Assess your Financial Management Capability

The financial management capability of Irish SMEs varies significantly.

I have been working with many Irish SMEs over the past 20 years helping them to improve their financial management capability.  Over time, I have observed a number of different stages that businesses go through as they develop their skill levels.

I have set out in the table below the characteristics of the various stages that I have identified.

Not every business goes through all these stages nor does they spend the same amount of time in each stage.

A high potential business with external professional funding will usually put a high level of financial management capability in place from the start.  A start up that is growing organically will usually develop their financial management capability as the business grows.

Use the table to identify where you are and what you have to do to improve.

Levels of Financial Management Capability

Activities Internal Outputs External Outputs Resources
Minimum Business run from bank statementss

Records sent to external accountant who does VAT, PAYE and prepares accounts at year end

None VAT Returns, PAYE Returns, Annual

Accounts at year end

Clerical Staff
Book-keeping Basic Record sales, purchases, payments and receipts.

Payroll Calculations using payroll software.

All files to the accountant at the year end

VAT Returns, PAYE Returns

Reasonably reliable customer, supplier and bank records


Annual Accounts at year end Book-keeper, not necessarily qualified
Bookkeeping Plus As Bookkeeping Basic with

Checks and Verifications on bank, supplier and customer balances

All files to the accountant at the year end

VAT Returns, PAYE Returns

Highly reliable customer, supplier and bank records


Annual Accounts at year end Usually qualified book-keeper with some experience, could be a trainee accountant
Accounting Basic As Bookkeeping Plus with

Management Accounts prepared at least quarterly incorporating accounting adjustments for stock, accruals and prepayments, depreciation

VAT Returns, PAYE Returns

Highly reliable customer, supplier and bank records


Management Accounts (at least quarterly)

P&L, Balance Sheet, Customer Balances, Supplier Balances

Usually qualified book-keeper with some experience, could be a trainee accountant


Part time controller for management accounts

Financial Control As Accounting Basic with

Management Accounts reviewed with Senior Management

Short term cash flow projections

Annual Budgets prepared


VAT Returns, PAYE Returns

Highly reliable customer, supplier and bank records


Reliable Budgets

Highly reliable management accounts

Including Actual v Budget P&L


Internal accounting staff with experience and some qualifications


Part time controller for management accounts, budgets and projections


Financial Control Plus As Financial Control with

Product costings from budget data

Short term cash flow projections

Financial Projections updated quarterly

VAT Returns, PAYE Returns

Highly reliable customer, supplier and bank records

Short term cash flow projections

Highly reliable management accounts

Reliable Budgets and product costings

Reliable projections

Basic analysis of variances

Financial inputs to decision making



Internal accounting staff with experience and some qualifications


Part time controller for management accounts, budgets and decision inputs


Strategic Control As Financial Control Plus

With multi year-long range planning

Full Financial Evaluation of all key business decisions

Robust financial model that can quickly support what if evaluation of various options


VAT Returns, PAYE Returns

Highly reliable customer, supplier and bank records

Short term cash flow projections

Highly reliable management accounts

Reliable Budgets and product costings

Reliable projections

Basic analysis of variances

Financial inputs to decision making

Long term funding requirements identified with plans to address them

Internal accounting staff with experience and some qualifications


Usually fulltime (but possibly Part-time) controller for management accounts, budgets and long range plans and for decision inputs


What does this mean for you?

You should use the characteristics in the table to identify where you are now.

Then you should ask if this is sufficient for you and for your business.

Ask yourself if you have the appropriate skill levels to do what you need to do.

Whereever you have gaps, then you need to put a plan in place to close the gap.

This plan should identify what must be done, who will do it and when will it be completed.

How I can help?

With many years’ experience working with SMEs I can help you complete your diagnosis and put improvement plans in place.

I can help you by coaching your financial staff to grow in to their roles or, where necessary, by hiring appropriate staff.

We can work together to create a practical plan to address the needs of your business.


I am offering a two hour assessment of your financial management capability with no obligations on your part.

This assessment will be restricted in that I can only offer one per week.

If you want to have your financial function assessed, feel free to send me an email with subject “Assessment of Financial Management Capability”.

Are your financial results different from what you expected?

Have you ever been presented with a set of accounts where your results not what you expected?  It’s really frustrating.

Maybe you’ve had a very busy period with strong sales and you are expecting to see a very healthy profit in your accounts.  Instead, you have a poor profit or even worse, a loss.

If you don’t know why you had poor results, how can you prevent it from happening again next year?

You ask your accountant why, but he/she can’t explain why.  They reply with some unintelligible jargon and you think that the problem is you – that you just don’t understand finance.

In the time I have been in practice, almost every year a new client comes along saying “my accounts aren’t what I expected and my accountant can’t tell me why?  Can you help me?”

Over time, I have come to realise that there are six common reasons why accounts can differ from what the owner/manager expects.

Underestimating Costs

Probably, the most common reason is that the owner/manager underestimates costs.  They may have prepared projections when they set up the business or a few years ago when they were looking for a loan.

In the meantime, they have added costs here and there – an extra employee, higher insurance, more travel, new machinery and equipment etc.   But in their head, they still think costs are what they were a few years ago.

They get a surprise when the accounts came out.

How to avoid this

Prepare a budget every year.  It actually doesn’t take that long.  And if you do it every year, you should have workings – ideally on a a spreadsheet – from last year that you can just update.

Also, take the time to review and understand the costs that you did incur.  Are they right? Do you remember incurring or approving of those costs?

If you have monthly or quarterly management accounts, this is very easy to do.  And if you have a good accounting software, you should be able to drill down into each expense type to understand them better.

Inaccurate Stock  Valuations

In my experience, most SMEs don’t understand the importance of the stock figure.   As a result, they don’t prioritise the annual stock take.

It may be that they think they can estimate stock reasonably accurately or it may be that they want to keep the stock low so that they minimise their profits.

Whatever the reason, understated stock means understated profits.

I worked with one retailer who carried out a rough stock take every year.  He walked through the shop and the store with an assistant recording the stock items and the stock value.

I persuaded him to install a Point of Sale system which had a stock module.  When they entered the stock items into the system they realised that their estimated stock value was way off.

How to avoid this

Do a reasonably accurate stock take every year.

At a minimum, apply the 80:20 rule.  80% of the stock value will come from 20% of the stock items.

Know what’s in stock and know what that is worth.  In that way, you will have a better understanding of the real profits.

