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It's About Time! The Journyx Blog

January 13, 2012

In my last post, I described the necessity of a D-U-N-S number in government contracting.  After you acquire a D-U-N-S number, you’re ready to register in the Central Contractor’s Registry (CCR).  Registering your business in the CCR not only makes your company visible to the government, but it’s also a requirement according to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).  So what do you need besides a D-U-N-S number to register?  You need:

  • CAGE Code
  • Company and Corporate information
  • Federal Tax Identification Number
  • SBA-defined socioeconomic characteristics
  • NAICS code
  • Product Service code
  • Federal Supply Classification code
  • Financial information
  • Point of Contact (POC) information
  • Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) information

Registering in the CCR is an essential first step into government contracting.  Below is a video from SBA, which will encourage your decision into seeking business with the government and help you brainstorm how to make yourself attractive to the government after you register.

Have you already registered for the CCR?  We’d love to hear your experience!

January 12, 2012

Did you know that there's an easier way to share reports within your organization? You can create a report for yourself and copy that report to other employees so it shows up in their report menus. Simply select the report, determine who you'd like to share it with and click the "Copy To" button.

Select the report you'd like to share, who you'd like to share the report with and click the "Copy To" button:

Timesheet Report Sharing


January 6, 2012

When starting out in government contracting, you can’t get too far into the process without a D-U-N-S number, which stands for Data Universal Numbering System.  It’s a unique nine-digit number for each location of your business and is completely free.  A D-U-N-S number is required to register with the federal government for contracts or grants.  You can’t join the CCR (Central Contractor Registration) without it!  Below is a basic overview of the D-U-N-S number from InsideUp:

The D-U-N-S number was created in 1962 and copyrighted by Dun & Bradstreet.  A D-U-N-S number has been assigned to over 100 million businesses worldwide.  The D-U-N-S number was adopted as a standard business identifier for federal electronic commerce in October of 1994.  It was also incorporated in the Federal Acquisition Regulation in April of 1998 as the official identification code for all procurement-related activities.  Start your process of acquiring a free D-U-N-S number today!

January 3, 2012

The following post is taken from the Journyx Webinar “How Journyx Helps our DCAA Clients Manage Employee Time & Projects.”

Government contracting can be tough on the executives responsible for making sure employees and projects are tracked accurately. Of course, it is possible to get by on a number of systems, but there are certain tools that can make the process much easier, allowing supervisors to work on more pertinent tasks that will improve the overall profitability of a company far more than logistics measurement. The trick here is accountability. The best tools will provide a solid backbone on which the supervisor can bolster his or her approach to this important problem.

Project Coordination Capabilities

A supervisor will need to make sure that the right people are on the right jobs. Though this isn’t limited to government contracting, making sure that the people who can perform a task most efficiently are the ones assigned to it will increase the odds that you will stay within budget and schedule. Therefore, the supervisor needs a tool that will allow him to track individual employee efficiency and view it in the context of other employees’ effectiveness on a given task. This information should be easily readable through reports, charts or graphs. Preferably, the supervisor would have access to all three.

Project Budgets and Schedules

Speaking of going over budget or schedule, the supervisor needs to have access to these two key pieces of data throughout the lifecycle of the project. Of course, this seems obvious until a deadline is breathing down the neck of a project team and no time or money is left to meet it. When dealing with the government, specifically of fixed-cost contracts, this discrepancy can result in major financial turmoil, since the business itself will be responsible for any funds spent on a project above the contracted budget. Therefore, metrics that show how a project is coming along do not only need to be present, they need to be crystal clear.

Who is Available?

Again, resource availability may seem like an obvious piece of information in theory, but can actually be very tricky. Let’s say there is an individual in the company who could save quite a bit of time with his expertise on a project. The supervisor schedules him through the clunky system currently being used. This is usually not too big of a deal; the supervisor will let him know when it is time for him to work on the project. However, when that time comes she discovers that he is out of town -- for the next three weeks. And he is unreachable by phone or email because he is backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Insight into not only when an individual is available, but when he or she is not available (whether due to sick leave, planned vacation or religious holiday), will prove invaluable when it comes to structuring a contracted project.

