1 How to get profit-creating information from your accountant
2 What a tailored accounting service can do for you How could you get much more out of the accounting service you re already paying for? Possibly you still feel some healthy scepticism toward the idea that accounting services could really provide something extraordinarily differently from what is commonly believed. Perhaps you ve already gained experience from the service of several accounting firms and have not been overly impressed with what you received. Conceivably, you are reading this manual because you re not presently getting the kind of service you want and you ve not FOUND a firm whose presentation gives reason to suspect they could deliver such a service either. So it s quite understandable if you re somewhat cynical about the idea. That s quite all right. But, please keep an open mind. Things change and the goal of this manual is to bring to light the huge DIFFERENCE in results between accounting services. The accounting industry is strictly regulated in regards to the accepted accounting procedures how they do your bookkeeping, yearly accounting and so on but NOT at all in terms of any additional service given to you personally. To put it another way: What you get in terms of how your accounting is done should be uniform regardless of which accounting firm you use... but what they ADD on top of those technical tasks in way of giving you information is VERY individual between firms. It s safe to say that the basic accounting service available at an average firm is NOT tailored in any meaningful way UNLESS you ve specifically asked for it OR the firm has developed a way to tailor every client s service to his wishes and needs routinely. There s only one certain way to be sure that you get what you want. You must ask for it. And, to do that, you have to find out what s there to be had.
3 Therefore, keep an open mind and read the next chapters from the viewpoint of how could I get more out of my accounting services... what s there to be had? If you do, you ll be amazed at the difference. In order to present the possible improvements that you could ask for from your accountant, we will go through them from the side of the benefits these additions can produce. Even if the headlines of the following pages may seem unrealistic (in the light of what you ve personally experienced about accounting services), keep your mind open to the possibility. There are probably thousands of business owners who are already enjoying these benefits... and they achieved that just by choosing an accounting service specifically tailored for their individual needs and wishes. So, let s get into it... and may your view of accounting services never be the same again! Increasing your profit Before we get into the subject of profit, let s just make one thing clear: Only YOU can increase the profits of your company because you re the owner and/or the person running the business and making those all-important decisions. So, if you ask can my accountant increase my profits? then the answer has to be No, he cannot, not directly. And no accountant should promise you that either. But ask Can I increase the profits of my company using in-depth, accurate and timely financial information about the month-to-month development of my business activity? and the answer is a resounding YES... with some conditions. Those conditions are: - you must GET that information in understandable form through the monitoring of key financial figures which you ve agreed upon with your accountant, and... - you must USE the information. How much information you ask for (how many key financial figures you have your accountant monitor and report on) and the degree to which you use these data will govern the degree to which your profits are influenced.
4 Mind you. One can sometimes create a significant positive impact to cash flow and profits with a very small thing; all it takes is realization. Therefore, you don t have to use all of the information to get benefits. In fact, it might be that you don t have to use much of the information to maximize your profits. How much of it you use and which advice you apply is, of course, totally up to you. You re the one whose decision counts as it s your company. Only one thing is certain: WITHOUT any such constant monitoring and production of inside information about your company s finances you CAN T affect the outcome. In a specific sense, there s always an element of luck involved in whether or not you can create large positive effects. Let me explain. Upon close scrutiny, any company will be found to be constantly giving birth to TWO kinds of trends. For one, there are those bad trends known as problems. Sales stagnate or expenses increase or something like that something that diminishes income and/or profits. For other, at any given time we will find that there are also POSITIVE trends taking place. This or that product or service sells better. This or that expense goes down. Whatever it is, the main thing is that it INCREASES income and/or profits. As business owners, we have grown wary of finding problems. Nobody wants them so we tend to hope none come our way. This leads to not wanting to LOOK for problems, which, in itself, is the human way of reacting to such threats. But any business develops BOTH positive and negative beginnings. It s not ONLY bad things, see? The unfortunate difference between bad and good is that POSITIVE trends need to be NURTURED and helped along while negative trends tend to have a life of their own. A couple of Murphy s Laws give us the humorous explanation to why this is so: If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong. And... Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
5 Whether or not these are the cause of bad things developing on their own, is academic. Everyone knows that negative trends develop and grow into hard-to-handle monsters in amazingly short time all on their own. We also know that achievements come through hard work... and definitely not by themselves. In reality, positive trends exist because there s someone CREATING the constructive flow of income. Negative trends could be called nothing trends or no one there creating a positive flow any longer. Thus, calling these trends negative means really lack of positive development which is simply a positive flow DIMINISHED. In business, nothing is bad in terms of income. If nothing is done, no income is forthcoming. Thus, a negative trend is really a change of circumstances: Before, there was something that CAUSED the income which now has changed in some way, resulting in lowering of the income. Unless that something is found and reinstalled, income will become less and less until it dries out completely. Of course, you may choose to end some activity in which case this dry-out is intentional. But here, we are talking about unnoticed and unwanted changes for the worse. Here, the longer it takes to FIND OUT about it the more it costs. Inexpensive insurance against unnoticed let-off Adding monitoring & reporting of key financial figures to your basic accounting service will ensure that you get told immediately if some part of your organization (or some aspect of some service or function) has slowed down. It s rare that such let-offs would be intentional. More often than not, it is caused by unintentional shift of attention away from some routine action, diminishing the flow of income without anyone realizing.
