March 2014 Newsletter

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Your Next New Hire May Be…Software?

It’s expensive to add employees! Investopedia estimates companies spend $3,500 in direct/indirect costs for hiring an $8 an hour employee!

So, what if you could increase production and efficiency without adding headcount — while lowering bottom line costs? Think about what functional gaps exist in your current software solution. Is your system really great at accounting, but estimating is still being done in home-grown spreadsheets with no job cost visibility?

A small investment in additional modules, users, or training could make the difference for ramping up your company to the next professional level. You’d be surprised at how many micro-sized companies position themselves as large entities, simply because they can function lean and mean through a well-designed software solution.

Are you ready to invest in a lower cost, lower risk, and higher return “cyber” employee? March is the perfect time to add users, modules, and functionality that will change the way you do business. Save on Sage specials, and join LAI for a webinar on how to integrate third-party software that will cost the fraction of a full time employee.

 


March Madness Specials!

Sage BOGO ½ Off

Increasing your productivity is relatively simple: the more employees you give access to Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate (formerly Sage Timberline Office) simultaneously, the more work can get done in less time. It’s truly the simplest way to increase productivity!

Now, for a limited time (through March 27th) when you purchase one module or user license you can save 50% on the second module or user license. Give your employees the access to the critical project-related information they need, when they need it. That’s half off the second (or more) modules or users!

Have you been waiting to add any of these available modules?

  • Sage Estimating
  • Estimating Standard & Extended Databases
  • Service Management
  • Payroll
  • Property Management
  • Project Management

Off Plan? Welcome Back Promotion

With Microsoft announcing the end of support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014 and Windows Server 2003 in July 2015, Sage CRE will no longer continue developing, testing, and supporting our software on Windows XP and Server 2003. To ensure customer success, Sage is offering a 75% discount off software fees when you upgrade to the latest version of Sage Construction and Real Estate software and get back on plan.

Call Ledgerwood Associates, 1-877-918-8301 today and we’ll help you get your savings!


Perfect Employee Webinar

Do you have an employee who never takes a sick day or vacation, never makes a mistake, and costs less than $10k in first year salary? Do you know an employee who never says, ‘No,’ is a tattle tale on the rest of the process errors, and never asks for a bonus or a raise?

Yeah, neither do we! However, we can show you how third-party software for Sage 300 CRE can make it seem like you hired the Perfect Employee!

Join us on March 19th, at 11 am Arizona Mountain time, when we feature how products from Office Connector, MyAssistant, TimberScan and Create-A-Check function in the Project Cycle. As Ledgerwood’s Tony Merry explained it, “Adding these modules is like adding one to two full time back office employees!”

We’ll review four stages of the Project Cycle, and how integrating these modules and features will create the ‘perfect’ worker:

  1. Contract award
  2. Progress
  3. Change management
  4. Contract close

Hosted by Tony Merry, he will be joined by Ledgerwood Associates Sage Certified Consultants, as well as Core Associates’ Bernard Ross (TimberScan) and Josie Wollenzien from Piracle (Create-A-Check). This is a collaborative solution webinar you won’t want to miss!!


Avoid the 7 Most Common Safety Challenges with Technology

As all safety professionals know, there is nothing easy about maintaining a successful safety program! Given the broad set of responsibilities on safety managers’ plates, understanding common areas of failure for a safety program, as well as common ways to avoid succumbing to those failures, enables them to take steps to prevent the failures from occurring – thereby strengthening their program in the long term.

ISHN magazine online recently published a blog entry entitled “Why safety fails: When good safety systems go bad,” authored by Phil La Duke, which serves as a valuable educational piece by outlining seven such common challenges of safety programs. Below, we summarize La Duke’s seven common challenges of safety programs, and discuss the ways in which technology can empower safety professionals to avoid each.

Challenge #1: Lack of vision

As the first item on his list, La Duke discusses the failure to define and share a vision of what success means within the safety team, beyond simply a low injury rate. However, experience with our customers would suggest that safety managers often do a great job of creating a shared vision for the safety team! The challenge is the frequent interruption of this vision by a lack of buy-in from external constituents, such as an absence of management commitment further up the chain, budget cuts and difficulty operationalizing safety initiatives.

While technology cannot create vision, it can help to develop a cultural focus on data and information within the safety team. By becoming information-centric, safety professionals are empowered to articulate safety initiatives and the value of those initiatives in ways that are meaningful to constituents in other areas of the organization, thereby eliminating some of the roadblocks to the shared vision of success.

