Archive for the ‘Business Advice’ Category

Getting Back To Business: How Outsourcing May Provide Relief To Your Business

Friday, September 19th, 2014

As a business owner, you have a lot to think about. Your investors, managers, employees and clients depend on you to deliver top notch products and services while keeping overhead costs low in favor of increased revenue. In fact, your business’s success can probably be attributed to your leadership skills and your knack for being able to see the big picture while bringing together all the other elements to reach a profitable conclusion. So why are you still in charge of handling your business’s accounting and bookkeeping needs when you could be so much more effective guiding your business toward further growth? Outsourcing may provide you and your business with the relief you need to get back on track.

Maybe you think your business is just too small to hire an accountant or bookkeeper or that you’re saving money by doing these jobs yourself. Perhaps you just aren’t aware of what options are available to you and your business. When you consider that the most effective solution is the one that effectively addresses your unique needs and budget, it should be no surprise that an outside accounting firm may be the answer you’ve been looking for.

Know Your Strengths And Weaknesses

The cost of hiring a full-time accountant or bookkeeper is a huge concern for many small business owners. To avoid a large expense, many owners or managers will purchase a copy of QuickBooks and try to work through their accounts themselves. Unfortunately, even if they have basic accounting skills, they may not have the patience, expertise and experience to handle the work. If done incorrectly, accounting flaws can be very costly, and could result in catastrophic consequences for your business.

Proper accounting and bookkeeping is essential to the short- and long-term success of your business. Outsourcing your accounting and bookkeeping work can help ensure accuracy and will free you up to focus on future growth, higher efficiency and increased sales. Below are a few examples of how outsourcing can solve your small business challenges.

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Issue: Your business is relatively small (with a similar budget), and you can’t justify bringing on a full-time accountant.

Solution: Hiring an in-house accountant could turn out to be a hefty expense, especially if the quantity of work is relatively minimal throughout most of the year. Not only do you have to pay the new employee a living wage and benefits, you must be prepared to invest in the software and/or training a new accountant needs. By filtering work to an outsourced controller, you will have access to affordable, ongoing or as needed reporting. As a result, your management team will become more flexible and will have more data – and thus more authority – when making decisions that directly affect the business.

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Issue: You’ve already invested in QuickBooks to manage your business’s finances. It seems to be working well so far, but you haven’t been formally trained on the software.

Solution: While QuickBooks is easy to use, sufficient supervision by someone who is proficient with accounting skills is essential. Without a QuickBooks expert on hand, you will have no clue as to what is going on “behind the numbers.” A trained and certified accountant can tap into the various capabilities of the software, which include the reconciliation process, accounts receivable tracking and accounts payable, etc. When your bottom line is at stake, you owe it to yourself and to your business to minimize problems that may occur. You can avoid any hiccups with the help of a CPA.

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Issue: You don’t need all the capabilities an accounting firm offers and you don’t want to pay for a service you may never use.

Solution: Your CPA will work with you to make sure all of your accounting needs are met and that the services that are provided only address the needs of your business. Services that can be outsourced include full accounting services, oversight work and everything in between. You also have the option of expanding services if and when you need them. Outsourcing options available to you include:

  • Working with an accountant several times throughout the year to clean up your accounting and ensure a smoother year-end tax process.
  • Tasking an accountant with filing certain commercial activities and taxes on time to insure accuracy and to avoid overpaying.
  • Hiring an accountant to provide periodic financial statements to banks.
  • Utilizing an accountant as an extra set of eyes on all manner of documents. This provides you with a great system of control when ensuring the accuracy of your books.

Speak to a Rea & Associates CPA to find out how an accounting firm can address your unique accounting and bookkeeping challenges while allowing you to make the best use of your time. Learn more about the services our business accounting professionals offers.

Article: Clayton W. Rose III, CPA (Dublin office)

 

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How Prepared Is Your Business For A Potential IT Disaster?

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Natural disasters. Hardware meltdowns. New variants of viruses and malware. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where anything can happen. It’s critical that your business is on its toes, ready to tackle any potential disaster or crisis that may come your way. But is it? If your business’s computer systems crashed tomorrow, how easy (or even possible) would it be for your business to recover? Has your business ever given thought to a disaster recovery (DR) plan? Do you have one of these plans?

