December News:

On The Calendar December at The Fulcrum Group Congratulations to Steve Meek2018 Fulcrum Group Chili King!  David, Robert, Jeremy and Matthew rounded out the rest of Fulcrum's "chili masters." Check out our Events page to see some pics from our pre-holiday office fun! We'll let you know about any additional upcoming special events through our social media pages, which we'll update on our Events page as they occur. Quick links to our social media pages are accessible right from our website and in every monthly newsletter email you receive from us. If you're new to our newsletter and you'd like to subscribe, let us know.
5 Tips For IT Budgeting IT Budgeting Even small businesses should have an IT budget.  IT Budgeting is the process of allocating monetary resources to various IT expenses. These expenses could range from recurring expenses like cloud services, hardware leases, IT support agreements, and staffing to expenses dedicated to fixed-duration projects or capital hardware purchases. In some companies this is primarily an annual exercise, while other companies might demand budgets for each initiative as it arises. While IT budgets are usually developed and presented by IT managers, everyone from department heads to 3rd party IT providers could have a say as to what goes into the budget.  Or if your IT is outsourced, your IT provider should be creating and maintaining your IT budget. The activities your employees and consultants will be engaging in during the year are defined by the budget, so it’s a critical document for taking your priorities from concept through execution.   Tip 1 – Your IT Budget starts with your Technology Roadmap In last month's newsletter, we detailed the importance of having a Technology Roadmap. Business leaders should be able to look at your Technology Roadmap and your IT budget, and see how the two go hand in hand.  Your Technology Roadmap should lay out the reasons why you need particular expenses.  And your IT budget should clearly lay out the expenses that are mapped out in the roadmap.   Tip 2 – Start by reviewing your IT budget and expenses from the previous year. Make sure to capture all recurring costs like Internet service, phone service, support/maintenance agreements, warranties, cloud services (don’t forget to include cloud services from specific departments like Sales, Marketing, Accounting, and HR), etc.  Also include recurring services from IT vendors.   Tip 3 – Have a technology refresh plan. Check our guidelines for technology refresh from our August 2016 newsletter to see how often you should refresh laptops, PCs, servers, printers, firewalls, and other technology.   Tip 4 – Involve your CFO to determine the best method to purchase IT needs. (capex or opex)   Traditionally, many IT expense were capital expenses that had to be capitalized and amortized over 5 or 7 years.  Most cloud services are consider operational expenses, meaning that the full cost of the expense is written off as an expense each month.  Leases, depending on how they are structured, can be categorized as either capital or operating leases.  Another consideration is Section 179, which allows small businesses to write off up to $1M of capital expenses in one year, instead of amortized over multiple years.   Tip 5 – Don’t underbudget for IT Security. Cyber security threats continue to increase at a rapid pace.  And the costs for IT security continue to increase.  New threats mean that we need new tools to protect us.  Assess and inventory your current IT security resources.   Having a multi-layered approach to security is best practice, but don’t forget to budget some consulting dollars to help with IT security policy development and IT security solution deployment.  And, finally, make sure that you budget for tools to monitor IT security for security breaches and compromises, as well as measure the effectiveness of your IT security systems.
Last Minute Ideas:  How To Take Advantage of Section 179 Tax Benefits Before Year End Section 179 Tax Savings If you have read our September newsletter article on changes to the Section 179 tax deduction for businesses, you know that making capital purchases before the end of 2018 can have big tax savings for your business.  Below are a few quick technology purchases that can be purchased and implemented by December 31st.
  • PC Refresh – Purchasing new computers for staff can have the dual benefit of improving productivity while also providing tax benefits.
  • Storage Upgrades – Purchasing a new Storage Area Network (SAN) or Network Attached Storage (NAS) device can help prepare your business for future data growth.
  • Network Switching and WiFi Upgrades – These upgrades can improve the performance and reliability of your network.
  • UPS Battery Backup – When’s the last time you upgraded your UPS battery backups?  If you can’t remember, it’s probably been too long.
  • Firewalls – With cybersecurity becoming more important by the day, your old, antiquated firewall is probably no longer sufficient protection.
Reach out to your Fulcrum Group Account Manager to take advantage of Section 179 now!
