Michael Trabold

Director, Compliance Risk, Paychex

Three Steps to Assessing Your Client's HR Compliance Needs

Small business owners without a designated HR manager often feel overwhelmed by all of the HR responsibilities that come with having even just one or two employees. HR has evolved far beyond payroll and ensuring your employees are paid accurately and on time – although, payroll does remain a critical component of the employer-employee relationship. In fact, according to a recent Paychex Small Business Survey, 21 percent of today’s owners lack confidence in their organization’s ability to keep current with HR compliance.

From background checks to onboarding to employee handbooks, every step of the employee journey requires a deeper understanding of HR and employment laws than many small business owners are not prepared for. After all, they got into business because they had an idea – not because they are HR experts.

Upon starting their business or hiring their first employee, small business owners can struggle with where to start when it comes to HR. But, in a few steps, you can help your small business clients assess their HR needs and better understand how to get their HR functions up and running efficiently:

  1. Assess your client’s understanding of and compliance with employment laws. Is your client aware of the federal employment laws that impact his or her business? How about the state and local laws (especially if they conduct business in multiple locations)? According to those business owners who responded to the Paychex survey, the top three employer regulations they’re either not complying with or not aware of are: youth employment standards (42%), employee classification laws (37%), and overtime laws (36%). Getting a gauge on where your clients fall on the compliance spectrum can help guide your HR recommendations with regards to solutions and providers who offer trainings and can lift some of that compliance burden.
  2. Take stock of their current HR assets. Knowing what HR tools and processes your client already has in place will help give you both an idea of what they need moving forward. Start from the beginning of the employee journey and work from there. What are the tools your client currently uses for recruiting, onboarding, employee file and record retention, training and development, benefits administration, performance management, and employee relations? What about these tools and processes is working for them? What could be more efficient and how?
  3. Assess their HR execution. There may be HR policies and procedures in place, but how is your client communicating those to his or her employees? For example, is the employee handbook up-to-date and easily accessible to everyone? Automation is one way to increase confidence when it comes to key HR functions. Paychex’s study revealed only 30% of small businesses leverage technology to automate the onboarding process. Additionally, 38% percent of those surveyed report tracking time and attendance manually rather than via an automated system. Embracing automation to accomplish such critical tasks not only saves time, but can also reduce the risk of human error.

HR is evolving and it’s a critical component to any business that wants to succeed. The HR process decisions your clients make can impact their ability to grow and your ability to help them remain compliant and plan for the future. Starting conversations about HR and employment law early can help your client tackle the challenges that inevitably arise and discover solution providers who offer the HR tools and resources they need. Not only will this help cement you as a trusted adviser to your clients, it will also you ensure you’re getting the accurate HR information you need to remain compliant as you carry out financial activities on their behalf.

Mike Trabold is director of compliance risk for Paychex, Inc. Paychex is a leading provider of human capital management solutions for small- to medium-sized businesses.

Andy Childs

VP of Marketing, Paychex

The Next Generation of Business Owners Has Arrived

According to a recent study, 67% of business owners are expected to retire in the next 10 years. Baby Boomer owners are selling their businesses at a record rate, leaving the door open for a new generation of business owners to take shape. This crop of new entrepreneurs is drastically different and dramatically changing the small business landscape.

Here’s a look at this new group of entrepreneurs – younger and more diverse than ever before:

  • Millennials Shaking Things Up

    Research indicates 70% of Millennials say they’d reject traditional business to work independently. Those Millennials who have taken the leap and started their own ventures have experienced significant success. In fact, 47% of Millennial-led businesses exceeded revenue goals last year, as opposed to 21% of Boomer-led enterprises.

    These are the leaders of small business entrepreneurship in the future, at least according to 66% of current small business owners surveyed.

  • Women Emerging as Entrepreneurs

    Millennials aren’t the only group making their mark on the small business landscape. Recent years have seen a surge in women entrepreneurs as the daily average number of businesses started by women has doubled in the last three years. In fact, the number of women-owned small businesses in the U.S. has increased 50% faster than the overall number of small businesses since 2014.

    In addition to the obvious tangible needs, starting a business takes vision, drive, and the ability to juggle many things at once. These are areas in which many women tend to excel. Research shows that 30% of U.S. small businesses are owned by women, which is a number that’s likely to increase as more and more women choose this path.

