Category: Small Business

Celebrating Freedom-Happy Birthday America!

As we celebrate America’s Birthday today, it’s hard to not think about the word Freedom.

According to Dictionary.com, Freedom is “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”

For me, freedom applies to many areas of my life.

First and foremost, I’m thankful for the freedom I have in my relationship with Jesus.  Without Him, I would not have freedom from sin. This doesn’t mean I never sin…I’m only human after all and sin every day.  But, because of what He did for me, I know when I confess my sins, He is faithful and just to forgive me and cleanse me of all unrighteousness.  As a Christian I strive to sin less and to instead be more like Him every day.  There is so much freedom in knowing He is with me every moment.

I’m also thankful for the freedom’s I have as a US Citizen.  Even with everything going on in this country today, I still believe it is the greatest country on this earth.  Hopefully today we can be reminded of the freedoms we do have and not dwell on freedoms we think we may not have.

And lastly, I’m thankful for the freedom I have to be able to own my own business.  There are so many opportunities these days to have your own business.  It provides a LOT of freedom in life that you don’t have with a 9-5 in office job. It’s a lot of hard work, that’s for sure, but there is a lot of reward as well, including the freedom to work when you want from where you want. I hope to never take that for granted.

I hope you and your family have a very blessed and safe 4th of July celebrating the freedom’s you most cherish.

Donna Edge, CPA

Our office flooded…in the middle of tax season…

Insurance is one of those things you don’t realize you need it, till you need it. Case in point, February 2021.  The year of the big winter freeze in Texas. To say we weren’t prepared was an understatement!  What a nightmare! We were fortunate that we had a generator for our home, so we didn’t have any major issues there. But….our office was a different story…we lived @ 20 minutes from our office and were not able to check on it till 3 days into the freeze. And this is what we discovered as a result of busted pipes….

In the middle of tax season…there was 6 inches of standing water too.

When I called about our insurance, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what kind of coverage we had. But, thank goodness, we had amazing coverage! If I correctly remember, our total out of pocket was $1000. Our insurance even covered the cost of relocating during the 5 ½ months we were displaced plus lost time while we moved.

This whole experience changed my perspective on insurance. I knew it was important, but till this point, outside of medical insurance, I didn’t realize how important it is for a business owner.  So, I’d like to share an overview of what business owners need to know about insurance for their business. You need to be prepared for unexpected events that could potentially threaten your ability to operate. Some potential hazards you may face are floods, fire, lawsuits and even the sudden death of a key employee. I’ve provided a summary of the different types to look into.  If you need referrals for any of these types, let me know, as I “know people” 😊

Overview of business insurance

Property Insurance

Regardless if you lease or own, this basic insurance financially protects the physical assets of your business, such as land, buildings, inventory, furniture, documents, machinery, and similar items. Coverage can vary widely, so be sure you know what is — and what is not — covered by your policy. Also, make certain that your coverage is for replacement cost rather than original cost.

General Liability Insurance

General liability insurance is a must. We live in a very lawsuit-happy society. It protects your business assets in case of a lawsuit for something your business did (or didn’t do) that caused injury or property damage. Liability insurance covers such claims as bodily injury, property damage, personal injury, and damage from slander or false advertising.

Umbrella Insurance

Umbrella insurance is intended to protect a business from a major catastrophe or lawsuit. Typically, umbrella insurance steps in and provides the difference between your underlying general liability coverage and the actual cost of damages resulting from a lawsuit or disaster. You’ll find the cost is pretty reasonable.

Business Interruption Insurance

This type of insurance reimburses you for the loss of income resulting from an insured catastrophic event, such as a fire, flood, or other weather events. The policy covers the profits you would have earned if no interruption had occurred. And it pays for expenses that you continue to incur even though your business is not operating normally, such as debt payments, taxes, and salaries. This was a huge blessing when our office was destroyed from the freeze.

Key Person Insurance

You’ll need key person life insurance to protect your business in case you, a partner, or other key employee dies. If you operate your business with multiple partners, you should consider using life insurance to fund a buy-sell agreement. Disability insurance is also a must for you and your key people. I’ve heard horror stories with situations where this was missing.

