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February 11, 2020by admin

The beginning of the year can be a busy time for business owners and executives, because you no doubt want to get off to a strong start in 2020.

One danger of a hectic beginning is setting an early precedent for distancing yourself from rank-and-file staff. After all, a busy opening to the year may turn into a chaotic middle and a frantic conclusion. Hopefully all’s well that ends well, but you and your top-level executives could wind up isolating yourselves from employees — and that’s not good.

Here are some ways to stay connected with staff throughout the year:

Solicit feedback. Set up an old-fashioned suggestion box or perhaps a more contemporary email address where employees can vent their concerns and ask questions. Ownership or executive management can reply to queries with the broadest implications, while other managers could handle questions specific to a given department or position. Share answers through company-wide emails or make them a feature of an internal newsletter or blog.

Hold a company meeting. At least once a year, hold a “town hall” with staff members to answer questions and discuss issues face to face. You could even take it to the next level by organizing a company retreat, where you can not only answer questions but challenge employees to come up with their own strategic ideas.

Be social. All work and no play can make owners and execs look dull and distant. Hold an annual picnic, host an outing to a sporting event or throw a holiday party so you and other top managers can mingle socially and get to know people on a personal level.

Make appearances. Business owners and executives should occasionally tour each company department or facility. Give managers a chance to speak with you candidly. Sit in on meetings; ask and answer questions. Employees will likely get a morale boost from seeing you take an active interest in their little corner of the company.

Learn a job. For a potentially fun and insightful change of pace, set aside a day to learn about a specific company position. Shadow an employee and let him or her explain what really goes into the job. Ask questions but stay out of the way. Clarify upfront that you’re not playing “gotcha” but rather trying to better understand how things get done and what improvements you might make.

By staying visible and interactive with employees, your staff will likely feel more appreciated and, therefore, be more productive. You also may gather ideas for eliminating costly redundancies and inefficiencies. Maybe you’ll even find inspiration for your next big strategic move. We can assist you in assessing the potential costs and benefits of the strategies mentioned and more.


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February 11, 2020by admin

The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a great opportunity for reflection and planning. You have 12 months to look back on and another 12 ahead to look forward to. Here are five ways to strengthen your business for the new year by doing a little of both:

1. Compare 2019 financial performance to budget. Did you meet the financial goals you set at the beginning of the year? If not, why? Analyze variances between budget and actual results. Then, evaluate what changes you could make to get closer to achieving your objectives in 2020. And if you did meet your goals, identify precisely what you did right and build on those strategies.

2. Create a multiyear capital budget. Look around your offices or facilities at your equipment, software and people. What investments will you need to make to grow your business? Such investments can be both tangible (new equipment and technology) and intangible (employees’ technical and soft skills).

Equipment, software, furniture, vehicles and other types of assets inevitably wear out or become obsolete. You’ll need to regularly maintain, update and replace them. Lay out a long-term plan for doing so; this way, you won’t be caught off guard by a big expense.

3. Assess the competition. Identify your biggest rivals over the past year. Discuss with your partners, managers and advisors what those competitors did to make your life so “interesting.” Also, honestly appraise the quality of what your business sells versus what competitors offer. Are you doing everything you can to meet — or, better yet, exceed — customer expectations? Devise some responsive competitive strategies for the next 12 months.

4. Review insurance coverage. It’s important to stay on top of your property, casualty and liability coverage. Property values or risks may change — or you may add new assets or retire old ones — requiring you to increase or decrease your level of coverage. A fire, natural disaster, accident or out-of-the-blue lawsuit that you’re not fully protected against could devastate your business. Look at the policies you have in place and determine whether you’re adequately protected.

5. Analyze market trends. Recognize the major events and trends in your industry over the past year. Consider areas such as economic drivers or detractors, technology, the regulatory environment and customer demographics. In what direction is your industry heading over the next five or ten years? Anticipating and quickly reacting to trends are the keys to a company’s long-term success.

