Who can you trust as a business adviser?

November 29, 2011

Businesses face many challenges over time; as a business owner you can enhance your vision and the performance of your business by seeking out advice from a business adviser – but how do you choose someone you can trust?

Who can you turn to when facing difficult situations like business turnaround, securing financing for a new project, working out an exit strategy for retirement, or how to increase net income for your business?

In our firm, we have a passion for helping business owners come up with creative solutions to their business questions and problems. During face-to-face meetings, we can ask the right, purposeful questions about what is going on with the business. Our agenda is geared toward one and three-year plans versus other CPAs who simply want talk about taxes, financial statements, compliance issues, and banal number tracking.

The major difference between us and other CPAs is that we have started and managed over twenty-six different businesses. With that kind of background and experience we have the wisdom and knowledge you can rely on and trust in an adviser. It is our firm belief this service is the most critical for your business to prosper.

That’s why on our website we stress that we are the new generation of CPAs. It doesn’t mean we’re just out of college – it means we have been around long enough and participated so much in real business to have the kind of broad, creative knowledge base necessary to take your business to the next level and hopefully beyond.

We want to meet face-to-face with you and ask questions like:

• What’s new with your business?

• What are the primary goals you are working to achieve?

• What concerns are you facing?

• Where do you want to be in two or three years?

• What are your biggest challenges?

(We’re in the Bay Area region of California – if you aren’t close enough for a face-to-face meeting we can set up an online meeting using Skype.)

In our meeting, we are going to dig deeper to get a sense of your bigger picture. We take our time with you and are not overly quick to offer solutions, because we don’t want to miss opportunities that could make a significant impact, the kind of impact that you will truly value.

By taking a more strategic approach with you we will get a better understanding of what is going on. This is going to allow us to offer workable solutions tailored specifically to your business and your goals. By using our experience and knowledge in business and finance, we provide you with the maximum value for your money. As a byproduct, we will earn your trust by providing service that has special meaning to you plus results that surpass what you could have done on your own.

With other CPAs, your attention (and their service) will remain focused on compliance issues. Sure, compliance based services are important because those compliance issues are something you have to deal with.

But what comes next?

Find a trusted advisor. How do you find one?

Take a look at a firm like ours. Yes, we are CPAs. But, if you take away all of the compliance related services, we would still have a firm with a valuable service to offer our clients. You figure that out by looking at the entire picture of who we are and where we’ve been. Our business experience, our experience in finances and loans – that is where you get an idea of whether or not we have something far beyond an ordinary CPA firm to offer.

Call us right now, today at (707) 524-8130 or (415) 353-5680 and let’s develop a great strategic plan for your business.

Don’t just plan … strategize

November 18, 2011

Our business card carries the tag line, “Strategic Strategizers”, as a reflection of our motto: “Don’t Just Plan, Strategize.”

You’ve got to plan strategically because, of the three levels of planning, strategic planning is most closely related to performance. This is true in life, not just in business.

In a major scientific study of more than 1000 small business owners, Orser found the presence of a strategic plan correlates directly with performance. In this study, Orser measured “performance” by changes in growth revenues of businesses. Moreover, Orser found the use of a written plan (especially a strategic plan) to be a major factor in the prospects of small business growth. (Orser, 2000)

Do you have a strategic plan … is it in writing?

The other two levels of planning–business planning and operational planning—are insufficient to ensure business longevity and prosperity. There are major differences between business planning (aka “a business plan”) and strategic planning. In particular, strategic planning is focused on the destination of the business–where is the business going?

Compare these two approaches to a person planning a trip. If you don’t know where you’re going, what good does it do to start making travel plans? What, are you going to create a plan to head off to … nowhere?