6 How do you maximize profit? There are many ways to ensure maximum profits in a business activity. Buying and selling are, of course, in key position. But looking at what your accounting service can do to help when you re striving to increase profits, we find that the vital elements are: Accurate, timely information delivered in analyzed and understandable form Nothing can substitute knowledge. If you don t know what s going on, if you only rely on gut feeling and general estimates on what you SEE with the bare eye in your company, you ll be missing a good part of the picture. Don t think this is any kind of belittling of your abilities. Your ability is not in question. You ve achieved your own company which already puts you into the top 4 percent of the nation in terms of ability. It s merely a question of not getting accurate information and not getting it fast enough. See. If there s a downward trend in your finances, it won t be VISIBLE in the company until it has had a chance to grow into something that s very unpleasant. By the time you CAN see its effects in the physical workplace, it s had too long time to grow and fixing it will cost much more than it would have, had you found it at birth and nipped it in the bud. With accurate and timely financial information, you can PLAN your future. You re there EARLY ENOUGH to plan it actively. Without it relying on gut feeling and visible signs alone you ll always have to REACT to dangers. You ll have your hands full just COPING with problems and, realistically, you don t have a chance of planning things carefully. It s the difference between acting purposefully with enough time to analyze the situation... and reacting wildly just to cope with monster problems threatening the very survival of your business activity. So, in reality you don t really have a choice. To be able to maximize your profits, you must have accurate and timely information on the development of your finances on a monthly basis.
7 Experience in financial planning Now, if you re like most business owners, you don t have a degree in economics or accounting. If you did, you d probably be working either in accounting or the financial industry. Instead, you have high expertise in your chosen field. So high, in fact, that you ve become an entrepreneur, which immediately puts you into the top 4 percent in your industry. Your expertise and knowledge are what give your company so much potential. Those visions of success that you ve created are there to be achieved. However, financial planning is one of the major tools in making those plans become a reality. And your accountant can help you learn financial planning. Really, it s not that complicated at all. In fact, it s very SIMPLE... but because of all those regulations and unfamiliarity with accounting, it seems extremely complex. So perplexing, in fact, that most business owners just give up. And no wonder they do, seeing how utterly confusingly these things are explained in even the most basic business manuals! Yet, financial planning doesn t have to be complicated or confusing. Financial planning could be defined like this: The act of collecting and verifying key financial figures and then looking at these to see what positive and/or negative trends have developed since the last time you looked at them, noting the changes and deciding what you want to do about each. Note that nowhere does it say that you MUST do something about each trend. Also, it doesn t say you have to find EVERY trend or collect (monitor) EVERY figure. You can start with 5-10 figures, sometimes even fewer than that. Financial planning, then, is really just KNOWING what s going on and DECIDING whether or not you want to do something about a trend you ve found. Sometimes you don t have to do anything about it. Sometimes you might not be able to do anything remarkably life-changing about it.
8 But you can always KNOW what s going on... and, if you choose, you can always DO something about it. Knowing and being able to affect the outcome are the basics of financial planning. And, in terms of maximizing profits (and minimizing losses) ANYTHING you do is better than doing nothing. To do something about things, you have to KNOW what s going on. And you do have to get the right picture of each area. Your accountant can and should coach you in financial planning. It doesn t require a degree to plan one s own finances. You can start very modestly and learn as you go. It s one of those on the job training things anyhow... even for someone with a degree. Theory is one thing but it s the PRACTICAL doing of it that finally teaches the person. A good accounting service should INCLUDE this element; the service should help you do your financial planning little by little until you re totally independent and can do it with accuracy and confidence. Ask for such a service nay, demand it! Monitoring and going through the figures frequently enough To get information that REVEALS any favorable or unfavorable trend, there needs to be continuous monitoring of your key financial figures. These need to be analyzed by your accountant regularly and presented to you in understandable form often enough for all of this to have any meaning. That you don t need to do this monthly is an all-too-usual misconception shared by many owners of smaller businesses. In fact, you d be best off doing it WEEKLY but, because bookkeeping works on onemonth intervals, the practical interval is one month. Even sole practitioners need this. KNOWING where you re at every month is a crucial factor in running a business, no matter how small it is at this time. The only alternative to knowing is NOT KNOWING... and you don t need anyone to tell you what problems that alternative can bring to existence.
