(415) 418-0020 info@proteafinancial.com
Protea Conversations: Chet Laws

Protea Conversations: Chet Laws

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality outsourced bookkeeping and accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were previously overlooked.  Protea strives to represent people from all backgrounds and provide an environment for them to grow and succeed in a setting that provides the flexibility and acceptance of who they are as people.

We selected the name Protea because it is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations in 2022 will focus on positive transformation and representation from all backgrounds. We are broadening our Conversations with the hope that these conversations will continue to create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges leaders face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

In May of 2022 we spent time with Chet Laws, Director of Business Development, North Bay at InterWest Insurance Services, LLC. Chet is a native of San Francisco and has lived in the local area his entire life. After graduating from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA, he began his insurance career with Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company as a commercial underwriter. After 12 years with Fireman’s Fund, he joined a small insurance brokerage and began his career in insurance sales and consulting. Chet joined InterWest Insurance in March 2019.

As a student of the insurance industry, Chet has obtained several insurance designations including Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) and Certified Risk Manager (CRM) from The National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research. Chet maintains both Fire and Casualty, as well as Life and Health Insurance licenses.

Chet is actively involved in the business community and frequently attends events whereby he meets and mingles with business owners and leaders; always looking to promote InterWest Insurance.

A father of two adult boys and stepfather to two teenagers, Chet and his wife live in Santa Rosa, CA. Enjoying the local wines and food offerings in the area is one of Chet’s favorite things to do. Chet is an aspiring photographer in his spare time.

Protea Financial Chet Laws Protea Conversation

Tell us about your decision to go into insurance world and your journey to through your career that now finds you working at InterWest Insurance Services?

After graduating from college, it was time to find a job.  I had no real idea of what I wanted to do for a living.  Looking through the want ads in the newspaper, I saw that Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company was hiring credit and collections trainees.  I did not really know what that was, yet I applied and was subsequently accepted.  After 3 years in the collections department, I entered an underwriter training program.  I learned property and then inland marine insurance.  After a 9-month training, I was hired as a property underwriter in Fireman’s Fund’s San Francisco Office.  After a 3-year stint in San Francisco, I was transferred to the Santa Rosa Office.  Three years later, I was transferred to Home Office in Novato.  After almost 3 years in Novato, I was asked to transfer back to San Francisco, and I declined to do so.  This is when I began my career as an insurance broker.  I worked for a small family insurance brokerage in Novato for 4 years and was mentored by a veteran insurance broker.

After 4 years and a great learning experience, I sought a larger insurance brokerage to help advance my sales career.  I joined (the original) ABD Insurance in Petaluma and really grew my knowledge and skills in insurance and risk management. All the while I furthered my insurance knowledge by studying insurance and obtained my Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC), Certified Risk Manager (CRM), Associate in Risk Management (ARM) and Associate in Underwriting (AU) designations.  ABD went through several mergers and ultimately became part of Wells Fargo Insurance and then USI Insurance.  I realized that I was not too happy working for an extremely large, publicly traded national company, and sought a new insurance brokerage.  I ran into my now boss at InterWest Insurance and talked about continuing my career with him and the InterWest Insurance team.  I have been with InterWest Insurance for just over 3 years now and absolutely love it. My insurance career has been and continues to be a fruitful journey.

What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

Now, as a veteran insurance broker, I look back at all the great insurance professionals I have been fortunate to work with and for.  As a younger insurance broker coming into the industry and now as a long-time insurance broker, I understand that personal and professional relationships play a big part in the insurance buying decision.  The biggest challenge I have and continue to face is that of an established relationship between prospective clients and their current insurance broker.  In the insurance industry, the only way for a new client to join me and my team is for the current insurance relationship to be terminated.  My challenge for each and every new opportunity is to figure out the relationship between the prospective client and their current insurance broker.  This takes some detective work, local connections and intelligence and being at the right place at the right time when a prospective client has a need.

What are your short-term goals for your career and yourself?

Short-term, I plan to be in the industry for at least another 5-7 years.  I am taking an active role in the education and training of new, younger insurance professionals.  The mentor / coach role is one that I enjoy immensely as I can see results each day.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

I have been told repeatedly to be patient and persistent.  Oftentimes the sales process can take several years.  Patience and persistence have proven to be sound advice.  Good things do not necessarily happen overnight.

Protea Financial Trust The Process Chet Laws

What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

Our InterWest Insurance CEO says, “Trust the Process.”  There truly is a process to insurance sales.  Had I learned this simple truth years ago, I could have avoided the “reinventing of myself” time and time again as I sought to grow and prosper.  Trust the Process is sound advice.

What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?

Rely on teamwork! I am an advocate for team selling.  Insurance sales can be an individual role, yet team selling will derive results far more than those gained individually.  I always talk with our sales team and highly encourage a team selling approach.

