Creating a Money-Making Business Plan

In my experience (at least with the small businesses I’ve worked with), a business plan is often considered an “unimportant” waste of time, and many small business owners forego creating one.  The truth, however, is that a Business Plan can be incredibly beneficial for a business.  Not only can a business plan create a “Guide” for a company and its employees, but a good plan can also be taken to the bank in order to try and raise funding for a small business.  It can attract investors as well, and it can help focus a business owner’s vision in order to make the business as profitable as possible.

While there are tons of business plan models on the internet today, I can’t help but want to throw my own cap into the ring as well.  There are the business plans that a lot of general businesses use to satisfy mentors (or spouses), and then there are the types of business plans I’ve worked on, the type that big businesses pay tens of thousands of dollars (and hundreds of thousands) of dollars before they ever so much as sign a rental-lease agreement.

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The difference between a “General” Business Plan and a Business Plan that Makes Money comes down to one very important thing…Research.

When a small business owner includes research into a business plan, they are showing banks and investors that they are not going into a business venture blind.  A well-researched business plan shows forethought, logic, and realistic thinking.

Therefore, to create a business plan that will help raise money, a business should include the following elements in their business plan:

  1. The Mission Statement: In Bookkeeping Money-Saving Tip # 15: The Mission Statement, I discussed the importance of having a Mission Statement.  It is just as important to put that Mission Statement into the Business Plan.  Consider it the “Sales Pitch” of the Business that basically tells an investor the Business’s main goal.
  2. An Introduction:  The introduction is a fairly simple concept.  You create a page or two (or three) about the basic business concept.  What is the business selling?  If there is a location, where will that location be?  Will the business have an inventory  and if yes, where will that inventory be kept?
  3. Demographics:  Demographics are an excellent option to add to a business plan because it exhibits that you know who your ideal, targeted customers are and who they can be.  The demographics can help a business see where they should be focusing their marketing dollars, and how to theme their business to attract those ideal clients instead of creating a business that tries to “attract everyone.”  (Read Paint a Target on Your Customers for more information on how to do your own demographic analysis.)                                                             teamwork 2
  4. Competition Analysis:  You know the expression, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”?  This expression is just as true in business as it is in life.  You should know what your enemies (ie, your competition) are doing in their businesses, because every choice they make could potentially harm or help your own business.  Therefore, creating a section that lists ALL of your local competition, as well as what products they are selling (that you may or may not sell as well) and what prices those products are marked at.  The more you know your competition, the more you will be able to create a business model that grinds theirs into the dust (should that be your wish).  Either way, it shows investors that you have a strategy to stay afloat despite what your competition is doing.
  5. CompassLocation Analysis:  A large majority of businesses draw their customers from within 10 miles of their location…TEN MILES. However, the more unique that business and its products are, the farther distance a customer is willing to travel in order to buy what that business is selling.  On the flip side, the less unique a business and its products are, the smaller the distance a customer is willing to travel to make a purchase.  For example – Disneyland has a very unique product; people are willing to fly from all over the world to experience the unique product that Disneyland offers (and that no one has been able to yet duplicate).  Another example – Souvenir shops.  Souvenir shops all sell the same products, and they all try to rent space where the tourists are.  The end result, tourists have so much choice on what souvenirs to buy and where to buy them, they don’t need to go far from their hotels to get what they want.  (In fact, they often buy from within the hotel).  So, in order to create a competent location analysis, you need to include the demographics and competition within YOUR 10-mile radius.  (You can read more about Location Analysis in my article entitled:  BOOKKEEPING MONEY-SAVING TIP #4: Analyze Your Business Location.)
  6. Marketing Plan: At this point, you should know your competition AND your customers, so you should have a pretty good idea how you can target your marketing campaign directly to your ideal customers.  Let your investors know as well.  Include a section just about marketing.
  7. The Dollars and Cents:  No investor is ever going to invest in a business that looks as if it is going to fold its doors as soon as it opens (unless that business is a non-profit).  Investors want to know that a business is going to make money and that they will recoup their initial deposit.  Therefore, the dollars and cents is one of the most important things to include in the Business Plan.  If the business is already open, then bankers would ask for a “Profit and Loss” Statement, as well as a “Balance Sheet.”  But whether the business is in operation or not, another excellent idea to include is the “Pro Formas” or basic monetary projections.  You can create a Budget and include it Graph line: up and down 1in the dollars and cents section, and you can project from that budget how you plan to make more money (or save money).  Calculate Budgets with Low Income-Expense Projections, Mid Range Income-Expense Projections, and High Income-Expense Projections.  That way, the investors will know that the business will still say afloat even in “Hard Economic Times.”
  8. An Executive Summary: The Executive Summary is basically the bare minimum summary of what the business has created plans to accomplish.  It takes the main points from each section, and presents them in a direct manner.  The Executive Summary is basically your “In Conclusion” statement, however, this summary is going to go at the BEGINNING of your Business Plan.  Most investors never really read past the Executive Summary (unless there is something in the Executive Summary that doesn’t make sense), so in essence, the Executive Summary can be the main section that makes or breaks your business plan’s goal:  to raise capital.   Therefore, make sure your Executive Summary has ALL the main items you want an investor to know, and put it right after your Business Plan’s Introduction.  Consider the rest a guide for the business and backup for the more thorough investors.

