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I am fully invested in the community in which Brigade Bookkeeping operates. I care tremendously about what happens here and have a genuine interest in playing a role to help our community thrive.

Do you feel the same way? Or, do you want to become more involved with your community? I know from personal experience, that not only would it bring you joy, you’d be tapping into something that’s important to your long-term success.

Involvement matters

“Whether it’s by sponsoring or taking part in community programs, or by enabling employee volunteerism, companies that encourage involvement in the community stand out among their peers and see multiple benefits as a result, such as a happier workforce or a more loyal customer base,” notes the Forbes Human Resource Council.

One study found that 82% of consumers consider social responsibility/community involvement when deciding where to spend their money on a product or a service.

Getting involved

Here are 5 ideas to boost your business’ community involvement:

  • Serve on a community board. You have many to choose from, including art and park councils. If you’re a member of a professional organization, you may find board opportunities with local impact. I am a proud Trustee for the FICPA Scholarship Foundation Board. We’ve also committed to a $50,000 endowment fund in the name of Brigade Bookkeeping for well deserving and qualified accounting students in the State of Florida. Our involvement helps us shape future generations of CPAs.
  • Sponsor an event or group. From the local walk-a-thon to the school orchestra, nonprofits are frequently seeking financial support.
  • Host a tour. When I was a kid, some of the best school days were field trip days! If your worksite offers tours, or you can teach valuable skills to future professionals, consider offering your time or an opportunity for the community to see what you do.
  • Join a volunteer organization for professionals. If you would like to get involved with several good causes while networking with other local professionals, an organization like Rotary International could be for you.
  • Volunteer as a company. From shelters to food banks to boys & girls clubs, there are countless opportunities. Looking for ideas? Try reaching out to an organization like Hands on Miami, where they help develop meaningful service experiences for businesses looking to make a difference locally.
Make it a full-circle mission

Speaking of community, don’t forget to:

  • Involve your employees. What are their ideas? What organizations are they already a part of? Would your company be able to contribute donations, financial help or time to their favorite non-profit causes?
  • Acknowledge the achievements of others. The causes you help, the organizations you join, and the community leaders you meet will most likely have social media pages. Use your business channels to give shout-outs for their work, and share their content on your pages.

Community involvement has a tangible business impact. As you support your community, you’re simultaneously building relationships and boosting visibility and brand awareness.

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Retirement is nothing like it was for our parents or grandparents. I have relatives who, in their day, could rely on a pension. But when my generation (and most likely yours), reaches retirement age, we will be in a better position if we have a 401(k) waiting for us.

I hate to see people making the wrong choices with their 401(k)s at different stages of their careers. This isn’t investment advice, it’s just a friendly reminder to not make these critical mistakes.

At the beginning: Start as soon as possible

Even before I received my first paycheck, I was thinking about my last. You can’t predict what will happen four decades from now, but one thing is certain: YOU need to look out for YOURSELF. If your employer offers a 401(k), it’s better to contribute the minimum amount you can, as soon as you can, versus doing nothing.

Yes, I’ve been there, and I know there isn’t a lot of room in your personal budget at the beginning of your career. There’s the cost of housing, insurance, and for many, student debt, to contend with. But don’t make the mistake of putting off 401(k) contributions because of debt. A 401(k) accrues over time and the more time you have to invest, the better.

Also, take advantage of the employer match or employer percentage contribution options. This is (literal) free money.

In the middle: If you change jobs, make an informed decision

If you change jobs and have a 401(k), there are commonly four options:

  • Leave the account alone, in your old employer’s plan. But you can no longer contribute to it.
  • Roll your 401(k) into your new employer’s retirement plan. A good option if you like investment choices and the fees aren’t too high.
  • Roll your 401(k) into an IRA. An option that typically has lower fees and more investment choices.
  • Cash out the account. Not recommended if you are younger than age 59½ as there are penalties.

There is no one correct choice for everyone. But don’t leave your 401(k) at your former employer because you are unsure what to do or haven’t thought about it. Look into your options and make the right call.

