Newsletters Promote Dynamic News

 

Whether you want to showcase your company, support marketing, inform stakeholders or announce a new product or service, a newsletter – be it digital or in print – is a great way to provide updates to your clients, prospects, employees and other audiences.

A newsletter is vibrant and current. It includes topics, photos and graphics to distinguish your brand and interest your readers. Articles can be short, descriptive briefs to in-depth features, and headlines alone often can tell a story.

Because a newsletter is varied and attractive, it can generate a positive image, distinguishing your company from the competition. For employees, a newsletter educates them about their own company and becomes an interactive communications tool.

Topics Run the Gamut, Appealing to a Variety of Stakeholders
Every business has news to share! Your newsletter can feature a mix of pieces on some of the following topics:

• New products or services
• Industry trends
• How-to and advice columns
• Company and industry events
• Positive company results (this makes everyone happy!)
• Employee updates, such as new hires and promotions
• Features on employees who are experts in their fields and those who have direct contact with your customers and prospects
• Community service
• Even highlighting challenges shows the integrity and honesty of a company and its resilience to address issues and progress.

DIY
If you have creative people on staff with design and writing experience, you can do-it-yourself, as long as team members have time and are committed. Newsletters need to be current, so plan timing accordingly – monthly, bi-monthly, weekly briefs or four-page quarterlies. A consultant may help if you decide to go in-house, to get started. Your in-house team will require at least one writer and designer as well as a production coordinator.

Beyond employees’ time to produce the newsletter, disseminating the finished work is paramount, to effectively reach your audience through online tools and/or print distribution channels.

Digital Tools Make Dissemination Easy
Programs like Constant Contact, MailChimp and others enable you to distribute digital newsletters with ease as well as maintain segmented target lists and evaluate the results, including the open rate. In addition, consider posting the newsletter to your website as it will keep your site dynamic.

Outsourcing Content and Design
If you outsource the process, find experts who will spend the time to learn about and understand your organization and the image/brand that needs to be communicated. Newsletter content is most interesting when it includes interviews of individuals and quotes that reflect the energy and inspiration of your team. The designer will develop the look and feel to align with the individual company brand and work with the writer to name the newsletter and prepare the masthead. Writing style and design are critical, as newsletters are complex and unique, unlike any other marketing or collateral project. Fees will vary, depending on length, size, and outside expenses.

The same newsletter created for online dissemination becomes a powerful print piece as well. Newsletters look great on a conference table, in the lobby, at the concierge desk or in the waiting area. They are also attention grabbers when they arrive in the mail.

Once You Start, You Can’t Stop
Once you publish your first newsletter, sometimes even before it’s distributed or printed, you will find yourself thinking about the next one! As you go through your workday, speaking with your staff, clients and prospects, you will find ideas and concepts – messages to convey and trends you observe. Be sure to save them and you are well on your way to the next edition!

Please reach out to me with any newsletter questions at caryl@caryl.com or 201-796-7788.

NOTE: The original version of this piece appeared on the Caryl Communications blog in April 2014.

Forensic Accounting Catches Fraud and Exposes White-Collar Crimes

WHITE-COLLAR CRIMINALS ARE always looking for new ways to steal time and money, but forensic accountants are catching many of them in the act, assisting clients and protecting their assets. Here are some case studies that show how CPAs are finding the crooks and uncovering their clandestine activities.

Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP
By Robert Sprague, MBA, MSA, CPA, Partner, Forensic, Litigation & Valuation Services

Fraud within the procurement function of an organization can be costly and is often difficult to uncover. Typically, the perpetrator has found a way to circumvent existing controls, which allows the fraud to go undetected. When a company suspects that a fraud has occurred, it must act quickly to minimize any losses. Recently, a client contacted us when they suspected an employee was exploiting his senior role in procurement to purchase personal items. Our specialists quickly preserved important electronic evidence, including performing a forensic image of the subject’s laptop. Once we identified the fraudster’s primary scheme of electronically altering invoices to disguise the nature of purchases from legitimate
company vendors, our forensic data preservation sealed the case. We were able to use metadata captured on the fraudster’s laptop to obtain important, forensically preserved evidence showing the invoice alteration that we provided to law enforcement for prosecution.

BDO USA LLP
By Gerard M. Zack, CPA, CFE, CIA, CCEP, CRMA, Director, Advisory Services

Digital evidence has become key in detecting and investigating fraud. A mid-size wholesaler recently discovered a discrepancy in inventory after attempting to reconcile a physical count with the company’s accounting records. Management assumed one or more employees must be stealing inventory, but the amount of the discrepancy was quite large, so BDO was called in to investigate. Once we extracted the electronic data from the company’s accounting and inventory management system, we uncovered an entirely different type of fraud scheme. Nobody was stealing inventory (at least not in the amounts suspected). Instead, an employee in the accounting department had set up a shell (fake) supplier in the company’s purchasing system and paid this company thousands of dollars for “inventory” that was coded in the system in a manner designed to commingle it with real
inventory—but the funds were actually being deposited in a bank account controlled by the employee.

