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How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

The security breach at Equifax a few months ago left many people thinking once again about identity theft. The best thing is to do everything you can to prevent it from happening to you. Here are a few tips to help you reduce your risk of being a victim of identity theft as well as how to reduce the damage from security breaches of your personal data from sources you can’t control.

Discontinue paper statements that are mailed. 

Paper bank, brokerage, and credit card statements that are mailed can be misboxed, intercepted, lost, or stolen, and the information can fall into dishonest hands. Instead, discontinue paper statements, and access them via your online account where you can review, print, or save them each month for your records.

Rent a private mail box.

If you have trouble with mail theft in your area and can’t check your mailbox as soon as the mail is delivered, consider renting a post office box or a private mail box. These are especially handy if you travel a lot or have many packages delivered and no one is home to sign for them. They cost up to $300 per year, and you can find them at places like The UPS Store, Mailboxes Etc., Postal Annex, or your local post office.

Shred your trash.

If you throw out junk mail offers for new credit cards or bank accounts, be sure to shred that paper and anything else that might contain private information.

Don’t email secure data. 

Credit card numbers, social security numbers, and passwords should not be sent via email unless the email is encrypted or secure. The odds of something happening are low, but could happen.

Use different passwords for different account groups. 

Even the most secure-minded person uses the same password for many different accounts. You can too, but be smart about it. Use a unique password for your bank that you don’t use anywhere else. You might use the same password for all of your social media accounts because it’s just easier. Or another one for all of your free accounts; just don’t use those for any banking or credit card activity. Be smart about your password use, and make your password difficult based on the level of information that is at risk.

Choose hard passwords.

It’s painful, but choosing long, hard passwords can help throw off thieves. Include at least one capital letter, one special character, and one number in your password.  Make it nice and long. And don’t use common words, your birthday, parts of your social security, or your phone number in your password.  When it’s provided, use a random password generator.  And don’t let your browser automatically save your banking passwords for you.

Close inactive accounts.

If you no longer use an account you signed up for, close it rather than let it linger. It will reduce your risk. Be mindful, though; if you close some credit card accounts, your credit score could be adversely affected even if there has been no activity for a while.

Consider freezing your credit.

If you don’t need a new credit card or loan or are not planning a large purchase soon, consider freezing your credit. When you credit is frozen or secure, no one can run checks against it. Any identity thieves would not be able to take a loan out in your name.

Avoid unsecure wifi.

Although the ambience is nice at a Starbucks, the wifi is not secure, and connecting and doing your work all day long there is a big security risk.

Monitor all account activity.

Check your bank and credit card accounts frequently, and turn on all alerts and fraud notifications. You can turn on alerts for when transactions exceed a dollar amount and when your bank balance goes below a certain amount. Getting emails or text messages on your activity can help you stay on top of things.

Consider identity theft insurance.

Identity theft insurance is now common, and you can get it and fraud protection for your business as well as for individuals. If you are a victim, it reimburses you for the cost of restoring your credit. Check with your local insurance agent for more information.

We hope it never happens to you. Try these tips to reduce your risk of identity theft.

Giving a Workshop? How to Short Yourself in One Easy Step

 

Pricing your workshop by using your materials cost as a point of comparison is an approach that is likely to leave money on the table and keep yet another entrepreneur playing small-time by default, all for lack of design.
Long ago, I made the mistake of using my costs as a determining factor for my price point. I practically gave away my product because my materials cost was tiny…but my expertise was exceptional.
Consider the following:
Charge what the market will bear.
See what other people in the area have charged for similar workshops. If it’s more than you were contemplating, yippee! Charge market rates if your audience is the same and your value proposition is the same.
Be aware of who you’re attracting to your workshop and what’s in it for them so you can decide who you want to attract and put together language accordingly.
When you attract people to your workshop who stand to make a financial gain (make or save money) by coming to your workshop, this can drive up the price.
When you attract people to your workshop who stand to save time by coming, then if the opportunity cost of their time is worth anything, this can drive up the price.
Your opportunity here is to decide who your audience is and then tailor your workshop message to help them realize the real value that’s on offer.
Take into account the relationship of risk to price.
The lower the risk for the attendee, the higher the price can be. There are many ways to lower risk, such as guarantees. If you want a list, I can start a list.
Take into account the social value of the event and the relationship to price.
Price something at $10 and you’ll attract people who are willing to pay $10. Nothing wrong with that. But you’ll have to generate a lot more volume to cover your house nut, much less create a real profit. If you’re a volume-generating machine and you want to make the results of a $10 workshop available to many people, go for it.
However, don’t believe that this is your only option.
Price the same thing at $5,000 (and have the value proposition aligned with that) and you’ll attract people who want to be in the same room as other people who can pay $5,000 for a workshop.
My point is that you can design how this goes and not assume that it has to be a certain way.

