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How to Speak the Same Language as your Sales and Marketing Counterparts

How to Speak the Same Language as your Sales and Marketing Counterparts

The Wine Industry has a common language, but do we use it between different disciplines? 

Stick to 3 rules to empower your colleagues…so that they can help you do your job better.

Many wineries and businesses find themselves hesitant to hire outside help because it seems like heavy-lifting to onboard a new person. Similarly, departments within the same organization can shy away from efforts of collaboration, citing concerns of extra unnecessary work. 

Whether working with outside agencies/consultants, or making new efforts cross-functionally, a lot of that headache can be minimized with proper communication.  This can especially be true between finance teams and their sales and marketing colleagues.

The Real Estate industry will tell you their guiding principle is “Location. Location. Location.”  In the crowded wine industry, to succeed with both consumers and the trade, the rule is “Communication. Communication. Communication.”

 

Consider this classic scenario in the wine industry:  

Sales & Marketing develop a campaign that is projected to meet goals and bring home some revenue. The salaries of those positions may even depend on the campaign’s success. Finance colleagues develop a smart protocol for tracking things properly and sustainably. Then, when the campaign indeed turns successful and everyone should be high-fiving (or toasting) each other, they are instead losing sleep and scrounging together elusive details on both sides.

The added stress is often a consequence of mutual, sub-par communication.  How did we get here? The wine industry is magnetic and draws people in from all over the globe.  Many are strong communicators and even speak multiple languages.  However, there is so much focus on brand communication, that we sometimes overlook the importance of internal communication. The way we communicate internally can be the difference between sleepless nights and win-win success stories.

This begs the question, how do we improve the way we communicate between different disciplines, in order to get the win-win? 

While Finance cannot control the outcome of Sales & Marketing initiatives, they can likely control the process with a few guiding principles.   These principles can be viewed as 3 rules to speak the same language as your Sales & Marketing counterparts.

Are you in a finance or operations-related position in the wine industry?  Here are more details on the 3 rules to speak the language of Sales & Marketing, and empower them to help you.

Protea Financial Communication Between Sales and Marketing

1. Make things simple!

Simple is indeed harder. Take the time up front to create simple processes that help your colleagues communicate with their VIPs.

Simplifying Life for Colleagues is an Opportunity to Build Respect.

Examples: Sales colleagues’ VIPs are likely their top accounts. How can you think one step ahead, and simplify this communication for them?  Sales & Marketing colleagues are often led by the “more is better” approach, since more efforts often lead directly to more sales. This can lead to what appears to be messy efforts in the eyes of Finance teams.  If you can offer streamlined communication and a more simplified process for closing and reporting deals, it will count as success, both for you and for them.

 

2. Provide tools.

Learn about the challenges of your sales and marketing counterparts so you can improve the tools to help everyone succeed together.

Providing Useful Tools is an Opportunity to Create Efficiency for All.

Examples: Sales & Marketing colleagues often cannot predict outcomes as concisely as desired. A proper planning process would require accountability but also allow for realistic wiggle room.  Another challenge could be simply keeping up with the number of active promotions and campaigns, and understanding different rules and processes required for each.  Picture a sales professional who is expected to travel often or pop into account after account, without much scheduled office time. The frustration of sitting down to wade through emails can be real.   It might be time to look closer at the reporting process. Are the guidelines and possible forms streamlined/available on one platform for easy access? 

 

3. Invest in the relationship.

Sales & Marketing often rely heavily on relationships. This is the lens through which many deals are made and it is especially true in the wine industry. 

Investing in the Relationship is an Opportunity to Open up Communication.

Examples: The best sales professionals are often quite personable and have an ease of verbal communication. They might shine on the spot, but not always thrive in the rigid nature of reporting to their finance colleagues.  Find common ground with these colleagues in order to play their game and partner in a way that feels more comfortable to them.  Perhaps a regularly scheduled check-in meeting would help tie up loose ends? You might even learn something helpful, like how your deadline always falls on their big travel day.