Errors and Omissions (Professional Liability) Insurance

If you are in the business of giving advice, making educated recommendations, designing solutions, or representing the needs of others, you may want to consider errors and omissions insurance. This type of coverage protects you against claims that something you did on a client’s behalf was incomplete or inadequate, cost your client money, or caused harm in some way.  If you have a membership in a professional organization related to your profession, check with them first to see what they have to offer, as they will have the best idea of the specifics of your particular industry

Errors and omission insurance may be appropriate if you run a consulting business, design software or websites, sell real estate or insurance, operate a career placement business, etc.

Don’t be afraid to shop around, but also remember the cheapest isn’t always the best. Ask friends or business colleagues for referrals as well.

How Long Should You Keep All Those Records???

One question that I get asked a lot is:

How Long Should You Keep All Those Records???

Tax returns and supporting documents:

  • Personal-At least 3 years from the date you filed the return (that’s how long the IRS has to audit you, unless they suspect fraud, for which there is no statue of limitations.) However, we recommend you keep for at least 7 years. If you have digital copies of everything, then keep indefinitely.
  • Business-Same as personal
  • Any correspondence/information returns you receive from the IRS need to be saved indefinitely (for example-EIN number, S Corp election acceptance letter, change of address etc).

Payroll records:

  • Personal-Pay stubs for one year (be sure to download copies every month from your employer’s online portal-if you ever leave the job, you will lose access to them). W2’s-same period as your tax returns.
  • Business-Employee records need to be kept for at least 7 years after they are no longer working for you. If you change payroll services, don’t forget to download any documents/records being stored with the payroll service so you have copies for your records.

Bank and credit card statements:

  • Personal-Keep digital copies (again, download from your bank every month in case you ever change banks) for at least a year.
  • Business-Keep for at least 7 years to support your deductions. Keep in mind that the IRS wants to see original receipts as support documentation and “generally” will not accept a line item on a bank or credit card statement. But, it’s still good to keep the statements in case you lose receipts.

 

Insurance records personal and/or business:

  • Current policies-keep indefinitely
  • Expired/cancelled policies-keep for 7 year
  • Claims-keep for 6 years after settlement

 

Legal Documents-Personal or Business, keep indefinitely. Be sure to keep hard copies in a fireproof and waterproof safe or safe deposit box.

 

When in doubt, DON’T throw it out! With today’s digital age, it’s a lot easier to retain documents for longer periods of time since it doesn’t take up physical space.  Keep in mind though, you will need to remember to move the files if you have them stored on your local computer and you upgrade to a new computer. You could also save everything to an external hard drive to save the hassle.

This is just an overview of document retention.  You can do a search and find more detailed information.  And you will notice that different sites may have different retention times.  Which is why, when in doubt…

 

Other important things to remember:

  1. Safeguard your information. If digital, keep it password protected if it has your SSN/bank account/credit card information on it. If paper, keep in a secure place at your home-don’t leave at the office where anyone could access it.
  2. When disposing of physical documents, be sure to shred the documents that have SSN/bank account/credit card information on them. Do NOT throw them in the trash.
  3. Credit card offers in the mail-be sure to shred them as well-do NOT throw in the trash.
  4. Passwords-don’t use the same password for everything. If a hacker gets your email and password and it’s used for all of your logins, they will have access to everything.
  5. Get ID Theft Insurance-it covers the cost of having their company deal with your ID theft issues, which can take on average 100-200 hours!
  6. Do NOT send any personal information that has SSN/bank account/credit card information on it through regular email. If anyone ever asks you to email sensitive information, ask them for a secure method. Any company that deals with sensitive data will have an alternative method that is secure. If they don’t, you do not need to be doing business with them.

Understanding the Life Cycle of Your Business

Today I’m going to talk about the life cycle of a business and how to get the most out of each cycle while also extending the lifespan of your business.