At the end: If you need advice, don’t wait

Several things can happen to your 401(k) at the end of your career. You may elect to start taking qualified distributions. You also may choose to continue to accumulate earnings until you are required to take distributions.

The complicated rules governing what you can do with your 401(k) after retirement are made by the IRS and by the company that set up the plan. The decision you make will be final so it’s important to get educated before choosing what to do.

Whether retirement is happening for you 4 years from now or 40, I hope you’ll keep making the right decisions with your 401(k).

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Did you know, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), small businesses are more likely to be victims of business fraud than any other size organization? The monetary losses can have a big impact on your bottom line. As a small business owner myself, I take extra precaution when it comes to this issue.

Here are a few scams we have come across that should be on your radar:

Shipping Fraud

What happens: Criminals steal your shipping account information, then use your account numbers to conceal their crimes.

What to do: Secure the details of your shipping accounts as you would your bank accounts. Don’t leave blank shipping forms out in the open and protect online forms. At our office we ensure that ready-for-pickup packages are taken directly to a shipping center instead of being left in an unsecured location, like outside the office or in a building’s common area.

“Friendly” Chargeback Fraud

What happens: So-called “friendly” chargeback fraud is the new shoplifting. A customer fraudulently claims a purchase was never shipped, or it was returned, or that they canceled the purchase. They ask for a chargeback from their bank, or credit card company. If the customer is successful, you pay the funds that were credited to the customer and are charged a fee to investigate and resolve the matter.

What to do: Make sure you have excellent tracking and shipping mechanisms in place that will help you in a dispute about deliveries, returns, and cancellations. This is crucial, as we have seen this with many businesses.

Keep in mind, even legitimate chargebacks are costly. Good communication with customers can reduce them. Encourage customers to resolve issues with you first. Maintain a clear and straightforward return policy. Also make sure that your billing descriptor is clear, especially if you use a DBA name.

Invoicing fraud

What happens: You receive a false invoice for services or products that were never purchased or delivered. It’s a sophisticated scam where invoices look similar to legitimate ones. Criminals may send a small invoice as a test. If you pay, they know you’re not carefully reviewing your invoices, and they will send several, more expensive ones.

What to do: A lax check-and-balance procedure is a recipe for disaster. Do all verifications—company name and address, payable address, and receipt of goods—every time. If you get harassing calls about fraudulent invoices, they have no legal recourse against you.

Fraud is frustrating and costly but you can fight back. You and your employees are the first line of defense. Why not dedicate your next team meeting to the subject of fraud prevention, and ensure everyone has the tools they need to catch a scam on time? Brigade Bookkeeping is here as a resource, and we can help you with the how to’s.

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Here are a few facts that stopped me in my tracks—or in this case, made me want to run around the track!

  1. In today’s American workplace, 80% of jobs are sedentary.
  2. An estimated one in three Americans is obese.
  3. While diet, lifestyle, and genetics play key roles, a major culprit in the obesity epidemic is the modern workplace.

Makes you want to walk a few flights of stairs right now, doesn’t it?!

Inactivity impacts your entire well-being

Physical inactivity can put you at risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and even cancer. A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to muscle atrophy, osteoporosis, blood clots, depression, a weakened immune system, among other things.

I take these risks very seriously and made it a point to promote activity at our office.

We love our active office

Our social media pages are filled with examples of how, “We’re not your typical accountants, we actually have fun!” We often incorporate outdoor activities into our team building. Scroll through our pictures and you’ll find us doing things like river rafting together. And, I haven’t been shy about sharing pictures that show my love for obstacle course and Spartan racing.

I recognized long ago that a typical desk job can have negative effects on one’s health and well-being. At Brigade Bookkeeping, our employees know that activity is encouraged, we even incorporated a small gym at our office!