Challenge #2: An over focus on tactics

The author uses the word “tactics” to refer to those mundane tasks – recordkeeping, tracking training, etc. – that eat up hours of a safety professional’s day. By automating these tactics, technology can help buy back that time (and headspace!), so that it can be spent on more valuable and strategic issues. With the tactics churning along automatically, and more brainpower focused on strategy, how could the safety program not be significantly strengthened?

Challenge #3: Lack of change management expertise

Improving safety often entails changing the way things are done. As any experienced professional knows, change is hard – which is why there is an entire industry of change management experts. Safety professionals are expected to lead such change, without concrete expertise, so of course this is a common area of challenge for safety!

One aspect of this challenge is in changing the way a process is performed and data is collected. By automating a process, the technology can enforce that the process, and associated data collection, be performed differently this week than it was last week.

Challenge #4: Lack of measurements

In this section, the author focuses on the importance of ongoing measurement of progress in order to achieve efficiency. We certainly agree with any statement that trumpets the importance of measuring progress, in order to enable the achievement of continuous improvement. With software embedded into the processes of the safety team, all of that collection and interpretation of data happens automatically, making it easy to understand where to focus resources in order to achieve efficiency throughout the safety department.

However, La Duke also chalks up poor safety performance to poor overall organizational performance. This is a powerful statement if it is true (any evidence?), but it is also fraught with complication. By blaming poor safety performance on larger organizational issues – and presenting no suggested solutions to this problem – he implies that any safety professional working in a less than perfect organization is seemingly powerless to create success.

Challenge #5: No return on investment

La Duke makes the argument that, up until a few years ago, the safety function developed under conditions of rarely having to prove its value – now that budgets are considerably tighter, however, that tune is changing, and the safety function is feeling the challenge of proving ROI.

The reality seems to be that performing safety responsibilities while simultaneously articulating the ROI of those initiatives is like having two jobs at the same time. By facing the expectation to prove ROI, safety professionals are once again being asked to show expertise in an unfamiliar area. Technology can help with this challenge in two ways. Firstly, software is ideal for measurement, quantification, and dealing with large amounts of data in order to demonstrate value – so it can handle all of the number crunching for you. Secondly, by automating many of the time-consuming “tactics” (as previously discussed), technology can free up more time to focus on heftier challenges, such as proving ROI.

Challenge #6: Excessive complexity and bureaucracy

The safety function often looks to external participants in order to execute successful safety initiatives. La Duke offers the example of supervisors tasked with observing their employees performing their jobs and reporting useful information back to the safety function – and he notes that it is unlikely that such participation will happen reliably.

Ultimately, this challenge is about demonstrating the value of the initiatives in terms that will speak to those individuals outside of the safety function – a frequent corporate conundrum for anyone trying to achieve cross-functional participation. For example, while the goal of keeping injury rates low might be motivational to a safety professional, a non-safety supervisor will be more interested in participating in an initiative if the goal is articulated as improving their team’s productivity.

While technology cannot directly motivate individuals to participate, it can help to communicate the value of safety in different ways, as discussed in point one of this article. Because software can quickly and easily analyze large data sets, it can enable safety professionals to show value from many different perspectives – arming them with plenty of quantifiable data to help encourage non-safety individuals to participate in safety initiatives.

Challenge #7: Insufficient leadership commitment

La Duke closes the article with the common challenge of lack of commitment at the leadership level to driving the change necessary for safety to become part of the culture throughout the organization. We completely agree with this final point that leadership commitment is necessary for safety to truly succeed at an organization – and, unfortunately, technology cannot create success on its own without such commitment! However, investment in safety technology can be a show of commitment to the success of the safety function.

With so many moving parts involved in the responsibilities of the safety team, there are innumerable areas in which things can go wrong and failures can occur. Steering clear of these pitfalls before they happen is ideal, and, while the expertise of the safety leader is what ultimately makes a safety organization great, technology can enable the organization to avoid common challenges and help to achieve success.


Spotlight on Norm Shaw

Congratulations go out to LAI consultant, Norm Shaw, who has been promoted to Senior Enterprise Managing Consultant!

Norm has worked in the construction and real estate industry for over 30 years. He became a CPA in 1991, and brings knowledge of all aspects of construction and real estate. Prior to becoming a Timberline consultant, he worked for a general contractor, a specialty contractor, real estate developers, property managers and a homebuilder. While working for the homebuilder in 1993, he converted their accounting to the first available Windows-based version of Timberline and loved it so much he became a consultant in 1997. He is certified by Sage in construction, project management and real estate.