Check out even more tips on tools that supervisors can use to make interaction with the U.S. Government simple, as well as how Journyx can provide a cost-effective system that meets your DCAA needs through the Webinar, “How Journyx Helps our DCAA Clients Manage Employee Time & Projects.”

 

December 30, 2011

Gamification has been a hot topic this past year with the popularization of Foursquare.  But the theory of gamification is just starting to be explored more in-depth.  What does gamification look like beyond badges and points?  It’s an important question for small businesses to think about going into 2012.  One example for gamification without points or badges is in an upcoming smartphone app called Zombies, Run:

This demo video is used for the Zombies, Run Kickstarter page.  The video and accompanying description must have been effective because they surpassed their original goal of $12,500 by over $60,000!

So what does this successful app teach us about gamification?  First, Zombies, Run is not based on badges and points.  Rather it functions more as a role-playing game since the runner is given a character that exists inside the game.  The recognition of different game mechanics is incredibly helpful when deciding if/which gaming systems would work best for your business. 

The next draw towards Zombies, Run is that the game gives an incentive for an activity that many of us put off: exercising.  Zombies, Run promotes exercise by offering an ongoing story that is directly influenced by how much you run.  This is a very powerful idea, especially for companies that sell products for activities that most of us don’t want to do even though we should.  Journyx has done much research into why tracking time is important.  But even with all that research, we still find ourselves with the same conundrum that entering your time can be very boring for most employees.

Zombies, Run also has an effective way of bringing customers back to their product. There’s a “hook” at the end of every 20 minute section.  Bringing customers back to your website is a challenge most companies face.  Keith Smith of Big Door, a company that sells gamification mechanics for companies, was led to gamification practices after extensive research into web visitor metrics.  He found that many customers come to websites less than 2 times per month, which is a pretty scary statistic.  To have a hook or reason for customers to come back is great to keep in mind.  Apple does this by using mystery; they don’t release information about their products until they are absolutely ready.  This keeps customers guessing on what Apple will think of next.

Do you see gamification coming into your business in 2012?

December 27, 2011

Sarah Glass is the President and CEO of AimSourcing, Inc.  AimSourcing specializes in outsourced accounting services, management information systems and business consulting.  AimSourcing helps Journyx customers integrate with QuickBooks, which automates the flow of time data into customers’ billing, project management and payroll processes.  This is an excerpt from Glass’s webinar “How to Modify QuickBooks for DCAA Compliance” where Glass explains how to configure your business software for a DCAA audit.

The DCAA, or Defense Contract Audit Agency, supports government agencies that request their services. Essentially, they serve to make sure that contractors are working within the set guidelines of the government when it comes to the financial interactions between their company and that of their contracting agency. Many individuals view the DCAA as a mysterious and unapproachable government agency, but the truth is their operations are relatively transparent if you know where to look. The following are a few things you should know about the DCAA if you are planning to work as a government contractor.

1. They Are Paid by the Government Agency

DCAA services are paid for by the government agency sponsoring the contractor. If a business is audited or otherwise examined by the DCAA, they are not responsible for the costs associated therein. This means that, although a DCAA audit may be inconvenient for your company, it will not be financially burdensome. This can potentially be a double-edged sword, however. Surprising as it may sound, there are instances where you would like the help or review of the DCAA. Unfortunately, it is impossible for a contractor to request assistance from them. They can only be requisitioned by government contracting officers.

2. They Only Have a Few Major Areas of Emphasis

The DCAA focuses primarily on a few areas of emphasis. These include internal control systems, management policies, accuracy and reasonableness of cost representation, adequacy and reliability of records and accounting systems, financial capacity and the contractor’s compliance with contractual provisions having accounting or financial significance. This knowledge can be useful if the DCAA wants to look over your records. You can prepare for an audit by arming yourself with a compliant, automated time-tracking system that will make a potential audit simple and painless.