While I cannot guarantee that this business plan format will raise capital (after all, there are many other factors that investors take into account besides the business plan), I will say that a well written business plan can tip funding in a business owner’s favor.  You really have nothing to lose by creating a thorough, well-researched business plan – but you do have everything to gain.

How to Make QuickBooks Enter Transactions For You

If you’ve already gotten OUR EBOOK: “How To Do A Year’s Worth Of Bookkeeping In One Day”, then you’ll probably already know how to do this step.  This excerpt is straight from that eBook with only a few modifications for those who haven’t read the book yet.

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Do you have a lot of transactions that repeat from day to day, week to week, month to month in your business?  What about repeating transactions that need to happen once or twice a month?  I’m sure you do.  After all, if you have to pay rent, or make a car payment, then you have a repeating transaction.  But what about invoices or sales receipts?  Do you bill any of your customers the same amount monthly, weekly, daily?  How about deposits?  Do you receive a specific preset amount of money on a timely basis (like an insurance payment, disability, social security, or just a flat fee for services rendered)?  What about vendor bills or credit card entries that are charged to your account every month?

All of these things, no matter how big or small, can be “Memorized” by QuickBooks.  In other words, you can set them up so that QuickBooks does the data entry for you.  It’s really easy.  All you do is set up the transaction as if you are about to enter it, then “Memorize” it.  Once you do, QuickBooks will automatically enter the transaction as a check, bill, invoice, deposit, etc., as soon as the date you preset passes.  Then, when you open QuickBooks after that date, you will be notified that the transaction(s) have been entered.  This one little step can save hundreds and even thousands of minutes in data entry time.

Here’s how to “Memorize” a Transaction in QuickBooks:

  1. Create your transaction, but do NOT press “Okay” / “Enter” / “Save and Close.”  (You can also pull up a transaction you’ve already saved if you don’t want to re-enter the information.)
  2. With the transaction open, Press Ctrl + M.
  3. The screen that pops up should look something like this:
  4. Choose “Enter Automatically”, then the frequency (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) under the “How Often” section.
  5. Choose the next date you want the transaction entered (which is going to be the transaction for the NEXT month – Thus, you would choose February if you are entering January’s transaction).
  6. Choose the number of transactions remaining (which is useful for items such as car payments that are only paid for three years), and the number of days to enter the transaction in advance if you’re going to mail that transaction in the future.
  7. Click “OK” to return to the Original Transaction.
  8. Press Ctrl + Enter to Save That Transaction for THAT MONTH.
  9. That’s it.  The next time that entry needs to be entered, QuickBooks will enter it when you open the program.