These are just a few ideas for looking back and ahead to set a successful course forward. We can help you review the past year’s tax, accounting and financial strategies, and implement savvy moves toward a secure and profitable 2020 for your business.


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February 11, 2020by admin

If your company comes up over budget year after year, you may want to consider cost management. This is a formalized, systematic review of operations and resources with the stated goal of reducing costs at every level and controlling them going forward. As part of this effort, you’ll answer questions such as:

Are we operating efficiently? Cost management can help you clearly differentiate activities that are running smoothly and staying within budget from the ones that are constantly breaking down and consuming extra dollars.

Depending on your industry, there are likely various metrics you can calculate and track to determine which aspects of your operations are inefficient. Sometimes improving efficiency is simply a matter of better scheduling. If you’re constantly missing deadlines or taking too long to fulfill customers’ needs, you’re also probably losing money playing catch-up and placating disappointed buyers.

Can we really see our supply chain? Maybe you’ve bought the same types of materials from the same vendors for many years. Are you really getting the most for your money? A cost management review can help you look for better bargains on the goods and services that make your business run.

A big problem for many businesses is lack of practical data. Without the right information, you may not be fully aware of the key details of your supply chain. There’s a term for this: supply chain visibility. When you can’t “see” everything about the vendors that service your company, you’re much more vulnerable to hidden costs and overspending.

Is technology getting the better of us? At this point, just about every business process has been automated one way or another. But are you managing this technology or is it managing you? Some companies overspend unnecessarily while others miss out on ways to better automate activities. Cost management can help you decide whether to simplify or upgrade.

For example, many businesses have historically taken an ad hoc approach to procuring technology. Different departments or individuals have obtained various software over the years. Some of this technology may still be in regular use but, in many cases, an expensive application sits dormant while the company still pays for licensing or tech support.

Conversely, a paid-for but out-of-date application could be slowing operational or supply chain efficiency. You may have to spend money to save money by getting something that’s up-to-date and fully functional.

The term “cost management” is often applied to specific projects. But you can also apply it to your business, either as an emergency step if your budget is really out of whack or as a regular activity for keeping the numbers in line. Our firm can help you conduct this review and decide what to do about the insights gained.


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February 11, 2020by admin

At many companies, a wide gap exists between the budgeting process and risk management. Failing to consider major threats could leave you vulnerable to high-impact hits to your budget if one or more of these dangers materialize. Here are some common types of risks to research, assess and incorporate into adjustments to next year’s budget:

Competitive. No business is an island (or a monopoly for that matter). The relative strength and strategies of your competitors affect how your company should shape its budget. For this reason, gathering competitive intelligence and acting accordingly is a must.

For example, if a larger competitor has moved into your market, you may need to allocate more funds for marketing and advertising. Then again, if a long-time rival has closed up shop, you might be able to keep those costs the same (or even lower them) and channel more money into production as business picks up.

Compliance. Although federal regulatory oversight has moderated under the current presidential administration, many industries remain subject to myriad rules and regulations. State governments have also been aggressive in their efforts to gather additional revenue through oversight.

Look into how compliance rules might change for your business next year. Could a planned strategic move subject you to additional or stricter regulations? Factor compliance risks into your budget, whether in the form of increased administrative requirements or costly penalties if you slip up.

Internal. The U.S. economy is considered relatively strong. But that doesn’t mean you should worry any less about what’s arguably the biggest internal risk to your budget: fraud. Employees may still have plenty of rationales for stealing from you and, perhaps disturbingly, a 2019 benchmarking report from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that 58% of in-house fraud investigation teams had inadequate levels of antifraud staffing and resources.

If this year’s budget suffered from fraud losses, you’ll absolutely need to allocate more dollars to tightened internal controls. But doing so could be a good idea anyway to minimize the possibility that a fraudster will strike. And, of course, fraud isn’t the only internal risk to consider. Will your hiring costs rise in 2020 because of anticipated turnover or a need to increase staff size? Will training expenses go up because of a strategic initiative or new technology?