Timing Issues

Most business owners do not understand the importance of timing.

If a supplier invoices you just before month end and you do not receive the stock items until after the month end, you will have a timing issue if you don’t record the transactions properly.

If you record a supplier’s January invoice in your January accounts but you don’t have the stock until February so can’t include the incoming stock in January then your accounts will reflect that  you bought something that you didn’t get.  You have a purchase invoice in January but nothing to show for it.  Your accounts are wrong.

Alternatively, if you receive goods but the supplier doesn’t invoice for a few weeks, then your accounts will reflect a “windfall”.  You have stock that apparently cost nothing.  Again, your accounts are wrong.

Finally, if you are working on a long project – a multi-month project you can have mismatches due to timing.

You incur costs for the project in month 1 but you don’t finish the project until month 3.  You don’t invoice until the project is complete.  Now you have costs in month1 but no revenue.   When you do invoice in month 3 you have revenue but no costs as they were taken in month 1.

Your accounts are like a roller coaster – up some months and down some months.  You can’t understand it and wonder how you priced those projects so differently.

How to avoid this

If you receive an invoice before the goods, then show those goods as goods in transit.

They are not in stock, you can’t physically count them but they are yours – you have been invoiced for them – so the best thing to do is to have a stock in transit. Put them in there and reverse that when they are received when they can be counted in stock.

If a supplier delivers in one month but invoices in a later month, identify the non-invoiced goods and put a provision in your accounts for them.  Accountants will call this accruing for the uninvoiced receipts.

If you have multi-month jobs, try to put a value of the work done but not yet invoiced and show that as work in progress.

Putting it into practice

I have a manufacturing client who buys packaging from another country.

Two or three times a year, they are invoiced for packaging in one month but that packaging is not received until the following month.  I have encouraged them to record the incoming goods as stock in transit.

That same client buys in raw material on a seasonal basis.  Sometimes the supplier will ring to say that his warehouses are full, and ask if they can take an order early.

They say they can but that they can’t pay for it yet as they hadn’t planned for it.  The supplier says no problem, he will invoice later as per the original order.

In this situation, I have the client making a provision for the invoiced items so that the accounts are more accurate.

I have another engineering services client who install and maintain expensive machinery for large businesses.  Many of their install projects take several months to complete.

It’s common for them to buy machinery for an install in one month but not to invoice for that job for another 3 or 4 months.  This can happen because the job can take several months or also because the customer may ask them to group several jobs into one invoice.

In this case, I ask my client to review all the jobs that are active at the quarter or year end and estimate the value of the work that is done but not invoiced.  They show that as work in progress so that the accounts are more reliable.

Poor awareness of Waste/Scrap

Sometimes a client has a lot of waste or scrap in their process but because they don’t measure it, the underestimate the cost of it.

In regulated industries, you may have to take a lot of samples.  The costs of these can quickly build up.

You may also be issuing samples to prospects.  Again, the cost of samples can quickly mount up.  I am not saying not to issue samples but simply to improve your awareness of the cost.

How to avoid this

Record and value the waste on an ongoing basis.  You should be doing this anyway as part of your process control and to help you identify improvement opportunities.

However, some more traditional businesses ignore it – treating waste as something they can do nothing about.

That may well be the case, but you need to know the real cost of it.  Also, there is always something you can do to improve it.   Maybe you can change suppliers.  Maybe you can tweak your process.  You should never stop looking for improvements.

Also record the number and cost of testing and customer samples.  It is best practice to show these as a separate line item in your accounts so that the readers of the accounts have a better understanding of your costs.

Excessive Discounts

Some businesses, particularly owner run businesses, have a practice of giving discounts to customers.  Customers come to expect it and its part of the buying process.

If the discounts given are not tracked and measured it can easily happen that they creep up and significantly reduce your gross margin.

How to avoid this.

You need to be able to accurately measure the costs of the discounts that you are giving.

If you have a point of sale system, make sure that it shows any discounts separately.  If you are invoicing have a separate line for customer discounts so that your accounting system will accumulate these discounts and report on them separately.

Putting it into practice

I had one retail client where the owner told his clients that if his customers came into the shop then they had already made a decision to buy and staff had to do whatever was needed to compete the salem.

Understandably, staff took this as an instruction to discount as much as was necessary to close the sale. The owner thought he was empowering them to discount up to 5%.   The reality was different.

When we installed a point of sale system, it became very clear within the first week that the staff were discounting up to 12% and the real cost of the discounts were much greater then the owner had assumed.

He quickly issued revised guidance on discounting.

Underestimating drawings

For non-company clients, drawings can be an issue.  For sole traders or partnerships, drawings are effectively the “net wages” that the owners are taking from the business.

Its important to realise that these are “net” so the tax due on the profits of the business remains to be paid separately.

The client may have decided to take, say, € 3000 out of the business for his/her “wages”.  However, over time they start to take money out maybe for pension, maybe to pay the annual income tax bill.  Maybe they set up a direct debit for a membership – maybe a gym membership.

Sometimes they transfer a little bit extra to their personal account if that balance is too low, but they forget about this when estimating the drawings.

When you ask them how much they are taking from the business, they just report on the € 3000.  When you do the analysis, you can see that they are taking the € 3000 per month, plus extra for the repayment of the income tax loan plus extra for the monthly pension contribution plus extra for the personal account top-ups.

How to avoid this

In this case, the key issue is awareness.  The client needs to understand what exactly is meant by drawings and to be able to get an accurate value on what they are taking from the business each month.

If they are using accounting software, which I highly recommend, I usually ask them to set up drawings categories (or account codes) for pension, income tax and possibly for irregular drawings.

Putting it into practice

I have one sole trader client who approached me because his bank balance had come under continuous pressure and he couldn’t understand it, as his turnover had increased and he thought his profitability was good.

When I analysed his bank account, I discovered that he was taking regular weekly drawings or “wages” as he called it. But he had also increased his pension contribution, a change he had forgotten about.  He had also begun to transfer money to his wife’s personal account as her separate business was not performing and she needed help.

When I showed him the data, he recognised immediately that it was correct, and he accepted that the real problem was that he had underestimated the total of his drawings.


These are the most common reasons that I have come across when investigating unexpected financial results and I have carried out this exercise for many clients over the years.

That’s not to say that there aren’t other reasons but these six areas are what I check first when I start on that type of project.