In short, Make Things Simple for your customers.  Provide Tools for your trade partners.  And, Invest in the Relationship of both parties.  The above “rules” are quite simple in nature, but are often overlooked in a crowded, product-driven industry.  If we go back to the basics, we are reminded that often simple is harder, but simple is better.  Communication plays the leading role in being “simple”, and this leads to team success.  

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Communication is an Incredible Asset in the Wine Industry

Strong communication is a theme that successful brands and teams will carry through from internal team communication, all the way to brand communication for consumer and B2B initiatives. One could say that successful communication about brands and products in the industry usually follow the same 3 rules, and they often come down to communication, communication, communication.

The win-win scenarios may take more work up front. However, after the investment in clear messaging, streamlined tools, and collaboration, we will all be toasting each other in the end.

 

About Clarity & Co

Clarity & Co’s mission is to offer marketing consulting, trade relations, and project management services to the premium wine industry, and to do so with clarity and collaboration, or Clarity & Co.  Owner Theresa Wray is a marketing & communications professional who believes in the power of communication to transform brands and teams.  For more information, visit www.clarityandco.com.

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Let the people behind Protea Financial help improve how your company runs. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are here to help. 

3 Steps to Set Your Business Up for Success in 2023

3 Steps to Set Your Business Up for Success in 2023

As we begin a new year, I reflect on two common (and related) questions I’m often asked by business owners or leaders: 

“How can I set my business up for greater success this year than last year?”, and 

“How can I accomplish this without working even more hours?”

These three key steps will surely set your business up for a very strong year ahead.

 

Identify Clear, Desired Outcomes for Your Business, Before Developing Detailed Plans

In January 2024, as you reflect on your business in the prior year, what specifically do you want your business to have accomplished? You would be shocked to know that only 20% of people set goals. And according to a Harvard Business Review study, those who set goals are 10 times more successful than those who don’t. Why is that?

You (and your teams) are more productive if everyone is focused on specific achievements each day, week, or month. You can start by giving your team direction, which then increases productivity. The goals provide clarity and enable everyone in your organization to understand exactly what you are seeking from the company.

By having clear expectations, you can hold yourself and your team accountable for results. No one can say, “I didn’t know what we were trying to accomplish,” if you make it very clear what, in fact, your goals are for the coming year. Contrary to what some may think, good employees actually embrace accountability. Like you, they also want a “scorecard” to evaluate their performance. Accountability also increases employee engagement, strengthens performance, improves attitudes, and generally creates an environment that energizes your team.

How should you set goals? Is there a specific format that works best? Many people prefer S.M.A.R.T. goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (meaning some deadline or allotted time frame). Some companies set KPIs – Key Performance Indicators for their teams. With KPIs, you (or your team leaders) work directly with individuals to determine what results will demonstrate success and achievement of your goals.  

I always prefer simplicity. I often ask people this: what are some résumé-worthy accomplishments that you want to achieve at the end of the year? In other words, consider the three or four desired outcomes you would include on your résumé for the following year. If you wouldn’t have it on your résumé, it probably isn’t a true “needle-moving accomplishment” for your business. 

I often hear people get hung up on whether something is a “goal” or an “objective.” I prefer to use the term “desired outcomes simply.” Perhaps your desired outcomes are financial and very specific. Or the outcome you desire may be less easy to measure, but you will “know it when you see it.” For example, you may realize that the key to your success this year is to develop a strong team that works together better. Measurement of success of that goal may be difficult, so paint a picture. What will a “strong, cohesive team” look like? How will you know? Paint a picture so that you and everyone on your team can clearly articulate what that outcome looks like.

Protea Financial Identifying Business Outcomes

Move Away from Dysfunctional Team Tendencies

In his bestseller: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni writes that teams that excel in 5 main areas are more likely to be high-functioning, cohesive teams. The five areas are: 1) Trust, 2) Conflict, 3) Commitment, 4) Accountability, and 5) Results. Many companies, however, fail to focus on building the foundations of the team and never achieve the results they genuinely seek. Each of these five areas can be developed, but the leaders must create an environment and commit to spending time to make these work. In particular, the first two areas can be addressed by an owner/CEO who cares and who wants to create meaningful improvement in their company.

