3 SMB Budgeting Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

3 SMB Budgeting Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

Small and mid-sized businesses (SMB) often have budget and staffing constraints – making it even more important to have accurate forecasts and budgets. Yet, SMBs tend to make small mistakes that often result in a financial loss – or worse – closing up for good. To create an accurate and solid budget that you can rely on; avoid the following three common budgeting mistakes.

1. Overestimate sales projections

Sales projections should be based on data and research; however, many SMBs pick a figure out of thin air. Instead, look at past sales, the conditions of the macro-economy and competitors to create a forecast that is realistic and relevant to your business.

2. Spreadsheet errors

As discussed in our blog post Can Excel Be Bad For Your Business?, there are plenty of companies that have suffered financial losses from Excel blunders. With as many as 90% of Excel spreadsheets being prone to errors, the easiest way to avoid mistakes is to move to the cloud. Software as a service (SaaS) systems offer remote access and the ability to collaborate among employees, which has many benefits. Not only can employees access the data from anywhere, anytime and from any device; but, employees can also collaborate and work on the document simultaneously without the risk of having multiple versions of the data.

3. Ignoring the budget

Creating a budget is of course important, but if you’re not following the budget it is not doing you any favors. It is important to continuously follow up with the budget to make sure you stay on track with your projections. The use of visual dashboards has made this much easier for finance leaders, as you can easily track expenses and compare with the set budget.

Budgeting mistakes can be detrimental for your business. Make sure you know what the common mistakes are and how to avoid them. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Harvard Business Review’s “Why Budgeting Fails” below.

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5 Myths About Outsourced Accounting

5 Myths About Outsourced Accounting

Outsourced accounting continues to be an alternative that businesses chose to pursue instead of doing the work in-house. In 2016, Deloitte found that outsourcing of financial functions was projected to increase by 27% globally. However, whether you’ve been considering outsourcing or not, you may still be hesitant to take the leap due to some myths that exist. Many of these beliefs are based on outdated information, misunderstandings and misconceptions. Because of this, we wanted to share the top 5 myths and truths about outsourced accounting.

1. Outsource = Overseas

The mere definition of “outsource” is that you obtain goods or services from an outside source; however, many make the mistake of thinking that outsource directly means that you obtain work from overseas. You can outsource your services to a local firm in your own city. The term does not mean that you have to hire someone offshore to complete the work.

2. Losing Control

While many may believe that outsourcing your accounting procedures is risky and makes you feel like you’re losing control – it is quite the opposite. Allowing another company to control and manage your business actually enhances your control. Outsourcing gives you real-time data that offers you better control over your cash flow and other performance indicators. Additionally, you set the guidelines and expectations for the provider to meet your needs.

3. It’s Expensive

Contrary to beliefs; outsourcing will most likely save you money. In Deloitte’s 2016 Global Outsourcing Survey, a majority of surveyed companies said the main reason they choose to outsource was because it is a cost cutting tool and allows them to focus on their core business. Instead of having to hire someone that you have to pay wages and benefits, you can spend your valuable time on growing your business. This allows you to focus on your core competencies and essentially grow your business while reducing cost.

4. My Business is Too Small

Small businesses may actually enjoy more benefits with outsourcing their accounting than larger firms. Outsourcing removes overhead costs that lets you shift more revenue to operational growth, while also freeing up your own time. Economy of scale usually leads to lower costs than if your small business does accounting in-house.

Related: Accounting Solutions for Early Stage Companies

5. It’s Not Secure

Sending sensitive information to a third-party can be concerning, but there are some questions you can ask your outsourcing agent to make sure your data is secure and safe. First of all, make sure you know whether the third-party is using a secured network for its business. Secondly, ask the provider what they do once they are finished with your files (do they destroy, store or keep them on hand?). Finally, if your outsourced accountant gives you access to data via cloud storage, you might want to ask them what security measures they use for data protection. Outsourced accounting can be done in a secure and safe matter; however, you need to make sure that whomever you choose can be trusted and is willing to answer your concerns and questions along the process.

