Archive for August, 2016

Did You Unplug This Summer?

Friday, August 26th, 2016
Vacation Time | Unplug From Work | Ohio CPA Firm

Employees shouldn’t be afraid of the off switch. Those who are overworked are oftentimes less productive and generally less happy, but time off can provide renewed energy to return refreshed and ready to take on whatever may come your way. For example, this season, find some time to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends. Keep reading to learn more.

As the summer is winding down, you are probably finding yourself preparing for fantasy and college football, bracing for pumpkin spice everything, and seeing the school buses out and about. Before you transition to your fall routine, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the summer months.

The months of June, July, and August are synonymous with family vacations. School’s out. The weather is warm. The beach seems to be calling your name. Did you take advantage of the vacation time this year or was your work laptop nestled in with your luggage? You know, just in case…

If you are like a lot of business professionals, you have probably found yourself suffering from an inability to unplug from work. In the age of smartphones and laptops, we are finding ourselves more connected than ever before. And this increased connectivity has made it harder than ever to unplug from our professional selves.

It’s important to remember that your vacation is part of your compensation package. Not only do you work hard to earn a paycheck, you work hard to earn time away from the office – which means you’ve also earned the luxury of completely stepping away from technology – but it’s not going to be easy.

I recently read an article from CGMA Magazine that outlined five tips to help professionals getting more out of their time away from the office. In fact, the tips were so good that I wanted to pass them along!

  1. Embrace a pro-vacation culture
    If your employee handbook and company culture call out the importance of vacations, embrace the mantra and take the time allotted to you to recharge. Vacations aren’t just great for you, they can be very good for business as well! Well-rested employees are happier and more productive. So go ahead…book your next trip guilt free!
  2. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail
    If you are planning a two-week family vacation, you probably have a good idea when you will want to take it. Your employer should be kept in the loop too. Oftentimes, managers have no problem with long vacations – as long as they have enough time to plan for your absence. Once you have settled on which dates you need to take off, share that information with your manager and colleagues. It’s also good practice to set aside some time to meet with you manager on your first day back. This will help you catch up on important projects or issues you may have missed.
  3. Delegate work
    Work with your team to determine who is best suited to take the lead on key projects while you are out. This will help mitigate interruptions in productivity while you are away. Your vacation can also serve as a very important gauge for managers, as they will have an opportunity to evaluate whether the second-in-command might be ready to assume more responsibility in the future.
  4. Turn off the light…and the phone…and the laptop
    If you want to make the most of your vacation, set up your out of office email message and step away from the tech. If you don’t, you will be drawn into its bright, electronic glow. Managers have to be ready to play a huge part in changing the company’s culture. If checking in with work is necessary, establish one short window each day when you’ll be reachable and stick to it.
  5. Relax!
    While you are on vacation – regardless of how long or short it may be – you are allowed (and expected) to put your work worries aside. Once you do, you will return to your job feeling more energized and ready to tackle tough projects.

In other words, employees shouldn’t be afraid of the off switch. Those who are overworked are oftentimes less productive and generally less happy, but time off can provide renewed energy to return refreshed and ready to take on whatever may come your way.

If you are planning on taking some time off work this fall, take advantage of these tips. But if you are holding out for next year’s summer vacation with the family, save this article and make it a point to refer to it again later. That way, the next time you leave work for pleasure you will be able to unplug from technology and vacation like a pro!

By Nathan Esselburn, CPA (Dublin office)

Check out these articles for additional insight into some of the best habits of business owners.

 This Is An Intervention – Step Away From Your Business

What Are The Top 5 Challenges Business Owners Face?

What Are The Ingredients For Business Success?

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It’s Lonely At The Top …

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

A Business Advisory Board Can Help

Small Business Advisory Board | Ohio CPA Firm

Excellent leaders seek out excellent advisors and the best advisors for your business are those who fill knowledge gaps within your company. They will also not be afraid to share their opinions and offer differing perspectives. You may not always like what they have to say, but you will be a better leader for hearing it.

It’s not uncommon for small business owners or CEO’s to feel like there is no one they can turn for help, advice or validation.

Fortunately, a business advisory board can help. Business leaders who consult an advisory board not only gain camaraderie, they gain ready access to experts in a variety of fields, such as marketing, sales, financing, and others. Not to mention a valuable multi-perspective approach to your day-to-day managerial duties.

Read Also: 5 Best Practices For Taking Your Business To The Next Level

Business Success Is A Team Effort

Not ready to commit to utilizing a business advisory board in all aspects of your business? That’s fine. Start small instead. Many successful boards are originally formed with a very specific goal in mind – such as the implementation of a new strategic plan.

And you don’t always have to look exclusively outside of your business for help. Consider tapping members of your management team for specific organizational reports. Each advisory board meeting could begin with members of your management team providing updates on assigned areas, such as finances, operations/production, human resources, IT, and sales & marketing. This portion of the meeting will ensure that everybody is on the same page and will encourage your management team to buy into the advisory process. Later in your meeting, set aside time to speak confidentially with your advisory team. Doing so will provide everyone with the opportunity to speak candidly.

