School Accounts

Advantages of Outsourcing Financial Reports

When reviewing the accounts operations in your school there are two general options to go with – bring it all in-house and employ staff suitable to the job, or outsource part of the accounts to a company or person who provides school financial services.

There are the usual risks and pitfalls of employing staff – the cost of paid leave and other benefits, getting the wrong fit for your organisation, not having the skill set required for all accounting functions, office space/equipment required to house them onsite, the distractions they face everyday, and so on.

Here are some reasons why schools tend to outsource some or all of these functions:

  • Economy: The service becomes an accounts payable item rather than a payroll one. The school can claim GST on the expense rather than pay PAYE.
  • Expertise: Outsourced providers can have a whole team with many skills and strengths among them to problem solve and assist the school strongly in financial processes. They are continually upskilling, but not on your time.
  • Efficiency: Outsourced providers can focus on your accounts with no other distractions, and mistakes are rare. They already know the fastest way to handle accounts.
  • Endorse: Providers keep up with changing laws and regulations; that same expertise can also provide confidence around compliance, separation of duties, and reduction of opportunities for fraud.
  • Expand: As the school grows or change occurs, your providers can easily change their services accordingly, to expand or contract quickly. This provides flexibility that in-house staff just can’t provide.

Most of the benefits of having staff onsite can be matched with the benefits of outsourcing, especially if that provider is treated like part of your team and are great people to deal with. That ‘great to deal with’ factor can be what makes one provider stand out above the rest.

School Accounts

Reviewing your Accounting Provider

Many Boards of Trustees and Principals like to review how the accounting and reporting arrangements are going at this time of year when they are also setting budgets for the year ahead.

Regardless of whether you are anticipating change or not, here are a few good questions to think about:

1. Are we getting up to date information in good time, in order to stay ahead of financial indicators?

2. Are we getting reports the Board members can understand?

3. How did our year end process go? Did we supply auditors with all they needed ahead of time and easily meet audit deadlines? Did our annual report provider communicate well with the auditors, and in a helpful manner?

4. Are current school accounts employees well supported to work efficiently? Do they have someone to call on should transactions or events occur outside of their area of expertise?

5. Do we have management staff currently involved with finances who are overwhelmed with their portfolio?

Whether you have a business manager, school executive officer, finance accounts staff, or an outside provider co-ordinating your monthly and annual reports, the answer to these questions can help you assess the suitability of the current situation.

Looking after the Trees

Tree Care Auckland have a great article on Trees for Schools, a service they provide. Here is a snippet, and you can read the full article here…

When was the last time that your tree assets were checked?

We want you and your students to enjoy hassle-free, safe, and healthy trees. Well-maintained trees are not only safer, but they’re also an asset. They provide a free source of shade in which children can play or learn, shelter from other elements, and the connection with nature that children love.

Our structured approach, with regular site visits and the recording of the findings in our tree maintenance system, allows our clients always to know what work needs doing. It will enable stakeholders to budget for the cost, and the responsible parties to mitigate any liability.

Going Next Level (2) in the Accounts

This is an article I wrote back in May but never published at the time. Now that we are back in ‘level’ management with Covid-19 it is a good time to review the learnings from 2020 so far:

There was a lot of discussion and some good information covering how to ‘school’ in Level 2 earlier in the year. But what about the accounts office staff? How did you all fare working from home and what was the plan for transitioning to onsite work again?

In a previous article we highlighted the benefits of working remotely. Good technology, connectivity and a separate workspace at home were key elements of being successful. If you didn’t have children at home, you may have found yourself getting way more work done in a shorter amount of time without all those office interruptions that are inevitable at school!

Thinking time…
Some of you love those interuptions as they represent people whom it is most healthy to connect with. People you can help and people who help you.
But hopefully most of you got to realise there was a key ingredient working without all those interuptions under lockdown (or not working) and that is some degree of calm, thinking time, focus. There was a lot of problem solving to be done in a short time frame early on, but it was almost a luxury to be able to focus on ‘outside the box’ stuff and be part of the solution.