Ramping up activity at work

In addition to team activities, there are several ways you can be active even if you have a desk job:

  • Park your car far away from the front door.
  • Use the stairs.
  • Set a timer, and when it goes off, get up, walk around, stretch your back, and take some deep breaths.
  • Perform leg lifts under your desk with ankle weights.
  • Do repetitions of shoulder raises, neck stretches, and leg raises.
  • Walk during meetings, and while taking calls.
  • Use part of your lunchtime to walk or exercise.
  • Turn time waiting for the copier, the microwave, etc. into moving time.
  • Treat yourself to a step tracker. Measure your progress, and set goals to maintain or improve your activity.

Get intentional about making changes
Our traditional desk jobs keep us sitting, possibly snacking, and most likely tensing, eight-plus hours every day. Adding activity has to be intentional and consistent. If your current work life is making you less healthy, making small changes is better than none at all.

I would love to think that I inspired you to get active. A health-conscious workplace can be your norm, too!

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In our last blog, we spoke about the monetary costs of providing health insurance to your employees and the intangible costs to your business if you don’t. I remember when Brigade Bookkeeping really began to grow. At that time, we had to seriously evaluate the costs and benefits of adding a competitive insurance plan to our hiring package. As you consider insurance plan options, it is important to choose a plan that works within your budget, and provides benefits your employees value.

There are five common traditional health insurance plan types:
  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)
  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
  • Point-of-Service (POS)
  • Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO)
  • Indemnity Health Insurance Plans
These plans have some commonalities as well as distinct differences. They vary by:
  • Administrative requirements
  • Flexibility in the selection of physicians, health facilities and procedures·
  • Ease of access to preventative, emergency, and other treatments
  • Price
If you find that traditional health insurance options aren’t within your current budget, there are a few non-traditional alternatives you can consider:
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are tax-favored savings accounts that are used with HSA-compatible, high-deductible health plans to pay for qualifying medical expenses. One great feature of an HSA is that unused funds roll over each year and accrue interest, tax-free.
  • Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements (QSEHRAs) are designed for businesses with fewer than 50 employees. The title sounds complicated, but the benefit is straightforward. The arrangement allows companies to offer employees a monthly allowance of tax-free money to pay for health care services of their choosing, including an individual health insurance policy.

We understand that this is a lot to digest. At Brigade Bookkeeping, we have experience in benefit plan selection and administration. Our specialists can help your business choose the right option for your goals, or review the effectiveness of your current benefits package. Let’s make a “plan” to talk soon!

Additional Sources:
7 types of health insurance plans” by Susan Niemann, 11/9/18

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Have you thought about offering employee health insurance? If you have fewer than 50 full-time employees, you are not required to offer coverage, but you can gain a competitive edge with top job candidates if you do.

Clients often ask me about offering health insurance to their team. They want to know if their business is required to offer specific benefits. They want to know what it will cost. But, perhaps most importantly, they want make a decision that keeps their team healthy and happy. If you are also wrestling with these questions, I’ve mapped out some answers for you.

Am I required to offer health insurance?

If you meet the definition of an applicable large employer (ALE) — any business employing a combination of 50 or more full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees during six months or more of 2018 — then you are required to provide a certain percentage of your FTE employees with minimum essential coverage (MEC). Small businesses that don’t meet the definition of an ALE do not have to offer health insurance coverage.

If my business is not an ALE, why would I offer coverage?

Small business owners can find the cost to be the biggest challenge, and will opt not to offer coverage since it is not required. On the other hand, can you “afford” to lose out on top talent?

  • According to a 2016 SHRM survey of the most important benefits to employees, Health Care benefits came out on top. About 95% surveyed put them above Retirement Savings Plans (71%) and Family Leave (50%).
  • A 2017 Fractl survey of 2,000 U.S. workers revealed that when given a choice between a job with higher pay or one with lower pay but better benefits, 88% would consider the lower paying job if it meant they would receive better health, dental and vision coverage.
  • According to a 2016 Paychex survey on employee retention, 26% of employees have left a job due to unavailable or unaffordable health insurance.