Say ‘No’ To ‘Yes-Men’

If you don’t trust the members of your advisory board, the initiative will not be effective. You need to go into advisory board meetings ready and willing to share sensitive information about the business, as well as personal information about yourself. If you don’t trust your board, you are unlikely to tell them everything they need to know to provide you with the best advice possible. Your board should consist of the following experts:

  • An attorney
  • An accountant
  • A banker
  • Experts in Marketing, HR and/or IT
  • Other successful entrepreneurs from other industries
  • Potential customers

Optimally, you should try to keep the group small and close-knit. More than six advisors on your board are not recommended as the productivity of the team is likely to take a hit.

Know Your Limitations

Excellent leaders seek out excellent advisors and the best advisors for your business are those who fill knowledge gaps within your company. They will also not be afraid to share their opinions and offer differing perspectives. You may not always like what they have to say, but you will be a better leader for hearing it. You can’t do everything and you can’t be an expert on every topic or every issue that comes across your desk. But an advisory team will help you get there.

Set Expectations

Even though advisory boards are more informal than boards of directors, it’s important to set expectations and ground rules on any time expectations, responsibilities and duration of service. Consider a written document outlining your board’s responsibilities and logistics, such as meeting frequency, expected time commitment and compensation, if any. Quarterly meetings as a group with individual meetings as needs arise is a good framework.

Remember, your business advisory board does not have authority to make business decisions; it will offer advice that you can either take or dismiss. Speak frankly about your business goals are and explain that you don’t expect them to take on an active management role or assume any liability for your company or for the advice they offer. Providing written indemnification for each participant is appropriate.

The advisory board experience should be interesting and beneficial for all involved. Being on your board will expose members to new ideas and perspectives, and also offers mentoring, networking and social opportunities that make the experience worthwhile. At the very least, you should cover any expenses members incur to attend meetings, and provide meals when you get together. You could also consider a per-meeting fee that might range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on commitment.

Email Rea & Associates to learn more ways a business advisory board can help you become a better business leader.

By Chris Roush, CPA (Millersburg office)

Are you looking for more insight into the effectiveness of a business advisory board? Check out these articles.

Getting By With A Little Help From Your Friends

Why It’s Important To Have A Good Banker As Part Of Your Business Advisory Team

This Is An Intervention – Step Away From Your Business

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Business Leaders Sought Out Essential Financial Information In July

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

New due dates, new rules, new opportunities to save on your upcoming bill to the IRS. When you think about it, it’s really no big surprise why we would start pushing summertime tax prep tips to all the savvy business owners out there. And, from the look of it, many of you have taken advantage of the great tidbits of information we’ve left for you on our blog.

Are you wondering which posts were getting the most clicks in July? Well, wonder no more! Research revealed that our readers found the following top blog posts to be particularly tasty!

July’s Top 5 Blog Posts

  1. Brush Up On These New Tax Form Due Dates Did you know that the IRS has changed the due dates for many of your tax return forms? Stay out of trouble with the IRS. Start studying up on the new tax form due dates by clicking here.
  2. Work or Pleasure? Make Traveling for Charity Part Of Your Summertime Tax Savings Strategy In addition to planning a fun family get-away this summer, you might want to carve out some time to donate your services to a noble cause as well. For all of you summertime volunteers, listen up and make plans to use some of your travel expenses to help lower your tax bill. Here’s how.
  3. Would You Know If Someone Was Stealing From Your Business? A 20-year employee at a city school charged with managing adult education programs was known as a hard worker who had secured her colleagues’ respect. But when external auditors came into the district to review the school’s financial records, it didn’t take long to realize that something just wasn’t adding up.
  4. How Will A Tax Credits and Incentives Plan Benefit Your Business? If you had a chance to claim thousands of dollars, would you? Well, if you are a business owner, the opportunity is staring you right in the face. But you have to seize the opportunity sooner rather than later.
  5. What Happens if My 401(k) Plan is Out of Compliance with an IRS or DOL Rule? If the IRS retroactively disqualifies your plan, the disqualification (and the IRS’s ability to impose taxation) is effective only for taxable years for which the statute of limitations has not expired.

Did you miss these posts when they went to print? Want to get our top tips delivered directly to your inbox? Subscribe to our blog and never miss a blog post again!

And for those of you who are looking for advice to help move the needle in your business? Contact the experts behind the article. The team at Rea & Associates is always ready to help you find a brighter way!

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How To React To A Data Breach

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016
Data Breach | Columbus Cybersecurity Series | Ohio CPA Firm

Would you be able to effectively manage the fallout of a data breach? If you aren’t sure, keep reading.

