Monthly Archives: July 2010

Operational Accounting for Small Business

As small business owner we need to understand the importance of accurate and timely accounting reports where we will need precise financial information to make the very important decisions we make as owners and managers.


Very often I meet small business owners who have put themselves into a pickle by not managing or paying attention to the valuable information provided in many accounting software packages.


Accounting operations to any business, small or large is like the fuel in your car. If you don’t have the right fuel or enough fuel in your car, you will not go very far.


Over the years I am still amazed at how many small business owners fail to see the value in managing the accounting process of their business. I was always puzzled at how small business owners could get away with running their business without even using Quicken or QuickBooks.


I figured it out. Most small businesses grow so fast that some of us don’t have the time to learn if not worry about the accounting side of the business. Why should we worry about accounting when we’ve got orders to fill, customers to make happy and vendors to manage?


Well, the importance of accounting not only lies in the requirement to file and pay the appropriate amount of taxes at the end of the year, but accounting also affords us valuable information in various report formats that allow us to make smart decisions in our small business.


These reports tell us many things about our small business that we would never think of and these reports also allow us to plan the future of our business as it relates to sales and expenses.


Sure some of us have CPAs or accountants that we give information to on a monthly or even yearly basis, where we should be calculating our sources and uses of cash flow everyday if not every week.


Sources and uses of cash is exactly what it says it is. It defines where are money is coming from (sales) and how are we using it (expenses). The reporting document that helps us determine this process is our Statement of Cash Flow. This report actually tells us in a summary format where our money came from and where it went.


Another very important report is the Income Statement report which tells us how much we sold, how much it cost us to sell what we sold, how much we spent to operate the business and finally our profit from all that work.


There are four pieces or elements of an income statement and they are; sales, costs of goods sold (COGS), expenses (fixed and variable) and income. Some small businesses will classify cost of sales (COS) rather than COGS. Costs of sales are for those businesses that really don’t have to purchase items in the raw material form and re-produce it to make it sellable.


For example, as owner of a consulting firm, we identify ours as COS where if we are a plumbing contractor or a manufacturer of wooden chairs, we would identify ours as COGS because we would have to buy plumbing material as well as wood and reproduce both to get a final product to sell.


The next report that is just as valuable as the previous two is the Balance Sheet report. This report tells us what our business is worth via a particular window of time. For example, I want to know what my business is worth today for the last month. The balance sheet would tell me what I own and what I owe.

This report basically has three really important pieces; Assets, Liabilities and Owners Equity. Each of these sections identifies exactly what it says.


Assets are those things the business deems worth something or those things we can get cash for in a pinch if we needed. This section is also the section banks and other lenders measure a business’ worth.

Machinery, inventory and sometimes your accounts receivables are considered assets. Yes, accounts receivables can be converted to cash via a bank loan, but I absolutely do not recommend this for any business. Although many businesses do borrow against their accounts receivable, I would never do it for any of my clients.


Liabilities are those things the business owes such as short-term loans, long-term loans, wages, taxes, etc. Banks measure this as plain old debt and it’s not good to have allot of it.


Finally, Owner’s Equity is that which is owed to people or groups of investors that pretty much have a right to be paid regardless of the success or failure of the business. It’s just that. We have to identify that other individuals or groups have actually invested into our business outside of a typical bank loan.


Is it OK to have both a bank loan and a particular amount of owner’s equity as a liability? Yes it is, as most businesses do. It is estimated that most business in the U.S. is 80% financed via a mix of both.


So great, now we know about a bunch of reports. These reports are available to you through any accounting software package you use, but you must be using an accounting software package because these reports come from the accounting process that puts the information in the appropriate accounts or sections that will eventually produce these reports.


For every sale there is a corresponding affect within the accounting process that will eventually compile data in one of the reports mentioned above and give you the right information to make a decision. Accounting operations allows us to see our successes and failures day to day, week to week and month over month. We need to review these reports often in order to stay in business.


I have seen quite a few businesses go out of business where when you ask the owners what happened, they will all say the same, “we ran out of money”.

Had those businesses paid a little more attention to the accounting process they might still be in business. Remember, accounting in your small business is like the fuel in your car.


There are many programs out there that will help you understand the basics of accounting where all you have to remember is that accounting functions off of a cause and effect principle.


Every transaction in your business must be recorded where that transaction is managed by an accounting software process that basically works behind the scenes. All you have to do is understand what is occurring.


