A Season of Pruning and Planting

Autumn has arrived! Right on its heels is Q4 – and a new year is not far behind! Are you ready?

For those who are gardeners at any level, this beautiful time of year typically beckons us outside to do some pruning – and maybe a little planting – to aid Mother Nature in bringing us beautiful blooms and bountiful harvests next year. We’ll pluck off tired flower heads, trim and haul away dead and overgrown stalks and branches, and turn under the waning remains of annuals or crops. Maybe we’ll plant some bulbs or condition the soil.  

But the magic is in the pruning and purging – it optimizes conditions and makes room for growth. Now is the perfect time to do the same for your business. Here are some ways you can prune away what’s not productive and lay the groundwork for growth.

Get rid of tasks you don’t need to do.  Are you often scrambling because you’re trying to do more than you really need to do? Whether it’s habit, disorganization, perfectionistic tendencies, an enjoyment of those tasks, or a matter of feeling in control, most of us pile on tasks that we don’t really need to do. First, assess whether a particular task actually needs to be done. If so, is your involvement in the task really necessary or of substantial benefit to you or your business? If not, delegate the task. Determining what you don’t need to do points you towards the things you truly need to do and identifies priorities. Getting rid of the rest leaves you with time and energy that can be directed to the areas that most need your attention while giving your staff members the opportunity to further develop their capabilities.

Just say no! We are wired to help our fellow human beings and that’s great! But at some point there has to be a balance. If you can’t tend to your own responsibilities, you’re not in a position to be of much help to anyone else. Rather than flying around with your hair on fire and your stress levels through the roof, learn when and how to say “NO!” Be selective about what you take on so that you have the time and energy to be great at it, truly make a difference, and enjoy what you do.

Remove distractions. Get rid of the “noise” around you. There may be some projects or situations that are demanding your attention but don’t really need it, so send those distractions packing. But giving yourself the time and space to focus is also about prioritizing and organizing. You may want to choose a period each day when you turn off your phone. Designate specific times to check email and mute audible notifications. Schedule your meetings and appointments to allow yourself some uninterrupted blocks of time. Consider sometimes working outside the office.    

Organize (or reorganize) your to-do list. If you’ve taken the steps above, you now know what you REALLY need to do. Whether it’s hand-written or electronic, create your to-do list accordingly – which will also likely require some purging. Resist the urge to write down everything that crosses your mind while making your list. The point is to declutter your mind – not replicate mental clutter on paper. Differentiate between needs versus wants and don’t include projects you’d like to do. Those can go on a separate list you maintain for personal wants and goals. Additionally, activities like “exercise” or “go to the bank” don’t belong on your to-do list since they dilute the effectiveness of it. Instead, schedule those activities on your calendar in order to keep your to-do list – and your mind – clean and clear.   

Perform a data purge. We all know how easy it can be to accumulate “things.” The same can easily happen with data. Set aside an hour a week to purge outdated and irrelevant files, records, receipts, manuals, etc. If you haven’t already, go paperless as much as possible. Begin the practice of scanning receipts and documents at the time they are generated, file them electronically, then shred or recycle the paper copies – or simply don’t create paper copies at all. Of course, you’ll need an effective strategy and system for offsite and/or cloud-based backup and storage. This is a perfect time to clean up your books and organize those files and records that document your business and financial activities. 

The Minerva Group is a full-service financial firm, ready to help you purge and prune by sorting out your financials, cleaning up your books, and providing you with guidelines for which records to retain and for what period of time. We are also fully equipped to help you protect and grow your business, helping you develop a strategy and structure for sustainable profitability as you plant seeds for success. Visit our website to learn more about our expertise or contact us to schedule a complimentary review of your financials.

Clean up Your Financials and Your Image

You likely started your business based on something you’re passionate about, something at which you excel, or both. But as all business owners know, there’s much more to a successful business than passion and talent. Financials are, of course, a major component. Another is how you and your business are perceived by clients and prospects.

Have you ever thought about how your financial practices may affect your credibility?

Owners of small businesses are often guilty of trying to do too much on their own. This may be an effort to keep costs down, or perhaps unrealistic expectations of being able to keep all the balls in the air with not enough arms to juggle them.

