AccountsPLUS partners with Mindshop

AccountsPLUS has recently become a member of Mindshop, a leading, global provider of strategic and personal development solutions for business leaders and advisors with over 700 members in 7 countries.

Mindshop empowers AccountsPLUS to provide customized and powerful business solutions to our clients through access to a wealth of business tools, regular training and a global community of specialist advisors.

www.mindshop.com

For more information about how AccountsPLUS can use the Mindshop network and tools to help you contact jim(at)accountsplus(dot)ie.

AccountsPLUS now on Enterprise Ireland’s Lean Consultants Directory

AccountsPLUS are pleased to have been approved by Enterprise Ireland for Inclusion on their Lean Consultants Directory. The Lean Consultants Directory as been put in place to support Enterprise Ireland’s Lean Business Offer, details below.

Lean Business Offer

Enterprise Ireland has developed a Lean Business Offer which is designed to encourage clients to adopt Lean business principles in their organisation to increase performance and competitiveness.

Lean tools and techniques are helping companies across the globe to address competitiveness issues within their businesses by building the capability of their people to identify problems and improve operations.

The Lean Business Offer is made up of three levels of support:

  • LeanStart
  • LeanPlus
  • LeanTransform

Each level of support is characterised by increasing levels of capability in implementing Lean business principles and other best practice approaches to drive company awareness, adoption and integration of Lean tools and techniques.

LeanStart

LeanStart provides an introduction to Lean concepts and allows you to gain an understanding of what the tools and techniques can do for your company in a short, focused engagement. Companies can apply for grant support towards the cost of hiring a Lean consultant/trainer to undertake a short in-company assignment which will;

  • introduce Lean principles and Agile processes,
  • achieve immediate cost reduction targets, and
  • lay a foundation for future Lean or productivity improvement projects.

Assignments will typically be carried out over eight to ten weeks. Companies will be eligible to receive support for a maximum of seven consultancy days. Maximum funding is €5,000. For more detailed information or to apply.

LeanPlus

Companies looking to undertake a Lean project over a medium-term period can apply for LeanPlus grant support from Enterprise Ireland. A LeanPlus assignment is a medium-term business process improvement project which will result in sustained use of Lean techniques and related methodologies by the company, and will achieve significant measurable gains in capabilities and competitiveness. The LeanPlus assignment should;

  • deliver significant productivity improvement and cost reductions,
  • embed a culture of business improvement and lean techniques to a cohort of trained staff, and
  • introduce a programme to pursue company-wide improvement.

Assignments may vary in size and scope but will typically be completed within six months and will not exceed a total project cost of €75,000. For more detailed information or to apply.

LeanTransform

LeanTransform is a large scale, extensive and holistic company transformation programme delivered by an external consultancy team of international reputation. Lean Transform projects should:

  • deliver company-wide transformation in culture and productivity performance,
  • embed the competences necessary for on-going competitiveness gains in the company, and
  • result in sustainable improvement in the business and across its supply chain.

The LeanTransform initiative is primarily designed for larger companies with significant operations who can demonstrate to Enterprise Ireland that they have existing capability and resources to implement a programme of this scale.

Assignments will typically run for at least one year. The assignment is preceded by a scoping exercise. For more detailed information or to apply, go to LeanTransform.

Arts and Innovation

It’s been far too long since I posted here.

However, I came across an interesting article lately that I should deserves a wider audience.

The story refers to an article in Psychology Today which makes the case that the more arts a person masters, the more likely they are to become an innovator or creator.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/culture-cuts-blog/2011/feb/22/arts-funding-arts-policy1

Given the conditions we are facing in Ireland, we should be doing everything we can to foster innovation and creativity.

Motivation

I recently attended a workshop on Lean Business, organised by Enterprise Ireland.

There were some very good presentations there where companies showed the gains they had made by implementing lean practices.

In the course of one presentation, the presenter was asked about bonus or rewards schemes. He answered by saying that he was not in favour of individual reward or bonus schemes. He could see some merit in organisation schemes but not in schemes where an individual is singled out.

It reminded me of this very powerful video which summarises some recent research on motivation.

Its worth looking at.

Can Accounting really be fun?

I know most of you think that’s a strange question but Dennis Howlett, who blogs regularly on accounting topics, on www.accmanpro.com recently posted an article headed “Accounting is Fun.” I have posted extracts from his article below. The full article can be found here http://accmanpro.com/2011/06/17/accounting-is-fun/Accounting is fun.

Since I have started using online accounting, I have had clients telling me it is so much better. They feel comfortable using the system. One client said that with his previous accounting software, he always felt that what he was looking at was history, with online accounting software the information feels relevant and useful. So I was interested to see that when Dennis Howlett took time out to meet with users of online accounting software that he got similar feedback.

