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Five Ways to Reconnect with Your Passion for Your Business

As business owners, we are a highly self-motivated bunch of people.  We love our businesses, we love helping our customers, and we work very hard at what we do.  Sometimes we work so hard, we get disconnected from our passion.  Occasionally, it’s a good idea to step out of the daily details of business and get ourselves re-energized, reconnected, and rejuvenated about what we do.  Here are five ways to do just that:

Remember Your “Why”

Do you remember why you started your business in the first place?  Many people saw a need and created their business to fill that need.  Others want to help people with the services and products they offer.  Still others have a wonderful skill that when shared, leave people better off.

To help you remember your “why” on a regular basis, consider posting visual clues around your office.  It could be pictures of you and your partner, you and your first sale, you and a product you’ve created, or you and a customer.  Posting these pictures will leave you feeling great and remembering why you sometimes work so hard!

Start a Long Desired Project

It might be time to give your business a gift and get around to that project you’ve wanted to complete.  The project might be a website update, a new internal system, some new equipment, or that new employee you are ready for.  Take the leap and make the change that will breathe fresh air into your passion.

Receive Gratitude

Gratitude always feels great – when we give it and when we receive it.  Ask your customers for testimonials of how your product or service has impacted them.  Then just receive and enjoy.

It always feels great when you know you are appreciated and are recognized for doing a good job.  And since we don’t have bosses, who else will tell us how we’re doing except our customers?

Take a Break

Stepping away from work brings perspective and fresh ideas.  Take a day off, or go on vacation.  Unplugging allows our brain to rest and relax, and when it does, you’ll have a whole new set of creative and passionate ideas to consider when you get back.

Give Yourself a Raise

If you’ve lost passion for what you do, then you might just be due for a raise.  Take a good look at your books, and see if you should increase prices or can find a way to improve your profit margin. Either way, you’ll boost your profits and be able to keep more of what you make.

Try these five ideas to restore the passion you have for your business.  When you are refreshed and rejuvenated, your customers will feel it too.

Six Business Topics and Trends to Study for 2014

Happy New Year!  The New Year brings new areas to benefit from and be aware of.  You’ve likely heard these topics mentioned in the news.  The question is, have you stopped and thought about how they will be impacting your business this year?

The Biggie:  The Affordable Care Act

This new law impacts both employer insurance and taxes of small businesses.  The law is complicated with many definitions and varying effective dates.  It impacts self-employed individuals, business with fewer than 25 employees, and businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

You may be eligible for tax credits, and under certain circumstances, you could be subject to penalties if you don’t act.  It’s best to consult with a tax professional to sort out what it means to you.

Big Data and Data Transparency

In large businesses, big data refers to all of the data that is collected from customer’s habits and purchases.  In small businesses, we do not collect data on the scale that large businesses do, but we do collect customer information.  It will become more important than ever to be transparent about what data is being collected and how it is used.

If you do not already have a privacy policy that you provide to your clients, this may be a good first step in becoming more transparent with your clients about data collection.

Mobile Accounting

Mobile everything is as hot as any trend out there, and mobile accounting is certainly keeping up.  You can now do so much on your phone:  swipe credit cards to take payments, scan receipts and upload them to your accounting system, check credit card and bank balances, pay for things, create invoices, and pay bills.

The days of men with green eye shades and long paper receipts in the back office are long gone.  Accounting goes where you and your phone go.  If you have not downloaded your mobile bank and accounting apps, let us know how we can help you get mobile.

Government Budgets, Shutdowns, and Last Minute Tax Laws

Last year’s tax filing season was compressed due to laws that were enacted at the last minute.  As you might imagine, last-minute tax law changes put the tax software companies and the IRS into a tailspin.  Once forms are finalized and interpretations are published, the accountants then get busy figuring out what’s changed.

Many forms were not finalized last year until early March, but the April 15th deadline remained fixed.  This makes tax accountants have to do a year’s worth of work in about six to eight weeks.  And it’s going to happen again this year because the government was shut down during a key time that the IRS needed to get their systems ready.

To help avoid adding stress to this year’s tax season, you can help your accountant as well as yourself by having your books up-to-date and accurate, getting as much as you can ready early by scanning key documents into digital files, and having a checklist of questions you want to cover at your meeting.

