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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, March 25, 2013, 6:20 am

Take your company’s finances in for a spring tuneup

By Jamie Williams

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    The financial year end for many companies occurs on Dec. 31, but March 31 is the time when financial year-end statements are filed. With tax season right around the corner, this is a good time to evaluate your company’s changing banking needs.

    From establishing or renewing an annual line of credit to evaluating your bank’s fraud-protection program, here are some things to consider for improving your company’s financial and operating efficiencies.

    Consolidate

    If personal and business accounts, such as checking and savings, are maintained at separate institutions, consider consolidating assets at one bank. Keeping personal and business finances under one roof can simplify everyday banking needs, starting with fewer trips to multiple banking locations to conduct business and more consistency across financial statements and policies.

    One of the greatest advantages to consolidation can come in the form of more advantageous rates or special services that your bank may provide. Some banks will allow business owners to combine personal and business assets to qualify for features unattainable with one account. Plus, it may be possible to take advantage of the expertise of business bankers, who can provide additional analysis, guidance and support with a comprehensive overview of a customer’s finances. A thorough evaluation of balances, activity, credits and fees across your accounts can help you make better financial decisions for your business and your family.

    Automate

    To help their customers focus on growing their businesses, many banks offer business online services to streamline operations and save time, money and paperwork. Payroll direct-deposit services, for instance, are a quick and easy fix to increase efficiencies and reduce staff costs. Employees have the added benefit of having pay in their accounts on payday, whether or not they’re in the office to pick up a check.

    Commercial banking online and through mobile apps has moved beyond checking account balances and bill payments to provide time-saving enhancements and features. For instance, collecting receivables no longer has to mean trips to the bank and waiting for funds availability. Certain banks now offer remote deposit services and allow customers to scan and transmit check deposits to the bank anytime, even outside regular business hours. In addition to time and labor savings, business owners can benefit from accelerated availability of funds as well as on-site control of deposits and ready access to deposit and check image data for record-keeping purposes.

    Other electronic payment services, such as Automated Clearing House (ACH) disbursement, allow business owners to initiate debits and credits without the hassle of writing, processing and wiring checks. In addition to reducing paperwork, incorporating such a service can provide greater control over funds, as account holders can maintain control of available assets until the moment they’re needed.

    Plan for growth

    Evaluate your company’s business plan for this year and consider if your company’s future financial needs can be met with your current banking partner. Make sure your bank understands your company’s industry, cash flow and capital requirements. This may mean looking into a business line of credit for short-term needs, or finding a longer-term solution to adjust for additional employees, moving to larger offices or increasing inventory to meet steady demand. Also consider if your bank’s branch locations overlap with your company’s growth plans.

    Growing and managing a business can be a challenge in the best of times. As banks make more money-saving services and features available today than ever before, consider how reevaluating your company’s banking needs can help you make the most of limited resources and keep your business on track for success.

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    Jamie Williams is a senior vice president and California commercial banking regional director at Sonoma Bank. Williams focuses on building strong commercial relationships in the San Francisco Bay Area and has more than 30 years of banking experience. He and can be reached at jamie.williams@bankwithsonoma.com.

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