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Archive for the Business Tips Category

Get Ahead on Year-End Tasks

Year-end is just around the corner, and that means a couple of administrative tasks are necessary to take care of bookkeeping and tax chores. Here are a couple of tips to make year-end go smoother.

Cleaning up

Things will go a lot smoother if you reach out to your vendors and employees and get their help to update your records.

  • Send a notice to all employees, asking them to verify their address so they will get their W-2s without delay.
  • Make sure you have the right information for vendors that you need to produce a 1099 for. Before you pay your vendors more than $600 in one year, ask them for a W-9 so that you have a current address and taxpayer ID number on file.
  • Check to make sure you have any sales tax exemption certificates from vendors that you are not charging sales tax to.

It’s also time to clean up any account balances that need to be reclassified or corrected.

  • Any clearing accounts, such as undeposited funds, should be zero.
  • Bank reconciliations should be caught up and book balances should match the bank or be explained.
  • Inventory should be adjusted to reflect accurate quantities.
  • Loan balances should be adjusted to correctly reflect interest and principal allocations.
  • Depreciation entries should be made.

Maximizing deductions

Here are a just a few ways to maximize deductions:

  • Any bad debts that aren’t expected to be collected can be written off.
  • Any inventory that is not saleable or worth less than you paid for it can be adjusted on your books.
  • For cash basis taxpayers, pay any large bills before year-end if you have excess profits.
  • Pay employee bonuses prior to year-end.

Getting organized

Create a place in your home or office or a special file on your computer to store tax-related documents, such as W-2s, brokerage statements, and tax returns. Convert them to PDF format if they are not already, and upload them to your accountant’s secure client portal as you get them.

With all this great preparation, you’ll find tax season easier than ever and a chore that you can mark off your to-do list early.

 

The Perfect Chart of Accounts for Your Business

Your “Chart of Accounts” is the list of accounts in your accounting software.  The accounts are listed in your reports, and the totals allow you to determine how much you’ve spent, made, own, or owe depending on the type of account.

It’s essential to create a list of accounts that you need in order to make better business decisions.  Your chart of accounts needs to be designed intentionally.  If it hasn’t been, it’s never too late.

Two Types of Accounts

There are two major types of accounts:

  1. Balance sheet accounts that tell what you own and owe.  These are determined by your checking accounts, inventory, and credit cards.
  2. Income statement accounts that tell you about current period operating results.  These, in turn, have two major categories, income and expenses.  For companies with inventory, expenses are further broken out into cost of goods sold and other expenses.

Three Purposes

A chart of accounts should meet three needs:

  • Make it really fast for you to do your taxes
  • Give you all sorts of “Aha’s”
  • Allow you to spend far more time on revenue analysis than expense analysis because that’s where success lies for small businesses

Taxes

Your accounts should be the same as (or be able to be grouped into) the lines on your tax return.  You can find a copy of the tax form you fill out. For example, a sole proprietor will use a Schedule C of the 1040, and a corporation will complete an 1120.

There are a few special needs, such as meals and entertainment which are only partially deductible, that you need to pay special attention to. We can help you with that.

Aha

As small business owners, we work with a gut feel, but when you see what you’ve made or spent in black and white, it takes on a whole new level of meaning.  Your income statement and other reports should do that for you.  If they don’t you may not have your accounts set up right.

Revenue

Think about how you want to see your revenue:

  • By product line
  • By major supplier
  • By category of solution to the customer
  • By customer type
  • By service type
  • By location (you can also use Class for this)
  • By job
  • By distribution method

We can help you brainstorm based on your industry and type of business.

Actionable Intelligence

If you’ve been putting all your revenue into one revenue account, it will be exciting the first time you see your new Profit and Loss statement.

If you’ve been breaking out your revenue but it hasn’t led to any actionable change in your business, then there may be a better way to break it out.

If you’re happy with the way your revenue is broken out, then think about how you can take it to the next level.

Once you see your new chart of accounts, you will likely have even more questions.  The chart of accounts can be an evolving entity, designed to serve your business needs.

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.

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?

 

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.

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.

Could Your Business Survive a Disaster?

As business owners, we want to remain optimistic about our business’s future. But life can happen, and we need to be prepared.  A good business owner thinks about all the risks to their business and has a plan in place to reduce or eliminate them.  In 2017, we’ve already had floods in the Midwest and California, a healthy dose of tornadoes, and an ice storm earlier in the year.  And those are just the weather disasters. Are you ready?

In 2015, Nationwide ran a survey that revealed that three out of four small business do not have a disaster plan.  The same survey noted that 52 percent of small business owners thought it would take three months to recover from a disaster.

The most common solution is to create two plans:

  • A disaster recovery plan, which details the steps needed to recover the business from a catastrophic loss
  • A business continuity plan, which details the steps needed to keep the business running in case of a major loss, such as a loss of electricity, location, or key personnel

There’s a lot of help online to help you create your plan. A few of the major items that should be covered include:

  • Employee safety: you’ll need an evacuation plan in case of a disaster that is life- or health-threatening.
  • Communication plan: how will you reach employees in an emergency?
  • Electricity contingency: will you need to access a generator?
  • Internet contingency: can your business survive without the internet for long periods of time, or will you need to find a way to get connected?
  • Location contingency: if your worksite is inoperable, do employees have another place to report to?
  • Employee roles: who will carry out the plan?
  • Private data: how will you safeguard private company and customer data?
  • Systems: do you have an inventory of hardware and software, including vendor technical support contacts? How will you prioritize which system to get back up first? Do you have agreements with vendors who can come to your aid quickly?

Creating a disaster recovery plan can be the lowest priority item on your to-do list as a business owner – until it isn’t.  If you have a lot to lose, then consider spending some time on a plan to give you peace of mind.

The Power of Influencer Marketing

One of the hottest buzzwords in marketing this year is influencer marketing. Influencer marketing uses key people in thought leadership positions to spread the word about your brand.  These people may be paid or unpaid spokespersons for your brands, products, and services.

The profitable thing about influencer marketing is the leverage.  Instead of marketing or selling to one person at a time, you are marketing to key leaders with followings who can influence many people at once.

Influencer marketing varies by industry; here are some common examples:

  • Locating photos of your product already on social media and reaching out to those people to do more
  • Hiring a social media expert with a large following to talk about your clothing line
  • Having a prominent lifestyle blogger post a photograph containing your juice product
  • Starting a referral program for a makeup company so “regular” women will spread the word

The common theme to all of the above examples is finding people who have a huge number of followers that just happen to be your ideal customers.

To take advantage of this marketing method, ask yourself who is influential in your industry that has the ear and respect of your customer base. How could you partner with them so it’s a win for you, them, and their following?  You may or may not need to compensate them, depending on their revenue model.

There are plenty of apps to help you locate influencers relevant to you. A favorite is Ninja Outreach at ninjaoutreach.com.

Try reaching out to influencers to leverage your existing marketing and make your marketing dollars go farther.

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