Nexus

As states scramble to balance their budgets, they are constantly looking for new ways to tax businesses, and sales tax is one of their favorite ways.  Nexus means “presence.”  If your business has a presence in a state, you may need to collect and pay sales tax in that state.  If you hire employees or contractors that work from home and are located in a state other than where you are located, you may have nexus in those states.  Check with a sales tax expert who can guide you on these issues.

Engagement and Collaboration

Products and services in the accounting marketplace continue to experience a renaissance in accessibility and enhanced functionality.  This is exciting because small businesses can benefit most by the increased ability to collaborate with their accountant.  Gone are the days of once a year tax consults and never hearing from your accountant.  Now accountants can reach out more often, learn more about your business, and provide valuable collaborative advice to help you reach your financial goals.

If we can help you monetize any of these current events in accounting, please contact us, and let’s have a conversation.

Create a Theme for a Prosperous and Meaningful New Year

It’s almost 2014, and at this time of year, it’s natural for us to pause and reflect on where we’ve been and where we want to go.  For business owners, it’s especially important to raise our minds above the daily fires for a moment, take in some fresh air, and elevate our perspective.  Creating an annual theme is an easy and fun vehicle to do just that.

Deciding on a theme for the year will give you a focus and a new perspective on your work and your routines.   It can be highly rejuvenating to look at things through the lens of your new theme.

Ideas for themes are limited only by your imagination.  Some possible themes include:

  • Organizing, detoxing, or cleansing.   Consider cleaning out your garage (or your office), upgrading your systems, re-designing your filing system, or going on a cleanse or a vacation or a retreat that will leave you feeling clutter- and worry-free. 
  • Growth.  You might want to consider a growth-related theme, such as productivity or profitability.  You might also want to develop a new skill such as learning a new language, developing your computer skills, or taking a philosophy class at your local junior college. 
  • Abstract themes, such as abundance, creativity, or diversity.  At the risk of sounding a little fluffy, an esoteric theme might be just what you need in 2014.  A theme with abundance will allow you to think big, be abundantly generous with others, and search for large contracts.   A theme with diversity will challenge you to be more open-minded.  You may also want to consider forgiveness, gratitude, humility, or service. 
  • Relationships.  Your year might be dedicated to meeting new associates and building business relationships.  Your action item might be to spend more time networking, participating in groups, or going to your industry conference.
  • A new service.  Perhaps you’re launching a new service and need to focus on developing this new line of business. 
  • Giving back.  On a personal note, you might value volunteering and decide to organize your year around a couple of volunteer opportunities. 
  • Exploring.  If you’ve retired or the business is starting to run smoothly without your day-to-day input, it might be time for that trip around the world.

As you choose you goals for 2014, make sure the majority of them support your theme for the year.  Themes can bring an overarching focus to our practices and our lives.

What’s your theme?  Let us know what your theme is and we’ll share ours!

The Emotional Accountant

Accounting is is one of the most emotionally salient areas of business. It is coming face to face with “what’s so.”

The most visceral responses I’ve seen are fear and wonder.

The fear isn’t usually about not having enough. Most business owners know what they’ll figure it out with determination. The strongest fear is in taking responsibility, in shifting from possibility to reality. As long as we’re working smart and hard on our plans, we’re working in possibility. Baking those pies, posting those blogs, handing out business cards. Only when we look at the numbers do we dare face the results.

How many pies were purchased?
How many were scrapped?
Which distributors were the most profitable for us?
Did the ad campaign pay for itself?

Only then do we have an opening for action that’s going to get our business where we said we wanted to go.

And the wonder comes with achievement of something new, when we look at our successful results and hear the awakened inner three-year-old shouting,

“Look what I can do!!”

Optimize Your Revenue Mix for More Profits in 2014

Many small business owners focus on generating more revenue every year, and that’s a great objective.  But not all revenue is created equally.  If you sell more than one product or service in your business, then you can benefit from looking at your revenue mix.

Although it’s fun to watch our revenues grow, it’s the profit number that really matters.  If your expenses grow faster than your profits, then you have a lot of activity going on, but you don’t get to keep as much of what you make, which is what really matters.

An insightful exercise to try is to take a look at your revenue mix.  Then you can ask “what if?” to optimize your profits.