Can you share something interesting about yourself that will provide insight into who you are outside of the professional space?

My wife and I enjoy spending time together as we travel through the Sonoma and Napa communities visiting the many fabulous restaurants, wineries and breweries in the area.  We both enjoy live music and can often be found at one of the local music venues enjoying music from most all genres.  We also have a beehive and organic garden in our backyard.  Oftentimes we are faced with hundreds of bees flying around as they do what they do in the yard as we are trying to work in the garden.  It can be a fine balancing act.

As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will donate to Positive Images (https://www.posimages.org/). Positive Images is a grassroots nonprofit organization serving Sonoma County since 1990. Their LGBTQIA+ Community Center hosts multiple weekly support groups, a youth leadership development program, mentorship opportunities, an LGBTQIA+ Library, resource and referral station, and a Transformation Station. They proudly offer a warm, welcoming, and affirming environment for young people to explore their individual identities, develop leadership skills, and contribute to our collective community. Positive Images staff lead LGBTQIA+ Cultural Competency Trainings and presentations that educate the greater community focusing on human connection, compassion, and inclusion. Their goal is a community where all LGBTQIA+ people are valued, compassionate community members, creating a just society.

Call Protea Financial for More Information

Want to learn more? Contact Protea Financial and we can help!

7 Tasks You Can Ask Your Bookkeeper to Do for You

7 Tasks You Can Ask Your Bookkeeper to Do for You

You’ve got a great bookkeeper. They are organized, detail-oriented and understand the basic concepts of accounting. They keep your books in order, perform analyses and balances, and can handle even the most complex of tasks. They are the perfect business partner, and they are great at what they do. However, are they doing everything they can to help your business? Yes, your bookkeepers are great at recording transactions, reconciling accounts, and performing other financial tasks. But that is only part of the job they could be performing. If you want your bookkeeper to become the invaluable partner you need and could not live without, you need to give them the chance to shine. Here are seven tasks you can ask your bookkeeper to do for you to help your business thrive and grow.

Create a Financial Statement

If your business generates revenue, you need to track that revenue and create a financial statement. Every quarter, your bookkeeper will add up your sales and subtract expenses to calculate your net profit or loss. But what do you track? If you are not tracking your revenue, your bookkeeper will have a very difficult time calculating your profit. And if you are not tracking your expenses, your bookkeeper will have a very difficult time calculating your loss. Both of these figures will be important to you and they say everything about the overall health of your business. Thankfully, your bookkeeper can help. By creating a financial statement, your bookkeeper can help you better understand your business and measure its success.

Manage Payroll

Your bookkeeper can help calculate your payroll and in some cases, even manage employee benefits if you have employees. Depending on your industry, your payroll requirements can vary widely. If you own a restaurant, for example, payroll taxes will be high. If you own and run an insurance company, you may have a complex set of requirements. Whatever the case, your bookkeeper can help you manage payroll. During the process, they will help your business reduce costs and have a better idea of how much revenue each employee brings in. They also use this to help track that your business is making enough money to cover the costs of the employees you currently have.

Set Up Automated Systems

Your bookkeeper will be able to set up automation systems for some operations, if you perform a specific type of business. The system could help you track inventory and track customer orders. If you have a bar, for example, you will want to track how much liquor you order and how much you sell. In retail stores, you will want to track how many items the customers buy and whether they pay with cash or credit card. You will also want to track how long it takes them to pay the bill. That way, at a moment’s notice, you can tell what your inventory levels are and if you have the money to buy more when the supply dictates that type of purchase. Automation systems are useful for tracking inventory and managing customers.

Protea Financial Bookkeeper tasks

Track Your Performance

One task your bookkeeper can take on is tracking your performance. They will do this through regularly looking over the numbers of incoming revenue, outgoing expenses, and watching or knowing industry trends. Many bookkeepers have insight of when business will pick up based on the performance in prior years. The more tracking you have your bookkeeper do, the more insight you can gain into how to position your business for the best returns. You can ask your bookkeeper for advice on future decisions based on past performance, giving you an edge in your industry, too.

Keep Track of Your Inventory

Your bookkeeper will be able to keep track of your inventory if your business regularly keeps inventory records. Inventory records help your financial professionals keep track of your profits and losses. They let you know how much money you have in the bank and how much money you owe suppliers. If you don’t keep track of inventory, your bookkeeper will have a difficult time calculating your profits and losses and helping you manage your finances.

For example, if you own a winery, you need to track how many bottles you create, how many are sold, and how many you plan to allow to age for a deeper flavor. Knowing what type of inventory you have on hand also allows you to price your inventory properly. Asking your bookkeeper for insight as to which products have sold best and what their price points were can help you adjust your prices if sales seem stagnant or slow during certain periods of the year.