As the year winds down, business owners should be giving serious thought to their 2020 budgets based on financial reporting for the year. Our firm can help you undertake a sound budgeting process that includes the identification and assessment of specific threats.


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February 3, 2020by admin

February 10, 2020

Employees – who work for tips. If you received $20 or more in tips during January, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

Employers – Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2019. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time.

Employers – Federal unemployment tax. File Form 940 for 2019. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time.

Employers – Nonpayroll taxes. File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2019 on all nonpayroll items. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time.

Certain Small Employers – File Form 944 to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2019. This tax due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time.

Farm Employers – File Form 943 to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2019. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time.

February 18, 2020

Individuals – If you claimed exemption from income tax witholding last year on the Form W-4 you gave your employer, you must file a new Form W-4 by this date to continue your exemption for another year.

Businesses – Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments made during 2019. You can use the appropriate version of Form 1099 or other information return. This due date applies only to payments reported on Form 1099-B, Form 1099-S, and substitute payments reported in Box 8 or gross proceeds paid to an attorney reported in Box 14, respectively.

Employers – Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

Employers – Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 19, 2020

Employers – Begin withholding income tax from the pay of any employee who claimed exemption from withholding in 2019, but did not give you a new Form W-4 to continue the exemption this year.

February 28, 2020

Payers of Gambling Winnings – File Form 1096, Annual Summary and Transmittal of U.S. Information Returns, along with Copy A of all the Forms W-2G you issued for 2019. If you file Forms W-2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains January 31.

Health Coverage Reporting – If you are an Applicable Large Employer, file paper Forms 1094-C, Transmittal of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage Information Returns, and 1095-C with the IRS. For all other providers of minimum essential coverage, file paper Forms 1094-B, Transmittal of Health Coverage Information Returns, and 1095-B with the IRS. If you are filing any of these forms with the IRS electronically, your due date for filing them will be extended to March 31.

Businesses – File information returns (for example, certain Forms 1099) for certain payments you made during 2019. However, Form 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation must be filed by January 31. There are different forms for different types of payments. Use a separate Form 1096 to summarize and transmit the forms for each type of payment. See the General Instructions for Certain Information Returns for information on what payments are covered, how much the payment must be before a return is required, what form to use, and extensions of time to file.

If you file Forms 1097, 1098, 1099 (except a Form 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation), 3921, 3922 or W-2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms generally remains January 31.


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January 7, 2020by admin

In many industries, market conditions move fast. Businesses that don’t have their ears to the ground can quickly get left behind. That’s just one reason why some of today’s savviest companies are establishing so-called “shadow” (or “mirror”) boards composed of younger, nonexecutive employees who are on the front lines of changing tastes and lifestyles.

Generational change

Millennials — people who were born between approximately 1981 and 1996 — have been flooding the workplace for years now. Following close behind them is Generation Z, those born around the Millennium and now coming of age a couple of decades later.

Despite this influx of younger minds and ideas, many businesses are still run solely by older boards of directors that, while packed with experience and wisdom, might not stay closely attuned to the latest demographic-driven developments in hiring, product or service development, technology, and marketing.

A shadow board of young employees that meets regularly with the actual board (or management team) can help you overcome this hurdle. Ideally, the two boards mentor each other. The older generation shares their hard-earned lessons on leadership, governance, professionalism and the like, while the younger employees keep the senior board abreast of the latest trends, concerns and communication tools among their cohort.

Other benefits

You also can tap the shadow board for their input on issues that directly affect them. For example, would they welcome a new employee benefit under consideration or regard it as irrelevant? Similarly, you can use the board to “test drive” strategies targeting their generation before you get too far down the road.

And your shadow board can serve as generator of new initiatives and innovations, both employee- and customer-facing. Some companies with shadow boards have ended up overhauling their processes, procedures and even business models based on ideas that first emerged from the younger employees’ input.