Another important thing about strategic planning is that, for it to be effective, it has to be formal. Formalized strategic planning is a written, long-range plan covering topics such as:

• Determining major outside interests focused on the organization
• Expectation of inside interest
• Information about past, current, and future performance
• Environmental analysis
• A determination of strengths and weakness
• Feedback

Honestly, I just don’t get why any business owner would fail to act when it comes to making a formal strategic plan. Not only that, I don’t get why any business owner serious about succeeding in their chosen field or industry would fail to get help from professional financial and business advisors in creating a formal strategic plan.

If you want to go to Italy, you go to an experienced travel agent who will help create a great travel itinerary so you’ll have the best trip possible. If your car is performing poorly, you go to a trained and experienced mechanic – someone who has worked on many cars successfully. If you want to make sure your body, teeth, or eyes are in good health, you get help from a trained medical professional.

The bottom line is this: If you don’t have a strategic plan, you don’t really know where you’re going or how you’re going to get there. Chances are, if you fail to get advice from an external source (financial and business advisors) with more experience and knowledge than you have, your strategic plan (if you do create one) will most likely be limited in scope and longevity. Whatever actions you then take without a great strategic plan guiding the way, your performance and effectiveness will be equally limited.

As a business owner, for peak performance and the greatest opportunities for success, you need a formal strategic plan. For the best strategic plan, go to a trained and experienced financial and business advisor.

We have more than thirty years experience in business and finance, we have started 26 businesses, we’ve even started a commercial bank that went public, and we have worked with literally thousands of businesses over the years. We even wrote, “The Loan Book”, a guide used by leading banks to train their own staff and used by businesses to get the funding they need.

Call us right now, today at (707) 524-8130 or (415) 353-5680 and let’s develop a great strategic plan for your business.

At the end of the day, what matters most?

November 4, 2011

Image Copyright (c) 2011 J. L. FleckensteinBenjamin Franklin said, “The use of money is all the advantage there is in having it.” Indeed, money is as valuable to you as it assists you in creating your ideal life. Money is not the end goal, it is merely something that helps you reach your real goals.

Over the years, I have discovered that to provide the best service, I have to find out from my clients a piece of information only they possess: what matters most to him or her. My job is to comfortably draw out of my clients what their goals are, and integrate those goals with my own expertise to help them get results.

The simplicity of it is, people have life goals they hope to have the financial resources to achieve. If all I do is ask you about your financial goals, the conversation falls into terminology you might not easily relate to. This would be similar to a travel agent asking you how many times you want to travel instead of asking you where you want to go.

I am committed to taking into account important life circumstances when giving financial advice. I personally believe this is the most relevant, helpful approach and is most valued by my clients. I think of the work I do, the advice I give, as holistic wealthcare.

To accomplish this, I find it is more helpful to ask good questions than it is to find answers to typical, rote financial questions. If I ask you the right questions, it will help you discover your own answers, solutions, and resources. In other words, asking the right questions leads to some great brainstorming and real “a-ha!” moments.

A perfect example of this is a home-bound elderly client of mine. She was at risk of running out of money if she continued gifting too much of it to her adult son. I asked her the right questions that led to a realistic assessment of her resources, needs, and preferences for care, comfort, and peace-of-mind.

Then I asked what she wished most to do for her son. She said she always wanted to help him. So, I asked what she felt would help him the most. She paused to consider, then realized what he really needed was a budget.

Moving from discovery to taking the right actions all I had to do was ask her what it would take to make that happen. She had the answers, I just had to help guide her through the right questions to get there.

Would you like to have a CPA and financial planner who really cares about your goals, listens attentively and knows how to ask the right, thought-provoking questions? Would you like some help in getting to the bottom of what matters most to you? Do you want to work with someone who has a broad range of financial and business expertise to help you best utilize your financial resources and achieve your goals?

If so, call us today at (707) 524-8130 or (415) 353-5680.

Do you think this could happen to you and your business?

October 7, 2011

I have an office in San Francisco and am a huge Giants fan, so when I saw an article about a Giants payroll supervisor stealing $1.5 million from the team in just over one year, it definitely got my attention.