If you have problems understanding your financial results  and you want to discuss them please get in touch.

If you have comments, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

If you  found this article helpful, you may also be interested in these other articles.

How to prepare Financial Projections

How much does it cost to open your doors?

Why a good budget is vital for every  business owner


Struggling with your work-life balance?

One of the most common problems for self-employed people is achieving or maintaining a good work/life balance.

I recently had a client who was finding that he was overwhelmed by the amount of work that had to be done and was seriously considering pulling back from the business because of work life balance issues.  So,  I thought it would be useful to write an article on how owners/managers should manage their work/life balance.

There are four steps in getting control of the situation:

Step 1 – Log your time

The first step is to figure out what exactly is happening with your time.  You have got to start to keep a log and record your time.

You should categorise how you are spending time so that you can see how time is being spent of the various work/life areas – your business, relationship time, your relaxing time, your family time, personal development time, exercise time, maybe spiritual time or personal admin time.

It would be useful for you to split out what is happening with the business so you have better information.   You can break business time down into a number of different categories. Are you problem solving? Are you in business development mode? Are you stepping in for other people who should be doing their job? What exactly is happening within your business?

Start to keep your log and use it to track your.  You need data for a reasonable period of time  – ideally for something like a month, but it might be worth looking into tracking for shorter period if you think it will be representative.

Step 2 – Decide how you want to be spending your time

Once you get that log and start getting an idea of where your time is going, next thing you want to do is sit down and decide what do you want your week to look like.

You need to make realistic decisions about how you are applying your time.  Take the key time categories that you used when logging and decide how much time you feel is optimal to spend on each of those.

Again, when analysing your business, it would be useful to break that down into different areas such as business development, production/operations, staff development.   Your business categories will depend on what stage your business is at and can be different for different people.

We know that there are 168 hours in a week – 7 x 24. During these 168 hours in the week you will be engaging in different activities – sleeping, eating, exercising, family time – all sorts of different things.  You need to decide how you want to spend that 168 hours? What is the best mix for you.

So develop a list of activities for the week and allocate the amount of time you think is best for each.

Step 3 – Identify the gaps

When you have a log of where time is going and a decision on how you would prefer to be applying your time, you go back and compare the two, identifying where the biggest problems are.

Let’s say you are spending 12 hours per day, 6 day per week at work, which is 72 hours, and your plan is to spend 10 hours per day Monday to Friday and 5 hours on a Saturday, which is 55 hours. I am trying to be realistic here, you might think it is still too high but let’s try and make incremental changes rather than dramatic changes.

Identify where the biggest gaps are. If you are spending, say, 20 hours a week problem solving, you might think you should only be spending 5 hours a week problem solving. If you are spending 10 hours a week for administration, you might think you should only be spending 5. Work down through the actual v desired time and identify the problem areas.

For each gap, consider how are you going to improve the situation. You have a few options.  You could stop doing it or you can reduce the time you spend on it or you could delegate it to somebody else.  Implementing these decisions may require other actions  You may have to hire someone or train someone already on your staff.

Step 4 – Make a plan to close the gaps

For each one of the area you want to improve,  you need to create a specific plan.

To do that there are a few tools that you could use. There are two that I find most useful.

1.     Time Management Matrix

The first one is what’s known as the Steven Covey time management matrix.

If you can imagine a grid and on the horizontal you have urgent – non urgent, and on the vertical you have important – not important.Covey Matrix

That grid then divides into four quadrants – see above.

Once you cateogorise tasks in that way you will see that the items in the not urgent and not important category may not even be worth doing.

Urgent but not important items might be stuff that you may delegate to somebody else.

For the urgent and important items, you probably don’t have much choice about, it just has to be done.

The key area to spend your time on those items that are not urgent at the moment, but that are important.  If you don’t deal with those and they are important, what is going to happen is that they will soon become urgent and important.

The trick is to classify all the things that you are doing into those four boxes and then you decide how you deal with them.

2. Must/Should/Could

Another slightly simpler tool that I have come across that many people find very helpful is just to categorize everything into ‘MUST’, ‘SHOULD’ and ‘COULD’.

The things that you MUST do are ones where you have no choice, you just have to do them.

The things that you SHOULD do sound like they are important and have to be done but you may not have to do them.  You could do some and delegate others

And the things that you COULD do are optional.   You may do some of them or better delegate them but you are more likely to try to stop doing them.

By actually analysing the various items you are doing you will get visibility and you will better insight into where your time is going and you will start to prioritise things, and then you will start to spend time better.

Play around with the tools and decide which you prefer.  Then each of the elements, put plans into place. When you are putting plans in place it is important to be realistic. There is no point in sitting down and putting plan into place if you don’t intend to do or if it is not possible to do it.

2.     Be accountable

The third tool that I find very helpful is try and find a way to be accountable. It might be your life partner; it could be another colleague or business partner; it could be your coach.  Pick someone and tell them what you are going to do and then set up maybe a weekly call or an email to review how you have been spending your time and to review this.

Put it out there and make yourself accountable for it. Phase the implementation, don’t try to do everything at once, but have a phased plan on how you are going to implement things and set a time to review it. Give yourself 4 weeks, 8 weeks something and go back and see whether this is working and whether you are making progress.


If you are in a situation where your work/life balance is a problem, step back from what you are doing, look at where your time is going and for each and single one of those elements put a plan together.

Seek help from outside, a family member, business colleague, mentor or a coach to help you with your planning.  You will find that things will improve and it will make a difference.

If you have any questions, or items needing clarification, feel free to drop me an email.  Remember, we’re available if you want to bring an external perspective to your situation.

Do you know much it costs you to open your doors? Predicting Business Costs.

A friend of mine, a retired banker with lots of experience dealing with owner managers, has a phrase he uses about those business owners that he feels are in control of their business.  What he says is that ‘they know exactly how much it costs them to open their doors in the morning.’  Are you one of those businesses?  Many people think that this is a very difficult thing to be able to do, but in fact it’s not.


To know what it costs to open your doors, your first need to know what you will be doing when you open the doors.  So you need to have a good sense of what the activities will be like the day or week.  In the short term – ie next few weeks.

In most cases that will not be too difficult.   You may have an order book that will tell you what will ship the next few weeks.  If its retail, you should have data over the last few years that will give good guidance on what happens at this time of year.

Once you know what’s going to be happening, then you should be able to put costs on that.

