29 July 2014

"Make Tax Time Easy" Article by Tina Zawila

Well July has almost been and gone – how is your tax preparation going?  For most of us (even us accountants!) gathering our paperwork and information for the preparation of our annual income tax return is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Add a few complexities such as investments or a rental property or two, and you will need to set aside a few hours for this task, and that’s before you even show up for your appointment with your accountant or tax agent.

However, these days there are tools out there to make our lives easier. 

Over the last year or two at Sothertons Gladstone we have been promoting Xero – cloud based accounting software to help businesses manage their record-keeping.  What we have found is that this tool can be very useful for investors and rental property owners too!

Xero captures transactions directly from your bank accounts, so it makes it easy to record and categorise income and expenditure, ensuring you don’t miss a thing.  It will also act as your electronic filing cabinet allowing your to save scanned or photographed copies of your receipts/documents - no more faded/illegible or lost receipts!  And yes, once the documents are saved into Xero you can throw them away!  The ATO will accept an electronic copy (provided it can be reproduced legibly).

The added bonus of using Xero for your taxation and investment record-keeping is that you can also use it to monitor and manage your own personal budget.  Helping you stay on track and achieve your financial goals.

At Sothertons Gladstone, our goal is to help make tax time easy for you - call us now on 4972 1300 to make an appointment for your 2014 Income Tax Return and to discuss how Xero can make your 2015 tax preparation a breeze.  We offer a discount for the early birds who have their returns prepared in July or August.  So get in early!

22 July 2014

“Make sure your financial advice is about you.” Article by Steve Marsten

Most people are aware that there are new rules in governing Financial Planners. It’s called FOFA – The Future of Financial Advice. FOFA was introduced to protect consumers from financial planners who defrauded their clients and I don’t doubt that some reforms were necessary. Though the real issue in the Financial Planning Industry is the lack of return taxpayers get from the massive investment of our taxes that is ASIC. ASIC is the government department who have the charter for overseeing the financial services industry. If they were acting on the information in their possession or doing their job – the likes of Storm Financial would not be the stigmatic issue that hangs over the industry today. They should have acted long before Storm fell over. Interestingly enough – the whole industry has paid the price while the owners of storm have yet to be brought to trial.

We are still seeing ads encouraging people to use Industry Based superfunds yet you never see ads for the financial planning industry who, on the whole – do take the clients objectives into account and ensure their investments align with what their goals are and most of all – have the clients best interests at heart.
It is a shame that many people under the age of 30 are not investing in their future correctly and are taking advice from the internet or Facebook or TV advertising, neither of which takes their personal circumstances into account. Further many have signed on to Industry Superfunds without any consideration for the type of investor they are or been advised of the ramifications of the type of investments they are investing in. Such advice is cheap and the outcomes are often cheaper!
The impact of the FOFA reforms is to add an incredible level of red tape on the planner which takes the cost of preparing plans higher. ASIC have come out and advised that the cost of preparing a plan should be $2,500 to $3,500 per client. This is a broad brush approach and you can usually get better value then that. This does not include the implementation of the plan.
At Sothertons and Professional Investment Services all work is quoted upfront before commencement. Contact us today on 07 4972 1300.

15 July 2014

“Growing when your competitors aren’t!” Article by Steve Marsten

Right now most business owners and executives tend to blame the performance of their business on the “weakness in the market” or the economic slowdown. Of course there is a reason this explanation for uninspiring performance is so common – it’s simply readily available! On average 50% of all businesses are growing below the level of GDP so it’s a natural occurrence to blame an external source for the problems!

The trouble is a weak market isn’t a valid excuse. Time and again plenty of companies are achieving above average growth. There are always some business’ that find a growth formula and achieve success in industries that aren’t doing anything special. Those business owners or managers tend to ignore the excuses and figure out how to join the ranks of the over achievers.
At a recent business strategy session with our clients at Sothertons and their team, it was pointed out that despite the ups and downs of the economy, their business had outperformed the average GDP in the Industry by 20-40% each year for the past 5 years when the economy came off a Global Economic Crisis to a local economic boom and back to a flat economic growth pattern!
They believe that all businesses should stop, assess and address every aspect of their business and they loved sharing the information with their staff so that everyone had a say in the big picture. It’s a great investment in the future and sets the business up for continual adaption to the industry and retains is relevance to the markets and its customers. Its not change for change sake but change for the better. Also it doesn’t all have to cost money – sometimes the best ideas are the lowest cost with the biggest added value such as stopping to provide an unprofitable service or product and placing more emphasis on a better product or even more surprising – relieving the business of some customers who provide low margins to the business and tend to inhibit or upset your team.
The Sothertons team assists its clients to reach their potential and achieve the best return on their business by facilitating business strategies that review your business and all its aspect to ensure that it provides the maximum return for its owners.  Call 07 4972 1300 and ask for Steve or Tina for more information.

