ABC Solutions

CARES Act Stimulus Strategy

Now that countries around the world have stimulus packages in place, what is the best use of that money and opportunity?

In the United States, our government passed two packages in the past month. Your head may be spinning with the best course of action for your business. I have some suggestions. But first, allow me to offer a quick glossary of terms:

FFCRA – Families First Coronavirus Response Act – passed March 18, provides paid sick and family leave for your employees for up to 80 hours.

CARES Act – Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, passed March 27, 2020 to maintain businesses and workers.

PPP – Paycheck Protection Program – included with the CARES Act, provides forgivable loans to cover payroll expenses and other necessary business expenses.

EIDL – Economic Injury Disaster Loan – included with the CARES Act and provides immediate relief for payroll and business expenses. You can apply for this today at: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/

 

Prepare Documentation for Loans

Regardless of which program you choose to help your business, your company finances will need to be in order. Some loans will require documentation prior to offering a loan, others will require documentation after you use the funds. This article is to help you prepare. Contact your favorite banker and place them on notice that you want to apply for relief. They may be able to give you a list of documentation they will require. If not, use mine.

You will need proof of expenses, so your accounting system must be in order. If it is not, you have a small window of opportunity to get it ready while the SBA, states, and other agencies build guidelines in the coming weeks.

You will need to provide proof of payroll from 2019. The number of employees, the average monthly payroll cost, and average monthly payroll taxes for three months between February 15, 2019 and June 30, 2019.

You will need tax returns for the past two years. If you have not yet filed your tax returns, do so as quickly as possible. Additionally, you will need to provide support for rent payments, mortgage payments, and utility payments. Start now so you are ready when the banks are ready to help you.

 

Begin Tracking COVID-19 Expenses

Consider creating a bucket of expenses in your accounting system to track all expenses related to COVID-19. In this bucket, you should have some subaccounts:

  • Employee Sick Leave
  • Employee Family Leave
  • Salaries and wages
  • Payroll taxes
  • Health insurance premiums
  • Rent/Mortgage interest payments
  • Utilities
  • MSP Tools

You will need to separately track your payroll for COVID-19, especially if you obtain a PPP loan. Additionally, the FFCRA requires a separation for paid sick and family leave. These two items will be treated differently for the tax credits. Use your PSA or whatever time tracking system you use to manage this. Create a code for C-19 Sick/FML. This will help you obtain the proper credits for wage reimbursement un FFCRA. Create another code to track worked hours during the covered periods for PPP and EIDL. You will need to support your claims if you plan to apply for loan forgiveness.

Speaking of loan forgiveness, do not apply for these loans with the expectation they will be forgiven. Expect to pay them back and be pleasantly surprised if you later do not have to. This is not guaranteed free money.

The remaining expenses are self-explanatory, except for the MSP Tools. Many MSPs are helping their customers move employees to home-based work. This may include the offering of RMM seats, anti-virus, web security, and other tools you will use to keep them secure and patched. If you are not charging your customer for those extra seats as a gesture of goodwill, or even expectation, place those costs here. You may also want to track any internal expenses your company incurs in a separate expense account. At the end of this year, you should have a very clear picture of how much COVID-19 cost your business.

 

Develop a Strategy

The best course of action is to develop a strategy for using these funds. Consider creating a separate bank account for the money and use it for its intended purposes. For the PPP loan, your company expenses will be analyzed for the eight-week period following the loan origination date. The dollars you spend on payroll, utilities, rent, or mortgage interest will be added together for the forgiveness total.

Any remaining amounts of loan that were not used for those purposes will enter into a repayment schedule. However, if your company lays off employees, who make less than $100,000, during that eight-week period, the loan forgiveness will be reduced by the amount of the pay cut. If you have employees that you are considering letting go, do so before obtaining the loan so they will not interfere with your program.

While the PPP loan is paying your business-critical expenses, consider using the money you would have spent on payroll and rent to aggressively pay down existing debt, or increase marketing.

Develop a system for marking expenses for COVID to get them entered properly.

