Crowe Horwath Jamaica now Offers “Legal Audit” & “Legal Access” Services

What is Legal Audit? 

Most small business owners are familiar with accounting audits and tax audits, but few are familiar with legal audits. A legal audit occurs when a lawyer reviews your company’s business operations to look for potential legal problems and help them to avoid them. To ensure compliance and good legal standing, a good legal audit will help your business operate more profitably, efficiently and with fewer legal risks. 

Advantages of a Legal Audit

With the cost of litigation skyrocketing, many business owners are anxious to try to minimize their potential exposure to claims and lawsuits. In a legal audit, Crowe Horwath Jamaica’s Legal Audit Team will review your current business practices in order to ensure that you are complying with the applicable laws that govern your business and will make suggestions for dealing with potential legal problems.

A legal audit can be used to assess the general “legal health” of your business. It can also be tailored to very specific areas of concern, such as tax liabilities, employment law problems and contracts. 

Contracts 

Many small businesses use standard form contracts for bid proposals, orders and sales. A legal audit of your contract forms can help prevent customer disputes and cut down your risk of unpaid accounts, refunds and lawsuits. Our Legal Audit Team is equipped identify and redraft ambiguous and inadequate language in your invoices or contracts and can explain to you the legal consequences of liquidated damages, warranties, disclaimers, allocation of risks and other contractual terms. 

Some business owners still insist on conducting certain business transactions with oral agreements and handshakes. The team can provide guidance as to the best approach when entering into agreements and the terms which should be included to protect and indemnify you from risks. A word of advice–try to get a down payment from a customer in any matter where the transaction involves substantial goods or services. 

Business Structure 

Many business owners are unaware of the potential advantages to be gained by reorganizing the legal structure of their business. For example, running your business as a Limited Liability Company might be more advantageous for tax and liability purposes than continuing to operate as a sole proprietorship or partnership. We can review your current business structure and advise you on what type of business entity would best fit your particular situation. The team should also explain the statutory obligations of new legal entities. A legal audit can also be used as an opportunity to update your business records, registrations, and licences. 

Taxes 

A legal audit will usually include a review of your bookkeeping system, financial records and tax returns. Our Legal Audit Team will be looking for compliance with tax laws and for ways to decrease your tax liabilities. A legal audit can also include a review of your current employee benefits package (for example – vacation and sick leave, pension plan, group life and health insurance, and disability policies) to ensure that you are accomplishing your employee benefit goals while taking advantage of all available tax deductions.

Collections 

In many cases a legal audit can help you improve your collections on unpaid accounts. For example, our Legal Audit Team can advise you on how to deal with customers who file for insolvency and how you can protect your rights as a creditor. In addition, we can provide advice on how to file claims, how to file and foreclose on liens, and how to enforce judgments. The Legal Audit Team We are also able to assist in filing a claim to recover outstanding payments or other related matters.

Unfair Business Practices 

The Legal Audit Team can draft employment agreements and non-competition agreements for your key employees. These agreements can protect your business if a key employee decides to go to work for a competitor and tries to take away your customers. 

Employee Relations 

A legal audit can help in preventing personnel problems. Our Legal Audit Team can review and update your employee manuals and uncover and deal with potential employee problems in such areas as unfair labour practices, workers compensation claims, overtime and severance pay disputes, employment discrimination claims, and employee rights issues. We can also review your job application forms and your hiring and firing procedures to ensure that you are in compliance with the law and that you are not inviting potential employment discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuits.

Insurance 

A legal audit should include a review of your insurance situation, including your general liability coverage, umbrella coverage, and life, health and disability plans. Our Legal Audit Team will be looking for potential problems such as inadequate coverage limits, gaps in coverage, excessive deductibles, unfair policy exclusions, and poor claims handling practices. Our Legal Audit Team can help you to interpret the fine print contained in your insurance policies and can also assist you in filing negotiating, and defending claims.

Environmental Concerns 

Environmental laws, rules and regulations are growing in number every year. Consequently, an environmental audit of your business can help minimize your potential liability exposure in this rapidly changing area of the law.