Quick Important Note:  Once the transaction is Memorized, you can simply Close and then Reopen QuickBooks and QuickBooks will automatically enter ALL of those transaction from the first entry up to TODAY. That means, if you create an entry for January of 2007, but it’s May of 2010, this transaction will be entered multiple times until all of the transactions have been entered up until today’s date.  What this means for anyone who’s behind on their bookkeeping is that they only need to memorize one of each transaction and amount, then close and open QuickBooks to become instantly up to date.

Now go forth and take advantage of this fabulous tool. It will save you OODLES of time!

Let me know how it works for you.

Laptop Features to Consider For Small Businesses

The following is an excerpt from our eBook, “How to Start a Lucrative Virtual Bookkeeping Business.”

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One of the things I see a lot of when it comes to bookkeeping is laptops…lots of laptops.  Some work incredibly well (whether for bookkeeping or anything else) while others work horribly.  Thus, I have compiled a list of features to consider when shopping for any laptop, whether for bookkeeping alone, or for business in general.

(If you have any further recommendations, please leave them in the comments so that other readers will know what to consider.)

  1. Must-Have Features For Your Bookkeeping Laptop:
    • A DVD Burner:  Don’t be cheap and skip the DVD burner in lieu of a CD Burner; they are not the same thing.  CD’s can only burn a fraction of the information a DVD can burn, and you will want to give your clients DVDs when you back up their work.
    • An SD Card Slot:  This will come in handy whenever you need to transfer digital files from a camera to your computer.  Although it may not make much sense now, you’ll be glad you have it later.
    • Bluetooth Access:  It just comes in handy.
    • Wireless Access: You will want to be able to get on the Internet anywhere, especially coffee shops.  In fact, you may even consider signing up for a monthly service from AT&T or Sprint so that you can get Internet access from the middle of a field, if you so chose.
  2. Optional Features For Your Laptop To Consider:
    • A 10-Key Keyboard:  The reason I have NOT made this a “Must-Have” feature is because this is actually a “Preference” choice more than anything.  Yes, it can be incredibly handy to have your 10-Key right on your keyboard when you open your laptop, but the problem is, a Laptop with a 10-Key Keyboard is a very heavy laptop.  It can add an extra 5 to 10 pounds of weight, and it can add a couple hundred dollars to the price tag.  If you buy this kind of laptop, you will also probably end up investing in a bag with wheels just to tote the thing around.  So now, you have a heavy laptop with a heavy AND bulky bag that you have to schlep from house to car to office and back.  On the other hand, you can buy a 10-Key Keypad that plugs directly into your laptop for a cost of $10 to $20, or a Bluetooth 10-Key Keypad for $30 to $40.  These are compact, lightweight, and can fit right in the pocket of any computer bag.  On top of that, you can buy a computer that weighs as little as five pounds, and now taking your computer with you is no longer a hassle.  So, make the decision for yourself on how important that 10-Key is before you buy a laptop.  (Notice, the Kensington keypad-with-calculator to the left has a calculator screen on it as well, which allows you to quickly tally numbers without having to access your computer.)
    • LightScribe Burner:  If you’ve never seen a Burnt LightScribe CD or DVD, you are missing out.  This feature allows you to burn any picture or text on the top of a certain type of CD and DVD, and can really give you (and your business) a very professional image.  Imagine giving your clients a Backup Disc with their Company Name, Logo and date on it.  You will convince your Clients you spend a lot of time and money to produce high-quality products, even when you don’t.  This feature does not come standard on all laptops, but is usually only $25 more if you’re buying a “custom computer.”  So, if you want to give an appearance of being Professional and “Tech-Savvy,” add this feature…you won’t regret it.  (Because quite frankly, if you’re not doing it now, your competitors will be doing it soon.)
  3. My Laptop Recommendations:

 

  1. AVOID AT ALL COSTS:  One of the benefits about being an Independent Bookkeeper is that you see a LOT of computers.  As such, I would NEVER recommend a Compaq (even though it’s made by HP) or a Gateway.  I’ve seen major issues with Compaqs, and I’ve heard Gateway has the worst customer service when a problem arises (this from a very computer savvy person).  Acers are super-cheap options, but there’s a reason for that…they won’t work well with a whole lot of business programs.  The IBMs I’ve seen have been heavy, awkward and incredibly expensive, but aren’t really any fancier than a Toshiba.  Dells are great because they’re inexpensive, you can customize them, and they have decent customer service, but I’ve seen more Dells freeze up than not and then you have to do a “hard reboot.”  But again, your laptop choice is always a preference thing.
  2. ALSO AVOID: Mini Netbooks.  While Netbooks are a fabulous deal price-wise, they are not good choices for a business.  For one thing, the keyboards are small, which makes it hard to type (and EXTREMELY curse-worthy if you type a lot).  For another, there are usually NO DVD/CD Burners, only USB ports.  And for a third, without a DVD drive, it is nearly impossible to get many computer programs on the laptop – including QuickBooks.  I have tried to download QuickBooks onto computers from the internet before, but even with the QuickBooks key code, you really need the disks to install the program.  So skip the Netbooks for your business and go with something larger.
  3. To find the best price on a laptop: If I don’t buy my laptop from the manufacturer’s website, then I like to go Best Buy or Office Depot.  They often have incredible sales and decent financing.  On top of that, you can usually take your computer to Best Buy if you need to get something fixed, and Office Depot now offers free computer check-ups whether you buy from them or not.  Check their catalogs regularly and you will be amazed at the deals.

The SpongeBob SquarePants School of Business

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Okay, I have a confession to make:  I am a Mom.  Even worse, I am a Mom with a Toddler.  What that means is that as a “Mom with a Toddler,” I know all the words to “Elmo’s World.”  I also know how to “Do the Pigeon” and that “C is for Cookie” (which is good enough for me).  I know how to read Dora’s map, and I know Hannah Montana’s true identity.

What’s more… I know “who lives in a Pineapple under the sea.”

Why do I know these things, you may wonder?

Well, as any Moms with Toddlers will tell you, having a toddler means having some cartoon playing over and over and over again on the TV.  For a mom, that means no matter how much you try ignore your children or their shows, bits of information tend to sneak into your subconscious until suddenly you’ve realized that you’ve been singing “Absorbent and Yellow and Porous is he…” for the past hour without realizing it.

Which brings me to today’s blog lesson direct from The SpongeBob SquarePants School of Business…

What the Heck Am I Talking About…(Right?)

(Okay, there’s really no such thing as The SpongeBob SquarePants School of Business, but there may as well be.  After all, children all over the world are watching this show and learning from this energetically peppy cartoon.)

Recently, my toddler was watching all 99 episodes of SpongeBob for about the 50th time (give or take a dozen), and I mind-numbingly found myself watching one of the many, many episodes.  Actually, to be precise, I found myself watching Episode 88 (Episode 9 from Season 5) entitled “The Krusty Sponge.”  And as I watched this particular episode, I realized that it was quite brilliant in the very simple business advice it was offering.

The Premise

imageTo give a quick background on “The Krusty Sponge” episode, the mini-story starts when “The Krusty Krab” receives a visit from a food critic.  (The Krusty Krab is the restaurant SpongeBob works at as a “Fry Cook”).  The food critic in the story proceeded to trash everything about “The Krusty Krab” saying it was absolutely terrible…except for the food and the fry cook (SpongeBob).  The food critic then went on to say that if the owner of “The Krusty Krab” was smart, he would “sponge up” as much of what his cook had to offer as possible.

