The Triangle of Fraud Risk

A 2014 Global Fraud Study conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) estimates that the average business loses five percent of their revenues to fraud.  The global total of fraud losses is $3.7 trillion.  The median fraud case goes 18 months before detection and results in a $145,000 loss.  How can you avoid being a fraud victim?

The first step is to become more aware of the conditions that make fraud possible.  The fraud triangle is a model that describes three components that need to be present in order for fraud to occur:

  1. Motivation (or Need)
  2. Rationalization
  3. Opportunity

When fewer than three legs of the triangle are present, we can deter fraud.  When all three are present, fraud could occur.

Motivation

Financial pressure at home is an example of when motivation to commit fraud is present.  The fraud perpetrator finds themselves in need of large amounts of cash due to any number of reasons:  poor investments, gambling, a flamboyant lifestyle, need for health care funds, family requirements, or social pressure.  In short, the person needs money and lots of it fast.

Rationalization

The person who commits fraud rationalizes the act in their minds:

  • I’m too smart to get caught.
  • I’ll put it back when my luck changes.
  • The big company won’t miss it.
  • I don’t like the person I’m stealing from.
  • I’m entitled to it.

At some point in the process, the person who commits fraud loses their sense of right and wrong and their fear of any consequences.

Opportunity

Here’s where you as a business owner come in.  If there’s a leak in your control processes, then you have created an opportunity for fraud to occur.  People who handle cash, signatory authority on a bank account, or financial records with poor oversight could notice that there is an opportunity for fraud to occur with the ability to cover the act up for some time.

Seventy-seven percent of all frauds occur in one of these departments:  accounting, operations, sales, executive/upper management, customer service, purchasing and finance. The banking and financial services, government and public administration, and manufacturing industries are at the highest risk for fraud cases. (Source: ACFE)

Prevention

Once you understand a little about fraud, prevention is the next step.   To some degree, all three points on the triangle can be controlled; however, most fraud prevention programs focus on the third area the most:  Opportunity.  When you can shut down the opportunity for fraud, then you’ve gone a long way to prevent it.

While we hope fraud never happens to you, it makes good sense to take preventative steps to avoid it.  Please give us a call if we can help you in any way.

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5 Ways to Delight Your Customers

Providing great service can make a huge difference in a small business. For companies like Zappos, Nordstrom, and Southwest Airlines, customer service is a differentiator from their competitors. Done right, good customer service can bring lots of referrals that lead to increased revenue. Here are five tips to improve service to your customers.

1- “Welcome Home” Greeting

Consider your business as your home and your customers as invited guests. No matter how they come to you, whether by phone, email, or in person, greet them like you would a guest. If your business has a storefront and customers walk in, have your employees greet them immediately with a welcome message that ends in “Please, make yourself at home.” If your prospect or customer calls you, greet them warmly with “I’m so glad you called.” If a customer or prospect emails you, personally email them back (no autoresponders) to let them know you received their message and when you will be replying.

A warm welcome every time your customer contacts you will make them feel important.

2- Throwback Thank You Cards

Be old-fashioned for a change and handwrite thank you cards to your top clients. You can get blank folding cards with matching envelopes from your local printer or paper shop and have your company logo printed on them. If you don’t have time for that, consider SendOutCards.com.

3- Apologize

Things are bound to go wrong. Be quick with a heartfelt apology whether it’s your fault or not. If your customer struggled with anything – your website, shopping cart, store display, out-of-stock item, and so on – teach your employees to apologize first, then own the problem and get it fixed for all future clients. You can also teach them the language, “thank you for giving us the opportunity to fix this for all future clients.”

4- Mystery Shop

Periodically hire a mystery shopper to evaluate the customer experience at your business. These customer service experts will provide you with a list of suggestions, from your initial voice mail recording to paying your bill. Everywhere your business touches a client should be streamlined, easy, and sealed with a smile.

5- Listen

Your customers can be the best source of ideas for your next new revenue stream. Listen to their feedback and incorporate their ideas into your business.