The four different stages of a business life cycle are:

  • Infancy/Start-Up
  • Adolescence
  • Growing Pains
  • Maturity

We’ll talk a little about what each of these cycle’s means and how they can each help expand your business’ lifespan.

Infancy/Start-Up

This is generally considered the technician’s phase, which is the owner. At this point, the relationship between the business and the owner is that of a parent and new baby. There is an impenetrable bond that is necessary to determine the path your business will follow. Never drop your baby.

The key is to know your business must grow in order to flourish. You cannot stay in this stage forever.

Adolescence

In this stage you need to start bringing your support staff together to delegate to and allow growth to happen. The first line of defense is your technical person as they need to bring a certain level of technical experience. This cycle really belongs to the manager though. The planning stage needs to start, and a relationship should be built with the entrepreneur to plan for the future.

Growing Pains

There’s a point in every business when business explodes and becomes chaotic. This is referred to as growing pains. It’s a good problem to have, but a problem, nonetheless. You are often faced with a number of choices:

  • Avoid growth and stay small
  • Go broke
  • Push forward into the next cycle

Maturity

The last cycle is maturity, though this doesn’t mean the end of your business. Your passion for growth must continue in order for your business to succeed. You need to keep an entrepreneurial perspective in order to push your business forward.

You can now see how all four of these cycles are connected and depend on a strong foundation for each one of them for your business to be and continue to be successful. All three of your key roles (the technician, manager, and entrepreneur that I mentioned in my previous post) must also work together to work through these cycles.

If you’re having trouble putting together your business life cycles and figuring out which of the key roles you fit into, try our FREE test drive and work with one of our amazing coaches.

Technician vs Manager vs Entrepreneur-Which Role do YOU Play in your Business?

Today I’d like to chat about the different types of support staff you need and what makes them so important.

There are essentially three key roles that need to be filled to set your business up for success:

  • The Technician
  • The Manager
  • The Entrepreneur

All of these roles need to be played simultaneously by different people with the right talents. It’s all about balance.

The Technician

This person represents the present and all that needs to be done for the physical aspects of the business building process. They are the “doer”. This is usually the most visible person of the entire operation.  They work IN the business

The Manager

This person represents the past and works to fix problems through learning from past mistakes. They are the practical side of the business and is in charge of putting together the business and overseeing the planning. They work IN and ON the business.

The Entrepreneur

This person represents the future and the vision for the business. They are responsible for the creative side of the business and are always considering ways to enhance products/service, business image, branding and more. They work ON the business.

All three of these characters are essential in the success of any business and to build a solid foundation from the start, you need to work harder to find the right people to put in these roles. Obviously, you need to be one of these key people, but ensure you find the role that fits your skills and talents, not necessarily what you THINK you should be doing.  In the early stages of your business, you will be all three. But the goal is to hire for two of the three an you carry out the other role.  Most business owners prefer to be the Entrepreneur and hire a Manager and Technician.

This may be a hard process for you as you will need to relinquish some control over the business and instill trust in people to allow them to do their jobs.

We are here to help you through this entire process and teach you how to avoid falling victim to e-myths that you have to do everything.  Remember, the ultimate goal of business ownership is to work smarter, not harder, so letting go is part of the process.

Are You Experiencing the Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster of Emotions (aka the E-Myth)?

You don’t have to fall into the e-myth trap.

What exactly is the E-Myth? An entrepreneurial myth, or e-myth, is an assumption that anyone can succeed at business with:

  • Desire
  • Some capital
  • Projected targeted profit

This sounds great, but it just not realistic. Think of starting a business as a marathon. Sure, everyone starts out of the gate at record pace, but after a few miles people start slowing and some drop out entirely. Building a successful business takes stamina and agility.

The reality is that there are many different facets to a successful business and none of them can be ignored if you plan to find success.

Let’s take a minute to talk about entrepreneurial seizure. This defines the roller coaster of emotions that comes with starting, nurturing and the potential failure of a business.