  • The Changing Face of Business

    We know Boomers are selling their businesses at a record pace and younger entrepreneurs are taking them over or starting anew. Not only are those entrepreneurs younger, but they’re coming from more diverse backgrounds. The U.S. is a melting pot, and the small business landscape is not unlike that national makeup.

    Of those interested buyers of Boomer businesses, 19% were of Asian/Pacific Island decent, 15% were Hispanic, and 12% African American. When it comes to startup ventures, Latino-owned new businesses increased from 11% in 2001 to 23% in 2011.

    As you can imagine, diversity in business and other sectors of American society will increase as America trends toward what the U.S. Census Bureau dubs a “plurality nation.”

  • Veterans Assuming a Different Role

    Entering the business world with varied experiences in the military, veterans increasingly seek to start and run a business of their own. As they look to transition from the life of an active service member to a member of the civilian workforce, veterans offer an inherent leadership quality. They excel at teamwork and are used to leading a group of people to accomplish a common goal. A strong work ethic and the ability to self-direct make veterans a natural fit for running a business.

    More and more veterans are starting down that path after service. According to the Small Business Administration, many are going down the road of entrepreneurship. In fiscal year 2015, loans to veterans rose 101% in the total dollar amount and 45% in the number of loans from the previous year.


In the time it took to write this post, it’s pretty likely that at least one U.S. business opened its doors for the first time. If research is any indication, chances are that owner is young, diverse, and ready to put his or her stamp on American commerce.

To learn more about the next generation of business owners, click here.

Andy Childs is the vice president of Marketing at Paychex, a leading provider of human capital management solutions for payroll, HR, retirement, and insurance services.

Frank Fiorille

VP of Risk, Compliance, & Data Analytics, Paychex Inc.

Small Business Job Growth Strong in First Quarter

Small business job growth started 2016 with a bang, marking the best three-month increase in two years, according to the Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index. The uptick was generally widespread across the country, and a number of individual states and metro areas saw job growth trends that indicate strong gains to begin the year.

Each month, Paychex and IHS measure the change in small business employment in the U.S., analyzing year-over-year worker count changes and trending the results to reveal movement. As we look back on Q1, let’s examine some of the data highlights.

National Scope

The pace of small business job growth improved 0.36 percent during the first three months of the year. The index held steady in March following gains in January and February to close the first quarter of 2016 just 0.05 lower than last year.

Regional Analysis

The pace of small businesses employment increased 1.40 percent in the East South Central region, the fastest growth among regions. Both the South Atlantic and Middle Atlantic regions improved solidly. After trending below the national baseline (100) all of 2015, the Middle Atlantic jumped above 100 in January as small businesses conditions strengthened further in February and March as well.

The West Central and Mountain were the only regions where small business employment growth slowed during the first quarter.

State Analysis

With the best growth rate in March as well as Q1 overall, Virginia climbed into the top 10 among states at 100.88. With three monthly gains totaling just over 1 percent, the Ohio index (100.66) is up to its highest level in more than three years and back above the national baseline.

Texas continues to be one of the strong metro indices, yet has slid 0.93 percent, mainly due to sizable drops in Dallas. Illinois fell below the national baseline for the first time in five years, as the pace of small business gains slowed 0.76 percent.

Metro Analysis

Reaching an index level of 104.01, Seattle improved 1.35 percent from December 2015 to March 2016, and overtook Dallas as the top metro index. Houston’s small business employment conditions also improved, by 0.29 percent.

The Chicago metro dropped below 100 for the first time since March 2011, as small business employment slowed 0.79 percent to start the quarter. Also dropping was Dallas metro, which fell 2.97 percent, reserving the trend of 2015.

Industry Analysis

Construction small business job gains continues at a strong pace, 102.22 in March, as the growth rate increased 0.55 percent during the last three months. At 101.13, the pace of employment growth in Education and Health Services is at its strongest level in more than two years, as the industry has gained 0.69 percent.

While most industries improved during the first three months of the year, Manufacturing did not and remains the lowest industry at 98.94.

As you can see, the first three months of 2016 featured a continued expansion of small business jobs growth. While we expect business owners will continue to look at additional options for hiring, such as part-time and contract workers, the overall expansion of small business jobs during Q1 is a positive sign that the year is off to a solid start.