The first, and I believe, most critical focus is “Trust.” Dysfunctional teams have an absence of trust, aren’t “real” with each other, and demonstrate invulnerability. High-functioning teams, however, trust each other. Deeply. They respect and accept each other. They are comfortable being vulnerable, and they trust the needs, competence, strengths, and character of each other.

Trust obviously doesn’t happen “overnight.” As a leader, you can create an environment that inspires trust. You can acknowledge, listen, and reward people who are willing to be vulnerable – to seek improvement. You can encourage people to challenge “sacred cows” or processes that need to be fixed, but no one has been willing to speak up. When people confront you in a manner that is genuinely seeking positive change, you should listen. Acknowledge that you hear what they are saying, and take the comments to heart. You certainly need to be able to differentiate between people who are being constructive vs. destructive. But don’t immediately get defensive. If you want to know what is going on in your company and what truly needs to change, then show respect to people willing to take a risk, speak up, and be vulnerable.

The second characteristic of high-functioning teams is dealing effectively with conflict. Do you encourage open, candid dialogue and constructive conflict? Or do you seek artificial harmony where people can’t discuss real issues, avoid conflict, and speak up …often because people in power don’t listen.

I once led an internal company workshop among the key organizational leaders. One of the people said that they felt that sometimes the CEO would gain agreement in the leaders’ meeting to a new process or rule. Still, the CEO would more-than-occasionally take actions after the meeting that appeared to not be in accordance with what had been agreed upon by the leaders. At that moment of our meeting, the CEO had the opportunity to have a candid dialogue and deal with conflict constructively. Instead, the CEO fired back that the person making the “accusation” was wrong and demanded they come up with another example because “clearly they didn’t get this example right.”

Instead of creating an opportunity for positive dialogue and discussing real issues in the spirit of finding positive ways to change, the CEO chose to shut down the conversation. In doing so, he created very bad feelings among most of the leaders and effectively shut down any good that might have come from a discussion. In the end, instead of a positive workshop that could bring the team together, the result could have been better. Team members shut down, trust was crushed, and commitment by each of the leaders was not able to be developed.  

Protea Financial Building Successful Teams

Measure Sales Activities … not Just Sales Results 

The third step you can take in 2023 to create meaningful improvement for your business is to focus on measuring sales activities, not just the results. Pick a small number of activity-based metrics and then stick to them.

One of the biggest sales management mistakes companies can make is to focus on sales results rather than on sales activities. At first glance, that sounds strange. Our inclination in managing sales is usually to focus on results! So why should you focus on activities more than results?

Results are typically lagging indicators – meaning that the results lag behind the activities that drive the results. If you are measuring results for products or services with longer lead times and you don’t get the results you seek, it is too late to make meaningful changes to affect results that year.

Think of the example of weight loss.

You set a goal for the new year, let’s say, “I want to lose 36 lbs. in 2023.” You decide you can achieve this over the course of the year. If you focus only on measuring the results at year-end, it is too late to change if you miss your target. Even if you measure the results monthly but not the activities, you will learn sooner that you are missing your goals, but you won’t necessarily understand why and what to do about it. Instead, consider developing a clear strategy and measuring the activities that will drive weight loss. Each week, you set activity goals: consume X calories by eating specific meals each day and exercising X minutes each day. You don’t control the scale, but you do control the activities that drive the results. You know immediately how many calories you have consumed in a day or whether you ran for 30 minutes per your plan.

The same approach should be followed with sales management. Set realistic goals (SEE #1 ABOVE). Then, develop a strategy and plan of attack. For example, what activities do you need to do in order to bring 20 new prospects into your pipeline? Are you following those activities? How many follow-up calls will you likely need to make to close a deal? Are you making those calls?

For consumer products like wine, identify reasonable and achievable goals. Then determine the activities needed to generate those results. And track those activities. For example, how many retailers do you typically need to meet to close 10 sales? Are you conducting all those meetings? Or how many wine tastings do you need to have in order to generate your desired wine club memberships? What are the activities that will drive tastings? Identify and track those activities.  