Citrin Cooperman
By Michael Napolitano, CPA, Partner

Our client’s bookkeeper had control over all aspects of banking, including check writing, receiving payments, making deposits and recording transactions. As part of Citrin Cooperman’s internal controls review, we asked to meet with the bookkeeper to assess his responsibilities and discuss implementing some separation of duties. The bookkeeper was repeatedly unavailable so, with the owner’s permission, we came without notice on a weekend to review the books and records. We immediately discovered that the bookkeeper was writing unauthorized checks to himself through QuickBooks, cashing the checks, then changing the checks to actual vendors so the owner would not detect the fraud—more than $17,000 was stolen within 18 months. We advised the owner about reparation options, as well as future fraud prevention controls. Separation of duties was one simple remedy; we advised the owner to personally review online transactions on a weekly basis, and review bank statements each month.

(cont.)

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

 

“I’ve about had it!” yelled Diane at her business partner of 10 years. “I don’t think I can trust you anymore. First you take extra money out of the business without communicating with me which was our agreement. For the last few months you haven’t been putting in any time and effort. I’ve been making the sales and directing the employees. And now because you don’t know a lot of what’s going on, you’ve botched up a relationship with a great client.”

Ted her partner replied, “Well you know that I put in more money than you to get this thing started, so I should be able to take money when I want and keep my schedule as flexible as I want.”

Diane glared at her partner. “We addressed that in our shareholder agreement. I know I’m the minority partner, but that doesn’t mean you can walk all over me and not keep the other promises we made to each other.”

So the arguments increase as partners who started out in alignment with one another’s goals, values, work ethics, and motivations have now have drifted apart. As the minority shareholder what can Diane do?

Richard Lambert and Jeri Quinn are co-founders of The Business Divorce Institute which addresses this question. Jeri asks Richard these questions that might help Diane make some decisions.

Jeri: With apologies to Neil Sedaka, is breaking up (a business partnership) hard to do?

Richard: It’s harder than divorcing a spouse, but easier than many business owners think it is.

Jeri: Why is that?

Richard: In business divorce cases, unlike matrimonial divorce, there’s no such thing as a no-fault divorce. Neither Diane nor Ted can just walk into Court and request a “business divorce”. In this case either Ted or Diane would need to file a case for “involuntary dissolution” of the corporation.

Jeri: Isn’t that essentially the same as dissolving a marriage in a matrimonial case?

Richard: No, because the shareholder asking for dissolution must show a basis for a court-ordered dissolution. There are three grounds for dissolution in the New Jersey Oppressed Minority Shareholder Act, but the one that we most often see invoked in the case of a corporation having 25 or fewer shareholders is (to quote the statute) “the directors or those in control have acted fraudulently or illegally, mismanaged the corporation, or abused their authority as officers or directors or have acted oppressively or unfairly toward one or more minority shareholders in their capacities as shareholders, directors, officers, or employees”.

Jeri: That’s a mouthful! But do I understand correctly that the protections of the statute extend only to “minority shareholders” like Diane?

Richard: Yes, but any owner holding 50% or less will qualify as a minority owner.

Jeri: Ok, but it seems like it would be difficult for Diane to satisfy the requirements of this law.

Richard: You might be surprised to learn that, in our practice, most minority shareholders like Diane who consult with us qualify for the protections of the law.

Jeri: But doesn’t “dissolution” involve the shutting down of the business? Wouldn’t that be economically wasteful if the business were a going concern?

Richard: I have two responses to that. First, it is threat of dissolution, or mutually assured destruction, that brings both parties like Diane and Ted to the negotiating table, seeking a negotiated resolution of whatever problems are going on inside the business. Second, the Court is not required to dissolve the corporation. If the Court considers it fair and equitable to all parties under all circumstances of the case, the Court may order one of the shareholders to sell to the other shareholder(s) at a fair price.

Jeri: I see, so it’s the threat of dissolution that gets the parties to settle.

Richard: Exactly. And not only that, the whole judicial process in New Jersey is geared to forcing the parties to a settlement. In most cases, the Court orders that the parties submit to mediation with a third-party neutral. That’s why 98% of these commercial cases settle.

Jeri: And how do these cases typically settle? What options exist for Diane and Ted to settle this mess?

Richard: They are basically five ways that two partners can legally effectuate a breakup.

You buy out your partner;
Your partner buys you out;
You “split up” the business, meaning that each of you takes a portion of the business, usually with some financial adjustment or “settle-up”, since the two portions are rarely of equal value.
A sale of the business by both partners to a third party; and
Dissolution and liquidation of the company.
Of course, there can be multiple variations on each of these themes, so I guess you could say, with apologies to Paul Simon, “there must be 50 ways to leave your lover!”

Jeri: And that sounds like a great subject for our next blog!