Another benefit? Shadow boards can keep traditionally job-hopping Millennials from jumping ship. Many are eager to get ahead, often before they’re equipped to do so, and they don’t hesitate to look elsewhere. Selecting younger employees for a shadow board sends them the message that you see their potential and are invested in grooming them for bigger and better things. It also facilitates succession planning, a practice too many businesses overlook.

The right approach

Don’t establish a shadow board just for appearances or without true commitment. That can do more harm than good. Younger generations see lip service for what it is, and word will spread fast if you’re ignoring the shadow board or refusing to seriously consider its input. When done right, this innovative effort can pay off in the long run for everyone involved. Our firm can help you further explore the financial and strategic feasibility of the idea.


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January 7, 2020by admin

“Company culture” is a buzzword that’s been around for a while, but your culture may never have mattered as much as it does in today’s transparency-driven business arena. Customers, potential partners and investors, and job candidates are paying more attention to company culture when deciding whether to buy from a business or otherwise involve themselves with it.

To determine whether yours is optimal for your long-term goals, you must look in the mirror and identify what type of culture you have. University of Michigan professors Robert Quinn and Kim Cameron have developed the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument, which defines four common types:

1. Clan. These are generally friendly environments where employees feel like family. Clan cultures emphasize teamwork, participation and consensus. Such companies often have a horizontal structure with few barriers between staff and leaders, who act as mentors. As a result, employees tend to be highly engaged and loyal. Success involves addressing client needs while caring for staff. Clan culture frequently is seen in start-ups and small companies with employees who have been there from the beginning.

2. Adhocracy. Adhocracies are dynamic, entrepreneurial and creative places where employees are encouraged to take risks, and founders are often seen as innovators. They’re committed to experimentation and encourage individual initiative and freedom — with the long-term goal of growing and acquiring new resources. Success, therefore, is defined by the availability of new products or services. Think Facebook and similar technology companies that anticipate needs and establish new standards.

3. Market. These cultures are results-driven and competitive, with an emphasis on achieving measurable goals and targets. They value reputation and success foremost. Employees are goal-oriented while leaders tend to be hard drivers, producers and rivals simultaneously. Market share and penetration are the hallmarks of success, and competitive pricing and industry domination are important. Examples include Amazon and Apple.

4. Hierarchy. Hierarchical businesses have formal, structured work environments where processes and procedures dictate what employees do. Smooth functioning is critical. Companies strive for stability and efficient execution of tasks, as well as low costs. Leaders seek to achieve maximum efficiency and consistency in their respective departments. Hierarchical culture is common in government agencies and old-school businesses such as the Ford Motor Company.

Bear in mind that most companies exhibit a mixture of the four styles, with one type dominant. If you fear your culture is inhibiting you from achieving strategic objectives, there’s good news — cultures can evolve.

Although making widespread changes won’t be easy, no business should accept a culture that’s hindering productivity or possibly even creating liability risks. We can assist you in assessing your operations and profitability to help you gain insights into the impact of your company culture.


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January 7, 2020by admin

Extending credit to business customers can be an effective way to build goodwill and nurture long-term buyers. But if you extend customer credit, it also brings sizable financial risk to your business, as cash flow could grind to a halt if these customers don’t make their payments. Even worse, they could declare bankruptcy and bow out of their obligations entirely.

For this reason, it’s critical to thoroughly research a customer’s creditworthiness before you offer any arrangement. Here are some ways to do so:

Follow up on references. When dealing with vendors and other businesses, trade references are key. As you’re likely aware, these are sources that can describe past payment experiences between a business and a vendor (or other credit user).

Contact the potential customer’s trade references to check the length of time the parties have been working together, the approximate size of the potential customer’s account and its payment record. Of course, a history of late payments is a red flag.

Check banking info. Similarly, you’ll want to follow up on the company’s bank references to determine the balances in its checking and savings accounts, as well as the amount available on its line of credit. Equally important, determine whether the business has violated any of its loan covenants. If so, the bank could withdraw its credit, making it difficult for the company to pay its bills.

