A Community Resource: Emerging Prairie

Guest Blog By: Annie Wood, Director of Community Programs, Emerging Prairie

Founded in 2013, Emerging Prairie began with the goal to create a community we all want to be part of. We want to do our part to make Fargo a great place to bet on ideas, start companies and improve the human condition through technology-based solutions. In 2016, Emerging Prairie became a non-profit organization and maintains its mission to connect and celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

At Emerging Prairie, we live out our mission in multiple ways:

– Platforms: we have an online content publication and several events that create opportunities for people to share and spread their ideas. We also utilize platforms like 1 Million Cups (caffeinated by the Kauffman Foundation) and TEDxFargo to help champion these ideas.

– Coworking: we run The Prairie Den, a coworking and event space in downtown Fargo. The Den provides a home for startups, small businesses, entrepreneurs, an office away from the office for other organizations, and a place for people to meet.

– Connecting: we run multiple programs and groups that are designed for authentic connection for entrepreneurs to connect to other entrepreneurs, as well as build connections between members of the community.

– Convening: we play a role in helping bring entrepreneurs together so our community learns together and can share what we collectively need when folks like the Bank of North Dakota are working on new ways to serve the startup community.

Companies of any stage can connect with us. Some of our programs are geared to companies of different sizes, stages and industries. For example, 1 Million Cups Fargo (which is supported by the Kauffman Foundation) is curated to be primarily tech-based founders or entrepreneurs who have a product or software as a service (SaaS) companies. We work to put founders first, so many of our programs are more geared toward supporting founders versus the size and stage of the company.

The Prairie Den is an inclusive space in the heart of downtown Fargo – it’s truly a place for community to be built. We think of it like a student union for our city. Just like a student union on a college campus is a place for students to study, hold meetings and social events, The Prairie Den provides a similar area to the community. It’s a place for connecting, for working, for moving ideas forward, and for groups to gather. We offer workspace for teams, individuals, and as an office-away-from-the-office for employees of many organizations. We also have conference rooms, a classroom and even an event space that we rent to members and non-members.

The Den is also where Co.Starters is hosted by our friends at Folkways. Co.Starters is a nine-week course to help people with ideas turn them into businesses, or people with young businesses strengthen them.

Emerging Prairie subscribes to the Fargo Thesis, which Co-Founder and Executive Director Greg Tehven first wrote about in Fargo Monthly. The Fargo Thesis is to Connect It, Believe It and Love It. This is how we operate in our community –Connecting people; Believing that Fargo is a place of possibility; and showing love by celebrating and caring for community members.

As an organization, Emerging Prairie is excited about continuing to support our startup community. We believe ideas matter. We know it’s a leap of faith to start something new, so we want to celebrate those who take the leap. And we want to be an organization that helps pave the way for founders to bet on their ideas, to build teams around them and to pursue possibilities to create a community that we all want to be part of.

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.

Finance is Important – but Don’t Just Take Our Word for It!

It’s no secret that having healthy finances in your business can help your business be successful. We believe in the importance and power of finances so much that we may have written about it a time or two. While we’ve shared some pretty great info about the importance of finances, don’t just take our word for it!

Here are some other posts that believe in the importance of healthy finances that we think are really neat!

Without Financial Management, You Won’t Get Far

In this post by the Small Business Administration (SBA), the author discusses how you can have a unique selling point, but without strong financial management, that selling point won’t take you far.

The Importance of Planning

Having a financial plan in place can act as a roadmap for your business. From where you want to be next week to what you want your business to look like in five years, financial planning can help you get there. This article shares reasons why financial planning is a necessity for small businesses.

Am I Profitable?

The most common goal of any business is to be profitable. It seems easy: sell enough of your product or service to overcome your expenses and you’ll make a profit. That’s not always the case. Sometimes, certain pieces of your business just aren’t as profitable as others. Having a strong understanding of your finances can help you see where your business is making profits, and where there might be some issues.

Keeping Everything in Order

Sometimes your finances get out of hand, and getting them back in check can be difficult. Further, when finances get out of hand, even bigger messes can show up for your business. Before things get too crazy, consider these tips for keeping your finances in order.

Survival of the Fittest

No matter the type or size of business you operate, if you don’t understand your finances, you simply won’t survive. This post shares some tips to help you understand your business’s finances, and where to go if you need help.