“Compensating” Volunteers in Your Not-For-Profit Organization

Volunteers have their own reasons for devoting their time to your organization. If you’d like to offer them some perks but need to watch the cost of those perks, watch out.
If you have someone in charge of volunteers, it can be tempting for that person to start creating a lot of rules around those perks. Although some people will do this for a power trip or because that’s the only example they know, most people do it out of a well-intentioned desire to keep costs low for the organization.
However, beware: This will chase away volunteers, guaranteed. Don’t overcomplicate and overadminister something that is a huge arbitrage opportunity.
If your organization provides meals, for example, giving a free meal and beverage is a tiny price to pay for the labor required to make it all happen. Tiny. There’s your arbitrage, turning a tiny financial cost into a huge benefit. Don’t go making rules about which food they can eat or how many cups of coffee they can drink.
Find other ways to increase revenues and reduce costs. When reducing costs, choose expenditures with the greatest financial impact and the least benefit impact.
Start by looking at your financial statements for the greatest cost areas.
Typical cost areas that are worth looking at include:
* office supplies
* leases
* number of users for a technology subscription
* memberships that aren’t being utilized
* items that get renewed automatically on a monthly or annual basis
* insurances
* penalties being paid for being out of compliance
* bank fees
* costs related to having everything on paper instead of paperless back-office operations
* income tax preparation and/or independent audit services – can cost less if your internal staff does work that doesn’t require correcting by the tax preparer and/or auditor (who typically cost more)
* any outside services for which you are paying someone hourly – this is a misalignment of the service provider’s interests with your organization’s interests
* lost opportunities to get not-for-profit rates on technology, products, and services
Which areas might be available to help your not-for-profit save some money this budget cycle?

The Pointillism Maserati

 

Every action that we take either enriches us or impoverishes us.

When we have perfect clarity about which is which, we’ll have the keys to the vault.

Expenses

I was driving through downtown Naples on a beautiful October Saturday. You have probably heard – and rightly so – what a beautiful city Naples is, and certainly there is a lot of wealth here, in the city itself and on lovely Marco Island.

On U.S. 41, the main north-south road connecting the main cities in the area, there are plenty of luxury car dealerships. I don’t mean the Honda Acura. I mean Maserati, Aston Martin, Tesla.

That’s fine.

But these are, for most people, expenses. Most people will not leverage a vehicle into a (spoiler alert!) ROI.

In the heart of downtown Naples is the difference between spending 6 figures to enrich your life or spending 6 figures to impoverish it. Just where U.S. 41 turns to the southeast is a cluster of establishments that spells out that difference in 2 words:

art galleries.

Art appreciates in value. Most vehicles do not. In a given transaction, one type of disbursement is an expense whereas one is an investment.

But while the dealerships are all up and down U.S. 41, you have to go to one special place for those art galleries.

What are the questions you’re asking yourself right now?

 

Browser Productivity Tips You May Not Know

If you spend a lot of time online using a web browser to view web sites or to work in online applications, then you may benefit from knowing these wonderful features about your browser software.

Bookmarks

All browsers support bookmarks, and hopefully you are already using this powerful feature. Which web pages do you need to visit on a daily basis? Those should be ones that have a place on your browser’s bookmark bar. Look for your browser menu to find the bookmark commands you can use to set them up.

Avoid bookmarking your bank, brokerage, and credit card web pages for security reasons, but most everything else is fair game and will save you a lot of time.

Browse Incognito

Need to browse privately?  Many browsers offer incognito browsing which disables browsing history and the web cache. Find this command in your browser menu.