3. Extent of DCAA Involvement Depends on the Type of Contract

The three primary types of government contracts are fixed price, time and materials, and cost reimbursable. In general, DCAA involvement on fixed price contracts occurs during the proposal stage rather than the incurred cost stage of the contract. Conversely, the more flexibly priced contracts are audited by the DCAA to determine the final cost of the contract after primary costs are incurred. This means that the DCAA will have a very different interaction with your company, should they get involved at all, depending on whether you will determine your pricing up-front or after you have completed your work.

These facts should help you begin to understand a bit more about the DCAA, and clear away the fog that seems to shroud the agency. For more in-depth look at the DCAA, as well as tips to prepare you for an audit, check out Sarah Glass’ webinar, “How to Modify Quickbooks for DCAA Compliance.

December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!  The Journyx office is happily empty this Friday for the holiday weekend.  Breaks are a great time to take a step back from work and let great ideas come in.  Especially during the holidays, this is the perfect opportunity to think about how 2012 will look for you.  To help with your 2012 plans, here are some updates from Mashable about what’s coming in 2012 for the iPad:

Numerous sources have identified the iPad 3 coming out in 2012, but a mini iPad is something I didn’t expect.  Here are some other trends coming out in 2012:

What are your plans for 2012?

December 20, 2011

Wes Fue of Timberwolf Enterprises LLC, a business consulting firm that specializes in advising government contractors, worked with Journyx to produce a webinar titled, “Is Government Contracting Right for Your Business?” In it, he discusses the array of opportunities available to businesses and some best practices to determine whether or not businesses can find a place in defense contracting. The following post is taken from his webinar.

Consider the hurdles businesses face when selling to consumers or other businesses. Will they get paid on time? Who are they supposed to talk to? Will the consumer be able to afford their product? These are all common thorns in the collective side of businesses everywhere, whether they focus on business to consumer or business to business sales. Ultimately, it is necessary to realize that clients can be unreliable, and that there will always be a certain amount of risk involved there.

On the other hand, selling to the U.S. Government is a very different game. There are still hurdles, but they are different, and related primarily to procuring the contract initially. And while the terms of a contract are not set in stone, requiring flexibility on the part of the contractor, there is one very important, over-arching point to consider: The U.S. government is the number one buyer of goods and services on the planet. The implications of this are huge. You are not dealing with someone from the Fortune 500. You are dealing with Fortune 1. In general, dealing with the government offers rock solid ground to work on, and is possibly the most secure entity in the world to contract for.

Another factor to take into account is the fact that the federal government has multiple programs in place to help small businesses succeed. In most cases, regular consumers care little for the success of a company as long as they continue to receive working products or services. And while the federal government also requires quality deliverables, they also have a vested interest in the success of U.S.-based businesses. There are incentives in place for veteran and minority-owned businesses, so there is lots of room for companies of all sizes to compete for the contract.

There are currently 1,175 government agencies that a business can contract for, so the odds are that there is a niche for an extraordinarily wide array of products or services. Flexibility and determination will help a business win the contract, so reach out to the best consumer in the world and maximize your profits.

Check out Wes Fue’s webinar, “Is Government Contracting Right for Your Business?” for even more information on the field of government contracting and how it relates to your business.

December 13, 2011

Cynthia Kalina-Kaminsky has more than 26 years of experience in project execution in the fields of manufacturing, service, academia, government and non-profit. She has a Ph. D. in industrial engineering and has undergone extensive project management training. The following post is derived from her webinar, “You've Got the Contract - Now What? Successful Kickoff Meetings.” The webinar details the importance of project scope and change management, and gives effective techniques you can bring to the table in your kickoff meeting.

When you work on a project for a defense agency, it is not uncommon for the scope or details to change. To a certain extent a business must expect these changes and structure their processes such that they will not irrevocably damage a project once it is underway. However, it is also important that you control your project so you don’t end up with one much larger than originally quoted, possibly resulting in a smaller profit margin for your company. Holding a kickoff meeting can ensure that key players on the project are on the same page, potentially curbing scope and change issues down the road. The following tips can help you structure your meeting for success.

