Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Private Company Council: the Right Move?

On Wednesday, the board of trustees of the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF) voted to establish the new Private Company Council (PCC) to deal with potential exceptions or modifications to U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) for private companies.

The PCC’s changes will be subject to endorsement by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). The council laid out in a previous FAF proposal drew criticism for its lack of independence. However, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), which had criticized the previous proposal, voiced its support on Wednesday.

What do you think? How important is independence for private-company standard-setters? Sound off in the comments.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Guest Blogger: Seven Tips for Better Cash Flow Forecasts

By Mary Ellen Biery
Research Specialist, Sageworks, Inc.

Cash flow forecasts, the vital estimates of how much cash your business will have to continuing operating, are notoriously tricky because the many variables involved. Even so, accountants and other financial experts say there are several steps you can take to improve their accuracy.

1. Be conservative. Be skeptical about your managers’ and your own forecasts, especially when it comes to sales and expenses. “One incorrect assumption can have a large effect on your cash flow,” says Paula Griffo, chief financial officer of VoIP Supply, an Amherst, N.Y., provider of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) solutions. “I always underestimate cash inflows and overestimate cash outflows to be on the safe side.”

2. Be aware of common pitfalls. For example, since you know accounts receivable is an area that can quickly ruin your cash flow forecast, improve your AR processes. David Douglass, a partner with Atlanta-based professional services firm Tatum, recommends that as customers go past 30 or 60 days, start calling, and set and enforce penalties.“If you are the CEO, send a message to the management team that invoicing customers as soon as possible, cash collections and cost controls are the lifeblood of any business, [and] are therefore ‘everyone’s concern,’” he says. “If the CEO doesn’t take cash forecasting very seriously, nobody else will.”

3. Update regularly. Perform and update cash flow forecasts frequently enough that you’re not surprised by the updated forecast, and as a result, caught with insufficient time to response.

4. Learn from mistakes. Strive to improve accuracy by comparing your actuals to your forecast so that you can learn from the process.
5. Hold others accountable. Several experts say that while the CFO is ultimately responsible for developing and updating a cash flow forecast, sales, manufacturing, shipping, accounting and other parts of the business should be held accountable for their roles in helping to achieve the forecast. Business owners and managers can structure performance quotas to meet a cash flow forecast and manage workers to those quotas.
6. Seek advice. “Everybody wonders, ‘What’s the secret to cash flows?’ and there isn’t one,” says Lauren Prosser, manager of advisory services at Sageworks. “There’s never a black-and-white answer. It’s always a matter of sitting down, looking at what you have and some what-if scenarios, and saying ‘I’m going to try that.’” Don’t be afraid to ask your accountant for help; he or she would probably welcome the chance to be more of an advisor for your business. “It’s a thought process, and someone has to walk you through it,” Prosser says.
7. Seek automated help. Cash flow forecasts are typically a standard part of budgeting or business modeling applications. “If you are considering an upgrade to your business modeling/forecasting processes, be sure that any applications being considered provide an integrated cash flow forecast that ties to the income statement and balance sheet,” says Douglass.
Mary Ellen Biery is a research specialist at Sageworks, a financial information company and maker of the ProfitCents suite of financial analysis applications. She is a veteran financial reporter whose works have appeared in The Wall Street Journal and on Dow Jones Newswires,,,, and other sites. She received her undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University, where she graduated cum laude, and her master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Additional resources:

Sageworks’ solutions for cash flow analysis and projections:

JaxWorks Small Business Spreadsheet Factory: Has downloadable worksheets for weekly cash flow projections, 12-month cash flow forecast, etc.

How to Read a Financial Report, by John A. Tracy, John Wiley & Sons, 2004.

Articles on Cash Flow Forecasting from the Government Finance Officers Association:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Embrace Your Weaknesses: The Laziness Paradox

When is confidence a bad thing? Productivity expert Scott Young has the answer in his blog post “The Laziness Paradox: Embrace Your Weaknesses to Accomplish More.”

Young gives the example of a friend who was overconfident in his ability to accomplish some ambitious fitness goals. He writes: “The weakness of confidence is when you’re forming concrete, short-term plans. These occur on such small timescales that you’re unlikely to reap any of the benefit of your inadvertent boasting, so being too ambitious can actually hurt you.”
He goes on to discuss how recognizing his weaknesses helped him change bad habits:

“For me, the biggest change in my life happened when I stopped trying to accomplish everything at once. I realized that I’m actually incredibly lazy—most of what I do has to do with habits and trivial stimuli, rather than deep thoughts.
“Instead of trying to change every behavior at once, I would pick something incredibly small and simple and focus on it for an entire month. Even that can be difficult, but it meant I could make a change almost habitual before I tried something else.”
So consider acknowledging your weaknesses when planning your schedule and tasks. You just might get more done.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

'Amazon Bill' Headed Nationwide?

The “Amazon bill,” which recently made it through the Virginia General Assembly and was signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell, could be going nationwide.
The Virginia Main Street Leadership Council (VMSLC) will lobby Congress to pass a similar bill in order to create a more level playing field between brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers such as Amazon. Currently, states can’t collect sales tax from an online retailer unless that retailer has a physical presence in the state.
Virginia’s new bill allows the Commonwealth to collect taxes from Amazon because of its warehouse and data center in Sterling. Prior to the bill’s passage, even that didn’t require Amazon to collect and remit sales taxes because the building did not handle sales. (Since then, Amazon has announced plans to open distribution centers in Chesterfield and Dinwiddie counties.)
Amazon has also agreed to similar rules in Texas and Nevada. But the VSMLC will push for a federal law that applies to all states, rather than the current piecemeal approach.
The new taxes collected will raise an estimated $24 million for Virginia’s state and local governments. What do you think? Will a national approach simplify matters for taxpayers?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Guest Blogger: What Makes a Great Workplace?