Your Revenue Mix

Let’s say you offer three different services: Services X, Y, and Z. Your revenue pie looks like this:

X:  $1.4 million or 70% of the total

Y:  $0.3 million or 15% of the total

Z:  $0.3 million or 15% of the total

Total:  $2.0 million

In this example, Service X is clearly the service making you the most revenue in your business.  But is it making you the most profits?

The profit you receive from each of these service lines is as follows:

X:  $160K

Y: $20K loss

Z:  $60K

Total:  $200K

While Service X is generating the most profit volume for your business, it’s actually Service Z that’s the most profitable.  Earning $160K on $1.4 million yields 11.4% return on Service X, but earning $60K on $300K yields nearly double the return at 20%.  Service Z generates the most return.   And if possible, Service Y may need to be discontinued or turned around.

Optimizing Profits

Your strategy for a more optimum revenue mix might be to sell as much of Service Z as possible, while eliminating or fixing the problem around Service Y.

It’s fun to experiment with different revenue mixes.  And of course, there are many more variables besides profit, such as:

  • Which service do you prefer to work on?
  • Are you able to sell more of the most profitable service or are there marketing limitations?
  • Is one service a loss leader for the others?
  • Are you able to adjust price on the lower margin services to increase your profits?

There are many more questions to ask and strategies to consider to make you more money, which is why we love our job!

A New Year, A New Mix

We hope you’ll spend some time analyzing your revenue mix and having fun asking yourself “what if?”   If we can help you expedite the process or add our perspective, please reach out anytime.

The Crystal Ball of Revenue

Pipeline.

Let’s not beat around the bush.

The crystal ball of revenue in your business is your pipeline.

What it is: A forecast of incoming revenues.

What it looks like: Dollars and timing, usually in the form of a graph, summary spreadsheet or report, detailed spreadsheet or data entry fields, or some combination of these.

Who uses it: Business owners and people in charge of business development.

How it’s used: How would you use a crystal ball if you had one? If you watch enough sci-fi, you know that the only purpose in knowing the future is to do something about it. (If you watch too much sci-fi, you’re already concerned about causing a rift in space-time with your revenue paradox. We’ll leave that issue for your own blog post.) So when you see your expected cash inflows, you’re immediately going to say one of the following:

Expostulation Present To Useful Action
“Awesome!” Opportunity Accelerate a potential gig, relationship, or channel along the pipeline
“Finally!” Peace of mind Get some more sleep, get something done in your “important and not urgent” quadrant (for our fellow Covey fans)
“Uh-oh.” Fear Pick up the phone, open an e-mail, register for a networking event, send out an invoice, keep a promise

Which of my burning questions are answered by my pipeline? Depending on how you have it set up, any of the following – and more:

  • “What revenues can I expect in the next month?”
  • “Where in my sales process do things get stuck?”
  • “What are my most fruitful sources of business?”
  • “Who are my most valuable sales reps?”
  • “Which sales reps might need some support from me?”
  • “When will I be able to buy…”
  • “What’s our close rate?”
  • “How many deals do we have in each stage of the process?”
  • “How much money is ready for invoicing?”
  • “What is the attrition rate at each stage?”
  • “How many times do we speak with a prospect before making an appointment?”
  • “How long does it take for someone to go from Initial Contact to Deal Close?”

What I need in order to create one: A consistent sales process, named clients channels, services/products, a customary range of dollars for each client or channel for your products and services, and a tool to enter, calculate the pipeline values, and summarize.

What technological tools can be used for pipelining: Excel, Access, good CRM systems.

Can Tier One Services help me to accelerate my revenues by creating a pipeline for my company? Why yes, we’re glad you asked! Reach out via e-mail or our Contact Us page.

What to Do When Calling the Help Line Doesn’t Help

Have you ever called a help line and at the end of the call had a bigger problem than before you called?  Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon.

Navigating the help line process can be a challenge for anyone’s patience.   Here are a couple of tips you can try to make the process a little less painful.

Repeat Business

If you get someone that does a good job of solving your problem, ask them if you can contact them directly.  You will begin to establish a rapport, and you’ll have an inside ally you can turn to.  They’ll also begin to know your issues, the product you’re calling about, and how you use it.

Fly First Class

Sometimes, it’s just worth it to pay for a higher level of access.  You can check that out yourself, or you may have expert vendors you can tap to access their higher-level resources.  By paying for a higher level of service, you can get priority service and access to more highly trained personnel.

