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How to Make Balance Sheet Adjustments: Essential Strategies Unveiled

How to Make Balance Sheet Adjustments

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Introduction

Definition and Importance of Balance Sheet Adjustments in Financial Reporting

In this article, we’ll cover how to make balance sheet adjustments. Balance sheet adjustments refer to the process of changing entries on a company’s balance sheet to correct inaccuracies, update financial records, and reflect the true financial status of the company at the end of an accounting period. These adjustments are crucial for ensuring that the financial statements present a fair and accurate view of the company’s financial position, performance, and cash flows.

The importance of balance sheet adjustments in financial reporting cannot be overstated. They are essential for compliance with accounting principles and standards, such as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). These adjustments ensure that the financial statements provide stakeholders, including investors, creditors, and regulatory bodies, with reliable and relevant information for making informed decisions. Accurate balance sheets are also critical for effective internal financial management, enabling businesses to assess their financial health accurately, plan for the future, manage resources efficiently, and identify potential financial issues before they become problematic.

Overview of Common Scenarios Requiring Balance Sheet Adjustments

Balance sheet adjustments are commonly required in several scenarios, each relating to the need for accurate financial reporting and analysis. Here are some typical situations:

  1. Accruals and Prepayments Adjustments: These adjustments are made to reflect income and expenses in the period they occur rather than when cash is exchanged. For instance, adjusting for accrued expenses like utilities or services that have been consumed but not yet paid for, or for revenues earned but not yet received.
  2. Depreciation and Amortization: Over time, tangible and intangible assets lose value. Adjustments for depreciation and amortization ensure that the balance sheet reflects the current value of these assets and the expense of their use over their useful life.
  3. Inventory Valuation: Companies must regularly adjust inventory values to reflect the lower of cost or net realizable value, accounting for obsolescence, damage, or market price reductions.
  4. Bad Debt Provision: Adjustments are needed to account for receivables that are likely to be uncollectible, impacting the assets and expenses reported on the balance sheet and income statement.
  5. Foreign Exchange Adjustments: For companies operating in multiple currencies, balance sheet adjustments are necessary to reflect the current value of foreign currency denominated assets and liabilities due to exchange rate fluctuations.
  6. Error Correction and Revaluation: Sometimes, past transactions are recorded incorrectly, or asset values need updating to reflect their current market value. Adjustments are made to correct these errors and revalue assets when necessary.

These scenarios highlight the dynamic nature of business operations and the need for ongoing assessment and adjustment of the financial statements to ensure they accurately represent the company’s financial status. Balance sheet adjustments are thus a fundamental aspect of financial reporting, vital for maintaining the integrity and reliability of financial information.

Understanding the Balance Sheet Components

The balance sheet, one of the primary financial statements, provides a snapshot of a company’s financial position at a specific point in time. It is structured around three main components: assets, liabilities, and equity, each offering insight into the financial health and operational efficiency of a business. Understanding these components is crucial for interpreting the balance sheet and making informed financial decisions.

Assets: Current and Non-current

Assets are resources controlled by a company as a result of past events and from which future economic benefits are expected to flow to the entity. They are classified into two main categories:

  • Current Assets: These are assets expected to be converted into cash, sold, or consumed within one year or within the normal operating cycle of the business, whichever is longer. Current assets include cash and cash equivalents, accounts receivable, inventory, marketable securities, and prepaid expenses. Their liquidity and role in financing day-to-day operations make them critical for assessing the short-term financial stability of a company.
  • Non-current Assets: Also known as fixed or long-term assets, these are resources that are expected to bring economic benefits to the company over a period longer than one year. Non-current assets include property, plant, and equipment (PP&E), intangible assets like patents and copyrights, long-term investments, and deferred tax assets. These assets are crucial for long-term financial planning and represent the company’s investment in its future growth and operational capacity.

Liabilities: Current and Long-term

Liabilities represent the company’s obligations; these are amounts the company owes to others. Like assets, liabilities are divided into current and long-term categories:

  • Current Liabilities: These are obligations that are due to be settled within one year or within the normal operating cycle of the business. They include accounts payable, short-term debt, accrued expenses, and other short-term obligations. Current liabilities are important for assessing the company’s short-term financial health and its ability to meet its immediate obligations.
  • Long-term Liabilities: These are obligations that are due beyond one year. Long-term liabilities include long-term debt, such as bonds payable, long-term lease obligations, and pension liabilities. Understanding a company’s long-term liabilities is essential for evaluating its long-term solvency and financial sustainability.