If you are interested in learning more secrets to measuring and managing sales performance, I recommend Jason Jordan’s book, Cracking the Sales Management Code.

In summary, I encourage you to take these three steps in 2023 to propel your business forward. 

First, identify clear, desired outcomes for your business before developing detailed plans. Second, move away from dysfunctional team tendencies. Instead, invest time and energy in building trust and creating an environment where your team manages conflict directly and respectfully. Finally, focus on measuring sales activities – not just sales results. Determine the activities that will drive the desired results, then monitor, track, and hold people accountable for those activities.

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Carter Welch is an accomplished business leader, consultant, and coach responsible for driving success in numerous businesses, large and small. A former Procter & Gamble and Pillsbury executive, he focuses today on guiding small business owners to identify obstacles, overcome fear, develop winning strategies, lead organizations, and ultimately, achieve great success. He can be reached at 707-339-2842 or by email at carter@carterwelch.com.

Let Protea Financial Become Part of Your Success in 2023

Protea Financial is here to help your business reach new levels of success in 2023. We can help!

Gear Up for These 2023 Changes to California Employment Law

Gear Up for These 2023 Changes to California Employment Law

It’s the time of year again to dive in and take a look at upcoming changes to California employment law. This fall, Governor Newsom approved several new employment laws, generally expanding on employee rights and creating new obligations for employers. From new pay scale disclosure requirements to mandatory bereavement leave to nuanced changes to the California Family Rights Act, here are summaries of a few key bills signed into law, that go into effect on January 1, 2023.

 

SB 1162: Pay Transparency & Data Reporting Requirements

New pay scale disclosure requirements. In 2017, California led the nation by passing the first mandatory pay transparency law, which required employers to provide pay scale information (i.e., annual salary or hourly wage range) to job applicants upon request. Effective January 1, 2023, SB 1162 will expand the law to require:

  • Employers with 15 or more employees must now include in all their job postings the “salary or hourly wage range that the employer reasonably expects to pay for the position.” If the employer uses a third party to publish or post a job, that third party must also include it in the posting.
  • Upon an employee’s request, all employers must provide the pay scale for the requesting employee’s current position.
  • All employersmust maintain records of job title and wage history for each employee for the duration of their employment and three years after the end of employment so that the state’s Labor Commissioner – who is authorized to inspect these records – can determine if there is a “pattern of wage discrepancy.”

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Pay data reporting requirements. California currently requires employers with 100 or more employees, to submit annual pay data reports to the state’s Civil Rights Department (“CRD”) (formerly the DFEH). Current law allows employers to file an annual Employer Information Report (EEO-1) with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in lieu of the pay data report to the CRD.

  • Effective January 1, 2023, California employers will no longer be able to file the EEO-1 in lieu of the California report to the CRD. This is because California has expanded the required information to be reported beyond what the EEO-1 requires. Thus, SB 1162 will require employers with 100 or more employees to submit a separate report to the CRD, including:
    • The number of employees by race, ethnicity, and sex in 10 job categories, based on a “snapshot” that counts all individuals employed in these categories during a single pay period of the employer’s choice between October 1 and December 31 of the reporting year.
    • The job categories include: (1) Executive or senior-level officials and managers, (2) First or mid-level officials and managers, (3) Professionals, (4) Technicians, (5) Sales workers, (6) Administrative support workers, (7) Craft workers, (8) Operatives, (9) Laborers and helpers, and (10) Service workers.
    • Within each job category, for each combination of race, ethnicity, and sex, the median and mean hourly rate.
    • The total number of hours worked by each employee in each pay band during the reporting year.
    • The employer will have the option, but is not required, to provide clarifying remarks regarding the information provided.
  • Employees hired through labor contractors. In addition, employers with 100 or more employees hired through third-party labor contractors must also submit a separate pay data report to the CRD covering those employees and disclosing the ownership names of all labor contractors used to supply such employees. A labor contractor is defined as “an individual or entity that supplies, either with or without a contract, a client employer with workers to perform labor within the client employer’s usual course of business.”