It’s National Preparedness Month. A month where government agencies and businesses alike work to educate companies and organizations about the importance of being prepared whatever may come your business’s way. In honor of this month, below are five reasons why your business should create (if you don’t have one) a disaster recovery plan

Top 5 Reasons For A IT Disaster Recovery Plan

A Gartner report estimates that only 35 percent of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) actually have a working and comprehensive DR plan. And from its research, Gartner also found that 40 percent of SMBs that manage their networks and Internet usage in-house will have their networks hacked, and more than 50 percent won’t know they were hacked. Pretty sobering statistics, right? There are many reasons why having a DR plan is a wise business move. In fact, here are the top five reasons why a DR plan is imperative to the success of your business:

  1. You can’t control when a disaster happens – it can happen at any time. Disasters can be natural or man-made – either way, you don’t have control over when it could happen. A DR plan will help you be prepared for anything at any time.
  2. A DR plan can help you save thousands, possibly even millions, of dollars in the event of a disaster. When a disaster strikes, it’s usually not a cheap fix. Depending on its severity, many businesses’ budgets are hit quite hard. And if this is an unexpected expense, it’s that much harder to make a complete recovery.
  3. You can mitigate your losses with a DR plan. Money isn’t the only thing at stake during a disaster. Don’t forget about the trust and confidence of your customers, employees, investors, vendors – the list goes on. A DR plan can help you retain your critical audiences during a disaster.
  4. A DR plan can help you reduce confusion among your staff and audiences. When a disaster hits, imagine the confusion and uncertainty that comes with it. In some cases, it may seem like you have no control over the situation. A DR plan can help you have an organized approach to resolving the disaster.
  5. The government may require businesses within your industry to develop and utilize a DR plan. If your business handles sensitive customer information or other information that could be critical if lost, the government may require you to have a formal DR plan, which should include yearly testing of offsite back-up recovery data.

Does your business have a DR plan? If not, you need to create one. Email Rea & Associates for more information about what to include in your plan. If you already have one in place, first pat yourself on the back, and then review it to ensure that it reflects your business’s current environment. Detailed and tested plans are imperative to the successful recovery and even for the longevity of your business.

Author: Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Fraud Hotlines Deter Occupational Fraud

Monday, August 25th, 2014

When it comes to your business or organization, you are passionate about making sure your staff embodies your mission and objectives. You take care to select only the best candidates; and when you find them, you conduct thorough interviews, background checks and offer extensive training and timely performance reviews. Months later, now that you have invested significant resources into finding, training and polishing your new employee, you can finally rest easy knowing that you created a team dedicated to common goals and objectives – right?

Fraud Happens

In its most recent version of The Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) analyzed 1,483 cases of occupational fraud, which resulted in losses totaling more than $3 billion. Of those cases, the ACFE found that businesses with 100 employees or less are more susceptible to financial losses as a result of the three categories of occupational fraud – corruption, asset misappropriation and financial statement fraud.

Here’s A Tip

Maybe, like so many other business owners, you have already considered these facts and have taken steps to deter fraud in your own offices by establishing and implementing codes of conduct and external audits. While those measures provide a good foundation, you may be surprised to learn that of the nearly 1,500 cases of fraud that were reviewed, auditing only revealed a few instances of fraud. On the other hand, 42 percent of these cases were detected by tips. These tips were frequently reported on fraud hotlines and resulted in a 50 percent quicker response time when it came to detecting and stopping fraud.

The Value of a Fraud Hotline

Be proactive about fraud prevention, instead of reacting when you’re caught in the middle of it. A fraud reporting hotline service, such as Red Flag Reporting, has helped clients stay informed about what’s going on in their businesses. Services like Red Flag provide businesses with an opportunity to focus on building relationships, increasing revenue and improving community outreach instead of chasing down occupational fraud in the workplace.

Fraud hotlines are utilized by small and large businesses alike and can help identify and deter other types of unethical behavior before it grows out of control. Fraud hotlines can result in:

  • Fewer OSHA violations
  • Lower Workers’ Compensation costs
  • A decreased likelihood of employment practices lawsuits
  • Zero-tolerance of discrimination in the workplace

Not all employees are bad and not everybody is looking for an opportunity to financially ruin their employer. In fact, fraud hotlines are great because they prove that you are have a team made up of responsible, honest, hard-working men and women. These professionals are the eyes and ears of your business or organization and you not only depend on them to help identify instances of fraud, you need them to report issues to you before they explode into situations that severely damage your financial well-being, employee morale and reputations. By providing your team with a hotline, they will be even more inclined to provide you with a tip or two without feeling like they are rocking the boat.

Are you concerned about the potential for fraud in your organization? Email Rea & Associates to learn more about how a fraud hotline could work for you.

