Fine Point Consulting Newsletter - March 2021

One Year Later

It has now been over one year since COVID-19 was officially declared a national pandemic. We were all locked up at home, toilet paper was hard to come by, masks were the newest fashion trend, and everyone was trying to bake bread. 

So much has happened! From the extended tax deadlines to the mad rush to get the PPP applications in, and then ever-changing rules regarding PPP, an election, another round of PPP, and finally a vaccination. It’s incredible that all that happened within twelve months! Not to mention we now have the words stimulus, pandemic and social distancing being used in our everyday vocabulary. 

I have learned in the last year that I still have no idea what TikTok is, I actually do not mind running as much as I thought I did, and I thoroughly enjoy working from the office. Here’s to hoping that the rest of 2021 is a little less eventful and filled with more in person handshakes and hugs with family and friends.

President, Fine Point Consulting

Rving In The USA

By Val Rodriguez, Staff Accountant

I began working at FPC in February 2019 and at the time, my husband, 2-year-old daughter and 3-month-pregnant self were living in sunny Palm Beach, FL. Having lived all our lives in Florida, we decided we wanted a change and by June of the same year we moved to Greenville, SC.  Needless to say, having a job that gave me the freedom to work from anywhere made it a very easy transition. 

Twenty-twenty came around and certainly shook things up. We were now confined in our home, miles and miles away from family and friends, all  with a toddler and a 6-month-old baby - not exactly what we had planned for our big move adventure. We quickly realized we wanted to be back at home and began putting together our exit plan. Long story short, only a year after our move, we packed our things, sold our house and… wait for it…

Bought an RV!

Yes, the thought of living full-time in a class-A RV for a couple of months with our baby and toddler to travel the USA in the middle of a pandemic was kind of crazy - if anything that sentence alone was a mouth full. But we had been robbed of an adventure and were not about to go back home without one. So, we picked up my grandmother in FL (we were not crazy enough to think we would be able to pull this off without help), and on July 2, 2020 we took off! The tentative plan was to make it all the way to California and back to Florida. I say tentative because we were traveling in the middle of a pandemic and there were a lot of unknowns.

In the three months that followed, my family and I were able to visit 20 states and enjoy the beauty each has to offer. From the Smokey Mountains in North Carolina, to having lunch by the Mississippi River, admiring the beautiful arches in Utah, and dipping our toes in the warm sand dunes in northern California, this was truly the adventure of a lifetime. Being able to share this time with our young family was the most unexpected and lovely surprise twenty-twenty brought for us.

Working for FPC was the real game changer in this story. We would not have been able to live this amazing experience without the flexibility offered through ROWE and the technology used at Fine Point that allowed me to attend to our client’s needs from virtually anywhere. 

And now, as I am writing this from sunny Florida I cannot help to think of where my next adventure will take me. Until then… goodbye!

P.S: Grandma if you are reading this - thank you!

HR: Real Time Feedback vs. Annual Review

By Steph Breunig, HR Practice Leader

At Fine Point Consulting, we are firm believers in getting daily input on how staff and managers are doing and how they can improve. It's always too little, too late to have the conversation during the contrived, once-a-year performance evaluation. The worst-case scenario is having to terminate an underperforming employee and having them be surprised they are not doing a good job. 

While doing away with the dreaded annual performance review would be a welcome development for many employees, introducing frequent performance feedback is not without its challenges. Time is money and providing frequent feedback means time - there’s no way around that. But in the end, investing in people is wise and utilizing real-time performance reviews invests in your people, and ultimately makes them better skilled employees. Here are a few considerations as you start to think about leveling up your performance evaluations to a real-time model:

Nothing Replaces a Staff One-on-One
There are tools available for web-based evaluations and those can be great for quick feedback but should be used in tandem with face-to-face evaluations. At Fine Point Consulting we often give positive feedback via the app Slack, which can be a quick appreciation for great behavior. But that is just a quick “good job!” and specifics should come later. Verbal communication where employees can ask for clarification, read body language and hear intonation provides for more complete and more honest feedback.

Provide Effective Feedback
All feedback is not created equally. Truly efficient feedback, whether positive or constructive, requires more than a “good job” or a pat on the back:

In providing good feedback, basic steps include:

  • Include some concrete examples of the undesired behavior.
  • Explain the effect or effects of that behavior.
  • Reinforce the changes you want to see.

Take the Negative Comments Off-Line
We have all heard the saying, "If you don't have anything good to say, say nothing at all." This term doesn't hold true in a performance appraisal sense. Employees should be aware of the positive things they do and places where they can change. However, not everything should be discussed online. If you want to provide negative performance feedback, suggestions for improvement, or simply tell someone they aren’t meeting expectations, we’d suggest doing this face to face. This is a potentially sensitive topic for an employee and should be delivered in person, where the recipient of the information can ask questions and read body language and tone.

