...Stacey says it's our annual Fall Staff Retreat
If a friend told you about an event they'd recently attended that boasted an open and inviting atmosphere, great company, delicious food, and an exchange of engaging ideas, the first thing that might come to mind is a cocktail party, gathering of close friends or a well-sponsored business conference. What if I told you MRSB's annual staff retreat includes all of the above, and more?
Each year the MRSB Partners support a full day of focused brainstorming sessions, a three-course meal, goal setting activities, motivational guest speakers and exciting prizes for the whole staff. All of this takes place offsite in a different location each year, giving the entire staff the opportunity to step back, reflect, renew energy and focus on great things to come. In 2013 we spent a day at the beautiful Fox Meadows Golf & Country Club, and one lucky employee walked away with a trip for two to Montreal. I think it's safe to say that each of us finished the day feeling upbeat, sociable and full of ideas for the coming year.
By planning early and involving staff in adding the final touches, any business - large or small - can pull off a productive and fun staff retreat. Give it a try!
...Mary Ann says it's our Monthly Team Meetings!
On the first Friday of every month, the whole team at MRSB Group meets in our big, first floor boardroom to talk business. Well, really we just spend a half hour or so sipping coffee, munching on muffins and other snacks and updating each other on what's been happening in our respective divisions. Each division gives the team an update, and I'm responsible for sharing news about projects, clients and initiatives from the Tax team. With all the food and laughs, it feels less like a business meeting and more like a fun catch-up with friends.
I think what makes our Team Meetings so effective is that they give every individual within MRSB the chance to reconnect. There are times when projects and schedules don't allow for much interaction between divisions, departments, or even floors! But at our Friday meetings we are all together in one room, listening to everyone's success stories and reflecting on the month past. Sometimes we feature a new or current client who is expanding, has had a recent success or just has something interesting going on that we'd like to share. The Partners also update us on any new initiatives so the team is informed. The meetings include health and wellness tips from our HR Manager and information on local events and fundraisers that we'll be taking part in.
Every once in a awhile, our Admin Team surprises us with an extra special Team Meeting to celebrate a milestone or a major success. Last year we celebrated 35 years as an Island business, which earned us a decorated boardroom table full of cheese, chocolate and other treats to start our day.
I think every company with more than one division or department could benefit from a Monthly Team Meeting. In my opinion they are part of what keeps us united as a diverse group of companies.
A drizzly Tuesday morning. 7:30 a.m. Seven chilled professionals in raincoats and heels. One big white Suburban. The scene is set for what would turn out to be a surprising day for the group of MRSB staff who ventured to Halifax for Progress Magazine’s Best Places to Work awards luncheon.
As our behemoth of a rental sped down the highway, across the Confederation Bridge and pulled into Timmy’s for our first pit stop, the general mood was tepidly optimistic at best. Sure, we always enjoyed each other’s company, and Kathryn, our HR Manager, had brought along a peppy mix of pop-rock favorites to keep us seat-dancing. But our chances of coming home with the coveted No. 1 spot were only 1-in-31…not fantastic odds.
Still, there was a chance. And as we finally cruised through downtown Halifax and pulled up to the Westin Nova Scotian hotel, we felt ready for whatever the afternoon had to offer (especially the three-course lunch!). After a quick pic of our team posing inside the lobby, we made our way to the banquet hall and took our seats.
The first wave of suspicion came when we were joined by Terry Keough, Sales Manager with Progress. Cordial conversation ensued, but seeing as accountants don’t tend to beat around the bush, particularly in matters of grave importance, we cut right to the chase. ‘Do you know something we don’t?’ one of us asked with raised eyebrows. Being a seasoned veteran in this type of game, Terry replied ‘Not at all!’ He then went on to explain that the magazine takes a highly objective role in choosing each year’s Best Places to Work in Atlantic Canada. That is, the results of each nominee’s employee surveys are analyzed by a third party and, according to Terry, only two people at Progress even get to see the results before they’re announced. We settled back into our salmon and mashed potatoes.
The banquet room was festively decorated with a Hawaiian theme, and we were prompted to have a group shot taken in the onsite photo booth, leis and kooky glasses mandatory, of course. By the time we had sat back down and started dessert, they’d begun announcing this year’s winners. We should note that there were several other Island businesses present, and that for the past two years PEI has laid claim to the top spot. Our marketing officer’s fingers were furiously tweeting congratulations and updates to our legions of online fans (ok, to our 600 followers) as the list started at 31 and worked its way up.
As nice as it was to see a variety of outstanding companies walk smilingly onstage and accept their award gift, our fingers began to tremble with each forkful of chocolate mousse as we pseudo-patiently waited for our name to be called. As number 11 came and went, we began exchanging excited glances. We were at least in the Top 10!
...our fingers began to tremble with each forkful of chocolate mousse as we pseudo-patiently waited for our name to be called.
By the time Halifax Stanfield Airport’s Peter Spurway announced Provincial Credit Union as the #5 Best Place to Work, we were buzzing as if we’d all just downed a litre of Starbucks along with our meals. And then, suddenly, it was down to two…This must be what the contestants on American Idol feel like when they think Simon is going to verbally flay them but instead praises their contract-worthy warbling. Peter finally announced the runner up… Beaubear Credit Union! We were #1! After much cheering we made our way to the stage. The moment was complete as we gathered for a group photo, each of us grinning ear to ear.
Let’s just say the ride home was a bit more, um, boisterous than when we’d set out that morning. A gregarious rock song blasted from the speakers as we rattled the CBC clappers we’d received at the banquet, and Kathryn kept us all singing and jumping up and down in our seats as if we were on a school bus heading to Rainbow Valley back in ’92.
By the time we’d gotten back to the office, things were slightly more subdued. The building was quiet, everyone having gone home at the usual time. But we were thinking about what the day’s events meant to our small business, and felt lucky and honored to be recognized by our local community. We would like to congratulate ALL winners of this year’s Best Places to Work, and thank Progress Magazine, our Partners, staff and clients for giving us the chance to show what we can do as a determined small business in Atlantic Canada.
Stay tuned for our next post, which will provide some tips on how you can make your business next Year's Best Place to Work!
A few quick tips on avoiding fraud from our Bookkeeping & Reporting advisors
No one likes to think that their company will be the victim of fraud, but it does happen, causing unnecessary stress and, too often, financial hardship. While there is no way to totally protect yourself against this new and menacing ‘F’ word, there are a few simple tasks that should be performed regularly that can help minimize the risk to your organization.
Bank and credit card statements
- Statements should be opened immediately upon receipt or review via online banking. Make sure this happens on a regular basis. Check with your financial institution if you find any items, however small, that you do not recognize. A small fraudulent charge may be a precursor to a larger one.
- Where possible, the person who prepares checks and processes payments in your organization should not be responsible for reconciling bank and credit card accounts. Often just knowing that someone else will be reviewing the account can be a deterrent to fraudsters. If your staff number is small, consider outsourcing this task.
- Petty cash should be reconciled on a regular basis and signed off by a supervisor. Receipts should accompany all charges.
- Inventory spot checking is a good way to discourage internal theft and easy if you have a perpetual inventory.
- Restrict personal internet use on company computers to minimize the risk of hacking and viruses.
With the implementation of a few controls, you may be able to prevent fraud from occurring, or at least stop it before it causes greater financial loss.