Organizations both large and small can get frustrated with the timeliness and quality of the information they receive from financial systems. Often, snap decisions are made to purchase a new system to solve the problem. Many times old processes are transferred into the new system. The new system then doesn’t work the way it was envisioned, costing the organization time and money. All of this could have been avoided with proper planning.
As a Financial Strategist, I am often brought into organizations to review their systems and conduct due diligence for the purchase of a new one. In many instances, my evaluation has resulted in recommendations for improvements and enhancements for the existing system. By addressing process improvements, I have helped organizations avoid a new system purchase and provided immediate relief to pain points of information accessibility.
A bad process forced into a new system can result in potential disasters, such as delayed reporting and non-compliance. For example, I assisted an organization that was being fined for noncompliance in sales tax reporting. This company had recently implemented a new system, but the financial staff could not obtain accurate information for reporting because of incorrect data entry. Meanwhile, the fines and penalties for not reporting were adding up as the staff attempted to create the required information in an Excel spreadsheet.
Had this company conducted a thorough review of their current system and processes, even engaging the software vendor to learn if there was more they could be doing with their system, some of the delays and fines could have been avoided.
Mindy’s Tip: Review your current process or have a professional do it and make sure you actually need a new system before you make the decision to purchase. If you decide to purchase a new system, make sure you roll out the improved version with a strategic plan, so you do not interrupt the flow of your business.
Mindy Barker, Founder & CPA
(904) 394-2913 or (904) 728-2920
Instant rice and online banking have a lot in common. Instant rice is obviously quick, providing you with an immediate result. It works really well for casserole recipes or for certain dishes where rice and other ingredients are mixed together. But if you are serving dinner guests or in a fine restaurant, you expect the chef to put in the extra effort to serve gourmet rice prepared in an exotic way.
Don’t just rely on point-in-time views. Take time to reconcile accounts.
As with instant rice, online banking provides instant information regarding your bank balance, making it a great tool for certain situations; however, if you want to use it as an effective tool to manage your daily cash flow, it requires the extra effort of being connected to a cash reconciliation process that is properly maintained and reviewed periodically.
Before the days of online banking, the standard practice for both personal and business checking accounts was to reconcile a check register to a monthly bank statement. When accounting professionals adopted online banking into their processes, organizations tended to forgo the discipline of maintaining a check register as part of their reconciliation processes.
The following is a typical conversation I’ve had when consulting with clients on accounting process improvements:
Accounting professional, with a bundle of unsigned checks, “This is our process for obtaining check signatures.”
Me, “How do you know you have enough money in the account to cover these checks? What is your procedure?”
Accounting professional, “I checked the balance on line this morning.”
Me, “Where is the reconciliation to the check register? How do you know that all of the uncashed checks will not deplete the entire balance?”
Accounting professional, “I know there are not that many outstanding checks.”
Me, “When is the last time you reconciled the account?”
Accounting professional – answers range from a year ago to do not remember (not good) – to yesterday or a month ago (which is good).
As with using instant rice, there are times when viewing online balances without going through the reconciliation process are appropriate, but it’s not the final reconciliation tool.
Let’s try an experiment: If you are a CEO or President of an entrepreneurial company or a Finance Chair of a non-profit, ask the accounting department for the latest bank/cash reconciliation of the operating account. Ask specifically for these documents:
- The bank reconciliation
- A copy of the bank document to which it was reconciled
- The Balance Sheet balance to which it was reconciled
(Note: Publicly traded companies, financial institutions, insurance companies and other regulated industries have to maintain reconciliation procedures, so if you are in charge of one of those, regulation will take care of this.)
If you are bold enough to move forward with this call to action, my experience tells me about 50% of you will get a reconciliation completed in the last 45 days. If you get one and do not know how to review it, contact me for a free, no-obligation checklist that will guide you through a high-level review. If you do not get a reconciliation, and, in fact, get a blank stare from your accounting person, contact a financial professional to complete a review of your cash procedures and process. You may have plenty of cash flow today – however, that can change quickly if you do not appropriately manage it. Don’t risk finding yourself in a position where you cannot meet your basic financial obligations. “Cash is king” is a cliché’ for a reason – it is a requirement to run almost any type of business.
Mindy Barker & Associates works with entrepreneurial business owners to empower them with the tools and financial information to improve company value, profitability, and cash flow. To find out more on how you can be empowered, contact them today at [email protected], or call 904.728.2920.
Nonprofit leaders often make decisions about adding structure, enhancing staff expertise, or conducting advanced planning in response to a risk situation, or, as an afterthought. Savvy leaders recognize the need to make periodic adjustments to processes, staff and technology resources if they want to stay on the path to financial brilliance.
Donors have many tools to assist with decision-making. GuideStar is a tool most sophisticated donors use. GuideStar is a public charity that collects, organizes, and presents the information in a neutral format. GuideStar publishes your 990, providing potential donors with full access to the information. Do you know what your GuideStar rating is? The process of adding the appropriate information to receive a Gold (the highest level) rating takes less than an hour and the return on that investment is providing transparency and financial clarity for sophisticated donors.