Dig Into Your Company’s Finances

Your bookkeeper will be able to help you dig into your company’s finances if you regularly perform financial analyses. Analyses let your bookkeeper figure out how much you should be earning and how much you can spend. This can be a tricky, complicated task. If you don’t perform financial analyses regularly, you could have a difficult time making sure you have enough money to cover your expenses and have a buffer for unexpected losses. Your bookkeeper can help you perform financial analyses to figure out how much money you need in the bank, how much income you should place into various investments, and how much you can spend when you need inventory or upgraded equipment.

Protea Financial Tax Documents Your Bookkeeper Can Help With

Help Get Tax Documents Ready for Your Accountants

In the course of helping you manage your finances, your bookkeeper will help you get tax documents ready for your accountants. Your accountant will need access to the documents you need for taxes each year. They will also need access to or copies of the documents you need to file your taxes. Your bookkeeper will be able to help you get all the documents you need ready for your accountant. You will also be able to relax while they do it. Accountants and bookkeepers regularly work together. They know what the other will need, ask for, or information that will help make their jobs easier. Let your bookkeeper and your accountant work together so that at tax time, you can remain stress-free while they work together to figure out all the details.

Turn to Protea Financial for Help Learning What a Bookkeeper Can Do

Your bookkeeper can help you become more efficient and effective in running your business. Whether you want to track inventory or manage payroll, your bookkeeper can help. They will also be able to help you with tracking your performance and getting your business ready for taxes each year. Bookkeepers can also help you dig into your company’s finances and help you make sound financial decisions. With a well-prepared bookkeeper, your business will be more efficient. To find a bookkeeper your business can depend on for these tasks and more, contact Protea Financial today. We are here to help!

Find the Perfect Bookkeeping Partner at Protea

Take the time to find a bookkeeper that you can trust to help with all the business tasks possible. You need to focus on running your business. Leave the numbers to your bookkeeper!

Protea Conversations: Jon Sooy

Protea Conversations: Jon Sooy

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality out-sourced accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were previously overlooked.  Protea strives to represent people from all backgrounds and provide an environment for them to grow and succeed in a setting that provides the flexibility and acceptance of who they are as people.

We selected the name Protea because it is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations in 2022 will focus on positive transformation and representation from all backgrounds. We are broadening our Conversations with the hope that these conversations will continue to create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges leaders face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

A sales and marketing veteran of over 30 years, Jon’s main focus is to generate awareness, drive transactions and increase market share for BroadVision Marketing’s clients. Jon has a proven reputation for success and is known for instigating change. Jon possesses a high aptitude for presenting to and inspiring others to be creative. As CEO of BroadVision Marketing, Jon’s focus is to build a digital marketing agency that is committed to transparency and to drive its clients towards revenue acceleration and growth.

Jon is married to Laura who manages customer service for World Centric, a Sonoma County B Corp that produces compostable products for the food service industry. Jon and Laura are currently building a new home near Tucson Arizona.

Protea Financial Digital Marketing with Jon Sooy 4.28.22B

Tell us about your decision to go into marketing and your journey to CEO of BroadVision Marketing?

Having recently lost my father to cancer, I can’t seem to answer that question without acknowledging the impact my father has had on my life and career. So much of who I am is directly related to my father’s influence. My father owned gas stations in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Back then, many Service Stations had repair garages and this was my playground. When I was very young, he noticed that I was quite mechanically inclined and began bringing me objects to take apart and reassemble. This gave me confidence and a great desire to understand how things worked. As I matured, this evolved to where I was interested in mechanics, electronics, software, programming and business. However I also learned that I tended to get bored with things once I mastered them. This meant I was constantly looking for something new to learn and master. When the internet began to change how we did business, I was immediately intrigued and excited by the possibilities. I still remember the first time I saw the internet in the early 90’s. I turned to the person who showed it to me and said ‘Do you have any idea what this means? What the potential is for this?’ From that point on, the internet was directly involved in my job and my life. The industry I am in is ideal for me as it appeals to almost every aspect of what excites me in life. And, I will never stop learning or become bored. It’s impossible!

What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

Our biggest challenge in recent years has definitely been navigating the crazy business environment during the pandemic. We all heard the word ‘pivot’ a million times but for us it was quite intense as we were not only making sure that BroadVision Marketing was positioned well but were trusted advisors to our customers who were going through a wide array of challenges. I am so proud of the work we did during that time as we helped many of our customers have their best years ever.

What are your short-term goals for your career and yourself?

