What are you on?


Research on Iran. by Negar Mottahedeh Social M...
They might be on something...

At University, one of my Northern Irish friends used to say “What are you on?” if he heard anyone saying or saw anyone doing something he found strange. I believe he meant “what medications are you on, to make you say or do that?”

Well, today I’d like to ask my viewers the same question but in a slightly different context, namely, what social media platforms are you on?

I’m going to put a few of them, by no means all, into a poll, and please put a tick by all the services where you BOTH have an account AND use that account fairly regularly – the benchmark would be if someone you knew or an old friend tried to get in contact with you on there, could they do so and you see it and get back to them reasonably quickly, as in within a couple of weeks, say.

I have included Facebook, Myspace, Digg, Youtube and Twitter, which are largely of non-business use, and the rest are more the business networking sort of platforms, liked Linked-in, Viadeo, Xing, Ushi, Goldenline. I also included Google Latitude, which is in my view a new class of social media linking in GPS location to all the other things going on in social media. I’ve included in one line the fora of any newspaper you read that has discussion of articles where a regular crowd sometimes gathers.

Please add in comments, other than anything else you might wish to say about the relative advantages or disadvantages of these social media sites, any social platforms I’ve left off.

And please check back in after a few weeks, if you’re curious how it pans out, especially if you’re among the first to answer.

Remember – this poll has multiple tickable options, and there’s a supplemental question of how many ticks you put in – this is just so we can all see how many services our fellow internet people are using.

Which Set of Laws to Use in Real Estate Transactions?


Skärva - The country estate
Some international real estate, yesterday

This morning on social media I added the following to a discussion on the above question. Some others had given similar answers, but there were other divergent answers.

The most important jurisdiction is where the property in question is physically located. This determines whether the mortgages or charges which the lender will wish to place on the property are properly drawn up and registered.

Let’s imagine a scenario where an inhabitant of country A buys a building in country B and receives a loan to do so from country C. If Country B has law that says a resident of country A needs a permit to buy property from country B, and the person from A has bought without the permit, then in that scenario any rights that the buyer has granted the lender will automatically also not be enfoceable on the property.

Which doesn’t mean that I can’t use Country C law for the loan contract – probably you can, but in a way that also takes account of the risks and vagaries of the law in country B and also maybe even Country A.

For these things you need firms of real estate lawyers and tax accountants that are international. Not just networks, but firms where the people putting the deal together include experts from the different countries involved working in each other’s offices or working together so closely and regularly, that they may as well be in each others’ offices. Good professional international communication is the key to success in these cases, and not every firm seems able to deliver it.

Tax is also a consideration, but most of all you have to make sure that you are compliant with the laws of the place the property is. The worst things that can go wrong will go wrong if that isn’t sorted out first and foremost.

It pays to avoid the BBBs (Bargain Basement Bookkeepers)


Violent Storm Strikes Western Europe
Is a storm brewing over your books and records?

I am writing to relate a story based on true events which came to light last week when one gentleman came into one of our offices and spoke to me. To keep matters confidential, I won’t say the country – the same can happen in any country – or identify anything about this company the gentleman had – even the sector. It can happen to many sectors.

This gentleman had given his company bookkeeping and tax affairs to an outsourced book-keeper for his business in that particular country. He used outsourcing back home in his own country (I’m not saying where that is either) and he appreciated the benefit of being able to have his bookkeeping professionally handled by experts without needing to employ anyone, worry about holiday cover, etc etc.

Some time ago this gentleman had included our firm in his search, and we gave him a price entirely fair for a company with our niche in the market, that is, internationally trained people, with English, with proper quality assurance, supervision and back-up.  In other words,  a peer-reviewed, branded service tailored absolutely to the needs of West European businesses in the middle tier coming to start up in East Europe, and also very good for businesses not exactly in the middle tier and from places outside West Europe.

That means that the fee offered was not nearly as high as a Big Four service would cost, but certainly higher than a purely local service.

Now I’m not knocking the purely local services – many of them are very good, but for purely local clients as they don’t tend to be claiming proficiency in foreign languages or have the ability to engage cross-culturally with the client (a source of just as many miscommunications as the language barrier on its own). They are not a great fit with the international client, and often their cheaper price becomes a false economy as frustrations rise on both sides of the desk.

The problem in this case wasn’t lack of English – this gentleman’s chosen bookkeeper spoke English, apparently.

But she was in business just on her own. With no back-up employees, probably very little insurance, probably very few resources to turn to, and very few overheads hence enabling a price no quality firm could ever compete with. That was the price that tempted this gentleman to take her bid over mine.

But since then, it became apparent that this bookkeeper was not entirely what she seemed to be.

Neither this gentleman nor myself are qualified psychiatrists, and we could only speculate on what might have gone wrong, or been wrong all along with this person. The fact is, though, that mental illness happens in the human population. We’ve probably all had employees or acquaintances who have had a mental illness, and in a larger company they quickly get noticed by colleagues, and steps taken to look after them and safeguard the clients’ affairs. When they are on their own, no such controls exist.

Suffice it to say this lady no longer was answering emails or picking up the telephone when he was calling, and when he rang from another number she didn’t know, she put the phone down when she heard his voice – the person entrusted with his company’s books and records and processing a VAT reclaim for more money than she would normally earn in many years. As you can see, the situation is now much harder – and therefore more costly – for us to repair than if he had simply given us the work in the first place.

It simply doesn’t pay to use these Bargain Basement Bookkeepers. You know what you get if you pay peanuts, and if a price looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Article par David James et Lucia Rablova dans l’Entreprise, Decembre 2010.


