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Small Batch Standard is born

Hey friends,

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


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?

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.

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.


Apple Babies

Does anyone know what happens 9 months after a new Apple device is released?  Ok, me neither but I have a theory.

Last week I had the opportunity to hang with some of the brightest minds in the Advertising, Accounting, Legal, and IT industries.  This was the first “Verasage Fellows and Friends” event since the passing of Steve Jobs, so you can imagine with a group of innovators, Apple was top of mind.  We discussed how Apple creates over $6k per sq ft in each location, compared to Tiffany’s $3k or JC Penney’s $150.  We rattled off some more amazing figures but it wasn’t until we began talking about Apple’s attention to detail that I became emotionally connected.  More specifically, the experience of opening a new Apple product.  I am torn between the beautiful box and that damn cute card that awaits me, reminding me to enjoy.  Enjoy.  Itsmagic delivered on a business card.

That’s deep folks.

I will admit when I open a Apple product, I get the goosies.  The pleasure/comfort part of my brain is firing and it feels good.  And I know I am not alone; I am not alone because Apple activates hundreds of thousands of devices a month and delivers the goosies to all those people.  Now lets take it one step further.  What if I said I believe the pleasure sensation felt from opening a new Apple product had direct correlation to sex.  Could you deny it?  Would you deny it? Just remember the feeling when you opened that iPad.  Yes, one could argue, “Chris, thats like saying a purchase from L.L. Bean could start a baby boom.”  And I would call you a bozo.  The sacred experience begins when you are holding the shrink-wrapped box.  Then comes the unwrapping, followed by the opening.  Finally your product and that damn cute card.
So yes, I believe 9 months after Apple releases a new product we experience an influx of newborns.

Did I mention my wife got a iphone yesterday, enjoy.


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, 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?


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.

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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.


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.


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?