Frank Fiorille is senior director of risk management for Paychex, a leading provider of human capital management solutions for payroll, HR, retirement, and insurance services.

Michael Cerami

Vice President, Business Develop- ment & Corporate Alliances

CPAs and the Growing Opportunity in Sales Tax

For businesses that operate in more than one state, keeping on top of sales and use taxes can be daunting. And it’s evident compliance is only growing more complex: for example, more than a dozen states are taking steps to impose taxes on online retailers or “remote sellers,” part of an effort to persuade Congress to push through national legislation in this area, a recent Wall Street Journal article found.

According to the report: “(The) states are tired of waiting for Congress to write national rules to let them collect sales taxes from out-of-state Internet retailers. So, in a loosely coordinated effort, they are moving to impose those taxes themselves and daring merchants to challenge them.”

The stakes are high: the National Conference of State Legislatures, citing a University of Tennessee study, says states collectively lost $23.3 billion in 2012 because of the different tax treatment of brick-and-mortar businesses versus online-only retailers, although other estimates vary.

In many ways, CPA firms are better positioned than ever to provide clients guidance and support in this area. CPA mobility laws have increased the ability of accounting professionals to practice in multiple states. And merger and acquisition activity in the profession has created new CPA firms with multistate footprints and multistate expertise.

There’s also an X factor in establishing an advisory practice for sales and use tax compliance: technology. The knowledge base for tracking legislative and regulatory developments in tax jurisdictions around the country is something that needs to be curated by a highly trained staff. That’s virtually impossible for all but the biggest CPA firms to replicate, and it explains why specialized cloud solutions that deliver this kind of continuously updated information are an important differentiator for trusted business advisor services.

To learn more about sales and use tax advisory services from the firm perspective, join CPA.com President and CEO Erik Asgeirsson and a panel of experts for a Digital CPA Webcast “Sales and Use Tax: What Your Firm Needs to Know” on May 26.

Heather Windman

Marketing Manager, CPA.com

How to discover new outsourced accounting opportunities during tax season

Although tax season can be one of the most challenging times for tax professionals at your firm, it’s also a time when you can gain more insight into client needs and expand relationships. During client meetings, there is so much that can be uncovered during tax season and if the right questions are asked, it can open the door to new opportunities for client accounting and advisory services.

Simply arm your tax colleagues with sound, probing questions that will get clients talking about their business. Suggested conversation starters, include:

  • What are your business growth goals?
  • Would you like to receive special reports to run your business weekly or monthly?
  • Would you like to have a dashboard where you can view your daily cash flow on a 24/7 basis?
  • Is it difficult to keep a good bookkeeper? Are you the bookkeeper?
  • What is your biggest pain point with your business?

Ready to get started? Here are 3 steps you can take to partner with your tax team.

  1. Education: It starts with internal education. Ensure your colleagues are aware of the types of accounting and advisory services you provide and the value these services offer clients. Set up a meeting to get everyone on the same page, and discuss how you can work together.
  2. Internal Materials: Create internal materials for your tax colleagues such as note cards with the top five questions, a high-level sales pitch that includes core benefits of client accounting services, videos, and more.
  3. External Client Materials: Provide external marketing materials about your services that tax professionals can share with clients such as flyers, case studies, a link to your website, and more.

Get a copy of our tip sheet with more information.

Eric Enser

Product Manager, Insurance Solutions, Paychex, Inc.

ACA Deadline Extension – What Your Clients Need to Know

With the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) extension of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) reporting deadlines for the 2015 tax year, published on December 28, 2015, businesses now have more time to meet the requirements of the Employer Shared Responsibility (ESR) provisions. Employers should use this extra time wisely, making sure they fully understand what’s required of them and the actions they need to take to avoid penalties.

In today’s economy, accountants that understand how these regulations impact their clients’ businesses—and can offer strategic guidance—are in great demand. Business owners continue to rely on CPAs to provide valuable information regarding Employer Shared Responsibility requirements. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the essential ESR details.

A Brief Overview

Under the ESR provisions of the ACA, certain employers must offer affordable health insurance coverage that meets the established minimum essential coverage and minimum value requirements to full-time employees or risk a potential penalty. If you are considered an applicable large employer, you'll need to provide detailed informational reporting to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at tax time.