How to Manage Change in Your Organization

Change is inevitable, and that’s a fact. Making changes in your business allows you to stay up-to-date on trends, keep up with the competition and remain a force to be reckoned with in your industry. In order for change to be successful, you need to make sure your people are on board. Often, this can be quite a challenge. What if your employees react negatively or don’t adopt a new form of technology the way you had hoped?

A concept called change management can help get your employees on board and be accepting of new changes in your business. Change management can provide a framework to help leaders engage the entire organization and give them a sense of why the changes are being made, as well as how and who it will impact.

Here are five change management concepts to follow when implementing a big change in your business – whether it be new technology, reorganizing your teams or something else.

  1. Communication is key – Change can create some uneasy feelings, uncertainty and even resistance. The last thing you want to do is ignore these issues. The best idea is to acknowledge and address them as soon as they come up. This can lead to higher levels of support, more employee acceptance and more buy-in. People who feel uninformed or neglected throughout change are going to be less open to adopting what’s new, so communicating with everyone throughout the process ensures no one will feel left out.
  2. Support from the top – Getting executives and senior level management to support change can almost ensure a successful change initiative. When leadership is on board, it shows all others that if the executives support the change, it is likely worthwhile. In order to get this effect, leadership needs to embrace the change to unify and motivate the rest of the organization. If you have a leadership team who doesn’t support the initiative, it is likely destined to crash and burn.
  3. Dedicate a go-to person – To make matters a little simpler, consider dedicating one person to drive progress and lead the communication across the entire organization. This one person will act as a touchpoint for feedback, questions and concerns, and will be able to communicate them with key stakeholders. They could also deliver updates and progress reports to the organizations to keep everyone up-to-date. How do you choose this person? Consider the type of change you are initiating. If it involves technology, look to your IT people and see who would be the best fit. If it involves management of daily work life, consider and HR professional to be this person.
  4. Offer loads of training – If you’re initiating any kind of change that involves a disruption of how things are usually done, people will need to learn the new way of doing things. Offering technical and process training can help employees understand the aspects and impacts of the new technology, system, etc. This can help them understand how their everyday work will change and what to do to adapt. This can help keep your team engaged in the change adoption and can continue to foster communication and involvement throughout the process.
  5. Measure success – For any type of change to be successful, it needs to be adopted and accepted by those impacted by it. To know if a change initiative is successful, you need to measure the impacts of it. Have a plan to measure key data before, during and after the change to see how well it was received by the organization. This will help you identify what is working well, what might need to be improved and whether the change is still a good idea for your organization.

Change is hard – there’s no doubt about it. However, by practicing some of these ideas, you can implement a smooth change initiative that will have a successful and positive impact on your business.

A version of this blog first appeared on Eide Bailly’s Technology Consulting Blog.

 

Is Your CFO Ready for the Future?

It’s no secret: the business environment is constantly changing, and will continue to change in the future. These changes can impact everyone in your business, from staff up to the CEO. In our numbers world, we hear a lot about future ready CFOs. Is your CFO (in-house or outsourced) future ready? Here are some considerations to help you measure your CFO’s readiness.

  • Is your CFO proactive? – Rather than sitting back and waiting for the next big change, is your CFO prepared and excited for what is coming? Being proactive is key to being ready for the future. For example, cloud accounting has opened numerous doors of opportunities related to efficiencies, access to information in real time, etc. Has your CFO already taken the initiative to explore these opportunities? Anticipation is another key to being ready for the future. Is your CFO staying current with the trends in your industry or what your competition is up to? Staying ahead of the curve can give you a competitive advantage that can’t be touched.
  • Is your CFO tech savvy? – Being tech savvy is a great skill to have in today’s world. Your CFO should be trying to leverage technology that best suits your business (both financially and operationally). Technology is always changing, and you want to make sure your business stays up-to-date with these changes. Staying up-to-date can help ensure your business runs efficiently and you get the best information you can to make decisions confidently.
  • Does your CFO know his/her stuff? – Does your CFO seek to learn outside of the numbers? It’s important to see the business as a whole. A study by EY and CPA Australia found the top tasks of CFOs in the future will focus around strategic planning, advisory and risk management – not just the numbers. There are many benefits that can come from knowing all the parts of your business, such as a better understanding of how different departments work, or being able to identify higher level problems. After all, your finances work with every part of your business in some form, so knowing what role they play can give you an upper edge.
  • Is your CFO accepting? – Change is hard but it’s also inevitable. Change comes with a mixed bag of emotions, and it’s important that your CFO is willing and able to embrace the change. Your CFO must be able to accept positive, necessary change to grow and build a better future for the business.

