In order to ensure your company is consistently progressing, it’s important to quantify your business’ performance with hard data. Key performance indicators (KPIs) help you assess your business’ results and build strategies for achieving your goals.
What are KPIs?
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are a set of quantifiable measurements used to gauge a company’s overall long-term performance. They demonstrate how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives and help determine a company’s strategic, financial, and operational programs. KPIs can be financial, including cash flow forecasts, gross profit margins, revenue growth rates and relative market shares. They can also be anecdotal, measuring foot traffic in a store, employee retention, repeat customers and quality of customer experience. KPIs help keep a small business on track.
Criteria for KPIs:
The goals of each firm are unique. Therefore your company must craft their own KPIs. However, all KPIs should meet the following criteria:
- Actionable: Your KPIs should concretely and objectively show you the improvements that you need to make to help your business.
- Accurate: The best KPIs are well-defined, quantifiable measurements that are easy to calculate and interpret.
- Timely: Using old data won’t give you a measure of what’s going on currently. It‘s only useful if you use it as a comparison tool for current data.
- Impact the bottom line: Whether your goal is to improve net profit margins or customer satisfaction and retention, an improvement in your KPIs should result in progress toward your goal.
How to choose the right KPIs for your small business:
There is no definitive list of KPIs that all businesses should track. What you measure depends upon your industry, stage of business growth and company goals. However, there are some things you should consider when choosing your KPIs.
- Your business objectives: Good KPIs help you measure what’s important to your business. What are your company’s goals related to your customers or clients, your employees, your operations and your marketing? Choosing KPIs based on your business objectives makes them more valuable.
- Your business stage: A new company might focus on customer acquisition cost and user activation rate. Established companies may focus on employee retention to help them grow the business. Focus on KPIs that are most relevant to your stage of business.
- Lagging and leading indicators: A leading indicator is forward-looking and can influence results. A lagging indicator is backward-looking and will tell you what results have happened. For example, customer satisfaction is a leading indicator while profit is a lagging indicator. Both are necessary barometers of how your business is and will perform.
KPIs most every business should track:
There are a few key performance indicators that are advantageous for almost every business to track. Though they are not the only KPIs that your company should track, they’re a good place to start.
- Sales revenue refers to the income from all customer purchases and is the first KPI most companies evaluate to gauge success and market demand.
- Cash flow forecast: Flow in and out helps business owners assess whether their sales and margins are appropriate and estimate payment timing and likely costs. It also helps in tax preparation, new purchases, or identifying any cash surpluses. This is one of the most critical KPIs for small companies to track.
- Net profit and net profit margin: Net profit equals your revenue minus expenses. Keeping track of this KPI lets you know whether your business earns more than it spends. Your net profit margin is used to measure how profitable your business is and is a stronger indicator of your company’s financial health.
- Gross profit margin is an analytical metric expressed as a company’s net sales minus the cost of goods sold. It shows the amount of profit made before deducting selling, general, and administrative costs. The benefit of tracking this KPI over time is that you can easily quantify how much money you’re keeping against the amount paid out to suppliers.
- Monthly recurring revenue (MMR): If your firms’ focus is on retaining customers and preventing churn, then this KPI is important. You’ll want to measure new MRR (new customers), expansion MRR (customer who upgraded their plan) and churn MRR (revenue lost from customers cancelling before their expected average customer lifespan).
- Customer acquisition cost is a measure of how much you have to spend to get one new customer. This KPI helps to determine how costly, and ultimately how profitable, growth is for your company.
Tracking KPIs is vital to the health of your business. The most successful businesses use KPIs to help them measure outcomes. Picking the right KPIs and utilizing tools to monitor them can help you make informed decisions to grow your business. Small business owners should incorporate key performance indicators in their business strategy to help evaluate progress and set goals. Keep your company on track with KPIs!
Need advice and help to grow your company through the use of key performance indicators? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, Cook and Company uses their experience and expertise to help your business. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.