Need-to-Know Information for ESR Reporting

Is my client subject to the law?

In general, an applicable large employer (ALE) is any employer with an average of 50 or more full-time employees, including full-time equivalents (FTEs) during business days of the previous calendar year. A full-time employee is one who works an average of 30 hours per week or 130 hours per month. In general, ALEs with 50 to 99 full-time employees, including FTEs, may qualify for relief from penalties for not offering affordable and adequate insurance to their full-time employees until 2016, or the beginning of their 2016/2017 plan year if they meet certain conditions and certify in their informational reporting that they qualified for relief.

In general, ALE status for 2015 is based on workforce hours from 2014. A new employer (an employer that didn’t exist in the previous calendar year) will be considered an ALE if the business reasonably expects to employ and does employ an average of 50 or more full-time employees, including FTEs, in the current calendar year.

Keep in mind, rules that determine the size of a business under health care reform are applied at the “controlled group” level, with a special standard applied to government entity employers. Generally, controlled groups are those that are tied together through direct or overlapping (common) ownership. When determining if an employer is an applicable large employer, all member entities within a controlled group or an affiliated service group (under Code Section 414(b), (c), (m), and (o)) must be aggregated.

Last, as part of the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015, employers should not include employees who are military veterans and have coverage through TRICARE or the Department of Veterans Affairs when determining ALE status. Once ALE status is determined, veterans are treated the same as any other employee when determining full-time status, offers of coverage, and 1095-C filing.

Which employees could subject my client to penalties if not offered coverage?

According to the ESR provisions, employees working an average of 30 or more hours of service per week, or 130 hours of service per month, are considered full-time employees. In order to determine full-time employee status for each employee during the tax year, the employer may use either the monthly measurement method or look-back measurement method. Each method identifies, per month, the full-time or part-time status of each employee. Employees considered full-time for at least one month of the year must receive a 1095-C from their employer.

What are the coverage requirements my client needs to meet?

The ESR provisions require ALEs to have offered minimum essential coverage to at least 70 percent of full-time employees and their dependents (relief for covering dependents is available if certain conditions are met) in 2015 to avoid one of the potential penalties. In 2016, they will need to make these offers to 95 percent (or all but five) of full-time employees and their dependents. Keep in mind that the employer can be assessed another penalty for not offering coverage that meets minimum actuarial value or affordability requirements to all full-time employees if any of those employees not offered adequate and affordable coverage receive a premium tax credit.

What do my clients need to know about minimum essential coverage, minimum actuarial value, and affordable coverage?

Minimum essential coverage. Health insurance coverage must meet the minimum benefits standard of the small- or large-group market within the state to qualify as minimum essential coverage. This includes most broad-based medical coverage typically provided by employers. It would not include certain specific coverage, such as accident or disability income, standalone dental, or vision coverage.

Minimum actuarial value. A plan must cover at least 60 percent of the total average costs of medical expenses to qualify as meeting the minimum actuarial value requirement.

Affordable coverage. The IRS has offered three optional safe harbor methods to help you determine this amount:

  1. Form W-2 safe harbor
  2. rate of pay safe harbor
  3. federal poverty line safe harbor

For specifics about the three affordable safe harbors, see question 19 under “Questions and Answers on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions Under the Affordable Care Act” on the IRS website.

What forms do my clients need to complete?

There are forms that must be filed with IRS, and forms that must be sent to full-time employees. In general, organizations must file paper forms 1094-C and 1095-C by February 28th of the filing year. For 2016, the original deadline was February 29, 2016 (or March 31, 2016, if you file electronically). Even if an employer is a member of a controlled ownership group, or an “Aggregated ALE Group”, each separate Federal ID must file their own 1094-C and employee 1095-Cs. Any employer filing 250 or more 1095-Cs must file electronically.

In general, organizations must provide all full-time employees with copies of form 1095-C by January 31 of the filing year. For 2016, the original deadline was February 1 because January 31 fell on a Sunday. The form details what type of coverage employees were offered and for which months, as well as the cost of the least expensive employee contribution to employee-only option offering minimum essential coverage and minimum actuarial value.

What are the new dates associated with the Automatic Extension of Deadlines for 2015 filing?

