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// by Bridget Weston Pollack / Dec. 11, 2015 0 comments
Employee Wellness

During the hectic holiday season, your health — and that of your employees — can quickly take a turn for the worst. When you’re getting less sleep, putting in extra hours, or dodging sneezes and coughs in your office, a cold or flu can sneak up and ruin your productivity.

But having a healthy team during your busiest times of the year is crucial. Bob Merberg, employee wellness manager at Paychex, explained on the latest episode of the SCORE Small Business Success Podcast that employee wellness is about more than reducing absenteeism. It’s also about reducing presenteeism: “Time when you’re at work but your productivity is compromised for health related reasons,” Merberg explained. “Think of someone who is working with a migraine headache or lower back pain.”

Employee wellness programs have become popular among businesses of all sizes. But while elaborate programs involving on-site dining programs, yoga classes, and even on-site massages may seem limited to big corporations, you can still take action in your small business to boost wellness.

“Employers should invest in wellness,” Merberg said, “But there are so many things that employers have available to them that they can often access for free or that they’re already paying for if they’re working with a health plan.”

A few ideas Merberg suggests: Offering flu shots; hosting brown-bag sessions on nutrition or stress relief; offering tobacco cessation programs; paying for gym memberships; or even just adding wellness tips to employee newsletters.

You can even set up a walking club to encourage everyone to get up from their desks, or plan to share a healthy potluck meal. Don’t forget to look to your local recreation department or hospital for low-cost partnership and programming opportunities.

If Merberg’s advice has you adding wellness to your new-year to-do list, there are still some steps you can take now to help get your team through the holidays in good health.

Delegate — Share the many tasks of this busy season and check in with employees regularly to make sure they aren’t getting buried by their workload. Don’t forget to check on your own workload and delegate to your team! If necessary, consider hiring temporary additional help.
 

Encourage sick employees to stay home — A lost day can mean those to-dos pile up even more. But if a sick employee comes to work, your whole team could end up under the weather. Offer telecommuting days when team members begin to recover.
 

Encourage healthy habits — Instead of loading up on cookies and cakes this season, provide fresh fruits and vegetables for your team to snack on. Set a good example by taking frequent breaks to stretch and take a quick walk — and take your team along!

If you’re wondering how best to implement an employee wellness plan in your small business, reach out to your SCORE mentor. A mentor can help you evaluate options that could be most beneficial to your team and present the wisest investment for your company. 

Bridget Weston Pollack
Vice President of Marketing & Communications
SCORE
Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the SCORE Association. In this role, Bridget is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies for the organization to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services.
// by Michael Katz / Dec. 10, 2015 0 comments
The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Step

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got rules in my life that I adhere to for no apparent reason. I don’t know where they came from and if they are – or ever were – based on scientific fact.

Examples:

  • You shouldn’t put Teflon in the dishwasher because the heat makes the Teflon flake off, eventually killing your entire family.
  • When it’s cold out, you must always let your car warm up for at least 60 seconds before driving away.
  • If you stay up late watching The Daily Show and wake up your wife Linda when you come to bed, she’ll be angry. (I’m pretty sure this one is true.)

And so when my brother-in-law, Holly, told me about a new book he was reading – one which dispels many long-held exercise myths – I went out the next day and picked up a copy.

I don’t mind unnecessarily washing a Teflon frying pan or two by hand, but if I’m wasting time – or worse, doing something damaging – while exercising, I figured it was worth knowing about.

The book, The First 20 Minutes, Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer, is written by Gretchen Reynolds, a health and fitness journalist and columnist for the NY Times.

It was enjoyable and, as anticipated, myth-busting regarding many of the rules I had been blindly following, such as:

  • Stretching: “In the past decade, a growing number of studies have shown that static stretching not only does not prepare muscles for activity; it almost certainly does the reverse.”
  • Water: “[There is] no credible evidence for the widespread belief that we need to drink eight glasses of water a day.”
  • Running Shoes: “Over the course of three large studies, the researchers found almost no correlation at all between wearing the proper running shoes and avoiding injury.”

Yikes. Nothing in there (unfortunately, in my case) suggesting that a cluttered basement will eventually lead to rock-hard abs, but much to think about, nonetheless.

But it was this insight, the one which inspired the book’s title, that really stayed with me:

“Almost all of the mortality reductions are due to the first twenty minutes of exercise … there’s a huge drop in mortality rates among people who haven’t been doing any activity and then begin doing some, even if the amount of exercise is quite small.”

In other words, and as the book explains, if you already exercise, doing more (even significantly more) doesn’t yield nearly the same health improvement as does moving from doing nothing at all to doing just a little bit.

The biggest gains, it seems, are in getting started.

Well guess what, my rock-hard-abbed friend … marketing works the same way. It’s not so much the fine-tuning that yields the biggest benefits, it’s the act of doing something – even if it’s not perfect.

Which means that:

  • If you believe in the value of staying in touch with your existing contacts (and if you don’t, you’re reading the wrong newsletter), then stay in touch with them. Even if the way you do it is unsystematic, sloppy and incomplete.

Sure, it’s better to have a system in place that works perfectly, but don’t let not having it perfect prevent you from keeping your network alive.

  • If you believe in the value of creating and sharing content, then write something and put it out there … even if it’s not the best thing you’ve ever done.

Waiting six months (or forever) to launch your newsletter, blog or free giveaway because it’s not yet perfect, on the other hand, is a losing strategy. Here as well, the biggest gains come when you move from publishing nothing to publishing something – not from improving on what you’re already doing.

Here’s the bottom line. Am I saying you shouldn’t be fine-tuning your approach and tactics? No. No more than the book is saying you should reduce the amount you exercise.