Whether you’ll be heading back to the office (next week?), are already there, or have arranged to keep working from home, I hope you are all able to maintain some more flexibility in the way you work, and schedule focus time into your day (deliberately).
May we never be the same again! May you put your heads together (not literally!) and discuss bringing some new strategies into the workplace. More efficiencies along with more thinking and planning time. And not taking collaboration or face to face contact for granted, even if it is with a mask!

So what are some of the specific things we are alluding to?

Focus Time – at least once a day you need breathing space to reprioritise, keep on top of scheduling type admin tasks that contribute to efficiency (and I don’t mean emails!), walk around the block to think about a problem that has several possible solutions, or just breathe and reset the mind to clear it from built up anxiety. It should be a full half hour, but 10 minutes is better than nothing!

If you get back to the office and find the day returns once again to the whirlwind of interuptions that used to dominate your day, something needs to change. Start jotting down the issues and when ready, go over your thoughts with a trusted colleague or friend to brainstorm some ideas. You cannot be efficient or retain good mental health with no focus time ever!

Meeting Time – the MOE have recommended onsite Staff meetings are minimised to be safer. If you have to meet onsite, fabulous, make them short! This forced measure has created the opportunity to change forever some bad meeting hygiene such as going on too long, hooray! As for online meetings, no doubt you’ll be working hard to keep these from drifting into sigh territory too. Apart from addressing technological issues, here has been an amazing opportunity to deliberately open up the floor for focused collaborative work.

Working Online – it may be time to review the programmes, software and even hardware being used to get the work done now that online needs to be the norm. Cloud storage and filing systems are crucial, accounting and reporting software needs to be accessible and efficient, authorisation processes need to be able to be performed online, email systems need to be robust and well managed, and of course security set high for all of these. There are a lot of good resources to help, along with courses and workshops offered.

Here are a few links to get you started…all from a great accounting firm.

Running effective online meetings…

Remote working: how to get ready…

The top 10 time wasters in your working week…

Also introducing email guru Debbie Mayo-Smith, an NZ motivational speaker who also runs all sorts of ‘do it better’ type webinars: check out her website for more options.

At School Accounts Ltd we offer a number of school specific workshops. Check out what is on offer this year here.

School Accounts

HubDoc Partners

Did you know if you are using Xero you now have access to their FREE data entry software called HubDoc?

What does it do?
It takes all your bills and receipts, and once set up properly HubDoc automatically uploads these into Xero draft purchases, ready to be reviewed and approved. This is a very efficient way to reduce data entry time (and human error) and get the source document attached to the transaction in Xero. This eliminates unnecessary filing and keeps even the auditors happy.
We’re HubDoc experts…
Give us a call today if you would like to get started from April 2020. We can provide training and set up.

School Accounts

Remote Possibilities

We’ve Always Been Remote…

School Accounts

…but not in a socially distant way!

In these uncertain times schools are having to adapt and embrace the remote services model.
Distance is our strength. School Accounts operates remotely from virtual offices with our team based across Auckland and beyond.

We’ve got this…
Our technology is effective and robust – We have always embraced technology and now in these unprecedented times this technology helps us ensure your business continuity. We have always used the internet, telephone and mobile office connectivity to run our business and this is second nature to us, rest assured we are here for you at all times. While traditional service providers may face the possibility of extended social distancing measures, we are already well experienced online collaborators and will continue to provide an excellent service for our clients.

Time to upskill?
School Accounts continues to hire great skills and as such as we have capacity to provide additional services for your schools – let us know and we will reach out for a discussion.
For example, it may be that your accounts staff struggle to work from home, but with just a little input from us they can be back on track in no time. We manage remote learning via Microsoft Teams, and this can be just as effective as being there in person.

Annual Report blues?
We have our clients annual reports just about all wrapped up, so if you are struggling to make deadlines we have capacity right now to help you out!