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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.


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December 4, 2019by admin

At the close of each year, businesses should update the financials in their business plan.  A solid business plan will comprise of six sections: executive summary, business description, industry and marketing analysis, management team description, implementation plan, and financials.

Now, ideally, you would comprehensively update each section every year. But if the size, shape and objectives of your company haven’t changed all that much, you may not need to make major revisions to the entire plan. However, at the very least, you should always review and revise your financials.

Explain your route

Lenders, investors and other interested parties understand that descriptions of a business or industry analysis may be subject to interpretation. But financials are a different matter — they need to add up (literally and figuratively) and contain realistic projections in today’s dollars.

For example, suppose a company with $10 million in sales in 2019 expects to double that figure over a three-year period. How will you get from Point A ($10 million in 2019) to Point B ($20 million in 2023)? Many roads may lead to the desired destination; your business plan must explain its route.

Let’s say your management team decides to double sales by hiring four new salespeople and acquiring the assets of a bankrupt competitor. These assumptions will drive the projected income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement referenced in your business plan.

Justify assumptions

When projecting the income statement, you’ll need to make assumptions about variable and fixed costs. Direct materials are generally considered variable. Salaries and rent are usually fixed. But many fixed costs can be variable over the long term. Consider rent: Once a lease expires, you could relocate to a different facility to accommodate changes in size.

Balance sheet items — receivables, inventory, payables and so on — are generally expected to grow in tandem with revenues. The financials in your business plan must accurately and reasonably justify the assumptions you’re making about your minimum cash balance, as well as debt increases or decreases to keep the balance sheet balanced. And these amounts must be current.

From a lending perspective, your bank will be expected to fund any cash shortfalls that take place as the company grows. So, realistic cash flow projections in your business plan are particularly critical. The financials section should outline how much financing you’ll need, how you intend to use those funds and when you expect to repay the loan(s).

Keep it fresh

Your business plan needs to tell an accurate, objective story of your company — where it’s been, where it is right now and where it’s heading. Keep the whole thing as fresh as possible but pay special attention to the numbers. We can help you review your financials, arrive at reasonable assumptions, and express your objectives and projections clearly.


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December 4, 2019by admin

Everyone needs to plan for retirement. But as a business owner, you face a distinctive challenge in that you must save for your golden years while also creating, updating and eventually executing a succession plan. This is no easy task, but you can put the puzzle pieces together by answering some fundamental questions:

When do I want to retire? This may be the most important question regarding your succession plan, because it’s at this time that your successor will take over. Think about a date by which you’ll be ready to let go and will have the financial resources to support yourself for your postretirement life expectancy.

How much will I need to retire? To maintain your current lifestyle, you’ll likely need a substantial percentage of your current annual income. You may initially receive an influx of cash from perhaps either the sale of your company or a payout from a buy-sell agreement.

But don’t forget to consider inflation. This adds another 2% to 4% per year to the equation. If, like many retirees, you decide to move to a warmer climate, you also need to take the cost of living in that state into consideration — especially if you’ll maintain two homes.

What are my sources of retirement income? As mentioned, selling your business (if that’s what your succession plan calls for) will likely help at first. Think about whether you’d prefer a lump-sum payment to add to your retirement savings or receive installments.

Of course, many business owners don’t sell but pass along their company to family members or trusted employees. You might stay on as a paid consultant, which would provide some retirement income. And all of this would be in addition to whatever retirement accounts you’ve been contributing to, as well as Social Security.

Am I saving enough? This is a question everyone must ask but, again, business owners have special considerations. Let’s say you’d been saving diligently for retirement, but economic or market difficulties have recently forced you to lower your salary or channel more of your own money into the company. This could affect your retirement date and, thus, your succession plan’s departure date.

Using a balance sheet, add up all your assets and debts. Heavy spending and an excessive debt load can significantly delay your retirement. In turn, this negatively affects your succession plan because it throws the future leadership of your company into doubt and confusion. As you get closer to retirement, integrate debt management and elimination into your personal financial approach so you can confidently set a departure date. We can help you identify all the different pieces related to succession planning and retirement planning — and assemble them all into a practical whole.


