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Becoming a new board member? Why orientation is an important step

Contributed by Kathleen Townshend, Consultant with MRSB Consulting Services

If you are a new board member with an organization, congratulations! You are no doubt putting your time and unique skill set toward a cause that you feel passionate about. This can be an exciting and challenging time.

Regardless of your previous board experience, receiving an orientation is a crucial part of starting your new role. Board orientation will provide you with the necessary information to prepare for your role so you feel comfortable and can maximize your contribution to the organization to whichyou have decided to commit your time. The key objectives of your board orientation should be to become familiar with the history of the organization, understand the roles and responsibilities of board members, introduce committees and volunteer guidelines, review the board material and get to know fellow board members. It is recommended that board orientation include all members (new and existing) and that it review some key areas:

HISTORY OF THE ORGANIZATION

It is important to learn the background of the organization and to highlight its accomplishments, challenges and milestones over the years. The relevant information you glean from this first step will allow you to understand the organization, what it represents (mission and values) and what the organization wants to achieve (vision and goals). Every organization is unique, meaning this part of the process can be pretty interesting.

ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF BOARD AND STAFF

You and your fellow board members have the critical responsibility to guide the organization's strategic direction, develop policies, exercise financial stewardship, select and monitor the Executive Director's performance and promote the important work that the organization does within the community. It is important that all board members understand their own role, as well as the difference between the role of the board and that of staff. As a general rule for not-for-profit organizations, the board primarily governs and the staff primarily manages. An effective board does not become involved in the day-to-day operations of the organization (however tempting this may sometimes be!).

COMMITTEES

Committees and volunteers are the backbone of a not-for-profit organization. There are several committee types (standing, operating, or task force) that the organization might have in place. You should be introduced to the committees and their purposes so you can align your interests and skill set with the committee that speaks to your personal and professional goals.

BOARD MANUAL

The board manual is an important reference guide for all board members. A review of the board manual will allow you to ask questions that did not arise during other stages of the orientation. A board manual includes several elements such as board and staff contact lists, overview of programs and services, upcoming events, recent board minutes, bylaws, board roles and responsibilities (including Executive Director), committees, volunteer orientation, strategic plan, recent annual reports and financial statements.

FUN!

Finally, the orientation session is usually the first opportunity for you to get to know fellow board members. An icebreaker (these can be especially fun) or some other activity is important to acquaint members of the group with one another.

MRSB Consulting Services facilitates board orientation workshops that include tools and checklists for your board and can be used on an ongoing basis. For more information please get in touch with a member of our Consulting Services team.

December issue of Business Matters newsletter now available

Every two months, the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada publish their Business Matters newsletter. The publication offers readers advice and information on topics around ownership and management, technology, saving money and taxation matters, and is a useful resource for professionals in many areas and industries.

The December issue discusses several topics including how owner-managers can prepare for an aging workforce, how to choose a security technology that is right for your data and what to do when your son or daughter comes to you for help with starting their new business venture.

If you're interested in reading these articles, as well as other Business Matters content, visit our News page.

How to keep your bookkeeper happy (and save some money in the process)

The ever-friendly, ever-fiesty MRSB Bookkeeping & Reporting team gives you some pointers on how you can help keep the client/bookkeeper relationship running extra smoothly, for everyone's benefit.

As bookkeepers, our goal is to provide you with useful, timely information about your business so that you are free to fulfill the important role of managing and growing your company. In short, we like to make your job easier! We realize that sometimes, though, it can sort of feel like you're working for us. So to keep everything running smoothly in the owner/bookkeeper relationship (and to back up our claim that we don't ask for anything we don't need - really!), here are several things you can do to make us happy, thus having more time for what's important to you:

  • If you have time to organize your papers before we see them, great! When they are sorted by sales, purchases, statements, even suppliers, that makes it easier for us and saves time.
  • Designate one place to keep your documents. Set up a box or file and use it. This works both when we come to your office and when you bring your files to us, and will eliminate searching for that important paper.
  • Open your mail! Did you know it is a federal offence to open someone else's mail? Don't make us do it! Seriously, though, there may be time-sensitive information or even a cheque in that envelope. 

