Improve Your Quarterly Meeting

Small businesses tend to be informal, but they should not overlook the need for periodic meetings to ensure that all departments and employees are aligned with the owner’s vision. Quarterly meetings are typically set up for several different functions, but no one wants their employees feeling like this through the monotony of the same presentation.

Make sure you share your passion with your team, keep them focused, and discuss how they are having an impact in these ways:

Sales and Marketing

This is a review of sales efforts over the last three months and effectiveness of marketing and promotional activities. The owner usually reviews how the sales staff has performed relative to established quotas. Sometimes, the quarter’s most successful salesperson is recognized. Problems are analyzed and quotas for the next quarter are established. Sales policies and techniques can be reviewed. Often, an owner will release ineffective salespeople just before the quarterly meeting as a sobering reminder to the rest of the staff that the survival of the business depends upon sales revenue. Marketing efforts should be measured in terms of return on investment, and advertising campaigns should be reviewed and revised as necessary. If the owner is not satisfied with advertising efforts, she may call for presentations from new agencies.

Personnel and Recruiting

Staff is reviewed and if any changes are needed, they may be finalized at these meetings. The need for additional workers is assessed, and this is the opportunity to revise the management structure of the business. Promotions and demotions can be discussed here, as well as modifications to compensation and benefits. Problems with particular employees will be addressed. Sometimes this may require extraordinary support from the business — for example, the company might sponsor a key employee with a drinking problem to a rehab facility. The owner will also evaluate the trade-offs between employing workers or hiring contractors. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) now affects businesses with as few as 50 employees, so this topic will receive prominent attention at these meetings.

Operations

This is an opportunity to brainstorm ways to increase efficiency and cut costs. Owners must balance the work that’s done “in-house” versus subcontracted out. Owners of small manufacturing companies must also assess the benefits and costs of replacing some of the workforce with new machines. Interestingly, the trend of outsourcing manufacturing operations to China and other offshore locations has begun to reverse, and many companies are now “onshoring.” Owners are finding that profits from offshoring can be elusive, in part due to logistics and quality control problems. The quarterly operations meeting can address these and other issues that affect a company’s bottom line.

Accounting and Finance

A company’s capital structure is constantly evolving. A quarterly finance meeting can review funding needs and sources, especially if new projects or capital expenditures are anticipated. Private companies can acquire funding from many sources, such as private investors, venture capitalists and crowdfunding. Attractive loans are available from private lenders such as IOU Financial that can help finance the growth and operation of a company. In addition, thee tax and accounting regulations change every year, and the quarterly finance meeting is a good time to review the latest developments, such as the new rules regarding depreciation and capital expenditures. As we mentioned earlier, the ACA rules now affect smaller companies and has important tax implications and accounting requirements — points that should be reviewed at the quarterly finance meeting. Finally, the company should review the quarterly financial reports — balance sheet, income statement, budgets, etc. — to measure progress and handle unanticipated conditions.

Staff appreciation

It’s a great idea to thank the staff with a quarterly event — an evening at a bowling alley or a weekend retreat. Staff morale is very important, and happy employees can help an owner achieve her long-term plans. A sullen or unhappy staff can ruin a business and sabotage its operations, so staff appreciation meetings are good business.

10 Reasons Why Your Business Must Go Paperless

Going paperless isn’t only for “tree-huggers” any more. Sure, cutting down or eliminating paper from the office is an extremely valuable contribution to the planet’s ecology, and companies that are green-certified, like IOU Financial, are doing their bit to improve the planet. However, gong paperless pays dividends in many ways that actually affect a company’s bottom line. Here are 10 benefits a company can reap by going paperless:
1. Security While a lot of what gets written down during the day is of little lasting value, firms that keep their important files on paper are at the mercy of prying eyes. A disgruntled or dishonest employee might go through company file cabinets and steal confidential information — like Social Security numbers or credit card numbers. Electronic files are password protected and often encrypted, which makes them harder to steal and also keeps track of all accesses.2. Supply Costs

There may be some upfront costs for training, hardware and software when you go paperless. You get paid back by saving money on paper, pens and pencils, paper clips, hole punches, shredders, erasers, white-out, Scotch tape, staples, thumb tacks, reinforcements, highlighters, clipboards, binders, and more. Often, the payback period is well under a year.

3. Printing Cost

Imagine a world without printers. We wonder if you can. A world without ink cartridges, and printer maintenance people too. Imagine all the people, working without hard copies. It’s a dream, and you can join.

4. Missing Documents

Documents are innocently misfiled, damaged or lost every day in millions of offices across the U.S. This can have repercussions ranging from mild to disastrous. This won’t happen on a well-maintained digital document system that keeps backups in the cloud.

5. Photocopier Costs

Big photocopy machines can be very expensive to buy/lease and maintain, and of course they consume a lot of paper and toner. Paper jams are wasteful of employee time and create frustration and higher maintenance bills. Electronic documents can be shared at will — you don’t need no stinkin’ copiers.