Order a credit report. You may want to order a credit report on the business from one of the credit rating agencies, such as Dun & Bradstreet or Experian. Among other information, the reports describe the business’s payment history and tell whether it has filed for bankruptcy or had a lien or judgment against it.

Most credit reports can be had for a nominal amount these days. The more expensive reports, not surprisingly, contain more information. The higher price tag also may allow access to updated information on a company over an extended period.

Explore traditional and social media. After you’ve completed your financial analysis, find out what others are saying — especially if the potential customer could make up a significant portion of your sales. Search for articles in traditional media outlets such as newspapers, magazines and trade publications. Look for anything that may raise concerns, such as stories about lawsuits or plans to shut down a division.

You can also turn to social media and look at the business’s various accounts to see its public “face.” And you might read reviews of the business to see what customers are saying and how the company reacts to inevitable criticisms. Obviously, social media shouldn’t be used as a definitive source for information, but you might find some useful insights.

Although assessing a potential customer’s ability to pay its bills requires some work up front, making informed credit decisions is one key to running a successful company. Our firm can help you with this or other financially critical business practices.


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January 7, 2020by admin

Fingerprints: There are no two alike. So it should be with your wealth management plan. Taking a boilerplate approach could prevent you from achieving your specific goals. Here are some key points to consider when devising a plan that’s all your own.

Many variables

For your plan to be as unique as you, it should reflect variables such as:

  • Age,
  • Health status,
  • Risk tolerance, and
  • How you plan to use your assets now and going forward.

Risk tolerance is a particularly important point. Some people are naturally more willing to risk a loss for the opportunity of a larger gain. Others are uncomfortable with any possibility of loss even though this certainty may mean a lower potential return.

But risk tolerance also may be affected by age. If you’re retired or close to retirement, for example, a more conservative approach to investing, saving and spending is likely appropriate. By contrast, if you’re several decades away from retirement, you’ll more likely benefit from taking at least a few carefully considered chances to build wealth and keep ahead of inflation.

Withdrawal strategy

Another important component of a personal wealth management plan is your withdrawal strategy. For example, if you’re close to retirement, you need to withdraw from your accounts carefully to avoid having insufficient funds during retirement. Withdraw too little, however, and you could miss opportunities to enjoy life. (You also could face severe tax penalties if you don’t take required minimum distributions.)

Like your wealth management plan, your withdrawal strategy will be highly personal. The amount of income you’ll need in retirement will depend on your priorities. If you’re planning to travel extensively, your needs will be very different from what they’ll be if your primary goal is to stay close to home to spend more time with your family.

If you own assets in a variety of tax-free (such as a Roth IRA), tax-deferred (such as a 401(k) plan or traditional IRA) and taxable savings vehicles, there can be some significant tax implications to how you withdraw your assets. Conventional wisdom says that taxable assets should be withdrawn first, leaving your tax-advantaged holdings more time to grow. This approach may work in some situations, but it’s not necessarily the correct approach for everyone. (And minimum annual distributions are required from certain tax-advantaged accounts, generally after age 70½.)

Necessary help

Your wealth management plan should be carefully designed and maintained to suit the many distinctive elements of your life. But that doesn’t mean you must go about it alone. Please contact our firm for help not only creating a plan, but also checking in on it regularly to see whether any adjustments are necessary.

 

Sidebar: Don’t forget about estate planning

If your net worth is large enough that estate taxes are a concern, making annual gifts can be a surprisingly powerful way to reduce your taxable estate. In fact, making annual gifts can help you accomplish two important goals: removing assets from your estate and passing along assets to loved ones. Current federal law allows annual tax-free gifts of $15,000 per recipient per year ($30,000 for married couples).

Just make sure your gifting strategy is well integrated into your overall estate plan. Such a plan might also involve trusts and other mechanisms for distributing your wealth.