There’s no doubt about it: the future is going to change the way businesses operate. Making sure you have a future ready CFO on your side will help you create a competitive advantage that will be hard to beat.

What Tax Forms Do I Use?

It’s no surprise that running a business is no easy task. You have to worry about compliance, human resources and of course, that pesky accounting piece too. Another factor that adds to the confusion of running a business is tax filings. Common struggles with tax filings include knowing how to file them, when to file and what forms to use. Fear not: we are here to save the day!

Whether you’re an S-Corp, C-Corp, Partnership or Sole Proprietorship, we’ve got you covered. Not sure which you are? Look here. We’re breaking down what type of forms you need and what they cover.

If you’re an S-Corp…

As an S-Corp, there are five forms you need to focus on.

  1. Form 2553 — Election by a Small Business Corporation – This is the required form to elect to be treated as an S-corporation for income tax purposes. Without filing this form, your business will be considered a C-corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship for income tax purposes. Generally, it must be filed within 2 1/2 months after the effective date of the S-election or anytime during the preceding year leading up to the effective date. There are provisions for late S-corp election in certain instances.
  2. Form 1120S — US Income Tax Return for an S Corporation – This form includes information on the corporation’s profits and losses, deductions and credits. This is the S-corp’s annual income tax return. It is due on the 15th day of the third month.
  3. Form 7004 — Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File Certain Business Income Tax, Information, and Other Returns – If you need more time to file income tax, information and other returns, you can file this form for a six-month extension. The due date varies depending on the last day of the corporation’s tax year.
  4. Form 1120W — Estimated Tax for Corporations – Although this form will not apply in most cases, quarterly estimated tax payments must be paid in order to avoid penalties if the total of the taxes on built-in gains, excess net passive income tax and the investment credit recapture tax are more than $500.
  5. Schedule K1– Shareholder’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, Etc. – This form is part of the annual income tax filing (Forms 1120s) and will tell each individual shareholder what their portion of the S-corp’s income, deductions and credits of the tax payment is. This activity will be reported on the shareholder’s personal income tax return.

If you’re a C-Corp…

There are four important forms you need to be aware of.

  1. Form 1120 — US Corporation Income Tax Return – This is the annual income tax return filed with the IRS. The corporation’s taxable income will be subjected to the appropriate corporate rates. Any dividends paid to shareholders will also be taxed at the individual level.
  2. Form 7004 — Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File Certain Business Income Tax, Information, and Other Returns – This form allows for a six-month extension if more time is needed to file income tax. The due date will vary based on the last day of the corporation’s tax year.
  3. Form 1120W — Estimated Tax for Corporations – A C-Corp must make quarterly estimated tax payments if it expects tax for the year to be estimated at $500 or more. If payments are not made by their due date, the C-Corp can face an underpayment penalty.
  4. Form 1099 – DIV-Dividends and Distributions — This form is required to be issued to shareholders for dividends and other distributions on stock of $10 or more.

If you’re a Partnership…

If you are a partnership, the following three forms require your attention.

  1. Form 1065 — US Return of Partnership Income – This form reports income, gains, losses, deductions and credits from the partnership’s operations.
  2. Form 7004 — Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File Certain Business Income Tax, Information, and Other Returns – Form 7004 will give your business a five month extension to get your returns and paperwork in order. To qualify, this form must be filed by the original due date of Form 1065.
  3. Schedule K1 — Partner’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, Etc. – This form serves to tell each partner what their individual portion of the taxable income or loss is. It also states any credits and any other pass-through income and deductions.

If you’re a Sole Proprietorship…

More than likely, you can easily recognize if this is your business. A Sole Proprietorship is owned by a sole proprietor (hence the name) alone.

A Sole Proprietorship utilizes the following four forms.