For example; if I purchase $25.00 worth of office supplies I need to let the accounting software package know what accounts I want that transaction to affect. Another example would be if I sold $200.00 worth of products, I want the accounting side of the business know what I sold via what I purchased to sell.


This last example is a bit complicated and I will save the detail for another article where you should take away the idea that you first recorded the purchase of the raw material, produced something from it, inventoried it and finally sold it for $200.00.

Bottom line is that accounting operations is of paramount importance to your small business.


Often we rely on hiring individuals that say they know accounting but how do we know if those individuals know accounting when we aren’t too sure about it ourselves?


There are many programs available to us as small business owners where we can learn the basics of accounting. Sign up for a seminar or take a class at a local college or university. Your small business is just too valuable to not understand it.

Luis Luarca is the Managing Partner of Allectus LLC, a management consulting company helping small to mid size businesses and is the author of Business Management for Business Owners; How to Manage Your Small or Mid Sized Business”. http://www.allectus.com

Outsource Your Accounting

Owners/CEOs of mid size enterprises have two challenges:

(a) Facilitate growing their enterprises without compromising on the “nimble footedness” that got them to where they are and yet put in place processes that are absolutely necessary to enable to the business handle volumes far bigger than their current size; and

(b) Keep costs trimmed and aligned to business volumes

In other words, be capable of growing with processes that are necessary to scale up; and yet remain profitable without ballooning overheads.

Outsourcing your back office processes, especially accounting services, is a step in the right direction. Increasing pressure on profits is driving more and more midsize enterprises to look at outsourcing to cut costs and improve competitiveness in market place; something that Fortune 500 enterprises have been doing with success for the last ten years.

Can accounting be outsourced?

You would be surprised at how easy it is to outsource accounting.

o You keep your accounting system in your computers in your premises.

o You scan all incoming documents and store them as digital images.

o Your accountants, located outside your enterprise, access your computers in a safe/secure way, read the documents, process them according to your business rules and update your accounting records.

o When you enter your office, your inbox contains reports that you can print and read; checks you should print and sign; and queries that require resolution.

Just that simple!

Your first decision: What to outsource?

Your finance function comprises:

(a) CFO function focused on maximizing stockholder wealth by helping you make right decisions on pricing, resourcing, investment, funding and dividends; by ensuring your business generates the anticipated cash and this cash is deployed in the right direction

(b) Management accounting who help you plan the business; provide analytical support

(c) Treasury which manages the cash and

(d) Financial accounting which

a. maintains the books of accounts,

b. processes sales orders, sales invoices and receipts; monitors accounts receivable

c. processes supplier invoices and payments; monitors accounts payable

d. processes payroll, expense claims etc

e. prepares financial statements and other internal reports

Financial accounting (or any part of it) can easily be outsourced. This would step up service quality. A hare that runs for its life always runs faster than a lion running for its lunch; independent third parties would always be more focused on service (without losing emphasis on control) than in house accountants.

Your second decision: Who should do your work?

You should look for someone with experience in serving midmarket enterprises. TaurusQuest (www.taurusquest.com) have unique strengths here.

TaurusQuest have a track record in serving midsize enterprises in the United States; and have been ranked 4th worldwide in providing finance/accounting services to midsize enterprises by the Black Book of Outsourcing.

We understand small and mid market enterprises better:

CEOs of mid market enterprises are looking at outsourcing of back office processes as a strategy to remain competitive (against larger players and peers) and protect their margins.

If you are a mid market enterprise, you need to be twice careful in the choice of your vendor for outsourced services. The vendor should understand the need for the enterprise to be flexible and nimble footed in managing the processes and provide an entrepreneurial understanding of your opportunities.

We at TaurusQuest understand small and mid market enterprises better. We recognize that upfront investments need to be small; value realization should be reasonably quick; processes may not necessarily be structured and disciplined.

We have a track record of success in growing with our customers in this segment.

We have been placed fourth worldwide for customer satisfaction and operational excellence in our most important business: providing accounting services to mid market enterprises by a US based publisher of global league tables based on independently conducted customer surveys for 2007.

We were awarded this when we were at the finance/accounting services division of Quscient; now we are an independent corporate entity

We consider this a testimony to our credentials for “delighting” our customers.