Candidates and employees see health insurance as a deciding factor when it comes to either joining, or staying at a company. When you add up what’s lost from turnover, increased hiring costs, and lost productivity, the cost of not offering health insurance can be considerable.

What costs should you prepare for?

Brigade Bookkeeping can help you look at costs considerations you’ll want to address. This can include:

  1. How will you budget for the costs of offering health insurance?
  2. How can you manage healthcare spending?
  3. Are you eligible for small business tax credits?
  4. What are the costs in time and manpower associated with setting up and administering the plan?

After we’ve reviewed costs, you will want the assistance of a licensed agent to help you with plan choices that are best for your business. In the next edition of our blog, I’ll preview for you some of the likely options you will be offered and why they are popular.

Additional Sources:
How much does not offering health benefits cost my business?” by Caitlin Bronson, 5/30/17
5 Awesome Job Benefits That Attract Quality Candidates” by Marielle Leon, 11/29/17
What are my employer health insurance requirements as a small business in 2019?” by Caitlin Bronson, 2/28/19

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The benefits of flexible work arrangements are plentiful. Statistics show the positive impact they have on everything from productivity to a company’s ability to attract and retain talent. But, what if you’re a small business with a smaller set of employees? Are flexible work arrangements still possible?

The answer is, “Yes.” There are many kinds of flexible work arrangement scenarios. And, if they are going to work well for all involved, you’ll want to be sure that you’ve set and implemented clear policies.

What kind of arrangements are “flexible”?

“Flexible work arrangements” have many iterations, including one or two you may not have heard before:

  • Fully or partially remote telecommuting
  • Compressed work weeks, where in-office hours vary, such as working four 10-hour shifts, rather than five eight-hour days
  • Alternate daily schedules, such as 8am-4pm, rather than 9am-5pm
  • Job sharing teams of two employees performing one job
  • Results Only Work Environments (ROWE) that prioritize results over hours worked
  • Unlimited vacation time packages
What are the benefits for small businesses?

In 2018, Zenefits, the HR management software services company, surveyed hundreds of small businesses–companies with 500 or fewer employees—and found that:

  • 67% of small businesses offer some form of flexible work arrangements. This category can be broad, but shows that even small businesses are trying to provide more flexibility to their talent.
  • 73% of employees said flexible work arrangements increased their satisfaction at work and 78% of employees said flexible work arrangements made them more productive. It’s worth repeating: Employees believe they are more satisfied and more productive thanks to flexibility.
  • 77% of employees consider flexible work arrangements a major consideration when evaluating future job opportunities.
  • 36% of employees are likely to leave their current employer due to a lack of flexible work arrangements.

And, most importantly:

  • 20% of full-time employees lack tools to make using flexible work arrangements easy and productive and 53% of employees say there’s no official flexible work policy in place. This seems to indicate that a lack of tools and/or an official policy might could be a big problem when it comes to ensuring proper use.
What should a policy include?

Many businesses question what it takes to put together a successful flexible work schedule. It isn’t just trusting employees to do what’s expected, the company should have good support systems, processes, and technology in place. Some aspects to consider adding to your policy are:

  1. Activity, performance and communication expectations should be made clear, and apply no matter when or where employees are working.
  2. Agree to a weekly or monthly work schedule with deadlines.
  3. Emphasize that teamwork is still expected, which means that attendance at meetings, events, training, and the like is still mandatory.
  4. Utilize collaboration tools and software that help ensure teamwork rather than silos. From webcams to project management software, what will make your team able to get things done even if they aren’t in the same room at the same time?
  5. Take note of any positive developments in sales, productivity, and accomplishments. If flexibility was a contributing factor, celebrate and promote the correlation.

Flexible work arrangements can become part of your culture, help a company become a well-oiled machine, and feel like a close-knit family. If you have questions about payroll, employee status and benefit status for these workers, contact us today.