My short term career goal is to refine BroadVision Marketing into a well oiled machine. We are what I consider to be a boutique agency in that we do not have cookie-cutter approaches to solving our customer’s marketing challenges. Add to this the ever changing nature of our industry and you can see the challenge emerge. How can you organize a company so that all the people and processes are aligned when the search engines change the rules on a daily basis? The answer is that we as a company need to retain a certain degree of plasticity with our processes and to keep a keen eye on where we need to focus as technology and consumers continue to evolve. This plasticity and mindset are a critical component of our current success and will be for years to come.

Protea Financial Jon Sooy 4.28.22B

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

“Don’t force a pass.” One of my heroes is John Wooden. As a kid I was very fortunate to attend a John Wooden basketball camp. During a practice session, I saw a teammate across the court who had an open shot at the basket. However, there were several opponents between myself and my teammate. I tried anyway. I failed. The pass I made was stolen and it resulted in an easy 2 points for our opponent. The coach paused the practice and told me that when I was confronted with a difficult decision, to take a breath, think about my options and to pursue the opportunities that had the best potential for success. I think about this almost every day when confronted with a challenge. Rarely do we end up in situations where there are no options. When I witness someone else making a poor tactical or strategic decision, you may see me whispering to myself “Don’t force a pass.”

What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

The one piece of advice that I wished I had gotten was that it’s ok to follow your gut. As a young business person I followed the rule book and relied on facts and figures to make decisions. However it wasn’t until I began to listen to my gut that I began to see my full potential.  I don’t make all decisions by listening to my gut, but my gut certainly has an important role to play and I listen.

What advice would you give to others to help them become better leaders?

I think that the number one mistake leaders make is they are not always present when engaging with their team members. I think it is important to take the time to listen carefully to those who you lead. We are all human beings and it is so important to be mindful and intentional when listening to your team members. Get to know them as people. Get to know their talents, challenges and ideas. They will come away with the sense that you truly care about them. I firmly believe that this is the secret to getting a group of people all headed in the same direction.

Protea Financial Jon Sooy DIY 4.28.22B

Can you share something interesting about yourself that will provide insight into who you are outside of the professional space?

Because of how I was raised, I am an avid DIY person. I am comfortable repairing my cars, remodeling my home, repairing virtually anything and inventing solutions to problems. My wife once bought me a t-shirt that said “I VOID WARRANTIES” because I frequently take things apart in an effort to see how they work.

As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will donate to Positive Images (https://www.posimages.org/). Positive Images is a grassroots nonprofit organization serving Sonoma County since 1990. Their LGBTQIA+ Community Center hosts multiple weekly support groups, a youth leadership development program, mentorship opportunities, an LGBTQIA+ Library, resource and referral station, and a Transformation Station. They proudly offer a warm, welcoming, and affirming environment for young people to explore their individual identities, develop leadership skills, and contribute to our collective community. Positive Images staff lead LGBTQIA+ Cultural Competency Trainings and presentations that educate the greater community focusing on human connection, compassion, and inclusion. Their goal is a community where all LGBTQIA+ people are valued, compassionate community members, creating a just society.

Call Protea Financial Today for More Information

If you have any questions or want to learn more, please reach out to us here at Protea Financial!

Is It the Right Time to Sell Your Business?

Is It the Right Time to Sell Your Business?

Business owners often ask, “When is the right time to sell my business?”  The answer is some version of “A good time to sell is when there is a seller’s market, and the owner and the business are prepared”.  Simple enough, but there is a lot to unpack in this response.

Protea Financial Sell Your Business First Image 4.21.22

Don’t Try to Time the Market 

A seller’s market exists when, because of economic conditions, demand for viable businesses is higher than the supply of businesses on the market.  There are some universal economic metrics that drive demand for businesses like low interest, tax rates and high corporate cash reserves and earnings rates.  When investors are confident about the business environment, they are more likely to pay premiums for their investment targets. 

However, local and industry specific factors are often more important to the creation of a seller’s market.  A mature industry that begins to consolidate may create an industry-specific seller’s market that doesn’t exist in other industries.  The rise of private equity has driven consolidation in many industries.  Also, when a regional competitor embarks on an acquisition growth strategy it may create a localized opportunity for owners in the same industry to sell.

It is wise for a business owner to pay close attention to these market signals. However, owners can’t control supply and demand in the marketplace and are generally better off not trying to time the market.  In the second quarter of 2020, the market for small businesses came to an abrupt halt, dashing the hopes of many owners that were ready to retire.  But by the fourth quarter of the same year the market returned stronger than before.  No amount of prognosticating could have anticipated those market changes.  

Business Preparation is Key 

The preparation of the business is more important to the success of the business sale than the state of the marketplace, and it’s something that the business owner can control.  A well-prepared business is more likely to sell in a soft market, than a poorly prepared business in a strong market. 

