All posts in Jacksonville CPA

Small Batch Standard is born

Hey friends,

Check out our new division created solely to serve Craft Breweries and Distilleries.

www.sbstandard.com

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Taproom POS

Recently, taproom POS (point of sale) questions keep appearing up on my radar. More specifically, people want to know which tablet application is best for their taproom.  Within the last 5 years many POS startups have moved in and commanded respect in the space.  The introduction of the tablet in business, coupled with these subscription POS systems has granted increased access to reputable/respectable products.  One major benefit of using a iPad or Android device as a POS is the up-front investment.  Compared to a traditional POS, the “price to play” is about 1/3rd.  Most tablet based POS systems’ have a monthly subscription pricing structure, often with the only upfront cost being the hardware. (*Note many are now using the hardware as a giveaway to win the business)  A traditional POS system can cost between $10-15K when you factor in all the hardware and printer paper?  Printer paper?  WGAS about printer paper you ask; trust me it all adds up.

Here are some questions I have seen lately:

So why scrap the old skewl cash register?
Couple of reasons:  1) Depending on how you set up your items,  super useful reports can be generated on what is selling and what is not.  2) Cash controls are far better with a POS.  3) A frekin  iPad looks cool in the taproom.

Which one should I get?
I have played with many subscription based POS systems and while the prices are sweet, the functionality may not jive with your processes.  For example, Vend, Shopkeep, SalesVu, Square, are all considered retail POS systems.  This would be perfect if you were just a packing store,; but if your people are drinking onsite (host onsite consumption space), creating tabs may give you a issue.  **Breadcrumb is one true restaurant POS that falls in the subscription space.  These systems usually have a free trial.  My suggestion would be to sign up, test, and see if it works for your space.

What about the big boys, they all seem to have tablet options now?
Micros, Aloha, Calypso have all rolled out some tablet version of their software.  Problem is they are all still expensive.  Look, if you are pulling down $150-200k and have multiple terminals in your taproom, then the big boys is the way to go.

Conclusion:
Subscriptions based POS systems are here to stay and tablets are making them a viable option for the taproom.  With all the options out there, you may need to test a few or get with a expert who is going to help you pick on that will fit in your processes.

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The “Commitment”

The next phase in brewery development is what I call “the commitment.”  Capital is committed, a location is committed, equipment is committed and en-route, construction starts and anxiety sets in.  You are actually doing this!  Along with your commitment to brewing awesome beer, you also have a commitment to your financial fitness.  Bookkeeping, payroll, brewers reports, tank labels, and brewing & packing schedules are a FEW of the items you must keep in order to ensure your fitness.  **I caution new breweries not to skimp on the back office expense for the sake of saving a few dollars in the beginning.**  The old adage “you get what you pay for” also applies to the accounting and consulting world.  Here are a few steps to take to ensure your back office is in order:

  1. Interview outsourced controllership firms – Take the temperature of the team.  Do they speak your language? Do they dress like you?  Are they excited about your entry into the market?  Do they intimidate you? Would you hire these people to work at your brewery?
  2. Research who is the expert in the space – While you may not be able to hire the expert during year 1, they may have some helpful advice to share.  Set a goal to eventually get to the level where you can work with the expert.
  3. Talk to other breweries – Breweries love to help other breweries, so ask them what their back office looks like.  Do they do it in-house or outsourced? Are they happy with the results?  Is it clean, or are they managing it on Excel?  Do they know what their cost per BBL is?

Your commitment to financial fitness is as important as the beer you produce!

Potential interview questions:

  1. What is your experience with TTB reporting?
  2. Can you help my brewery grow?  How?
  3. What retail/restaurant experience do you have?
  4. What manufacturing experience do you have?
  5. Are you familiar with industry specific software that can help my processes?
  6. Our goal is to grow distribution statewide and then expand across multiple states, can you grow with us?
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Considering your move

To keep up the momentum of the last post I have come up with a list of five “thought points” a potential brewery should consider while planning their arrival; enjoy:

  1. Capital – Do you have the money it takes to open a brewery?  I see undercapitalized businesses across many industries, and it doesn’t work.  Under capitalization is the equivalent of roofers affixing shingles with bubble gum, it simply won’t last.  Seek council to understand the capital requirements to open a brewery; oh yea….use nails.
  2. Plan – Do you have a plan?  I am not talking about a traditional business plan.  I am talking about a PLAN.  Traditional business plans are for winemakers, you’re brewing beer guy. I am talking about: brewery layout, 1, 3, 5 year goals, parking, expansion, marketing, staff, benchmarks.  Can you feel the energy you are about to bring? We can’t predict the future, but we can plan.
  3. Distribution – What does distribution look like in your state?  Here in Florida, all wholesale must pass through a distributor.  Some states have self-distribution and that is a GOOD thing.   Depending on your state, a refrigerated truck purchase may be on the horizon.
  4. Back office – I am confident you know how to operate all those valves and tanks, but can you balance your check book?  The accounting and compliance piece may be a little more than the wife can handle.  Hire someone knows the industry, they will get it!  This is important for two reasons: 1) because proper record keeping will keep the TTB out of your hair and 2) you want to know if your operation is profitable.
  5. Culture – Who will you serve?  I understand anyone who bellies up to the bar and has money; but what does that person look like?  Culture benefits more than just the patrons, it’s the unspoken writing on the wall every business owner strives for.  Define your culture, and the people will come.
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Energy Farming


Last week, I had the opportunity to hear Jim Cederna speak. The majority of Jim’s talk focused on his fundamental approach to change.
Executive Summary:

Financial Success comes from two places:
1) Ecstatic Customers
2) World Class Operations

How do you achieve those?
1) With a Plan
2) The right People
3) Productive team environment

The talk went into great details on the 3 P’s and many awesome examples were given.
Thanks Jim!

Ok, so here’s the deal. Many of you may or may not know, I struggle with the “people” part of the equation. (When I say people, I am talking about the team, not customers) Its the truth, I am not going to deny it; some people say I have a harsh(er) delivery than most. I never fluff reality; I get straight to the point. Last week my “a-ha” moment came when Jim suggested that we lead our team with strengths and surround our self with the opposite. What a simple idea!! Two Chris’s in the same office would be a challenge. This got me thinking, what are Chris Farmand’s strengths? I came up with: Caring, Charmer, Listener, Selling, Comforter, Witty, Clever, Sees the world from 30k feet, Energy cultivator.

So here it is people………..

I am a energy farmer looking to align myself with people who can process energy into RESULTS.

Can ya feel me?

ps: We are hiring :)

pss: Share your strengths below

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IC Opportunities

I spent the last 48 hour in chilly Chicago with a group of thought leaders who command attention in the accounting arena. Jody Padar organized the first annual (maybe quarterly) IC Opportunities Event which brought together practitioners, vendors, media, marketers, state societies to discuss the direction of the profession. Greg Kyte, our resident comedian, welcomed us with a colorful keynote. Vendors in attendance included representatives from Intuit, Thomson Reuters, Wolters Kluwer, Sharra Chan of Orange Door, Jennifer Warawa of Sage, Kasey Bayne of Freshbooks, Sarah Johnson of Inovautus, Peter Wolf of Azamba Consulting, Kathleen Echeverria of bill.com, Tamera Loerzel of Convergence Coaching and Michael Redisch of Cloudsway. Our media friends were Danielle Lee of Accounting Tomorrow and Rick Telberg of CPA Trendlines. Oh, and how can I forget, Jackie Brown representing the MACPA, only the COOLEST state society in the land.

Jody started the brain dump bright and early with a discuss on “the Gap.” The four areas we focused on were Mobile, Could, Social, and Project Management. In groups, we discussed the external and internal forces that prevent firms from adopting. The discussion moved to suggestions on how the four areas could gain more traction with the traditional firms. In the afternoon Geni Whitehouse, Jason Blumer Kasey, Sharra, and Joe Manzelli moderated deeper round table talks on Social, Cloud, and Project Management.

I was honored to be invited to an event like this. I was so happy to leave the comfort of my office, during tax season, and engage my brain in the future of accounting. My take-aways from the event were; the profession is moving in a direction to offer creative services above and beyond the traditional “tax-man” services. Acceptance of cloud and mobile technology will be a must for these services to flourish.

Jody, when is the next one?