Learn the Language

How you communicate your request to the help line personnel can make all the difference in the world when it comes to saving time.  To speed up the process, have the following things handy:

  • If an error message is involved, take a screen print or write down the exact wording or error code, if any.
  • If software is involved, be ready to let your technician know the operating system you’re on, what browser you’re using if the Internet is relevant, and other details that will isolate the problem.
  • If software is involved, they may ask you what version you have.  You can find that by choosing File, Help from the menu, or they can walk you through it.

Call Off-Peak

For shorter wait times, try to call when no one else in calling.  For hardware and software support, this may mean avoiding Mondays and rush hours.  For questions to the IRS, it may mean calling earlier in the season.

Hire an Expert

Some of your vendors (including us!) may have access to a higher level of support based on their connection with the company.  For example, certain QuickBooks ProAdvisors have access to an elite group of support technicians and get priority services as well.  Accountants have a special line in to the IRS.

You may be able to save money and especially time by delegating these help line calls to those privileged vendors.  (And if we can help save you time and frustration in this area, please let us know.)

Try these tips to improve both the speed and accuracy of your help line calls.

Five Tips to Get Ready for a Pain-Free Tax Time

With the holiday season just around the corner, it’s a perfect time to get your financial records in order.  Tax moves you make now can mean finding more “green” to spend on family gifts and festivities.  Here are five quick tips for you to feel more prepared about your financial status as you go into year-end.

Avoid Penalties

This time of year is ideal to double-check your tax payments to make sure enough has been paid in, and even more important, to avoid overpaying so your money is not tied up unnecessarily. If you’re not sure of your 2013 tax liability, check with your tax preparer.

Balanced Books

Rather than wait until the busiest time of year for accountants and bookkeepers, you can get a head start now on catching up your books  You’ll have more of their attention and you may even avoid a rate increase if you get your books done early.  Completed bank reconciliations are a very important part of catching up.

Forms

It’s not too early to get your orders in for the forms you need at year-end like your W-2s, W-3s, 1099s, and 1096s.  That way, your forms will be onsite when you’re ready.

Records

Information that’s missing at the last minute can take up extra time and be costly.  It’s a great idea to do an audit now of W-9s to grab missing addresses and tax ID numbers of your contractors.  Also do a scrub of your employee payroll records so that your W-2s will be complete and accurate.

New Tax Changes

Be sure to check with your advisors on new laws affecting individuals and businesses next year.  One of the biggest ones making news is avoiding the fine involved regarding the new health care requirements for individuals.  And there are many more you’ll want to get up to speed on so that you’ll know how they affect your situation.

We know it’s early to be talking about taxes, but we’re also all about saving you money and time.  Try these five tips so you’ll have better peace of mind and be more prepared for year-end.

Five Best-Practice Accounts Payable Tips for a Smoother Cash Flow

Watching the cash balance is one of the most frequent activities of a small business owner.  Besides making sure you have enough cash for payroll and bills, there is another huge opportunity you can benefit from: lowering the cost of processing your bills.  It can be expensive and time-consuming to process bills and handle the paperwork involved.  We’ll take a look at a couple of the many ways you can streamline your accounts payable processing costs in this article.

Opportunity #1:  Go Digital

The Intuit Payment Network (IPN) is a best-kept secret when it comes to sending and receiving money.  It’s free to set up your account, and it’s also free for your receiver to set up an account.  All you do is add your bank account, and you can easily transfer funds between the two accounts just by knowing the receiver’s email address.

The receiver of money only pays 50 cents per transaction, so when you have a large transfer of funds, it’s totally worth it.  It saves you postage, check stock, envelopes and the related mailing labor.  You could even increase your payment by 50 cents so that your receiver receives exactly what you owe them.

Another way to go digital is via PayPal.  Fees vary, and are usually paid by the receiver.

Opportunity #2:  Get Control

When it comes to finances, it’s never a good idea to mix business and personal, especially when it’s coming out of the same bank account.  Keep separate accounts for business and personal, and your bookkeeping costs will go way down.  Do the same thing for credit cards as well.

If you’re comfortable with credit cards and you can maintain control of your spending, it saves accounts-payable time when you can charge everything you spend on business to your credit card as long as you pay it off every month.  Using your card is faster at checkout than writing a check these days, so you’ll save time on errands as well.