People

Roughly two-thirds of the population use Google Chrome as their browser, and the People feature is unique to Chrome. If you have a situation where you have multiple accounts with one software provider, Chrome allows you to have an entirely separate browser session going on for each person.

Let’s say you’re a social media consultant and manage the Facebook accounts for ten clients. You can set up a “person” in Chrome, one for each client. You then can have ten browser sessions going for each of your clients without having to log out and log back in to each Facebook account.

Do you volunteer at a nonprofit where you manage accounts for them? Set them up as a new person, and you can log in to all of their accounts without impacting yours.

Pretend that different departments of your business are separate people. Set up Accounting as a person in Chrome and log in to all of your accounting apps. Or set up Marketing as a person and log in to all your marketing and social media apps using this person.

Set up a different bookmark bar for each person, pouring rocket fuel on your time savings and decluttering you bookmark bars at the same time.

Set up a new person using the Manage People section in Settings.  Toggle between People by using the button on the tab bar at the top right of your screen just to the left of the Minimize command.

Extensions

Many browsers have extensions or plug-ins which expand the functionality of the browser. Here are couple of favorites.

  • Gmail Offline – allows Gmail users to view their email when they don’t have an Internet connection.
  • AdBlock Plus – tired of ads popping up? Get this extension to thwart them.
  • Momentum – provides a customized, motivational dashboard with weather, time, and daily to-do items.
  • Pocket – allows you to save articles and other content to read later or on your other devices.

Many of the software apps you use every day also have Chrome extensions you can use. Pinterest, Evernote, your anti-virus software, Hootsuite, and others have extensions you can check out and install.

Try these tips to learn your browser software better and become more productive while navigating the web.

After the Storm

 

Be careful of working with contractors and repair professionals who might be overwhelmed with business after a natural disaster.
Not everyone has a solid business model; many small business owners act without planning and then get into trouble. There are too many entrepreneurs who say “yes” to too much work, they don’t manage their receivables, they don’t forecast and plan their cash inflows and outflows…
…they’re paying for labor and materials on time but the insurance companies or other customers are slow to pay them…
…and then *your* project stops without warning because this has multiplied in a dramatic business uptick and they’re insolvent.
There’s a name for this. It’s called “growing themselves out of business.”
Business owners aren’t going to tell you about this. So when you choose someone, do it on a warm referral, not just based on their quality of their work and the timeliness with which they keep their promises, but also how solid the business itself is.
If YOU’RE the owner of business with a sudden uptick, share your own successful business model with potential customers. Mention your consistent stream of employee candidates who want to work for you, your automated hiring and vetting process for employees, your diversified supply chain, your sparkling accounting records and low/no receivables that make your cash flows work, mention that you get a good night’s sleep daily because you have an amazing administrative team, not just the people on the front lines providing the services. (And if you don’t have these, you know how to reach us…don’t you??)
They’re shopping around. You know they are. So share with them the above warnings. Educate them as to what to watch out for with others in the industry, build credibility while you’re doing so, and position you own business as the one to trust.

When Should I Outsource My Bookkeeping?

You say that you’re not ready to outsource bookkeeping. I’m going to challenge you to get there. Here’s how:
[1] Become a leader in your own company
Make sure you get trained in how to delegate your bookkeeping, not abdicate it. That’s how microbusinesses go out of business. No oversight, and their money is gone, no legal fund either to pursue it. Just gone. And even if there’s no theft, what’s the point of bookkeeping if you’re not doing anything with the information? Delegate, and interpret the reports to make a decision (see #3 below for more on that).
[2] Get an ROI
If the money isn’t there yet to pay for it, that’s because you don’t have an engine to turn your time into dollars. You will be ready to get your bookkeeping outsourced when you are aware of how much more time will become available to you and how much profit you can reliably generate with that extra time.
[3] Learn how to turn your data into cash
Get trained on how to turn your accounting information into cash. Why bother with bookkeeping at all? There’s no point at all…unless you’re prepared to learn how to make money or save money (or both) with the information that you get from your bookkeeping records.
Until all 3 of the above are in place, don’t bother with your bookkeeping and don’t fret about outsourcing. Take it off your plate. Then make your time more financially valuable. Then get trained in how to monetize your accounting information. Then get trained. in how to delegate. Then find an expert.