Norm’s passion is to help you solve your process and accounting problems with the proven and effective tools provided by Sage.

Residing in Colorado, Norm is taking advantage of over 10 feet of snowfall this winter and is out skiing every chance he gets!

 


SAVE the DATE – LAI’s 2nd Annual Tech Day

It is almost time for the Second Annual Ledgerwood Associates Tech Day event! Last year’s event was a great success and we plan to raise the bar for 2014!

Here is what an attendee said about Tech Day 2013: “I am a hands on person, and I like to “see” what is available, and Tech Day was a perfect gateway to “see” and gain an understanding of these products.”

Date:

April 30th

Location:

FireSky Resort & Spa (A Kimpton Hotel)

4925 N. Scottsdale Rd. 85251

More details to follow next month…


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Let Your Software Help During the Construction Boom

Sage 100 Contractor is chock full of useful and time saving tools! Consider implementing (or fine-tuning) the following features:

  • Track vendor and subcontractor insurance certificates (also good for tracking contractor license expirations and annual subcontractor agreements).
  • Prepare fully executable subcontract agreements from within the system, whether each subcontract is a complete, free standing agreement, or a short form work order pursuant to an annual (or multiple year) subcontract agreement. Include a prefilled application for payment form with the subcontract or work order.
    Prepare complete and effective purchase orders to ease materials purchasing and subsequent payables processing.
  • Use Document Management to prepare and track in one place
    • Requests for Proposals
    • Requests for Information
    • Transmittals
    • Submittals
    • Daily Field Reports
    • Punch Lists
    • Project Correspondence
  • Consider using Scheduling to plan work and keep all subcontractors, staff, and clients apprised of project status. When subcontractors and staff know when they are expected to complete their work, their satisfaction improves and subs in particular may be more willing to work with you. Profits tend to improve drastically when projects are completed timely.

Your friendly Certified Consultant can help you put these tools to good use!

More about Sage 100 Contractor here. Call Ledgerwood Associates, 1-877-918-8301 today and we’ll match your needs to the best solution.

Submitted by Walt Mathieson, walt@mathiesonconsulting.com, Ledgerwood Sage 100 Consultant


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Battling Reports “Monsters”

Among the most important aspects of having powerful accounting software like Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate are the reporting capabilities. The ability to store huge quantities of diverse data is significant, but the true value is in the ability to provide timely, accurate and often critical information to decision-makers at every level throughout the organization to support them in their work. To this end, Sage 300 CRE comes installed with literally hundreds of reports that fit most of the management and financial reporting needs of construction-type operations. Many companies, however, have preferential reporting needs and end up adding a myriad of custom reports to the host of canned reports already present in their reports menus. Over time, as users come and go, reporting needs change, and custom reports accumulate, the beginnings of a reports monster can emerge.

You can tell you have a reports monster living in your system when you spend precious time searching for the right report, don’t know which reports in your system are custom and which are canned reports, or receive error messages when you try to launch certain reports. Here are some tips for keeping a reports monster at bay:

  • Don’t mix custom reports with canned reports in the reports menus. When adding custom reports to a reports menu, use a menu group that is separate from the menu groups installed with the system. A menu group such as “Custom Reports” can be easily added just by typing the name into the Menu Group field in the Reports Manager window. Reorganize existing menu groups simply by using the Reports Manager to change the menu group for a custom report, but be sure you’re not changing the menu group of a canned report!
  • Use the Print button in the Reports Manager to help identify which reports are custom and which are canned. As a best practice, custom reports should be stored in a folder separate from the reports installed with the system. In any application’s Reports Manager, the location of the report designs can be viewed by clicking the Print button. The resulting report will show you the menu group (sub-menu) under which the report can be found, the title of the report, the type of design, and the report design name. For report designs not stored in the default reports location, the path to the report design will preface the name of the report design. For an all-out reports cleanup project, print the reports lists to .txt files for each Sage 300 CRE application, and then import the lists into Excel so that you can note which reports need to be moved, retired, updated, etc.
  • Error messages can appear when the system can’t locate a report design. Report designs created by in-house users are sometimes stored outside of the recommended location for custom reports. If the designs get moved or are not included in a server migration, the tip above can be used to find the last known location of the design so that it can be moved to the proper folder and relinked in the Reports Manager.