All businesses are susceptible to fraud, though small and mid-sized businesses are the most common victims. These companies are targeted as they often have few preventative policies in place. Though it’s impossible to be fully protected, there are proactive steps that you can take to minimize exposure to fraud risks.
Types of fraud: Fraud comes in many forms from both inside and outside a business.
- Internal Fraud: Employee theft is a common source of fraud (lost inventory, unethical accounting, theft of financial assets, fake expenses, overinflated commissions).
- External Fraud: Customer fraud (counterfeit bills, bad cheques, stolen credit cards, fraudulent requests for refunds/returns), third-party contractor fraud (overbilling, fee schemes, failure to deliver) and computer fraud (hacking, information theft, data mining) are the most common types of external fraud.
Ways to reduce fraud: There are many policies and practices that can help to reduce the possibility of fraud in your business.
- Create a fraud policy that covers topics such as what actions constitute fraud, how to report suspected fraud, who is responsible for investigating fraud, and confidentiality. Clearly outline your expectations related to employee conduct and the consequences for violating these policies.
- Provide education for all employees (security awareness, fraud policy understanding). Make sure they are aware of the need to create secure passwords, that they change passwords often and to keep passwords safe. Inform them of the importance of phishing awareness and remind staff about the dangers of clicking on unexpected links and attachments.
- Limit file access: Give employees access to only those files that are necessary to do their job. Require more than one person to complete key tasks (approving payments, writing cheques, managing petty cash, processing client receivables, approving overtime claims, recording in the accounting system).
- Protect bank accounts and credit cards: Create separate bank and credit card accounts for your personal life and business. Check security systems your bank uses for online banking to be sure automatic logout is available. Ensure that your credit card provider has suitable fraud protections in place, such as automatic alerts if an employee spends over a certain amount. Limit how and with whom you share confidential banking information.
- Keep detailed and accurate records: Accurate, detailed record-keeping (accounting records, inventory controls) helps shield your business from fraudulent activities.
- Go paperless: Going digital reduces access to information, enables fraud preventive accounting controls, permits authorization limitations and creates an easy to trace audit trail.
- Fine-tune payroll procedures: Ensure that payroll processes require HR and your payroll company to confirm deposit accounts with employees. Pay using direct deposit or open a separate business account to minimize circulation of your company’s bank account information. Use regular audits to keep check for falsified hours, inflated commissions, and other irregularities.
- Use secure payment methods: Switch to direct deposit or fund transfers. Encrypt payment transactions and partner with a secure payment processor. Consider a cheque imaging solution (scanning or picture taking) making it possible for you to deposit money automatically.
- Audit high-risk areas often: A daily check of accounts and statements is a great way to protect against fraud or accounting errors. Routinely audit areas of your business that deal in cash, refunds, product returns, inventory management and accounting functions.
- Establish a thorough hiring process: Check each new hire’s references and previous employers. Do a criminal check, especially for those employees who handle cash, manage payments and have access to bank account information. Use a reputable service that specializes in pre-employment screening.
- Keep your point-of-sale secure: Make sure all your POS devices are digitally secure. Install passwords and change them regularly. Choose systems that come with end-to-end encryption. Don’t connect your POS to external networks. At the end of each day, account for every POS device and secure devices in a location that only select employees can access.
- Know who you’re dealing with: Record basic information about the businesses/clients you deal with (address, name, two phone numbers, references). Check who the owners are and how long they have been in business. Search the company’s name online with the term “scam” or “complaint.” Before engaging with suppliers, ask for recommendations from other business owners in your community.
- Invest in insurance to help with the recovery of some or all of your losses in the event of fraud. Consult with an insurance specialist for help evaluating possible risks and determining what kind of insurance will best suit your business.
- Get expert advice: You don’t have to figure it all out by yourself! Talk to a small business advisor and/or a commercial banking consultant about products and services to help prevent fraud.
- Enable whistleblowing: Create a system that enables employees to anonymously report tips essential to dealing with fraud.
- Update all devices to the latest security software, web browsers, and operating systems. Use antivirus software, anti-malware and firewalls.
- Create a mobile device action plan to encrypt data. Make sure each employee has a separate user account, so you can trace activity if there’s a problem.
- Back up critical business data and store the information in the cloud.
- Secure Wi-Fi networks with Service Set Identifier (SSID) and password protection.
It’s easy to put off fraud prevention until an issue arises. Be proactive! By taking a few simple steps to put a fraud prevention plan into action, you’ll protect your business, establish a culture of zero-tolerance for fraud and help mitigate unforeseen threats in the future.
You’ve added a stamp and mailed the envelope or you hit the send button and e-filed your tax return. Feels good to have this task done! Then you receive another receipt, realize you used the wrong date for your medical deductions, get another information slip in the mail, notice you incorrectly calculated your deductions, realize you input the wrong social insurance number and/or gave an incorrect bank account or routing number. Don’t panic! There are procedures to follow so you can change your tax return after filing and fix the mistake you’ve made.
If you’re requesting a change to a T1 income tax return, the adjustment can be accomplished online or by mail. You can request a change to the current year or any of the previous nine years. A separate request is required for each year you wish to amend.
- By mail: Send a completed T1 Adjustment Request form (T1-ADJ) to your tax center or send a signed letter asking for an adjustment to your return. You’ll need your social insurance number, the year of the return you are amending, your address and a phone number at which you can be reached.
- Online: Use the change my return option found in My Account, a secure online service. You can access My Account in one of two ways, through a Sign-In Partner (selected financial institutions such as BMO and ING Direct) or by creating and using a CRA log-in. You’ll need your social insurance number, date of birth, current postal code and your copy of the tax return you are amending.
If you’re requesting a change to your T2 income tax return, you can do so by mail or online.
- Online: Use commercial Canadian tax software or send your amended T2 tax return in barcode format to the CRA.
- By mail: Send a letter to your tax center. Make sure you include the name of your corporation, your business number, the tax year and details including revised financial statements and revised schedules. Use Schedule 4 to carry back a loss, Schedule 21 to carry back foreign tax credits, Schedule 31 to carry back an investment tax credit and Schedule 42 to carry back a part I tax credit.
After making online changes to your tax return, keep all your receipts and supporting documents in case the CRA asks to see them. Provide supporting documents only if asked to do so and using the method of submission indicated in the CRA’s contact letter.
How long will it take for the change to be made?
The CRA will review your request for a change and advise you if the change is allowed by sending you a notice of reassessment or a letter explaining why the changes you requested are not possible. It will take approximately two weeks for a change requested online and eight weeks for a change requested by mail. Additional time may be needed if the CRA contacts you for more information or documentation. Requests which are submitted during the CRA’s peak return processing period, between March and July, will take longer.
If you realize, after submission, there’s an error on your tax return, don’t worry! There are procedures in place to help you make changes and adjustments. Tired of completing complex forms for tax? Contact a chartered professional accountant. They have the knowledge and expertise to make tax claims a breeze.
Need help preparing your tax return? Require assistance correcting a tax return? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, Cook and Company uses their experience and expertise to help you. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.
A budget is a financial plan for a company’s future. It projects revenue and expenses, enabling a business to make confident financial decisions. Many business owners underestimate the value of a budget. The following are a number of reasons why your company needs a budget.
- Enables accurate goal setting: A budget helps a business to set goals, priorities and spending caps. It shows where funding comes from and where new strategies might bring in revenue. A budget reminds you of your overall strategies when making decisions.
- Assists in writing a business plan: A realistic budget is an essential part of the business plan needed to raise capital for a company. It Indicates that the company has a viable strategy and a practical plan for making a profit.
- Allows planning in advance: A budget helps your company account for long term needs, maximize profits and distribute revenue effectively over the course of a fiscal year.
- Informs spending decisions: A budget establishes spending limits, promoting accountability. It shows how increased expenditures in one department can be balanced by a decrease in another, helping managers work together to avoid overspending while still providing necessities.
- Informs and motivates employees: A budget helps to unify and engage your employees by giving them quantifiable goals on which to focus. It encourages them to think of solutions to sales shortfalls/expense overages and to help the business hit its budget targets.
- Unifies stakeholders: A solid budget gets stakeholders on board with your goals, keeping all parties in agreement with the company’s objectives and plans for meeting them. It helps gauge progress enabling investors, shareholders, owners and managers to work together to keep the company healthy and on track.
- Enables performance evaluation: By tracking revenue and expenses, a budget helps evaluate the performance of your business over the course of the fiscal year. It ensures your company is sticking to the plan, pinpoints problems and identifies opportunities.
- Attracts investors/satisfies lenders: A detailed budget that your company adheres to shows lenders and potential investors that your business plan is working and inspires confidence in your business.
- Aids in determining staffing needs: A comprehensive budget will help you decide how many full-time, part-time or contract employees you need to reach your goals. It will assist you in determining whether you should do your own accounting/payroll or hire an outside consulting firm.
- Assist communication: The clear plans and expectations of a budget minimize confusion and create clear communication between departments and levels of management.
Budgeting is especially important for small businesses where being off on cost projections or estimated earnings can have a devastating effect on the company. Creating a budget for your small business makes operating your company easier, more efficient, gives you the best chance of achieving your long term goals and helps you reap rewards for your hard work. Consider hiring a Chartered Professional Accountant with expertise in business finance. They willl help your business create a detailed and viable budget.
Need help in creating a detailed and realistic budget for your business? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, Cook and Company uses their experience and expertise to help your business. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.
Has your business ever had trouble paying vendors, making loan installments or meeting payroll requirements due to cash flow issues? You’re not alone! Cash flow management is one of the biggest challenges that small business owners face. Though every business’s needs are unique, the following are some strategies that may improve your company’s cash flow position and ease the strain on your working capital.
- Ask for a deposit: If your product or service requires considerable cash or effort before delivery, consider asking clients for a deposit.
- Examine your debt collection procedures: Be prompt with your collections and follow up on past-due accounts receivable by sending reminders. Offer a discount for early payment of invoices.
- Cut and/or delay expenses: If your company manufactures products, consider using lower-cost inputs to deliver the same goods. If you are a service company, opt for spending less time on the same work. Exhaust existing inventory before purchasing more. Hire part-time or contract employees to replace full-time employees.
- Get a business credit card: Choose a card that rewards with points that can be used for travel and business purchases. Many cards come with innovative reporting options that illustrate spending trends to help business owners optimize their cash flow.
- Get creative with marketing: Instead of expensive radio, TV or newspaper ads, opt for a less costly social media marketing campaign.
- Restructuring your terms with vendors (an extra week or two for payments) can make a substantial difference. Once you have reached an agreement, be timely and dependable with your payments.
- Finance purchase orders: If you’re a manufacturing or merchandising company and you require a significant amount of cash to fulfill your orders, financing purchase orders may be helpful. The financing company pays the vendor so you can acquire the merchandise/inventory you need to fulfill the order. This allows you to take large orders that you don’t yet have the cash to fill.
- Increase margins: If your business has a unique product/service or a high demand for your product/service, consider increasing your margins by increasing your charges.
- Sell or lease idle equipment: Utilize eBay or Craigslist to sell redundant or idle equipment and use the proceeds to ensure cash flow.
- Sell future revenue: Consider taking a loan that is automatically repaid via a percentage of your business’s credit/debit card transaction volume.
- Turn down, shift or postpone work to manage the volume of business for consistency over time. Offer good clients a discount for postponing their work, order or service. This will not be a viable strategy for companies with strong seasonal businesses (retailers, accountants, etc.).
- Invoice factoring involves selling your invoices (an asset) to a factoring company. Instead of waiting 15, 30 or 60 days for your money, your business gets payment upfront.
- Hire an accountant: A Chartered Professional Accountant will have the knowledge and experience to offer you creative solutions to your cash flow problems.
- Restructure payroll: Switching to a less frequent pay period can save on administrative costs (collecting, verifying, tabulating information). Direct deposit can also help stabilize your payroll withdrawals.
- Borrow money before you need it: When your business is doing well, open a business line of credit. Interest rates can be as low as 6 to 7%. Ask for more than you need so you have reserves to draw from when times are tough.
- Evaluate your cash flow on a regular basis. Calculate how much debt you can take on and not be overleveraged. Factor in time, interest, ROI. Have a repayment plan in place for borrowed money. If possible, maintain a rainy-day reserve in case of an emergency.
- Take advantage of technology by using apps and software to streamline your business processes and increase efficiency. Technology can enable you to spend less time worrying about cash flow and more time running your business.
Working capital is the fuel that powers small businesses. Managing cash flow is critical to running a profitable long-term business. Constantly look for new ways to improve cash flow management in your company.
Looking for ways to examine and improve your cash flow? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, Cook and Company uses their experience and expertise to help your business. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.
When you incorporate a business, you create a distinct legal entity separate from its owners and/or shareholders. This entity has the same rights as a person. It can own property, obtain loans, enter into contracts, sue, be sued and be found guilty of a crime. You can incorporate either federally or provincially. Which you choose depends on whether you intend to do business in more than one province. Though there are a multitude of advantages to small business incorporation, it is not the right path for every company. Carefully examine the pros and cons of incorporation before deciding.
- Limited liability: Incorporating provides a layer of security against personal liability. You’re not responsible for the corporation’s financial obligations, personal assets cannot be taken to pay business debts and you do not answer to company lawsuits.
- Lower tax rate: Corporations are taxed separately from their owners/shareholders. This is an advantage as corporate tax rates are typically lower than the tax rates for individuals.
- Tax deferral: Instead of taking a salary, you can choose to leave income in the business, taking it out when your personal tax rate is lower.
- Continuous existence: Corporations continue to exist unless they wind-up, amalgamate, or give up their charter. An incorporated business continues to exist even if the ownership changes making the selling of the business easier.
- Better Access to Financing: Corporations are often able to raise money and grow more easily because they can issue bonds/shares to investors and borrow money at lower rates.
- Income Splitting: The owner of an incorporated company can hire their spouse and children, a significant tax advantage. The company deducts the amount it pays them as an expense, while family members pay tax at their personal income tax rate.
- Business name protection: When you incorporate your business provincially, the business name you choose is reserved for you. If you incorporate federally, you have the right to use your business name throughout the country. Without incorporation, anyone can start a business with the same or a similar name.
- Costs of incorporation: The process of incorporation requires completion of legal paperwork and the associated costs. Ongoing costs include annual legal filing fees and professional accountant fees (filing an annual corporate tax return, notices of any changes and articles of amendment).
- Multiple tax returns: Owners of corporations must file personal income tax returns and an additional tax return for the company.
- Increased administrative requirements: The owner of an incorporated business needs to maintain a minute book containing corporate bylaws and minutes of corporate meetings. They must also maintain up to date records of business activities.
- More complexity: An incorporated business has individuals who act on its behalf (shareholders, owners, directors, CEO, CFO, president, etc.). The company requires a paper trail of activities of these individuals to ensure all by-laws are followed.
- Reduced tax flexibility: When revenues are high, there are many tax advantages to being incorporated. When a company experiences losses, incorporation can be a disadvantage. Losses can only be carried forward or back to reduce the company’s income from other years, not in the year the losses are incurred.
When it comes to small business incorporation in Canada, it’s wise to consider every angle before making your decision. Talk to your accountants. They will provide you with advice and information to help you decide whether incorporation will be a benefit for your company.
Considering incorporation? Contact Cook and Company. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, Cook and Company uses their experience and expertise to help your business. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.