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.
Three-quarters of Canadian small businesses have taken on debt as a result of COVID-19. As of November 3rd, 69% of Alberta businesses are open, 39% are back to pre-COVID staffing levels but only 21% are experiencing normal revenues. The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses estimates that, if and when revenues return to normal, it will take most Alberta small businesses 1 ½ years to recover. Business owners have two choices: try to save the business while attempting to settle outstanding accounts, or allow the business to fail with an exit strategy that minimizes the financial consequences.
Financial help available for those attempting to save their business:
- CEBA (Canada Emergency Business Account) supports businesses by providing financing for expenses that cannot be avoided or deferred thereby helping to position businesses for successful relaunch when the economy reopens. CEBA is available from more than 220 financial institutions across the country. Repaying the balance of the loan on or before December 31, 2022, will result in loan forgiveness of 25%. CEBA support is being expanded from $40K to $60K and is available to all eligible previous and new CEBA applicants.
- CEWS (Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy) covers part of employee wages, retroactive to March 15. This enables businesses to re-hire workers, help prevent further job losses, and ease back into normal operations.
- RRRF (Regional Relief and Recovery Fund) helps businesses and organizations in sectors that are key to regions and local economies. The fund is specifically targeted to those that may require additional help to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but have been unable to access other support measures.
- CERS (Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy) provides direct and easy-to-access rent and mortgage support to qualifying organizations. Charities, nonprofits and qualifying businesses receive a subsidy of up to 65% of eligible expenses until December 19, 2020. Combined with the other support received under the CERS, businesses can receive a rent subsidy of up to 90%.
- Loan Guarantee (for small and medium-size businesses): Export Development Canada (EDC) is working with financial institutions to guarantee 80% of new operating credit and cash flow term loans of up to $6.25 million to small and medium-sized enterprises. This financing support is to be used for operational expenses and is available to both exporting and non-exporting companies.
- Co-Lending program (for small and medium-sized enterprises): Business Development Canada (BDC) is working with financial institutions to co-lend term loans of up to $6.25 million to small and medium-sized businesses for their operational cash flow requirements.
Tips for businesses regarding recovery:
- Take care of your people: Implement best practices for safety. Allow those who can to work remotely. Establish a contingency plan for quarantined workers. Schedule regular updates and optimize technology to keep the lines of communication open and clear.
- Evaluate capacity and resources: Review your expense items to see where you can shave costs. Find recurring operating expenses that can be suspended for a short term. Align personnel to production/sales. Defer discretionary expenses. Document cash inflow and outflow. Create a rolling cash flow forecast and update it weekly.
- Communicate with suppliers to confirm whether existing purchase orders will be filled on time. This will help you manage your customers’ expectations and update your cash flow plan. Try to negotiate deferred payment terms for payables.
- Reach out to customers and confirm that existing and planned orders are still on track. If they owe you money, discuss the ability to pay and the timing of payments. Offer markdowns if they can pay you quickly. You may have to defer production or loosen repayment terms. Ask customers if they need anything else. With businesses closed and supply chains compromised, there may be a new opportunity for your company.
- Talk to your banker: Present your banker with a solid restructuring plan. If possible, renegotiate your bank loan so it’s spread over a longer-term, reducing the interest payments and also the monthly repayment cost. Investigate the opportunity to lower interest rates. Consolidate business loans into one payment, which may reduce monthly costs.
- Consider alternative lenders: Even in tight times, there are those who are looking to invest and alternative methods of financing. Consider peer-to-peer loans, a line of credit, invoice financing, an advance funding loan, non-bank lenders (ThinkingCapital, OnDeck), invoice factoring and a merchant cash advance.
- Be open to change and move quickly: Look beyond the status quo. Adapt quickly to the changing situation. Look for new market demands. Explore adjacent markets. Consider new ways to use your expertise. Solve unique problems resulting from the situation thereby creating a new niche. Establish a regional supply chain for continuity.
- Embrace digital possibilities: Digital technologies can provide new marketing, financing and networking opportunities. Create digital products and services. Use online platforms to gain efficiencies and create customer value. Enable remote working. Access regional, national, and global markets in a cost-effective way using e-commerce platforms.
- Think outside the box: What can you do to increase revenues? Can you lease out a portion of your office to another business? Could you save on rent by working remotely? Get creative. Find ways to generate additional revenue from your existing assets.
- Get outside help: Outside assistance can help you navigate the changes. Talk to your chartered accountant, your financial planner and/or your banker. They have experience and knowledge that may be helpful.
Do everything you can to keep your business running. With luck and perseverance, you can survive and possibly thrive through this pandemic. Learn from this experience so that you can bounce back stronger.
Need help navigating the current situation? Draw on the knowledge and experience of 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.