How to Beat Procrastination

Would you call yourself a procrastinator?  If so, you’re not alone, and with our to-do-lists growing daily, the percentage of people who procrastinate chronically has increased over the last few decades.

There’s a difference between procrastinating and prioritizing.  Great entrepreneurs know how to put the most important tasks first. There’s also a difference between procrastinating and being overloaded with tasks; that’s another problem called delegation (or lack of it), and that’s a topic for a later article.

If you need a little motivation getting things done that you are procrastinating, here are five quick tips.  Even if you aren’t a procrastinator, these tips may boost your productivity.

  1. Check your willpower.

Think of your willpower like a tank of gas that you use up every day.  By the end of the day, it’s gone.  If you leave tasks that you procrastinate until the end of the day when you have no willpower left, chances are they won’t get done.  Instead, re-arrange your schedule so that the tasks you are procrastinating on get done on a full tank of willpower, usually in the morning.

  1. Set an internal deadline.

You might respond well to external deadlines when everyone is watching or there are consequences for missing them. If so, then make your internal deadlines external ones by announcing them to the world. Having friends ask you about the deadline will incent you to keep your promise.

  1. Treat your success.

If you completed the task you have been procrastinating, then stop and reward yourself.  Your reward should be personal, something you enjoy. Perhaps it’s a spa day, a movie during the week, a long lunch with friends, or just a leisurely walk.

Hopefully you will want more rewards, so you can set a new one for the next tasks you complete.

  1. Break it down.

Sometimes procrastination is the result of feeling like the project is just too big.  If you have a large project looming ahead, break it down into smaller pieces that you feel are more manageable.

  1. Find your power hour.

Everyone has a time of day where they perform the best.  For early risers, it’s the crack of dawn.  For late night owls, it’s past sunset.  Find the time of day where you have the most energy and motivation, and plan your difficult tasks accordingly.

Almost everyone procrastinates on their least favorite tasks. Let these tips help you boost your productivity and reduce your procrastination.

Course Corrections and Your Board of Directors

Shocking news: Life doesn’t always go as planned.

Where does this leave a not-for-profit organization with a board-approved budget and a mid-year realization that something has changed.

So how does one approach this conversation with the Board?

Go with the high-level points of the journey:
* because of [a] we had envisioned [b] * when we observed/learned [c], we realized that [d] * we made a financial plan in order to create workability in making mission
* the principal differences from the original budget include [e], [f], and [g].
* here is the updated plan, and we have tactical plans in place to make this a reality.

It’s important to be committed to the mission, not attached to a circumstance, process, or goal that you realize is an unreality.

So keep your eye on the prize, develop new strategies and tactics and include a financial plan for workability. Inspire your board and go after that mission!

Is It Profitable to Blog?

One of the many online marketing options available for businesses is blogging. A blog can act as a company’s daily newspaper, letting customers and followers know the latest news about what’s happening. It can also be a wonderful revenue-generator.

As long as the content of your blog is relevant to your readers, you can post on a wide variety of topics. You might want to let clients know about an upcoming sale, a new employee, or a tip related to a product or service of yours.

Some businesses make a separate revenue stream out of blogging. The most profitable blog today is the Huffington Post. Revenue from blogging can be earned in many ways:

  • By selling ad space to people who want to get their products in front of people who read your blog
  • From sponsors
  • By holding events your readers attend
  • From commissions from the sale of products on your site
  • By creating products and services such as membership sites which allow paid access to your resources

Making money from blogging through one of these revenue streams takes work. Not only do you have to find or create content, you’ll need to attract readers too.

You can also simply use your blog to generate a following for your products and services. The right content can improve customer service, educate customers on your products which leads to better client retention, or inform them of the benefits of your products during your sales cycle.

If you’re not a writer, there are plenty of freelance writers available that you can hire to create your blog posts.  You can also curate articles, meaning you can find existing articles and ask the author if you can re-publish theirs.

Creating a blog is easy with software like WordPress or apps like Blogger.com WordPress.com, and Wix.com, and all of these solutions are free.

Think about how a blog can impact your business for the better.

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