Meet with your accounting team and accounting professionals to build a plan that will use this money to keep your company running efficiently in the coming months. Develop a budget to only spend where necessary. Keep your eye on the budget and do everything you can to stay within it.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay sane.

Six Tips to Grow Your Business in 2020

Looking for fresh, effective ways to grow your business in 2020? You’ve come to the right place. In today’s market, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd, gain new customers or clients, and increase your company’s revenue. Note: We said difficult, not impossible! Below, you’ll find six fun, easy tips to help you achieve your goals and make your business bigger and better as it enters the new decade.

  1. Freshen Up Your Marketing

Have you ever given your house a new coat of paint? Well, consider giving your business one, too! Not literally, of course, but by freshening up your marketing techniques, clients and prospects will see you in a new light. For example, maybe it’s time for a new logo, more customer reviews to place on your site, or a new angle on your social media posts.  Finally, give that old, tired website a facelift: add some new photos, offer a colorful promotion, or add new team members. Change is good and helps keep people (and Google search algorithms) interested.

  1. Enhance Your Product or Services

Nothing piques an individual’s interest like a new product! If you can, try to add a new product to your existing line. Or, if it makes more sense, simply add features to products you already offer. You have room to be creative here. Think about what your clients really want and try to give it to them.

  1. Meet with a Financial Advisor

Do you have a financial advisor? Now is the time to meet with him or her and discuss your future goals. Specifically, ask about new opportunities (i.e. investments) to grow your company’s revenue. Now—the start of a new year—is the perfect time to invest in new assets, get funding for new projects or ideas, and cut any unnecessary costs. You are in control of your company’s finances, so make sure money is going where you want it and need it to go. (And if we can help, let us know!)

  1. Update Your Organization Chart

Could you benefit from hiring a new employee or two? Maybe your company could prosper with the creation of a new position? It’s time to update your organization chart and see what your business needs to grow for 2020. You may discover that you need additional staff and/or a position to help things run more smoothly and effectively.

  1. Excite Your Team

Don’t forget to take care of your own! Remember, without your employees, where would your business be? Could you make it by yourself, without any help from staff? Therefore, remind your workers that you care for them and that they’re appreciated. The gesture can be as big or small as you want. For example, you could add an employee perk or benefit. Or, consider doing something small yet meaningful, like a team dinner or bonding event—anything to help show your employees that they’re more than just staff.

  1. Strategy, Strategy, Strategy

We’ve saved the best and most important tip for last: strategy. Remind yourself why you got into this business in the first place, as well as what your goals are and what you want to accomplish. Then, take a look at your current strategy. Will your strategy help you achieve those goals? If so, then great; you’re on the right track! But if not, then it may be time to rework that business strategy.

Think about what you need to do or change to reach those goals, and then work on incorporating them into your business plan. It could be you just need a minor tweak or two, or maybe your company requires a larger kind of shift. Either way, only you can determine whether or not your strategy is working.

It’s a new year—a new decade—and change is good! Let 2020 be the year that your business really takes off and grows. Now is the best time to accomplish all of your goals, and whether you use the list above or have ideas of your own to increase revenue, remember that only you can make a successful change happen.

Accounting Tasks at Year-End

You might wonder why there are so many extra tasks at year-end. While the government requires much of the work, there is clean-up work and adjustments that need to be done to make the books accurate. It’s not always cost-effective to perform all of these updates monthly, so you’re actually saving money by doing some of them at year-end.

Here are just some of the items that are performed at year-end.

Tax-related:

  • If you have payroll, employees need to be sent their W-2s, and the federal and state government need a copy of the W-2s with a W-3 transmittal.
  • For employees, you must also have an up-to-date W-4 signed by them.
  • For employers, your federal unemployment 940 return is due.
  • If you have contractors, they need to be sent their 1099s, and the IRS needs the 1099s and the 1096 transmittal.
  • For contractors, you must also have an up-to-date W-9 form from them. You may also need to request an insurance certificate, or you may get a surprise at your workers compensation audit.
  • For vendors that claim exemption from sales tax, you’ll need to be sure you have an exemption certificate in your files from them.
  • If you pay sales tax annually, your return and payment are due.
  • Your personal federal, state, and local income tax and returns are due in the spring, and they can be extended until later in the year.
  • Depending on the type of entity your business is organized as, you may have franchise, federal and state tax returns to file. This deadline comes up sooner than the individual tax return due date.