By Plum Cluverius
Vedere Consulting

You can hardly pick up a book or article on leadership these days without hearing how important the development of good relationships is to individual and organizational success. How do we know that’s true?
A number of research studies have identified the importance of relationships in successful workplaces, but a study often cited was conducted by the Gallup organization in the late 1990s. Gallup set out to discover the factors that separated organizations that were successful in finding, focusing and keeping talented employees from organization that didn’t have this competitive edge. When they began the study, Gallup researchers didn’t know if salaries or benefits or perks or leadership made the difference.

To find their measure of organizational effectiveness, Gallup turned to the over one million interviews they had conducted over a 25 year period. They had been measuring factors in the workplace that managers could control and that pointed to higher employee satisfaction. They were looking for patterns in these questions and they were particularly interested in teasing out the survey questions that loyal and engaged employees answered affirmatively but average or poor performers answered negatively or neutrally. The idea was to identify only the factors that appealed to highly motivated and talented employees.

When all was said and done and the factor analysis, regression analysis and concurrent validity studies were finished, 12 factors emerged from the data as the most important indicators of an organization’s ability to attract and retain the most talented employees. These factors are:
  1. Clear work expectations
  2. Equipment and materials to do job right
  3. Opportunity to “do what I do best” every day
  4. Recognition and praise (within the past seven days)
  5. Someone cares about me as a person
  6. Individual development and growth is encouraged
  7. My opinion is valued
  8. Company’s mission/purpose makes me feel my job is important
  9. Co-workers committed to quality work
  10. Close relationship at work
  11. Frequent conversations about progress
  12. Opportunities to learn and grow
What patterns do you notice when you look at these 12 factors? Clearly, a significant number are determined by the employee’s immediate boss and most of them require relationship building skills and focus. A manager is not going to be good at setting clear work expectations (which requires a conversation), knowing their employees’ strengths, demonstrating care and concern, connecting the work to the organization’s mission, and providing useful opportunities to learn if they cannot build trusting relationships or if they don’t take the time to build them.
Relationship building requires a level of self mastery — learning to bite your tongue until the right moment to have a difficult conversation. It requires self awareness — the ability to recognize your own emotions, observe them objectively and use them as clues to determine what you need from yourself and others. It requires empathy — the ability to recognize what others are feeling and to communicate understanding and acceptance in difficult times. Self mastery, self awareness and empathy are the cornerstones of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is now identified as equally important to long term success as IQ. Fortunately, emotional intelligence can be learned. I encourage you to explore numerous articles and books on the topic to learn more. There are a number of good resources listed at my website,

Plum Cluverius, PCC is an executive coach with over 30 years experience in leadership development. She lives and works in Richmond, Virginia. She writes a blog on leadership (used here)

Top 5 Most Popular Articles: April 28 – May 4, 2012

Here are the five most-read news articles on! Articles are taken from the VSCPA News and Professional News sections and are ranked by unique page views.
  1. Virginia Society of CPAs Recognizes Extraordinary Accounting Students in Virginia High Schools and Colleges
  2. VBOA Executive Director Jewell Discusses Changes to Licensure Fees
  3. Virginia Society of CPAs CEO Named President of VSAE
  4. Thomas Jefferson, Western Albemarle High Schools Win Inaugural Governor's Challenge in Economics and Personal Finance
  5. Former FASB, IASB Chairs Push SEC for IFRS Commitment
Check back each Friday for updated rankings of the top stories on

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Should Services Be Subject to Sales Tax?

For the second time in six months, groups are talking about sales taxes in Virginia. On April 27, the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy (TJIPP) released a study on restructuring the Virginia tax system, recommending expanding the current sales tax to currently exempt services.

TJIPP argues that such an expansion could allow Virginia to eliminate state income taxes on its poorest citizens and cut taxes for every citizen. The report also recommended the elimination of the Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) tax, the merchants’ capital tax and the machinery and tools tax.

The majority of service exemptions from sales taxes date back to the 1960s, when services represented a smaller part of the economy. According to the TJIPP study, services currently constitute two-thirds of the economy.
In November, the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) released a study that also touched on the issue. JLARC said that taxing services would bring in approximately $3.5 billion in additional revenue. Virginia currently exempts 150 of the 168 “typical services.”
Other organizations have studied the potential taxation of services, including the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in 2009 in its series “Dealing With Deficits: How States Can Respond.” In his article, “Expanding Sales Taxation of Services: Options and Issues,” Michael Mazerov wrote, “Most states could improve their sales taxes and their tax systems in general with some expansion of the tax base to include services. Levying sales taxes on services makes state tax systems fairer, more stable, more economically neutral, and easier to administer.”

What do you think? Would taxing services help stabilize struggling state economies?

It’s Time to Renew Your VSCPA Membership

Our 2012–2013 membership year is here and promises to be one of our best yet, with a variety of new benefits like Connect — VSCPA’s interactive member directory!

We hope you’ll continue your commitment to the VSCPA and the CPA profession by renewing your benefits and membership today. You can renew by using the invoice we sent you via email, renew online at or call us at (800) 733-8272.

For your 2012–2013 members-only benefits, click here.
For a list of our 2012–2013 membership dues rates, click here.