Golden Charles of Praha
"Golden Charles of Praha" by Éole via Flickr

David James et Lucia Rablova de Baker Tilly Tchequie ont ecrit cette article avec Mme Valerie Malnoy de Baker Tilly France, qui est apparu dans l’edition de decembre 2010.  Nous esperons que ce contient sera interessant pour nos lecteurs francophones.

Les firmes associes de Baker Tilly sont a meme de servir des clients francophones en francais dans le plupart de la region de l’Europe de l’Est.

2010-12-08~1527@L_ENTREPRISE Rép Tchèque

Et ici vous trouverez le site de Baker Tilly Republique Tcheque en francais.

Domain names scam – what to do if affected


World Map Politic 2005 with ccTLDs - LQ version
CCTLD map from Wikipedia

You may have received e-mail (especially from Chinese and Hong Kong companies relating to .cn domains bearing your name if you didn’t register in China, but now more commonly in East Europe also) which says that if you use these people’s services they can prevent your name’s domain in that country from getting blocked.

Now this email gets sent out all over the world to addresses harvested from the internet page and chats and from usenet fora by robots, and of course the people behind the email cannot really afford to block every single domain that they are fishing for.  The one sure fire way of making sure that they do block your domain is if you respond to them, whether with threats or with asking for the help, even in terms of “what it would cost”. I suggest you only do this if you don’t want the domain really and have no intention of buying it, as if you are lucky it will lead the scammers into real cash outlay which they’ll never see any return on. I highly encourage that! Maybe some of these pests will stop it if they see that enough internet users are wise to them and don’t mind leading them up a garden path…

You can always search here on EuroDNS (in the interests of transparency that affiliate link earns 10% of anything you buy after you go there, but it shouldn’t cost you more and it’s the service I use myself) and see what the status is of all of your possible combinations of your name and the country endings or generic endings, as well as check the Whois status of all these countries, both Europe and Asia, all in one place. You will probably find that nobody has blocked your domain at all, and if you are interested in owning the domain you can block it there and then. They are ethical and I never had a problem with them that the owner didn’t solve within a week. If they are not contactable one day you can usually get them the next day. Continue reading “Domain names scam – what to do if affected”

Should your Company have a pro-forma audit?


Mostrador de um relógio Foto de Jose Goncalves
Tempus fugit - is it time for your proforma audit?

For businesses which have never been audited but which are growing up quickly to meet the audit thresholds in a year or two, you may wish to consider having your first audit done while it is still voluntary to do so, and the results, if less positive than expected, can at least be kept private.

Once your business has exceeded the audit thresholds (very typically in Europe this means for a private company about 50 employees, 5 million Euros turnover and 2.5 million Euros of gross assets, and it means 2 out of those three conditions – we just stated actually the Polish ones verbatim, (with the proviso that they also state a set PLN amount to avoid subjectivity for businesses that are on the cusp), but most countries are not far off that – even the Czech Republic which really needs much smaller thresholds)

Clearly this doesn’t apply at all to public limited companies, ie. the “S.A.”, “a.s.”, UK plc or German AG style companies which must be audited regardless of size – in some jurisdictions even if they are dormant – but for private limited liability companies most jurisdictions have size criteria like the ones just given – for Slovakia about 60% of the sizes given, so please note that this is divergent from the Czech ones, which are far too high for that country and result in proportionally fewer audits, which is a bad thing for corporate governance in that country.

While you are under the limits audit is voluntary. And you can have an unofficial audit whereby the audit comes and does for you all the normal work he would do if officially appointed, but it is only pro-forma. “Pro-forma” is Latin for something like the idea of “as if” so the auditor will work and report as if they had been properly appointed, but it is really a dry run for you. You do not appoint them as statutory auditors in the minuted general meeting, you do not have to file the report as the audit was voluntary, and you get all the benefit of the audit without the risk, and on top of all of that, I can get you these pro-forma audits for only 75% of the cost of a statutory audit, because the Firms we associate with want to promote good voluntary governance practice in the economy.

If you wait for your first audit until it is an obligatory one because you’ve outgrown the size criteria – and as we come out of the recession that will happen to some of you next year hopefully sooner than you dare hope for now – then if the auditor finds something wrong then the report of the auditor could be “modified” – I’ll do a separate article on what sorts of “modifications” exist and what they mean in accountancy speak, but it’s not good if you get one.

It will not help if you need a loan, and it will probably trigger a lot of interest on the part of the tax inspector. But you’ll have to publish it anyway, if there isn’t time to do the remedial work a good auditor should outline to you in time for your statutory deadline.

Now auditors get cajoled, encouraged in a friendly way or even outright threatened by desparate managers and owners to overlook things or change to an opinion that doesn’t match the facts, and there is nothing that can be done in those circumstances. Auditors are not generally anywhere near as afraid of their client as they are of their regulator, but more than that we are educated throughout our professional lives to be independent in our outlook, and so the only way to get out of some modified opinions is to do the remedial work the auditor recommends or make the adjustments that they recommend.

There’s no point in changing to another auditor you think will be more pliable – they must write to the old auditor and ask if there are any reasons why they cannot act. The best thing to do, if you are not sure how well your company will stand up to an audit is to have your first one a year or so before you need to. Then if the audit shows up a lot to be desired, you have a whole year to put it right and nobody will ever know because auditors are bound by confidentiality – it isn’t us who even publish our reports, it’s the responsibility of the client. The report is given to its addressee, which is always the shareholder, and some other corporate governance boards if they are in existence.

So it’s well worth thinking about, especially if your business has been growing fast and maybe has outgrown its systems.

Let us know if we can help.