What do you think about outsourced accounting? Have you been reluctant to take the leap on outsourcing due to common myths?

3 Steps to Strengthen Accounting Procedures for SMBs

3 Steps to Strengthen Accounting Procedures for SMBs

Office billing and accounting procedures are essential to running a business no matter its size. If there are no rules in place, chances are very good that at some point you will have a big mess on your hands if you haven’t already had one. Accounting procedures give structure and organization to processes. For example, if your business’ procedure is to pay bills every Friday, then bills are paid on Friday with no exceptions. The procedure is not suggestion; it is a business rule. SMBs can strengthen their procedures, making them more effective and useful when running their organizations by following the three steps below.

Related: Accounting Solutions for Early Stage Companies

1. Identify Your Risks and Weaknesses

Figure out the areas that your business can improve. First you need to identify any problem areas. Then you will need to analyze the cause of those issues, which are often not readily apparent. Look for bottlenecks in the process. Examine if there is a chance for fraud with current procedures. Are errors happening? If so, why? For example, you may notice that your collections of receivables is too slow. This is often because bills are sent out too late, or because the bills are confusing. Would accepting credit card payments or offering online ACH options accelerate payment? Maybe the reason behind the slow payment is as simple as the mail not being opened promptly by your customers. Identifying problems and root causes behind the problem can be tricky.

2. Be Aware of Checks and Balances

Public companies are mandated by SOX Section 404 to establish internal controls and procedures for financial reporting and must document, test and maintain those controls and procedures to ensure their effectiveness. Many times the quickest way to solve a problem, may not be the best one because it may eliminate “checks and balances”. For example, a person doing the billing should never be the one receiving payments. This is a basic concept known as segregation of duties. Often smaller companies lack segregation of duties which opens them up to the potential of fraud. If the same person sends bills and receive funds, and there is an error, it can be hidden or missed altogether. Worse, if the billing person steals funds, it is hard to catch. Have at least two people involved in the main accounting processes of receiving money and bill payment.

3. Talk to Your Customers and Vendors

Welcome all feedback – good and bad. Make sure you follow up after you implement changes to make sure the issues have been corrected. Also look for patterns. For example, when multiple customers complain about a particular staff member, then he/she may need to be trained to ensure procedures are being followed to keep your customers happy.

Read More: A Solid Accounting Strategy is Key to Your Success

Top 6 Services SMBs Want from Their Current CPA Firm

Top 6 Services SMBs Want from Their Current CPA Firm

According to recent survey published by The Sleeter Group the top 6 services desired by companies currently using a CPA are:
  1. Business Planning
  2. Business Strategy
  3. Create Dashboards to monitor business
  4. Business Analytics
  5. Represent me at Government Audits
  6. Tax planning
Compare that to the top 5 services received:
  1. Tax return preparation
  2. Tax planning
  3. Compile, review, audit business records
  4. Represent me at government audits
  5. Bookkeeping

Why are They Different?

There is a general misconception about the types of services CPA firms are able and willing to provide small and medium sized businesses (SMBs). Lots of SMBs don’t think about their CPA when making technology decisions. And lots of CPA firms focused on the SMB market do not have the expertise or knowledge to make qualified recommendations. Technology is rapidly advancing and enabling SMBs to have access to enterprise quality solutions to provide invaluable information about their company. Businesses who plan revenues, margins, and operating income regularly and compare actual results to these plans will do significantly better than those who do not. Without technology it is extremely time consuming and difficult to get access to the necessary information which leads to many SMBs flying by the seat of their pants.

CPA Firms Should Be Ahead of the Technology Curve

The top 4 desired services can be achieved by SMBs with technology. Large corporations are already using accounting firms for technology services. It makes sense for the SMB market to start to do the same.