6. Labor Costs

Paper has many unseen costs — ordering, tracking, receiving, storing, distributing, filing, retrieving, re-filing, shredding and disposing, to name a few. Think of how many hours a month your office could be saving by dispensing with these tasks.

7. Email

Blessing in Disguise Department: You will undoubtedly see an increase in email if you eliminate paper. Take this as an opportunity to set up a proper email management and document handling system that files, backs-up and keeps track of emails for easy access and retrieval.

8. Storage Costs

Big companies spend zillions on paper storage costs. There is the space set aside that might be used more productively or not at all (think rented storage space) plus all the storage and warehousing operations. Nothing burns faster than a warehouse full of paper (well, excluding offshore oilrigs), which creates insurance costs.

9. Disaster Recovery

Speaking of fires and such, what happens to all those paper files when disaster strikes — fires, flood, earthquakes, tornadoes, terrorist bombings or whatever? If you’re paperless, all your important files are backed up in the cloud, safe and secure. You can temporarily relocate and have all your electronic documents immediately available, safe and undamaged.

10. Customer Service

For an irate customer or vendor on the phone, nothing could be worse than a harried employee trying to locate the caller’s papers. Prevent violence, or at least violent words, by having all information in searchable, electronic form. Many firms recognize incoming phone numbers and automatically retrieve the appropriate files before an employee answers the call.
We’re sure we could think of some more blessings that accrue from eliminating paper, but we think if you’ve read this far, you are convinced. Tell us the benefits your business has seen (or would see) by eliminating paper! The good public relations you receive by going green are, after all, another important benefit!

Small Business Owners Scramble Over New Tax Form

The Affordable Care Act contains provisions that go into effect in 2016 pertaining to small businesses with no less than 50 full-time employees (or full-time equivalents). These rules are a continuation of ones already in place for businesses with at least 100 employees. Although 2016 is months away, the preparations are going on now, because employers have to record the monthly costs of employer-sponsored health plans for each employee. Yes, employers must track the out-of-pocket health care expenses that each employee faces, a difficult task to put it mildly.

Form 1095-C

The new 1095-C IRS form, “Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage,” is designed such that a copy is required for each employee, and just one employee’s data is recorded on each copy. The form is divided three sections:

Identification Information: The identity of the employer and employee, including name, address, Social Security Number and Employer Identification Number.

Employee Offer and Coverage: A three-row matrix with boxes for each month and for the total 12 months.

Row 1 reports special two-character codes (for example, 1A, 1B, etc.) that designate the form of coverage offered (or not offered) to the employee and to the employee’s dependents. If the employer offered the same coverage for all 12 months, it can record the appropriate code in the 12-month box alone. For instance, the employer might enter “1A” for a qualifying offer of minimum insurance coverage that fulfilled particular criteria.

Row 2 discloses the employee’s portion of the cheapest monthly premium for self-only minimum value coverage. This is how much the employee would have to pay to receive minimum coverage, rather than the amount the employee actually shelled out for choosing higher-quality coverage.

Row 3 provides a “safe harbor code” indicating why a particular employee did or didn’t get health care insurance for some or all of the year. For example, one reason would be that the person was not employed in certain months.

Covered Individuals: This part only covers employers who offer self-insured coverage. A six-row table pinpoints the months in which the employee and enrolled dependents were actually covered by the insurance. Each row names a single individual, including date of birth or Social Security number, followed by a set of monthly check boxes. If the person was covered for all 12 months, the employer just checks the 12-month box. The employer will need to use additional forms if the employee’s number of dependents exceeds five.

Torment or Nightmare?

However you slice it, Form 1095-C and the toil it requires is no picnic. The IRS instructions for the form number 14 pages of small print, which is better than the 84-pages of rules put out by the Department of the Treasury in 2014. Exacerbating the situation, only a handful of tax-preparation services are offering to prepare these forms for clients. Without available outsourcing, a small business’ bookkeeper will need a good spreadsheet program to record all the necessary data.. That’s daunting enough when done on a month-by-month basis as 2015 evolves, but it turns into a nightmarish torment if employers wait until year’s end to start the process. This explains why employers are scrambling now to record all the mandatory data while it’s readily available.

Intuit Steps Aside

Intuit, producer of the best-selling QuickBooks and TurboTax software, has chosen to not support Form 1095-C. Intuit spokesperson Stephen Sharpe explains, “The vast majority of our customers are not required to comply with this mandate, and the data required by these forms is not fully collected in our payroll application.” Thanks a lot! However, a few payroll services are delivering outsourced support for the form. One industry analyst estimated representative fees to be about $400 to initiate the service and $0.40 to do the processing for each employee. That might sound somewhat dear, but plenty of small business owners will decide that doing it themselves is much, much worse.

Don’t feel overwhelmed. Get ahead of the game and visit this link to watch this FREE webinar from one of the world’s largest accounting firms, PWC. See the webinar to explore more details on the ACA reporting requirements and some additional technical details to get your business prepared for 2016.