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.

Firework or Fizzle: Four Accounting Issues to Watch For

It’s almost time for Fourth of July. Along with all the other red, white and blue themed festivities you have planned, many of us will also be watching the fireworks displays.

When it comes to fireworks, there’s nothing quite like the glitter and pageantry, as well as the loud booms and inevitable oohs and ahhs for every firework that goes off. That is, unless there’s a fizzle. We’ve all seen the ones that lift off … and never actually explode.

The same can be said with small businesses. There are companies that lift off the ground and soar to new heights, and then there are others that lift off and never reach their full potential. In other words, they fizzle.

While we can’t be your source for everything business related (though we could certainly try … we’re pretty awesome like that), today we’re talking about four (for 4th of July … corny, we know) accounting issues that will help your business be a firework rather than fizzle into the night sky.

#1: Taxes: DIY v. Business Advisor

Also known as everyone’s favorite word and subject for that matter. If you feel like you’re constantly banging your head against a wall, or continually hearing from your pals at the IRS, you’re not alone. Did you know that 52% of small businesses say they’re paying too much in taxes or are unsure of the amount? In other words, you’re not the only one. It’s hard to even begin to know all the possible deductions you can take, the information you need and the planning you’ll want to do.

The best way not to fizzle in the wake of the overwhelming tax burden is to use a professional. Use someone whose job is specifically tax focused (there are definitely people out there … and they even like it!) who can help you look at the overall picture of your company and find ways to ensure you’re paying just the right amount, and not a penny more (or a penny less). The money you spend on a tax advisor will be minimal in comparison to the money you may have to pay for not doing it correctly. In fact, they may even save you money as they know what to look for and how to minimize your tax liability.

#2: Using a Spreadsheet

A sure fire way to fizzle is to not have any idea what your finances look like … or how your business is doing. It’s also really hard to track your business, and get useful metrics, when you’re using spreadsheets to track your financial data.

Don’t get us wrong, as numbers nerds spreadsheets do get our hearts racing. However, they are not the most efficient or effective means of tracking financial data. There are a number of accounting software options that can easily track, compile and show you your current financial state.

So if you’re using a spreadsheet, or software that’s not giving you the information you need, it might be time to think about a change. Not sure if you’re ready to make the change? Ask yourself these questions.

#3: Knowing Your Finances & What They Mean

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, your finances are important. They tell a story about your business and help you see where you’re going. Numbers are also probably not the reason you got into business, so they’re frustrating and even aggravating at times. In fact, only 40% of small businesses say they are “extremely” or “very knowledgeable” in accounting and finance.

So if you’re in the vast majority that don’t have a solid accounting knowledge base, what do you do? To begin, we really think you should have a good foundation of financial knowledge and at least understand basic concepts (we talk about a lot of them on this blog). But beyond that, hire someone with CFO or controller level knowledge (here’s the difference) to help you.

And before you even begin to say you don’t have the money for a full time hire, remember you can always OUTSOURCE it. These numbers nerds will help you not only understand your current financials, and make sure they’re cleaned up, but they can also help you with larger picture ideas and goals … feel free to ooh and ahh at any time.

#4: So how’s business?

Can you answer this question honestly … do you know the health of your organization? Remember, just because you have money in the bank doesn’t mean you’re doing great (cash does not equal profitability).

It’s important to know the overall health of your business, as well as ways you can improve. Here are a few ways you can gauge the health of your business:

  • Compare yourself with other fireworks (see what we did there) via benchmarking.
  • Projections and forecasting, which you can only do if you have accurate financial data (see numbers 2 & 3).
  • Have up-to-date books with accurate financial data … please tell us we don’t have expand further on this.

The moral of the story

All of these are easily attainable and can change your fizzle into a firework. Just make sure to take the time to dedicate to the numbers part of your organization and find a trusted business advisor to help you along the way. From there, you can watch your business rocket into the sky and shine bright as ever!

From all of us at Eide Bailly, we wish you a safe and happy 4th of July!

firework

 

 

 

 

 

Business Planning 101

Has this ever happened to you? You get in the car, begin your journey and realize you have no idea where you’re headed or how to reach your destination. So what do you do? For some, they keep on driving, assuming they’ll figure it out along the way. For others, they pull out a map or plug their destination into their smart phone and let GPS take it from there. Then, if they still need help, they stop and ask for directions.