The bill also changes the deadline for all future pay data reports from March 21 to the second Wednesday of May each year, beginning in 2023.

 

Penalties for noncompliance with SB 1162

  • Employees claiming an employer’s noncompliance with the pay disclosure requirements may file a complaint with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) within one year of the date that they learned of the violation.
  • If the DLSE finds that an employer violated the law, employers may be subject to civil penalties of $100 to $10,000 per violation. The Labor Commissioner will determine the amount of the penalty based on the totality of the circumstances, including prior violations.
  • Notably, no penalty will be assessed for a first violation where an employer shows that “all job postings for all positions have been updated to include the pay scale.”
  • If an employer fails to file the pay data reports, the CRD can seek a court order requiring compliance and recovering costs associated with seeking such an order. A court also can impose civil penalties of $100 per employee, and up to $200 per employee, for subsequent failures to file the report.
  • If an employer cannot comply because a labor contractor has not provided the required pay data information, a court may also apportion an “appropriate amount of penalties” to the labor contractor.

 

Private right of action for injunctive relief

  • SB 1162 also includes a civil private right of action for injunctive relief “and any other relief that that court deems appropriate.” Very little detail is provided in the text of the bill regarding what that private right of action will entail, and who will have standing to pursue such an action.
  • The bill simply provides: “A person who claims to be aggrieved by a violation of this section may also bring a civil action for injunctive relief and any other relief that the court deems appropriate.”

It is expected that the CRD will publish additional information, including FAQs and a User Guide for Employers, in the coming months.

 

Changes to the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA)

AB 1041: Paid Sick Leave and Family Leave Expanded to “Designated Persons”

Effective January 1, 2023, AB 1041 will expand the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) and the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act (“HWHFA”) to allow employees to take paid sick leave and family leave to care for a “designated person” chosen by the employee, including non-family members. The definition of designated person is: “any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

An employee may change their designated person once per 12-month period.

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AB 1949: Job Protected Bereavement Leave

Effective January 1, 2023, AB 1949 will expand the CFRA to allow an eligible employee to take up to 5 days of bereavement leave upon the death of a family member.

The leave must be completed within three months of the date of death. The new law requires that leave be taken pursuant to any existing bereavement leave policy of the employer. If no such policy exists, leave may be unpaid. However, the employee may use other leave balances, such as accrued paid sick leave, towards the bereavement leave.

 

California’s Privacy Rights Act (“CPRA”)

California’s Privacy Rights Act (“CPRA”) will become effective January 1, 2023. Under the CPRA, “consumers,” including employees, will be able to exercise several new rights including:

  1. The right to know (request disclosure of) what personal information was collected by the business about the consumer or employee, from whom it was collected, why it was collected, and, if sold, to whom;
  2. The right to delete personal information collected from the consumer or employee;
  3. The right to opt-out of the sale of personal information (if applicable);
  4. The right to opt-in to the sale of personal information of consumers under the age of 16 (if applicable);
  5. The right to non-discriminatory treatment for exercising any rights; and
  6. The right to initiate a private cause of action for data breaches.
  7. The right to correct inaccurate personal information; and
  8. The right to limit use and disclosure of sensitive personal information.

Because the new law applies these protections to employees, and not just consumers, the CPRA presents a unique set of challenges for employers. The most notable is understanding what employee data the employer holds, where that data is stored, and which data is truly essential and that which should be deleted at an employee’s request.

 

SB 1044: Emergency Working Conditions

SB 1044, which will also become effective January 1, 2023, prohibits an employer in the event of an emergency condition, from taking or threatening adverse action against any employee for refusing to report to, or leaving, a workplace or worksite because the employee “has a reasonable belief that the workplace or worksite is unsafe.” An emergency condition is defined as:

  1. Conditions of disaster or extreme peril to the safety of persons or property at the workplace or worksite caused by natural forces or a criminal act.
  2. An order to evacuate a workplace, a worksite, a worker’s home, or the school of a worker’s child due to a natural disaster or a criminal act.

Notably, an emergency condition does not include a health pandemic.

SB 1044 also prohibits an employer from preventing an employee from accessing the employee’s mobile device or other communications device in order to seek emergency assistance. An employee is required to notify the employer of the emergency condition requiring the employee to leave or refuse to report to the workplace or worksite.

 

In Conclusion . . .

Before the end of 2022, employers should review their policies and procedures to ensure compliance with these new laws. Employers should also reach out to their employment counsel with any questions regarding these pending changes. Proactive changes and working with counsel will help protect employers during this season of change!

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How to Track Your Business Expenses: A Simple Guide for You and Your Business

How to Track Your Business Expenses: A Simple Guide for You and Your Business

As the owner of your own business, you’re going to be spending a lot of your time and money on it. You need to keep track of all these expenses to accurately report them when you file your taxes at the end of the year.

You can deduct many expenses related to running it. These are called “business expenses,” and they can be quite beneficial to your bottom line. The trick is tracking them and documenting them correctly, so that come tax time, you are ready to receive the benefits.

Unfortunately, many small business owners don’t take the time to document their expenses until after they have already paid their bills. This won’t help when tax season comes around, which is why we want to give you a hand with getting started now! Here is a quick guide on how to track your business expenses and what type of expenses you should keep track of in order to do so.

 

What Is a Business Expense?

Business expenses are any costs related to running and managing your business. These costs can include your office rent, utilities, insurance, employee salaries, equipment, travel costs, and other expenses that directly relate to your business’s operation.

Usually, only the amount that is above your typical, expected costs is considered business expenses. Your expected costs are what your business would cost you if you didn’t run it. Many of these costs have associated write-offs you can take advantage of by properly tracking them.

Business expenses are deducted from your income when calculating taxes at the end of the year. This lowers how much you owe the government, resulting in a lower tax bill.

 

Where to Track Your Business Expenses

There are countless apps and websites that you can use to track your business expenses. You could write them down on paper or use a virtual notebook, like Evernote. However, this could result in lost notes.

There are also some specialized apps designed to help you track your business’s expenses. These apps are usually designed specifically for tracking business expenses, so they may have features that others don’t.

Until you know which app you want to use, consider using your email. That way, when you need information, you can forward it to yourself for almost instant access to it while you sort through the apps that can help.

After a quick search for business expense tracker apps, you will likely find names like QuickBooks Expense Tracking, Rydoo, Zoho Expense, and Ramp, to name a few. You will have to sort through the apps to see which will be easiest for you and your business to accurately track each expense without taking so much time that you put off doing it.

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How to Track Your Business’s Expenses for Taxes

In order to properly track your business expenses, you’ll need to know which ones to track. Here is a basic list of common business expenses that you should keep track of for your taxes:

  • Office Rent and Utilities: You can deduct money for each square foot of your office space. You can also deduct any utility expenses that are directly related to your business.
  • Office Supplies: Any office supplies you use for your business can be deducted as a business expense. This includes things like pens, paper, printer ink, etc., so make sure you always keep receipts for each of these purchases.
  • Employer Taxes: You can deduct the employer portion of your payroll taxes. This includes things like Social Security and Medicare taxes.
  • Employees’ Retirement: Any amounts you contribute to your employees’ retirement accounts can be deducted from your taxes. This includes 401(k)s and SEPs.
  • Insurance Premiums: Amounts you pay into your insurance premiums should also be tracked to reduce your future tax bill.

 

Advertising and Marketing Expenses

Advertising and marketing expenses are essential business expenses that many people overlook. You can deduct these expenses as long as they are reasonable and related to your business.

Advertising and marketing can include anything from buying ad space on a billboard to paying for an ad on a website. It can also include things like hiring a branding agency to design your logo and branding materials. Hiring a social media agency to promote your business also falls into this category.

You can also deduct any online marketing costs that are related to your business. This includes things like buying ad space, hiring a marketing firm to increase brand awareness, or buying products from Amazon to resell and promote them as an affiliate.

