at, when each month ends.

Every organization should strive to be able to produce timely and accurate financial information within a reasonable period of time after a month has ended. This information is vital to understanding your business and allows you to make informed decisions—that’s what you want, right? The best way to do this is to create a monthly close process. The process should be thoughtful, documented and communicated to all parties involved.

How to Create a Monthly Close Process

  1. Record daily transactions. It might seem straight-forward, but accurately recording day-to-day transactions is the basis for all financial reports. Ideally these transactions should be recorded when they happen, which incorporates much of the work into the daily operations instead of waiting until the end of the month. Recording these transactions daily also allows you to see some very important information throughout the month, such as who owes you money or who you owe money to. A little extra daily work amounts to saved time at month-end.
  2. Record monthly journal entries. Some entries don’t fall into the daily transactions category. These transactions, such as recording accrued expenses, amortization or depreciation expenses, are often only recorded once a month to present accurate monthly financial statements. Let your system work for you—set up it up to help remind you and automate some of these recurring entries.
  3. Reconcile balance sheet accounts. The first account you should reconcile is the cash account. What exactly is reconciling? Well, it’s the process of making sure you’ve captured all transactions. Nearly every accounting system has a built-in reconciliation feature, and going through this exercise is the easiest way to uncover any missing transactions since cash is a part of most transactions. Once cash is reconciled and any missing transactions are recorded, you can move on to reconciling other balance sheet accounts, like credit cards, accounts receivable and accounts payable.
  4. Review revenue and expense accounts. This step is often overlooked by business owners because they generally feel they’re watching them enough during the month. Why look at it again at month-end? We’re not saying that you need to go through every revenue or expense transaction, but take a quick look through the balances in the revenue and expense accounts and assess if they look reasonable or not. This can help make sure things have been recorded in the right period, or on the right date.
  5. Prepare financial statements and have management review. Now that you’ve recorded all the transactions and made sure everything looks good, you’re ready to put together the financial statements. Most of the time, you can run a basic financial statement directly out of your accounting system. Consider running a balance sheet, income statement, accounts receivable aging, and accounts payable aging. After this, it’s important to have them reviewed and approved by management: the owner, the CFO or the Director of Finance.
  6. Close the accounting system. You’ve made it to the final step—yes! After the financial statements are approved, it’s important to close the month in the accounting software. This prevents future transactions from accidentally being recorded in this month, and keeps people from accidentally changing a transaction.

Following these steps will get you on the way to your goal: Generating accurate and timely financial records. It puts the right information into your hands and allows you to make informed business decisions. If this sounds too intimidating, we’re happy to help. We have the expertise and technology to help ease the headaches. Plus, we’re accounting nerds (really, we love numbers) and think this is fun!