Books-related:

  • Just about every asset on your balance sheet needs to be verified in some way or other:
    • Petty cash accounts need to be reconciled and reimbursed as of year-end
    • Bank accounts need to be reconciled with the bank statements. This includes PayPal.
    • Accounts receivable balances and all other receivables need to be tied to each customer and any amounts determined to be uncollectible need to be written off.
    • A physical inventory count needs to be taken and the inventory account should be adjusted accordingly.
    • Fixed assets need to be reconciled to their fixed assets ledger and depreciation should be properly recorded.
    • Goodwill accounts need to be checked and amortization adjusted.
    • Accruals, deposits, deferred accounts and all other asset accounts need to be adjusted if necessary.
  • Liabilities and equity need to be adjusted too:
    • Accounts payable balances and all other payables need to be tied to each vendor.
    • Liabilities that haven’t been recorded need to be added to the books.
    • Loans need to tie to lender statements, and interest paid on loans needs to be properly expensed.
    • The Equity accounts need to be checked and tied out to prior year balances.
  • Corrections and adjustments need to be made:
    • Any misclassifications and corrections need to be made on the books with adjusting journal entries or other classification tools.
    • If the client is a cash-basis taxpayer, a reversing journal entry needs to be made to get the correct tax numbers.
  • A clean set of reports can now be run and used.

Documents-related:

  • This is a good time to file and store your receipts in case you are ever asked for them. For long-term storage, thermal receipts should be copied or scanned in before the ink fades.

If you’re wondering why we’re so busy this time of year, it’s all of the extra work we have to do over and above the normal monthly load. If you have questions about any of this, just ask anytime!

Three Essential Business Roles for Success and Balance

In his book, The Rebel Rules: Daring to Be Yourself in Business, author Chip Conley describes what investors look for in a management team when considering providing startup money to new businesses. He says your management team should consist of a “brain trust that includes a passionate visionary, a ‘get-your-hands-dirty’ operator, and a responsible, finance-minded executive.”

Even if you’re never going to seek venture capital money to fund your business, this tidbit of advice makes a great strategy question to consider for your business, especially if you are an entrepreneur. Do you have these three roles in your company?

Passionate Visionary

The passionate visionary is a creative idea person. She has the technical knowledge that supports the service or product that will be created and offered. She sees the market need and just how to sell and position the product so that clients or consumers will want the offering.

The visionary often has more ideas than budget. The finance role can evaluate the profitability of the visionary’s ideas and prioritize the projects. The operator can execute the visionary’s ideas.

The visionary provides strategic direction for the company and keeps the market offerings fresh.

If your business is missing a visionary, you might also struggle to keep your practice full as often (but not always); the sales function could fall to the visionary. You might also find yourself getting stagnant with your service offerings and falling behind the marketplace.

The fix for a missing visionary is to develop a sales and marketing team and/or a research and development team that can serve these functions.

“Roll-up-your-sleeves” Operator

The operator is an action person who can execute. She gets things done. She can find and hire the right team. She is a systems builder who can develop the systems, job descriptions, procedures, and processes that makes the company unique.

The operator takes the visionary’s ideas and makes them happen. She needs the visionary’s ideas because she would rather take someone else’s ideas and work with them than create her own. She also needs the support of the finance executive to stay on budget and to focus on one project at a time or avoid hiring too many people.

A business without a good operator never gets the product to market and may also constantly be short of team members.

Responsible, Finance-minded Executive

The finance expert helps to make the dollars work for the company. She can tell us how much we need to sell and how much we can spend. She can also provide capital sources for the company via investors or loans.