The emotions that occur, in order, are:

  • Exhilaration
  • Exhaustion
  • Despair
  • Sense of self-loss

This is usually caused by the e-myths and assumptions mentioned above. You can get your hopes so high on instant success that even the smallest lag and you are sent into an emotional tailspin. This is also brought on by the stark realization that you can’t do it all and will need help in the areas where you don’t have the knowledge. Now, faced with limited choices you may feel like you need to back out and hide, but don’t do this.

If you have been on the fence about hiring a coach or just getting a little guidance from a professional, now is the time to seek that guidance. We offer the consultations and business coaching you need to avoid feeling overwhelmed and defeated.

Kick Start Your Marketing

Today We’d like to teach you about the three most important start up marketing tools you need to get and keep new customers.

  1. In person: It’s essential you meet with customers/clients in person whenever possible. This shows you respect them and take the time to work with your clients to give personal attention to each of them.
  2. Follow up letter: Always take a moment to send a follow up letter about what you talked about, new agreements or partnerships made and to thank them for taking the time to meet with you. Likewise, you should always send thank you letters or small gifts to partners you find success with.
  3. Phone call: Use a telephone call to follow up with them to talk again about the matters you talked about in your meeting and offer any assistance you can to help their business run smoothly and more successfully.

None of these will work if you don’t have a quality product/service to back you up!

Here are the key steps for putting together your start-up marketing tools:

  1. Research potential customers, buyers, competitors and their preferred methods of distribution.
  2. Talk to potential customers. Take a hard look at your product from a customer’s perspective and see what it needs to be successful.
  3. Follow up with your 3-step process from above.
  4. Develop systems for contact follow through, quality control standards and customer service.
  5. Develop post-sale follow up system to keep lines of communication open is customers and build on your current relationship which increases future purchases.

“Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs” Peter Drucker, management consultant

Here’s another one We love from an icon:

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motor Company

This lesson has offered you the tools to put together a start-up marketing plan that can be used over and over again to help your customer base and business grow in a manageable way.

Stop Wasting Your Resources!

Today you’re going to learn how to find a target market of potential customers so you aren’t wasting precious resources on blitz marketing. So, the two questions you have to ask yourself are:
  • What do people really want to buy from me?
  • What related products are they already buying?
Once you figure this out you will know who is more predisposed to purchase your products/services. Then, you find other businesses with the same customer base who you can customer share with. Come up with an incentive and great arrangement to encourage both of your customer bases to shop at both of your stores. The basic concept is this: You want to find existing businesses who have the customer profile that you are looking for to market your products/services to. Then strike up a relationship with those business owners to work out an incentive for customers to purchase from both businesses. As a result, you have an audience to market to and they generate an added value from their current base. So, how do you figure this out? There is a great formula from Jay Abraham you can follow with great success. LV = (P x F) x N – MC Here’s what it all means:
  • LV is the life time value of a customer
  • P is the average profit margin from each sale
  • F is the number of times a customer buys each year
  • N is the number of years customers stay with you
  • MC is the marketing cost per customer (total costs/number of customers)
Once you know how much you need to spend to attract a new customer, you will know how much of an incentive you can offer to a business to help attract new customers. So, here’s your step-by-step process:
  1. Find companies who already have the customer base you are looking for.
  2. Negotiate an incentive for them to share that customer base with you.
  3. Focus your marketing resources to this group of predisposed customers.
If you need help working through this process, please contact us and we’ll set you up with the most comprehensive system of marketing tools and resources.

Educate Your Customers

Educate them about what, you may be thinking. Well, consider this, many businesses focus solely on attracting new customers, but you NEED to spend a good chunk of your time retaining current and former customers. These are people you already know to be a good sales potential…they’ve already bought from you!

Take the time to market and sell new products to your old customers and less time trying to sell old products to new customers and you will see a drastic change in your sales, customer quality and branding position.