 

Office Supplies and Equipment

Office supplies and equipment are another necessary business expense that you need to track. This is another expense you should track so long as it is reasonable and related to your business.

You can deduct things like printer ink, paper, and toner cartridges. You can also deduct the cost of office furniture, your computer, and other equipment that is related to running your business.

Another thing you should be aware of is that you can depreciate certain assets over time. This is when you deduct a portion of an item’s cost each year over its expected life span.

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Travel and Entertainment Costs

While you could deduct travel-related expenses related to your business, you can only deduct 50% of the amount that exceeds the standard deduction. This means that if you travel for work and spend $1,000 on travel, only $500 of that can be deducted from your taxes.

Entertainment costs, however, are a bit different. You can deduct most reasonable expenses related to your entertainment, but only up to the amount of income that you earn. This means that if you make $100,000 and spend $10,000 on entertainment, you can only deduct $10,000 of those expenses from your taxes, no matter how many tickets or dinners you bought.

 

Professional Services

Professional services are another important business expense. This includes things like hiring an accountant, a lawyer, or hiring an outside firm to manage your website and engage with your social media followers.

It also includes hiring a bookkeeper to manage your finances and keep track of your business expenses. Having a good bookkeeper is as essential as having a good accountant. They keep track of your expenses and workflows in order to help you avoid silly mistakes and oversights.

You can deduct the cost of these services from your taxes, just like any other business expense. You might want to consider having your bookkeeper and accountant bill you for their services instead of paying them up-front each month.

 

For Help Tracking Your Business Expenses, Contact Protea Financial Today!

Business expenses are any costs related to running and managing your business. To properly prepare for your taxes, you’ll need to track all these expenses.

Many of these have associated write-offs you can take advantage of by properly tracking them. For help keeping track of your business expenses, contact Protea Financial. We can help keep your business organized so you can focus on growth and customer engagement.

Let Protea Financial Help Teach You How to Track Your Business Expenses Properly

When you need help learning how to track your business expenses properly, it’s essential you learn from the people who track them for a living. Let the experts here at Protea Financial teach you how!

Tips to Make Your Month-End Close Processes Easier

Tips to Make Your Month-End Close Processes Easier

Month-end processes are often a source of stress for finance teams. Many organizations find month-end processes challenging, which is why it is important to put processes in place early and consistently.

If that sounds like your month end, you’re not alone – many businesses will face similar challenges. While most accounting departments dread the end of the month, an organized team can make things much easier on themselves at this time of the year. Here are some tips to reduce stress and streamline your month-end close processes.

 

What Are the Most Common Month-End Processes?

Month-end processes are standard parts of the business cycle. You may need to process payments, collect receivables, make payroll, or do regulatory filings at the end of each month. These tasks are often automated in modern businesses but can still be time-consuming and tedious for employees to complete.

  1. Collect payments: Businesses must collect monthly payments from customers if they want to stay fluid. This process can be automated, but it should also have enough human oversight to ensure that everything is current and no payments slip through the cracks.
  2. Write checks: This is often the most tedious process in any business. A lot goes into writing a check, from calculating the proper amount to getting each check sent out appropriately.
  3. Process invoices: Processing invoices involves reading invoices and making sure they are accurate before you pay them. Then there are calculating payment amounts, which can be a challenge for many small business owners who aren’t used to doing it manually.
  4. Pay taxes: Taxes are a hassle every year, no matter how well organized you are. You need to calculate sales tax and ensure all the correct forms have been filed. You also need to track sales receipts to know where your money is going and whether it’s being spent appropriately.
  5. Process credit card payments: When you accept credit cards, it’s important to process them quickly and accurately so that you don’t lose any money. In addition to earning more money from quickly processing these cards, quick and accurate processing of card transactions can help you avoid costly chargebacks. A chargeback happens when a card customer disputes a purchase and gets their money back. It can be expensive for businesses to deal with chargebacks, especially if they are accused of fraud. It’s, therefore, important to keep careful records of all your transactions, monitor your risk, and stay above the minimum transaction amounts for each card type.

