We Continue to Grow and Expand!

Temperatures are dropping, but things are hot at Fine Point Consulting this fall! We are continuing to grow and expand, and we are very excited to share the news with you!

After many successful years of business, we decided it was time to expand beyond our two locations in our home state of Wisconsin and set up a third shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ann Arbor is an active community known for its amazing parks, the beautiful Huron River, and over 386 restaurants. It is truly an incredible city and one that Fine Point is proud to now call home.

The new Ann Arbor office is managed by Lauri Young who has over 20 years of experience in finance and accounting. Lauri is known for her outstanding customer service as well as her passion for the community and her commitment to helping startups in Ann Arbor grow.

We also added a new HR Practice Leader to our growing and expanding HR Solutions. His name is Andy Bohacek and he comes to us with 13 years’ experience in the HR field. Andrew is an alumni speaker with Disrupt Madison and is looking forward to launching his HR podcast in early 2020.

CEO, Fine Point Consulting


Managing SBIR/STTR Grants

One thing we have specialized in since day one is managing SBIR/STTR grants on behalf of our customers. We realize maintaining compliance by following FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation) can be both confusing and time-consuming. Fortunately, we thrive on organization! To ensure compliance we set up your chart of accounts in a certain way to segregate direct, indirect, and “unallowable” costs. Here are the steps we take to accomplish this using QuickBooks Online:

Direct costs. Generally speaking, we put all direct costs in the Cost of Goods Sold section of the chart of accounts. One of our main goals as a firm is to make sure we are being as efficient as possible. A long chart of accounts or multiple sections of accounts adds both time and expense to maintain. We always look for ways to use our tools to cut down on extra expense to our customers. By tracking direct costs in the Cost of Goods Sold section, we utilize existing structures within QuickBooks. The accounts within the Cost of Goods Sold map back to the customer’s grant budget categories, such as Direct Labor, Direct Materials, and Direct Subcontractors.

To be compliant, it’s necessary to accumulate direct costs by contract. We typically do this by tracking costs by Customer/Job. Many of our customers have more than one grant, either within the same agency or across multiple agencies. In this scenario, the agency is the Customer and the grant name is the Job.  The “Class” field in QuickBooks also works for this, but our preference is to use the “Customer/Job” fields because it allows us to use Class for something else (either now, or down the line as the company grows).

Indirect costs. We typically track indirect costs in a “Customer” in QuickBooks called “G&A” or “Indirect”. This might vary depending on whether the customer has other sources of revenue outside of SBIR grants.  Some grantees have multiple pools of indirect costs, such as fringe and G&A. If so, we can track them separately.

What are SBIR and STTR Programs?

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, also known as America’s Seed Fund, are one of the largest sources of early-stage capital for technology commercialization in the United States. These programs allow US-owned and operated small businesses to engage in federal research and development that has a strong potential for commercialization.

NIH’s SBIR and STTR programs invest over 1 billion dollars into health and life science companies that are creating innovative technologies that align with NIH’s mission to improve health and save lives. A key objective is to translate promising technologies to the private sector and enable life-saving innovations to reach consumer markets.

To be FAR (SBIR/STTR) compliant, the accounting system must not only track indirect costs, but also must allocate indirect costs back to projects. QuickBooks does not do this part on its own. The allocation of indirect costs can be done outside of QuickBooks in a spreadsheet or it can be done by making journal entries in the system. Again, with our overarching goal of being efficient, we may start by maintaining a simple spreadsheet for a customer with a single grant.  Then move to doing journal entries if a customer has multiple grants or a larger Phase II grant. Whether done by journal entry or by spreadsheet, the customer needs to be able to produce a job report for any given period that shows both direct and indirect costs by grant.

Unallowable costs. We have had clients in the past who went a couple of years before they even had an unallowable expense but technically this should be either a section within the chart of accounts or at least an expense account within the chart of accounts. The most common of these types of expenses with our early-stage customers is alcohol, IP-related legal expenses, some advertising expenses, and charitable contributions.

We know how you feel… and yes, we know, accounting is not the most exciting aspect of your business. It can be confusing, complicated, and simply a pain. We also know that you didn’t start your business to do accounting. Lucky for you, we really like accounting – It’s our thing! Don’t let the complexity of managing SBIR/STTR grants bring you down or slow you down. Call us today and we will do the heavy lifting for you!

Startup Milwaukee Week

Startup Milwaukee supports high-growth entrepreneurship and innovation throughout southeastern Wisconsin. During the week of November 11-17, 2019, unique programs across Milwaukee will be driven by emerging companies for entrepreneurs.