Equity: Share Capital, Retained Earnings, and Other Reserves

Equity, also known as shareholders’ equity or owners’ equity, represents the residual interest in the assets of the company after deducting liabilities. It is the net worth of the company and includes:

  • Share Capital: This is the amount of money that shareholders have invested in the company by purchasing shares of stock. Share capital is a permanent form of financing and represents the ownership interest in the company.
  • Retained Earnings: These are the cumulative net earnings or profits of the company that have been retained for reinvestment in the business, rather than being distributed to shareholders as dividends. Retained earnings show the company’s ability to generate profits and retain them for future growth and expansion.
  • Other Reserves: These can include a variety of funds set aside for specific purposes, such as legal reserve, revaluation reserve, and reserve for share-based payments. These reserves reflect certain constraints or designations on the company’s equity.

Understanding the balance sheet components—assets, liabilities, and equity—provides a comprehensive view of the company’s financial health, operational efficiency, and long-term sustainability. This knowledge is fundamental for anyone looking to analyze a company’s financial statements, assess its performance, and make informed financial and investment decisions.

Preparation for Balance Sheet Adjustments

Before making balance sheet adjustments, it’s crucial to undergo a preparatory phase that lays the groundwork for accurate and effective adjustments. This phase involves a thorough review of the trial balance, identification of discrepancies and unrecorded transactions, and the reconciliation of accounts with supporting documentation.

Reviewing the Trial Balance

The trial balance is a report that lists the balances of all ledger accounts at a specific point in time, typically at the end of an accounting period. Reviewing the trial balance is the first step in preparing for balance sheet adjustments because it provides a comprehensive view of all the accounts before adjustments are made. This review helps to ensure that the total debits equal total credits, reflecting the accounting equation’s balance. Discrepancies in this balance may indicate errors that need correction, such as double entries, omissions, or misclassifications.

Identifying Discrepancies and Unrecorded Transactions

After reviewing the trial balance, the next step is to identify any discrepancies or unrecorded transactions. Discrepancies can arise from various errors, like transcription errors, incorrect ledger postings, or misclassification of accounts. Unrecorded transactions are financial activities that have not been entered into the accounting system. These can include accrued revenues or expenses, prepayments, or other financial events that have occurred but have not yet been documented in the books. Identifying these issues is crucial for ensuring that the balance sheet accurately reflects the company’s financial position.

Reconciling Accounts and Gathering Supporting Documentation

Reconciling accounts involves comparing ledger balances with other independent systems, statements, and records to verify their accuracy. For example, reconciling the bank balance in the company’s books with the bank statement can identify discrepancies due to timing differences or errors. This process helps to ensure that every financial transaction is accounted for and accurately reflected in the balance sheet.

Gathering supporting documentation is an integral part of the reconciliation process. This documentation can include invoices, receipts, bank statements, contracts, and other records that substantiate the transactions recorded in the accounts. These documents provide the evidence needed to support the entries made in the accounting records, ensuring the reliability and accuracy of the financial statements.

The preparation phase for balance sheet adjustments is a meticulous process that sets the stage for accurate financial reporting. It involves reviewing the trial balance, identifying any discrepancies and unrecorded transactions, and reconciling accounts with the necessary supporting documentation. This preparation ensures that the balance sheet adjustments made subsequently are accurate, complete, and in compliance with accounting standards, ultimately leading to reliable financial statements.

Common Types of Balance Sheet Adjustments

Balance sheet adjustments are necessary to ensure that a company’s financial statements accurately reflect its financial status. These adjustments are made for various reasons, including to account for accruals and deferrals, depreciation and amortization, inventory valuation, and bad debt provisions. Each type of adjustment addresses specific aspects of the company’s financial operations and assets.

Accruals and Deferrals

Accruals and deferrals adjustments are made to recognize revenues and expenses in the period in which they occur, rather than when cash is exchanged. This aligns with the accrual basis of accounting, which states that financial events should be recognized in the accounting periods to which they relate.