Additional Sources:

Why Top Companies Are Ditching the 9-to-5 for Flexible Working Arrangements” by Sarah Rickerd

7 Big Statistics About the State of Flexible Work Arrangements” By Jesse Noyes, 7/11/18

Practical tips for making flexible working work” by Viola Lloyd, 8/5/16

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Is it time to hire more staff? What am I spending money on? If money is coming in, why aren’t we increasing profits?

Business owners call me with these questions every day. Often, they are frustrated and frantic, without the information they need to make good decisions for the future of their company.

As an entrepreneur, you’re focused on building your business. But, when you’re facing critical financial questions like these, yet don’t have the expertise to get to the right answers, it’s a good time to seek the help of a professional bookkeeper. More than just a record keeper, our team at Brigade Bookkeeping can provide the kind of guidance that means the difference between healthy growth and frustrating stagnation.

Here are a few of the ways bookkeepers help you grow your small business.

For starters, your books get in order, and stay that way.

The foundation for success lies in a solid bookkeeping system that will track the sales, purchases, payments and receipts. You may decide you need daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly services. The point is to ensure there is never any down-time with your recordkeeping, and we can help you keep track.

Then, we can give you tools to help you understand the business picture.

Bookkeepers can provide:

  • Customized financial reports: This include the profit/ loss balance sheet, income Statement, and Statement of Cash Flow. If there are other key metrics that are important to your business, we can provide a customized report accordingly.
  • Annual budgets: The budget will be compared to actual results to identify discrepancies and ensure that the business makes any necessary changes.
  • Rolling forecast: Bookkeepers should also be reviewing what actually occurred each month, and predict how that will affect the future.
We also can help you make and save money.

As we become familiar with your business model, we can make recommendations on how to reduce spending and increase income.

And in time, we can be a strategic sounding board.

We truly love doing this for our clients. When entrepreneurs are your clients, you get to know a lot of business models. We can identify opportunities or financial trends you may not have noticed, and can offer business advice on a number of topics, including:

  • Making financial process improvements.
  • Getting paid faster.
  • Eligible tax credits.
  • Growth planning.
  • Government grants or other program funding for growing and expanding your business.
  • Marketing and sales strategies.
  • General business methodology.

Hiring a professional bookkeeper can be a step that pays for itself, and we’re ready to help. Contact us to learn how we can be a part of your future business success.
Additional Sources:
5 Ways Bookkeeping Services Can Help You Grow Your Business” The Payroll Department, Inc.
Six Ways Bookkeepers Can Strengthen Your Business” by Marilyn J. Rushing
Three Ways SLC Bookkeeping Can Help Your Small Business Grow” by Matt Roberge

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In the last edition of our blog, we looked at the signs that signal it’s time for a small business to hire a bookkeeper. If the answer is “yes,” the next question might be, “Should we hire someone to join the company or outsource the work?”

There are pros and cons to either arrangement. After delivering outsourced bookkeeping services for more than 10 years, I know what you need to consider in order to make the right decision. Here are a few thoughts on both sides:

When you hire in-house, you need to ensure:

  • You understand enough about bookkeeping and accounting to recognize when a candidate is a good fit.
  • You can define their role and develop all the necessary business processes.
  • You’re confident in your ability to oversee the work.

Then, you have questions to consider:

Will your needs evolve over time? And, how? The in-house employee can be hired for bookkeeping, but it leaves room for their role to evolve with your business needs. They can be there to multitask and bring additional value to their role, but it’s important they can still be focused on their core duties with the books.

Are you ready for the time spent and costs incurred? In-house means they are an employee. You will be paying wages, payroll taxes, and benefits. You will need time to recruit, interview and hire. You will also need to provide office space and the necessary equipment, utilities and supplies. You will need to train and on-board them to the company. Have you budgeted for the time and expense needed for them to stay up-to-date and in compliance with changing laws, rules and regulations?

What happens if the in-house person leaves? That one person has all of the knowledge, passwords, and access to your books. If they decide to leave or you need to terminate them, the transition could be stressful, with time and money lost.

