Setting up for Success: Part 1

You’ve decided to start a new business – how exciting! There are many important things to consider when getting everything set up, such as your human resources policies (your employees matter!) and software and solutions (you want everything organized and running smoothly). Another important component you need to consider is your accounting – after all, these numbers lay the foundation for your business and essentially tell your story.

Accounting is an important part of your business, and getting it right the first time is crucial. So where do you even begin?

First, it’s important to understand your business and industry. This understanding can help you answer some important questions for designing your accounting system. Some of the questions that may come up include:

  • “What basis of accounting should I be using?”
  • “What information should I be tracking in order to make informed decisions?”
  • “I know what I want to track, but how do I track it?”

Let’s start with the first question: selecting your basis of accounting. Your basis of accounting is essentially a framework used to record your transactions. There are a few different types to choose from, with the following being the most common.

  • U.S. GAAP (United States Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) – Try saying that one ten times fast. This is an accrual based framework in which revenues and expenses are recorded when they are earned and incurred, respectively. This is the most commonly recommended type.
  • Cash Basis – In this framework, revenues and expenses are recorded when cash is received or paid, respectively. Cash basis presents two different methods of accounting: pure and modified. The difference comes in that under modified cash bases, some transactions follow U.S. GAAP. Check out this blog to learn more about cash versus accrual methods.
  • Income Tax Basis – This is a framework in which revenue and expense recording depends on tax regulations. This helps eliminate the need for converting from one basis of accounting to another for tax return purposes.
  • Regulatory – In this framework, a regulatory agency prescribes the best method.

Now that we’ve looked at the different basis types available, it’s time to determine what information you should be tracking. The key here is to capture all of your business transactions in the simplest, and most efficient, way possible. This includes both cash and noncash transactions.

Depending on your specific business or industry, you might need to consider tracking your transactions in greater detail. Here are some areas to consider tracking:

  • Should you be tracking direct and indirect costs related to construction or manufacturing contracts so you can see the profitability?
  • What sales tax jurisdictions do you need to track for sales tax reporting?
  • Do you need to track certain items for tax return purposes?
  • If you do business in multiple states, should you be tracking transactions by state for tax purposes?
  • Do you have different departments or divisions that you need to track in order to view profitability?

Once you decide what information you should be tracking, you can select an accounting solution, and start designing your accounting system.

Stay tuned for the second part of this blog, where we go in depth about how you track your information. Although we’ve shared similar posts about these topics in the past, we think a refresh and reminder is important. If you need help in the meantime, just ask!

The Stay Interview

When it comes to your employees, you likely conducted interviews on them when you first hired them. If you’ve had employees leave, maybe you’ve conducted exit interviews. But there’s another type of interview that often gets overlooked: the stay interview.

A stay interview? What’s that?

While exit interviews are conducted when an employee leaves to help management get a better understanding of what went wrong or why the employee left, stay interviews give management an idea of how they can help their employees stay with the company.

Stay interviews can help management gain a good understanding of what the company is doing right that makes employees want to stay, but it can also help determine what it is that would cause an employee to leave. This gives management a chance to identify strengths and weaknesses, and to work on improving those before it’s too late.

On top of that, stay interviews can help build stronger relationships within the company, which can ultimately lead to more trust throughout. When employees realize their thoughts and needs are being considered, they are often more likely to have positive attitudes and relationships. Following up on information learned in the interviews can help solidify this.

Stay interviews are also sometimes a better option than other ways to measure employee satisfaction, such as sending out surveys that often get buried in inboxes. Stay interviews provide a two way, face-to-face conversation that allows for questions and dialogue.

What questions should I be asking?

There are many questions you can ask during a stay interview, and often times, these questions depend on your business. If your employees do sales, you might want to ask them about a specific goal or initiative. If you’re in the world of technology, you may find value asking your employees how they feel about the software they’re currently using.