That was the situation when a small business owner hired The Minerva Group to handle his company’s accounting and help with management aspects of the business. The owner had developed a successful business that required significant travel. Clients typically reimbursed some of his travel expenses but he’d been unable to keep up with billing them for those expenses and was not even paying himself. It’s understandable – he didn’t start the business so that he could do the accounting. But with each passing month, his credibility suffered as disorder within the business became apparent to clients – some of whom began to lose confidence in the company.

This business owner knew the situation had to change and The Minerva Group helped him turn things around.

Financials were brought up to date and cash flow issues were addressed. Appropriate insurance was obtained for the business. Employee records were standardized. And the hefty sum of two years’ worth of reimbursable expenses was recovered entirely! Invoicing for these expenses is now done on a regular basis.

With this financial turn-around, the business took on a new image. Timely invoicing created not only better business practices but also the perception of greater professionalism. Our position as an objective buffer between the client and business owner served to turn the focus to the unique services he offers and portray him as the expert he is, rather than a jack-of-all-trades.

The bolstered image of professionalism not only increased the credibility of this business in the eyes of his multi-million dollar clients but created the impression of a larger company. And the changes in his business have freed up this savvy entrepreneur to invest his time and energy where it belongs – in pursuing his passions and talents and running his company.

If your financial records are deteriorating, your credibility may be suffering, too. Contact us to discuss cleaning up your financials, and perhaps your image as well!

Setting KPIs for growth

Establish Your Key Performance Indicators for 2019

A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a metric used to evaluate and demonstrate whether, and how effectively, a business is achieving key business objectives over time. KPIs can be used at different levels to measure success in any area – from overarching, big picture goals to progress on specific departmental responsibilities or projects.

KPIs exist not only to provide metrics but to inspire action. They serve as tools – communication, accountability and navigational tools – that can direct your business towards positive change and help increase productivity. To do so, the KPIs you adopt must be relevant to your specific business and accurately reflect its performance.

A strategy for formulating and defining KPIs starts with basic questions.

  • What are our organizational objectives/desired outcomes?
  • Why do they matter?
  • How do we plan to achieve them?
  • How can we measure our progress?
  • Who is responsible for the outcome?
  • What is the time frame for achieving the objective?
  • How can/do we influence the outcome?
  • What are the indicators that we’ve achieved our objective?
  • How often will our progress be reviewed?
  • With whom should the resulting information be shared?

A KPI should be specific in defining the objective it addresses. It should clearly state how you will measure performance, and the information it returns should be succinct. Implementation of KPIs is an iterative and dynamic process that includes input and feedback from your leadership team and key employees. As facts unfold, you’ll gain greater insight into which business processes need to be measured and can adjust the types of KPIs you need accordingly. Over time, you’ll be able to tweak the particulars of your KPIs and refine how they are measured so that the information they return is of optimal value in guiding change.

Although every industry needs KPIs specific to their objectives and activities, there are KPIs that apply across the board. Every business needs performance metrics for:

  • Cash flow
  • Gross profit margin
  • Revenue increase
  • Inventory turns
  • A/R average days to pay
  • Budget variance
  • Overall productivity of the company

Businesses must monitor the big picture in the midst of attending to all of the details. KPIs assist with both. They can reveal the need for long-term change while providing information that will assist the owner and management team in making quicker and more accurate short-term decisions.

Identifying and formulating KPIs specific to your business, then interpreting and implementing the resultant information can be a time-consuming and seemingly daunting task. The Minerva Group uses our decades of experience in both accounting and business management to help business owners create KPIs that are in line with their growth goals. We’d be honored to partner with you develop your KPIs for 2019 and make it your most prosperous year so far.

Avoiding the Financial Pitfalls of a Startup

Startups are exciting, and the work is fast-paced! For good reason, everything you do is likely focused on what you know and do best – and not always on your finances. Many entrepreneurs are experts at the products or services they are offering, but need some help when it comes to running a successful business.

It’s easy for the financial component of your business to get away from you quickly and it’s often why new businesses fail. Since funds are not there to hire a staff member dedicated to managing the finances, or there’s a “we’ll get to that later” mentality, things can fall by the wayside – fast.