Thus, as cartoon’s tend to do, the business owner (ie, Mr. Krabs) took the advice to heart and went “way too far.”   Mr. Krabs pulled down “The Krusty Krab” sign and replaced it with a sign saying “The Krusty Krab.”  He then added in two new flavors of SpongeBob-themed condiments, a SpongeBob Mascot, a SpongeBob Train, SpongeBob napkins and even SpongeBob hamburger patties.

Eventually, all of these items backfired in a big way, and Mr. Krabs ended up getting arrested and brought before a judge for “poisoning his customers with the bad hamburger patties.”

The Lesson

Now, while I am a big advocate of using a theme in any business, of seeing the bigger picture and adding appropriate merchandise in order to increase profits, I could see right away where this business was about to get into trouble (even if it is only a cartoon business).  The big mistake that the business owner made in this situation was “taking his eyes off the prize.”  It is a common business mistake a lot of business owner’s make without realizing they are doing it.

Here’s what I mean:

imageIn the story, Mr. Krabs got so excited about his new SpongeBob theme, he made one really huge mistake.  He took SpongeBob off the grill and put him on the train.  (In other words, SpongeBob – the prized Fry Cook – was taken out of the kitchen in order to give “the kiddies” a ride on the new SpongeBob train…Mistake # 1.)  Then, Mr. Krabs gave SpongeBob’s kitchen duties to an employee who was unable to run the grill in the same way that SpongeBob could (Mistake # 2).  Finally Mistake # 3, Mr. Krabs sacrificed the quality of the one product that was praiseworthy – the product that brought the customers in.

imageObviously, I am bringing this up for a reason.  This is a common mistake a lot of business owners make in any business industry.  They see some exciting new trend coming along, and they re-vamp their business model to include the cool new product.  They forget about the one (or two or three) products that brought in the customers in the first place, and they end up weakening the overall business structure.  They take the advertising for their prized product and replace it with advertising for the new product.  This can have a negative effect in driving customers away instead of bringing them in – especially if the people looking for the Prized Product are not aware that the business still offers that Prized Product.

Examples

Just to really drive my point home, I will throw out some examples.

  • Imagine if McDonalds changed their fries to a new fry with the skin on.  Or, imagine if they used a different oil that changed the flavor of the fries.  Since McDonalds gives fries with every “Meal Deal,” and the fries are a part of their brand, it could go a long way in hurting their business.  People may start to go over to Burger King instead in order to get fries they are more used to.
  • Jim Carey switching from his classic comic bend to do a movie like “The Majestic.”  (In Hollywood, a move like that can kill an A-list actor’s career… luckily, Carey returned to his usual brand of comedy.)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio stepping back from the Romantic Hero role to pursue the Golden Globe and Oscar awards (meaning he went for the more dramatic and difficult to play roles).  While Leo remains an A-list actor, he no longer has the International Heart Throb status that he had after “Titanic.”
  • Eddie Murphy going from making R-rated movies to G-Rated movies.  It has completely changed the demographic of his customer base (ie, his fans).
  • Roller Derby in the 60’s went from racing and blocking to more violent hits.  Is it really a surprise that the sport died out by the 70’s?  I can honestly say, Roller Derby today is nothing like the original Roller Derby invented back in the 30’s.

Unfortunately, these are the only examples I can think of at the moment, but hopefully, it helps make my point clear.  Taking your eyes off the Prize of your business can really harm your business, or even drive away your clientele.  Learn from Mr. Krabs:  If you’re going to make a change in your business, keep your eyes on the prize.

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper: Paypal

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

Dear Diary,

Betty Bookkeeper HeadshotToday I got an intriguing email.  The email was a confirmation from PayPal.  It said that we had spent $150 on an online order.  Since the company does not have a PayPal account, I knew it was a scam – a Phishing Scam, where some con artist is trying to get access to our account.  When you click on the links in the email, you are taken to a fake PayPal page where you are encouraged to log in and verify the purchase (or deny it), and then the fake website captures your real log in details and the con artist can then empty out your PayPal account.  Any good back office person knows – you never click on links in emails from financial websites (because it’s easy to “cloak” the website links).  You always go directly to the original website and log in there. 