Determine the Decision Maker

It is important to establish the method of coming to a decision within your meeting before it is actually underway to avoid confusion and bruised egos. This will likely vary from project to project, and in some cases it may be more obvious who will have the final say on decisions than others. In those cases where it is not as clear, examine your options and choose the one that will have the greatest chance of satisfying stakeholders without causing unnecessary delays in the meeting. In some cases, putting contentious issues to a majority vote will be the most expeditious and fair way of resolving issues. In others, it is more helpful to structure the meeting bureaucratically where one person gets to make the final choice. In any case, make sure everyone involved knows how things will happen in the meeting and what is expected of them.

Establish Priority the SMART Way

Obviously, your project is going to be very important to your company, likely falling as the main priority or somewhere near the top. For a defense agency, it could possibly fall somewhere further back, maybe 25th in terms of what they currently have on their plate. However, it is possible to increase priority by using SMART goal pieces. SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Accurate, Realistic and Time-Based. Prepare yourself with the information necessary to state exactly what’s going to happen, who will be held accountable, and what a realistic time for completion estimate could be. If you can convince the agency that you have a solid grasp on the fundamentals of your project so it won’t tie up time, money or resources, then you make it more of a priority for defense.

These tips will get you started, but you can find many more tips and details in Kalina-Kaminsky’s webinar “You've Got the Contract - Now What? Successful Kickoff Meetings.” Check it out and learn effective techniques for managing your defense projects.

December 9, 2011

True or False:  You can’t be DCAA compliant with QuickBooks.

FALSE!

If you’ve heard that you can’t be DCAA compliant with QuickBooks, then someone has been pulling the wool over your eyes.  Making your QuickBooks system DCAA-compliant is simple.  At Journyx, we even have a webinar that guides you through how to modify QuickBooks for DCAA compliance.

Here at Journyx, we’re big fans of QuickBooks because our solution directly integrates with the system.  We’ve helped a large number of customers due to this seamless and simple integration.  So you can see why we would be a little worried that many government contractors are being led astray with the myth that you can’t be government compliant with QuickBooks.

If you currently use QuickBooks, here’s a helpful video from the Intuit team about how to customize your invoices:

December 8, 2011

Failure sucks. Just ask R. U. Darby, who gave up on his gold mine when he was only three feet from the mother load, only to have someone else make it rich due to his mistake. Darby was not an idiot. Darby was not timid. Darby was not even in deep financial trouble due to buying one too many jet skis during a moonshine-fueled mid-life crisis. No, Darby failed because he was tragically uninformed. His ambition, his promise for success, was blindsided by a lack of knowledge and a failure to gain expert data about his endeavor.

Like many young men, Darby wanted to strike it rich quick. Like many young men who have an uncle with gold fever, Darby had an uncle with gold fever who found some traces of the shining ore a few weeks after he started digging.  Darby and his uncle borrowed money from several family members to purchase the machinery necessary for mining. Shortly after returning with the requisite machinery, the pair found a rich vein of gold. They had it smelted and proved that it was one of the richest mines in Colorado. Darby was excited that he would soon be able to pay off the debt to his relatives, and hopefully have enough money left over to purchase something akin to a 19th century Macbook Pro.

Unfortunately for Darby and his closeted techie ambitions, something inexplicable happened. The vein of gold suddenly stopped. Not the type to quit halfway, Darby continued to drill deeper and deeper, until it became apparent that he was in fact the quitting two-thirds of the way type. Disappointed in his heinous luck, he sold his machinery to a junk man for just a few hundred dollars. Then, shamed and disgruntled, he returned home. Broken. His dreams shattered upon the harsh reality of his failed entrepreneurial venture.