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December 4, 2019by admin

Merging with, or acquiring, another company is one of the best ways to grow rapidly. You might be able to significantly boost revenue, literally overnight, by acquiring another business. In contrast, achieving a comparable rate of growth organically — by increasing sales of existing products and services or adding new product and service lines — can take years.

There are, of course, multiple factors to consider before making such a move. But your primary evaluative objective is to weigh the potential advantages against the risks.

Does it make sense?

On the plus side, an acquisition might enable your company to expand into new geographic areas and new customer segments more quickly and easily. You can do this via a horizontal acquisition (acquiring another company that’s similar to yours) or a vertical acquisition (acquiring another company along your supply chain).

There are also some potential drawbacks to completing a merger or acquisition. It’s a costly process from both financial and time-commitment perspectives. In a worst-case scenario, an ill-advised merger or acquisition could spell doom for a business that overextends itself financially or overreaches its functional capabilities.

Thus, you should determine how much the transaction will cost and how it will be financed before beginning the M&A process. Also try to get an idea of how much time you and your key managers will have to spend on M&A-related tasks in the coming months — and how this could impact your existing operations.

You’ll also want to ensure that the cultures of the two merging businesses will be compatible. Mismatched corporate cultures have been the main cause of numerous failed mergers, including some high-profile megamergers. You’ll need to plan carefully for how two divergent cultures will be blended together.

Can you reduce the risks?

The best way to reduce the risk involved in buying another business is to perform solid due diligence on your acquisition target. Your objective should be to confirm claims made by the seller about the company’s financial condition, clients, contracts, employees and management team.

The most important step in M&A due diligence is a careful examination of the company’s financial statements — specifically, the income statement, cash flow statement and balance sheet. Also scrutinize the existing client base and client contracts (if any exist) because projected future earnings and cash flow will largely hinge on these.

Finally, try to get a good feel for the knowledge, skills and experience possessed by the company’s employees and key managers. In some circumstances, you might consider offering key executives ownership shares if they’ll commit to staying with the company for a certain length of time after the merger.

Who can help?

The decision to merge with another business or acquire another company is rarely an easy one. We can help you perform the financial analyses and project the tax implications of any prospective deal to bring the idea better into focus.


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December 4, 2019by admin

Can your business become more profitable without venturing out of its comfort zone? Of course! However, adding new products or services may not be the best way for your business — or any company — to boost profits. Bottom-line potential may lie undiscovered in your existing operations. How can you find these “hidden” profits? Dig into every facet of your organization.

Develop a profit plan

You’ve probably written and perhaps even recently revised a business plan. And you’ve no doubt developed sales and marketing plans to present to investors and bankers. But have you taken the extra step of developing a profit plan?

A profit plan outlines your company’s profit potential and sets objectives for realizing those bottom-line improvements. Following traditional profit projections based on a previous quarter’s or previous year’s performance can limit you. Why? Because when your company reaches its budgeted sales goals or exceeds them, you may feel inclined to ease up for the rest of the year. Don’t just coast past your sales goals — roar past them and keep going.

Uncover hidden profit potential by developing a profit plan that includes a continuous incentive to improve. Set your sales goals high. Even if you don’t reach them, you’ll have the incentive to continue pushing for more sales right through year end.

Ask the right questions

Among the most effective techniques for creating such a plan is to consider three critical questions. Answer them with, if necessary, brutal honesty to increase your chances of success. And pose the questions to your employees for their input, too. Their answers may reveal options you never considered. Here are the questions:

1. What does our company do best? Involve top management and brainstorm to answer this question. Identifying your core competencies should result in strategies that boost operations and uncover hidden profits.

2. What products or services should we eliminate? Nearly everyone in management has an answer to this question, but usually no one asks for it. When you lay out the tough answers on the table, you can often eliminate unprofitable activities and improve profits by adding or improving profitable ones.

3. Exactly who are our customers? You may be wasting time and money on marketing that doesn’t reach your most profitable customers. Analyzing your customers and prospects to better focus your marketing activities is a powerful way to cut waste and increase profits.

Get that shovel ready

Every business owner wishes his or her company could be more profitable, but how many undertake a concerted effort to uncover hidden profits? By pulling out that figurative shovel and digging into every aspect of your company, you may very well unearth profit opportunities your competitors are missing. We can help you conduct this self-examination, gather the data and crunch the resulting numbers.