Get Serious About Your Strategic Planning Meetings
July 28, 2021 | BY admin
Most business owners would likely agree that strategic planning is important. Yet many companies rarely engage in active measures to gather and discuss strategy. Sometimes strategic planning is tacked on to a meeting about something else; other times it occurs only at the annual company retreat when employees may feel out of their element and perhaps not be fully focused.
Businesses should take strategic planning seriously. One way to do so is to hold meetings exclusively focused on discussing your company’s direction, establishing goals and identifying the resources you’ll need to achieve them. To get the most from strategy sessions, follow some of the best practices you’d use for any formal business meeting.
Set an agenda
Every strategy session should have an agenda that’s relevant to strategic planning — and only strategic planning. Allocate an appropriate amount of time for each agenda item so that the meeting is neither too long nor too short.
Before the meeting, distribute a document showing who’ll be presenting on each agenda topic. The idea is to create a “no surprises” atmosphere in which attendees know what to expect and can thereby think about the topics in advance and bring their best ideas and feedback.
Lay down rules (if necessary)
Depending on your workplace culture, you may want to state some upfront rules. Address the importance of timely attendance and professional decorum — either in writing or by announcement as the meeting begins.
Every business may not need to do this, but meetings that become hostile or chaotic with personal conflicts or “side chatter” can undermine the purpose of strategic planning. Consider whether to identify conflict resolution methods that participants must agree to follow.
Choose a facilitator
A facilitator should oversee the meeting. He or she is responsible for:
- Starting and ending on time,
- Transitioning from one agenda item to the next,
- Enforcing the rules as necessary,
- Motivating participation from everyone, and
- Encouraging a positive, productive atmosphere.
If no one at your company feels up to the task, you could engage an outside consultant. Although you’ll need to vet the person carefully and weigh the financial cost, a skilled professional facilitator can make a big difference.
Recording the minutes of a strategic planning meeting is essential. An official record will document what took place and which decisions (if any) were made. It will also serve as a log of potentially valuable ideas or future agenda items.
In addition, accurate meeting minutes will curtail miscommunications and limit memory lapses of what was said and by whom. If no record is kept, people’s memories may differ about the conclusions reached and disagreements could later arise about where the business is striving to head.
By gathering your best and brightest to discuss strategic planning, you’ll put your company in a stronger competitive position. Contact our firm for help laying out some of the tax, accounting and financial considerations you’ll need to talk about.
Keeping Remote Sales Sharp in the New Normal
July 26, 2021 | BY admin
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected the way people interact and do business. Even before the crisis, there was a trend toward more digital interactions in sales. Many experts predicted that companies’ experiences during the pandemic would accelerate this trend, and that seems to be coming to pass.
As this transformation continues, your business should review its remote selling processes and regularly consider adjustments to adapt to the “new normal” and stay ahead of the competition.
3 tips to consider
How can you maximize the tough lessons of 2020 and beyond? Here are three tips for keeping your remote sales operations sharp:
1. Stay focused on targeted sales. Remote sales can seemingly make it possible to sell to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Yet trying to do so can be overwhelming and lead you astray. Choose your sales targets carefully. For example, it’s typically far easier to sell to existing customers with whom you have an established relationship or to prospects that you’ve thoroughly researched.
Indeed, in the current environment, it’s even more critical to really know your customers and prospects. Determine whether and how their buying capacity and needs have changed because of the pandemic and resulting economic changes — and adjust your sales strategies accordingly.
2. Leverage technology. For remote selling to be effective, it needs to work seamlessly and intuitively for you and your customers or prospects. You also must recognize technology’s limitations.
Even with the latest solutions, salespeople may be unable to pick up on body language and other visual cues that are more readily apparent in a face-to-face meeting. That’s why you shouldn’t forego in-person sales calls if safe and feasible — particularly when it comes to closing a big deal.
In addition to video, other types of technology can enhance or support the sales process. For instance, software platforms that enable you to create customized, interactive, visually appealing presentations can help your sales staff meet some of the challenges of remote interactions. In addition, salespeople can use brandable “microsites” to:
- Share documents and other information with customers and prospects,
- Monitor interactions and respond quickly to questions, and
- Appropriately tailor their follow-ups.
Also, because different customers have different preferences, it’s a good idea to offer a variety of communication platforms — such as email, messaging apps, videoconferencing and live chat.