Accounting services that can be outsourced:

A wide range of accounting services including:

· Maintenance of:

o books of accounts

o receivables and payables ledger

o cash/bank book

o inventory

· Processing of:

o sales invoices; monitoring collections

o supplier invoices; coordinating payments

o payroll

· Effective control/traction:

o prompt/accurate bank reconciliation

o cash flow forecasts

· Preparation of business intelligence reports

o financial statements

o analytical reports

· Decision Support in

o Pricing for new programs

o Resourcing (both assets and people)

TaurusQuest’s track record in accounting services:

TaurusQuest provides accounting services for more than 40 clients in United States. Some examples:

(a) Complete accounting services for an office space décor and furniture provider in New York

(b) Complete accounting services for a chemicals manufacturer in Chicago

(c) Complete accounting services for an architect practice in Atlanta.

(d) Complete accounting service for a chain of gas station franchises in Tucson

(e) Maintenance of General Ledger for a non government charity organization in Phoenix

(f) Sales invoicing and receivables monitoring for a properties and casualty insurance provider in New York

(g) Supplier invoices processing and payables for a manufacturer of industrial products in Chicago

(h) Branch accounting for a US software services business in Chicago

(i) Preparation of financial statements for professional clients of a CPA in Princeton.

TaurusQuest’s expertise:

TaurusQuest has expertise in:

(a) Aligning accounting systems to business requirements (right granular level of profit centers, cost centers for recording income/expense etc)

(b) Operating business controls (evolution of and compliance with business rules, authority; and validation of evidence)

(c) Accounting standards (we have expertise in US GAAP as well as IFRS)

(d) Operating a variety of accounting systems including Microsoft Great Plains, Quick books, SAP, Oracle Financials etc

Our senior employees have post graduate professional qualifications in finance/accounting. Our frontline service providers have at least an undergraduate degree in finance/accounting.

How does outsourcing work?

An accounting system is eventually about various business documents being inventoried, processed to certain business rules and updated into books of accounts. Outsourced provision of accounting services works as below:

(a) You get a high speed scanner and get all business documents (purchase orders, supplier invoices, goods arrival reports, sales orders, delivery reports, sales invoices, collections, payments, expense reports, payroll inputs) scanned and stored into a computer in your premises (preferably in an off-the-shelf inexpensive document management system)

(b) Your accounting system is stored in a computer (oftentimes the same computer) in your premises

(c) You get the computers connected to internet by using your local ISP (of course you get a firewall to protect your system; we can help you with the technology bit)

(d) We access your computer remotely from our service delivery center, read the scanned images, process/archive the document images, and update the accounting systems.

(e) Your accounting system is ready to provide the information you need. The reports you need are prepared and kept in a safe area for you in the computer.

(f) Depending on the level of sophistication you need, you could get the payments effected online by confirming the checks we have created online for you or print the checks physically, sign and disburse.

(g) You get to use the same accounting system and same processes you follow now. Your data and your documents stay all the time within your premises. We do not house your accounting system or data in our premises.

(h) Our accountants work during your night time; but you get to have at least 2 hours of interface with them each day (oftentimes from 9 am to 11 am your time).

(i) Our accountants work on a “dedicated” basis. You get to work with the same person all the time. We are different in this respect. We believe this increases the bonding between the accountant and the user group.

(j) Our accountants are reachable by closed loop VOIP phones by dialing a US number from your premises. All our senior executives carry blackberry devices; emails are promptly responded.

How much would it cost?

Upfront investment is restricted to: (a) A high speed scanner (b) An off-the-shelf document management system (c) A firewall software (d) A connection to your local ISP

You don’t pay for anything else (including the telecommunication bandwidth to our delivery center).

Recurring costs are confined to our invoices for services. These can be in any format: (a) % of your revenue (b) $ per sales/supplier invoice (c) $/hour of accountant’s time (d) $/month per accountant deployed

According to an analyst, “customers tend to save at least 50% of the total cost (salaries, benefits, facility costs etc) on outsourcing accounting services” from Day One.

Benefits from outsourcing:

· From Day 1 your costs come down by 50%. No big upfront investment.

· Your processes get streamlined. The quality of business processes go up. You become an efficient enterprise.

· Your customers and vendors are delighted because invoices are prompt; statements are prompt; payments are prompt.

· Your management is delighted because analytical reports are prompt.

· You get the benefit of best of breed practice from experts.

Why TaurusQuest?

TaurusQuest is a customer centric organization.

TaurusQuest has been acknowledged as within the top four positions in the world in providing accounting services in terms of customer satisfaction and operational excellence.

We focus on your enterprise value; your competitive advantage; your revenue growth; apart from high quality processes and cost advantages.