Protea Financial Month End Close Process Easier

Organize Your Data

There are many examples of disorganization leading to errors and delays in month-end processes. If you can’t find something, you could be heading towards mistakes, such as incorrect calculations, incorrect payment amounts, and misapplied bank credits.

If you are experiencing issues, you may need to re-examine how you store data to find what you need when needed quickly. Organize your data to ensure that information is easily accessible and can be understood.

There are many ways of organizing data, so choose an approach that suits your organization. Some standard methods include data tables, dictionaries, and architecture models. Data tables are simple tables that show how data is used. Data dictionaries are more prescriptive and indicate what data should look like. Data architecture models show how information is delivered and consumed.

 

Automate Processes Where You Can

Many month-end processes can be automated to save time and reduce human error. For example, you might have a process to check your customers’ payment terms. This process might involve a person looking up the details for each customer.

You could instead automate this process and use data tables to select the customer details from the data table and have the system look up the payment terms automatically. You could use automation to schedule the payment or even generate the payment and send it to the customer.

It could save significant time and effort in areas where automation is available. Some processes may be more challenging to automate. If so, consider if they can be simplified. A more streamlined process will be easier to automate and more efficient when completed manually.

 

Use Checklists to Ensure Nothing Gets Missed

As part of the process of ensuring all data is correct, you might need to check each account. This could be a time-consuming task if you have a large number of accounts. A more efficient approach is to use checklists to ensure you have checked each account correctly.

Checklists can also show that every step in the month-end process has been completed and is accurate. This can be particularly useful in team environments. Using checklists for account reconciliations can demonstrate the company’s level of due diligence, which can be particularly important if your organization is audited.

 

Establish Clear Processes and Timing

If each team member has clearly defined responsibilities, they will know what to do and when to do it, reducing confusion and allowing everyone to focus on their own tasks. For example, you might have one person responsible for checking the payment terms for all accounts within a particular time frame. Another person could be responsible for monitoring payment dates for these accounts and bringing any issues to the attention of other team members.

It is also essential to ensure that all team members are aware of the company’s payment terms. You might have team members who are unaware of the payment terms but who are responsible for checking accounts.

Protea Financial Making Your Month End Close Process Easier

Define a Clearing Date and Vendor Date

A common cause of issues at the end of the month is accounts that are inadvertently paid too early. This typically happens due to a misunderstanding of the company’s payment terms. For example, if your customers generally pay 30 days after the invoice date, but your payment terms are net 10 days, you must ensure that your accounts are only paid 10 days after the invoice date.

Some organizations use the last day of the month as the clearing date. However, this is not always ideal because it may mean you must wait until the next month to pay some of your essential suppliers. A better approach is to use the first date on which you plan to pay suppliers each month as the vendor date. This will give you a more realistic time frame for paying suppliers.

 

Lock Down Permissions

You might have been using your month-end processes for years with no issues. But, as your business grows and the team changes, it can be easy for someone to make a change to a process inadvertently, potentially resulting in a process that no longer works properly.

It is essential to lock down the team’s permissions to prevent errors from happening. It is even more important to do so at the end of the month when processes are more tightly controlled. Permissions are often set up based on the functions and roles of team members. You may want people in accounting to have complete control over payment terms and dates, while other team members may only need read-only access.

 

Protea Financial Can Help Keep Your Month-End Processes Going Smoothly

Month-end processes can be challenging, particularly for large teams or organizations with many customers. However, if you take the time to prepare and put processes in place, they can be much easier to manage.

Organize your data, automate where you can, use checklists for account reconciliations, and establish clear processes. These simple steps can help reduce the stress and errors associated with the end of the month.

If you simply want to hand over the month-end responsibilities, reach out to us here at Protea Financial. We will do whatever we can to help make your business successful.

Protea Financial Can Help Make Your Month-End Close Processes Easier

If you need help to make your month-end close processes easier, then please reach out to us here at Protea Financial. Our experts can help guide you to a smoother month-end close so you can focus on the next step for your business.