On December 28, 2015, the IRS announced an automatic extension for 2015 tax year due dates for all required filers. The new deadlines are:

  • March 31, 2016, to deliver the 2015 Forms 1095-B and 1095-C to affected employees
  • May 31, 2016, to manually file the 2015 Forms 1094-B, 1094-C, 1095-B, and 1095-C with the IRS — for employers who are eligible for paper filing and are filing the forms on paper
  • June 30, 2016, to electronically file the 2015 Forms listed above with the IRS

Per the IRS announcement, there will be no further extensions granted beyond these dates. Employers who fail to furnish or file by the extended deadlines may be subject to penalties from the IRS.

What penalties are my clients at risk of?

If an organization fails to offer adequate and affordable coverage to its full-time employees and their dependents per requirements of the ESR provisions of the ACA, it may face potential penalties in the form of excise taxes as high as $2,080 ($2160 for 2016 and adjusted for inflation thereafter) for every full-time employee employed during the tax year, in general after the first 80 in 2015 (30 in 2016 and beyond). Organizations may also face penalties for not filing accurate returns on time, starting at $50 per form for both those furnished to the employee and those filed with the IRS, if an accurate return is filed within 30 days after the due date, and escalating from there (certain limitations apply).

What about my clients that qualified for transition relief from penalty assessments in 2015?

ALEs of 50 to 99 employees that may qualify for transition relief from penalty assessments for 2015 must still file the relevant tax forms.

Even with the extension, ESR filing deadlines will be here before you know it. Now is the time for CPAs to provide their clients with valuable information to help ensure they are best positioned to successfully meet the ESR reporting requirements.

Eric Enser is the product manager for Insurance Solutions at Paychex, Inc., a leading provider of integrated human capital management solutions for payroll, HR, retirement, and insurance services nationwide. He is participated in multiple Digital CPA Webcasts to inform the profession on updates on ACA.

Patrick Pruett

EVP, The Rainmaker Companies

Diamond Mining and The Business of Service

What makes diamonds so valuable?

At a meeting recently one of the presenters quizzed the audience about this sparkling topic. He then went on to explain how the largest diamond company in the word, De Beers, controls the diamond mines and in effect the quantity of diamonds placed into the market. This drives the diamonds price and makes them very valuable as De Beers holds back production to create scarcity and inflate prices.

Unlike minerals, oil, and other rare objects, when it comes to knowledge and information, this scarcity strategy does not work. Quite the opposite. In our knowledge focused economy, which is the primarily driver of price in the business of service, the greater the knowledge base and access to information, the more value for whoever or whatever holds that knowledge and information. Take Google, for example, now the fourth most valuable company in the world. Google’s vast fortune is based almost exclusively on the fact that it is a primary controller of the world’s access to knowledge and information. They have patented the best way on earth to help people find information. That type of access has a tremendous price.

As opposed to a diamond miner, when business advisors hold onto information and knowledge, it becomes basically worthless. However, sharing it with clients, staff, referral sources, and the market in general makes what you do precious and valuable, especially when you factor into the equation that many firms are too busy in production to take the time to share their expertise. When your firm is able to build, capture, and share knowledge and information, it creates differentiation among competing firms that clients want access to, need, and will pay for.

My brother in law runs a few businesses in New Zealand and he is constantly amazed that his accounting firm regularly uncovers new ideas that seem to fit his business and he is grateful they do. Differentiation of this sort is not easy however it can be as straightforward as setting up a system whereby the ideas and information contained in your firm are regularly distributed outside your four walls. It may be in the form of writing articles, blogging, presenting, or hosting quarterly workshops for your network of contacts. Whatever the distribution outlets, it is critical that they are identified and used. This is a powerful approach for a team of advisors to take, yet too many businesses complain that their accountant never seems to talk with them unless its tax season.

Strategies for uncovering valuable gems in your business:

Take an inventory of your clients and services to identify where your true expertise lies.

Tap into your expertise, deepen it, and create even more powerful information and services that clients want and need.

Brainstorm how to give your knowledge and expertise to the market in a format or platform that it wants and needs.

Repeat steps 1, 2, and 3 regularly.