  • Accruals: These adjustments are made for revenues earned or expenses incurred that have not yet been received or paid in cash. For example, adjusting for accrued interest income on investments or accrued expenses for utilities used but not yet billed.
  • Deferrals: These involve adjusting for revenues received in advance of being earned, or expenses paid in advance of being incurred. For instance, unearned revenue from services paid for but not yet delivered, or prepaid insurance premiums that cover future periods.

Depreciation and Amortization

Depreciation and amortization are methods of allocating the cost of tangible and intangible assets over their useful lives. Depreciation pertains to physical assets like machinery, buildings, and vehicles, while amortization relates to intangible assets such as patents and software.

  • Depreciation: This adjustment spreads the cost of a tangible asset over its expected useful life, reflecting wear and tear or obsolescence. It affects the value of fixed assets on the balance sheet and allocates part of the asset’s cost to expense on the income statement.
  • Amortization: Similar to depreciation, amortization distributes the cost of an intangible asset over its useful life, impacting the balance sheet and income statement over time.

Inventory Adjustments

Inventory adjustments are necessary to account for changes in the value or quantity of inventory. These adjustments ensure that inventory is valued at the lower of cost or net realizable value, in line with accounting principles.

  • Lower of Cost or Market: This principle requires that inventory be recorded at the lower of its original cost or its current market value. This adjustment can lead to writing down the inventory value on the balance sheet if market conditions deteriorate or inventory becomes obsolete or damaged.

Bad Debt Provisions

Bad debt provisions account for the likelihood that some accounts receivable will not be collected. This adjustment ensures that the company’s receivables reflect a more accurate value of what will actually be received.

  • Allowance for Doubtful Accounts: This is a contra-asset account that reduces the total accounts receivable on the balance sheet to reflect the estimated uncollectible amounts. It represents a company’s estimate of the portion of receivables that may not be collected, impacting both the balance sheet and income statement.

These common types of balance sheet adjustments are essential for ensuring that a company’s financial statements accurately reflect its economic activities and financial position. They help stakeholders make informed decisions by providing a realistic view of the company’s assets, liabilities, and equity.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Balance Sheet Adjustments

Making balance sheet adjustments is a critical process in financial reporting that ensures the accuracy and integrity of a company’s financial statements. Here is a step-by-step guide to making some of the most common balance sheet adjustments, including those for prepaid and accrued expenses, asset accounts, and equity transactions.

Adjusting for Prepaid Expenses, Accrued Expenses, and Other Liabilities

  1. Prepaid Expenses:
    • Identify the Expense: Determine the total amount paid for expenses that cover future accounting periods.
    • Allocate the Expense: Calculate the portion of the prepaid expense that applies to the current accounting period.
    • Adjust the Balance Sheet: Decrease the prepaid expense asset account by the allocated amount and decrease the corresponding expense account on the income statement.
  2. Accrued Expenses:
    • Identify the Expense: Recognize expenses that have been incurred during the period but have not been paid or recorded.
    • Record the Accrual: Increase the expense account on the income statement and increase the corresponding liability account on the balance sheet.
    • Adjust in Subsequent Period: When the expense is paid, decrease the liability account and the cash or bank account on the balance sheet.
  3. Other Liabilities:
    • Review and Assess: Examine other liabilities for accuracy, such as unearned revenue or loans payable.
    • Adjust the Liability: If necessary, adjust the liability to reflect the accurate amount owed or deferred.

Adjusting Asset Accounts like Accounts Receivable and Inventory

  1. Accounts Receivable:
    • Evaluate Receivables: Review the accounts receivable balance for accuracy, considering potential bad debts.
    • Adjust for Bad Debts: Estimate the uncollectible amount and adjust the allowance for doubtful accounts accordingly, affecting both the balance sheet and income statement.
  2. Inventory:
    • Assess Inventory Value: Evaluate the inventory for obsolescence, damage, or market value changes.
    • Make Inventory Adjustments: Adjust the inventory value on the balance sheet to reflect the lower of cost or market value, impacting the cost of goods sold on the income statement.