But the story does not end there, dear readers. As it turns out, the junk man was wily and totally willing to capitalize on Darby’s folly. He hired an engineer, who calculated that there was still gold in the mine, a mere three feet from where Darby had stopped digging. The junk man was ecstatic when further drilling revealed that the engineers’ calculations were correct. The junk man, who had gotten into the venture for just a few hundred dollars spent on old machinery, laughed all the way to the bank with millions (presumably whilst twirling a well-oiled moustache).

So how can you determine if there is the potential for massive profit just beyond the temporary setbacks in your business? As the junk man knew intuitively, the answer is that it requires in-depth knowledge about your company. Time data, for instance, can reveal small problems and prevent them from becoming enormous issues. If you are constantly digging blind, like Darby, you will be unable to take steps appropriate to your situation. Only a comprehensive understanding of all of your problem factors will let you know whether to move your machinery to another mine, sell it for scrap, or uncover a massive gold deposit. Just try your best to avoid the unruly moustache.

December 7, 2011

 

Photo from The History PlaceToday is “the date that will live in infamy”. It's the 70th anniversary in remembrance of the attack on Pearl Harbor. We owe so much to those who rose to defend our nation after the attack that ultimately cemented the United States' military involvement with World War II. Here at Journyx, we couldn’t wrap up 2011 without giving special thanks for something that is very important to all of us.

From the entire team, we would like to express our tremendous gratitude for the brave and selfless men and women who serve our country and put themselves on the frontline for our safety and freedom, often offering the ultimate sacrifice. Without the safety they provide, we would not have the freedom to do what we love to do and live how we want to live.

Journyx has cultivated a working relationship with the government and military that has extended more than 15 years. Assisting government contractors with their stringent compliance procedures and aiding in the assurance of a successful audit is what we do best. This accomplishment is something we take very seriously and we're glad to have the opportunity to make a potentially labor-intensive process run more smoothly.

Here at Journyx, we’ve been counting our blessings. So, to the thousands across the world who help keep the United States safe and to the honorable men and women who have fought for our protection in the past, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

December 6, 2011

The following is an excerpt from the Journyx webinar, “5 Steps to DCAA Compliance with Time Management.” The full webinar covers how time management systems can streamline your operations and help you pass a DCAA audit should you face one in the future.

The DCAA (Defense Contract Auditing Agency) is tasked with auditing companies that work as government contractors. Although not every company who works as a contractor will be audited, it is important to prepare just in case. Audit failure can result in serious setbacks and can even derail a project if too many issues arise. So, what is the DCAA looking for, and how can you prepare for a potential audit?

Proof of Daily Time Entry

In many companies it is not uncommon for employees to get behind on tracking their time. In some instances they may not track their time at all, or they may be doing so using an inefficient system. While this presents a number of problems in terms of daily business, it is particularly damaging should the DCAA decide to audit said company. That’s because the DCAA requires proof of daily time entry, and to be more specific, requires it no later than 9 a.m. for the previous day. Obviously, if time entry is an afterthought at your company, this will present a real issue. And also remember the proof part of time entry. Shoddy timesheets may not cut it for the DCAA, so make sure your system is transparent and verifiable to avoid problems.

Documentation of Change

While editing or otherwise altering timesheets might be normal routine, either for housecleaning purposes or simply correcting previous entry mistakes, the DCAA requires any changes to a timesheet to be accounted for. So, this means that any edits need to be accounted for and documented. For instance, if an individual wished to change the number of hours worked for the previous day, they would need to make a note of the alteration and explain why it was made. While not every auditor will require this level of detail, having it baked into your time management system will act as insurance should such documentation prove necessary.

...A Specific Timekeeping System?

While the DCAA does have time tracking standards, it does not require a specific time tracking system. Thus, companies are free to use any system so long as it meets DCAA requirements. There are some systems that work better for this than others. In choosing a timekeeping system to use for DCAA compliance, try and find one that allows flexibility, automatic reporting, and a customizable approvals system. In short, choose one that will allow you to address any concerns that the DCAA might have.

Check out the original webinar, “5 Steps to DCAA Compliance with Time Management”, to learn specific techniques for dealing with the DCAA, as well as tutorials to structure Journyx software to meet your DCAA time entry needs.