11 July 2014

"Knowing Your Numbers" Article by Tina Zawila

At Sothertons, we are always reminding our clients that they need to know their numbers.  I'm not always confident that our message is heard, whether it's something they just expect an accountant to say/do, or that it doesn't really apply to them (non-nerdy-accountants)!

What I found interesting the other day, was the importance of knowing your numbers in another aspect of life - sport!  It provided a perfect analogy to make my point.  My daughter has recently started in the sport of weightlifting and her "numbers" are critical to set goals, to track her progress, and to measure herself against others and her own targets.  She carries a book in her gym bag in which she records diligently her numbers of every training session - the number of reps, the weights used etc.  She then sends her numbers electronically to her coach at the end of every week as an accountability measure and for him to determine any changes that should be made to continue to improve her performance.
So let's now apply this to your business or your financial position:
1.  Recording your numbers regularly in your own "book" - obviously these days there is powerful cloud accounting software (like Xero) that make this process so easy and enables you to do this everyday!  It will even allow you to compare your results instantly to targets/goals you have set for yourself (via your budget).
2.  Having an accountant or business adviser, your own "coach", to help monitor your progress and suggest areas of improvement.  Your accountant can measure your performance against that of others in your industry (benchmarking) and your previous results or key performance indicators (KPI's) to keep you focussed and on track.
So if it seems so obvious to do this for success in sport, why wouldn't you apply the same concepts to ensure success in business?  Do you know your numbers?  Do you have a business advisor (coach) to improve your performance and keep you accountable?
At Sothertons Gladstone we are passionate about numbers and business; call us on 4972 1300 today to arrange your first "training session" with us!

01 July 2014

“Look out for the ‘Five Deadly Sins’ of franchising…” Article by Steve Marsten

At Sothertons, we see many business owners seek the comfort of a Franchise as a means to get ahead. Only to find that there are certain things they can and cannot do. There have been numerous studies carried out highlighting the main issues associated with franchises and the importance of the Franchisor and Franchisee relationship. We call these the five deadly sins.

The first is the Blame Game. We as humans have this amazing ability to interpret events to suit our own interests. As an example – we like to take credit when things go well and similarly we like to blame others if things don’t work out – like the Franchisor! Liaising with the Franchisor during both good and tough times is extremely important.
The Attack of the Slacks. One thing that seems to really annoy Franchisor staff is an outlet that’s allowed to look run down due to a lack of effort by the franchisee. From the franchisors point of view, letting the standards drop gives every operator a bad name not just the poorly maintained outlet.
Update oversight. Franchisor staff often take irate calls from franchisees over changes in policies and standards with the usual question screamed down the phone “Why wasn’t I told?!!!” Many Franchisors issue their changes via a regular email bulletin and often owners just don’t take time to read them.
The Klingon Reaction. Some franchisees struggle to appreciate changes to systems and policies proposed by the Franchisor. The initial reaction is – That won’t work! So they don’t give thought or time to assessing the merits of the changes. Instead they become reluctant participants and to some extent sabotage their own businesses. Changes are necessary in all businesses to stay relevant.
And Finally the Frank Sinatra Syndrome which we tend to see a lot of - yes – “I did it my way!” maybe a song that Franchisors like to sing but it is not the tune that franchisees love to hear. Experimenting with a franchisors business concept will often get you into hot water without consultation.
Open communication with a Franchisor is extremely important for the success of the Franchisee. If this is an issue then consider not going down the path of a Franchise in the first place. We at Sothertons often guide business owners carefully in selecting the best Franchise or business that suits their objectives. Call 07 4972 1300 for a consultation.