Fine Point Meet & Greet: Allie LaFleur

Meet the Fine Point Consulting staff and learn a little bit about what makes them tick. This week: Accounting Manager Allie LaFleur.

 

Talk a little bit about your background and what drew you to accounting.

Allie LaFleurI earned my Associate’s degree in Business Management from Madison Area Technical College, along with some certificates in Small Business Entrepreneurship and Human Resources Management. Business Management was a nice, broad degree that would allow me to do any number of things, and the certificates were just something I added on. It’s great to have a little background in something like Human Resource Management when you’re an accountant and doing things like processing payroll, so those certificates have been helpful.

A few years later, with [Fine Point Owner] Luella [Schmidt’s] encouragement, I decided to go back to school at night to earn my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Getting my bachelors was something I had always wanted to do, but it helped to have my boss encouraging me and cheering me on from the sidelines!

During this time, my husband and I also purchased a small business. To help save money, I assumed the bookkeeper role. A friend of mine helped me set up payroll and I learned QuickBooks on my own. It was a great first-hand experience that forced me not only to put my accounting classes to work and learn on the job, but it also gave me the perspective of being a small business owner and what that means for Fine Point clients.

As far as accounting, I enjoy figuring out a reconciliation that’s been stumping me. Accounting is one of those fields that there’s practically always a “right” way of doing things. You want to make sure your balances tie, for example. It’s a repetitive job, but there’s enough new stuff that comes up from month to month that keep you on your toes.

What is your role at Fine Point, and what do you enjoy about working there?

I started at Fine Point in 2011 as a staff accountant, where I oversaw reviewing profit and loss statements. Now, as Accounting Manager, I oversee some of the other accountants and am responsible for things like reviewing balance sheets; specifically, assets and liabilities.

Working at Fine Point has given me a lot of great experience working in a variety of industries. For example, this morning I’m doing some work for a nonprofit client, but this afternoon I will be working with a small personal fitness business we work with. Every day is like this, and I enjoy the variety. The culture at Fine Point is great, too. The people I work with here feel more like friends than coworkers. And Luella is a fantastic teacher. She’s not only a great accountant, but I’ve learned a ton from her about prioritizing and organizing work. She’s a pleasure to work for.

What’s something others may be surprised to learn about you?

I lived in Holland as a young child. My mom got a job as a teacher on a military base there. I was too young to learn the language and my parents weren’t immersed in the language when we were there, but my sister, who is two years older than I am, picked up the language very quickly through school there. Even though she was also quite young, she quickly became our family translator.

When you’re not working, you…

My husband and I just bought our first house in April, and we’re working on a never-ending list of household projects. And my sister just had the first grandchild in our family, so between the projects and visiting the new baby, that’s pretty much all we have time for!

 

Visit Fine Point Consulting to learn how our knowledgeable staff can help your business succeed.

Fine Point Meet & Greet: Brad Hubele

Meet the newest Fine Point Consulting staff and learn a little bit about what makes them tick.

Brad Hubele

Tell us a little bit about your background and what drew you to accounting as a career.

I earned my associate degree in Business Administration from Madison College, then finished my bachelor’s degree in Accounting at Upper Iowa University. I’m currently working on my master’s degree and hope to take the CPA exam one day as well. I enjoy accounting because I’ve always been analytical, and accounting is a place I can be analytical without driving everyone else crazy because it’s expected. It’s also a great field for learning new things because rules and practices change every year, so you have to keep up with that. I also love numbers and am happy to sit in front of a computer all day, so this career is a good fit for me.

What’s something others may be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a beer connoisseur. I love studying brewing, microbrews, and what it takes to make unique beers. I’d love to be a Brewmaster some day–what a cool title!–and start my own microbrew.  A few months ago, I toured Schlafly Beer in St. Louis. The tour and the tasting were great, and I really learned a lot from the tour guide. I also love Wisconsin microbrews; a favorite beer right now is the Staghorn Octoberfest from New Glarus Brewing.

(Fine Point Owner) Luella is a big reader. Any favorite books?

I recently read The Martian by Andy Weir. They’re making it into a film soon, and it’s getting good reviews. One thing I liked about it is that even when this guy was trapped on Mars and it seemed like there was no way out, he kept trying. I think that’s a good lesson. I also learned a bit about science along the way – it’s a great book!

What do you enjoy most about working at Fine Point?

I really enjoy being around the account managers and CPAs here. I’m learning a lot from my coworkers and I have the opportunity every day to ask questions and learn new things. The Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) we have here is also great as it allows me to spend time with my four-year-old son. It was a little hard to get used to the idea that I could work when I wanted at first – I kept thinking, “Can I really leave right now?” as I left the office early in the day. But sometimes you just need to get out of the office to do your best work, and it’s great to have that flexibility.

 

Visit Fine Point Consulting to learn how our knowledgeable staff can help your business succeed.

4 Madison, WI Small Business Tasks To Consider Outsourcing

For lean startups and small businesses with an exceptionally small staff, it’s incredibly easy to find yourself wearing too many hats throughout the workweek as tasks and responsibilities pile up without dedicated team members to handle them.

While some switching between roles can actually ensure you’re staying on top of everything that needs to get done day in and day out, overloading yourself with internal tasks can not only lead to burn out and stress, but keeps you from concentrating on how to best move your business forward in the first place.

No matter what size your business is today, effective time management is essential to ensuring you’re able to grow tomorrow.

When it comes to small business and startup operations, time is a commodity. To use yours wisely, outsourcing internal duties might be the solution that frees you up to start growing the business.