  1. Form 1040 — US Individual Income Tax Return– One of the most common forms, it is used to report an individuals’ income, gains/losses, deductions and credits. It must be filed by the 15th day of the fourth month.
  2. Schedule C — Profit or Loss from Business (Sole Proprietorship) – This form is to be filed alongside the 1040. It reports the taxable income/loss from the sole proprietorship.
  3. Form 1040ES — Estimated Tax for Individuals – If you expect to owe at least $1000 in tax for the year, after subtracting your withholding and refundable credits, quarterly payments are required in order to avoid underpayment penalties. For more information on estimating tax amounts, check out this blog.
  4. Form 8832 — Entity Classification Election –This form is required to change the entity status of your business. For example, LLCs are not considered corporations by default. (They are classified as partnerships or sole proprietorships for income tax purposes by default.). However, by filing this form, LLCs can choose to be taxed as corporations.

If you have employees…

Having employees working for you is great, but you need to acknowledge these five forms to stay compliant.

  1. Form 940 — Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax – This is your annual payroll report which will also detail your business’s unemployment taxes. This form is due January 31st.
  2. Form 941– Employer’s Federal Quarterly Tax Return — This form is due quarterly, and reports info on employee withholding and wages.
  3. Form W3 — Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements — Filed with the Social Security Administration, this form is the transmittal of wage and tax statements. It is due by February 28th.
  4. Form 943 — Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return for Agricultural Employees – Due quarterly, this form must be filed if there are any agricultural employees within a company.
  5. W2 — Wage and Tax Statement – A form you are probably familiar with, this form must be given to employees at the end of the tax year to report their wages and tax payments made on their behalf. More information can be found here.

Miscellaneous filings

1099s – There is a series of information returns, referred to as 1099s, that all business are required to file to report various types of activity. Examples are 1099-INT to report interest, 1099-DIV to report dividends, 1099-MISC to report rent, non-employee compensation, and various other types of income. The list is goes on and on!

Various state filings — In addition to the common federal forms previously referenced, most states (and some cities) have their own reporting requirements. Common examples are state unemployment, workers’ compensation, sales & use tax, personal property tax, state payroll filings, and state income or franchise tax filings.

Tax season won’t be upon us for a while, but it is never too early to start thinking of what you may need to do to make sure your business is up to date. Sound like a lot to keep track of? We can help!

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No Man’s Land: A National Treasure

In our previous blog in the No Man’s Land series, we talked about the decision to grow your business. Although a hard decision to make, there is often great reward in making this decision.

So, after thinking it through, you may have decided that growth is indeed the right path for your business to follow. You are ready to step out into this new adventure and see where your company is headed. So, what can you expect for your business with this new growth plan?

Doug Tatum, author of No Man’s Land gives some examples of what the “growth business” industry looks like:

Growth companies have an average revenue growth of at least 20% over a four year period

  • Of the 20 million companies in America, there are roughly 350,000 growth companies.
  • Most growth companies are small to mid-sized, and only 5% employ over 100 people after their growth spurt.
  • Growth companies exist in all sectors of the economy.
  • Growth companies are not all young; up to half have been in business for at least 15 years.
  • Growth companies are all over the country.
  • Growth companies are innovative. In fact, one estimation showed that these companies are responsible for two-thirds of the economy’s innovations.

Another important aspect of growth companies is that they provide and create jobs. Why are these companies hiring so many people? Well, they’re in the process of renewing and growing their business, and these efforts require all hands on deck. As these companies grow, they also need to grow their employee base to scale to keep up with the changes going on in the business.

Now, we come to the closing of our No Man’s Land blog series. We hope you have gained knowledge on how to navigate through No Man’s Land. We leave you with two closing pointers to keep in mind when you find yourself on the journey through No Man’s Land.

  • Think strategically when making decisions about the business. Also, be sure to consider factors in both the long and short term.

 

  • Always be conscious of the four Ms and the rules and implications that come with each.
    • Market alignment – make sure business is still meeting the needs of the market while keeping up with the entrepreneur’s visions
    • Management expertise – hire at the top, and have management that truly knows the ins and outs of the business
    • Model that is scalable – make sure the value proposition is still attainable at a higher level
    • Money – make sure money is managed and invested strategically, and is ultimately reducing the risk of the company

“Growth companies are America’s National Treasure” – Doug Tatum