What to consider if you go the outsourcing route

If you go the outsourcing route, it’s an investment in the business. Generally speaking, you are:

  • Saving on the costs of hiring an employee.
  • Saving on the costs of office space and equipment.
  • Gaining the vital tools and technology that they have to get the job done and stay up-to-date on all laws, rules and regulations.
  • Being assigned to one person, but that person has the support and expertise of their entire team behind them.

Then, you have questions to consider:

Are you prepared for an offsite arrangement? Are you ready to work out any logistical kinks and potential communication pitfalls if your bookkeeper isn’t there in the office with you?

Are you ready for the necessary data security? There are many tools available to ensure the private and encrypted exchange of information. Be sure to ask the bookkeeper what security precautions they have in place to prevent information breaches.

Do they understand YOUR business? They definitely understand small business needs. Do they also understand the differing financial variables that make running a dry cleaner different than running a law office, which is different than running a restaurant, and so forth?

At Brigade Bookkeeping, we help clients of all kinds. In some cases, we also assist the in-house bookkeeper. In others, we are the outsourced bookkeepers. In all cases, we treat every client like a business partner. We are invested in your growth and success. Let us develop a road map for your company and minimize your expenses to grow your bottom line.

Additional Sources:

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Virtual Bookkeeper” by Meredith Wood

The Pros and Cons Of Hiring Vs. Outsourcing Your Bookkeeper” by Keeping Your Balance

The Pros & Cons of Bookkeeping Services” by Eddy Hood

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Do you think it could be time to hire a bookkeeper? You might be surprised to learn that there are objective tests to help you answer this question.

Business owners often seek me out for a consultation when they think it may be time for money management help. When we talk, I always review these five key questions. Answering is easy, and you’ll know right away if now is the right time for bookkeeping support!

Sign 1

Time you need to spend working on the books is taking you away from time you need to spend working on the business. It’s the classic first sign.

Consider this: Measure the cost of your time with the books. First, determine how much your time is worth. Next, track your hours and parse out how your time is spent on each aspect of the business. Now, calculate how many dollars you are spending on bookkeeping. How does that cost compare to what you would pay a professional?

Sign 2

You rarely have the books consistently up-to-date. How much time has passed? Weeks? Months? If you’re not up to date on cash flow, how do you know the true health of your business?

Consider this: We know you know—the longer it’s been the less clear the picture. Try measuring the costs of goods sold. You need that number to subtract from your revenue in order to determine your profit. Is the number good, or was it tough to figure out because it’s been that long since you worked on the books?

Sign 3

Your accountant that helps at tax time is the one doing your bookkeeping. Have the books been relatively untouched until tax season is underway, and then (you hope) your accountant can figure it out retroactively to manage a return?

Consider this: Do you have detailed, month-to-month financial records? If the time comes and you need to secure a loan, bring in partners, or sell the business, you’re going to need them. This is not necessarily something your tax CPA can do for you. And if they do, it can get expensive.

Sign 4

Sales have increased, but not profits.

Consider this: The answer to how to increase profits is most likely found by looking at the books. Up-to-date financial records will help you recognize where to cut costs.

Sign 5

You’re paying quarterly estimated taxes—heavy emphasis on “estimated.

Consider this: Knowing your average month-to-month income is how you determine quarterly estimated taxes. When the estimate is way off, you end up getting fined for underpayments or practically giving away money with over-payments. If either scenario occurs often, it a sure sign it’s time for more stringent bookkeeping.

If all signs point you in the direction of needing help, Brigade Bookkeeping can be your partner. We’re known as the trustworthy professional bookkeeping and accounting firm that helps alleviate the stress of bookkeeping and accounting so you can concentrate on doing what you do best.

Additional Source:
Signs You Need to Hire a Bookkeeper” by Bryce Warnes

In the next edition of our blog, we explore another aspect about hiring a bookkeeper: Is an internal hire or outsourced help best for your business?

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