Try these customer service tips to delight your customers, and watch your revenue grow.

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Will 2016 Be Your Best Year Ever?

If you want 2016 to be better than 2015, you have to do something differently in 2016 than you did in 2015. It’s a simple but profound realization. Change brings the opportunity to make things better; it can be scary yet exciting at the same time.

Ask yourself what you are going to do differently to have your best year ever. Here are some questions and exercises to consider:

Clarify Your Vision
What does the world look like after it’s consumed your product or service? A vision statement for a company helps to keep everyone on track and seeing the bigger picture of what they’re accomplishing day after day. How is the world smarter, more beautiful, happier, healthier, or wealthier after they’ve left your business?

If you haven’t written your business vision and mission statement, consider this exercise for 2016.

Create New Habits
What habits are holding you back? Which ones are propelling you forward? Choose one habit that’s costing you the most and make a commitment to drop it from your 2016 repertoire. Conversely, identify the habit that is brining you happiness and wealth and multiply it.

Let Go
Sometimes we need to let go before we can move forward. What do you need to let go of? Are there customers or employees in your life that sap your energy or your bank account?

Build Your Support Structure
Are you short-staffed? The way you manage your time has everything to do with your success or the lack of it. If you are taking up your time with a lot of low-dollar tasks, it’s going to be hard to boost your income and get ahead. Surround yourself with support to do everything that can be delegated, including personal tasks such as grocery shopping, housekeeping, cooking, and lawn maintenance as well as tasks such as filing, bookkeeping, appointment scheduling, and routine customer service.

Make a list of areas where you could use support, and fill these gaps. In today’s world, you don’t need to hire full time people to fill these slots; you can simply get responsible contractors, other small businesses, and virtual assistants to build your support team.

Focus
What project or task would make a huge difference in 2016 if you could pull it off? Focus on the high payback projects and commit to one, even though it might be out of your comfort zone. Imagine the difference in your business once it’s completed, and get inspired to get started.

Choose just one of these areas to start your 2016 out with hope, intention, and excitement.

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Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly?

You may have heard that Google has rolled out a new search algorithm that ranks mobile-friendly websites higher than sites that are not mobile-friendly. You don’t need to worry too much about this unless you rely on website leads for new clients to build your business.

If you do rely on website leads for new business and your leads have dropped off over the summer, the reason could be that your site is not mobile-friendly and has been ranked lower because of it.  Here are three steps you can go through to determine the status of your site.

Take a Free Mobile-Friendly Test

Go to this link and enter your domain name.

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

It takes about a minute or two to find out whether your site is mobile-ready.

If your site passes, you’re done!  You don’t need to do anything.  If it doesn’t, then go to step 2.

Contact Your Webmaster

Ask your webmaster for an estimate to get your site mobile-ready.

Take Action

Google started making changes to the search algorithm the week of April 20, 2015 has now implemented it worldwide.  To benefit from mobile traffic and a higher search ranking, make plans to get your site mobile-friendly sooner rather than later.

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Get Finance-Savvy with 10 Accounting Terms

It’s good to know some basic accounting terms, and here are ten terms with friendly definitions for your review.

Asset:  Essentially, assets are what you own.   These include your bank accounts, business equipment, and even the amounts that customers owe you.

Revenue:  Revenue is what you make.  Another word for it is Sales.  You generate revenue in your business when you make a sale to a customer.  The amount of the sale is included in revenue.

Expense:  An expense is what you spend in your business on items that are not expected to benefit you in the long term.  Expenses include credit card fees, office supplies, insurance, rent, payroll expense, and similar items that you need to incur to keep your business running.

COGS:  COGS stands for Cost of Goods Sold.  It’s a form of expense that directly relates to the product or service being sold.  For example, if shoes are being sold, the cost of purchasing those shoes are consider COGS, while something like rent or insurance is simply an expense.  COGS is more important in manufacturing, retail, and distribution companies.