Submitted by Kyle Zeigler, Sage Certified Consultant


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Delay of the ACA Health Care Mandate for Some Employers

Employers that have 50 to 99 full-time employees or full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) now have a one-year reprieve, until 2016, to comply with the employer “play or pay” mandate. This delay is small — but significant — for those affected. It’s part of the 227-page final regulations regarding the employer mandate, which were released by the U.S. Treasury Department on February 10. (You can find the information in section 4980H of the Internal Revenue Code in the “shared responsibility” segment.)

Basics about “Play or Pay”

Under the Affordable Care Act, there is a shared responsibility mandate that imposes a penalty on a “large employer” if it does not offer “minimum essential” health insurance coverage or if one or more of its full-time employees obtains a premium tax credit to help purchase health coverage. The employer mandate applies to for-profit companies, not-for-profit organizations and government entities.

If your company falls into the 50-to-99 employee category that was given a reprieve to 2016, the delay may be good news, but your business is still required to take action, as described below.

Note: Employers having fewer than 50 FTEs were not required to comply with the play or pay mandate in the first place.

Here’s what you need to know, as well as possible responses.

Although employers in the 50-to-99 employee/FTE bracket won’t be subject to the mandate until 2016, they will be required to certify their eligibility for the delay. Also, employers with more than 100 FTEs are not permitted to trim their workforces simply to qualify for the mandate delay.

The IRS has left the door open to pushing back the mandate for larger employers as well. “As these limited transition rules take effect, we will consider whether it is necessary to further extend any of them beyond 2015,” the Treasury Department stated.

2015 Coverage Standard Lowered for Larger Employers

While the 100 and above full-time/FTE worker employers will still have to meet the mandate in 2015, they will only be required to offer coverage meeting minimum standards to 70 percent (versus the original 95 percent requirement) of full-timers, and their dependents. That threshold will jump to 95 percent in 2016 and later years.

In the original proposed regulations, employers needed to determine whether they are large enough to be subject to the mandate based on a calculation of their entire prior year’s payroll. The idea was to make it hard for employers to manipulate their employee roster to dodge the mandate. But under the less stringent final rules, employers with at least 100 employees (that is, those for whom the mandate takes effect in 2015) can choose any consecutive six-month period to use for that determination.

Also, the six-month consecutive “look-back” period can begin as early as the first day of the plan’s fiscal year, even if this begins after the calendar year. The IRS may offer similar relief to the smaller employer in that 50 to 99 employee bracket in 2016.

In 2015, the lower standard “may help employers who, for example, may offer coverage to employees with 35 or more hours, but not yet to the fraction of their employees who work 30 to 34 hours,” according to a fact sheet issued by the Treasury Department.

Delay in Dependent Coverage Requirement

The original requirement that employee dependents also be covered in 2015 was pushed back to 2016, “as long as the employer is taking steps to arrange for such coverage to begin in 2016,” states the Treasury Department fact sheet.

The final rules clarified whether certain categories or workers will be considered full-time or not. Two examples:

  • Seasonal employees: Those in positions for which the customary annual employment is six months or less generally will not be considered full-time employees.
  • Volunteers: Hours contributed by bona fide volunteers for a government or tax-exempt entity, such as volunteer firefighters and emergency responders, will not cause them to be considered full-time employees.
    The final rules also addressed the treatment of educational employees, student work-study employees and adjunct faculty members.

Independent Contractor Requirements

Additional highlights of the final rules:

  • If you pay for the services of independent contractors, the IRS will decide whether it agrees with your classification of those individuals as independent contractors as opposed to employees based on common law alone — not safe harbors applicable to employment tax requirements. The purpose of this scrutiny is to prevent companies from misclassifying individuals as a way to avoid the need to provide health coverage.
  • The final regulations feature a new rule applicable to employers that secure workers via staffing agencies. Employers will only be treated as meeting their shared responsibility requirements if the staffing company employee working for the employer is covered by a health plan offered by that agency, and the fee paid to the staffing agency is higher than it would have been had the agency not provided health coverage to the individual.

Where does all of this leave you as an employer? If you have 100 or more employees, you’ll have to move forward with plans to comply with the mandate in 2015. If your company fits into the 50-to-99-employee size bracket, it might be tempting to just forget about it for now. Then, in a year or so, refocus on the issue, and survey the regulatory landscape before making any changes.

Keep in mind, however, that you are probably in the same labor market as some of those big employers in your area that will be subject to the mandate in 2015. This is why it might make more sense to stay in sync with those larger companies if possible. This could help you remain competitive when you need to expand your workforce.

Submitted by Bryan Eto CPA, CCIFP, Shareholder Accounting and Assurance Services Beto@beachfleischman.com