Financial Transactions 

A legal audit can provide you with advice on security interests, mortgages, business loans and letters of credit. The Legal Audit Team can also advise you on various financing arrangements and assist you in negotiating loans and maintaining a good credit rating. We can also work with your accountant to update your annual financial statement. 

Personal Matters 

A legal audit is also an opportunity for you to review your current estate planning needs, including your wills, trusts, life insurance arrangements and retirement plans to insure that your needs, your family’s needs and your business needs are being met. We can update these documents and help you protect the assets of your business in the event of a death or divorce. 

A legal audit can take a few hours or a few days of yours and our time. How much time is invested will depend on how many potential legal problems are uncovered in your business. For many small businesses, a legal audit can be completed in less than a day and at a cost of less than US$1,000. This will be time and money well spent because it will improve your business

Next Step: Get e-Copy of Our  Legal Audit and  Legal Access Brochures

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The Importance Of C In CRM

The goal of CRM is to improve the long term growth and of course profitability by having a much more superior understanding of the consumer behavior. And although CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management there is no question that the C in CRM is much more important for it’s really all about the Customer!

Far too many companies make the mistake of using CRM to focus on Customer Acquisition Management which entails moving potential and existing customers through the marketing and sales process which of course is an essential part of CRM and a beginning step but there’s plenty  more that you can get from your CRM software.

Recent studies show that fewer than 60% of consumers are happy with the customer service they’ve received and that’s dropped a whopping 20% in just a couple of years. That means during a time when consumers are demanding more companies are providing less. It also means that with the use of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Software you could become one of the good statistics and very quickly I might add.

The key to good customer service is to combine the power of software, technology, and human skills to provide a holistic approach with all the best elements of customer service.

This concept is all about collaboration by bringing a variety of elements together into a cohesive program that will ultimately improve the bottom line. As we’ve all heard at some point in our life “the sum is greater than its parts” and the combining of all these CRM separate pieces into one superb program certainly proves just that.

Used CRM to collaborate means that your customer requests are handled not only by the help desk, they are also helped by the service department, parts department, sales department, and accounting department. But wait there’s more – marketing gets an opportunity to after sell to the customer introducing them to other similar products they might enjoy or expansions or the existing product. This really is the full meal deal or so often fondly referred to as the holistic approach. Let’s break it down a little better for understanding.

1. Customer Centric Strategies – these are models that are modeled around the customer. It’s the center of the wheel with the spokes going out from there.

2. Shared Knowledge Base – A searchable structured database which can be used to create new plans, organize existing data, and build a rational database about all kinds of things relating to your customer, their purchases, what they are looking to build, and the list goes on.

3. Self Service – When taken to its full capacity CRM software can be used to add a degree of self service to your customer service. They can create new service tickets, check on balances, check on repair dates or back orders, and a host of other services.

4. Roll Based Experience – A great way to create easy to use dashboards for reports to manager’s at all different levels so whether you need to produce a report for hiring or a report for next season’s lines the information is at your fingertips.

5. Business Intelligence is definitely where the executives are interested in pulling data for this is where the big decisions are made about expenditures, next seasons orders, how to tighten up spending, and a host of other information and CRM reporting will provide just what’s needed.

Any business serious about being successful in the market knows that customer service has become more important than ever and that CRM just makes great sense. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Software is one of those packages that are worth considering because it’s flexible and affordable.

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Managing Risk: The Disaster Plan That You Will Need!

A very important factor in any business is how you manage risk – yet it is a factor that is often ignored by home businesses.

You have to realise that any time you start a business, you are taking the risk that the business might fail. What experienced people do is shield themselves from risk at every opportunity, to make sure that they can keep a business going for months on the brink of disaster, and wind it down gracefully if it really has to go under.

You need to have a plan for what you’re going to do if your business looks like it’s going bankrupt. Are you going to borrow more money, if you can? Sell your car? Raise prices? Get rid of staff? Done right, you should have a good package of ‘rescue measures’ that really do have a chance of rescuing the business.