Net Income:  Another word for net income is profit.  It’s calculated by subtracting expenses from revenue.  If what’s left over is a positive number, it’s net income and if it’s negative, it’s a net loss.  Besides your salary, it’s the amount of money you can either keep or re-invest into your business.

Debit:  A debit is a term that tells you whether money is being increased or decreased.  The hard part is that it’s opposite depending on the account and the company.  Here are some examples:

  • A debit to cash increases it, so that’s good.
  • A debit to a loan you owe decreases it, so that’s good too because you are paying it off.
  • When you talk to a bank teller and they want to debit your account, it means they are taking money away, because your account is a liability to them.  So it’s opposite.

Credit:  A credit is a term that tells you whether money is being increased or decreased.  The hard part is that it’s opposite depending on the account and the company.  Here are some examples:

  • A credit to cash decreases it, as in writing a check to someone.
  • A credit to a loan you owe increases it, so you owe more money.
  • When you talk to a bank teller and they want to credit your account, it means they are putting money in, because your account is a liability to them.  So it’s opposite.

 

GAAP: GAAP stands for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.  It refers to the set of standards that must be followed by accountants when creating accounting reports for people like bankers and investors who rely on them.

Liabilities:  Liabilities are what you owe.  If you have loans taken out for your business or owe vendors money for invoices of purchases they sent you, those are liabilities.  Common liabilities include sales tax that you’ve collected but not paid, unpaid vendors’ invoices, credit cards that are not paid off each month, mortgages on buildings, and any bank loans you’ve taken out.

Equity:  In mathematical terms, equity is the net of your assets less your liabilities.  In more philosophical terms, it’s the net amount you and your fellow business owners have invested in your business adjusted by the years of net income you’ve made less what you’ve taken out of the business.

How many terms did you already know?  Do you feel smarter already?  Knowing accounting terms will help you understand this aspect of your business a bit better.

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Cool Tech Tools: Automate Your To-Do List

Keeping a to-do list is a great way to be productive, avoid having things fall through the crack, and unclutter your brain.  How you maintain your to-do list varies: some people use pen and paper because they love the feeling of crossing tasks off, others use Excel or Google documents.  Still others might try Evernote.

If all of those still have you feeling unorganized, then you’re in luck.  There’s a whole new genre of apps to automate your to-do list.  Here is a list of things to consider:

  1. Would it be great to access your to-do list from any device?
  2. Do you need subtasks?
  3. Would you like to set priorities and due dates?
  4. Do you want notifications or reminders?
  5. Do you want to share tasks with others?
  6. Do you have repeating tasks that need to be handled differently?
  7. Do you need to be able to make comments or notes for each task?
  8. Would it be nice to forward an email to your to-do list and just have it logged?
  9. Do you want to be able to print your to-do list?
  10. Do you want to be able to set hash tags, filters, and labels for each task?

Once you’ve thought about your requirements, now you can look for an app that meets it.  Here are two to get you started:

  • ToDoist.com
  • Wunderlist.com

If those don’t work out, Google “to-do list apps” and you’ll have a bevy of selections to choose from.  These to-do lists will work for not only business projects but also major life projects like weddings, vacations, and more.

Try these new to-do list apps and let us know what you think.

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How Pinterest and Instagram Can Make You Money

There’s a visual side to every business, and Pinterest and Instagram, which are social media applications, can show your customers and prospects what your business looks like form day to day. Plus, you can have some real fun with it.

Pinterest allows people to post graphics to online bulletin boards and share them with others. In Pinterest, graphics of all kinds are allowed, including photographs, screen prints, logos, and more. In Instagram, photos are posted and shared among users. Here are some tips you can implement in your business to take advantage of Pinterest and Instagram.