9 Whichever way you look at it, problems are easier to solve when small. Therefore, a monthly once-over of key financial figures is vitally important. But you won t find ONLY problems. In fact, the longer you keep up the monthly going-over of accounts, the fewer problems you ll find. Not only fewer but those you do find will be smaller and, because of early detection, MUCH easier, cheaper and faster to solve. Soon enough, this monthly overseeing of accounts becomes a much more motivating exercise as problems become fewer and POSITIVE TRENDS opportunities your business activity has created are found more frequently. You can look at it from two angles, in other words. It s like one of those optimistpessimist jokes. You can look either for problems or for opportunities. Either way, problems will become smaller and fewer while positive trends emerge more and more. These two are inescapably connected. So, your choice is really this: Do you prefer to have problems or opportunities? Just like before, this one s not really a choice either, right? Knowing which key figures to monitor Financial figures interact with each other. They re interdependent in many ways. For instance, when income goes down, payment of owed bills is likely to slow down as a result. Basic bookkeeping is often rather general in terms of accounts. More often than not, everything you sell is put together into sales with no distinction made between different lines of products or services. Similarly, accounts rarely monitor so called starter products those products or services which bring new clients, being usually the first thing a new client purchases and resales (when clients purchase again). Many key figures can be monitored outside bookkeeping and added to the analysis.
10 For instance, do you know how many contacts your company gets from new prospective clients every week or month? How many of these buy (what s your success ratio in closing new business)? How many of those who buy actually become repeat business? How many cold contacts does your marketing and advertising reach monthly and what s the response ratio? Which ads or messages work best, which don t bring any response at all? Which products or services have the highest profit? Which ones produce the best cash flow? Is there a specific type of client you should try to get more of (they buy more, pay well and in time, produce more profit than others) and some other kind (of clients or services bringing in these clients) that you should raise the price for? If your accountant has this type of a service on offer, you ll see that the number of key financial figures being monitored keeps changing. At one time, some specific figures need to be monitored but they might be dropped after a while. Other figures are added and they might be discontinued once you ve reached your goal... or you might want to continue monitoring those figures just so you can verify the positive development month to month. Every business is unique. This is so much so that even same-size businesses within the same industry will be found to have many differences in which key figures they want (and need) monitored. At the end of the day, YOU are totally unique and your individual goals and business concepts define what needs to be monitored in order to produce trustworthy, accurate information on how you re reaching those goals. Therefore, it s vitally important that if your accountant delivers such monitoring / consulting service, you take sufficient time and care to DEFINE which key financial figures need to be monitored and, once in the month-to-month run of the service, redefine these as needed. Naturally, we offer and deliver this service so if you cannot find it elsewhere, feel free to contact us. We d be happy to go over this aspect of our service with you and discuss your particular circumstances. Suffice to say that almost ANY ASPECT of your business CAN be analyzed provided we monitor the right figures. It s almost magical how much you can find out about your company by choosing the right figures for monitoring. The benefits of this are not limited to the maximizing of the profits. Many business owners consider the clarity of vision knowing exactly what s happening, seeing
11 precisely where the company is headed and being able to DIRECT it there actively something extraordinary which they never thought POSSIBLE. Whether or not you would feel the same way, the possibility in itself is well worth exploring. You ll get more on this subject once you use your bonus service (Client Requirements Analysis) with our firm. The key to your ability to maximize profits In the final analysis, there s only one formula for increasing profits. First of all, only you can increase your profits. Any accounting service can only help in providing the information by monitoring, analyzing and presenting the key data to you... and then by helping you decide what to do with it, if that s what you want. Since YOU are the only one who CAN increase the profits of your company, then you must ensure that you get accurate and sufficient information about your finances at regular-enough intervals... and that you also get a chance to sit down and go through it all with an expert so that you re fully updated on every aspect of the development. To put it another way, you have to create the circumstances in which you LOOK into these things once a month so you can implement small corrections twelve times during a year. Done that often, bad trends simply don t get TIME to develop into costly and dangerous problems. And positive trends get noticed right away and you can start UTILISING them immediately. So, you do a scissor-action of kinds: -You CUT OFF losses by stopping problems from ever getting a chance to grow unnoticed, and... -You INCREASE those things that bring in more money by finding out about it immediately and by putting your attention on it in order to strengthen it so it brings in even more income. The formula of profit, then, is to have a system which monitors key financial figures and reports these in digestible, ready-to-use form to you once a month, added with the backup of an experienced financial consultant (your accountant) so you can get assistance whenever you need or want it on how to handle whatever comes up in your finances.
12 Although we talk about maximizing profits, there s no such thing as maximum in terms of profit. One can always improve things so maximum is a very theoretical value. But any increase in profits is better than no increase, to say nothing of lowering profits, of course. And that s the message: You CAN influence your profit, you can do something about it... provided you don t settle for anything less than the full knowledge you need to do just that! BONUS SERVICE: Get your Free Client Requirement Analysis. Call or contact us today. Patrick A. McDermott, CPA 1442A Walnut St. #78 Berkeley, CA Phone: Fax: