Top Ten Questions a Startup Should Ask an Accountant

What Should You Ask Your Accountant?

When you’re starting up a new company, the temptation is to wear all the hats. After all, it’s your baby and no one understands it like you do. Of course, there’s also the matter of that pesky budget. It stretches a lot further when you’re employing a staff of one.

Of course, the reality is that you can’t do everything yourself. And speaking of budgets, the one area where you truly need some help is your finances. It would be so much simpler if business accounting was just a matter of addition and subtraction. But it’s a complex minefield that takes experience to navigate.

It’s too important of a position to leave to chance. In other words, don’t Google “accountant” and select the first one that pops up. Shop around for a financial expert just like you would for inventory, supplies and equipment. He’ll be working for you, so he should meet the qualifications that you’re looking for.

You don’t have to meet with a prospective accountant in person, but don’t rely on email. If you can’t meet, use Skype or the telephone. Hearing an actual voice helps you get a better sense of a person. Is he confident and well-spoken? Does he hem and haw while searching for answers? This could be the first step in an ongoing relationship, so start it on the right foot.

Be sure you do your homework before your meeting. Here is a checklist of questions that will provide much of the information you’ll need to make an assessment.

  • How long have you been in business? A fledgling firm may not yet be experienced enough to handle your concerns. On the other hand, an accountant who’s been in business for many years may be on the verge of retirement. Find out what the plans of succession are so you’re not left hanging.
  • Will I be assigned to one person? Some accounting firms operate on a call center basis, with associates taking calls on a rotating basis. If your account is specifically assigned to an accountant, the two of you will be able to develop a relationship and he’ll get to know your particular business much better.
  • What services do you offer? There are several subcategories under the heading of finance. Are you looking for tax preparation help? Do you want someone to handle budgeting and cash flow management or strategic planning?
  • How often will we be in contact, and by what means? You want to be on the same page with this issue. If you want to be able to consult on a weekly basis, you don’t want to find out afterwards that he’s available only once a month. Just as with your initial meeting, you should also be able to have personal contact, at least for the major meetings.
  • Are you available year-round? Some accounting firms are open only during tax season when demand for their services is at its peak. However, as a new business you’ll need advice during the rest of the year as well.
  • Make sure you and your accountant are on the same page.What types of businesses do you work with? Restaurants have a different financial agenda than contractors, who in turn are different from graphic artists. It helps to find an accountant who’s familiar with the type of business you’ll be operating.
  • How do you bill for your services, and what’s included in your fee? Some accountants bill by the hour while others charge a flat rate. You might want to consider the former if you’ll be handling most of your finances in-house and consulting only on major issues. Find out exactly what’s covered in the rates so you don’t end up getting nickel-and-dimed on services that turn out to be an extra charge.
  • Do you follow a conservative or aggressive approach? Nearly all financial matters come with risk, and business finances are no exception. For example, some accountants will beat the bushes to write off every possible penny. Others are reluctant to put a client in a position of possibly being red-flagged for an audit. Determine where you fall on this continuum so you find an accountant whose views are compatible with yours.
  • How will I be informed of relevant changes in my industry? A good accountant should keep you abreast of current news and events pertinent to your business, particularly changes in tax regulations.
  • What type of accounting software do you use? If it’s not the same as yours, ask how information and data will be exchanged.

This list can be supplemented or modified based on the needs of your specific business. Overall, it gives you a solid platform to find an accountant who will work as hard for your company as you do.

At Medallion Fulfillment and Logistics we make it easy for startups and new businesses to grow with thoughtful services and flexible order fulfillment options. Call us today to get a free price quote so you can focus on growing your business and leave the shipping to us.

USPS Service Interruptions to Greece

Update on Mail Services to Greece

On November 6, 2020 the United States Postal Service received notice from Greece that effective November 7, 2020 a lockdown will be implemented throughout the country of Greece due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is a direct impact on collection and delivery of mail and packages sent through the Hellenic Post (ELTA).

This update impacts Priority Mail Express International, First-Class Mail International and First-Class Package Service, Priority Airmail. Surface Air Lift and M-Bag items.

For a full list of international service disruptions please visit https://about.usps.com/newsroom/service-alerts/international/welcome.htm

Why Offering Free Shipping will Increase Your Online Orders

During the Coronavirus Pandemic Boost Sales with Free Shipping

Shipping plays a huge role in e-Commerce.  Free shipping is increasingly the number one promotional tool used to entice online shoppers during the virus pandemic. Many of the major online players including Amazon and Walmart offer free shipping. Free shipping is a major tool retailers use to attract new customers and keep existing customers.

According to comScore, a leading Internet marketing research company, during the first three weeks of the holiday season in 2010, 45 percent of transactions included free shipping, the percentage rose to 50 percent by the 21st of November, increased to 55 percent in the week ending November 28 and was still at a high rate of 51 percent in the week ending December 5. It’s important to note, transactions using free shipping for the week ending December 5, 2010 averaged $125.20, 45 percent higher than orders using paid shipping.

> Consumers Expect Free Shipping

Due to the prevalence of free shipping in online retailing, consumers expect it when shopping on the Web. A recent comScore survey showed 84 percent of consumers indicated free shipping was somewhat or very important when making purchases and may be even more important during the virus pandemic.

Jeffrey Grau, principal analyst at eMarketer, said “Free shipping makes e-commerce more appealing. A lot of people won’t buy from a website if there isn’t some sort of free shipping. It’s almost a requirement.”  He went on to say “Retailers have to decide for themselves whether the potentially higher sales can justify absorbing the shipping costs. They’re going to hope for higher volume and slightly lower margins. They’ll try to make up the cost in higher volume” (E-Commerce Times).

Free Shipping Day, held on the 17th of December, is an example of the power free shipping has on consumers. In 2009, Free Shipping Day accounted for $586 million non-travel retail spending and surged to $942 million in 2010, a 61 percent increase (comScore).

Azita Arvani, principal of the Arvani Group, said “The biggest friction points in online shopping are payment and shipping. By offering free shipping, it reduces a key friction point, which should result in more sales, provided the offer is not too restrictive to a point of being meaningless to the consumer” (E-Commerce Times).

> Don’t Ignore the Trend

The free shipping strategy includes the prospects of thinner margins or higher prices on merchandise, however online retailers who ignore the trend will likely have lower transaction volumes. By enticing consumers with free shipping, retailers may be able to avoid offering deep discounts on their merchandise.

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT stated “Free shipping is always a bonus, especially when money is tight, consumers are getting creative. They want a high-dollar item that won’t have a stiff shipping fee. Getting the shipping free makes sense” (E-Commerce Times).

> Free Shipping, a Daily Promotion

Increasingly, free shipping has become a daily promotion in online retailing. According to comScore, in the third quarter of 2010, 41 percent of all online retail transactions included free shipping. Gary Reblin, Vice President, Domestic Products , U.S. Postal service, believes the growth trend in e-commerce transactions coupled with free shipping in the business-to-consumer segment continues to be the number one compelling force in the shipping industry (Source: PARCEL).

Free shipping is a great way to stay competitive and increase sales. Free shipping is also a good way to get rid of last year’s merchandise. However, to keep a healthy profit margin   it’s vital for retailers to partner with a savvy, experienced fulfillment service such as Medallion Fulfillment and Logistics to keep shipping costs low. A knowledgeable fulfillment company knows how to take care of a large increase in orders and can negotiate based on volume for the lowest packaging and shipping rate possible.

As you plan your virus pandemic selling strategy, consider that consumers have come to expect free shipping during the year and in the holiday season – free shipping can make or break your own promotion projections.