Equity Adjustments: Dividends, Stock Issuance, and Repurchase Transactions

  1. Dividends:
    • Declare Dividends: When dividends are declared, record a liability for the dividend payable.
    • Distribute Dividends: Upon payment, reduce both the dividend payable liability and cash or bank balance.
  2. Stock Issuance:
    • Record New Stock: When new shares are issued, increase the share capital account by the total value of the shares issued.
    • Reflect Cash Inflow: Increase the cash or bank balance to reflect the proceeds from the share issuance.
  3. Stock Repurchase:
    • Determine Repurchase Amount: Identify the number of shares and the price at which the company repurchases its stock.
    • Execute the Transaction: Decrease the cash or bank balance for the purchase cost and reduce the equity account for the repurchased shares.

This step-by-step guide provides a structured approach to making critical balance sheet adjustments, ensuring that financial statements accurately reflect the company’s financial status. By methodically reviewing and adjusting each component, businesses can maintain accurate and compliant financial records.

Advanced Strategies for Balance Sheet Adjustments

In the realm of financial reporting, certain situations require more sophisticated approaches to balance sheet adjustments. These include dealing with foreign currency translation, hedging activities, and complex financial instruments. Here’s how these advanced strategies are implemented:

Foreign Currency Translation Adjustments

  1. Determine the Functional Currency: Identify the currency in which the business primarily conducts its operations, which may differ from its reporting currency.
  2. Translate Monetary Items: Convert monetary assets and liabilities (like cash, receivables, and payables) using the exchange rate at the balance sheet date.
  3. Translate Non-Monetary Items: Translate non-monetary items (like inventory, property, plant, and equipment) at historical exchange rates.
  4. Record Translation Adjustments: Recognize the effects of currency translation adjustments in a separate component of equity, typically in other comprehensive income, to reflect the gain or loss in value of foreign assets and liabilities due to exchange rate fluctuations.

Hedging and Its Impact on the Balance Sheet

  1. Identify Hedging Relationships: Determine the financial instruments or transactions that are being hedged, such as foreign currency risks, interest rate fluctuations, or commodity price changes.
  2. Classify the Type of Hedge: Differentiate between fair value hedges (which protect against changes in the fair value of assets, liabilities, or firm commitments) and cash flow hedges (which protect against variability in cash flows).
  3. Measure Hedge Effectiveness: Evaluate and document the effectiveness of the hedge in offsetting the risk being hedged.
  4. Record Hedge Adjustments: Adjust the carrying value of the hedged item or recognize the effective portion of the hedge in other comprehensive income, depending on the type of hedge and its effectiveness.

Handling Complex Financial Instruments

  1. Classification and Measurement: Determine whether the financial instrument should be classified as at fair value through profit or loss, amortized cost, or fair value through other comprehensive income, based on the business model for managing the financial assets and their contractual cash flow characteristics.
  2. Fair Value Estimation: For instruments measured at fair value, determine the fair value based on market prices, valuation models, or other estimation techniques.
  3. Recognize Changes in Fair Value: Depending on the classification, recognize changes in fair value in the profit or loss, or in other comprehensive income, and adjust the balance sheet accordingly.
  4. Deal with Derivatives and Structured Products: Evaluate and adjust for complex derivatives or structured products, considering their terms and conditions, underlying assets, and market conditions.

These advanced strategies for balance sheet adjustments require a deep understanding of financial concepts, market dynamics, and the regulatory environment. They are crucial for accurately reflecting the financial position of companies engaged in international operations, hedging activities, or dealing with sophisticated financial instruments, ensuring that stakeholders have a clear and accurate picture of the company’s financial health and risk exposure.

Technological Tools and Software for Balance Sheet Adjustments

In the modern business environment, technology plays a pivotal role in facilitating and streamlining balance sheet adjustments. Accounting software equipped with advanced features and the integration of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have significantly transformed the way financial adjustments are handled. Here’s how these technological tools contribute to the process:

Overview of Accounting Software Features That Facilitate Balance Sheet Adjustments

  1. Automated Data Entry: Modern accounting software automates the entry of financial transactions, reducing manual input and the potential for errors. This feature ensures that the initial data in the balance sheet is accurate, which is crucial for making subsequent adjustments.
  2. Real-Time Financial Reporting: Advanced software provides real-time updates to financial statements, allowing for immediate visibility of the balance sheet’s status. This enables timely adjustments and corrections before finalizing financial reports.
  3. Reconciliation Tools: Many accounting programs come with built-in reconciliation tools that automatically compare account balances with external sources like bank statements, highlighting discrepancies that need adjustment.
  4. Adjustment Journals: These software solutions often include functionality to create and record adjustment journal entries directly, facilitating the systematic implementation of balance sheet adjustments.
  5. Audit Trail and History: Accounting software typically maintains a detailed audit trail, recording who made what changes and when, adding transparency and traceability to the adjustment process.

