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Beyond the Pitch

SS&G Helps Entrepreneurs Make the Right Start

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SS&G, one of the nation’s largest independent accounting and business consulting firms, believes so strongly in the opportunities for startups in the technology and innovation space that the company has dedicated multi-disciplinary teams to specifically engage.

SS&G Director Ryan M. Hecht, CPA, CGMA, is a leader of the Columbus innovation and technology team.

“We are passionate about working with innovation and technology companies because we share their excitement and enthusiasm for what they do. We see them as assets to the community and future drivers of the economy,” Hecht said, “Focusing as we are, on entrepreneurial companies, allows us to understand the generalities and the complexities of the niche.”

One aspect of the SS&G focus is partnering with TechColumbus as an Expert Network provider.

“Entrepreneurial companies have very specific needs,” Hecht said. “Even though startups may have no revenue, there are always complexities.”

A typical Expert Network engagement may start with tax considerations or items as basic as setting up the company’s books and accounting procedures. Regardless of the starting point or the company’s needs, Hecht said that the sooner the entrepreneur connects for a discussion, the better.

“It’s really challenging for entrepreneurs to juggle everything,” Hecht said. “We’ve worked with about fifteen Expert Network companies now, and in every situation, it would have been better if they had contacted us earlier.”

SS&G sends a questionnaire to each entrepreneur before they meet.

“Sometimes entrepreneurs do things and don’t understand the implications of those actions. The questionnaire helps them identify issues that they might not have realized exist,” Hecht said. “Then when we meet face to face, we have a good starting point for a productive discussion about what the company wants us to provide for the up to fifteen hours of Expert Network services.”

The pro bono and reduced rates are an immediate benefit of the Expert Network program; however, entrepreneurs and service providers say that the opportunity to establish long-term working relationships between outstanding firms endures well beyond the preliminary engagement stage.

“Once startups start becoming successful,” Hecht said, “the complexities skyrocket. Revenue recognition is a challenge for technology companies. So are tax services as companies deal with local, state, and federal laws. The companies that we work with through Expert Network see the value of what we provide, and many of them continue to use SS&G services as they build out their companies. We have even helped several startups go through the process of selling to public companies.”

Whether as part of Expert Network or afterward, Hecht seeks opportunities to coach entrepreneurs on best practices.

His list starts with no accounting surprises and a clear separation of personal and business expenses.

“Set up a separate checking account for the company. Documentation is critical for any startup,” he said. “Anytime you have cash going out or coming in, you need a lot of good detail.”

Another tip is to set up the appropriate tax structuring before year-end and to anticipate tax filings and deadlines to avoid the last minute mad dash.

“One surprising thing to me,” Hecht said, “is how often entrepreneurs don’t know the timeline of when the various taxes need to be filed and it ends up being a mad rush. It shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be that way. We can help a company be prepared.”

SS&G also has extensive capabilities to support a startup as it grows and accepts external investment. The firm works closely with a startup’s legal counsel on valuation, stock issues, and due diligence.

“We think that what TechColumbus is doing is great; it is going to produce a lot of successful companies. We’ve learned a lot from them, and they from us,” Hecht said. “We are pleased and excited to be an engaged participant in Central Ohio’s entrepreneurial community.”

Although SS&G now serves thousands of clients in dozens diverse of industries across the US, the company’s roots are in Ohio, expanding through mergers, acquisitions, and business growth. Learn more about SS&G at www.ssandg.com.

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