While we’re almost positive the SEC can't manipulate time, it’s certainly odd how clocks seem to quicken their pace as a filing deadline approaches. Tick, tock, tick, tock, as beads of sweat trickle down your forehead and nights stretch into days, reminding you of all those cram sessions from your undergrad years.
So what’s a fine, upstanding SEC filer such as yourself to do when all you want is to file on time and accurately without self-induced heartburn, insomnia, and occasional panic attacks? Well, we’re glad you asked because Embark has a few best practices that promise to make life much easier as those SEC deadlines approach. In other words, cool those jets and take a deep breath because just a handful of impactful ideas can collectively be an extremely effective remedy for your SEC filing woes.
Choose the Right Software
Today’s marketplace isn’t lacking for variety in digital solutions that can be quite effective when chosen and implemented properly. That notion, of course, echoes the initial hurdle that all companies must leap to find solutions that speak to their needs, whether for SEC filing issues or anything else affecting operations -- you must begin with a thorough understanding of what you want and need in a software solution.
Granted, every company is different and has specific issues that impede efficiency when deadlines approach. However, it’s fair to say that effective communication between various team members, teams, and departments is a critical and common factor between most firms preparing an SEC filing. Therefore, software should be comprehensive but cohesive, bridging geographical and informational gaps to create consistency and focus across an enterprise. Otherwise, a splintered approach that fails to form such bridges is a likely culprit in amplifying stress and squeezing time as a filing deadline nears.
Remember, software should simplify and improve key procedures while preparing an SEC filing, not provide yet another impediment to the process. Aside from enhanced communication, look for these specific traits in software platforms that will provide significant benefits when readying an SEC filing:
- Cloud-based platform for convenient access across different groups
- Limit access to certain individuals for security and properly directing workflow
- Imports from Excel
- Ability to work on spreadsheets within the platform
- Automatic linking from data sources like a cashflow workbook
Embark has found the WDesk platform from Workiva to be especially adept at hitting all of the above checkmarks and more to significantly streamline the SEC filing approach. As fond as we are of WDesk, however, always do your due diligence to find solutions that fit your needs best.
Aside from software, don’t forget that you already have some extremely useful resources at your disposal. First and foremost on this list is your audit team. Not only will your auditors determine if your numbers and disclosures are appropriate in the first place, but they can also be a significant and ongoing benefit if brought into the preparation process early.
When you keep your efforts in sync with your auditors and involve them early on with changes and new accounting issues, they can give you feedback on footnote disclosures and accounting treatment. This way, you can answer the questions before the audit starts in full force and, perhaps most importantly, will give you a good preliminary idea of the resources you’ll need throughout the process. Sufficient preparation allows you to either shift or expand those resources available to you and prevent delays in the process or bottlenecks in the workflow.
Whether you rely on your SEC reporting team to help guide you through your filing process or even bring Embark into the fold for a needed infusion of experience and expertise, those teams can provide you with industry-specific templates for required footnotes as well as a pre-made checklist based on your industry and capital structure. Once again, particularly when using Embark and our far-reaching knowledge base and skill set, such precise and targeted assistance can go a long way in reducing errors and lending the entire process a much-needed dose of efficiency.
Have a Gameplan and Start Early
Just as we said in regards to your audit team, start the process as early as possible and establish a clear game plan that includes a detailed timeline to make sure you're always on track. Begin work on the next filing as soon as your previous filing queue clears and create a continuously updated SEC filing calendar that serves as a valuable touchstone for everyone involved.
Likewise, clearly communicate pending deadlines to your team along with the dates you will need particular items for the filing. A shared Excel document or, as previously discussed, an integrated and communicative software platform like WDesk from Workiva can help distribute information regarding everyone’s assignments and due dates. While you will always have to input smaller details at the end of the process and exhaustively check the final document, this efficient approach will provide you a tremendous foundation once it’s time to create the draft for your filing.
As discussed, highly efficient firms maintain detailed closing schedules and a granular list of reporting responsibilities that, collectively, keep everything running smoothly, and clearly delegate roles and tasks. These shared spreadsheets provide a centralized fulcrum from which all involved people and responsibilities pivot, significantly improving the quality of that ever-important final filing document.
Also, make certain you stay abreast of any changes to the board along with any transactions expected to close before issuing the financials. This is another point your SEC reporting director will surely appreciate as familiarity with such transactions will help the reporting team quickly and efficiently disclose them without a last-minute rush that often breeds mistakes and anxiety. Similarly, emphasize efficient and productive cross-departmental communication along with periodic status checks to minimize unwelcome surprises, keep you on track, and eliminate the need for manic all-nighters in a rush towards the finish line.
Maintain a Macro Perspective
As you already know, SEC filing deadlines are extraordinarily important and nothing to take lightly. Use an effective software platform like WDesk to your advantage along with your audit team and other available resources early and often on the road to SEC filing nirvana. Also be sure to take a moment and reflect on the process every quarter to further develop procedures that will continue to lend new efficiencies in the future
And as always, your friends here at Embark are on the ready to dig in and inject our formidable experience and expertise wherever and whenever you need us along the way. Between our team of experts and the discussed best practices in your front pocket, there’s simply no reason to lose another wink of sleep over an SEC filing. Pinky swear.