December 2, 2011

If you are a small business looking to work with the federal government, you hopefully are finding this blog incredibly helpful these days.  Recently, I found this great Howcast on the subject of government contracting:

Howcast is a very useful how-to video service with a wide range of videos, including business advice.  The videos are engaging and informative and a great way to start research on a new subject.

Do you find learning through videos easier than text?

December 1, 2011

Perhaps in the past you have considered or are currently considering selling to the government through a defense contract. If so, one of the first questions that comes to mind is often, “What product or service can I offer the Department of Defense?” The reality is that there are a wide variety of needs, and many unexpected products and services have been picked up by the DoD through a defense contract. Let’s take a look at a sampling of unconventional projects that Defense has spent money on.

Fireworks

At first glance, this may seem obvious. Of course the military purchases fireworks! This is America! The only thing we love more than fireworks is cold beer, cheeseburgers and football. But then the questions form. Aren’t fireworks and pyrotechnics meant to approximate real bombs, but without the damage and death? Bombs like, you know, the ones the military currently have access to? Perhaps they are used in place of actual ordnance to simulate battlefield conditions. Well, that might be the case, if it weren’t for the fact that most fireworks are still incredibly deadly. Maybe they are used in military celebrations of American holidays? Possible, except the DoD budgeted $2,000,000,000 for “pyrotechnics” over the past ten years. Either the military has found ways that fireworks can improve their weapons systems or responses (most contracts involving fireworks list “AMMUNITION” as the product or service provided) or the U.S. military has some incomprehensibly flamboyant Fourth of July and New Years celebrations.

Archaeological/ Paleontological Studies

Let me paint you a picture here. You are a soldier on the modern battlefield. You’ve got a lot to worry about what with enemies attacking you, trying to live in hostile environments, and engaging in often grueling and arduous training. So you’re on base, getting in shape and prepping for a patrol, when all of the sudden a velociraptor shows up out of nowhere. Fortunately for you, Dr. Grant and crew have been doing extensive research funded by the DoD. Don’t laugh. This is serious stuff here. To destroy the dinosaur, we must understand the dinosaur. What’s that you say? What about the archaeological studies? Simple. We are training an elite force of tactical Indiana Joneses.

Toilet Soap

Understandably, the men and women of the armed forces need soap. You just can’t spread truth, justice and the American way without working up a hearty sweat. However, the DoD almost certainly pays a pittance for these cleanliness products, right? Perhaps they even manufacture their own soap from tree bark, metal shavings and ground up bits of battlefield detritus. If you thought this (and I know you all did), you would be woefully wrong. In fact, the DoD budgeted over $88,000,000 between 2001-2010 for over 200 different manufacturers of soap. There can only be one conclusion. The government is attempting to create military-grade soap on a rope that can be used both as a crude flail against all who would oppose freedom and as a means of imparting a clean, rugged, leathery scent whenever one is required.

Railguns

Ok. It actually makes perfect sense why the military would spend money on these. I just really wanted to show you this video demonstrating how awesome they are.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1q_rRicAwI

As you can see, there are all kinds of ways you can provide solutions for the government, even if they fall outside the traditional needs of defense. Whether you’re providing pen caps, accounting services, or futuristic mega-weapons, there is probably a spot for you if you can find the right niche and audience. So go out there, get DCAA compliant, and lock down your contract!

Do you think you have a product or service that the government might be interested in? Have you already been awarded a contract? We would love for you to comment and let us know about it!

November 29, 2011

HR-3D (www.hr-3d.com) is a compensation and compliance solutions service provider serving 8a, small and mid-tier federal/defense contractors. For more than 17 years they have provided market-pricing-based DCAA/DOL/OFCCP compliant compensation infrastructure services, executive compensation support, business capture incentive plans, RFP labor category pricing support and AAP services for their clients. The following is an excerpt from their Webinar “Compensation Compliance for Federal Contractors:  The Rules have Changed!” where HR-3D describes the current position of the OFCCP and how you can best deal with them.