Here are some common financial and accounting issues new companies face:

  • Bookkeeping has not been done consistently, sometimes not at all.
  • Income taxes have not been paid on time, even after two or three years in business.
  • Payroll taxes have not been paid.
  • Appropriate payroll tax forms have not been obtained from employees or contractors.
  • Expense, credit card and loan record keeping is incomplete.
  • Appropriate bank accounts are not set up.
  • Bank and credit card statements may not be reconciled regularly.
  • Personal and business finances are intermingled.

For some industries, like those in construction for example, there are additional issues that are common including how to correctly differentiate between contractors and employees, job costing issues, and handling payment, record keeping, and tax reporting accordingly.

Perhaps you see your own business in one of these scenarios and here’s what we can do to help:

  • You haven’t been maintaining your books. You have multiple spreadsheets to manage income and expenses or your Quickbooks hasn’t been updated in a long time; bank account and credit cards haven’t been reconciled, loan balances are off, you have several piles of receipts and you just don’t know where to start. We’ll dig in and sort through whatever records you do have and set up or update QuickBooks. We’ll reconcile old bank and credit card statements, determine loan balances, and give you a clean and manageable bookkeeping system.
  • Your income and payroll taxes are lagging. The penalties and fees are starting to add up because you didn’t know which reports needed to be filed and when payments were due. The State and the IRS are sending you notices that seem very threatening, but they’re not very clear about what they want you to do. Do you just pay the amount on the notice or could you owe less because they need a report first? We’ve brought income and payroll taxes up to date even when years behind, ensuring that correct forms are on file, and working with the IRS to abate some of the penalties that had been incurred.
  • Your business and personal finances are intermingled. This situation happens often with startups, and it can be a challenge to set up bank accounts appropriate to the business so personal and business finances remain separate. We’ve helped companies get their business and personal accounts differentiated so your reporting is seamless.

The Minerva Group has over 25 years’ experience dealing with challenges like these. Just as important, we understand how overwhelming it can feel to realize your finances have gotten out of control. Your financial success is our business, and we are ready to help you tackle your toughest accounting obstacles so you can focus on growth! Give us a call or contact us to learn how we can help you.

Does Bookkeeping Keep You from Working On Your Business?

We hear it time and again from business owners.

“I need to keep my arms around my business, so it’s important that I do the bookkeeping myself to make sure I’m on top of how my business is doing.”

We get it. The same argument could probably be made (and you probably made it) when you first opened your doors for business. You did everything – that is, until everything was no longer getting done. Things started slipping through the cracks or they were not being delivered according to your high-quality standards.

So, you hired an assistant, or a laborer, or a “do-er” of some sort who was no longer you.

That gave you the flexibility to work on the higher-level things or perhaps get more business in the door. And, so is true when you think about hiring a bookkeeper.

While the basic accounting is easy to do, it takes you away from working on your business. Meanwhile, your accounting and tax planning has likely become more complicated over the years you’ve been in business.

I read recently how the CEO of meal delivery company out of Miami ran his company for five years without a bookkeeper before hiring one just three months ago. The bookkeeper found expenses and assets that were co-mingled, duplicate records of employee purchases, and other common mistakes. Fortunately, she was able to clean everything up and get them back on track. This allowed the CEO to get “out of the weeds” and look at his business from a higher level so that he could make process improvements that impacted the company’s bottom line – much more so than he could’ve done had he been working on the books.

The truth is, you’re probably not being as strategic as you could be if you’re always in the weeds. Outsourcing bookkeeping services is widely available in today’s marketplace. Hiring the right one is of utmost importance.

Back in 2011, we set out to build a company that would serve business owners in the places they were most vulnerable – their financials. The Minerva Group has done just that by creating a level of trust that only comes from consistently responsive service, attention to detail, and providing timely, accurate information to our clients.

We work with companies whose revenues are between $500K – $10M. We work with business owners who live and breathe their businesses but desire to get out of the weeds so they can be more strategic about growing their companies. That’s where we can help. We’d welcome a chance to talk with you to see if we’re a good fit.

Contact us here.