1. Take pictures of your work.

Even if you’re a plumber, work can be interesting and artistic at times. Take a picture of the child’s toy that was clogging the toilet, and you could have an entire pinboard of “Things that we’ve pulled out of toilets.” If you’re in personal service, you can photograph your client’s new manicure or hairdo (with their permission of course). If you’re in landscaping you can snap the cleanup job you just did. If you’re a webmaster, take screen prints of your clients’ new webpages and post them to Pinterest.

2. Take pictures of the happy client.

Before leaving your happy client, grab a photo of them showing their new product. With their permission you can post these to both Pinterest and Instagram. As an added plus, use the client’s testimonials or review as your caption, and if they are a small business owner, include their URL to help them out a bit with their marketing and social media.

3. Grab before and after shots.

Before and after photos are great for your portfolio and work well in both Pinterest and Instagram. They can show a future customer what’s possible with your service.

4. Shoot daily scenes at your office or place of work.

Do all your employees hangout in the morning before going their separate ways? Do you ever have all-hands staff meetings? If so, you can add these photos to your growing collection at Instagram.

5. Create topical pinboards.

Even if your job isn’t very funny, you can make funny pinboards about it (exceptions possibly being hospitals and funeral homes). Accounting humor, attorney jokes, and engineering humor can make for a fun Pinterest board. Other ideas include:

  • A pinboard of people you look up to or who have mentored you,
  • Favorite books you’ve read or like,
  • Inspirational quotes,
  • Favorite places,
  • Your team of employees, and
  • Any of the categories mentioned above.

Go wild with photos and screen shots in your business, and your business will get noticed on social media.

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Eight Ways to Save Time You Might Not Have Thought About

Time is money as they say, and if you can save time, you’re also saving money. Since your time is limited to 24/7, both personal and business time saved is profitable. Here are eight ways to save time (and money) for your consideration. Go through all of them with an open mind, and see which one might work best for you.

1. The trip to the grocery store

If you’re making several trips to the grocery store throughout the week, this one is for you. Cut down on those trips by taking inventory of your kitchen and seeing what you’ll need for the week (or longer). Shopping once a week will save precious time throughout the week.

Better yet, have your groceries delivered. Some shops will also pick and bag your times so your selections are ready for pickup. Even better, hire an assistant to shop for you so that your refrigerator and pantry is stocked when you get home.

2. Appointment scheduling

Automate your appointment scheduling and you’ll free up weeks of admin time for either you or your staff. There are dozens of apps, many industry-specific that can help you save time making appointments. Once you’ve set it up, send the link to the people you’ll be meeting and voila, it will appear on your calendar.

Here are a few to check out:

For field service companies in the home repair or maintenance industries that serve commercial and residential customers, Google “field service scheduling” to get the right software for your business.

3. Office supplies

Order your supplies online and have them delivered.

4. Email interruptions

Turn off automatic send and receive in your email software to get rid of that nasty interruption. Mark your calendar to check and answer your email three to four times a day. You’ll go home happier and feeling more in control of your work with this one change.

5. The commute

If you can manage it, working from home one to two days a week can save you commute time. You may also be able to avoid rush hour by altering your work hours if you have some flexibility. After all, it’s your business.

6. Those errands

Batching your errands all into one day will save precious start and stop time on your other work days. Better yet, choose one day a week for outside errands and personal appointments so that you can get into the habit of this for the long term.

7. Takeout

Do you go out for lunch every day? You may need the break or you may need to have that power lunch with a new business partner or client. But on days you don’t, have takeout delivered so you don’t have to waste time ordering and standing in line.

8. The bank

Are you going to the bank constantly? If so, you can avoid it in a number of ways:

• Take credit cards, and have clients pay online.
• Ask your bank about remote or mobile check deposit options.
• Hire a company to transport your cash deposits – Google “Cash logistics” to find companies with armored car services. It won’t hurt to find out how much it costs and you might be surprised.

Did you get an idea on how to save time? If so, it’s your turn to implement and reap the benefits.

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Three Costly Accounting Mistakes to Avoid

Small business owners have a lot on their plates, and time simply does not allow you to become an expert in all the areas required for running a business. Here are a couple of common mistakes that we see all the time. Correcting them will help you be more productive and profitable in your business.