And I don’t expect people to find accounting fun. I do want them to find it easy, relevant and very useful.

“Accounting is Fun by Dennis Howlett on June 17, 2011

In case you think I have had a moment of madness let me explain: those were the words I heard from users of SaaS/cloud accounting solutions this week. Not one outlier but several. They explained why the new breed of apps is making their lives easier and why what was once a chore is now (almost) a pleasure. That’s a world apart from how things used to be.

Back in the day it would have been great if we could have gotten all clients onto a computerised system. The problem is that we all knew they were designed for accountants. Expecting a business person without years of book-keeping training to understand the ins and outs of a Sage, TAS Books, QuickBooks was not just a thankless task, it was asking for trouble. That perception carries through to today.

However, what the new breed of SaaS/cloud accounting apps are demonstrating – at ALL levels – is that business gets better control (often cited as improved DSO) and has a single view of information in which it has faith. In the process, business is finding that it is worth spending time with their professional accountants because they know that both are looking at the same data, can work together solving problems and can extend the trust relationship that business considers critical in the accountant/client relationship.

I heard many cases where the business user was saying they look at their accounting solution 8-10 times PER DAY as their way of managing the business. That’s extraordinary.”

I would welcome any feedback from users of online software. As always, you can send me an email to

Murphy’s Laws of IT

Murphy’s Laws Of IT1. When computing, whatever happens, behave as though you meant it to happen.
2. When you get to the point where your really understand your computer, then it’s probably obsolete.
3. The first place to look for information is in the section of the manual where you least expect to find it.
4. When the going gets tough, upgrade.
5. For every action there is an equal and opposite malfunction
6. To err is human… to really screw things up royally requires a computer.
7. He who laughs last probably made a back-up.
8. A complex system that does not work is invariably found to have evolved from a simpler system that worked just fine.
9. The No. 1 cause of computer problems is computer solutions.
10. A computer program will always do what you tell it to do, but rarely what you want it to do.

Acknowledgments to Internet Humour

Lessons from this year’s tax season

Earlier today, I had a conversation with two friends, one an accountant and the other an owner-manager. The owner-manager commented on the rush of the tax season being over for this year and we got to talking of how some clients lose themselves money through their actions or inactions. I think it would be useful to post some of the learning points here in the hope that others can learn from them

Leaving things until it’s too late

This is a problem with a few clients. We manage to get the tax return in but we don’t have the time to do a proper review of all the numbers. In some cases we may not claim tax credits or reliefs because the client has left themselves with not enough time to pull out the relevant information. In one case, the client would have made provision for a pension payment and minimised their tax bill had they realised earlier what the final tax situation would be.

Not claiming all tax credits

There are a couple of tax credits that not everyone fully avails of. The main one here is medical expenses. The relief is worth 20% of the value of the medical expenses incurred, but not reimbursed elsewhere. The client just needs to make sure they get and retain the receipt. I recommend that clients pay by laser or credit card, if possible, so the payment is recorded on a bank/cc statement and is readily available.

People in employment not claiming all occupation specific tax credits

Often, a self-employed person is married to an employed person, and the partner’s employment earnings have to be returned on the self-employed person’s tax return. We have found that not all employees are aware of and claim all of their tax credits. For example, certain occupations such as nurses, teachers, college lecturers have occupation specific tax credits. These are often negotiated with the tax office by a trade union and are available to all persons carrying out the specific occupation. An up to date list can be found here http://www.revenue.ie/en/tax/it/leaflets/flat-rate-expenses.xls. For example a nurse who is obliged to supply and launder his/her own uniform can claim € 733 as deductible expenses – at 20% this is worth € 146 per annum.

Failing to keep your tax credit allocations up to date.

We have seen situations where a client had allocated some of his tax credits to another part-time employment which he had since left. However he did not tell the tax office, and they kept allocating tax credits to that employment. The effect of this is that he was not getting those tax credits. We discovered this after four years and he got a four figure rebate. However, if it had gone over 4 years he would have lost his ability to claim the credit.

As always, if you have questions or comments feel free to email jim(at)accountsplus(dot)ie.

 

Markup and Margin

In the past week, I have had discussions with three different people on the difference between markup and margin. In my own experience, I have come across a number of business owners who thought they had a margin of a certain percentage but they actually had a markup of that percentage. There’s a big difference and understanding this could be the difference between making or losing money.

So, just in case there’s anyone reading these who is unsure about the difference, here’s a brief explanation. If you already understand this, skip this post!