Obviously the PayPal notice was a con…but it got me thinking.  Our company does not have a PayPal account…but we could.  It only takes a few minutes to set up, and then you can make payments from any checking account or credit card account that you link to it. 

So I opened one. 

Then, I went online and made a purchase to Office Depot. 

When I checked the bank balance online, I saw that the payment was debited as a PayPal account to Office Depot.  As far as I’m concerned, the explanation from the bank is simple enough to satisfy the boss.  Now, I don’t need to forge checks unless I really want to. 

Now the only question is…what should I buy

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In this mini story, there are actually two cons I’ve brought up:  The Phishing Scam and The PayPal Weak Link. 

The Phishing Scam is an actual scam where a thief sends a fake email encouraging you to click on the link in the email.  By doing so, they can capture your login information and then clean out your bank accounts.  PayPal Emails are the most common financial cons.  After PayPal, sending emails from banks would be the second most common way con artists get information from their victims.

There are three easy ways to spot these scams: 

  1. Banks and financial institutions have standard, precise emails already created that always use the same verbiage.  Phishing emails, on the other hand, often have misspellings and/or sentences that don’t make sense.  If anything doesn’t seem right with any financial institution’s email, it probably isn’t from your financial institution.   
  2. When you open the email, you will see the “From” address is not necessarily from the financial institution it claims to be from.  Whatever is after the “@” sign is the website address.  Anything in addition to the normal address probably means the email is a scam.  (For example:  …@paypal.fakesite.com or …@fakesite.paypal.alerts.com.)  Both the paypal.fakesite.com and the fakesite.paypal.alerts.com are completely fake because whatever comes before the .com is the site.  That means, these sites would be fakesite.com and alerts.com…not PayPal.com.   
  3. And finally, banks and financial institutions openly encourage customers to NOT click on links from their emails because Phishing Scams are so common.  Instead, they will tell you to go directly to their actual website to log in so that you can verify if the email is from the bank or not (and thus the alert is fake or not). 

Also, it’s common to get emails from banks you don’t even have an account with.  If that happens, obviously you can ignore those…but if you are concerned that an embezzler has opened an account in your name, just print out that email and go down to the bank to see if you have an account or not. 

AND when in doubt – go directly to the source…never click on the links in an email from a Financial Institution. 

As for the second con – The PayPal Weak Link: 

It is very, very easy to open a PayPal account and link it to a checking account…any checking account.  PayPal has a very simple verification process, which means that creating a PayPal account is easy for anyone with access to your checking account information, including your bookkeeper.  From there, it is very easy to steal money because PayPal and the bank account link together in order to create instant money transfers.  Plus, money can be sent to anyone with another PayPal account, and everyone takes PayPal these days (including airlines and other travel agencies), so stealing becomes very easy.

Therefore, to protect yourself from someone linking a PayPal account to YOUR checking account, you need to link it first.  In other words, you need to be the one to create a PayPal account with your checking account.  PayPal only allows a checking account to be linked ONCE, which means no one else can use the checking account information.  Once you have linked it, keep that information to yourself.  There’s no need to share it with your bookkeeper or anyone else because business’s should stick to using Bank Bill Pay and writing checks…Period.  PayPal should only be used by one person…the creator of that account.

Thus, if you don’t have a PayPal account, start one immediately in order to protect your checking account.  If PayPal does NOT let you create a PayPal account, then an embezzler has already linked to your checking account, and you need to consider closing it.  This is one of those huge companies that you just can’t avoid, and you really shouldn’t avoid. 