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Thrivecast and Andriod

Self-proclaimed Googleites,

Come one, come all; and feast on the work-around to listen to Greg and Jason‘s Thrivecast on your Andriod device.

Copy the link below and paste it into your RSS feed reader or Google Reader, it will update automatically.

http://www.screencast.com/users/JasonBlumer/folders/THRIVEal%20Podcasts/itunes

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Knowledge Management?

When I first heard the term knowledge management I thought to myself; great, one more buzz phrase to add to the list.  Static this, tacit who?  Reverse please:

I am a simple guy.  I like simple things.  I enjoy taking complex ideas and simplifying them so they can be understood.  The conversion from complex to human is an important one, because once I can understand it, the word can flow into the streets.

My research of Knowledge Management turned up a number of explanations and ideas, all being complex.  I also uncovered that knowledge management was more than a business buzz; it kinda separates the entrepreneurs from business owners.  Lets get started.

Literature on the topic usually refer to two types of knowledge: static and tacit.
Stop.  For this post the two types of knowledge I am going to talk about are: textbooks and brain mojo.  For our scholars out there, textbooks translate into static knowledge, and brain mojo translates to the ever so sexy tacit knowledge.  Textbooks and brain mojo, textbooks and brain mojo, say it with me, please

Textbooks, or static knowledge, is the information we process into knowledge from the resources all around us.  School, textbooks, IRS websites, PDF’s, magazines, white-papers, case studies etc.  This knowledge is available to anyone who wants it.  Its not a secret, it is literally what has been published for people to read and process.  Textbook knowledge is great because just like a textbook, if you forget it or need to reference it, just look it up.

Brain Mojo, or tacit knowledge, is the information that makes the world tick.  I refer to it as Brain Mojo, because unlike textbooks, someones Brain Mojo is rarely published for others use.  Even if we did a better job publishing Brain Mojo, I believe only a few could benefit from it.  Brain Mojo perpetuates entrepreneurship.   An appropriate example to illustrate someones phenomenal Brain Mojo would be the late Steve Jobs.  I have heard the critics call Mr. Jobs controlling, degrading, genius, perfectionist, among other names.  These labels Mr. Jobs accumulated throughout his career are a direct result of his Brain Mojo.  His Brain Mojo, directed, created, edited, criticized, and complemented everything that came out of Apple.  Some say he left a road map for Apple to follow for the years to come.  Let me be clear here, a road map is not Brain Mojo, so it is left to be seen if the current leader at Apple can carry on Mr. Jobs legacy.

Since textbooks are already in circulation, some say it is important to try and capture the Brain Mojo to pass on.  I am not sure it is that easy.  I understand manuals, policies, and trade secrets can be documented, but I believe the Mojo is something deeper.

Your thoughts?

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Video Conferencing

As video conferencing becomes a more popular platform for customer meetings I frequently ask myself the following questions:

  • Is this as important as a face-to-face meeting?
  • Should I worry about my camera appearance?
  • How prepared should I be for these meetings?

Typically in a traditional meeting (in-person), I come prepared with my Xoom, paper, writing utensil, business cards, cleanly shaved face, etc.  But what about the Skype meeting that I find myself in more and more these days?  To help me uncover this burning question I have taken a series of face shots of me during one of these meetings.

As you can see, the results are not what you would expect from a seasoned Skyper.  This led me to do further research on video conferencing etiquette, here are my findings.

  1. Be Prepared – This may sound obvious, but it is important.  Being prepared can mean different things for different industries, I am going to focus on the professional services.  For starters, arrive on time.  Just because it is a video meeting does not mean that you can show up 15 minutes late.  Next, check your equipment.  Is your mic and speakers working, your headset, is the volume at a disturbing level.  I have sat through Skype meetings where the other parties mic volume was so high I had to turn my speaker volume all the way down just to understand what they were saying.  Last, ensure your relevant notes and talking points are current.  If you have to search for a key figure under a mound of paper on your desk, this may not look good.
  2. Camera Appearance – As you can see from my photo spread above, I need some help in this area.  Personal hygiene should not fall by the waste side just because you are meeting on the web.  I try and communicate my personal hygiene, as if I was attending a traditional meeting.  Next, look into the camera.  It is real easy to get distracted by a second monitor, cell phone, assistant, calendar reminders, etc.  I try and align my video conferencing software right below my web cam and focus on the camera lenses when I am talking.  When I am listening, I will slightly shift my eyes down to the software, allowing me to watch the customer.  Physical appearance can tell you a lot about the person you are meeting with.
  3. Know your software – We are human and things happen.  Coughs, sniffles, other bodily noises, and earthquakes are beyond our control.  Save yourself the embarrassment and understand how to operate the software in case you need to hit the mute button or end the video portion of the call.  After a meeting, I try and spend 10 minutes exploring the software for new features I did not know about.  These may come in handy one day when the going gets tough.