The importance of a budget

A good business will prepare a budget of some sort at the start of the year.  When preparing that budget, the business will develop assumptions or rules about the various costs.  You will use those rules throughout the year to help you anticipate what will happen and to convert the expected activity into reasonable cost estimates.

Direct Costs

If it’s a factory making products, the cost of the product will be made up of direct costs and indirect costs.

Direct costs are those costs that are easily linked to the product.  If I am making a chair for example I can see the timber that went into that chair, I know how much timber was needed and I know what it cost. The cost of timber in the chair can be directly linked to purchases of timber.

Similarly, if it’s a convenience store, I can say that for every item that I sell, eg a litre of milk, then I must buy in a litre of milk in order to have it to sell.  So the cost of the litre of milk is a direct cost.  If I sell 10 litres I have to buy 10 litres.  If I sell 200 litres then I have to buy 200 litres.

Labour can also be a direct cost.  Even though, we can’t point to a chair and see the labour that went into making it, we might know that a workman might make 10 chairs a days.  So if we have to make 100 chairs then we can calculate that we will need 10 workmen to do that.  As we know what a workman costs, we can predict our labour cost.

Indirect costs or Overhead Costs

These are costs where it is harder to make the link between the individual item sold and the costs that the business incurs. For example, if I have a convenience store and I pay €1,000 rent per month.  I cannot link the rent to any particular sale – there is not a direct relationship.  I may sell € 5,000 worth of goods on a Monday and € 15,000 worth of goods on a Saturday but the rent cost for each day is the same.

These costs that are hard to link to a product are often called overhead costs. I think of them as costs that are hanging over the business and that vary little for different levels of activity.

Indirect or overhead costs will include marketing costs, premises costs, office consumables, staff travel, professional fee and financing costs.

In some businesses, eg a convenience store, labour costs are more of an overhead.  I will have to staff my shop to a certain level even though sales for can fluctuate.  For example, a restaurant will have wait staff on in anticipation of trade but the level of trade may vary significantly.  For these businesses, we have to plan on having staffing levels that will not vary much will activity.

When you are doing your budgets or projections at the start of the year, you list down all the different types of overheads that you have and you put in your best estimate of what is going to happen. In that way, you pull together some sort of projection of your P&L as to what your costs are going to be.

Applying this understanding of costs

As you progress through the year, you know from your order book, or from your activity plans, what’s likely to be happening in the weeks ahead. With this awareness, you are likely to start asking yourself- “if my sales go up – what is going to happen to my materials?”

You can then predict that if your sales are going to go up by 20%, your materials might go up by 20%. If your sales go up by 20%, but the mix of sales differs, your materials mightn’t go up in exactly the same way, but if you understand your costs and you understand your sales, you will have a very good idea of what is going to happen to your materials.

Similarly, if your sales are going to go up and your activities are going to go up, you are going to have a very good idea of what is going to happen to your labour.   Think back to the example about the chair making factory.

So as a good business owner/manager, you will have a sort of sense of what is coming at you and you will be quickly able to turn that sense into rough and ready figures – but reasonably accurate rough and ready figures.

Finally, you will be able to run through your overheads – certain overheads will not vary at all – rent for example. Other overheads, such as electricity, may vary.  If you are running machines for longer, then you are likely to use more electricity.  While some overheads are reasonably constant, there are other overheads that you will need to tweak.

You know what is happening in your business and you should be able to estimate what is likely to be happening to your overhead from that. You can do that very quickly, you can do rough numbers or you can do it a bit more precisely. For most people, it is enough to be able to do this roughly.

Building your knowledge of the business

But how do you develop this knowledge? – That is the question I am most often asked. There is definitely an element that comes from experience, but even with the experience, it all goes down to understanding the accounts and the information that you already have about the business.

If you prepare accounts every month and you spend some time understanding those accounts, and even better, if you have what I call a feedback loop, or a feedback control, you will quickly improve you understanding of what is happening in the business.

The feedback loop

The feedback loop can be summarised as Plan – Act – Review – Adjust.

We’d say that at the start of the year you make a PLAN for the business, and then you go ahead and take ACTION to deliver on that plan.

Out of that action you’re going to get results, so you look at the results, you REVIEW these results. When reviewing, you ask yourself – ‘Did what I expected to happen, happen?’, ‘Was it different?’, ‘Why was it different?’.  As you review these results you’re going to get learnings. You absorb and apply those learnings and then you ADJUST your  plans for the next period.

Applying Feedback Loop to Management

Putting all this together, you start off with a budget or a projection (PLAN)  , you run your business (ACTION), you prepare your accounts and then you go back and see how do my accounts compare to my original budget. What was different? Aah, I misunderstood that or something changed. (REVIEW).  Through this review process you develop your experience.  Then you take that learning and revise your projections (ADJUST).

And that is how you develop your learning.

And that learning helps you develop a good understanding of the costs of your business, and how they relate to the activities of your business.   Then you will be one of those business owners who knows how much it will cost them to open the doors of their business.

If you have any questions, or items needing clarification, feel free to drop me an email.  Remember, we’re available if you want to improve your financial control expertise.

Why a good budget is vital for every business owner

In one of my recent blog posts, I mentioned the need for a business to create an annual budget.

One of my readers contacted me, saying “I don’t really know why I’d need a budget if I’m already doing the basic bookkeeping”. So, in this post, I’m going to set out why I think budgets are so important for every business owner, whatever the size of your venture.

Feedback for improved decision making

However complex or simple your business model may be, you still need to be constantly monitoring progress and adapting your processes as you go. I come from an engineering background, and in that world we often talk about an ‘engineering feedback loop’, where outputs of a system are monitored and used to help the system operators decide how to respond and adapt to what is going on in the system.


It’s not just engineers who exploit feedback. Pyschologists use an approach called Test-Operate-Test-Exit (TOTE), which is a process to apply the same approach to people. With the first Test of the TOTE, we consider what’s happening and make a plan. Then we move on to execute the plan – Operate. After operating, we Test again to get some data or information on what happened. Was the outcome what we expected, or did something different happen? In the final step, Exit, we use the data to decide whether to continue what we’re doing or whether to make changes, possibly even terminate the exercise.

Your annual budget should be understood as part of a feedback loop for your business plan. We start off by creating a plan, which we express in financial terms as a budget. Then we operate the business, getting feedback from our management accounts. We use that feedback to make decisions – whether to continue as is, or to make some changes. So we are going about improving our understanding of performance and feeding that into our management – in short, we’re tracking how well you’re performing against that all-important budget, and then acting if change is needed.

