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In a down economy, one of the classic places that laid-off employees seek work is by starting their own businesses. Even though the credit crunch has truncated the usual numbers of new businesses formed during a recession, these organizations continue to form and to have their own needs.
"Sometimes, they need someone to mentor them. Sometimes, they just need someone to hold their hand and tell them they are doing the right thing," says Jo Anne Kebernik.

Kebernik, owner of the Software Coach based in Edmonton, Alberta, soon will relocate her office to Las Vegas, Nev., where she plans to continue her Canadian business and to continue providing advice to new business people. She has worked with start ups for more than 20 years.

Start ups typically chose a bank, an attorney and accountant early in their business operations, although many seek accounting advice only after they have gotten in trouble often with payroll rules. The other big problem area, says Kebernik, is in performing monthly bank reconciliations. She says tracking inventory is also a major issue for those businesses that sell goods.

They also have "an absolute lack of organization of source documents or a lack of source documents,” she says. So when these business people seek advice on fixing payroll and bank reconciliation problems, it's often accounting professionals like Kebernik who teach them about a wide range of business issues.

While she isn’t a credentialed accountant, Kerbernik, who supports Sage's Simply Accounting software, teaches accounting and it was in the classroom setting that she was exposed to startups in some numbers.

In College Park, Texas, CPA  Ed Slovacek  also finds payroll and bank reconciliation as stumbling blocks for the new businesses. In addition, they often run afoul of sales tax requirements.

“The Texas sales tax people are people you don’t want to cross. They will shut you down quickly,” notes Slovacek, who has been in practice for 35 years. The need to report payments to multiple taxing authorities so that the amounts collected can be apportioned among them also causes problems.

Slovacek puts an emphasis on interviewing prospects to determine what they know or don’t know.  “That’s where we come in to confront them with the realities of business life,” he says.

Besides providing advice on tax and accounting issues, he also recommends start ups seek advice from other professionals and when possible, he urges that they organize a board of advisors that holds meetings and reviews business plans. These boards can include professionals such as business agents and attorneys.

Slovacek’s firm has three professionals, all of whom are Intuit ProAdvisors. “For us, QuickBooks is not a junior staff function. Everybody is serious about knowing the latest version of QuickBooks,” he says.

Barbara Watkins, a sole practitioner operating in Winter Park, Fla., comes across many start ups in working with a local college which has a program for providing advice to start ups. Watkins, a CPA who calls herself the “Diva of Deductions” works with both Sage’s Peachtree and Intuit’s QuickBooks in helping these businesses choose software tools. She has been working with Peachtree since 1984 and QuickBooks since 2000.

Peachtree, she notes, is more often used in areas such as construction where more specialized knowledge is needed. Peachtree, she says, is more flexible while it is easier to train users on QuickBooks.

Many start ups stumble on the issue of whether workers are outside contractors or employees, which is an area that causes them problems with payroll taxes. They often lack knowledge of how to obtain financing, whether they need an office, a storefront or a home-based operation, and how to write a business plan.

“The basic needs need to be filled,” she says.

Watkins likes working with start ups because she has the opportunity to teach the owners the right way to do things. “I can teach them before they develop bad habits,” she says.  
Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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