How do you decide if your organization is ready to expand? Can you afford that new equipment purchase or that additional employee? What about adding a new service or product line?
Answering these questions takes reliable financial information. If the necessary information isn’t there, how good will those answers be? You could gather your team and do some guessing. But should your financial decisions be based on a guess? Probably not, if you want to stay in business or sustain your nonprofit.
Three actions will start you on the path to get reliable financial information when you need it:
- Build a Budget – Identify income sources, such as executed contracts and purchase orders. Estimate potential income from prospects and referrals, or based on historical data — if you have it. Determine all fixed expenses, such as rent and payroll. Estimate other expenses, such as supplies and inventory. Include occasional payments, like insurance.
- Track Cash Flow – Your budget reflects what you expect to happen. Tracking actual income and expenses in a cash flow format provides an instant view of your organization’s financial position. A clear and immediate financial view allows for informed financial decision making.
- Automate Where Possible – Automation increases accuracy and reduces the time needed to get financial information. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complex. Making it work depends on keeping the information up-to-date. Set-up at the beginning takes time, but it’s a worthwhile investment.
Stop guessing! Investing time and effort to budget, track and automate your financial information really pays off in the long run. Having reliable financial information at your fingertips goes a long way toward making the necessary financial decisions to sustain and grow your organization.
Your organization probably has a budget. But is that budget helping you increase income and control expenses? If not, you can use your budget as a powerful financial tool starting now! Here’s how:
Follow these three steps to make sure that your organization’s financial goals are being met all year long:
- Set Expectations Upfront
Define the process and expected outcomes from the budget comparison. Establish a formal financial oversight process stresses its importance and sets clear actions and time frames. At a minimum, a budget comparison should include an income statement and a balance sheet with current and prior year comparative data.
- Take Action to Stay on Course
It’s not necessary to review every financial line item. Only significant line items and budget variances should be reviewed in detail. Those areas require more action to get to the root cause of variances or unexpected results. Explaining the root cause often helps you identify the corrective action that is needed to stay on course and meet budget goals.
- Keep your Results in Mind
Stay laser focused on your business objectives while comparing your budget with actual financial activities. Documenting the review and resulting decisions and actions help to track progress throughout the year toward meeting financial goals and overall business objectives.
Regularly comparing the organization’s budget to actual financial activity is worth the time and effort. It helps organizations to determine whether budgeted financial goals are achieved and provides an opportunity to make any changes needed to stay on course.
Even after investing tons of money in technology and security for data protection, organizations still fall victim to data breaches. Why? Because security doesn’t work if people don’t use systems securely. Recent news events and surveys of IT security professionals reveal that the biggest cybersecurity risk comes from people.
A prime example is when a system administrator fails to change the manufacturer’s default password. The door to that system is wide open to unauthorized access. Phishing e-mails are a popular mechanism for exposing systems to attack.
Traditional methods, like training and documentation, make people aware of cyber threats and vulnerabilities. Another way to drive home the risks and costs of a data breach is to hear about real life techniques used by hackers to manipulate people inside your organization.
If you think your business isn’t at risk, a few scary, true stories about accessing and stealing sensitive data will change your mind. One of my IT referral partners, Envision Consulting, is hosting a workshop where participants will hear from the World’s Most Famous Hacker – LIVE!
A top cybersecurity expert, once on the FBI’s most wanted list and now a trusted, worldwide security consultant, is the main speaker at Envision Consulting’s “Top Business Executive Cybersecurity Workshop of 2016” on October 19th. His experiences demonstrate why people are the weakest security link and how easily they can be manipulated into handing over the keys to the kingdom. Registration and details: http://bit.ly/29yV0yx
Walk away with concrete ideas and techniques to adopt immediately in your business to lower the chances of becoming the victim of the next high-profile cybersecurity attack. Your people may be your greatest cybersecurity risk. Attending this workshop could be the greatest investment you make to mitigate that risk.
Nonprofits promise donors to use funds to deliver programs in support the mission. Those same nonprofits also strive to keep expenses low, especially in non-program areas. But the cost of bootstrapping non-program areas, like accounting, can be huge – and invisible.
Nonprofits have a legal responsibility to protect and account for their funds. Using reliable and effective systems and processes are part of fulfilling that legal responsibility. Investing in accounting infrastructure is essential. Knowing WHY accounting is essential helps nonprofits talk to stakeholders about funding infrastructure investments.
Three benefits that nonprofits get from reliable, effective accounting systems and processes are:
- Clear, Accurate View of Finances
Manual or disjointed processes make it difficult to get accurate, up-to-date financial information. The Board, executive director, and program managers don’t get the information they need to make good decisions for the organization. Investing in qualified staff, efficient systems, and standard processes helps nonprofits control and safeguard finances.
- Fewer Errors and “Do-overs”
A lack of clear, coordinated, and complete processes results in mistakes. Correcting errors and re-doing tasks eat up time that could be spent doing something else. Automating processes reduces the chances of a human error. Coordinating processes between people, roles, and responsibilities increases the chances of getting things done right the first time.
- Time Savings for All
Not all accounting processes are performed by the accountant or bookkeeper. Program managers and others provide receipts, timesheets, and other information that impact the accounting records. Manual or inadequate processes to collect and record information from the organization pose a challenge to maintaining accurate and complete financial information. Everyone gets time back in her or his day when processes and systems are coordinated with the rest of the organization.
Knowing the benefits of reliable, effective accounting systems and processes can help nonprofits explain the importance of infrastructure investments to their stakeholders. Explaining WHY will result in donors understanding that nonprofits cannot afford to keep bootstrapping their accounting.
Last week, I took an IRS exam to earn the Enrolled Agent (EA) credential. Being an EA will allow me to represent clients or interact on their behalf with the IRS. That’s on top of preparing income tax returns for businesses, individuals, estates, and nonprofit information returns.
The EA or other tax credential is one thing to look for to find a qualified tax preparer. Clients need to know that a knowledgeable tax professional is helping them follow the tax laws and take allowable deductions.
So what other experience or background should tax payers look for when “shopping” for a tax preparer? Other than getting referrals from colleagues, family and friends, taxpayers should ask prospective tax preparers these three questions:
- How Do You Keep Up with Changing Tax Laws?
Tax laws are constantly changing so it’s important to work with a tax professional who keeps up, so you don’t have to. Your tax preparer should describe attending conferences, webinars, or other methods she or he uses to stay current.
- What are Your Experience and Credentials?
Tax preparation is an unregulated industry where anyone can participate. Get examples of tax situations, client types, and complex issues where the tax preparer has experience. Her or his answers will indicate if she or he will be able to address your needs.
- How Do You Communicate with your Clients?
Does the tax preparer you are interviewing meet regularly with clients? Are meetings in person? Is the person available for you if a tax-related question or issue comes up? Make sure you feel comfortable with the tax professional’s style, manner and process.
It’s important to have a qualified tax preparer that is prepared to meet your needs. Feeling confident and comfortable with the answers to these three questions is a good sign that your taxes will be prepared accurately and consider allowable deductions.
This week, my business is two years old! Anniversaries are cause for celebration and reflection — a good time to check your progress and feel great about your accomplishments.
Looking back on my business from its start to its Second Anniversary, growth and success depend on these four important activities:
Continue reading “Two Years in Business!”