Prompting a review of the business

In the normal running of a business, it’s very easy to get caught up on the treadmill and not take time out for important reviews. But there’s real value in making the time to focus on your budget and to make proactive use of it.

To prepare a budget, you must start with some key assumptions. These include:

  • What will we be trying to achieve in the budget period?
  • What will be happening with our key inputs – raw materials, labour, overhead, distribution etc?

Your budget provides, indeed prompts, a forum for these key discussions about the direction of the business. And the budget process forces you and your management team to formalise those discussions, reducing them to a set of guidelines that will be used in developing the budget to make it work comprehensively for your company.

Helping to anticipate what might happen.

In the western films that I watched when I was younger, the wagon trail or cattle drive would send someone ahead to scout out the land coming up, identify obstacles and find the best path to be followed, while the main train or drive remained behind – in other words, they never put the whole wagon train at risk, only the poor scout who’d pulled put the short straw!

We can’t really do that in a business – running a business comes with inherent risks that impact on the whole ‘wagon train’. But what we can do is to build a model of what we think is going to happen and use that to identify obstacles and make plans for how to deal with those obstacles.

For example, when we prepare a budget, comprising profit and loss, balance sheet and cash-flows for a business with peak sales at Christmas, we might see that it’s necessary to build up a substantial stock in the run-up to Christmas. This means we’ll need to buy raw materials from our suppliers to build this stock up, but we won’t have sold the product yet and won’t have received the sales proceeds. So we’ll be spending, without recouping any revenue and that’s going to put pressure on our cash flow.

By planning a sensible budget we can quantify the scale of the problem and plan how to address it. We might ask the suppliers for extra credit or we might ask our bank for an extra short-term credit facility – anything that eases the pressure of that increased outlay.

But unless we run some numbers, we wouldn’t be able to quantify the issue – we’d be basing any decisions on estimates and guesses, and that’s never good practise.

Developing our understanding of the business

To prepare a budget, we start by making some assumptions about what will happen in the business and how the different elements of a business relate to each other.

Depending on our experience and our knowledge of the business, the quality  of assumptions can range from very poor to excellent. The only way we know how good these assumptions are is by comparing what actually happened with the budgets and studying the outcomes so that we improve our understanding.

By doing this on an ongoing basis:

  • We gradually increase our understanding of what is happening.
  • We improve our ability to predict.
  • We also learn to identify key predictors of performance.
  • We use these key predictors to make early interventions if things are not progressing as we expected – and keep the ‘wagon train’ on a safe passage through the pass.

Using our budget, we can also determine some key metrics for the business. For example, we should always know the break-even point for the business – the point at which our gross profit will match our overhead costs.

If the business is still in its early stage, the budgets can help determine just how viable that business is.

Budgets vs forecasting

Budgets and forecasts are very similar. They’re both financial projections of what’s expected to happen in the business in the future, with the aim of helping you move forward as effectively and profitably as possible.

Budgets are usually annual while forecasts can be run as often as needed. Well-run businesses will prepare an annual budget and then prepare less detailed forecasts during the year. These forecasts will usually incorporate changes that are occurring in the business and help management decide how best to respond to these changes.

Additionally, budgets are often used to set spending limits. In larger companies, the budgets are broken down by departments or cost/profit centres and individual managers are allocated responsibility for their portion of the budget. Usually, they won’t be allowed to spend in excess of a budget without first getting additional approvals from more senior managers – in other words, they place a restriction on the costs that department can incurr.

In smaller companies, the control process won’t be as formal. Usually, an owner manager will hold the purse strings tightly. However, the budget can be used to help them decide on how much they can spend on different types of expenses and, also, if there are better times than others for spending. Once the busines owner know what their limits are, they’ll soon realise if spending is exceeding the pre-defined plan.

Getting product costing right

An area that many businesses struggle with is product costing – working out the amount it costs your business to produce each product or service in your range.

Some businesses use product costs to set selling prices. Even when prices are set by the marketplace, using product costs to understand profitability will help you determine if it makes sense to be trying to sell in the market place.

Most product costs have two fairly distinct components:

  • Direct costs – these are usually the easiest to determine and will include things like labour and raw materials etc.
  • Overhead costs – these can be more difficult, and can include things like building rent, repairs to equipment or utility bills etc.

To determine overhead costs, the first thing we must do is determine the total amount of overhead costs we expect to have – that will be provided by the budget. Then we should figure out the best way of allocating the overhead costs to the products – effectively spreading the overhead costs across our products so that each product gets a fair share of the overall costs.

While all elements of the costing process are important, we must start with a reliable estimate of what the overhead will be and that’s provided by the budget.

The foundation on which your business plan is built

So, there you have it – a number of strong reasons why every business, both small and large, should take the time every year to build a budget and to spend some time comparing actuals with budgets.

Your budget is the financial foundation on which the whole of your annual business plan is built, so the more detailed, the more accurate and the more realistic you make it, the more solid your financial progress and agility will be over the course of the year.

If you’ve got any questions about building a solid 2017 budget for your business, please do get in touch to see how we can help.

Putting your accounting knowledge into practice: an engineering perspective

What should a business owner do to make sure he or she has the best possible information at his/her fingertips?

We’ve already discussed how to identify the key transactions of the business and also how to record the information that’s important to your business and pull it into insightful reports. Now let’s look at how you put this all into action.

Making your finances work for you

So, with your understanding of the financial basics, how do you start putting this knowledge into action and making your finances work for you?

  • Firstly, you must have systems that are appropriate for the business and decide who’ll be responsible for the recording of information. The methodology for this and the level of detail you get into will depend on the size of the business.
  • Secondly, you must list the types of reports you need and what types of information and analysis will help you prepare these reports easily. This involves adapting your accounting system to capture the information needed and making sure it’s easy to pull the reports from the system, no matter how simple or complex.
  • Finally, you need to have a routine to help you check the information. You’ve no doubt heard the hackneyed phrase ‘garbage in, garbage out’ – it’s a truism that’s as applicable for accounts as anything else. When someone gives you financial information, you need to know how reliable this information is.

So how do we sanity check your reports? And what should you be looking for when carrying out these reviews?

Using your reports in the right way

In my experience, when business owners get their financial reports, most of them jump straight to the profit and loss report. However, I’ve learned that it’s more important to start with the balance sheet.