Patrick Pruett, The Rainmaker Companies

Patrick helps accounting firms around the world by facilitating connections among members, providing consultative support and delivering high quality resources that enable firms to better compete and improve the management of their practices. As the leader of The Rainmaker Alliances, he presents at national and international conferences and delivers Rainmaker training programs. Patrick specializes in working with firms that have a strategic niche they want to grow and develop. He will be part of the DCPA15 line up this year!

Chris Fraser

Fraser Company

Keith Fileccia: Cutting the Cord with Mobile Inventory Management

Introduction written by CPA.com:

To be a true advisor to clients it takes understanding their industry and being aware of technologies that could impact their record keeping. For those practitioner serving a manufacturing niche, this article by Chris Fraser, has helpful information on mobile inventory management and how to choose the right system.

The use of mobile devices, solutions and barcoding is on the rise. According to Motorola Solutions (From Cost Center to Growth Center: Warehousing 2018), by 2018, 66% of their survey respondents plan to use handheld mobile computers for inventory management with real-time access to an inventory & warehouse management system. Plus, it is estimated that the number of barcoded items received at a warehouse or distribution center will increase to 84%.

With this upward trend, businesses should fully understand mobile inventory management, what is involved and if it can meet their needs for greater operational success.

QuickBooks expert and consultant Keith Fileccia of Mendelson Consulting works with wholesale distribution clients to understand mobile inventory management and barcoding; to develop a strategic plan to effectively integrate it with their operations; and he implements mobile inventory management solutions within their business.

Keith recently gave us his first-hand account of transitioning to mobile inventory management and barcoding within an organization.

What should a business address first when they want to add mobile inventory management to their operations?

The business needs to understand exactly what they want to accomplish.

At Mendelson Consulting we get a lot of calls about mobile inventory management. It’s usually framed as “I want to do barcoding” and some people do not really understand what barcoding is, so you have to start at the very basic level. There is a barcode and there is a UPC and they are often used interchangeably.

UPC stands for Universal Product Code and that means a manufacturer has taken an item and had a universal barcode assigned to it. For example, if I go to Target® it is the same UPC as if I go to Walmart®.

A barcode is simply turning a number or a sequence of numbers and letters into what we traditionally know as a barcode. Those tend to be unique to a company. I could have a barcode in my organization that a business three doors down also uses, but for a completely different product.

So, first and foremost the business needs to know if they will be dealing with UPCs that only one product will have or if it needs to be a company specific thing.

The next question is: Does the inventory coming in the backdoor have a barcode or a UPC already on it? If it doesn’t, the business has to have the ability to generate the barcode, which has to be done prior to receiving the goods because it needs to be put on each of the items.

There is also the question of how the business plans to use barcoding because barcoding with QuickBooks is different than with a QuickBooks add-on, like Acctivate Inventory Software that offers mobile inventory management.

QuickBooks Advanced Inventory has a feature they call barcoding and it will generate a barcode and then you can put that on your products and scan that in, but you have to actually be connected to QuickBooks. This means you might be lugging a barcode scanner and a notebook around the warehouse or bringing the products to a central place to scan.

Secondly, you can’t use QuickBooks to do what I call sales order or purchase order verification and that is what true pick, pack, ship type of environments are about. Most companies are looking at barcoding in terms of pick, pack and ship to drive efficiency to receive goods in the door and send them out, so a third-party inventory management software will accomplish this rather than QuickBooks alone.

What benefits does mobile inventory management bring to a business?

Increased speed and accuracy.

Mobile inventory management used directly at receiving actually helps speed up overall operations. In the warehouse, most companies struggle with manual entry.

In a typical operation: items come in the backdoor, somebody removes a packing list from it, checks it, writes on it the items that have been delivered, and sends it over to accounting to be key entered and received against the purchase order.

During this process there could be errors, such as the wrong quantities could be entered or whoever is entering it could be picking the wrong product. One of the biggest warehouse errors, which results in costs is either receiving the wrong items or shipping out the wrong items. If something is picked and it’s the wrong item and that item is shipped out, now charges are going to be incurred to have the product returned and generally you wouldn’t charge the customer to ship out the right thing. I’ve seen clients that ship out the wrong product so they tell the customer, “Oh just keep that one,” then there’s the cost of those goods.

When mobile inventory management with barcoding is brought into the picture warehouse operations become much more accurate and therefore efficient because the UPC or barcode can be scanned upon receipt.