  • It is a good idea for owners to review bank and credit card statements. There may be charges that are not business related that we may not recognize. It is also a chance to catch errors or unauthorized transactions.
  • Not all deposits are revenue. You may have made an owner's contribution or deposited a rebate from a supplier. Please provide us with your bank book or copies of the deposit slips.
  • Online banking is your friend, and ours. Have your bank set up access for you and if you are comfortable with the idea, for us as well. This saves an enormous amount of time. If you are not ok with providing us access, you can still go online and print out your statements for us long before you would receive them by mail.

  • We are all about the details. Fill out those check stubs: dates, amounts, payee and description are all important. For unusual purchases, provide an explanation. When we ask for more information it isn't just because we are curious!
  • When you receive financing, make sure we get a copy of all the loan details: interest rate, term, breakdown of payments.
  • If you have employees, we need to know more than just their names (although last names are especially handy). Most important is their SIN, date of birth, completed TD1, wage, benefits, vacation and any other entitlements.
  • If at all possible, bring documents to us up to two weeks in advance of the deadline. While we strive to make you feel like you are our one and only, we do have other clients (you are our favourite, of course).

Ultimately, these steps will enable us to process your information more easily and therefore cut down on the time it takes to do the work. This translates into savings for you on your bill (yeah!). It also saves you time by eliminating unnecessary phone calls between us and keeps everyone smiling. As a final note, if you are looking for a Christmas gift idea for your bookkeeper, we like wine and chocolate...in that order.

 

Tips on negotiating the fairest price when buying a business

Contributor: Wayne Carew, Principal & Senior Advisor with MRSB Mergers & Acquisitions

If you are new to the world of business buying, there are undoubtedly some questions running through your mind. Assuming you have some idea as to the type of business you want to purchase, you might be wondering how you will know whether you are paying the fairest price for your new venture, and how much help you may need in the process. Here are a few questions to ask yourself that should help ensure you will get the fairest deal when it comes time to make or accept an offer.

 Has the seller done a complete business valuation?

One challenge that commonly arises during the acquisition process is knowing whether the person you are thinking of buying from has had his or her business valuated by a financial professional. A proper valuation should tell the seller what their business is ‘really’ worth, leaving emotion out of the equation. It’s natural for a long-time owner to assign a number to their business based partially on the years of work they’ve put in to make it successful, but a valuator will look at the nitty gritty, suggesting a price that is fair to both seller and buyer. A mergers & acquisitions professional also understands the difference between selling a business and real estate, where you might initially ask $250,000 on a $200,000 home, hoping for a bigger payout. It’s not as easy for a seller to go back on their first price when selling a business, so the true value should be understood and accepted from the start.

Could you benefit from a vendor take-back?

It might sound like negative terminology, but a vendor take-back can actually benefit you as a buyer. This happens when the seller (vendor) provides the buyer with some of the financing for purchasing the business as part of their equity. This is often required by lenders in order to get approved. Of course, the amount of VTB depends on how motivated the seller is and his or her willingness to continue tying personal capital to the business.

How long do you want the current owner to play a role in the company?

It can often be beneficial to have the selling owner stick around for awhile, providing administrative or operations-related guidance and lending their trusted name to the brand as it undergoes its transition. Part of the price you are being asked to pay will be for what we in the business call ‘intellectual capital’, the knowledge that will be shared by the person or people who have managed the business until now. It is possible to negotiate on this element depending on how quickly you feel you can completely take the reins.

Do you have a full understanding of ‘hidden’ costs?

One of the benefits of eliciting the services of a broker or other buying and selling professional is that they take a fine-toothed comb to the business, uncovering any small expenses that might be affecting its market value. Travel costs, golf club fees and any other non-business expenses will be looked at by your broker and included in the equation that will lead to a fair purchase price for you.

There is obviously more to the process of buying a business than what’s mentioned above; it is an important decision that can set an exciting path for your future if undertaken with the right outlook and preparation. If you have questions around any aspect of buying or selling a business, please get in touch with a member of our Mergers & Acquisitions team.

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