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 55) – The Sister Company Scam

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

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Dear Diary,

Today I became a business owner.  That’s right, I’ve opened my own business and am about to make a million dollars the easy way – with little or no money down.  Okay – I spent a little money.  But technically, it wasn’t my money.  It was my boss’s money – or maybe I should call him my “investor” – not that he knows he’s an investor.

If only all those companies touting their “make a million dollars without doing any work at all” plans knew how easy it really was… because my way really is the “no work necessary” way.

Anyway… I went down to the courthouse today on my lunch break, a little bit of petty cash in hand.  I registered a new “DBA,” also known as a Fictitious Business Name.  The form only cost $20 and now I have a business name.  The lady behind the counter told me that I would have to run the new business name in the newspaper for 30 days to announce my new business venture, but it can be any newspaper in the county.  I found a small newspaper company that will do it for about $25 for the whole month.  Pretty good deal, huh?

So once I had my Fictitious Business Name document in hand, I went down to the bank and opened up a “business checking account” for $15 a month.  I even went to the same bank as my boss’s bank.  Figured it means less driving around when I have to go the bank for him.  And normally, I wouldn’t pay so much for a checking account, but again, it’s not my money.

So guess what my new company’s name is…

[ad#Adlinks Small Business]

Well, Diary, you know how I work for “Smith’s Distribution Company”.  I named my company “Smith’s Distinguished Corporation.”  The reason – stealing, of course.  I’ve seen a lot of deposits come across my desk and I noticed a pattern on the [ad#Word Checks].  People tend to write the checks to “Smith’s,” “Smith’s Dist.,” or “Smith’s Dist. Co.”  Seeing all those checks, I suddenly realized that I can totally steal those checks.  Since “Smith’s Distribution Company” is not fully printed on the check, I can put it into my new business checking account and the tellers will assume that the abbreviations on the checks are short for the name of my company.  They’ll probably even assume that the name of my company is just a sister company to my boss’s business.  And unless he goes down to the bank and asks if I have my own business checking account, there’s no real way that he’s going to know what I’m up too.

After work, I actually made my first deposit.  It was a check for $1,200.  See – the experts were right.  You do have to spend money to make money.  All I had to spend was $60 and I made my first $1,200.  This is going to be sweeeeeet!

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How to STOP the Sister Company Scam:

As mentioned above, it’s nearly impossible to know if someone in your company has begun this scam.  You would first have to guess the Sister Company’s name as closely as possible before you can even look it up – although you can try and look it up at your local County Recorder’s Office.  Most likely, you won’t find anything online about the Sister Company because the Embezzler would have to advertise their theft for it to show up in search engines… and there’s no way they’re going to admit to anyone but a diary that they’re a scum-sucking thief.

Now, just because it’s hard to spot the scam, doesn’t mean it’s hard to stop the scam.  The reason this scam happens is because it’s an easy “crime of opportunity.”  It gets by because no one thinks to double check it, then prevent it.  To do this, all you have to do is get an “For Deposit Stamp” (or to put it another way, an Endorsement Stamp).  e

Think about this:  When you go to a large retailer like Target, what do they do with checks?  As soon as the cashier receives the check, they run it through the machine, and the machine prints an endorsement on the back.  That prevents the check from going into any bank account but the one linked to that business.  That’s what a “Deposit Stamp” can do for you.  When you stamp a check on the back with your company name, account number, and the words “For Deposit Only,” the bank will then make sure that check gets into the correct account.  Period.  It’s that simple.  You can also get a stamp for the front of the check that will stamp your company’s full and accurate name, but the best way to prevent this kind of fraud is to get an Endorsement Stamp.  This kind of custom stamp is often $10-$20 at online sites, but I found a deal to get a free stamp at www.iPrint.com – all you pay is Shipping and Handling. That’s a $15 value for $3.49 S&H total. Check it out and get yours today if you don’t already have one: [ad#Button – Free Stamp]

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Click Here to Read the Previous Entry:  Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 40) – Stealing the Boss’s Identity

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper: (Day 149) The Collusion Scam

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

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Dear Diary,

Today was a not-so-great day.  Apparently, I have a partner now.  I never intended to have a partner, but it appears I have no choice in the matter.  Here’s what happened:

I was in my office (innocently shredding checks), when I suddenly heard a man say, “I know what you’re doing.”