3. Create an outstanding digital experience. Customers increasingly prefer the convenience and comfort of self-service and digital interactions. So, businesses need to ensure that customers’ experiences during these interactions are positive. This requires maintaining an attractive, easily navigable website and perhaps even offering a convenient, intuitive mobile app.
An important role
The lasting impact of the pandemic isn’t yet clear, but remote sales will likely continue to play an important role in the revenue-building efforts of many companies. We can help you assess the costs of your technology and determine whether you’re getting a solid return on investment.
Who Are Your Real Friends?
July 20, 2021 | BY admin
It’s always fun to arrive at the office early in the morning and see that a client has already emailed with questions about the market. One day last week, the email went like this:
“I’m worried today about the stock futures…and the selloff that’s happening now around the world… I know you’ve prepared us for volatility, but this morning worldly selloff is huge. PERHAPS IT IS TIME TO SELL?!”
I quickly clicked to CNBC to see what the client was referring to. The first headline declared, “Dow futures drop 500 points amid global economic recovery concerns, bond yields slide.” We jumped on a call with the client, reviewing the news and talking about how his portfolio is set up with a long‐term plan in mind and which can maneuver through market volatility. We also suggested that he stay away from financial media until mid‐day, when everyone’s coffee will have already taken effect.
These episodes are reminders that fear sells. As Max Rosner, founder of Our World in Data, wrote, “Newspapers could have had the headline ‘Number of people in extreme poverty fell by 137,000 since yesterday’ every day in the last 25 years.” The reason they don’t, is because positive headlines don’t sell.
A case in point would be Robert Kiyosaki, who published the famed book, ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad.’ On June 28, he Tweeted: ‘The best time to prepare for a crash is before the crash. The biggest crash in world history is coming. The good news is the best time to get rich is during a crash. Bad news is the next crash will be a long one. Get more gold, silver, and Bitcoin while you can. Take care.’
If you weren’t intimately familiar with Kiyosaki‘s name you would come away quite scared. A quick Google search shows that he is a serial entrepreneur who sold more than 32 million copies of his flagship book. But if you dig a bit deeper you would see that he has been predicting “the largest crash” in history for many years now. For example, check out this 2015 Seeking Alpha article titled, “Robert Kiyosaki: Biggest Stock Market Crash In History Coming In 2016.”
Kiyosaki doesn’t limit himself to interviews and blogposts. He wrote a whole book on his doomsday approach! Titled, ‘Rich Dad’s Prophecy,’ the book makes a case for the biggest crash in history. Originally published in 2002, it was republished many times with title changes detailing why the ‘biggest stock market crash in history’ is still coming. Here is a review on Amazon:
I am sure he and his followers would still claim that the crash is coming, and that we are just a bit early. But one thing is for sure: Being that he reprints every couple of years, whenever a crash comes, he will have predicted it right before.
Few things are easier than fearmongering and scaring people into buying a newsletter or book about how the world is going to end. All writers know that if you promote yourself with click‐bait fear tactics, you will get people to click and sign up easily. By the time three years have passed, with the major crash predictions keeping followers out of three years of market gains, another thousand signups will have accumulated. When CNBC, Yahoo Finance or The Wall Street Journal post scary headlines, they know that they will keep you reading, clicking and engaged. The fact that it works for their bottom line does not mean that it’s best for yours. Remember, they aren’t really your friend.
We all know that substantial investment risks will always be present in a portfolio. Some risks just can’t be removed. And if you follow markets, you understand that there is always a reason to sell, because the market is either at or near an all‐time high, or in a drawdown. Many will maintain that, when we’re at all-time highs, the market is extended and it’s time to opt out. And when we are in a drawdown, there is usually a reason for it. Which means that many are calling for markets to unravel.
What we to do for our clients may not always look exciting, but it helps them reach their goals. Discussing asset allocation, inflation hedges, insurance levels or estate planning will not excite most people. But when we focus on our client’s total picture and keep them calm, we are creating legacies.
These days, with all we have endured, the market is hovering at all‐time highs. So, if you had the ability to mute out the noise and remain invested, hats off to you! This is not to say that we won’t have a correction or a crash. We will. And they may even be big ones. But to consistently make money in the market, we need to believe in a brighter tomorrow.