Forensic Accounting: Investigation of Fraud and Criminal Activity in the Modern Business World

Alarming sums of money are stolen from businesses each year by trusted employees.  It is estimated that in 2008, at least $6 Billion will be lost by businesses as a result of fraudulent activities.  Surprisingly, smaller companies suffer the majority of the losses.  This is due to their lack of funds to implement preventative procedures in concert with a generally stronger trust and more personal relationship with employees.  In order to prosecute those responsible for these crimes, it is important to understand the path leading to the fraud.

 

Forensic accounting is a rapidly expanding field involving careful investigative work, in depth financial analysis and an understanding of the legal system.  Forensic accountants must think on their feet and work side-by-side with law enforcement personnel in order to solve the puzzles surrounding fraud cases.  Frequently they are required to testify in court as expert witnesses and provide key evidence leading to convictions.  Evidence is gathered from books and other records including computers, hard drives, and email correspondence and computer records.  It is then carefully traced back to where the problem first began.  Forensic accountants act as detectives, lawyers, CPA’s and scientists.  These professionals often have highly developed deductive reasoning skills, familiarity with legal procedures, good writing skills and excellent public speaking skills.  They have the responsibility of convincing a judge and jury that the evidence they have gathered is solid.  Forensic accounting played a large role in convicting Al Capone for tax evasion.  It also figured prominently in exposing the Enron and WorldCom scandals.

 

As technology improves and the amount of money stolen from companies and corporations grows, the demand for forensic accountants has grown rapidly. Considered to be one of the fastest growing accounting jobs, it is predicted that this profession will be among the top twenty in the next few years.  Schools have begun to offer programs in this field to help meet the strong and ever increasing demand for forensic accountants.

 

In the computer age, fraud comes in many forms.  It is much easier for criminals to embezzle money without detection.  This is why forensic accountants typically need advanced computer knowledge.  They must be able to extract evidence from computer hard drives.  Business owners look to forensic accountants to help implement preventative measures.  Many businesses hire these professionals to examine documents and computers regularly so that the chances of a serious problem are minimized.  Forensic accountants also find employment in police departments, law firms and governmental agencies such as the FBI and the IRS.

 

While working for a law firm, there are a variety of legal disputes that a forensic accountant may assist in.  In divorce cases, assistance is needed in dividing assets.  Disputed assets are often investigated behind the scenes in order to determine the most equitable way to split them as well as determine if both parties are credible.  Forensic accountants also assist lawyers in bankruptcy cases.  Evidence is gathered to ensure that there is no suspicious financial activity surrounding the case.  Copywriting and patent infringement, insurance fraud, personal injury, and construction audits are among the kinds of cases that forensic accountants are often called upon to investigate. Police departments hire forensic accountants for many of the same reasons, especially to gather evidence for prosecution that will stand up in court.

 

Forensic accounting professionals express a high level of job satisfaction.  The profession typically offers excellent compensation ($100K+/year) and the investigative work is very intellectually challenging.  There is always something new and exciting to work on every day.  It is clearly extremely rewarding to be able to identify those responsible for stealing millions of dollars and in some cases for saving businesses.

 

Until more educational institutions start offering forensic accounting programs, employers often look for Certified Public Accountants, who are certified in Fraud Examination to fill forensic accounting positions.  It is preferred that the job candidates have accounting experience and a good knowledge of the law along with strong computer science, writing and investigative skills.  Background checks and reference checks are also necessary to ensure that new employees have a clear criminal record and a good reputation in the community.

 

Forensic accountants are vital to the survival of both large and small companies.  There will always be new work to do as technology advances.  People with an interest in accounting and detective work who are inspired to identify criminal activity and therefore prevent business failures should consider this as a career option.

                                                      References

Echie, K. (September, 2008). The Training and Skills You Need to Become a

 

       Forensic  Accountant. Retrieved September 30, 2008.

Gold, L. (August, 2007). Litigation Support: Can I Get a Witness? Accounting

 

      Today, Volume 21, No. 15. Page 1. Retrieved September 30, 2008 from:

 

       LexixNexis Academic Database.

Moncliff, J. CSI of Accounting Jobs. Retrieved September 30, 2008.

Ray, R. (October, 2007). Experts in Detecting Financial Misbehavior Match

 

        Wits With Fraud Artists in a Rapidly Growing Field. The Globe and Mall.

 

        Retrieved September 30, 2008 from: LexixNexis Academic Database.

 Russell, M (April, 2007). Be a Financial Detective. Retrieved September 30,

 

        2008.

Stone, J. (November, 2006). Forensic Accounting The Detective Breed of

 

         Accounting Careers. Retrieved October 22, 2008.

Winters, A. G. Forensic Accounting. Retrieved September 30, 2008.

 

            

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