Quickly slipping the leftover checks back into my desk drawer, I looked at him with my most innocent expression.  “What do you mean?” I asked sweetly.  It was Ernie, one of the flooring installers that handled the bigger clients.  He was considered the boss’s second-hand man.  “What do you think I’m doing?”

“You’re destroying the evidence.”

Crap.  How did he know? But I decided to play it cool.  “What evidence?” I scoffed.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Those checks you’re shredding are the checks you’ve forged.  Am I right?”

“Why would you say that?” I demanded, pretending to be affronted.

“Because I’ve seen all the signs before.  The new car…the fancy clothes.  You order lunch all the time instead of bringing it from home like the rest of us do.”  He glanced down the hall behind him, then stepped into my office, lowering his voice as he did.  “I know what you’re doing…and I want in.”

In?  Was he nuts? “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yeah, you do.  And you can either cut me in, or I’ll rat you out.”

Cold chills ran up and down my spine, and my palms were actually sweating.  I could tell by the smug look on his face that he knew he had me between a rock and a hard place.

“Look,” he continued, propping himself onto the edge of my desk and leaning toward me.  “You don’t have to tell me everything you’re doing.  I don’t really care.  I just want a piece of the action.  And I have the perfect way to do it.”

I narrowed my eyes.  “Oh yeah.  What’s that?” I asked.

“Simple.  I have a friend that runs his own construction company and can get us plenty of jobs.  You cut some checks to his company with an additional amount of money, and he’ll pay the rest of the money back to us.  The boss won’t ask questions because he’ll be able to see that the work is getting done, and we can make a tidy sum on the side.  So what do you say?  Should I call my friend?  Or should I call the boss?”

“The boss won’t believe you.  He trusts me 100%.”

“He trusted his last bookkeeper too – until I accused her of a few things.  And I’ve been here for seven years.  Who do you think he’s gonna believe?”

And just like that, I had a new partner.  But at least if we’re both stealing, he can’t accuse me of anything without me making a few accusations back.  I won’t be going down alone if he decides to betray me.

On the plus side, it is a quid pro quo situation. I help him make a little extra money, and he gets me new carpeting in my entire house.  I think I want purple…

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How to Stop the Collusion Scam:

Spotting and stopping the Collusion Scam is really difficult.  For one thing, the invoices that the bookkeeper receives will match the checks going out.  That makes embezzlement even more difficult for an auditor (or auditing accountant) to find because there’s legitimate backup and everything appears to be “on the up and up.”  For another thing, the money being paid out will not have your bookkeeper’s name on it, and the money they’ll be taking home will be coming from one or many of their colluding partners.

Therefore, to spot and stop this scam, you need to trust your gut.  Pay attention to who is hanging out in your bookkeeper’s office.  Most bookkeeping positions involve staring at a computer all day, and if someone is spending more time than necessary or usual, take note.  Begin observing that employee as well and see who they recommend as “work associates.”  Keep an eye out for how many checks they receive each month, and if those payments seem a bit high.  Also, look for signs that those employees are spending more money than they’re making.  Oftentimes, an employee’s spouse will make a lot more money than the employee, but there will be a consistent spending pattern if that is the case.  It’s the sudden changes you want to look for.

Also, since one of the easiest ways to stop embezzlement is to be the only person who opens bank statements as they come in, you want to keep an extra watchful eye out for checks to vendors or customers that also seem “a little too high.”  If you feel like a company is making too much money for various projects…shop around.  Call that company’s competitors and see what they would charge.  And stay open to switching vendors.  Because the truth is – you never know when someone is going to decide to steal from you…”by any means necessary.”

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