Borrowing.

If you need to borrow more to keep your business afloat, take great pains to avoid looking desperate. Act like your business is moderately successful but needs more investment, and you’re far more likely to succeed in getting more funding.

Bye-Bye Staff.

This is a bad idea, but not always a terrible one. In a home business, you presumably only take on staff because you have enough business to cover it, don’t you? So it makes perfect sense to get rid of the staff when things start to go wrong and go back to doing it all yourself.

Price Hike.

When your business is in trouble, there are few things guaranteed to destroy it faster than a price rise. Just don’t do it, however tempting it might be – cut costs instead. If you absolutely must raise prices, do it by scaling back what you get for your money in each of your price ranges, without actually raising the prices.

I know of a struggling bus company that kept its fares the same for years but gradually started to run fewer buses and send them all over town, making journeys take longer. People reacted a little badly to the longer journeys, but it was nowhere near the scandal that there would have been if prices had risen.

Keep Staff Pay Aside.

Whatever you do, make sure to keep staff pay separate from the other business finances, and pay it out immediately if the business looks to be heading for trouble with its creditors. It is far better to be paying your staff on the last day than to be giving all that money to the creditors. Leaving staff unpaid will destroy your reputation, not to mention hurting a lot of innocent people.

The ‘Closing Down’ Sale.

If you plan it well, your last day in business might not be so bad. Just make sure everyone knows that you’re closing down for real, but still price everything ever-so-slightly above cost. In this way, you can avoid the drastic loss-making ‘Everything Must Go!’ mentality, and come out of your business the same way as you would if you’d decided to shut it down that day for some other reason.

Selling Your Business On.

If you’re shrewd about it, you might be able to keep your business going long enough to sell it to someone who could turn it around. There’s nothing dishonest about this route – it’s the one most big companies take if things start to go wrong. You might even find that one of your competitors is willing to buy, even if only for your established customer base.

It’s Up to You.

Disaster plans are very personal, and they depend a lot on how much risk you’re willing to put on yourself. If you do things the sensible way, then you’ll go as far as you can to avoid selling or borrowing against any of your own assets just to keep a business afloat. On the other hand, if you’re really determined and a bit of a risk-taker, putting some things of your own at stake might buy you enough time to recover from whatever hit your business.

It’s a little like playing poker: are you going to be the guy who walks away and leaves his money on the table, or are you going to throw your car or house keys onto the table and raise the stakes? That’s risk management for you.

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Jamaica:Information Technology Services

Risks relating to Information Technologies are increasingly high on the agenda of companies’ Board Meetings. The risk of failures in the IT systems heads the list of Management concerns, along with the challenge of remaining up-to-date with changes and a growing dependence on these technologies.  Our Information Security division is well placed to help companies face these challenges, providing our clients’ Boards with a full description of the IT security risks they face.

Our experience in Information Technology covers the following areas:

Information System Security

We help companies to define, design, introduce and control the process which consists of the people, methods and tools for protecting information and therefore the IT systems, communications and related technologies, against any threat that may interrupt the Company’s operations. The first crucial process is to raise people’s awareness on the importance of Information Technology security for correct operation of organisations.

Information Technology Audits

We perform the IT audit based on the objectives to be assessed:

  • Level of compliance with Information Security requirements. This consists of evaluating the organisation, operativity, quality, maintenance, protection of information, assets and software. That is, assuring the resources which guarantee the integrity of information affecting the financial statements.
  • Level of service obtained by the organisation. Checking that the IT resources are suited to the company’s business, that it provides quality services, that its results are in line with opportunity, time and effort and that users can easily obtain support in the IT resources at their disposal.
  • Level of compliance with the business goals. This objective consists of evaluating whether the IT, personnel, physical and logical resources meet the goals established by the company for the IT service. Whether the resources are suited to the investments, whether the investments are suited to the results obtained and whether these results meet the business goals.