It’s been estimated that 80% of US small business owners don’t have a written transition plan and 50% have no plan at all.  A key component of the transition plan is preparing the business for succession.  Many books have been written and teams of professionals deployed to help business owners prepare their businesses for sale.  Conceptually, the buyer of a business is investing with the confidence that the future earnings and growth potential enjoyed by the seller can be transferred to the buyer.  To make the business attractive, the owner must then mitigate the risks in the business and to fortify its opportunities for growth.  The specific measures necessary to prepare the business vary widely.  Some critical areas for consideration are:

  • What are the growth prospects of the business? Is there a viable pathway to achieve growth?
  • What constitutes the goodwill of the business? Is the goodwill persistent and can it be transferred to a buyer?
  • Is the business’ intellectual property sufficiently protected?
  • What is the owner’s role in the business? How easily can the owner be replaced?
  • Does the remaining management team have the experience and resources necessary to operate the business efficiently?
  • Is the business properly staffed for its size and to recognize its growth potential?
  • What supplier and customer risks exist? How can they be addressed?
  • Do the business assets have deferred maintenance or unfunded capital expenditures?

There are times when a business is clearly not ready to be placed on the market.  The business may not be performing because of loss of an important client, vendor, or key employee or because of an acute business issue that the business is facing like a lawsuit or a loss of facility lease.  These red flag issues should be resolved by the owner, before trying to sell their business.

The process to identify and address the specific issues faced by a company may take 3-5 years, so it’s important to plan ahead.  But the owner of a company that has been properly prepared for sale, may be rewarded with a price premium, while an unprepared business may sell for a discount, or not at all.

Protea Financial Sell Your Business 4.21.22B

The Owner is Motivated, but not Compelled to Sell

Lastly and most importantly, the owner needs to be psychologically ready and financially prepared to exit their business.  Most owner’s only own one business in their life and selling it is momentous.  For some, the business is tightly intertwined with their personal life and identity.  However, there inevitably comes a day when the owner no longer wants to or no longer can be involved in the business. 

Owner’s end up selling for a variety of reasons, for some it’s poor health, for some its divorce from their life or business partner.  These personal challenges can make the process of selling the business more difficult and may put the owner at a disadvantage during negotiations with a buyer.  The best reasons are because the owner realizes that there is something that they would rather be doing with their time or assets like retirement or another venture.  Ideally, they are personally motivated, but not compelled to exit.

Even if the owner is determined to sell, they may hesitate to do so if they haven’t determined that the proceeds from the sale are sufficient to support their retirement or pursue other ventures.  Professionals can help with this analysis.  Business appraisers can help to anticipate the proceeds from selling the business.  While a financial planner can help an owner estimate the amount needed to support their retirement.

Ultimately, determining the right time to sell their business requires the owner to plan ahead and prepare the business for the time when market conditions are adequate, and the owner is personally motivated.  Exit Strategies Group helps owners to plan for and execute their business exits.  If you’d like help in this regard or have any related questions, you can reach Adam Wiskind, Certified Business Intermediary at (707) 781-8744 or awiskind@exitstrategiesgroup.com.

Let Protea Financial Help You Get Your Books In Order

If you plan to sell your business, then make sure you have everything in order to make the process easy. Reach out to have help getting your books in order to show potential buyers what your business has to offer!

Best Practices for Avoiding Wire Fraud in Your Small Business

Best Practices for Avoiding Wire Fraud in Your Small Business

While it is the large businesses who make the news when there’s financial fraud, the greatest amount of wire fraud happens to small business owners. Recent research indicates that 78% of small businesses suffer some kind of wire fraud each year. In fact, all businesses lose at least 5% of their earnings to fraud every year. Since it has become more difficult for criminals to break into large corporations due to their internet security, firewalls, and authentication practices, thieves target small businesses frequently because their security is commonly not as strong as that of a large company. The average fraud loss for a small business is roughly $250,000, which can put many small businesses in real financial trouble.

As a small business owner, how can you protect your company against wire fraud? How can you ensure your business is safe from fraud? Here are some suggestions you can use to keep your business safe.

Train Your Employees to Spot Fraud

Often, wire fraud for a small business begins when an employee opens an email with a link that opens the business up for wire fraud. Many small business owners believe all their employees are smart enough not to click on any link in an email. However, that may not always be the case. Surveys of small business employees indicate that over half of them admit to clicking on a link in an email. That type of attempt to gain access to business information is called phishing, and it occurs when criminals send links to hack into your business. Most phishing scams target the financial information for the business. Phishing scams are the most common scams in business fraud.