The Role of Automation and AI in Streamlining the Adjustment Process

  1. Automation of Routine Tasks: Automation technology can handle repetitive tasks such as data entry and basic calculations, freeing up finance professionals to focus on more complex and judgment-intensive aspects of balance sheet adjustments.
  2. Predictive Analytics and AI: AI and machine learning algorithms can analyze historical data to predict future trends and anomalies. In the context of balance sheet adjustments, this can help in identifying potential errors or unusual transactions that may require investigation and adjustment.
  3. Enhanced Accuracy: AI can improve the accuracy of financial data by identifying and correcting errors in real-time. It can also suggest adjustments based on patterns and inconsistencies it detects through continuous learning from financial data.
  4. Decision Support: AI can provide decision support for more complex financial adjustments by analyzing large volumes of data to offer insights and recommendations, helping finance teams to make informed decisions about necessary adjustments.
  5. Integration and Interoperability: Modern systems integrate various financial functions, ensuring that adjustments made in one area of the financial statements are automatically reflected in others. This integration helps maintain consistency and accuracy across the financial reports.

Technological tools and software, particularly those incorporating automation and AI, significantly enhance the efficiency and accuracy of balance sheet adjustments. They provide robust support for financial professionals, allowing them to manage and adjust financial records with greater precision and less manual effort, ultimately leading to more accurate and reliable financial reporting.

Best Practices in Balance Sheet Adjustments

Effective balance sheet management is critical for the accuracy of financial reporting and compliance with accounting standards. Implementing best practices in balance sheet adjustments can significantly enhance the reliability of financial statements. Here are key practices to ensure optimal outcomes:

Ensuring Accuracy and Compliance with Accounting Standards

  1. Adherence to GAAP or IFRS: Ensure that all balance sheet adjustments comply with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), depending on the regulatory requirements applicable to the entity. This compliance ensures that the financial statements are standardized and comparable.
  2. Accurate Documentation: Maintain detailed documentation for each adjustment, including the rationale, calculations, and supporting evidence. This practice not only facilitates accuracy but also aids in audit and compliance processes.
  3. Double-Check Mechanisms: Implement a system of checks and balances where balance sheet adjustments are reviewed and approved by multiple levels within the finance department to prevent errors and ensure accuracy.

Regular Monitoring and Review of the Balance Sheet

  1. Frequent Reconciliation: Regularly reconcile account balances with external documents and statements, such as bank statements, invoices, and contract agreements, to catch and correct discrepancies early.
  2. Timely Adjustments: Make adjustments on a timely basis, preferably monthly or quarterly, to prevent the accumulation of errors and to ensure that financial reports reflect the most current and accurate information.
  3. Monitoring Financial Ratios: Regularly analyze key financial ratios derived from the balance sheet, such as liquidity ratios, solvency ratios, and profitability ratios, to monitor the company’s financial health and identify areas needing adjustments.

Training and Capacity Building for Accounting Personnel

  1. Continuous Education: Ensure that accounting and finance personnel receive ongoing training in the latest accounting standards, financial reporting requirements, and balance sheet management techniques to keep skills current and enhance the quality of financial reporting.
  2. Invest in Professional Development: Encourage and support professional development opportunities, such as workshops, seminars, and courses in advanced accounting and financial management, to build the expertise needed for effective balance sheet management.
  3. Leverage Technology: Train staff in the use of advanced accounting software and analytical tools that facilitate balance sheet adjustments, helping to improve accuracy and efficiency in the financial reporting process.