Opportunity #3:  Automate

Put recurring expenses such as utilities, rent, accounting, and other monthly bills on bank draft or autopay if the vendor has that option.  This will save you a huge amount of time, supplies, and postage.  You can also be more accurate with the timing of the payment which will allow you to keep your money for as long as possible until the due date arrives.

Opportunity #4:  Verify

We hope you never pay bills that aren’t yours, but it can happen.  To avoid it as much as possible, implement a three-way matching process on all your payables, especially those related to inventory.  The three-way part refers to the three documents involved in accounts payable:

  • The purchase order
  • The packing slip
  • The invoice

Before any invoice is paid, these three documents should be matched line by line – for quantity, price, and description — to ensure you ordered and received what you paid for.  Only then should your bill be approved.  This will ensure that you don’t pay a fraudulent bill, you don’t pay for out-of-stock that didn’t ship and that you paid the correct price you agreed to in the first place.

Please feel free to reach out and ask us about this if you’d like to know more.

Opportunity #5:  Tell Yourself a Little White Lie

There’s an old saying:  “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”  If you’re always moving money around form one checking account to another to cover bills and payroll, you’re not the only small business owner who juggles funds.  It takes up valuable time to make all these transactions, and then it costs to record them and track them.

Reduce all that by telling yourself a little white lie about your bank balance.  If your bank balance is $10,000, tell yourself it’s only $5,000 (or whatever amount makes sense for you).  That way, you’ll always have a cushion in your account that will help you reduce transfers.  There are several ways to set this “little white lie” up in your books.

More A/P Ideas

These are only five of many ways you can reduce your processing costs and save time on accounts payable processing.  Give these five accounts payable ideas a try, and if you’d like to know more, please reach out and let us know.

Avoid the Three Biggest Sales Mistakes and Close More Business

Every sales lead is precious.  It takes a lot to get people’s attention these days, and once a lead or prospect comes in your door, you’ve accomplished that hurdle, but now you have another one:  getting the business.  To ensure you can turn those prospects into paying customers as often as possible, here are three mistakes we can all learn from and avoid at the very beginning of the sales process.

#1 Tech-Speak

Every industry has its own vocabulary.  For example, pool service companies talk about “shock,” booster pumps, and cyanuric acid levels.  If the salesperson starts slinging too many of these words around, the new pool owner is going to freak out.

Worse, you can end up going down a technical conversational path that derails the sale and has you answering all sorts of educational questions that the prospect doesn’t even need to know about if they hired you.  It’s a sort of foxhole you don’t want to go down, at least not during a sales call, and especially not during the very first interaction with a prospect.

Continuing our example, a pool owner’s goals are usually that they want their pool looking awesome and safe to swim in. Although your business is likely to be far more complex than your prospect realizes, they will be scared away if you overwhelm them and sound like you will be difficult to work with.   Instead, focus on their goals and how your services meet their goals.

#2 Lack of Interest

If your staff is tired when they answer the phone or if they simply answer the questions of the prospect and wait for them to ask the next question, then you’re likely to make a ho-hum impression on that prospect.  It will feel like your company is not interested in them.

A great salesperson – or even receptionist — will answer a prospect’s questions, and will go further to find out more about the prospect’s situation.   Establish a rapport by finding something in common with your prospect.  Perhaps you went to the same college, grew up in the same neighborhood, or attended the same church.

Then find out about the business issue to be solved.  What are their goals?  Ask them for the big picture so that you understand where they’re coming from before you get into the details.   This will make for a great start to the sales process as well as your relationship.

#3 Lack of Preparation

You may have called a vendor in hopes of finding out more about what they have to offer, only to discover they are not ready.  This typically happens with new business owners or new staff.  If the staff does not know the answers to the most basic of questions, then you could have a problem.

Prepare a list of questions that your staff is likely to get, and write in the answers so they will have this cheat sheet in front of them when they field calls.  This will allow your employees to speak more confidently and more accurately with prospects.

Be sure they also know how to best handle the question we all love, “How much do you charge?”  Providing a good answer to this question requires extra skills.  You might consider putting together a sales script to handle that question or even putting your employees through some basic sales training.

Check to see if you need to avoid any of these three selling mistakes, and you’ll be on your way to more sales.

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