Take this quiz to see if you are on the right path to financial brilliance, or if it’s time for one of those adjustments, then tally up your score to see where you stand:
- Do you have a financial professional on staff? How often do you forego infrastructure development to save money? When you engage the expertise of a CPA on your team, the next six characteristics can become reality.
- Do you have an annual budget? Navigating the fiscal year without a budget is like driving down the interstate blindfolded. By reviewing past revenue and expense flows to forecast future income and expenses, you can create a budget to see where you are going.
- If yes, do you monitor actual vs. budget? The annual budget is a dynamic document, meant to be part of your monthly financial review process – planned versus actual expenses. It’s OK to make periodic adjustments, a process that helps you know if the company goals are on track.
- Is your G/L infrastructure meeting the need? If your monthly financial reporting: (a) is either non-existent, or (b) is not helping you run your business, consider a review and restructuring of your GL. Make it work for you – not the other way around.
- Do you have an endowment fund? If yes, ensure accountability with a documented Endowment Fund Management Policy and related procedures.
- Do you have restricted funds for operations? With the help of your financial professional, meet the obligations to record, report, and effectively manage restricted funds by understanding the requirements. Document how your company meets these obligations in your fund management policy and follow the practice in day-to-day activities.
- Do you have grants and loans with covenants? As with restrictions, part of monthly reporting should be key indicators on how the business is complying with covenants.
- Do you know the core financial data contained on your organization’s 990 and its GuideStar rating? Knowing the answers to the questions before potential donors is a must to maintain credibility and be in the best position to make the “ask”!
How many “Yes’s” did you score on the Financial Brilliance Meter?
0 – 3 – Financial Dunce
3 – 5 – Financial Aptitude
6 or more – You are on the road to Financial Brilliance!
Whether it’s creating your first budget, enhancing your general ledger infrastructure or reviewing and tightening up financial reporting, successful leaders ensure these characteristics are part of their culture. This financial clarity helps ensure stability to carry out your mission.
Raise your Financial Brilliance score, let Mindy Barker & Associates show you how. We can help you gain the financial brilliance that empowers you with the tools and financial information to improve company value, profitability, and cash flow. Contact me here.
Each month end, financial reporting packages are prepared in companies across the nation and promptly filed…somewhere. In most cases, the accounting team has prepared these analyses and turned them over to a senior leadership team who really does not understand how to use them to run the business. Reams of paper reports stand in piles, creating more of an environmental concern due to the use of paper, than the financial concern needed to effectively run the business.
Even though the accounting department has included a tremendous amount of information that may help them prepare for the annual audit, have they contributed information relevant to the management of the business?
By implementing accounting best practices, such as streamlined processes and standard, relevant reporting, work effort can shift from processing to high value activities that invest in the business, such as special projects and guidance on improving the bottom line.
Time is money, and time spent to prepare irrelevant information is wasted. Month end packages should be concise and provide information about the relevant Key Performance Indicators identified by Management. Contact Mindy Barker & Associates to find out how we can guide your leadership team to discover, report and track monthly Key Performance Indicators that help you make timely and informed decisions in running your business.
As a cost center owner, have you found yourself being asked to approve expenses, but you have no clue where they came from? You know you have a budget, but do you truly understand how it was developed or how you are supposed to work with it on a daily, monthly, quarterly and annual basis?
In the course of the budgeting process, an isolated group often prepares budgets in a vacuum, failing to include the right people in the process. This leads to confusion and frustration when the budget-to-actual expense is compared each month. I have often experienced meetings where budget-to-actual variances are discussed and the manager approving the actual expense (a) has no idea how the budget was prepared and (b) cannot answer any questions about the budget-to-actual variance for the month. This leads to the Board, President and Senior Leaders reviewing and approving a budget based on inaccurate information. They may have unrealistic expectations when planning for the next year as the expenses budgeted in each cost center is inaccurate. Make sure your budget process is well planned out and includes all the responsible parties.
Please contact me if you would like to have your budget process reviewed to learn how to include all of the right contributors, avoid setting unrealistic expectations and finding surprise variances each month.
Cars built in the early 2000s that had a built-n GPS required periodic updates using a CD with new roads and street addresses. If you are still driving around with a GPS of that era, you already know that when you get to a new construction area, the GPS will confuse you more than help you get to your destination. This analogy is similar to preparing an annual income statement for a budget without updated information. The annual income statement will show the projected revenue and expenses – but will leave out critical pieces of information vital to the day-to-day planning of a business. Here’s an example of what I mean: revenue is highly seasonal but expenses are spread throughout the year, causing issues with covering expenses month to month. Actual cash flow and the ability to cover debt service payments are not analyzed solely with an income statement. Another example: internally developed software can cost a lot of money; the cash required for the development is maintained on the Balance Sheet and not the Income Statement.
Lack of proper planning and analysis, and failure to prepare a projected-by-month Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow can lead to an unplanned cash crisis. Please contact Mindy Barker & Associates if you would like to have your budget process reviewed to determine how you can avoid such crises each month.