By adhering to these best practices, organizations can significantly improve the accuracy, reliability, and compliance of their balance sheet adjustments. Regular monitoring, coupled with a commitment to training and professional development for accounting personnel, ensures that the financial statements accurately reflect the company’s financial status and comply with the necessary accounting standards.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid in Balance Sheet Adjustments

Effective balance sheet management is critical to the integrity of financial reporting. However, several common pitfalls can undermine the accuracy and reliability of balance sheet adjustments. Here’s how to identify and avoid these potential errors:

Overlooking Small Discrepancies That Could Lead to Larger Errors

  1. Detail-Oriented Reviews: Pay attention to minor discrepancies during balance sheet reviews. Small errors can accumulate over time, leading to significant misstatements. Regular, detailed audits of the financial statements can help identify and rectify these small discrepancies before they escalate.
  2. Implement Robust Reconciliation Processes: Establish strong reconciliation processes that can catch and correct minor errors. This includes matching transaction records with bank statements, invoices, and other financial documents.
  3. Cultivate a Culture of Accuracy: Encourage a workplace environment where accuracy is prioritized, and even small discrepancies are reported and addressed promptly.

Misclassifying Accounts and Misunderstanding the Nature of Transactions

  1. Thorough Training: Ensure that accounting personnel are well-trained and understand the nature of various transactions and how they should be classified in the financial statements. This understanding is crucial to prevent the misclassification of accounts.
  2. Regular Review of Transaction Classifications: Periodically review transaction classifications to ensure they are accurate. This can involve cross-checking entries with original documents and adjusting entries as necessary.
  3. Use of Detailed Accounting Codes: Implement and use detailed accounting codes that help in correctly classifying transactions. This can reduce errors and improve the accuracy of financial reporting.

Failing to Regularly Review and Update Accounting Policies

  1. Periodic Policy Reviews: Regularly review and update accounting policies to reflect current financial reporting standards, regulatory requirements, and business operations. This ensures that the balance sheet adjustments are made in accordance with the latest accounting practices.
  2. Engagement with Regulatory Changes: Stay informed about changes in accounting standards and regulations to ensure that accounting policies remain compliant and up-to-date.
  3. Training on Updated Policies: Provide training sessions for finance and accounting personnel on the updated accounting policies and procedures to ensure that everyone is aware of the latest practices and standards.

Avoiding these common pitfalls in balance sheet adjustments requires diligent management, attention to detail, and a proactive approach to financial reporting. By recognizing and addressing these issues, organizations can enhance the accuracy and reliability of their financial statements, thereby providing stakeholders with a true and fair view of the financial position of the business.

Conclusion

Summarizing the Key Takeaways

Balance sheet adjustments are critical to ensuring the accuracy and reliability of financial reporting. Key takeaways from our exploration of this topic include the importance of understanding the components of the balance sheet, such as assets, liabilities, and equity, and the necessity of regular and thorough preparation for adjustments through reviewing trial balances, identifying discrepancies, and reconciling accounts. We also discussed common types of adjustments, including those for accruals, deferrals, depreciation, inventory valuation, and bad debt provisions.

Furthermore, advanced strategies involving foreign currency translation, hedging, and handling complex financial instruments were outlined, along with the essential role of technological tools and software in streamlining the adjustment process. Best practices in balance sheet adjustments emphasize the need for accuracy, compliance with accounting standards, regular monitoring, and ongoing training for accounting personnel. Additionally, we highlighted common pitfalls to avoid, such as overlooking small discrepancies, misclassifying accounts, and neglecting regular policy reviews.

The Importance of Effective Balance Sheet Adjustments in Financial Health and Decision-Making

Effective balance sheet adjustments are vital for maintaining the financial health of a company. They ensure that financial statements accurately reflect the economic reality of the company, providing stakeholders with reliable data for making informed decisions. Accurate financial reporting aids in assessing the company’s financial stability, operational efficiency, and future growth potential.

For decision-makers, a well-adjusted balance sheet is a crucial tool for strategic planning, investment decisions, risk management, and compliance with regulatory requirements. It helps in identifying financial strengths and vulnerabilities, facilitating effective allocation of resources, optimizing investment returns, and securing financial sustainability.

In conclusion, balance sheet adjustments are not merely routine accounting tasks but are fundamental to the strategic management of a company’s financial resources. They play a pivotal role in upholding financial integrity and enhancing stakeholder confidence, thereby driving informed decision-making and ensuring long-term business success.

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