Advice on Information Technology

  • Advice for defining your Company’s strategic information, as a support for the your management team’s decision-making system, the information most suited to the best possible management and the design of the IT processes most suited to the features of your business.
  • Advice on selection of the software and hardware most suited to the features of your business and its corporate goals, advice on definition of the model of the IT Service most suited to your business, and advice on the resources and outsourcing model of your IT Service.
  • Advice on organisation of your IT Service, risk control, control of quality and organisation of the service based on division of functions between the various IT Service areas.

Strategic Planning of Information Technology

Definition of your Company’s Information System Strategic Plan, Definition of the Security Strategic Plan, Definition of the Business Recovery Plan in the event of a Disaster and all the models which facilitate decision making in the medium and short term.

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Guidance notes: GCT on Health Insurance Premiums

The purpose of this Publication is to provide guidance on the application of the amendment to the General Consumption Tax (GCT) Act for the imposition of GCT on group health insurance premiums as announced in the 2017-2018 Revenue Measures.

In addition, it will provide guidance on the consequential income tax treatment as a result of the GCT amendment.

The  2017-2018  Revenue  Measures  as  outlined  to  the  House  on  March  9,  2017,  in  which  the Minister of Finance asked the Honourable House to support a policy shift towards indirect taxation, by progressively widening the GCT tax base. One of two measures to achieve this objective is the imposition  of  GCT  in  respect  to  group  health  insurance.  It  is  being  proposed  to  impose  a consumption tax on premiums in relation to the provision of health insurance.  Download E-Copy of Guidance Notes here

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IFRS 9, 15 & 16: Implementation of the Big Standards

The implementation dates of IFRS 9, 15 and 16 are approaching and companies that report under IFRS have to make their preparations for applying the standards.

The standards are effective for periods commencing 1 January:

  • IFRS 9 Financial Instruments – 2018
  • IFRS 15 Revenue from Contracts with Customers – 2018
  • IFRS 16 Leases – 2019

These standards will be the last “big” new standards from the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) for some time, as IASB’s main focus is going to be on monitoring implementation of its existing standards. The scope and impact of these new standards varies.

All businesses have financial instruments, but the most significant impact of IFRS 9 will be on complex financial instruments. Most businesses who will see real accounting changes from IFRS 9 are already working on implementation. For those who need a briefing about IFRS 9, refer to our article here.

IFRS 16 is regarded as being a “straightforward” standard. Put simply, it places operating leases on the balance sheet. The impact of the standard on balance sheet ratios should not be overlooked, meaning that it’s important to check that implementing the standard does not result in a breach of a debt covenant. More about IFRS 16 can be found at here.

IFRS 15 does result in significant change, replacing two old and somewhat limited standards. Every company has to consider the impact of IFRS 15, and it is not just about accounting. Contractual terms should be reviewed for their accounting implications, and, if necessary, standard terms for future contracts revised. There are also significant new disclosures. Investing now in considering the impact of IFRS 15 will save time, effort and possible surprises later. Find out more here.

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Running a Business on Limited Resources.

When I first started my business, I went to the bank for a business loan. Simple enough, right? I had my business plan in order, an itemized list of everything that I would need to successfully run my business, and all the necessary documents. To put it plainly, I was turned down. Why? Not because I did not have the credit to back it up, or did not have a good business plan. The reason the banker gave me was “because I did not understand that over 90% of businesses fail within the first year, and that I was not prepared in case mine did.”

While I understand he was attempting to look out for my best interest, I felt cheated. He was not even going to give me the opportunity to fail. On some level, everyone that goes into business for themselves understand that chances are, the business will not make it past it’s first year, and I was no different. The only thing was I had faith in myself that I would not give up trying. The loan processor position was that I would spend my life savings before giving up, and he did not want to see me financially ruin myself.

So what did I do? I set out on the adventure on my own, only using the limited resources and financial backing that I had. I bought second hand office supplies and furniture. I bought the small cheap laptop instead of the multi-thousand dollar computer specifically designed for what I would be doing. Without the proper money for advertising, I had to get creative. My advertising methods was unconventional, but they worked. I found that I did not need large amounts of money in order to get my business to the world.