It was 2013 when a medium-sized library in Ohio found itself in the midst of a data breach that would later serve as a powerful case study warning against the very real threat of electronic fraud. While originally developed by the Ohio Auditor of State’s office as a tool for government entities throughout the state, Cash Management 240: Financial Fraud – A Case Study, has found usefulness beyond just the government sphere.

Leaders of not-for-profit organizations and for-profit business owners would also find value in this resource, which outlines:

  • the events that resulted in the occurrence of the data breach,
  • the reaction of entity officials during and after the breach was detected, and
  • the short- and long-term outcomes that resulted from the breach.

While I strongly recommend that you read the entire case study, I provide a brief overview of the story below.

How would you respond to a data breach?

Library officials were notified of the occurrence of fraudulent activity impacting the entity’s checking account in March of 2013. According to the bank, the fraudulent activity appeared to be limited to three transactions, totaling $144,743. Fortunately, bank officials were proactive in their efforts to recall the transactions.

In an effort to avoid further fraudulent activity, library officials decided to disconnect the accounting workstations from the entity’s network and proceeded to contact their technology vendor, who advised the library proceed with reformatting both accounting workstations immediately. Soon thereafter, library officials contacted the local police station to report the incident, closed the entity’s existing bank accounts and opened new ones, and notified employees of the data breach as well as the board of directors.

Due to the nature of the breach, it didn’t take long before the Ohio Auditor of State’s office and the FBI were notified of the incident as well. And, in an effort to try and reclaim some of the money that was stolen, a claim was filed with the entity’s insurance carrier. Finally, the library’s bank was able to successfully recover $54,910 of the amount that was stolen. In 2014, when the case study was released, the library was still in the process of negotiating with the bank regarding $89,833 that was still missing.

So, what do you think? Would you say that the library officials were effective in their management of the data breach? What would you do if your company or nonprofit found itself in a similar situation?

Well, according to the FBI, the library could have handled the situation better. For example, the library should have not reformatted the workstations. The FBI and local police force should have been contacted immediately. And finally, the entity should have followed all instructions mandated by the bank to eliminate the possibility of such fraudulent activity.

Since it’s 2013 data breach, the library:

  • Is now required by the bank to follow the ACH Originator Agreement.
  • Has designated one stand-alone PC to be used for online banking.
  • Has requested online access from only one IP address
  • Has purchased a cybercrime policy.
  • Revisited its banking RFP to include a section regarding online banking security minimums.

Do you have a plan to help deter cybercrime?

The above scenario is just one of the countless cybercrimes that occur every day and every type of businesses, entity and organizations are being impacted. If you don’t have a plan in place to help prevent cybercriminals from infiltrating your network and stealing your data for financial gain, or a strategy to recover once a breach has been identified, you are in a very vulnerable position.

I believe that in order to protect against a cybercrime attack, it’s important to be armed with as much knowledge as possible. On Sept. 7, 2016, FBI Agent David Fine will be the featured presenter of part two of the Columbus Cybersecurity Series. During this portion of the presentation, attendees will hear real-life examples of attacks on businesses, including what schemes are prevalent today. Audience members will also discover the very real impact these attacks have on companies and what they can do to deter an attack from occurring in their own business or organization.

The Columbus Cybersecurity Series is free to attend, but registration is required. You can RSVP here.

By Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

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Get Ready, Get Set, Get Shopping!

Monday, August 1st, 2016

2016 Tax Free Holiday Is Aug. 5-Aug. 7

2016 Sales Tax Holiday | Rea & Associates | Ohio CPA Firm

This weekend when you are out back-to-school shopping, don’t be afraid to fill the cart with a little bit more! Friday, Aug. 5-Sunday, Aug. 7 is Ohio’s sales tax holiday! Read on to find out which items will be exempt from sales and use tax.  Don’t forget to share this post and/or this photo to remind friends and family of this event!

Will you be one of the many shoppers flooding stores this weekend in search of some great back-to-school bargains? If so, then your shopping trip got a whole lot better! This year’s Sales Tax Holiday will take place Friday, Aug. 5-Sunday, Aug. 7.

Read Also: Five Things You Didn’t Know About Ohio’s Tax Holiday

Without the burden of paying sales tax on a variety of items, shoppers will be able to make their dollars go a little further, which is especially great for those looking to fill their closets with the latest back-to-school fashions and their desks with school-time necessities.

This year during the sales-tax holiday, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation, the following items will be exempt from sales and use tax:

  • Clothing priced at $75 per item or less;
  • School supplies priced at $20 per item or less; and
  • School instructional material priced at $20 per item or less.

If you have Sales Tax Holiday questions, including how the tax free holiday works, how coupons and discounts are handled, and what products are eligible for the exemption, check out this helpful FAQ page, or you can call 800-304-3211.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

Looking for more ways to save money, check out these articles!

Three College Savings Account Tips You Can’t Afford To Ignore

From Toddler To Teen And Beyond: Tax Breaks For Families

Make Traveling For Charity Part Of Your Summertime Tax Savings Strategy

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