5 Ways to Strengthen Your Business for the New Year
December 26, 2019 | BY admin
The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a great opportunity for reflection and planning. You have 12 months to look back on and another 12 ahead to look forward to. Here are five ways to strengthen your business for the new year by doing a little of both:
1. Compare 2019 financial performance to budget. Did you meet the financial goals you set at the beginning of the year? If not, why? Analyze variances between budget and actual results. Then, evaluate what changes you could make to get closer to achieving your objectives in 2020. And if you did meet your goals, identify precisely what you did right and build on those strategies.
2. Create a multiyear capital budget. Look around your offices or facilities at your equipment, software and people. What investments will you need to make to grow your business? Such investments can be both tangible (new equipment and technology) and intangible (employees’ technical and soft skills).
Equipment, software, furniture, vehicles and other types of assets inevitably wear out or become obsolete. You’ll need to regularly maintain, update and replace them. Lay out a long-term plan for doing so; this way, you won’t be caught off guard by a big expense.
3. Assess the competition. Identify your biggest rivals over the past year. Discuss with your partners, managers and advisors what those competitors did to make your life so “interesting.” Also, honestly appraise the quality of what your business sells versus what competitors offer. Are you doing everything you can to meet — or, better yet, exceed — customer expectations? Devise some responsive competitive strategies for the next 12 months.
4. Review insurance coverage. It’s important to stay on top of your property, casualty and liability coverage. Property values or risks may change — or you may add new assets or retire old ones — requiring you to increase or decrease your level of coverage. A fire, natural disaster, accident or out-of-the-blue lawsuit that you’re not fully protected against could devastate your business. Look at the policies you have in place and determine whether you’re adequately protected.
5. Analyze market trends. Recognize the major events and trends in your industry over the past year. Consider areas such as economic drivers or detractors, technology, the regulatory environment and customer demographics. In what direction is your industry heading over the next five or ten years? Anticipating and quickly reacting to trends are the keys to a company’s long-term success.
These are just a few ideas for looking back and ahead to set a successful course forward. We can help you review the past year’s tax, accounting and financial strategies, and implement savvy moves toward a secure and profitable 2020 for your business.
Wayfair Revisited — It’s Time to Review Your Sales Tax Obligations
December 25, 2019 | BY admin
In its 2018 decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld South Dakota’s “economic nexus” statute, expanding the power of states to collect sales tax from remote sellers. Today, nearly every state with a sales tax has enacted a similar law, so if your company does business across state lines, it’s a good idea to reexamine your sales tax obligations.
A state is constitutionally prohibited from taxing business activities unless those activities have a substantial “nexus,” or connection, with the state. Before Wayfair, simply selling to customers in a state wasn’t enough to establish nexus. The business also had to have a physical presence in the state, such as offices, retail stores, manufacturing or distribution facilities, or sales reps.
In Wayfair, the Supreme Court ruled that a business could establish nexus through economic or virtual contacts with a state, even if it didn’t have a physical presence. The Court didn’t create a bright-line test for determining whether contacts are “substantial,” but found that the thresholds established by South Dakota’s law are sufficient: Out-of-state businesses must collect and remit South Dakota sales taxes if, in the current or previous calendar year, they have 1) more than $100,000 in gross sales of products or services delivered into the state, or 2) 200 or more separate transactions for the delivery of goods or services into the state.
The vast majority of states now have economic nexus laws, although the specifics vary:Many states adopted the same sales and transaction thresholds accepted in Wayfair, but a number of states apply different thresholds. And some chose not to impose transaction thresholds, which many view as unfair to smaller sellers (an example of a threshold might be 200 sales of $5 each would create nexus).
If your business makes online, telephone or mail-order sales in states where it lacks a physical presence, it’s critical to find out whether those states have economic nexus laws and determine whether your activities are sufficient to trigger them. If you have nexus with a state, you’ll need to register with the state and collect state and applicable local taxes on your taxable sales there. Even if some or all of your sales are tax-exempt, you’ll need to secure exemption certifications for each jurisdiction where you do business. Alternatively, you might decide to reduce or eliminate your activities in a state if the benefits don’t justify the compliance costs.
Note: If you make sales through a “marketplace facilitator,” such as Amazon or Ebay, be aware that an increasing number of states have passed laws that require such providers to collect taxes on sales they facilitate for vendors using their platforms.
If you need assistance in setting up processes to collect sales tax or you have questions about your responsibilities, contact us.
Business Succession Planning: Sequence of Control
July 02, 2019 | BY admin
Whole Foods Market is now famous as the upscale supermarket chain that was acquired by Amazon for close to $14 billion. However, Whole Foods Market began with humble beginnings. In 1978, John Mackey and Renee Lawson borrowed money from friends and family to open a small natural food store in Austin, Texas. As the store expanded to open more locations and Mackey and Lawson admitted two additional partners and designated specific tasks to each partner, such as finance, human resources, and sales. This process continues today where, although Whole Foods Market is a multinational food chain with 500 locations, each regional manager has the autonomy and flexibility to decide on suppliers and pricing.
The proverb “too many cooks spoil the broth” applies to the management of a business. Thus, establishing the sequence of control as part of a succession plan ensures that the company continues to operate effectively and efficiently – especially if the business is bequeathed to children who do not work in the family business.
The sequence of control of a business succession plan outlines the decision-making process of a closely-held, family business once the owner is determined to be incapacitated or deceased. Although this can be emotionally tolling, the sequence of control is essential for the continuity of the business. The following are questions that arise when planning the sequence of control.