As a multi-million dollar organization, the Giants have the means to hire a first-class accounting firm. So, they hired the best accounting firm. The benefit of hiring a top accounting firm is the assumption they can assist your business in detecting fraud as well as a variety of other money issues.

The detection and prevention of fraud is management’s responsibility (in this case, Giants’ management), and therefore there must have been a weakness in their internal system for this fraud to have happened. This is why they should have had a review of their internal controls to give them the best opportunity to mitigate this type of fraud.

Worse yet, it was fraud that went unnoticed for over a year. In fact, if the perpetrator had not attempted to buy a house in San Diego, and if the lender had not questioned the large deposit in this person’s bank account, it might have gone unnoticed for a much longer period of time.

So, I ask you this: When was the last time you, as a business owner, reviewed your company’s controls to insure this type of fraud is not going on in your business? Have you spoken with your CPA and asked how the internal control is, or what you need to do to improve the controls?

In addition, pay attention to your accounting staff and make sure they are buying things they can afford. We question our clients if we see a member of their accounting staff buying expensive cars or real estate that they can’t afford based on their current salary.

Review your controls on a regular basis, review your accounting staff for unusual behavior, and ask yourself how can someone steal from the company without us knowing about it?

Fraud is more common than you might think, and it can be a real threat. Protect yourself. The best insurance you have is you and your own oversight of the inner workings of your business. Take the initiative and investigate.

If you haven’t done so in a long time (or ever) you should call us. We can review your current controls to identify weaknesses and vulnerability issues, providing safeguards and a system that will detect fraud more quickly if it happens to you.


Why business owners need trusted business advisers

September 27, 2011

You, as a business owner, know your business. You started it out of a passion to deliver a better product, a better service, and a better idea. Along with this innate passion to be an entrepreneur, is a desire to make money during the process.

Many business owners get caught up in daily happenings within their businesses and end up neglecting the financial management aspect of their business. In order to focus on the daily needs your business demands, you must have a trusted adviser–such as a CPA–for reinforcement.

At this moment you might be thinking to yourself, “Well this guy is a CPA, so why would he say anything different than to have a CPA as a trusted adviser?”

That is a reasonable deduction, so let’s explore the reasons why having a CPA as your trusted financial adviser is a good idea.

A high-quality CPA has many years’ experience in hundreds of different businesses. With many years experience comes many different outcomes within particular businesses. By experiencing the good and the bad, the CPA should be able to foresee potential problems within your business to help you improve upon the good things to make them great things.

In addition, if you find a CPA who has actually started his or her own business (rare), you have someone who not only has knowledge strictly from a CPA stand point, but from a business owner’s stand point as well.

There are many different aspects of running a business efficiently and effectively. With multiple focuses within the business, the business owner can feel overwhelmed. Most end up running themselves thin because they are trying to do too many different things at once. With financial foundational support, you can put all your energy into one aspect of the business and not worry about the financial aspect. You have someone helping you, someone looking out for your best interest, someone who wants to see you succeed. With 100% of your attention on what you do best, your business can grow and prosper.

It is essential to find the best accounting staff and CPA available to you. Not only will you have more money in your checking account, but you will have peace of mind knowing that the numbers on your financial statement actually mean something.

By having the support, experience, and knowledge of a CPA, you are free to focus your attention on seeing that the passion you started your business with continues.

What issues do you find dividing your attention too much in your business or in life?

We are CPAs, but we also have over 50 years combined experience in 26 businesses we started ourselves. That’s why we are the new generation of CPAs. We share the same passion and emotional investment in our clients as our clients do for their own businesses and personal affairs.

Give us a call [(707) 524-8130 or (415) 353-5680] if you need some help regaining your focus. We’re in the Bay Area in California, but we work with clients all over the U.S. as CPAs and Financial Planners.

Have a great day.