Steve Meek Fulcrum Group Special Olympics Basketball SPOTlight On: Special Olympics Basketball The first five months of the year are Steve Meek’s favorite. During this time is when the 20 or so athletes in the Special Olympics Special Friends basketball delegation call him Coach Steve. While he enjoys playing basketball several times a week and watching his world champion Dallas Mavericks compete, nothing matches the pure excitement and dedication of his athletes getting to play basketball and compete. “There is definitely hard work as head coach to plan out practices, facilitate all communications and manage practices twice a week. But being able to pass along my love for the sport of basketball to interested athletes has been refreshing,” commented Steve. Here are some questions answered.  
  • Is being a coach similar or different than being President of the Fulcrum Group? There are similarities, in that culture starts at the top, we want to have a small set of rules we repeat a lot, practice makes perfect, you want everyone playing as one team and you want to reach every individual to help them make themselves better.
  • What you do at practices? Special Olympics Texas requires at least 8 practices prior to the two main competitions. We run various skills drills but I try to adapt them to gamify learning. These athletes learn differently so I have to be very conscious on phrases and exact meaning. Teaching is also slightly different in that I might teach a new skill right-handed only for several practices until mastered before teaching left and I find it easier for them to follow me if I face the same direction as them as opposed to teaching facing them. Scrimmaging is fun and we have some great coaches and always looking for helpers to scrimmage with the athletes . Gym access is always an issue and we currently try to get all 20 athletes in an elementary school gym but there's not always enough space and not enough goals.
  • What is the competition like? There is an Area competition in March, and State competition is usually Memorial Day weekend. There are sometimes also opportunities for scrimmages leading up to competition like the one Keller ISD started a few years back. Athletes are grouped together with like-skilled athletes using an advanced worksheet and classification process prior to actual competition. Since we have an adult team, the play can get pretty competitive and we’ve had some battles back and forth. My team has lost by one point, hit game-winner threes, played injured, shut down best players and been there for each other off the court.
  • Is there anything you do differently? Special needs athletes typically have many challenges to work through. Most struggle with social skills, they might have major health issues, be in a single parent or group home situation or even have financial problems. I mostly try to be a mentor/father figure and try to find ways to make the team sport of basketball facilitate better communication, sharing, and social skills to improve their personal life.
  • How can others get involved? Interested parties can go to and sign up to be a volunteer or coach. Special Olympics is broken up into areas and the Tarrant County area is Area 11. I also volunteer with Special Olympics as an instructor and have taught the basketball coaches training camp for the past three years, to help them get certified. Businesses can pull team members together and help at Area or State competitions as referees, working the clock, healthcare professionals or just general volunteers. High school and community delegations are always looking for volunteers to help coach, with practices or even to compete with athletes on Unified teams. And of course the delegations and Special Olympics are always looking for money to help fund their operations. One of our clients found out what I did and donated basketballs and other gear over the past couple years to help Special Friends. His son also came up and was an awesome coach for us for several seasons.
  • Any final words? There are many ways to give back. We’ve given to causes as different as Life Outreach International, America CAN Cars for Kids, Community Storehouse in Keller, Hope Center for Autism, Autism Speaks, Epilepsy Foundation of Texas and others.In owner to owner conversations with clients and fellow service providers, I have encountered many small businesses that take corporate citizenship seriously and also find great joy in giving. 
If you're interested in helping the Special Friends delegation  (a N.E. Tarrant County Special Olympics team), contact them at their Become A Volunteer page or their Become A Sponsor page Steve Meek Fulcrum Group Special Olympics Basketball   My challenge to any reader of this article, is to donate time, help or money. Whatever stresses you have in your personal life, giving seems to help make your challenges seem less and the world a better place.      
  Vistage Executive News - End of Year Strategic Planning Tips For SMBs Vistage Executive News Here at The Fulcrum Group, we are big proponents of strategic planning for your business.  We utilize Gazelle’s Scaling Up business planning process as the guideline for our strategic planning. In addition to end of year annual planning, we also meet monthly to establish and review quarterly priorities.  We utilize many of the tools available on the Scaling Up Growth Tools website. Reach out to The Fulcrum Group to receive your FREE copy of the book, Scaling Up. For more tips on strategic planning, see this article on the Vistage Network website.
Fulcrum Group Did You Know Did You Know...Leasing Options   Did you know that Fulcrum Group offers a variety of leasing options that can help you gain Section 179 tax benefits this year, while spreading your payments out up to 5 years?  Check out our Leasing Options.