Article written BY JOE PERRY Morning News and reprinted.
At Florence seminar, CPA offers advice for start-ups
About 40 years ago, Nancy Waring gained a foothold as a small-business owner.
“So I kind of feel your pain if you’re just starting out, not knowing a lot and not knowing some of the things you wish you had information on,” she said.
As a certified public accountant at Waring & Associates CPAs, she wanted to share her knowledge gained from years of experience in hopes that today’s small-business owner looking to launch a start-up doesn’t feel quite the degree of pain she first experienced. Waring was one of four speakers Tuesday at a Small Business Series seminar designed to educate folks looking to become business owners or those who have recently done so. She encouraged plenty of looking and planning before leaping, as it can be expensive and time consuming to seek professional advice after the fact.
Waring asked the attendees about what aspects of accounting keep them awake at night, and Robby Hill of HillSouth asked about the ease of managing a chart of accounts and the importance of getting that aspect started early on. Most everybody uses QuickBooks, she said, noting her disdain for the online version, which she feels is less user-friendly than its desktop counterpart. QuickBooks has industry-specific charts of accounts, she said, referring to fundamental accounting facets: accounts receivable, inventory, fixed assets and accounts payable, for example. As a business evolves, those can be changed, she said.
“Basically you are in the driver’s seat in deciding what that chart of accounts looks like,” she said. “And the best way for you to determine what accounts you want is what information you want.”
When books are being set up, she said, the firm asks clients what they want to see.
“How much detail do you want to see?” she said. “If you’re not interested in all that you surely do not need to put it on there and make your financial statements laborious to look at. So if you want the short and sweet version, you can establish that.”
Another thing she tells clients is to seek help if you are not computer literate and not familiar with QuickBooks.
“Because typically, you’ll spend more money letting us fix what you’ve done than letting us start at the beginning and give you just a little guidance,” she said. “If you have employees and you don’t know anything about payroll, please get someone to do your payroll because that is a very tricky area and you can get yourself in trouble and create a lot of penalties that would be unnecessary.”
Sales tax is another area that requires constant diligence as it is payable each month on the 20 th based upon sales from the prior month, and a missed deadline results in an immediate 25 percent penalty on the unpaid tax, she said.
Dominic Owens of the Florence County Sheriff’s Office asked about finding a good starting point, because one can become beset with “a massive tsunami of information of what to do and what not to do.”
Waring said if you’ve been a “W-2 person with a steady paycheck,” it would be prudent to step back and see if you can handle not taking money out of a new business for a year or two. Talking with your spouse, looking closely at your budget and asking if its affordable are key, she said, in addition to market research and risk analysis. Don’t be conservative in finding a “break-even point,” she said, and seek out trade associations and possibly a development team. If a loan is required, go to the bank armed with reams of data, a solid business plan and the ability to sell yourself. A lawyer can help decide whether a business should be a limited liability corporation or function as a sole proprietor, she said.