So would I have been so successful had the loan processor gave me the business loan I asked for? I am not sure, because after all, I made it without the money, what would have happened if I would have had the proper money for advertising? Whatever the case may have been, I am glad he did not, because I am now better able to understand the limited resources that many small businesses face.

So how can you run your business on limited resources? Here are a few things that I learned along the way.

1) New vs. Used- When starting your business, you do not need everything to be “new.” Second hand items cost substantially less then new items, and work just as well. Plus, if you think about it, customers will be more comfortable around your office if it feels “broke-in”, rather then new and sterile. It gives them the feeling that you have been in business awhile.

2) Creative Advertising- You do not need the hundreds of dollars that it takes to place ads in papers or put commercials on TV. It costs very little to design and print your own flyers and put them in places where your potential clients would gather. Turn your vehicle into a moving billboard by investing in a vinyl signage for your doors or windows. The best thing? Face to Face meetings with your potential clients do not cost a penny, so look for every opportunity to talk with our potential clients.

3) Work At Home- Depending on your type of business, you may consider working at home rather then renting office space. This will save you a lot of money on rent and furnishing an office. Once your business becomes more successful, then you can always rent office space later.

Overall, be thankful for the struggles that you go through now, because in the future, they will have been well worth it. Plus, it will give you a better understanding when it comes to other small businesses.

And, no matter what, never give up on yourself.

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The Vital Skills Every Leader Should Master

“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success
is knowing how to get along with people.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

Many junior and mid-level managers find difficulty with achieving success at work not because they do not have the intelligence, academic training, and technical know-how. It is not unusual to find unsuccessful managers who struggle with their job only because they do not have the right people skills. Simply put, people do not like them.

It is true that leadership is not about popularity. But it is also important to have the respect, if not the admiration of people in order to move them to accomplish the tasks you need to do. While there are many specific people skills, the most important skills is the ability to see the best in people. When a leader or manager is able to see the best in people, he or she becomes a source of encouragement, which in turn, motivates a staff member to do better at work.

There are also cases when managers fall into episodes of depression because they find it hard to motivate a team. Some can even be so stressed out about their jobs that the only relief they can find is to take anti-anxiety medications. But whether one needs to take medication or not to relieve the stress, the bottomline is that a poorly led group does not meet the targets and the desired performance As a result, both the team and the leader suffers.

Whether the business is about real estate, banking, consumer product retailing, or business process outsourcing, many of the managerial challenges are about the same thing: moving people towards achievement. Any way one looks at it, the greater burden falls on the shoulders of the leader who has to steer the group to accomplish their objectives.

But why do some leaders fail?

One of the most common mistakes made is thinking that having a position automatically makes a person a leader. As the cliché goes, respect is not given but earned. It is the same way with leadership. When people see that a leader has a habit of being anxious or if the manager communicates fear instead of courage or confidence, they also become anxiety-driven and lose their confidence. In short, the leader or manager must be able to inspire confidence and faith. However, a confident leader and manager would not be able to muster those skills and traits if there is no competence. Team members or the staff also need to see that the person they are following is competetent enough to lead.

Another common mistake is to have limited or insufficient communication with members of the team. Oftentimes, when members of a group grumble or express dissatisfaction, it is not necessarily because they dislike the leader, company, or organization they belong to. Usually, these members only need to verbalize their frustrations or needs. If the leader does not pay attention to these signs, the minor problems can and may escalate into real, major headaches. When a leader or manager pays attention and takes time to listen to each and every member of his staff, that makes the staff feel and know that they are important. Work-wise, it is important to keep communication skills very sharp so that the leader or manager can verbalize in conscise yet clear terms what needs to be done. Lack of communication leads to information gaps that cause many otherwise good teams to underperform. A leader must also learn to speak words of healing and encouragement during times when the team is suffering from low morale. The ability to provide professional and personal counseling should be part of every manager and leaders skill sets.