The OFCCP, or Office of Federal Contract Compliance, is responsible for ensuring that federal contractors are following the laws associated with Equal Employment Opportunity Programs. The office is fairly notorious for their ruthless collection of data. If you do not have a compliant compensation infrastructure established in your business, you really should look into creating one as soon as possible. Here are a few of the things that the OFCCP will be looking for

1. Wages

The OFCCP will aggressively check the wages of your employees right off the bat. Make sure that you know what data they will have access to. They will be looking for “W-2 Earnings,” and “1099 Earnings” if you have contractors. They will also check base salary, holiday pay, overtime pay, hourly wages and shift differential commissions.

2. Stocks

If you offer stock options to employees you will need to be able to define these and lay them all out on the table. Make sure that you can show these options for every level of employee, including executives and other high-level individuals within your company. The OFCCP will be on the lookout for any discrepancies in your reporting, so make sure not to present any.

3. Incentives

The OFCCP will also want information on any incentive plans offered by your business. This includes both long and short-term incentive plans, as well as any other elements related to compensation such as paid leave, health benefits and retirement benefits. Essentially, they will want to know all of the ways your employees are compensated.

These tips can help you get started when building a compliant compensation infrastructure. For more information on the OFCCP, check out their webinar, “Compensation Compliance for Federal Contractors:  The Rules have Changed!”

November 25, 2011

Happy Black Friday!  I commend all you courageous Black Friday shoppers for braving the shopping frenzy that’s currently happening.  But have you heard of Small Business Saturday? It happens tomorrow so listen up!

Small Business Saturday is a campaign run by American Express to encourage shoppers to buy at small businesses the day after Black Friday.  Many small businesses get ignored during Black Friday in favor of big box retail stores who are able to give huge discounts on their merchandise.  Small Business Saturday gives small businesses a chance to cash in on the shopping frenzy that occurs during this weekend.

Why so much attention on small businesses?  Small businesses often win when it comes to flexing their marketing and creativity muscles to compete with big box retailers.  Here in Austin, the “Keep Austin Weird” campaign was specifically designed to encourage Austinites to shop local.  Small businesses also bring in a higher ratio of money into the community compared to big box retailers.  So shopping at a small business helps your local community.  The government also sees the benefit of small businesses by focusing many of its contracts specifically on small businesses.

Small Business Saturday is nicely nestled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which is the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Let’s face it: holiday shopping is huge, and B2C businesses are all trying to get a piece of the pie, whether they are a big box company, a small business, or an online retailer.

Where will you be spending your dollars this Thanksgiving weekend?

November 24, 2011

When your company is awarded a government contract there will be feelings of joy, contentment, and of course excitement and anticipation. If this is your first contract, odds are that your company is already hard at work making business plans, organizing project teams and refining budgets. While these tasks are necessary and interesting, the newly-minted contractor should also look to tidy up their housekeeping. Specifically, you need to make sure that you are ready for a DCAA audit.

While not every business that is awarded a contract will be audited by the DCAA, preparation for the audit should be taken seriously. Failure to pass an audit can result in costly setbacks, and in extreme cases, indefinite contract postponement or reassignment. The guidelines for the DCAA audit are well documented, and a detailed explanation of the background and process of the audit can be found here. Your first step should be looking at a way to track time for employees and any contracted labor you will be using.

It is possible to maintain compliance with regard to time tracking using manual solutions or internally developed software, however this can be both time consuming and inaccurate. Ultimately, the money you saved by developing a homebrew solution will be lost through the costs associated with managing a damaged or imprecise system.

Instituting an automated system for DCAA compliance will make the process much easier and will increase the accuracy of your records. Further, having a comprehensive system that tracks time of employees, contractors, and anyone else directly involved with your business will prove extremely useful should you ever need to draw upon past data for use in a current contract or when demonstrating previous success when trying to win a new one. Having DCAA compliant software can further act as a differentiator when defense organizations award contracts, as those with a DCAA compliant system in place represent less of a risk.