Getting a New Business off the Ground: How Start-up Expenses Are Handled on Your Tax Return
July 20, 2021 | BY admin
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, government officials are seeing a large increase in the number of new businesses being launched. From June 2020 through June 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that business applications are up 18.6%. The Bureau measures this by the number of businesses applying for an Employer Identification Number.
Entrepreneurs often don’t know that many of the expenses incurred by start-ups can’t be currently deducted. You should be aware that the way you handle some of your initial expenses can make a large difference in your federal tax bill.
How to treat expenses for tax purposes
If you’re starting or planning to launch a new business, keep these three rules in mind:
- Start-up costs include those incurred or paid while creating an active trade or business — or investigating the creation or acquisition of one.
- Under the tax code, taxpayers can elect to deduct up to $5,000 of business start-up and $5,000 of organizational costs in the year the business begins. As you know, $5,000 doesn’t go very far these days! And the $5,000 deduction is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount by which your total start-up or organizational costs exceed $50,000. Any remaining costs must be amortized over 180 months on a straight-line basis.
- No deductions or amortization deductions are allowed until the year when “active conduct” of your new business begins. Generally, that means the year when the business has all the pieces in place to start earning revenue. To determine if a taxpayer meets this test, the IRS and courts generally ask questions such as: Did the taxpayer undertake the activity intending to earn a profit? Was the taxpayer regularly and actively involved? Did the activity actually begin?
In general, start-up expenses are those you make to:
- Investigate the creation or acquisition of a business,
- Create a business, or
- Engage in a for-profit activity in anticipation of that activity becoming an active business.
To qualify for the election, an expense also must be one that would be deductible if it were incurred after a business began. One example is money you spend analyzing potential markets for a new product or service.
To be eligible as an “organization expense,” an expense must be related to establishing a corporation or partnership. Some examples of organization expenses are legal and accounting fees for services related to organizing a new business and filing fees paid to the state of incorporation.
If you have start-up expenses that you’d like to deduct this year, you need to decide whether to take the election described above. Recordkeeping is critical. Contact us about your start-up plans. We can help with the tax and other aspects of your new business.
Internal Control Questionnaires: How to See the Complete Picture
July 20, 2021 | BY admin
Businesses rely on internal controls to help ensure the accuracy and integrity of their financial statements, as well as prevent fraud, waste and abuse. Given their importance, internal controls are a key area of focus for internal and external auditors.
Many auditors use detailed internal control questionnaires to help evaluate the internal control environment — and ensure a comprehensive assessment. Although some audit teams still use paper-based questionnaires, many now prefer an electronic format. Here’s an overview of the types of questions that may be included and how the questionnaire may be used during an audit.
The contents of internal control questionnaires vary from one audit firm to the next. They also may be customized for a particular industry or business. Most include general questions pertaining to the company’s mission, control environment and compliance situation. There also may be sections dedicated to mission-critical or fraud-prone elements of the company’s operations, such as:
- Accounts receivable,
- Property, plant and equipment,
- Intellectual property (such as patents, copyrights and customer lists),
- Trade payables,
- Related party transactions, and
Questionnaires usually don’t take long to complete, because most questions are closed-ended, requiring only yes-or-no answers. For example, a question might ask: Is a physical inventory count conducted annually? However, there also may be space for open-ended responses. For instance, a question might ask for a list of controls that limit physical access to the company’s inventory.
Internal control questionnaires are generally administered using one the following three approaches:
1. Completion by company personnel. Here, management completes the questionnaire independently. The audit team might request the company’s organization chart to ensure that the appropriate individuals are selected to participate. Auditors also might conduct preliminary interviews to confirm their selections before assigning the questionnaire.
2. Completion by the auditor based on inquiry. Under this approach, the auditor meets with company personnel to discuss a particular element of the internal control environment. Then the auditor completes the relevant section of the questionnaire and asks the people who were interviewed to review and validate the responses.
3. Completion by the auditor after testing. Here, the auditor completes the questionnaire after observing and testing the internal control environment. Once auditors complete the questionnaire, they typically ask management to review and validate the responses.
The purpose of the internal control questionnaire is to help the audit team assess your company’s internal control system. Coupled with the audit team’s training, expertise and analysis, the questionnaire can help produce accurate, insightful audit reports. The insight gained from the questionnaire also can add value to your business by revealing holes in the control system that may need to be patched to prevent fraud, waste and abuse. Contact us for more information.