Richard Lambert, Esq and Jeri Quinn, CBC, are co-founders of the Business Divorce Institute…

From the Battlefield to the Boardroom: Lessons from the U.S. Navy Seals Teams

FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL TEAMMATES Leif Babin and Jocko Willink established leadership consulting firm Echelon Front, and are the co-authors of Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, which offers leadership lessons from the battlefield that can be applied in the boardroom. In this exclusive interview with COMMERCE, Babin and Willink discuss how to build high-performance teams, the characteristics that make a successful leader and why leadership is critical to success in every business.

Retired Navy SEAL Officer Leif Babin was deployed three times to Iraq and served 13 years in the U.S. Navy, including nine as a Navy SEAL. Officer Babin served as SEAL platoon commander in SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser. During his last tour, he served as an Operations Officer and Executive Officer of a SEAL Team where he once again was deployed to Iraq with a Special Operations Task Force. He is the recipient of the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. He remains a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Q. What sets your leadership training apart from other companies that teach best practices?

A. What we teach is not theory; it’s hands-on, practical and experience-based training developed from what works and what doesn’t. Combat is just life amplified and intensified. What works on the battlefield works throughout the business world. At Echelon Front, we use principles we’ve learned on the battlefield that translate to any organization. People learn best practices from us, and they know that something that works for a SEAL team can certainly work for them.

Q. What strategies do you teach in your book to build high-performance, winning teams?

A. The underlying principle of our book, Extreme Ownership, is on a mindset of responsibility and accountability. Rather than cast blame on other members of the team, “extreme ownership” requires that you look in the mirror and say to yourself, “How can I lead my team better? I need to own everything in my world and everything that affects my vision.” Once a leader has a mindset of extreme ownership, that attitude and tone will translate throughout the organization and create a culture that exhibits ownership, does not make excuses and acknowledges failures so that they can come up with solutions.

Q. What would you say are the core characteristics that make a strong, successful leader?

A. Humility is certainly one of them. Someone who exhibits extreme ownership will display humility. This involves having the discipline to do the right thing, focus and not make excuses. A successful leader is also someone who is proactive. That’s a huge part of extreme ownership. On the battlefield, your default setting is aggressive, which means “in pursuit of the mission.” In the business world, proactive is a better term. Someone who exhibits extreme ownership is going to be proactive in figuring out problems that may arise and already have a plan in place to overcome those obstacles and accomplish the mission.

Q. What are the most important lessons from your time as a SEAL that you apply each day to your professional and personal life?

A. Leadership is the most important thing on the battlefield and in business. When I was a SEAL platoon commander during the Battle of Ramadi, if my platoon did not do what they had to do, I couldn’t just blame it on them. If my machine gunner did not understand his field of fire, that is because I did not do a good enough job explaining it to him. It’s really that attitude that enables SEALs to succeed and directly translates to any position. If you are taking the time to train, mentor and help people grow to do the job they need to do, then you are going to be successful. There are always a few people out there who are not going to be able to perform up to speed. In this case, it’s ultimately the leader’s decision to make that tough call to terminate that person, and find someone else who will be able to do the job.

Q. Can you please discuss split-second decision-making?

A. With split-second decision-making, you’re under a lot of pressure and you must prioritize and execute. This involves taking a step back from your immediate emotional reaction, and determining the highest strategic priority. Once you’ve done this, you can make your decision and disseminate it. This will enable your team to get its wheels turning to execute and move on to the next priority. *** Retired Navy SEAL Officer Jocko Willink spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy SEAL Teams, starting as an enlisted SEAL and rising through the ranks to become a SEAL officer, eventually being named commander of SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser during the Battle of Ramadi. The Unit went on to become the most decorated Special Operations Unit of the Iraq War. Officer Willink was awarded a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq.

Retired Navy SEAL Officer Jocko Willink spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy SEAL Teams, starting as an enlisted SEAL and rising through the ranks to become a SEAL officer, eventually being named commander of SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser during the Battle of Ramadi. The Unit went on to become the most decorated Special
Operations Unit of the Iraq War. Officer Willink was awarded a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq.

Q. How does leadership in business compare to leadership in combat?

A. I think that while the stakes are not as high in business because it’s not life or death, they are still huge. Often people in business have hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars at risk. They are responsible for employees. People are relying on individuals in leadership positions to make the right decisions so they can pay their mortgage and feed their families. You are not dealing with lives, but livelihoods. In business and in combat, you are trying to get a team to accomplish a mission.

Q. What defines quality leadership?

A. You need to be aggressive and assert yourself but, at the same time, you cannot be overbearing. You need to ensure that your subordinates are comfortable enough to talk to you, present issues to you and disagree with your plans. You need to be confident in feeling you can get the mission done but, at the same time, you cannot be cocky. You must remain calm, but you cannot be robotic. Being able to balance this dichotomy is probably the most important core characteristic of being a successful leader.