All posts in Trash the Timesheet

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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Craft Brewing

West Coaster’s bear with me; Midwesterners please be patient.  I know what I am about to say is SO a decade-old for yall, but here I go.  I am excited about craft brewing!!!  This industry is less than 5 years old to my wonderful city, and the momentum is not slowing. While I love beer, my excitement stems from the contribution these businesses are having on the US economy.

Two years ago I was given the awesome opportunity to help open a local brewery.  While I spend most my time in the back office, I can feel the energy.  The smells, employees, fork-lifts, tanks, patrons, all exude positive energy.  What makes craft breweries so exciting?  I came up with a few thoughts:

  1. “Love not War” – While their ingredients may be special, expensive, and exotic, I can promise you blood is not being shed over them.  It is a peaceful product which if you hang around long enough…. will make you smile.  Take that diamonds!
  2. BRIC, be gone – During the last 5 years, the U.S. has taken a slight beating from Brazil, Russia, India, and China.  I meant to say the U.S. (minus) the craft brewing industry.  Communism and slave labor can’t intrude.
  3. Ingredients – This one is my opinion; well actually; all of these are my opinion, but especially this one.  The luscious, succulent ingredients craft breweries are using don’t interest the big boys.  Why should InBev purchase breweries using expensive German hops when they can continue to sell us the watered down, rice filled, cheap crap?   Economics 101 folks: the big boys understand their space.
  4. Communities – Who doesn’t crave a little community in their life? Every time a craft brewery opens, a new community is born.  Whether you lean on the brewery for an afternoon pint or host a fundraiser in the taproom, it brings people together to help a local cause.

Craft Breweries are here to stay.  The economic development they bring to cities is awesome and communities love them.  This excitement is why I love to serve the industry.

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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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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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Tablet-Mania, CPA style

While standing in the electronics section at Target the other day, I felt this crazy sensation come over me.  Next thing I know I was mysteriously teleported over to the tablet isle where I was faced with a daunting decision.  Target carries a number of tablets, but of the eight or so choices, the Apple Ipad 2 and the Motorola Xoom were the only two contenders for me.   Before I go any further, let me preface, I am googleite, 100%.   Their products work well, I carry an Android smart-phone, my office is heavily leveraged in Google products, and I dream about owning many shares of their expensive damn stock.
With that being said, the Ipad 2 lives up to all the hype.  I have met some innovative CPA’s who are doing amazing thing, for business, with their Ipad’s.  You may be asking, “Isn’t a tablet a tablet, what is all this talk about Apple and Motorola?”  Here is what Cliff would have told you about the topic: Apple and Motorola are like night and day.  The availability of business “tablet” apps on the Apple Ipad 2 outnumber the Motorola Xoom 470 to 1.  Given my past, and beliefs, this fact was not helping that universal pull to the cute Ipad display  Enough babbling, I bought the Motorola Xoom.
So here I am, two weeks into my purchase, ready to dispel the myth that an Android device can “run” with the Ipad for business use.
(Disclaimer: As of 8/8/11, I could find around 75 “tablet” apps in the Android marketplace.  The Apple whatchamacallit store has around 500,000 Ipad apps)

My list of tablet apps:

  1. Quickoffice Pro – This is your standard office suite.  Word, Excel, PP.  It syncs with G Docs, Dropbox and Sugarsync to name a few.  This is a must have if you are going to work on ANYTHING.  Price $14.99
  2. ezPDF Reader – So sweet pdf editor for the Andriod tablet.  Highlight, Underline, Strikethrough, Freehand, Comments.  To me, its an Adobe Pro, on the go.  Price $1.99
  3. File Manager HD – This app gives me the native windows file folder look for all my storeables.  Price: Free
  4. Evernote – Yes, I know there are a number of note taking apps out there.  I have an Evernote account and am familiar with the product…..back off.  I can take notes on the fly, record my voice, add/take picture, tag the notes……no connection needed.  Once I establish a connection, it syncs with my established account.  Price: Free
  5. Dropbox – While it is not the securest means to transfer files with customers, I use to to temporairly house files and docs while on the go.  Price: Free
  6. Google Docs – This is my lifesaver.  If a client has a gmail account, they are going to get a Google doc from me in some shape or form, I insist.  I really have more on my G Docs account then I would care for people to know.  Price: Free
  7. Webdav Nav – This is the secret weapon.  No description here, if you want to know more, contact me.  Price: $3.40.
  8. WavPlayer – I use this so I can listen to my Voicemails from our VOIP system, when they hit my inbox, not sexy, practical.  Price: $0.99

Am I forgetting anything?