Author: Annie Yoder, CPA, CFE, CFF (New Philadelphia office)

 

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New Form of Malware Catching Retailers Off Guard

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Last week, UPS announced that 51 of its stores were infected by point-of-sale (POS) malware that has been affecting other retailers across the U.S. In total, UPS estimates that approximately 105,000 POS transactions were comprised in the data breach, leaving many customers’ financial and contact information exposed, increasing their risk of identity theft and fraud.

POS malware, known as Backoff, was identified last week as having targeted a New Orleans restaurant, a much smaller retailer than UPS. On July 31, several government agencies sent out an alert about Backoff. The alert explained the risks that Backoff posed to U.S. businesses, including smaller merchants, and that this new form of malware was found to infect POS systems via access to a remote-access portal.

And just a few days ago, the U.S. Secret Service announced that an estimated 1,000 businesses have been infected by Backoff. Now the Department of Homeland Security is encouraging all businesses – no matter the size – to scan their POS systems to check for a possible compromise.

While these recent incidents may not affect you or your business directly, the discovery of this new form of malware should cause you to stop and assess your business’s IT security situation. Do you have the right security protocols in place to protect your business – and your customers – from a potential data breach?

How To Protect Your Business From A Data Breach

Your mind may be far from thinking about your business’s IT environment. You’re probably focused more on the day-to-day operations of your business and serving your customers. But think of protecting your business’s IT environment as one way of serving your customers. By protecting your IT systems, you are helping ensure that your customers’ personal and financial data is safe. Here are some ways you can protect your business’s IT environment:

  • Use End Point Protection monitoring to verify that all workstations are current on their virus definition files and OS patches.
  • Make sure all servers are patched with the most current operating system security patches.
  • Employ a vendor to complete penetration testing to find any open avenues to your network.
  • Consider implementing Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) or Security Information & Event Management (SIEM) applications. Many companies utilize IDS/SIEM to monitor their incoming and outgoing network traffic. If the expense is too great or you don’t have qualified personnel, then consider a vendor to provide the service. Many vendors provide these services at a very reasonable price.
  • Review the Mitigation and Prevention Strategies of the Department of Homeland Security July 31, 2014, announcement of the Backoff malware.

The Cost of Protecting Your Customers

What cost is too much to protect my customers’ data? Only you can answer this question. UPS and the restaurant have chosen to pay for identity theft and credit monitoring services for customers who may have been affected from their data breaches (a data breach-related expense many companies don’t consider). But take that one step further. What cost is too much to protect my business’s reputation? In order for your company to survive in today’s digital world, it’s critical for your business to cultivate a culture of trust with your customers. Many businesses find that they’ll do what it takes to prevent security breaches. What will you do?

Want more IT tips? Check out other articles that provide best practices on how to secure your business’s IT environment.

Author: Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Obtaining Tax-Exempt Status Just Got Easier

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Many individuals want to know how easy it is to obtain tax-exempt status. About a month ago, you would have been told that the application process alone was rather lengthy. In fact, the standard Form 1023, which is the Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, is 26 pages in length. On July 1, the Internal Revenue Service introduced a significantly shorter application form – Form 1023-EZ – which is just three pages long.

What Is Form 1023-EZ?

Form 1023-EZ is a simplified version of Form 1023 and its use is limited to organizations with gross receipts of $50,000 or less and total assets of $250,000 or less. The IRS says that 70 percent of new applicants should be able to use the new form, but to ensure that the right organizations are using the right form; the IRS has outlined factors that may disqualify larger organizations from using the new form. Be sure to read the instructions carefully.

The IRS says it currently has more than 60,000 backlogged 501(c)(3) applications. The new, streamlined application form is anticipated to speed up the approval process for smaller groups, which means the agency will have more resources available to review applications submitted by larger organizations.

What You Need To Know About The 1023-EZ Form

If you are planning to fill out the new EZ form, here are three things you need to know:

  • The new EZ form must be filed online.
  • A $400 user fee is due at the time the form is submitted and must be paid through pay.gov.
  • Users must complete an eligibility checklist, which is included in the instructions for Form 1023-EZ, before filing the form.

Obtaining Tax-Exempt Status and Creating A Tax-Exempt Organization

The new EZ form makes it very easy to create a tax-exempt organization, but applicants should always seek professional assistance to ensure that their organization is operating, and will continue to operate, in accordance with their tax-exempt purpose.

Email Rea & Associates and ask if your organization qualifies to use Form 1023-EZ. Our team of business accounting and consulting professionals can answer your questions and guide you on your path to formally establishing your tax-exempt organization.

Author: Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

Want more best practices for nonprofit organizations? Check out these blog posts:

How Effective Is Your Nonprofit Organization?

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How Do You Protect Your Non-Profit’s Donations From Fraud?

 

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