1. Mismanaging receipts

Maintaining receipts are challenging for everyone, but the IRS requires that you have proof of business expenditures. Periodically, we come across people who feel that keeping the credit card statements are enough; unfortunately, they’re not. You’ll want to create a process to keep your receipts all in one place so they don’t get lost.

Receipts printed on thermal paper (think gas station receipts and many more) will fade within a year or two, and the bad news is the IRS could audit several years back if they come calling. Correct this by scanning them in or taking a clear picture of them using your smartphone.

Some accounting systems and/or document management applications allow you to upload the receipt and attach it to the transaction in your accounting system. This is a great solution, and if you’re interested in this, please ask us about it.

2. Ignoring the accounting reports

There are gold nuggets in your accounting reports, but some business owners don’t take the time to review them or are uncertain about how to interpret them. Your accountant can help you understand the reports and find the gold nuggets that can help you take action toward profitability.

Some of the things you can do with your reports include:

  • Identifying your highest selling services or products
  • Projecting cash flow so you’re not caught short at payroll time
  • Getting clear on your top customers or your demographic of top customers
  • Evaluating your marketing or business development spend
  • Pointing out trends compared to prior years, budget, or seasonality effects
  • Checking up on profit margins per product or service to make sure you are priced correctly
  • Managing aging receivables or speeding up collections
  • Measuring employee profitability, if relevant
  • And so much more
  • Being proactive with your accounting will help you spot opportunities in your business that you can act on, as well as spot and correct problems long before they manifest into trouble.

    3. Mixing business and pleasure

    In your bank accounts and on your credit cards, mixing business and pleasure is to be avoided when possible. All businesses should have a separate bank account, and all business transactions should go through there. It takes an accountant much longer to correctly book a business deposit that was deposited into a personal account.

    Taking out a separate credit card and putting all your business transactions on it will save your bookkeeper a ton of time. The credit card doesn’t even have to be a business credit card. It can just be a personal credit card that’s solely used for business. If you have employees making credit card charges, sometimes a separate card for them helps you control fraud.

    The hardest area in which to separate business from pleasure is cash transactions. Be sure your accountant knows about these. The accountant can either set up a petty cash account or a reimbursement process so that you can get credit for cash expenditures that are for the business.

    How did you rate on these three mistakes? Avoid these three and your accounting department as well as your business will run a lot smoother.

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Cool Apps: Zapier

Do you need to get data from one app to another?   If so, it’s time to check out Zapier.

You might be moving data manually from, let’s say, your shopping cart to your CRM or from Evernote to Google Docs, or something like that.  Zapier allows you to automate the process with what they call a Zap.

In the Zapier app, click Make a Zap, and you’ll see two dropdown menus:  Trigger app and Action app.  Your trigger app is the one where the data is stored and your action app is the one where you want the data to be moved to.

Continuing the shopping cart example above, you would choose your shopping cart app as the trigger app.  Zapier support BigCommerce, Ontraport, Infusionsoft, Shopify, Magento, and more.  It will then ask you for details about the transaction and the type of data you want to port over.  Your action app will be your CRM, and Zapier supports dozens of them.  It will ask you for your user ID and password for each application and some more specifics about the type of data you want to transfer.

You can run your zap one time or every fifteen minutes, depending on the nature of your data transfer.  Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • From Evernote to Google Calendar, add an event.
  • From your blog to Facebook, post your latest blog entry.
  • Create QuickBooks Online sales receipt from PayPal
  • Create QBO customer from Salesforce (or other CRM)
  • Create Constant Contact contact from QBO customer
  • And several thousand more combinations!

The admin time you will save will amaze you.  Data entry and moving data around is truly becoming a thing of the past.  You can go to Zapier.com and create a free trial.  There is a charge for a larger number of zaps.

And, as always, if you’d like our help, please reach out.

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