To explain why, I will ask you to remember the ‘Wile E Coyote and The Road Runner’ cartoon that used to be on television many years ago…

The road runner was always speeding along a road, with milestones at the side. If he first passed the 5km mark and later passed the 15km mark, he knew (and we knew) that he’d travelled 10km in total. However, what if the 15km had been mistakenly put in the wrong place, say at 14km? The roadrunner would think he’d travelled 10km when he’d actually only travelled 9km!

By relying unquestioningly on the miletones, our road runner is misinformed and doesn’t understand his performance correctly.

Accounts are similar. The balance sheets provides the milestones and the profit and loss is a measure of the progress or profitability. If you get the balance sheet wrong then the profit and loss will also be wrong.

I recommend that businesses start by looking at the balance sheet and ask if the figures for the various assets and liabilities look reasonable and reliable.  If they’re reasonable then the profit and loss is also likely to be reliable.

Checking your balance sheet

So, how do we check the balance sheet?

We check the bank accounts by comparing them to the records that the bank has – the bank statements – and being sure that we understand any differences. The only difference we should have are timing differences; e.g. we pay a cheque but it’s not cleared at the bank yet. Accountants call this checking process bank reconciliation, but what you’re doing is simply proving your records are correct by comparing them to another source.

We should also look at customer balances. I find that most business owners are very much on top of who owes them money. If I give them a list of customer balances with something wrong then they’ll quickly tell me. So check your customer balances, look for anything that looks dubious and correct when you find something that needs correcting. Remember, if a customer balance is wrong then your sales figure could also be wrong.

Lets move on to the supplier balances. Again, most business owners are very aware of who they owe money to, so they will quickly spot anything that’s wrong and we can fix that. Again, if supplier balances are wrong, then your purchased costs could also be wrong.

Your inventory or stock number is a key figure in your accounts.  If your inventory is overstated, this has the effect of making it look as if you got stock for free so you profit will be overstated.  If your inventory is understated, then it looks as if you lost stock somewhere so your profits will be understated.   It is very important to get your inventory or stock number right.

Finally, we can quickly look at the other assets and liabilities that might be in the balance sheet and check if they look ok. For example, if there’s machinery or equipment listed in your assets, do the balances look ok? If there are tax liabilities, do those amounts seem right?

Once you are happy that your balance sheet is reliable, then you can rely on the related profit and loss account.

Getting your head around shareholder funds

There’s one section of the balance sheet that sometimes confuses clients. This is the section called shareholder funds or sometimes called owners equity/capital. In essence, this section represents the value of the business to the owner.

To understand shareholders funds, you need to ask the question, ‘If the business makes money, who does that money belong to?’ The answer is that it belongs to the owners.

So the difference between what the business has (the assets) and what it owes (the liabilities) represents an amount owing to the owners. We think of it as a liability to the owners and we call it shareholder funds (or owners equity) for companies or owners capital for non-company businesses.

Shareholders funds are reduced by moneys taken out of the business as dividends or drawings.  So the difference between any two balance sheets represents the profits made by the business in the period, less any profits taken out in the same period – in other words, the profits kept by the business.

Check your reports regularly

Your reports are a real goldmine of information. So I recommend to my clients that they get into a routine of regularly – at least monthly – reviewing and checking their reports. By regularly looking at your reporting, you learn as much as possible about the business and can quickly identify where action may need to be taken.

If you are familiar with the ‘Lean thinking’ approach to business, you may have heard about the three voices in any business that give feedback, helping you to manage and improve.

  1. The first voice is the voice of the customer, giving feedback on the quality of the service your business is supplying to them.
  2. The second voice is the voice of the people working in the business. They see up close what’s actually happening and are often an untapped source of information regarding how well the business is operating.
  3. The final voice is the voice of the process. We access the voice of the process by identifying the key measurements that let us know how the process is doing.

Your accounts should be looked at as a voice of the process. When your accounts are designed and implemented well, they provide extremely valuable information about the performance of the business.

So, rather than thinking of accounts as a compliance-type chore, think instead of the rich information that’s hidden within your accounts – and consider how best to access this.

Getting in control of your business performance

When you understand your accounting basics, the value of good reporting and the insights provided by your business numbers, you’re in real control of your enterprise.

And when you add the benefit of working with an experienced, process-driven accountant, you’ll soon start to the postive changes and improvements in your sales, cash flow and the profitability of your business.

If you’d like to know more about working with AccountsPLUS, and applying our ‘engineer’s perspective’ to the machinery of your accounts, please do get in contact. We’d love to help you get complete control over your finances and business performance.

Get in touch to arrange a meeting with the AccountsPLUS team 

Turning your financial transactions into insightful information: an engineering perspective

Understanding the nuts and bolts of your accounting really does give you an advantage as a business owner. As we outlined in our last blog post, breaking down your transactions into inputs and outputs (and thinking like a process-driven engineer) is the first step in getting in proper control of your accounts and finances.

The next step is to start thinking about the process that takes the inputs and outputs – the transactions – and organises them in a way that provides information and insights.

Getting genuine insights from your numbers

To get useful business information, we need to group the transactions in a way that makes sense. At its simplest, we can think of sales, expenses, assets and liabilities. However, accounting packages allow us to get even more, and better, analysis.

For example, we can analyse our sales in multiple ways:

  • We can group the sales by product type or by customer type or by customer region.
  • We can group it by salesperson or by selling unit.
  • We can group sales by best-selling product or poorest-performing product.

By thinking this through when we set up our accounts, we can design the system to provide invaluable information about how the business is performing – information that keeps you in control of the future financial path of your enterprise.

For example, one of my clients is a business consultant. When he first came to me, he just had one figure for sales, with no further analysis. As we were speaking, it became clear that he had three very specific, and different, types of sales:

  • One-off projects – where he helped implement improvements for clients.
  • Recurring income – where he was retained by clients on a part-time basis.
  • Training income – where he provided custom in-house training courses for clients.

However, it also became clear from our discussion that he was most focused on increasing the share of sales that was coming from the recurring income. He’d set a goal of increasing that recurring income to be 66% of his business, but at present he had no way of measuring that – and no way of telling if he was meeting that percentage target.

I recommended that he use an accounting package and group his sales into four categories: Projects, Recurring, Training and Other – a final category, to catch anything that was not in the first three.