How should a small business educate their employees about fraud? Train your employees about email fraud and phishing scams. Employee training for fraud is fairly simple. If you don’t want to handle the training yourself, there are plenty of ready-made presentations and videos that can help. You need to provide training for your employees regarding all types of fraud. Some of the most common forms of fraud include:

  • Relative scam
  • Utility companies
  • Debt collection
  • Charities
  • Employment offers
  • Even online dating fraud

Once your employees can spot fraud, you will go a long way towards keeping your business safe from cybercriminals.

Check Your Vendors Thoroughly

Another prevalent type of wire fraud, and one that is newer than the phishing fraud, is vendor fraud. Vendor fraud occurs when a criminal uses your business accounts to set up a fake vendor account with regular payments. These payments to fake vendors may start as small transactions that are barely noticeable. Over time, the transactions can increase in value, and can steal tens of thousands of dollars from your business before you catch them.

As a small business owner or manager, there are steps you can take to ensure you are only paying vendors you do business with. You can begin this process by putting in place procedures for adding new vendors your business buys from. If your bookkeeping and finance employees follow the correct vetting procedure, your business will be less likely to experience fraud. Your bookkeeper can also check your current accounts payable vendors to ensure they are safe to pay invoices.

Another excellent idea for small business owners is to have your prospective vendors fill out a W9 so you can ensure they are not part of a scam. A W9 form is an official request for a business’ tax identification number. All small businesses, even a sole proprietorship, will have a Social Security Number or a tax id number. If you have a vendor who refuses to provide either a Social Security Number or a tax id number, you don’t want to buy from them.

Be Safe When Wiring Money

Some small businesses wire money regularly to vendors they do a large volume of business with, because it is safer than sending a check in the mail. However, financial institutions are seeing an increasing number of wire fraud attempts by cybercriminals. You can help keep your wires safe by thoroughly checking your wiring information before the wire transfer leaves your account.

You can also minimize this danger by practicing callbacks on your wire transfers, just to double-check the money is going to the right spot. Because cybercriminals will usually only target a business for a short time, and will move on quickly if they aren’t successful, you may be able to eliminate this threat through vigilant checking of your wire transfers.

Another step you can take to prevent fraud is to ask your payees to undergo an out of band authorization for large wire transfers to prevent fraud. An out of band authorization puts two checks in place for businesses to verify the legitimacy of your vendors before you pay them.

Do you use international wire transfers? If so, then you need to be extra careful. Many international transfers are wire fraud attempts to get into your system. You will need to put in extra protection to ensure all of your wire transfers are safe.

Beware of Returns

No business owner wants to process returns because returns take money out of your pocket. However, they are often a part of doing business. You want to be sure your client or customer’s refund requests are legitimate. If you don’t already have a refund or return policy, you need to create one as soon as possible. Have your refund policy spelled out for your business (ideally on your website), and on contracts and invoices (or at least a link to this page). If you sell items to customers, you need to ask for a receipt in order to process returns, and you need to limit the time period you’ll accept returns to 30 days or less. By having a strict return policy, you will be able to limit the chances of fraud in this area.

Upgrade Your Technology

You may have considered putting safety procedures in place to combat fraud, but have you thought about using technology for protection? If you upgrade your wireless technology, you may want to consider getting a virtual private network for your business. Virtual private networks create an island of safety for your business, even over public internet connections. Some business owners may be reluctant to spend money on technology, but investing in a little technology now may save thousands of dollars in fraud costs.

Not sure about upgrading your internet to use a virtual private network due to the costs? There are some other safety features you can buy that aren’t as expensive. For example, you can change your wireless access to private rather than public, so that your customers and employees can only access it with a password. You can also create cloud backups for all your technology, which means it will be available anywhere, whether your computers are down or not. Also, if you have more than one location for your business, you may want to create a firewall to keep your business information as safe as possible.

You can also set up two-factor authentication for your company before payments are processed. Two-factor authentication ensures the person requesting money must have multiple forms of proof they are who they claim to be. Meaning, if hackers have some of your business information, they cannot use it to open accounts and use your good credit without verifying who they are in relation to the business.

Put Everything in Writing

If you don’t have your business practices in writing, there is no time like the present to create safety procedures for your financial transactions. For example, make sure all your vendors understand how money is exchanged between businesses by sending them a copy of your business policies. While they may complain a little, many businesses are used to dealing with client contracts and procedures.

Do you buy a lot of materials and supplies from vendors? Your business needs a vendor contract. If you don’t have a vendor contract, it is time to make one. A vendor contract will spell out payment terms, methods of payment, a return or refund policy, and how to handle disputes over payments or merchandise. You can find examples of good vendor contracts on the internet, or you can hire a lawyer to draw up a vendor contract for your business.