Here are a couple of key elements to use to retain your current customers:

  1. Stay in contact: This means by phone, email, e-newsletter, in person-by pigeon if you have too!
  2. Post-Purchase Assurance: This means you need to follow up with customers. Your customers need to feel like they are being supported for their purchase and with the item they purchased. How many times have you purchased a product, then felt completely abandoned? Something as simple as a Thank You note with your contact or customer service information can go along way in retaining a great customer.
  3. Deals & Guarantees: Always offer your current customers the best deals and guarantees you have. Show them you appreciate their business or even come up with a club specifically to reward loyal customers. You can also do this with a preferred pricing option.
  4. Integrity: Using good business practices and simply upholding integrity, dignity and honesty go along way with customers. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of swindling and crap out there and the safer and more confident you make your customers feel, the more they will trust you and that makes for an amazingly supportive and loyal customer.

There are three cornerstone ideas to a successful business:

  • Quality product/service
  • Offering useful products/services that solve a problem for or enhance the life of a customer
  • Offer subjects your customers find interesting

Use this approach of educating your customers and offering them real information and insight and you will be rewarded with loyalty and success.

Stop wasting all your time on new prospects while your current customers fall by the wayside!

As Jay Abraham says, “Your best prospects are your existing customers. If you’ve been putting all your marketing efforts into acquiring new customers, stop and diverts some of your resources into reselling, upselling, cross-selling to those same customers. In every ways possible – through package inserts, regular mailings, special offers – stay in touch with those customers and get them used to buying from you.”

So, there it is! Remember, we can help you put together the resources and tools to do exactly that. We can help you educate your customers and you can watch the benefits pay offer many-fold.

Lessons I Learned from Paris Hilton

Today we’ll talk about shameless self-promotion. That’s right, We said it! Shameless! After all, we are learning from Paris Hilton here.

It’s all about self-promotion! Self-promotion comes in many forms and you can use different tactics to get your name out there. Look at politicians! Talk about self-promotion and in some not so discreet ways, at that. But, seriously, consider some of the major superstars we all know. Madonna, Donald Trump, Howard Stern and Bill Clinton, just to name a few.

We all self promote. Did you raise your hand in class to show the teacher you knew the answer? Of course! That’s self-promotion. This is the kind of self-promotion we are talking about. With dignity, class and the knowledge to back it up. If you self-promote only to prove you don’t really know what you’re talking about, you’re going to lose business.

Natural self-promoters are the former and I want to tell you about the three major traits they have and use to build themselves and their businesses.

  1. The first is position. You need to position yourself around people who can make a difference in your life. You need to do this frequently. You need to wake up every morning and ask yourself “Who can I meet today who will make a difference in my success?” In fact, go a step further, write it in big, bold letters and tape it on your bathroom mirror.

Also consider:

Who can help me meet my goals?

Is it a prospective customer/client? A colleague with contacts? An association with key members who may become prospects?

Don’t settle into interacting with the people who are the easiest to access. You need to reach outside your comfort zone and there you will find a wealth of new connections that will bring you great success.

  1. Now, let’s talk about Style. No, this doesn’t mean you need an Armani suit to bring in more business (though, let’s be honest-it wouldn’t hurt) ☺ What this really means is how are you different from your competitors and others in your industry. What makes you memorable with customers?

If you are meeting a lot of people and they don’t remember you once you leave the room, you have a serious problem! This means you have an opportunity to present yourself in a more memorable way.

There are lots of little subtle changes you can make. Reassess your:

  • Business cards
  • Company message
  • Your picture
  • Your wording

Maybe even, your hairstyle (of course, now we’re back to the expensive suit, but it really works!)

You get the idea. There are lots of little ways you can work on making your image and business more successful. Also, consider how you sound on the phone and how you great people at meetings or other events. Think about your 30-sec elevator speech.

  1. The third trait of natural promoters is repetition. You can’t say it once and leave it at that. Successful self-promoters say it as many times as they need until they get a response. Would you remember a commercial for Coca-Cola if you only saw it once, no! You see it over and over and eventually you head out to the store.

You, also, have to make multiple impressions on those you are networking with in order to build brand awareness. Repetition is in direct connection with positioning. Once you find people to network with, reach out and find hundreds more who can help in your success as well.