As he raised his invoices, he could then select the relevant category for the type of sale.  After that, at any time, he can run a report which summarises the sales by category. And, by doing so, he can easily see if he’s on target or not.

By adding these specific categories into your ‘Chart of Accounts’ (the list of different codes in your accounting system), we make it incredibly easy to track and measure every element of your business and its finances.

Insights into your spending and expenses

We can apply exactly the same categorisation and coding process when looking at expenditure – the cost element of your transactions, where you’re buying from suppliers, whether for resale or for use within the business.

I tend to think of expenses as having a number of main categories:

  • Sales & Marketing costs – creating awareness such as building a website, or producing flyers
  • Building or premises costs – such as rent or maintenance costs
  • Staff costs – such as payroll and bonuses
  • Office-running costs – such as utility bills or software subscriptions
  • Professional costs – such as engaging an accountant, or solicitor
  • Financial costs – such as bank repayments etc.

Within those categories, we can create subcategories to provide additional analysis as we choose. You should choose the categories. The accounts should be working for you – not just for the bank manager, and not just for the Revenue.

Some companies have one ‘big’ expense type in their accounts, while others will chose to break a category down if they think it will help understand what’s happening in the business.   For example, some companies have one category for telephone while others split the telephone cost into mobile and landline. It all depends on what’s most useful for the business. And, crucially, if you have an accounting package then it’s no additional work to simply create a new code in your Chart of Accounts and add a new expense category.

Additionally, many software packages provide a facility to group costs by job or project. While it’s easy to see how this might be useful for a construction company or a project based company, it can also be applied cleverly for other companies.

For example, I have one haulage company who use “projects” to gather the expenses for each truck. In this way, they can easily track fuel, repairs and running costs etc, by truck and can then decide which trucks need to be replaced. It might also indicate if some drivers are more fuel efficient than others.

So think about the type of business that you have and what type of information would be helpful to you in running the business. It’s probably a whole lot easier than you think to code, capture and collate this information.

Putting it all into practice

We’ve outlined how to understand your inputs and outputs, and how to turn this data into insightful reports regarding the performance of the business.

The final step is to combine your basic accounting and financial reporting with a proactive focus on your performance – a topic we’ll cover in the last blog post of this series – “putting your accounting knowledge into practice“.

If you’re looking for assistance with your reporting and business information needs, please do get in contact with us and we’ll show you the ropes.

Get in touch to arrange a meeting with the AccountsPLUS team 

Understanding the nuts and bolts of accounting: an engineering perspective

Understanding the nuts and bolts of accounting: an engineering perspective

I was a latecomer to accounting. I first completed a degree in engineering and only moved to accounting after that.  Almost everyone who heard what I was doing told me how difficult I would find it and that I would struggle to get to grips with it, never having done it before.

However, I actually found it find quite straightforward and not nearly as daunting as I was led to believe. While there’s a lot of jargon that can be off-putting to someone new to accounting, it becomes a bit easier if you try to think of it in terms of processes with inputs and outputs, as an engineering training would encourage.

Let’s start with the inputs.

Understanding your inputs

It’s useful to start by thinking of your accounts as a database of all the various transactions that happen within your business. So the first thing to do is ask what sort of transactions go on in your business – and, funnily enough, the types of transactions are relatively common across most businesses, regardless of industry and sector.

  • Sales – every business sells something to customers. This means that we need to record our sales and we need to have customer records to track what we’re doing for each customer.
  • Purchases – The business will also buy things from suppliers. This means we need to record purchases and we need to have supplier records to track our activity with each supplier.
  • Payment and receipts – Finally, we need to receive and spend money, so we need a way to record these as money in and money out to/from the business.

That gives us three main types of transactions – sales transactions, purchase transactions, and payment/receipt transactions.

Next, we need to think about how to capture and record those transactions – creating the financial records that, ultimately, will become your accounts.

There are a number of ways of setting up and maintaining those records. You can have paper records (traditional but on the decline in the digital age), you can use Excel spreadsheets or you can buy accounting software. Unless your business is very small, it’s better to use accounting software. Most accounting packages will do what we need fairly easily. However, if the software is well designed, it can also give you a lot of other useful information that would be impossible to collate with paper files or Excel files.

Understanding your outputs

Next, we should move to focus on the outputs for the business. What sort of information do we need our accounting records to provide?

  • Business health – we need a measure of how well the business is doing and whether were actually getting a return on our investment (both time and money).
  • Financial reporting – we need reports that will prompt us when actions are necessary; i.e. when to pay a supplier, or when to chase a slow-paying customer.
  • Business performance – finally, we need information that will help us to understand what’s going on in the business and why we’re getting the results we’re seeing.

To understand how well a business is doing we need to know the net worth of the business. The net worth is the difference between what a business has and what that business owes.  Accountants call “what a business has” the assets of the business and they call “what the business owes” the liabilities of the business. So the key report in accounting language is the balance sheet as this lists the assets and the liabilities of the business.

The other thing you will want to understand is where the business is getting money from and where it is spending money. You probably already know that this report is the profit and loss account (we’ll talk about this more in a future blog post). It’s the report that shows how money moves into, and out of, the business – a vital way of measuring performance.

The need for insightful information

So, we’ve explained the basic nuts and bolts of accounting for you. You now understand the importance of breaking your transactions down into the ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’ that explain the flow of money through your business.

The next step is to start turning these financial transactions into insightful, useful business information – a topic we’ll cover in the next in this series of blogs.

If you’d like some help to understand your accounting basics, please do get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to help.

Get in touch to arrange a meeting with the AccountsPLUS team 

Six elements that make an excellent finance function

Overview from PeakAs a business advisor, I get to see a lot of different businesses and their finance functions. At one end of the spectrum, the finance function just does the basics i.e processing invoices, managing cash and preparing the core reports. At the other end of the spectrum, the finance function is a key strategic partner to the senior management – whether that be an owner-manager or a full management team. And between those two extremes, there can be a range of options.

In this article, I will set out what I consider to be the key elements that make up an excellent finance function. No matter how the finance function is structured, it is essential that the management team have access to resources to help them understand, interpret and communicate the relevant data needed to support them in keeping the business on track.

In my experience, there are 6 key elements that come together to create an excellent finance function.