Protea Financial Can Help You Protect Your Business from Wire Fraud

As a business owner, you have enough to worry about. You are constantly looking for ways to keep your employees happy, and reward your hardest-working employees. You want to keep your business fresh by coming up with new ideas and products. On top of that, you also need to effectively market your business to attract new customers. The last thing you want to worry about is ensuring your business is safe from fraud.

However, by taking steps to keep your business safe and secure, you are working to ensure the longevity of your business. You can educate your employees to watch out for fraud in scam or spoof emails. You can warn your employees against other types of financial fraud, such as fake utility payments. Also, you can thoroughly vet your vendors, and ensure that your payments are going to a legitimate suppliers of goods and services for your business. Use technology such as virtual private networks, two-factor authentication, and private passwords to keep your information safe. Finally, have all your vendor contracts in writing, so there’s no chance of fraud. By following these steps, you can work to keep your business safe from fraud.

Need additional information about financial security and hiring great people to keep your business finances running smoothly? We can help. Contact Protea Financial today. 

Learn More About Wire Fraud

Wire fraud is a massive problem if you do not know how to spot it before it happens, or stop it if it already happened. Turn to us here at Protea Financial for help spotting wire fraud today!

The Benefits of Using QuickBooks Online

The Benefits of Using QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online is the software-as-a-service (SaaS) or cloud version of QuickBooks, one of the most well-known accounting tools available to businesses. QuickBooks has been around since the early 80s, but the online version was launched in 2001. As one of the most widely-used accounting tools, many businesses use QuickBooks on a daily basis. There are a number of benefits this software tool provides, and those benefits can ensure that you always have updated account balances and fully understand your company’s financial status.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular benefits QuickBooks Online offers and how this cloud version differs from the traditional QuickBooks Desktop offering.

 

Share Access Easily

Sharing your financial information with others in your company and with your bookkeeper or CPA is incredibly easy using QuickBooks Online. Since everything is stored in the cloud, there’s no need to email files back and forth or exchange flash drives with your information on them. You simply share access to the file with those who need it.

This not only makes access very simple and easy, but it also improves your security. Your sensitive financial information isn’t being sent via email, so you don’t have to worry about it being intercepted. There’s also no need to worry about someone losing the drive containing your information. With both of those methods of sharing information, once you’ve given someone the file, you don’t know what they will do with it or for how long they will keep it. With QuickBooks Online, you can simply remove access for a user once they no longer need to see your information. Once that’s done, they can no longer see your data.

In addition to the version of QuickBooks Online that runs on desktops and laptops, there’s also an app you can install on your smartphone or tablet. This app syncs with the data stored on the cloud, so you always have up-to-date information available with the tap of a few buttons. This means you can easily record transactions and create invoices at a trade show or other event where you may not necessarily have a computer in front of you.

 

Data is Backed Up to the Cloud

In addition to having more control over who has access to your information, QuickBooks Online also offers regular backups. You won’t have to worry about backing up data regularly or making certain your backups are up to date. Instead, all of your information is automatically backed up in the cloud. QuickBooks Online doesn’t just keep one backup, either—cloud servers create redundant backups to ensure that even if one server fails, your information can be retrieved.

Protea Financial Cloud Backup of Bookkeeping Data

 

You Can Take Advantage of Everything SaaS Offers

SaaS has a number of inherent benefits that a QuickBooks Online user can take advantage of. The first is that there is no software to install on your computer. SaaS programs work by accessing data on a server. You have access to your accounting software from any computer that has an internet connection because it’s stored in the cloud.

This also means you don’t have to worry about updating or applying patches to every computer that accesses QuickBooks Online. The update is applied to the cloud software, so it’s instantly available to anyone who logs in.  If you have a copy of the software installed locally on multiple computers, every copy has to be updated. If one user fails to do this, it can leave a hole in your security that can be easily breached.

Scalability is another great feature. If you install software on each computer, you have to purchase a license and then have your system administrator install it. With SaaS applications, all you have to do is add a new subscription to your QuickBooks Online account. The user you add instantly has access to the application and your data. When you need to remove users, you simply cancel their subscription.

This makes QuickBooks Online more affordable, too. Buying a one-time piece of software is often very expensive, and you only get a single license. With a subscription model, you can add or remove users as needed, and you only pay for the number of active subscriptions. You’re not left with multiple copies of expensive software you paid full price for but no longer need.

While the desktop version of QuickBooks certainly has its uses, many small business owners may find that QuickBooks Online has everything they need.