While a lot of stay interview questions can and should pertain to your specific business, there are also common questions that may be beneficial to conducting a worthwhile interview. Some common questions to consider asking include:

  • What keeps you coming back to work here every day?
  • What do you look forward to here?
  • If you could change something about your job, what would it be and why?
  • What would make your job more satisfying?
  • What do you want to see from upper level management/staff?
  • What might cause you to leave the company?
  • What can the company do more of for you?

What do I do next?

After you have conducted the interview, it’s helpful to do a quick run through of the employee’s answers to make sure you didn’t miss anything important. You may even notice a pattern of similar answers from different employees.

Once you have a good idea of what needs to change and improve, act on it! The purpose of the interview is to help you help your employees, and to improve employee retention based on the answers you hear.

Stay interviews can be a powerful tool to help you improve work-life for your employees, and to keep them around for years to come. When stay interviews and the information obtained in them are acted on properly, you’re more likely to retain your employees and avoid exit interviews.

Small Business Loans 101

Guest Blog By: Matt Gruchalla and Shelly Kegley of Bell Bank

In today’s banking environment, securing a small business loan takes more organization than one may anticipate. There also seems to be a correlation between how organized a borrower is, and success in getting approved for a small business loan.

Financing for a New Business

It is important to plan well in advance for starting a business so the business owners are financially well positioned for success. This gives the bank an idea of the owner’s capacity to support the business if additional cash injections are needed at any point. Some items to consider prior to starting a business include:

  • Personal credit – The owner’s credit report should be free of anything derogatory, and reflect that all accounts have been paid as agreed. Revolving debt and credit card balances should be minimal. Assuming the owner’s personal accounts have been handled as agreed, personal credit scores should be acceptable.
  • Personal income tax returns – Typically, lenders require three years of personal income tax returns, as well as income tax returns for any business ventures the owners have been involved with.
  • Personal financial statement – This is a detail of the owner’s assets and liabilities. Potential lenders will look closely at owner’s cash, liquid investment balances and equity in homes or other real estate, as these can be sources for initial or ongoing business capitalization.
  • Outside investors or loan guarantors – If a business owner feels they may not be financially positioned to start a business, a good option may be to consider outside investors or loan guarantors.
  • Business plan – A great business plan includes a market analysis that’s backed by real data. The business plan should explain why there’s a need for the product or service that the potential business will sell, as well as what differentiates them from their competitors. The business plan should include a summary of the background and experience of the owners and key employees. Obstacles and success barriers should be discussed and mitigated.
    • A business plan shouldn’t be lengthy or redundant. Keep it clear and concise! SCORE and the Small Business Development Center are two outstanding resources available in the FM area to contact if you need assistance with completing your business plan.
    • Projections are a key component of a business plan, and shouldn’t be overly optimistic. The assumptions used to formulate the projections need to be explained so the lender understands how they were determined. The projections should include a “day one” balance sheet, along with year-end balance sheets for the first three years. Income statement projections should include monthly projections for the first year and annual projections for the next two years.
  • Sources and uses summary – This gives the lender an idea of what the loan funds will be used for, and will detail the equity that will be contributed by the owners. There isn’t a hard and fast rule for the amount of equity needed but typically 20% to 25% is normal.

Financing for an Existing Business

Securing financing for an existing business is normally an easier process because a lender can rely on a proven history rather than on projections. A projection may be needed if the financing request materially changes the business operations; however, these projections may be easier to complete since the business owner will have a better understanding of their business and industry.

From the business a lender will require:

  • Three years of business financial statements
  • Most current year to date financial statements
  • Three years of business income tax returns

From the business owners a lender will require:

  • Three years of personal income tax returns
  • A current personal financial statement

Obtaining a small business loan may seem daunting, but an organized, financially healthy borrower will have a much easier time securing a small business loan. Taking the time to prepare a well thought out business plan, and becoming financially healthy, will make the financing process go more smoothly.

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.