What is the definition of incapacitated?
You undoubtedly know of instances in which the patriarch of a family suffered from dementia or a form of memory loss. You are probably familiar with cases in which people took advantage of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Such undue influence can arise if a business owner can no longer exercise prudent business reasoning and judgment. Accordingly, the business succession plan should define “capacity” and specify who makes the determination, which can be a physician or a member of the clergy.
Who assumes control?
It may seem irresponsible to vest absolute control to the child or children who work(s) in the business; however, it may be imprudent to allow children who do not work in the company to be involved in the decision-making process of the business. A business administrator who requires approval for the day-to-day operational decisions in the ordinary course of business may be unable to perform basic administrative duties of the company, especially if consent is needed from an adverse party. Nevertheless, a proper business plan may require a vote of all members for significant business decisions, or decisions that may alter the business structure or significantly impact the business.
How can I secure oversight over the business administrator?
Proper internal controls are always recommended to promote accountability and prevent fraud, but it is even more critical when one heir controls the family business. The business succession plan can provide for a salary and fringe benefits or performance-based compensation, methods for removing or replacing the administrator, an arbitrator to adjudicate disagreements or disputes among family members, and an exit strategy or process of dissolving the business or partnership.
How can I provide for myself and my spouse while incapacitated?
If you are considered an owner of the business during your lifetime or so long that your spouse is alive, your succession plan can stipulate that you receive periodic distributions. However, a fixed withdrawal may prove to be insufficient for your medical needs or general cost of living. Conversely, the business may be dependent on its working capital that is now being distributed and accumulated in your personal checking account.
Is your nonprofit monitoring the measures that matter?
June 24, 2019 | BY admin
Do you want to control costs and improve delivery of your not-for-profit’s programs and services? It may not be as difficult as you think. First, you need to know how much of your nonprofit’s expenditures go toward programs, as opposed to administrative and fundraising costs. Then you must determine how much you need to fund your budget and weather temporary cash crunches.
4 key numbers
These key ratios can help your organization measure and monitor efficiency:
Percentage spent on program activities. This ratio offers insights into how much of your total budget is used to provide direct services. To calculate this measure, divide your total program service expenses by total expenses. Many watchdog groups are satisfied with 65%.
Percentage spent on fundraising. To calculate this number, divide total fundraising expenses by contributions. The standard benchmark for fundraising and admin expenses is 35%.
Current ratio. This measure represents your nonprofit’s ability to pay its bills. It’s worth monitoring because it provides a snapshot of financial conditions at any given time. To calculate, divide current assets by current liabilities. Generally, this ratio shouldn’t be less than 1:1.
Reserve ratio.Is your organization able to sustain programs and services during temporary revenue and expense fluctuations? The key is having sufficient expendable net assets and related cash or short-term securities.
To calculate the reserve ratio, divide expendable net assets (unrestricted and temporarily restricted net assets less net investment in property and equipment and less any nonexpendable components) by one day’s expenses (total annual expenses divided by 365). For most nonprofits, this number should be between three and six months. Base your target on the nature of your operations, your program commitments and the predictability of funding sources.
Orient toward outcomes
Looking at the right numbers is only the start. To ensure you’re achieving your mission cost-effectively, make sure everyone in your organization is “outcome” focused. This means that you focus on results that relate directly to your mission. Contact us for help calculating financial ratios and using them to evaluate outcomes.
Does your nonprofit need a CFO?
May 22, 2019 | BY admin
Your not-for-profit’s ability to pursue its mission depends greatly on its financial health and integrity. If your nonprofit is growing and your executives are struggling to juggle financial responsibilities, it may be time to hire a chief financial officer (CFO).
Generally, the nonprofit CFO (also known as the director of finance) is a senior-level position charged with oversight of accounting and finances. He or she works closely with the executive director, finance committee and treasurer and serves as a business partner to your program heads. A CFO reports to the executive director or board of directors on the organization’s finances. He or she analyzes investments and capital, develops budgets and devises financial strategies.
The CFO’s role and responsibilities vary significantly based on the organization’s size, as well as the complexity of its revenue sources. In smaller nonprofits, CFOs often have wide responsibilities — possibly for accounting, human resources, facilities, legal affairs, administration and IT. In larger nonprofits, CFOs usually have a narrower focus. They train their attention on accounting and finance issues, including risk management, investments and financial reporting.
Making the decision
How do you know if you need a CFO? Weigh the following factors:
- Size of your organization,
- Complexity and types of revenue sources,
- Number of programs that require funding, and
- Strategic growth plans.
Static organizations are less likely to need a CFO than not-for-profits with evolving programs and long-term plans that rely on investment growth, financing and major capital expenditures.
The right candidate
At a minimum, you want a CFO with in-depth knowledge of the finance, accounting and tax rules particular to nonprofits. Someone who has worked only in the for-profit sector may find the differences difficult to navigate. Nonprofit CFOs also need a familiarity with funding sources, grant management and, if your nonprofit expends $750,000 or more of federal assistance, single audit requirements. The ideal candidate should have a certified public accountant (CPA) designation and, optimally, an MBA.
In addition, the position requires strong communication skills, strategic thinking, financial reporting expertise and the creativity to deal with resource restraints. Finally, you’d probably like the CFO to have a genuine passion for your mission — nothing motivates employees like a belief in the cause.
If your budget is growing and financial matters are becoming more complicated, you may want to add a CFO to the mix. Otherwise, consider outsourcing CFO responsibilities to a CPA firm. Contact us for more information.