Lets assume we buy an item for € 8.00 and sell it for € 10.

The difference between the selling price and the buying price is € 2. We can call this either the gross profit or the gross margin or the markup. It’s a number and not a percentage. So when you are talking about the absolute amount of money markup and margin are the same.

However it is when you start talking percentages that they are different and this is why people get confused.

The gross margin percentage is the margin divided by the sales price and expressed as a percentage. In our example, the margin % is 20% or 2/10.

The markup percentage is the margin divided by the cost price and expressed as a percentage. In our example, the markup % is 25% or 2/8.

The problem arises because most people don’t say the word percentage when they are talking about either the gross margin percentage or the markup percentage. You will often hear people say they have a margin of 20% or they will say they have a markup of 25%. We know from the context that they are talking about percentages and that’s when you have to be careful.

Margin % is always on sales and markup % is always on cost.

I think of it this way. Margin % measures how much of your selling price can you drop before you hit cost. So margin relates to selling price. Markup % is how much of your cost do you add on to get your selling price. So markup relates to cost.

Here are a few more examples

Buy Sell Margin % Markup %
3 6 50% 100%
4 6 33% 50%
4 5 20% 25%

 

They’re big differences.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to send me an email at jim (at) accountsplus (dot) ie.

Tips for Managing Cash

In the past year, I have spoken to a number of different audiences on Managing cashflow. In the course of my work as a mentor on Bank of Ireland’s Enterprise Builder Programme, it is clear that managing cash remains an issue for many companies. So here are the key points from the presentations that I made.

  • Prepare Plans and Forecasts
    These help you to understand what is coming up. They identify early on any overall problems and any “lumpiness” in your cashflow. You should be clear about your key assumptions – these will include Activity levels/Collection and payment times/Once off investments etc. You should also determine how much to put aside for tax, annual payments such as insurance etc
  • Prepare a Rolling 6-week forecast.
    This will be similar to the annual forecast but will be working in smaller time intervals. Watch for weeks where you might be hitting up against your overdraft limits. This rolling 6-week forecast highlight possible breaches of your limits and gives you a chance to do something about it.
  • Choose your customers
    Remember that you don’t have to take everyone. A customer that does not pay or a customer that costs too much to services is not worth it. You should have some a process for evaluating prospective customers. This would consider factors such as their payment history, their profitability, the quality of interactions with them (do you like dealing with them?), are there ongoing issues (returns, hidden costs etc). Check their credit rating.
  • Be clear about your credit terms and stick to them.
    Your customers should know exactly when you expect payment and you should enforce your terms. Your terms with include the timing of payment and the maximum amount that you extend to any customer. It is much easier to set and enforce these from the start than it is to try to tighten up with an existing customer. Put on hold, those customers who are not compliant with your terms – whether this be relating to the time or the total amount. Consider asking for deposits or stage payments – this is more appropriate for some sectors than others.
  • Have a process for invoicingis
  • Invoice in a timely way. Know who/where to send invoice. Before invoicing, ring the customer to ask if everything is ok – they can’t come back with issues later. Consider if you will need Proof of Delivery – do you have it?
  • Have a reliable collection routine.
    Before payment is due, send out a reminder. Have a standard defined procedure for follow up or escalating overdue payments. Send out statements – Some customers only pay on statements.
  • Manage Cash Tied Up
    Many businesses overlook the amount of cash that can be tied up unnecessarily. Review your Stock Levels , your Debtors and your Prepayments. Are you paying too early with some of your suppliers? Do you have clear rules for purchasing stock – is there a logic to these? Do you take Credit where you can (and where it saves you)?
  • Control Your Expenditure
    Remember that you have most control at rhe start of the Purchase to Pay process. Do you have a Purchase Order (PO) authorisation process? Review all costs and consider whether they are really necessary and that you are getting best prices. Consider Asset Finance for computers, vehicles, plant & machinery
  • Working with the bank
    Keep your bank manager informed. This demonstrates that you are in control and devleops confidence in you and your business. Remember that when there are some signs of problems, lack of communication from you is the single thing that worries them most.
  • Managing Shortfalls
    Become aware of shortfalls as soon as possible. Understand whether they are temporary or longer. Look at all the options to overcome the difficulties. Talk to your bank. Talk to suppliers. Consider invoice factoring/discounting. Offer early payment incentives to customers. Careful payment of bills

So overall then the message can be summarised as follows. Understand and Plan – aim for early warning of issues. Be proactive – choose customers, set credit limits, have process. Review business for cash tied up. Manage your bank manager

As always, if you have any comments or questions please email me – jim (at) accountsplus (dot) ie.