One Size Does Not Fit All
Web-based performance tools can be a quick and easy way to provide instant and frequent feedback but should be considered as part of your performance evaluation system, rather than the whole system itself. At Fine Point Consulting, we utilize both Slack and weekly one-on-one meetings that serve as this real time feedback. Slack is reserved for quick feedback- the cheers and the wows we give each other for being awesome. But we also employ weekly one-on-ones, held in person or virtually, that are 30 min or less- just a check-in of successes, pain points and anything else on the horizon. In addition to these weekly meetings, we also have a  “Results” evaluation monthly. This is based on the employee’s position objectives and both the employee and manager rate the employee monthly. This system at Fine Point works for us and can be adjusted for nearly all employers.

Giving performance feedback to employees is a critical function for any manager. While annual performance reviews may be going out of style, the principles of a performance review still hold. Provide timely performance feedback. Provide specific examples of desirable and undesirable behaviors. Set goals and targets for the future. Ask for feedback from employees on how you, their manager, can improve your management approach. 

If you have questions or would like assistance in creating a performance review process for your small business, please contact Fine Point Consulting HR

I Have To File In How Many States?!?

By Louisa Else, Tax Practice Leader

In our tax corner of the world, we are just finishing up our first tax deadline and barely have time to catch our breath as we start looking toward that magical April 15th date. As I have been working with my team on our returns and sending drafts off to clients, I find myself asking variations of one question more than any other:

"I know where you worked from, but where were your customers while you did the work for them?"

So often with startups and small businesses, it's easy to simply think about what is right in front of you. Getting sales off the ground is an accomplishment! It comes with so much stress and things to keep straight that the last thing anyone is thinking about are the state tax implications, and that is completely understandable. Depending on your model and how much customer information you need to process your sales, you might not even be gathering the state information.

As your tax advisor, I wish I could let you continue on not thinking about it, but unfortunately in this connected world, where providing services or you SaaS product to someone across the country is as simple as setting up your Zoom call or giving out your download link, the states are watching carefully and all scrambling for their piece of that tax pie. More and more, the states are doing this by adopting a "market based" approach to determining which of your sales are "sourced" to their state. In the past few years, states have moved in droves to switch to this from the previously popular "cost of performance" rule. Plus, of course, all the states have various thresholds or quirks in how they apply these rules.

What this means in the real world is that in a market based system, you had sales to a state "where the benefit was received" - so where your customers are when they used your service or product. This means that a consultant based out of Wisconsin may have to consider filing taxes in 4 or 5 other states if their customers are located out in California, on the East Coast, or anywhere in between.

Unfortunately, these state returns often take businesses by surprise. It's simply not something we consider throughout the year. That is where my team comes in and we're happy to talk through your specific situation and make our recommendations on filing! As with so many things though, the more you can think ahead, the better you can set your business up for success both in efficient tax filings, budgeting for costs, and also having your ducks in a row if the states come looking for you:

Communicate! Communicate with your FPC Controller or whoever your accounting team is. Check in with your tax team during the year, not just in March. Finally, think ahead as you are setting up your processes around your sales. At the end of the year, I am going to ask you to tell me what your breakdown of sales is by your customers' states. Then I'm going to take that. So you've been warned.

Employee Spotlight: Niurka Rodriguuez, Staff Accountant

Niurka started with Fine Point Consulting on February 6th, and she’s hit the ground running. A dedicated team player, she’ll have long-term assistant controller duties and has been helping out in other areas during this busy season as well.

Before Fine Point, Niurka worked for a boutique firm with smaller clients and has experience across a range of sectors, particularly real estate. She’s been auditing for several years — in fact, she says auditing was her first love in the industry.

Outside of work, Niurka is a mother to two girls aged 12 and 16. She loves that Fine Point’s remote flexibility makes it possible for her to have a fulfilling professional career and be a hands-on parent all at once.

Another fun side project? Since the coronavirus pandemic, Niurka has taken up knitting, even teaching her kids the skills to join her.

Mark Your Calendar!

  • 3/31/21 – Annual WDFI Franchise Tax Reporting Due
  • 3/31/21 – End of First Quarter
  • 4/15/21 – Individual and Corporate Tax Filing Deadline (Forms 1040 and 1120)
  • 4/15/21 – First Quarter 2021 Estimated Tax Payments Due
  • 4/30/21 – First Quarter Payroll Reporting Due

Fine Point Consulting is a boutique consulting firm offering expert-level professional accounting & human resources services customized to meet your budget. We help entrepreneurs who are trying to scale fast, get more done, and stay lean.

Call us today for your free consultation at 877-535-1183 or use the button below