Photo Courtesy of J. L. Fleckenstein from the book I, The Wind Copyright © 2010 J. L. Fleckenstein
Photo Copyright © 2011 J. L. Fleckenstein ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Photo Courtesy of J. L. Fleckenstein from the book “I, The Wind”

How to determine when a company’s strength is correct, so you can buy

August 26, 2011

(This is post features Orlando Antonini.)

What criteria should you look for to determine if a company is a reasonable and secure investment?

There are three main evaluation issues.  It’s like a three-legged stool: if any one of the three legs is missing, it won’t stand up.  Likewise, the stock will not maintain its value.

The first criteria – Does the company have sufficient cash reserves so they can get through a down turn and/or expand when appropriate.  Even more important, for you the investor, does the company have cash funds to buy back its own stock in a down turn of its value, therefore creating more value for you?

The second criteria – Good management.  What does good management mean?  It starts with the Chairman of the Board, the Board, a CEO, a CFO, and goes beyond that to other key employees.  If the Company has a high turnover, or if people retire, it may affect the management team’s effectiveness.   Another important issue to look for, the Chairman of the Board and the Board cannot be controlled by the CEO.

The third criteria – Is the product or service the Company is offering to the public desirable?  Does the public perceive the product as reliable in quality and a necessity for personal or business use?  Will these products or services be needed in the future, as the future will be different from today?

These are the criteria you use to evaluate when to buy the stock and it is the basic bench mark to use for evaluating when to sell.

When you evaluate the stock using the above method, you also have a baseline of the cost or value of the stock.

Most important, there is the ongoing monitoring of all three criteria to see if one has changed, requiring you to sell the stock.

Stocks, on average, held for more than ten years have a return of more than 11%, dividend and growth per year.

Conversely, when you try to time the market and buy and sell, the average return is less than 4%, dividend and growth per year.

If you are repositioning stocks based on the criteria above, it is prudent and a wise decision providing there you are truly monitoring and evaluating changes based on the three criteria.

We can help you with the analysis and ongoing evaluation so you have the knowledge to make the correct choices based on your criteria.


How do you know when to buy back into the market?

August 19, 2011

(Today’s post features Orlando Antonini.)

I am only going to use Dow Jones as my example here.

The first thing you need to do is review the Dow Jones twelve-month average history. The past is easy – all of that historical information is available on the Internet.

But, what are the possibilities over the next twelve months? The future is very difficult to predict, and confusing.

The first thing you have to consider is this: What will the economic picture be over the next twelve months? Second, how will any one individual’s stock and/or the Dow Jones perform in the future environment?

You can use the information you find on the Internet, and do your best to analyze over a period of time and try to get a picture in your mind of what the future might hold. Or, you can turn to experienced advisors (like ourselves) who will help you draw conclusions that you are in peace and harmony with.

Why is it necessary to go through to all this effort when considering the right time to reinvest?

This will give you a better chance of forecasting where the Dow Jones may be at a future date.

The rule is, once you decide what your idea is of where the Dow Jones will bottom out, calculate 105% of that number, and that index value is your starting point.

Please Note: The following is not to be taken as what the Dow Jones may or may not be at some time; it is given only as an example to illustrate my point.

If your prediction is that the Dow Jones Index will bottom out at 9,800, this is what you would look at:

  1. 105% of a 9,800 index equals 10,300. Therefore, a 10,300 index is your starting point to buy/reinvest–that is 5% above bottom index.
  2. If the market continues to fall (Dow Jones Index), you must consider that you may have made an error in your idea of the Dow Jones Index bottom being 9,800. So, 95% of a 9,800 index (or a 5% difference) equals 9,300.
  3. At 9,300, you need to re-exam whether you should leave the Dow Jones or stay with your analytical conclusion.

The most crucial thing to remember is that you have to continually analyze your assumption against new information about changes in the market as it comes in.

This is an example that can help you say when to do something and when not to do it, and have a base line of facts or assumptions that you can analyze with. Or, use professionals (like us) to help you do the analytical work.