QuickBooks Online vs QuickBooks for Desktop

(as of March, 2022)

 

  QuickBooks Online Desktop
Plans

Four:

Simple Start, Essentials, Plus, Advanced

 

Two:

Pro Plus and Premier Plus

 

Lowest Cost Plan $25/month (Simple Start)

 

$349.99/year for a single user (Pro Plus)

 

 

Most Expensive Plan

 

$180/month (Advanced) $549.99 /year for a single user (Premiere Plus)

 

Maximum Number of Users

 

25 users (Advanced plan)

plus three accountant accounts

5 users (Premiere Plus)

 

Software

 

Cloud-based, so no local software installation needed

 

Software is installed on your PC.

 

Scalability Easily scale upward or downward by adding/canceling subscriptions at any time

Each user needs their own copy of QuickBooks

 

 

Shareability Easily share your data with your bookkeeper by adding them as an accountant user

Save your data as an accountant file and email it to them for use.

 

Learning Curve/Usability Easy to learn and use

Pro Plus and Premier Plus are both easy to use

 

 

Note that there is a third version of QuickBooks, the Enterprise edition, that is aimed at large corporations.

It’s Easy to Learn

QuickBooks Online was designed to be a very accessible tool. This means there’s a low learning curve for new users. For those who have used a previous version of QuickBooks, it’s easy to jump right in and start using the cloud version. Small business owners with little to no accounting experience will find that they can set up a new QuickBooks file and start entering transactions within a few minutes.

While the intuitive design makes it easy to get started, some users may need a little more help. QuickBooks Online includes a full support system. You’ll find various articles and how-to documents in the help section. If you need more assistance, they have an online help desk where you can chat with a live representative.

 

It Makes Automation Easy

One tedious task your bookkeeper (or you as the business owner, if you don’t have a bookkeeper yet) has to do every month is put together account statements and send out invoices. This can take several days if you have a lot of clients. With QuickBooks Online, you can automate this process and take back that time. It’s easy to configure QuickBooks to automatically generate and even email invoices and other regular statements to your clients. Once you’ve set up a client in the system, you don’t have to do anything. QuickBooks can automatically insert their name and other information, then send them the invoice. If you do print invoices, QuickBooks can send these invoices to your printer as well.

If you have signed agreements, receipts, or other paper documents you need to attach to an account, QuickBooks Online makes that easy, too. You can scan the documents and attach them to the account. QuickBooks can then email these documents along with the invoice. If the client pays online, the transaction is automatically entered into QuickBooks, further reducing the amount of work you have to do and ensuring that the transaction isn’t missed. This automation also reduces errors made on invoices or in entering a transaction.

 

Inventory Tracking is Included

In addition to tracking your fiscal transaction, QuickBooks Online also offers inventory tracking. You can keep a list of your products and how many you have in stock in the system. When you invoice a client through QuickBooks, the system will automatically adjust the inventory counts accordingly. This means if you sell three of one item, your inventory for that item will automatically be reduced by three when you enter the transaction. There’s no need for a separate inventory system. By using QuickBooks for both, you again reduce the risk of errors or of transactions being missed.

Protea Financial Inventory Tracking QuickBooks Online

 

Multiple Report Options

Reports are vital to seeing a full picture of your finances. QuickBooks Online gives you a wide range of different reporting options. Each report highlights different information you may need to make decisions regarding the future of your business. With these reports, you’ll always have the data you need. In fact, because everything is cloud-based, you can generate a report from anywhere. You can even access these reports via the QuickBooks Online mobile app, so you don’t even need to have a computer in front of you.

 

Pair QuickBooks Online with a Professional Bookkeeper for the Ultimate Accounting Setup

While QuickBooks Online is an amazing tool that anyone can use, it’s still just a tool. To draw true insights from its reports and fully understand your data, you need a professional bookkeeper on your side. These experts can suggest accounting best practices and implement processes that will always ensure your accounts are accurate and follow all relevant accounting standards. By combining QuickBooks Online and a knowledgeable bookkeeper, you’ll be able to grow your business and improve your bottom line. This is also the best way to ensure that your bookkeeper has access to all the information they need in order to file your taxes.

 

Need a Virtual Bookkeeper? Contact Protea Financial Today

Are you in need of a bookkeeper? Protea Financial offers virtual bookkeepers for businesses just like yours. Because all of our bookkeepers are virtual, you aren’t limited to professionals in your area. Our team is made up of some of the best bookkeepers in the country, and we’re ready to provide whatever financial assistance you need, whether it’s basic bookkeeping or a virtual CFO.

Our team is very familiar with QuickBooks Online and uses it to assist many of our clients. We can track your transactions, set up automated invoicing, create custom reports, and much more. We’ll also be there to help analyze your financial data and provide recommendations to help your business. If you’re ready to bring on a virtual bookkeeper or would like to learn more about how we can help you, contact Protea Financial today.

Want Help Using QuickBooks Online?

Letting the experts take over your bookkeeping tasks allows you to focus on your business. Contact us here at Protea Financial today, and let us help organize your books!