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“it is what it is”

According to Urban Dictionary, the definition of the title of this post is: Used often in the business world, this incredibly resentful versatile phrase can be literally translated as “f!^* it.”
You may be asking, “Chris, why would you take the time to blog about a group of words?”

I am taking the time to profess my disgust for this phrase because it is used way too often.  When I hear someone say it, it makes my spine tingle.  It is the sorriest admission of (defeat, dislike, unrest) I have ever heard.  In my experience it is usually vomited at the end of a discussion where one party did not get what they expected.

My disdain for this phrase has a deeper layer.   For me, this is not about the words or even the above translation; for me this is about accountability and responsibility.  Too often people do not take responsibility for their actions.

  1. They waited for the warranty to expire to try and return the product.
  2. They did not speak up when the requested well-done steak came to the table rare.
  3. Expectations were not agreed upon before an engagement was started.

Responsibility is being left in the shower every morning!!!!!

The result?  A lame reaction, which happens to mirror the actions of a 3 year old when they don’t get the bubble gum at the checkout counter.

Challenge: The next time you are about to utter the phrase, ask yourself, where was I wrong in this picture?  Oh, and check your back pocket for responsibility, you may have left it in the shower this morning.

P.S.  If there is absolutely no way out of the phrase, try the Urban Dictionary literal translation, it rolls off the tongue easier.

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R.I.P. Billable Hour

Firm of the Future, Firm of the Future, Firm of the Future.  Results are in the air!  Recently a colleague of mine (in the legal profession) presented at Ignite Law 2011.  Jay Shepherd, founder of Prefix LLC, shared in just 6-minutes, “How you will practice law in 2019.”  I learned that the billable hour was founded in 1919.  Who knew?  Jay goes into detail on how the legal profession can move away from the century old billable hour.  Pricing based on solutions is cool; old crusty time sheets are not.  If this type of TEDx learning/awareness is happening in the legal community, I see major hope for us CPA’s.   Enjoy, I know I did.

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CPA Network

Back in February a really cool South Carolinian by the name of Jason Blumer shifted the focus of his personal blog from himself to create a community for new-age CPA’s. The THRIVEal Network is what he calls it. THRIVEal you ask? What the heck is a THRIVEal See for yourself

I describe it as group of like-minded professional, not afraid to challenge the status quo. The processes and metrics of the traditional CPA firm are stale and unsustainable; we have popped up on the scene to say, watch out #CHANGEISCOMING! While these process and metrics have withstood the test of time so far, technology, collaboration and creativity are a few of the attributes we are preaching. Frankly, I am stoked and honored to have joined the coolest group to hit the CPA arena.

The THRIVEal network hosts six “community calls” throughout the year. During these calls, members get together (online of course) to discuss the forefront topics of our profession. Yesterday was the second call and the topic we discussed was Value Billing. It won’t take you long browsing my attractive blog to figure out I am a bit of a Value Billing fan. I trashed my timesheet on 01/01/2010 and was happy to discover that life goes on without the dreaded timesheet. I could go on and on about how the change saved my career, made my customers happy, and made me more profitable, but I will refrain from repeating what has already been posted, so please check it out. Instead I am going to focus on what I learned from the call.

We began by talking about efficiency vs effectiveness. For the longest time, I was obsessed with being “efficient.” How can I run payroll, from start to end, with 6 clicks of the mouse, I would ask myself. Funny thing is, I would get worked up if it took me 7, 8, or 9 clicks to complete. The point here is, who cares how many clicks it takes to run the damn payroll??? After absorbing the idea that effectiveness trumps efficiency, it was clear to me that the purpose of running payroll was to pay employees, submit the taxes, and DO IT CORRECTLY. If I executed the payroll in 2 flippin clicks but forgot to pay someone…#missionfail. As a young CPA, it is easy to get caught up in the technology and forget you are responsible that someone gets dinner on the table this weekend.
Another topic we discussed was business practices that add value to your customers. A member shared that customer education was mandatory for his firm accepting that new customer. I like the idea of education, when I am educated I feel a “part of” something and not just a “part.” Anyways, who wants to stop learning? not me. I embrace learning from customers. At the end of the day we both have something to contribute to what we are working on. Just the other day I was having a multi state conversation with a customer and I was explaining states are starting to crack down on nexus issues by communicating to each other. The customer shared with me how the NYC is suing a number of the travel sites for shorting them on sales tax. My point here is I embrace learning from all sources, its cool.

Wrapping it up, I felt some lightbulbs go off during the call and I am sure others felt that way too. If I had to age myself for where I am with Value Billing, I would estimate 1.5 years old. Just a baby, but growing everyday.

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