When technology embeds itself more and more into our lives, we think no one is watching.  Unfortunately this is not true with video conferencing.  Hopefully these tips will improve your video conferencing experience.

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One Tool Your Clients Need (Even If They Don’t Know It)

By Brian O’Connell

If you surveyed your clients on what they want from their accountant, they might answer with broad concepts like “availability,” “affordability,” and “quality.”

Would they say want software that allows for the secure and near-instantaneous exchange of documents with their accounting firm? Probably not.

But whether or not they know it, this software is just what your clients need. In fact, it allows their accountant to provide those broad values of availability, affordability, and even quality.

What is this software? It’s called the Client Portal.

What Is a Client Portal?

A Client Portal – also called a Secure File Exchange – is software set up by accountants (and other financial professionals) often in conjunction with their CPA website. It acts like a safe-deposit box, only this one is nestled safely in the “cloud.”

Here’s how it works: through the accountant’s website, clients log in to their Portal and upload their tax worksheet, QuickBooks files, Excel spreadsheets, or any other financial file. The accountant then logs in and retrieves those documents, and then places completed work for the client to pick up.

As simple as it sounds, the Client Portal can have a dramatic impact on an accountant’s efficiency. Perhaps even more important, it helps the client – that is, it adds value to the client-accountant relationship – in several key ways.

A Much-Needed Alternative to Email

Many accountants share files with their clients by email. The problem is, email is simply not secure. It travels through a variety of servers along the way to its destination, and in any of those spots, it can be compromised.

In fact, using email to exchange financial documents is a violation to state and federal privacy laws, including the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999.

Furthermore, email was not designed to handle large files – as anyone who’s tried to download a file bigger than a couple megabytes knows. As a result, it can be extremely frustrating for your client to receive files by email.

Values to the client: keep their data secure; streamline workflow

Fast Turnaround

Other common methods of exchanging files is to use a courier service, client pick-up, or even snail mail. Can you guess why it’s time to phase out these options?

Exactly: They’re just too slow. What can take days by mail takes a mere minutes when using the Client Portal.

And don’t even bother trying to compare client pick-up with the Portal. Which would your client rather do: take time out from their busy day to drive over to your office, during business hours, to pick up some papers – or log on to your website and download those same documents whenever it’s convenient for them, day or night?

The client doesn’t even need to be at home to access the Portal. He or she can log on wherever there’s an Internet connection. So even if your client is on vacation, you can do business together.

Value to the client: serve clients on THEIR schedule

Online Backup

A Client Portal makes it possible to offer online backup to your client. This is a huge benefit from the client’s perspective, because it means they can stop worrying about flood or fire ruining their records. To folks in “tornado alley” or those on the coast during hurricane season, this is a big deal.

Through the Client Portal, your clients can keep backups of all their financial documents. (You can charge a nominal fee for the service, too, giving your bottom line a little boost.)

Value to the client: peace of mind

No Time Like the Present

As this year’s tax season approaches, consider adding a Client Portal to your firm’s offerings. It doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated.

With a Client Portal in place, you can deliver availability (clients can access their files whenever they want), affordability (if you get a reasonably priced Portal, there’s no need to pass on extra fees), and quality (online backup alone is an enormous benefit).

If you’re looking to increase value and deliver what your clients think they want, a Client Portal is an excellent way to do it.

Brian O’Connell is Founder and President of CPA Site Solutions, a niche web design firm providing CPA websites for accountants, SEO, PPC, and other marketing services to small and mid-sized CPA and accounting firms, bookkeepers, and tax preparers.

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