Let’s run though four internal activities Madison, Wisconsin small businesses can outsource to trained professionals.

1. Small Business And Startup Payroll Processes

This is an area that carries big legal risks for those who aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of tax law. Dropping the ball here can mean huge repercussions from the IRS when payroll taxes aren’t completed properly––penalties that could potentially cripple your business.

Outsourced accounting services not only free you up to work more closely on the revenue-building side of your business, but reduce the constant anxiety that comes with knowing it’s squarely up to you to get it right.

Outsourced accounting firms diligently update their services when rules change at the federal, state, and local levels––somewhat common occurrences that can catch business by surprise if they aren’t paying close enough attention.

If you’re using valuable time to manage this side of the business, outsourcing can provide an affordable solution that can ultimately allow you to take a more active role as a leader rather than a manager.

2. A Wide Range Of Marketing

It’s an incredibly important component to any small business struggling to get their brand visible and establish a positive reputation in the industry. Simply put, marketing ties directly to sales––the engine that ultimately drives revenue.

If you commonly find yourself too busy to close on your next batch of sales, it’s time to start thinking about finding an agency that can provide valuable help.

Whether it’s simple consulting, public relations, or specialized marketing campaigns a third party can plan and carry out, getting traction in your market with a skilled marketing team is important if you intend on sustaining business for the long-haul.

3. Administrative Support

This can be a common need among entrepreneurs new to managing a business on their own. If you simply don’t have the capability to take care of every task and still have time to work on improvement and growth, subscribing to a virtual assistant service is a cost effective way to ensure everyday business responsibilities are completed consistently.

Here are just a few of the things these virtual assistants can help with:

• Email management

• Personal scheduling

• Newsletter preparation and publishing 

• Travel management 

4. Bookkeeping

This is often the most neglected task small business and startup owners continuously struggle with time and time again. Accounting encompasses much more than number crunching and record keeping––it’s the tool businesses use to measure and compare their performance and financial health from week-to-week, month-to-month, and year-to-year.

Accounting mistakes can’t be ignored or shrugged off. Wrong figures this month will lead to even less accurate figures next month––it’s a domino effect that can leave your books in chaos if steps aren’t taken to make sure every financial action is being accurately accounted for.

Outsourced bookkeepers not only ensure your books are completely accurate and complete, but finish the work much quicker than the average in house accounting manager.

In addition to keeping up your books, outsourced accountants are a resource you can reach out to for professional advice and guidance when owners face tough financial decisions and need a practical course of action that takes their budget into account.

It’s tough to succeed if your finances are in disarray. For help getting things in order, contact our start-up accounting and CFO services experts.

Photo credit: Digital_Third_Eye

3 Common Accounting and Bookkeeping Mistakes Among Startup Owners

Whether you’ve found yourself trying to dig your startup of a messy accounting hole, or want to get proactive and prevent money mistakes before they happen, knowing what not to do is often just as important as knowing what the right steps are to take.

Entrepreneurs don’t start their new business ventures only to spend hours working out budgets and managing their company from the inside. They have dreams to chase and need a well-oiled accounting process to make sure they can focus on growth rather than constant internal management.

Especially for business owners just starting out, putting off your accounting tasks doesn’t make them go away. The less you’re able to nail down accurate books this month, the harder it will be to fix them next month.

1. Not integrating accounting as a core component of your business process

One of the most common problems entrepreneurs make has less to do with the specifics of accounting, but how they treat it within their business.

Just like sales or marketing, accounting is a core part of the broader business process––not a task that simply hangs on from the outside. Thinking of it as something that only needs to be thought about “every once in a while,” already sets you up for disaster down the road.

Accounting tasks come into play just about every day. Making sure expenses are logged and tracked on a daily basis not only saves you from devoting a huge block of time at the end of the month you’d spend compiling all of that information, it also helps to ensure every expense is noted and accounted for when it comes time to get your books in order.

2. Ignoring Cash Flow

It happens all the time.

An impassioned entrepreneur launches a business and is spurred on to expand after some initial success only to realize the business isn’t in the green––it’s deep in the red.

Bottom-line profits look great, but cobwebs are forming in the checking account. It’s not a scenario you want to be in when the bills start coming in.

While some businesses can skirt around the problem with credit offers to customers, startups rarely find themselves able to do this.

That’s why it’s extra important to be sure you’re getting paid as early as possible. For those who use a variety of subscription-based tools, remember to take advantage of any discounts for long-term service that can improve your cash flow in the future.

When it comes time to pay invoices, delay them as long as possible if no early payment discount exists. This way, you can use the difference between collection and payment to throw towards growth investments.

 3. Understanding accounting basics and reaching out to professionals

There’s no question you’ll have enough accounting work to keep you busy––the question is, do you understand it? Numbers and careful calculations aren’t everyone’s strong point and when you’re working under pressure, your chances of getting it wrong only increase.

For those that need extra assistance, it’s important to know which questions you’ll need to ask.

What kind of documents you’ll need to keep, what the purpose of them will be now and in the future, and what kind of liabilities might face are all questions that should be asked by those who aren’t well acquainted with bookkeeping.

If all of that is simply too much for you to handle along with the other parts of your business, outsourced accounting professionals are available to help pick up the slack.

For most startups, hiring outside help can be well worth it when compared to the potential losses possible when mistakes are made in-house.

If you’re a startup or small business owner interested in hiring an outsourced accountant, contact us. Our start-up accounting and CFO services experts can provide you with personal guidance. 

Photo credit: Jono Haysom