The finance executive loves numbers and can help to make sure the company’s operations are profitable. She’ll work closely with the operator to make sure that the right number of people are hired at the right salary levels. She’ll work with the visionary to plan and budget for new sources of revenue and new product lines.

Without a finance executive, a company often spends more than they bring in and may not have a viable profit plan. They may also run out of cash which can cause problems with creditors and investors.

This is the role we can not only help you fill, but also help you build your financial literacy to the level that you need for the stage your company is in now and for the future.

Your Business Success Trinity

As you were reading, which role are you? Which role jumped out at you that might need shoring up in your business? You might be strong in one area and need to outsource another while keeping a strategic eye on things overall.

Take a look at each of these roles and objectively assess your business. How are all three roles being served in your company? Which ones need more development in order for your business to grow?

Getting clear on your company’s roles can very well take you to the next level of success.

Which trends impact your business the most? Which ones speak to you? Feel free to reach out to discuss any of these ideas with us.

10 Hot Business Trends for 2020

As we welcome in a new year (and maybe a new decade depending on how you count them), it’s a perfect time to reflect on the trends that will impact us and our businesses. Here’s a list for your consideration and reflection.

Trend #1: Sustainability

Concern for the environment has made the list of many companies’ core values. The way businesses are run can have a huge impact on the environment. While we hear a lot of stories about large companies impacting sustainability, we can also do our part as small businesses.  In the accounting profession, many firms have gone paperless, transitioning from staplers, paper clips, and filing cabinets to digital storage which greatly reduces their footprint.

Trend #2: The Gig Economy

Young workers often have multiple jobs instead of the 9 to 5 jobs of their parents. This means there is more flexibility than ever before when it comes to hiring and retaining young workers. They can be employees, contractors, outsourced solutions, remote, local, part-time, full time, temporary, or permanent.  Sub-trends in this area include more virtual workers and many more opportunities for veterans.

Trend #3: AI – Artificial Intelligence

This trend is impacting the accounting profession in a big way via smart data entry, smart document fetching, and even smart bookkeeping. Marketing has also been impacted in a big way through online ads, customer service solutions, and marketing technology. In email, Google is finishing our sentences for us, and chat and other technologies are having fairly effective conversations via bots.

Trend #4: Stories

Storytelling is huge everywhere. People want to know:

  • The story behind your business and why you do what you do
  • The stories about your customers and the experience they have with you and your services
  • The stories from your employers and how it is to work at your organization

Digital communication has moved from text to graphics to video as bandwidth improves. Video makes stories even easier to share. Smart companies will leverage both stories and video going forward to get their message out.

Trend #5: Diversity Expanded

The conversation is no longer about race, gender, and even sexual preference. It’s now about authenticity and being the same person at work and at home. No one is “normal.” But it takes courage to reveal our differences, especially if they are outside the “standard.” Your courage is more likely to be honored in 2020 than it has in prior years.

Trend #6: A WOW Customer Experience

We’ve moved way past the time of “infotainment,” yet the concept is parallel. As businesses, the challenge is how we can deliver an entertaining, positive, and memorable experience while producing the outcomes the client desires.

Trends #7:  Drones

So far, drones have made appearances in photography, special effects at conferences, as toys, in movies, and of course, in war. I see them in use for safety reasons, going where people shouldn’t or can’t. They will become more pervasive in 2020 and there will be more rules, protocols, and court cases on their use.

Trend #8: User Interface

The move from desktop to mobile is nearly complete, with only the laggard portion of the population remaining. The move to voice is still a work in progress, and it will steadily continue to gain traction in 2020.

Trend #9: Actionable Analytics

Capturing information digitally gives businesses a huge amount of data to utilize but small businesses have barely scratched the surface of this profitable information. It’s time they started catching up, and that’s something our firm can help you with.

Trend #10: Pace of Transformation

New business models in companies like Tesla, Uber, Google, and Facebook will continue to show up at a rapid rate. The business that’s most nimble will be the one that changes the game or at least stays in it without folding.

Which trends impact your business the most? Which ones speak to you? Feel free to reach out to discuss any of these ideas with us.