The elements

  1. A foundation made up of the core finance systems
  2. Insightful data that can be analysed as needed
  3. An excellent understanding of the business
  4. Outstanding Influencing Skills
  5. A supportive attitude
  6. Responding Resourcefully

1. The Foundation – Core Systems

Firstly, the basics must be in place and must work unnoticed. There will be appropriate systems that process the transactions – sales invoices, purchase invoices, receipts and payments – smoothly and efficiently. Key controls must operate to secure the assets of the business. The basic reports must be readily available within short timeframes. Essentially, we are looking at a lean operation – delivering what the customers of the function need with minimal intervention.

The one thing that can be guaranteed to cause the users of financial information to lose confidence is if the basic information is not reliable.

Pillar 1 – Insightful data designed to deliver required information

Next, consideration should be given to the type of information and analysis that will be useful. The systems should be designed to collect relevant data and be able to report easily on the data. Management should have considered what type of analysis will be required and the finance systems should be designed to capture that key information when the core transactions are being created so that the reports are available with minimal extra manipulation.

For example, if a distribution company has a goal of maintaining its sales to multiples while significantly growing its sales to independents, I would expect to be able to be able to quickly pull reports that show how sales are split between multiples and independents. To do that, each customer will be categorised and then finance can easily run a report showing sales by customer category.

Pillar 2 – Understanding the business

An excellent CFO will have a very good understanding of the business and will be always aware of what is happening. To be able to evaluate how events will impact on the profitability and on cash flow, the CFO will intuitively understand the relationships within the business.

For example, if sales in the business are switching from high labour products to low labour products, the CFO will have a sense of the impact of this and this would likely trigger an analysis of the specific impact on headcount enabling the business to respond proactively.

To develop this awareness, the CFO will spend time walking around the business understanding what happens within the business and talking to key people whether that be operators or management. This CFO will have good relationships with the other managers and will keep himself or herself informed of what is going on in the business. I would expect the CFO to run projections a several times a year and then to compare the projections with the outcomes. In this way the CFO will be testing and developing his/her understanding of the business.

Pillar 3 – Outstanding Influence Skills

The third pillar for an excellent finance function is to be able to influence key people. These key people can be management colleagues, direct reports, funders, customers or suppliers. To be a key influencer you must know what is important to the audience and you must be able to communicate simply and clearly.

Pillar 4 – A Supportive Attitude

A great CFO will understand that Finance is a support function and that its role is to help operations and the other departments to deliver the product or service. Because everyone will not have financial acumen, the CFO will be alert for opportunities to help the other functions and to use finance constructively for the benefit of the business.

It is also important to be able to nurture that attitude throughout the finance staff. The CFO can’t do everything and needs to have a like-minded team around him or her so that the CFO can delegate well while focusing on what’s important. This is done by hiring well, by managing well and by being an excellent role model for how an excellent finance professional operates.

The Roof – Responding Resourcefully

When a finance function has the basics right, curates key information, understands the business, operates supportively and is a key influencer, the function can then respond resourcefully for the business by evaluating the events that are happening so that opportunities can be grasped and problems can be anticipated.

It’s probably true to say that for a really great CFO, technical ability is less important than the CFO’s ability to influence strategic discussions with useful analysis of timely, relevant and accurate data. This ability comes from understanding how the business works, understanding what’s important to the business and to the management colleagues and then being able to use that understanding to make a difference to how the business addresses the key issues that it faces.


Having read this article, what are the elements you need to focus on in order to improve your finance function? Why not rate each element as it is in your organisation. Then prioritise the elements you need to work on, preparing a one-page plan with attachments around specific action plans if required.

If you need help developing your one page action plan, feel free to contact me.

Seven Drivers of Highly Engaged Staff

This months Blog Post comes from Mindshop Colleagues Mark Buckland and Wayne Lockhart

In his highly acclaimed book ‘Good to Great’ Jim Collins suggests that employing, leading and managing staff is like taking a bus trip. In doing so he outlined two philosophies related to how business owners get the best out of their people in helping them to achieve their goals.

The first suggests that business owners need to have clear direction as to where they are going and then select (or retain) the people most likely to help them get there. This means that planning related to target markets, sales, marketing, technology, and innovation should take place prior to decisions about who will be the best people to assist in the achievement of set goals.

This would mean that business owners need to decide where the bus is going and then get the right people on the bus to help them get to a prescribed destination. It raises the question that if people join the bus because of where it is going, what happens if you get ten kilometres down the road and need to change direction? It is highly likely that this will create a misalignment between the new direction of the bus and the skills, values, needs and aspirations of the ‘passengers’?

Collin’s extensive research has revealed an alternative strategy used by many successful businesses whereby they first decide who is going to be on the bus and then decide what direction the bus is going to take. In other words the right people will help you determine where you need to go and then help you get there.

This finding supports the belief that if you start with the type of people you need rather than where the business is going, your business will be able to adapt more readily to change. It also reinforces the fact that if you have the wrong people on the bus it won’t matter if you discover the right direction, you still won’t achieve your goals. As Collins states, “great vision without great people is irrelevant”.

Whatever philosophy you subscribe to as a business owner you still need to keep your staff highly engaged or they won’t produce the best possible results. There are seven (7) key elements to such engagement:

Leadership – It doesn’t matter that the direction of the bus changes over time as long as the business is not rudderless (a mixed metaphor) and staff are involved and communicated with in terms of the overall goals and targets of the business. (see Leadership Diagnostic in this issue of XceLerator).

Purpose – Greater meaning and job satisfaction is derived from the belief that our work serves a worthwhile purpose. This is what gives us a sense of achievement.

Recognition and Reward – All staff need their efforts recognised. This may range from a pat on the back to staff award, pay rise or bonus. It is a clear signal that their work is needed, respected and makes a difference.

Opportunity – Staff need to feel that there is opportunity for their progress and development, both formally and informally.

Relationships – These can be both internal and external. The more positive the relationships with our fellow workers and our customers the better we tend to feel about our work.

Job Fulfilment – The work needs to be satisfying and meet their professional, emotional and intellectual needs.

Work-Life Balance – While work is an integral part of their lives, staff need to achieve balance and not feel that other important aspects of their lives are being consistently sacrificed because of their work circumstances.

If your staff are not “on the bus” and are not actively helping you to achieve your goals, you may do well to reflect on the seven key drivers of engagement and assess where you as the leader can improve the workplace dynamic. Mindshop facilitators have particular expertise in identifying productivity blockages and helping businesses to create more productive and rewarding workplaces.

If you have any commments or questions on this post feel free to contact me at jim(at)accountsplus(dot)ie