In summary, leaders who are self-confident, competent, and have genuine appreciation for each member of his staff can and will succeed. With his people skills, he is able to show that he really cares about the individuals in the team, and not just about the targets and goals. With sincerity, patience, and concern, a leader takes the time to speak to his team so that he can provide the emotional stability needed by followers regardless of the job or organization they belong to. Indeed, taking care of the well-being of the team ultimately leads to good performance, which is what every leader should be concerned about.

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Three Ways Meetings Make Your Business Better

1) Effective meetings make money

Effective meetings make a business smart by producing creative strategies, solid plans, and workable solutions. And smart businesses always outperform others. Bad meetings produce nothing, except maybe a decision to call another meeting.

A smart business attracts customers because they know that smart companies provide reliable products and services. Thus, your proposal meetings, sales presentations, and operational effectiveness tell customers what to expect. For example, consider the opposite: how reliable a product would you expect from a company that ran bad meetings?

A profit-driven business must obtain a positive return on every activity that it undertakes. And that includes meetings. Wise leaders design their meetings so that they earn money for the business.

2) Effective meetings save money

Good meetings produce results that people support. And that represents a major operational efficiency because such results cost less to implement. Results (if any) from a bad meeting seldom have everyone’s support. Implementation is then hindered by broken commitments, competing activities, and sabotage. In turn, the business wastes huge amounts of money on duplicate efforts and dead-end projects.

Smart companies get full value for money spent. And that includes salaries. In an effective meeting, people are paid to work, not lounge around eating donuts, sipping coffee, and exchanging chitchat.

Employees admire effective leaders. And they want to work for smart companies. Thus, effective meetings reduce employee turnover, which represents significant savings. In contrast, bad meetings bore top performers into quitting.

3) Effective meetings make people powerful

When people work as a team to produce a result, they feel pride and ownership in that result. Thus, they feel inspired by their work. And that translates into greater productivity.

People are attracted to leaders who help them. And good leaders run meetings characterized by achievement. This creates loyalty to the leaders and to the business. In contrast, bad meetings are filled with failure, which causes frustration, resentment, and anger.

Effective meetings work as a success engine in business. The employees use them as a reliable tool to perform their work. As a result, each success motivates to them to work harder.

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The 7 Rules of Growth For Small Businesses

For years, I have tried to answer this one question: What do small businesses that achieve sustained growth do differently from those that do not grow?

As Managing Partner for Crowe Horwath Jamaica , I speak to hundreds of business owners each year. I’ve learned that there are no silver bullets or 17-point checklists that will lead to guaranteed growth. There are, however, seven specific areas in which growth companies concentrate their efforts.

1. Strong sense of purpose. Most leaders of companies that have achieved growth discover that it takes more than the promise of increasing financial reward to fuel their aspirations and ambitions. They find a higher calling than simply the pursuit of “more money.”

2. Outstanding market intelligence. This is an organization’s ability to first recognize, then adapt, to fundamental changes in the marketplace. Many times, small-business owners become too myopic, seeing only a limited view of the markets in which they compete. Growth leaders see the bigger picture.

3. Effective growth planning. This is the best predictor of whether or not a business will grow. To be effective, a plan for growth does not need to be overly formal or complicated. However, it does need to be written, well-communicated and regularly updated.

4. Customer-driven processes. These days, every company I talk to believes it is customer-driven, when actually very few really are. Take a look at all of the business processes from a customer’s perspective. Are they in place to make it easier for the company, or to help deliver on the promise of faster, cheaper and better for the customer?

5. The power of technology. Successful leaders don’t let the boom and bust of technology cycles give them the excuse to ignore that we live in an information age. If a company is in business, it is in the technology business.

6. The best and brightest people. Growth leaders recognize that they are only as good as the people with whom they work. The ability to hire, train and retain the best and the brightest people is often the difference between success and failure.

7. Seeing the future. Few organizations take the time to regularly consider the future. Growth leaders learn how to diligently monitor and interpret the macro forces of change affecting the world in which they live.

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