Prepare yourselves for the DCAA audit and you will find that the task is not as arduous as it may at first appear. Remember, though the DCAA does complicate things for businesses, it ultimately saves money by reducing tax dollars spent on frivolous things such as diamond-encrusted toilet seats or saffron-spiced ramen noodles. In the end, it comes down to this: if you want to play with The Man, you’ve got to play by his rules.

Have you had any experience with DCAA compliance? How have you prepared for an audit?

November 22, 2011

The following is an excerpt from Dr. Laura Faukner’s (of FalconDay Consulting) Webinar “How to Win and Successfully Execute on Defense Contracts.” In it, she discusses the best ways to present your business as a candidate for a government contract.

When vying for a defense contract, many businesses feel that it would be best to attempt to market themselves to numerous different agencies, throwing products or services against the wall until one of them sticks. This is a poor idea for several reasons, and can ultimately inhibit your chance of winning any contract.

Your lack of focus is noticeable

Defense knows that businesses want the contract. They also know that businesses will stop at nothing to win one, even if they do not necessarily have a strong background in the field of the contract. Because of this, they are extremely wary of contractors who are applying just to apply, and will disregard any contractor that doesn’t have an extremely solid grasp on what the contract entails.

Focus increases face time

Many people don’t realize the importance of human interaction when going for the government contract. They believe that the government is a faceless bureaucracy that cannot be interacted with. The truth is that you will need to endear yourself to the program manager of your chosen agency in order to win the contract, and that means building a relationship there. If you focus on just a few agencies, then the relationship with individuals within those agencies will be much more substantial

Flexibility

Defense is looking for a contractor that can remain flexible and adapt to their changing needs over the course of a project. Essentially, if you can offer a custom solution to their needs, you will be a very attractive candidate for the contract. Communicate your flexibility by focusing on the needs of a few agencies and offering solutions that will address those needs specifically.

These tips will help you build a strong foundation with your chosen defense agencies. Watch Dr. Faulkner’s webinar “How to Win and Successfully Execute on Defense Contracts” for more advice on how to succeed as a government contractor.

November 21, 2011

Sarah Glass is the President and CEO of AimSourcing, Inc.  AimSourcing specializes in outsourced accounting services, management information systems, and business consulting.  AimSourcing helps Journyx customers integrate with Quickbooks, which automates the flow of time data into customers’ billing, project management, and payroll processes.  This is an excerpt from Glass’s webinar “Top 10 Reasons to Outsource Your Accounting Operation” where Glass explains why outsourcing your accounting operations will ultimately save you money:

Lower Cost Operation

Purchasing, configuring, installing and maintaining an accounting system is very expensive.  Outsourced services usually include the accounting system as part of the overall structure.  More than a few companies have wasted thousands of dollars installing their own accounting systems.  They don’t live up to the vendor’s promises and require an army to maintain.  AimSourcing has converted several Journyx customers from larger ERP systems to QuickBooks Enterprise and saved them lots of money.

Avoid Hiring Full-time Staff for Part-time Tasks

Have a qualified company manage your bills and deal with vendors.  Better managing of the receivables can help you minimize late fees and also increase your overall cash flow.  You can better maximize the investment you’ve made in your staff by keeping them focused on your business and letting someone else handle the back-office functions.

Eliminate Lost Productivity Costs

Accounting problems are disruptive to the whole company and will consume not just your time but also your staff’s time.  You can provide the highest level technical service to your customer but lose their confidence with an inefficient and inaccurate invoicing process.

Minimize Tax and Other Regulatory Exposure

Outsourcing to a provider that understands tax and regulatory requirements can save you lots of money but will also keep you in compliance.  In addition to the IRS, companies that have federal government contracts are subject to federal acquisition regulations, government cost accounting standards and they are audited by the Defense Contract Audit Agency.  These rules require specialized knowledge that most companies don’t have.

Go more in-depth by viewing the recorded webinar.

Photo courtesy of Images Money.

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