Fine Point Consulting will host one of the key events of the week:  an accounting and HR presentation on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019 from 3:30 to 5 pm. Attendees will be able to meet one-on-one to ask questions specific to their business. You can register for free here or by using the button below.

We look forward to helping more entrepreneurs who are trying to scale fast, get more done, and stay lean. Feel free to ask questions during our presentation, and you may even submit them early to info@finepointconsulting.net.

Who Says There’s No Honor Among Thieves!

"Walk the plank!" The idea of ‘pirates’ brings forth reverie of the rambunctious 18th-century misfit sailors who led their lives guided by the ‘pillars’ of misadventure, mutiny, and…of course, plundering. Yet pirates, or privateers, as they preferred to call themselves, were a surprisingly “civil society,” (minus the robbery, mayhem, and murder!). These often-misunderstood pirate ships ran a semi-democratic institution. The captain was usually elected by the crew. However, re-elections were highly discouraged!

A little-known aspect of the economics of a pirate ship was its system of workers’ compensation. Aye, Mateys, pirates had hearts! The pirates’ idea of workers’ compensation was about maintaining motivation in the face of danger. There was an agreed-upon payment for all manner of on the job injury.

The going pirate base pay at that time was approximately two pieces of gold per week. The loss of an eye due to a swordfight, or other hazard, provided a privateer with a year’s wage, a left-arm possibly lost via the chomp of a crocodile (a’ la Captain Hook), got five years, and a right arm, many of which were lost by wayward cannonballs - six years of wages.

Client Success Story – TitanTV

“They are very professional, and you don’t have to worry about anything because they just do it, and they do it on time”

Chris Kelly, CEO 

TitanTV is a broadcast television software company that strives to provide the most accurate over-the-air, cable, and satellite channel lineups using their patented geo-location technology.

Chris Kelly, the current CEO of TitanTV, had to deal with several issues after acquiring TitanTV four years ago. First, he needed an accounting company that would be willing to jump in during the middle of his acquisition, set up the books, establish an opening balance sheet, and take over the management of the software.

SBIR/STTR Funds Can Bridge the “Valley of Death” for Small Tech Companies

Tech entrepreneurs are all too familiar with the loveless land of shrugs and empty pockets referred to as the “Valley of Death.”  The “Valley” is that point somewhere between the initial development of an innovative idea and the proof that it has potential in the marketplace. It’s the moment when fledgling companies need capital to get from here to there. And that’s the rub.

At BBCetc we call this the “Come back when…” period.  If there is high technical risk, most investors will tell you to “come back when.” When is when?  It varies.  When there are a certain number of customers. When the product is in clinical trials. When there is a working prototype.

Sound like a Catch 22?  It can be, there is a potential solution available for tech entrepreneurs facing this crucial moment in their company’s life cycle. The federal SBIR/STTR programs provide $3 billion of capital every year to small businesses developing high-risk, high-return technology-based products.

The money is targeted specifically for research and product development in order to reduce the technical risk and help avoid the dreaded “come back when…” conversation.

Eleven federal agencies, ranging from the Department of Defense to the National Institutes of Health, have SBIR/STTR funds available.  The program is competitive, but an SBIR/STTR grant can be the factor that allows entrepreneurs to cross the “Valley of Death” and come back standing upright. Consider these benefits:

  1. First and foremost, funding from the SBIR/STTR programs is non-dilutive capital (i.e., it requires no repayment or surrender of company equity).
  2. Many of the agencies fund early-stage, high-risk R&D projects for which investment capital is typically unavailable.
  3. Success in these highly competitive nationwide competitions can provide validation of your technology and lead to follow-on third-party investments.
  4. Eligibility criteria are clearly defined. Companies need not have an operating history, or even part-time employees, in order to apply.
  5. The variety of participating agencies guarantees funding opportunities in a broad range of technology areas.
  6. The chance of successful funding is typically greater than that with private investors.
  7. Multiple awards are possible even for the same development project.

Since the 1990’s, the BBCetc (BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting) team has reviewed over 3,000 proposals and trained thousands more on how to prepare compelling SBIR/STTR proposals and integrate SBIR/STTR funding into their overall funding strategy. We are coaches who provide guidance along the entire SBIR/STTR path from getting registered to writing each section of the proposal, including budget and commercialization planning, all the way to pushing the submit button and tracking your proposal.

Our advice to the tech-based researchers and idea people out there?  If you want to cross the “Valley of Death” and “Come back when…,” Google SBIR and STTR -- and then come see us.

For more information on working with BBCetc, visit bbcetc.com and complete the online SBIR/STTR Assessment form. While you’re there explore the information about our services, or team and the wealth about SBIR/STTR programs.

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
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