The great thing about mobile inventory management with Acctivate is that if the wrong item or the wrong quantity is scanned, the actual mobile computers will make the most obnoxious buzzing sound to tell you that you’ve done something wrong or picked the wrong item.

What size business does mobile inventory management suit?

Any organization that has grown to a warehouse operation should consider a mobile solution. Small, medium, or large — it doesn’t matter the size of the organization. If the company is incurring significant warehouse operation costs due to shipping out the wrong items and/or shipping to the wrong customer, mobile inventory management makes sense.

The question that a business has to ask itself is how often does this happen. If it happens regularly there is an ROI almost immediately in going to mobile inventory management.

If a business has two shelves, sells five products, and it takes three minutes to pick an order, there’s no need to go to mobile inventory management, because usually there wouldn’t be a large number of errors. There’s no ROI there and without ROI there’s no point in going mobile.

Moving to mobile makes sense when you’re dealing with a warehouse that has hundreds or thousands of items located in multiple places — that’s where mobile inventory management will drive efficiency.

What strategies & logistics should a business consider to have effective mobile inventory management?

Most people who think in terms of “I want to go mobile and I want to do barcoding,” think it is a five-minute process and it is actually not. Anytime you implement a mobile solution it does take time and planning. There are so many factors that go into mobile inventory management. The warehouse needs to be setup with bin locations, the barcodes need to be on the product and in the system, etc.

Remember, there are those ground rules that have to be established — do you have UPCs or barcodes; does the product coming in have UPCs or barcodes; do you have to add UPCs or barcodes to it; what is your current workflow; what is your volume of orders; and/or do you need a pick list then a packing station or can you pick one order at a time?

For large organizations that are dealing with multiple orders at once, we’ll set up a packing station with barcoding because we don’t want the employees “ping-ponging” around the warehouse – going out to pick ten items for one order, then going back and picking five items for another order. In this instance, we build reports for customers that list what is needed and it all comes to a packing station where the scanning is done.

The other important thing about mobile is that we can actually setup bin locations — that’s another cost incurred by businesses if not setup effectively with an alphanumeric layout that lends to a nice mobile transition.

I have learned through the years, rarely do I walk into an organization that actually has a warehouse layout that is set up logically to be able to sort a pick list by bin location. When I walk into a warehouse I ask them to tell me about their bin locations and how they have assigned them. About 75% of the time we end up redoing the layout. For instance, if there is an $8 per hour warehouse worker and they get a pick ticket and head out into the warehouse and ping-pong around the warehouse for 20 minutes picking a $5 order, that is not efficient.

Mobile inventory management allows a business to sort the pick ticket by bin location. For example, the worker starts in row 1 and it guides them efficiently through the warehouse to pick the order. So again, saving costs on what I call the “ping-pong effect.” The efficiency is actually in how the worker moves through the warehouse.

Also, there has to be Wi-Fi hotspots connected throughout the warehouse because you’re connected with a device that uses Wi-Fi technology.

What should a business look for in a mobile inventory management solution?

One that allows flexibility, the ability to generate your own barcodes, and is portable (you don’t have to drag the computer with you).

Functionality-wise the mobile inventory management solution should allow mobile receipt of products into the warehouse, picking of products on sales orders, sales order entry, and product transfers between warehouses and locations.

What tools have you talked to manufacturing clients about to add in their inventory and accurate records?

Angie Grissom

President, The Rainmaker Companies

Improving Your Bedside Manner

We have all been to a doctor that had an impeccable bedside manner and we tend to remember it for a while. Bedside manner is the way a doctor interacts and communicates with us, their patient, and it is most memorable when we have an ailment that is either extremely concerning, painful, embarrassing or all of the above.

Typically, a physician with a good bedside manner is a strong communicator, while one without a good bedside manner may offend or may be overly abrupt with their patients. When we are fearful, in pain or uncomfortable, those medical personnel that readily put us at ease and make us feel that we have come to the right place are those that we depend on time and time again. They are those advisors that we come back to-even if they are more expensive than others in the field.