The same scenario can apply to starting your business and mapping out where you’ll go in the future. Some people start a business with no clear end in sight or no true direction or course. While this “fly by the seat of your pants” approach can be fun and exhilarating, we’re here to tell you it’s not the ideal way to start and run a business (sorry to rain on your parade).

Rather a business should model itself after the latter group in the above example.  By pulling out a map or plugging in your end destination, you can plan a trip that will get you to the place you want to go. Hopefully, it may even get you there in record time.

This is the heart of business planning, an essential function of running a business. Consider your business plan a roadmap or GPS for your organization. It’s an important step, because it keeps you on track during the early years of your business and gives you a defined destination to reach, as well as keeping you on track along the way. A business plan generally includes:

  • Company description (What is it exactly that you do? What sets you apart? Who do you serve?)
  • Organization (we’re talking the structure of your business and what management looks like)
  • Service/product line (What are you selling? How does it benefit a potential customer?)
  • Marketing and sales (How will you sell your product? How will people hear about you?)
  • Funding (How are you going to get started? Are you asking for funding?)
  • Financial projections (How are you going to make money?)
    • Projections for 3-5 years ahead
    • Yearly milestones (and how you’ll get there)
    • Revenue projections

So now you have your destination. You’re trucking along, enjoying the scenery and gaining momentum. But wait … you’re lost again. Your GPS told you were coming up on a national park and instead, you’re in the Walmart parking lot. Now what?

ASK FOR DIRECTIONS. A business plan is a really great map for your organization and an excellent exercise in understanding not only why you got into business the first place, but where you want to go and eventually end up. However, it’s not a concrete plan and sometimes, you encounter unexpected obstacles (hey, if you could see into the future and predict with 100% accuracy, you’d be a pretty wealthy business owner). So don’t be afraid to stop and ask for directions or help along the way.

Here a few common questions to ask along your business journey:

  • What would have to occur over the next three to five years for your business to be where you want it to be?
  • What are your profit and growth plans? How have they changed since you started this journey?
  • How much longer do you want to work in the business?
  • How quickly can you make effective decisions? Do you even have the information you need to make these decisions?
  • How do you stack up against your competition? (benchmarking anyone?)
  • Do you still have a clear vision/mission for your organization?

Take a step back every once in a while and reassess where you’re going and if your original destination is till where you want to be headed. If not, there’s always time to readjust.

Further, enjoy the journey. What you’re doing is pretty cool, and we want to see it succeed, grow and thrive.

Too wordy for your taste? Check out this infographic:

Business Planning

 

The Roles of an Accountant

 By: Ashley Cossette, Sr. Audit Associate

ac·count·ant – əˈkount(ə)nt

So you have a degree in accounting, work for a public accounting firm, and your name ends in CPA – so you do taxes, right? Wrong. Knowing the difference in practice areas matters to you and your business – it can mean the difference between being profitable or not.

By the way, what is a CPA? All Certified Public Accountants (CPA) are accountants but not all accountants are CPA’s. CPA is a highly reputable designation that signifies the accountant has achieved a level of expertise beyond that of a standard accountant.

 

Business AdvisoryAccountants that will help you put all the pieces of the business puzzle together and grow strategically.

Accounting and BookkeepingAccountants that make sure your financial data and records are accurate, timely, and useful. However, not all accountants that fit into this category are the same.

  • CFO/Controller – accountant(s) that ensures your accounting processes are running smooth and provides you with the financial data needed for decision-making.
  • Staff Accountant/Bookkeeper – accountant(s) that complete the day-to-day administrative accounting functions.

Tax Services – Accountants that understand the tax laws and regulations. They work with you to understand your unique tax situation to minimize your tax liability.

Audit Services – Accountants that understand the audit and accounting standards. Their services can be broken down into three categories: audit, review, and compilation. The primary difference in the service levels is the assurance provided as to the accuracy of the financial statements. The more assurance provided; the more inquiry, analysis and detail testing is applied. But remember, they don’t all work for the IRS.

The most important key is to know your needs and know your accountant! You want the best qualified accountant to fulfill your needs.

Upcoming Blog Topic: Ways your business can benefit from the resources a CFO/Controller provides.