Your clients look to you for expertise. With the economy sluggish right now, this might be an opportune time to offer training that could help them improve their financial outlook and prepare them for upcoming duties and requirements. And, in the process, you could make work in your firm easier by helping your clients provide you with better raw materials – especially when it comes to audits.
1. Be ready when the new 1099 regulations hit with a vengeance
Unless Congress acts to change the law, a flood of new work regarding the issuance of 1099s will hit many of your clients. You can take the lead by training them how to prepare now to minimize the onslaught of red tape they will soon face.
Chances are many of your clients already are biting their nails wondering how they will deal with the onerous requirements. A seminar that explains what will be expected, spells out the information they will need, and shows them the adjustments they should be working on now should be an easy sell.
Here are some areas of concern you might consider covering:
- Show clients how to modify payment vouchers and expense recording software to capture the information needed to fill out a 1099. Small businesses generally do not use software that sorts payments by vendor, rather than expense category. Even if their software allows for this, you might need to schedule time to go to their locations and train end-users about additional data they should collect, as well as how to input that data.
- Show clients how that data can be used to create internal reports, and how it might transfer directly to 1099s for printing (if their systems allow it).
- Adjust systems to handle more. For clients that now issue some 1099s, you can help them determine whether their systems can handle a great increase, or whether they eventually will need to install a new system.
- Foreign vendors. It’s unclear right now if the current legislation will remain as is for foreign vendors. Assuming the requirements do not change, you can help clients find an efficient way to identify these vendors.
2. Increase revenue by expanding your payment options
With changes in the economy, more consumers are paying by credit card. You can help your small business clients by helping them set up a reliable payment processing system.
Here are some points that should make your payment processing training attractive:
- Help clients make the decision to accept credit cards by explaining that, while it is more expensive to accept credit cards as opposed to cash or checks, not accepting credit cards might be a factor that drives business to competitors.
- Tell clients they can maximize sales by being where the public is shopping, such asat trade shows, on the phone, and on the Internet.
- Sell security. Remind clients that by providing a secure way to pay, consumers will feel safer buying from them. (See Encryption below.)
Here are some areas to cover in training:
- Choosing a payments provider that has demonstrated financial stability. A payment system might not be owned by a bank. Instead it might be owned by a technology company. You can help clients find one that is reliable and that takes all the forms of payment your customer needs. That might include debit and credit cards, gift cards, e-deposits, ACH payments, direct deposits, and check services.
- A workable check payments policy. Make sure clients and all employees who take payments know and follow the guidelines for accepting checks. Should your clients adopt the ability to convert paper checks to electronic payments, help them decide and tell them what they need to know to make these arrangements.
- Integrate payments with accounting system to limit the possibility of errors that are inherent with manual entry. In the long run it also promotes audit compliance.
- Payment Card Industry compliance. All businesses that have any interaction with credit or debit cards must be compliant with PCI data security requirements. Make sure your clients know how to protect their businesses and customers from fraud related to credit card payments. Your clients need to be aware of antivirus software that scans their computers for potential security leaks.
- Encryption. You can help clients prevent card account information from being intercepted while transmitted from the point of sale by advising them about end-to-end encryption (E2EE). E2EE also helps your clients become PCI compliant.
- Mobile payments. This encompasses a variety of topics, including the ability to accept a credit card payment with a smart phone or mobile phone. It also allows your clients to engage in such marketing activities as offering coupons or other discounts.
3. Minimize the length and cost of an audit with audit-efficiency techniques for clients
Offer a discount to clients who take the training and then use it to prepare well before auditors arrive on the scene.Emphasize that they can they lower the cost of the audit and get auditors out of their hair in less time so they can get back to work.
Following are some areas to cover:
- The client’s role. Explain to your clients their role in the audit process, how long they can take, and the fees you must charge if they are unprepared. Or, they can make the audit less painful and more affordable by being ready and cooperative.
- SWAT team or pre-engagement letter. Some firms prepare clients for an audit by sending in an advance or SWAT-type team to take a look at the client’s records. Others do a detailed pre-engagement letter. Some points in the training will be general, but, on an individual basis, you might use the previous year’s audit experience to send them an itemized list. Give the client a heads-up that will benefit everyone involved by showing them, for example, what is ready, what needs to done, accounts that must be reconciled, files that must be located and ready for inspection, files/invoices/notices that must be copied and ready for inspection, and the costs involved in an asset that need to be documented and reconciled with the booked value.
- Bookkeeping. Be sure the clients understand that if your auditors have to do catch-up bookkeeping, the audit time will increase and so will the fee.
- Staff cooperation. Explain to the client the need to communicate to staff members the value of the audit and the role they play. Staff cooperation can help hold down the audit cost and time, and lack of cooperation can make the process longer and more expensive.
- Have realistic expectations. The first year they might not come through as well as you hoped. But as they understand their responsibilities more, you can add to them each year and offer a better discount.
- Again, emphasize the discounted fee. Even a small inducement in exchange for proper preparation can be a motivator.