In the world of accounting, we don't typically talk about bedside manner as it relates to how we communicate and serve our clients. We reserve it for the medical world. I believe that CPAs and CAs have a great opportunity to focus on improving their bedside manner for the good of the profession as well as for the good of the companies and individuals they serve. Health is a very personal thing and so is money. People take money seriously, get excited about it, nervous about the lack of it and sometimes experience great anxiety and pain when sorting out their financial position and forecasts. So, who is in a better place than you, the trustworthy accountant and most trusted business advisor, to show great empathy, listen well and ask questions in order to help put your patient, i.e. client, at ease?

The recent downturns and uncertainty of the economy has sparked many professionals to step up their communication with clients through what we call The Bear Hug Action Plan. This plan is a document that acts as a guide for the CPA and allows them to ask relevant questions of their top clients about their goals and issues and plans. This is one way to improve bedside manner. Many others have their own version and have begun communicating with clients more often and scheduling more face to face meetings to counsel their clients. Either way, the point is that many are out there asking pertinent questions and listening to our clients' concerns better than ever.

A good bedside manner for a doctor might include showing empathy, being open to communication, involving the patient in health decisions, and helping the patient feel more comfortable. A poor bedside manner can appear as hurried, a failure to listen to a patient, abruptness, a dismissal of a patient’s fears, and arrogance. I would argue that the same goes for the CPA or CA.

In the medical profession, it appears that concern about bedside manner has increased in the past few years. Some medical schools for nurses and doctors now offer specific courses in practicing an empathetic approach to patients. In some hospitals, doctors are tested on their bedside manner with mock patients who are meant to test their tolerance. These courses and tests hope to improve the bedside manner of doctors who are not good communicators and who have little apparent sympathy for patients.

While you may have perfected your communication and treatment of your clients, how well have you passed down these standards to others in your firm? With such a strong focus on meeting budgets and realization, many firms are finding that partners and managers feel hurried and stressed and skip the connecting and listening phase when dealing with clients in order to be efficient. What happens is that the relationship suffers, true needs and wants go undiscovered and the relationship does not flourish the way it could. The full potential is lost due to the unintended lack of focusing on the actual client or person instead of the work itself.

A similar issue affects the modern physician. Doctors now see far more patients per day than ever in the past. What happens is that some doctors are abrupt and appear rude because they do not have time to listen like they have in previous years. This is a monumental problem because crucial information can be missed when a patient is not given enough time. Studies show that doctors who listen to their patients thoroughly before diagnosing are more likely to order the proper tests and make a correct diagnosis than those who are hurried and not listening well and jump to immediate conclusions based on their past experiences.

Bedside manner can affect the quality of care a patient receives in a doctor's office or hospital just as it can affect the quality of advice and work in your office or your clients’ office. Now may be a good time to take a look at the quality of the bedside manner both you and your staff are offering to your clients. This includes how your phone is answered, how your material is gathered, and the time that you spend with them getting to know their business and the people in the business. This also very much includes the way that you communicate solutions and actions steps.

Think about a time that you really helped a client and you could see it in their eyes that you made a difference in their life and business. Strive to have more of those moments. You don't have to cure a disease to have these.  Improve your bedside manner and use your gifts of financial literacy and accounting and have more moments like this. Encourage your staff to focus on the people, the pain, the problem so that you can do what you do best and have a long term impact on the financial health of your clients and their businesses. Trust me-they will remember it.

Heather Windman

Marketing Manager, CPA.com

5 Tips for expanding your client services and cloud technology this summer

Summer is the perfect time to explore ways to add new client services and generate additional revenue. Here are some tips for identifying areas of opportunity and adding new technologies.

  1. Listen to your clients: What services are they asking for that you don’t provide today? Adding services such as bill pay and client accounting can help round out your offerings and attract new clients.
  2. Structure for success: After deciding the additional services to offer, ensure your firm is set up to support these services. Do you have the proper strategy and staffing in place?
  3. Leverage the right technology: Evaluate and select the technology that best aligns with your firm's needs. Adopt cloud solutions that eliminate manual work, scale with businesses, and allow you to collaborate with clients.
  4. Become an expert: Take the time to increase your knowledge and proficiency of your new technology solutions before transitioning clients and marketing to prospects.
  5. Communicate your new offerings: Utilize various marketing and customer channels to inform clients and prospects about these new services.

If you are looking for help exploring how others are doing this and technology available use the resources on CPA.com:
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