What I am saying, though, is that if you’re doing nothing in the areas of your business that you know to be important, you’ve got a fantastic opportunity in front of you. Get off the metaphorical couch, and break a little sweat.

The biggest gains are in getting started.

Michael Katz
Founder
Blue Penguin Content Club

Michael Katz is Founder and Chief Penguin of the Blue Penguin Content Club, a membership site for solos and freelancers with an interest in creating great content. Learn more here: http://bluepenguincontentclub.com/signupAlso connect with him on LinkedIn.
Blue Penguin Content Club | @MichaelJKatz | More from Michael

// by Canon / Dec. 9, 2015 0 comments
Part-Time vs. Full-Time

One of the first decisions you need to make when launching your business is whether to start part-time or full-time. There are pros and cons to each option. Here's a closer look at some of the factors you'll need to consider.

How much time do you have available? Sometimes, circumstances force you to start your business part-time at first. Perhaps you need to keep your day job in order to finance your new business or support your family. Perhaps other commitments prevent you from devoting all your time to your startup. If this is the case, don't feel discouraged: Many successful businesses have started out part-time — it just takes a little longer to get there.

What's your financial situation? Perhaps your available startup capital isn't adequate to support a full-time startup just yet. Typically, it's wise to have enough money put aside to live on for at least six months  to a year before you launch a business full time. If you can only afford to start a business on a smaller scale, a part-time business is a smart choice that won't put undue financial pressure on you.

How ambitious are your startup plans? If you are planning to launch a business you believe can become the next Facebook or Uber, or have a plan to grow aggressively and seek venture capital, you'll need to put all your time and effort behind the launch in order to meet your objectives and satisfy potential investors. However, if you simply want to make some extra money, or start a "lifestyle" business that can eventually replace your income from your job, starting part-time could be a smart move.

How confident are you about your market’s potential? Perhaps you are exploring a market whose potential is uncertain. For example, you might believe that there is a market in your area for tutoring children in foreign languages. However, you're not sure that the market can support a full-time business doing this. If so, you can start a part-time business to explore whether this market has full-time potential.

What is your risk tolerance? Starting a full-time business requires taking a lot of chances — quitting your day job, putting your heart and soul into a new venture and going without a salary until your business takes off. If the idea of doing all this at once makes you nervous, you can ease your worries by starting part-time, which poses less risk.

How much energy do you have? It might seem like starting a part-time business requires less energy than going full speed ahead. However, it’s important to consider your lifestyle and responsibilities. If you are holding down a demanding full-time job, have a  young family and are also trying to get a part-time business off the ground, that can rapidly add up to more time than you'd spend starting a company full-time. This can become a recipe for burnout if you're not careful.

Is your family on board? If you have a significant other and/or children, you must factor them into your startup equation. Do they support your starting a business full time, or would they be more comfortable if you eased in part-time? Your family members will inevitably have concerns about financial security, how much time you'll have available for them, and other practical and emotional issues that you need to take seriously in making the decision whether to go part-time or full-time.

If you do decide to start your business part-time, here are some tips that can help boost your chances of success:

  • Consider taking on a partner or outsourcing some of the work so you can get more done in less time.
  • Create financial projections and decide at what point you will be making enough money to switch over to running your business full-time.
  • If you're starting a business while keeping your job, make sure that your new business does not conflict with, compete with or put your job in jeopardy.
Canon
SCORE Corporate Patron
Canon U.S.A., Inc.

Canon U.S.A., Inc., is a leading provider of consumer, business-to-business, and industrial digital imaging solutions. Committed to the highest level of customer satisfaction and loyalty, Canon provides 100 percent U.S.-based consumer service and support for all of the products it distributes. 
USA.Canon.com | @CanonUSA | More from Canon

 

// by Rieva Lesonsky / Dec. 8, 2015 0 comments
Entrepreneur

What makes or breaks a successful small business? Xero's Make or Break report, which polled over 2,000 entrepreneurs, found those who succeed in business have several key factors in common. Here's a closer look at what successful business owners do differently.

1. They make time for a personal life. Despite the stereotype of the hard-driving entrepreneur who works 24/7 and sleeps under his or her desk, the reality of entrepreneurial success is far different. Almost six out of 10 survey respondents (58 percent) believe spending time with their families in the evenings is critical to their success in business, and 53 percent say it's important to keep their weekends free for family time.

2. They focus on managing finances. The most common business issue causing business failure among the entrepreneurs surveyed was financial mismanagement leading to problems such as poor cash flow or lack of access to capital. Take the time to learn the basics of bookkeeping — even if you're not the one managing your money, you still need to know the essential principles so you can keep an eye on whoever is. Today's small business accounting software greatly simplifies accounting processes that used to take hours, so be sure to tap into this valuable tool. Nearly 60 percent of the successful small businesses surveyed use software to manage their money. In contrast, just 14 percent of failed businesses do.

3. They're willing to invest in improving their businesses. Successful small business owners don't scrimp when it comes to putting money back into their companies. In addition to installing small business accounting software, other areas where successful entrepreneurs see fit to spend include marketing/advertising and improving customer service.

4. They understand the power of technology. A whopping 86 percent of successful entrepreneurs in the survey use technology to make their companies more productive. The most popular type of technology: business apps, used by 49 percent, while 32 percent use mobile payment technology and 26 percent use business planning tools. In addition, successful small business owners use technology to balance their business and personal lives. Although they greatly value their family and personal time, only 29 percent turn off their smart phones and/or laptops outside of business hours.

5. They're not afraid to ask for help. Successful entrepreneurs in the study actively enlist the support of a supportive network that includes family members, accountants, advisors and mentors. One-third of successful entrepreneurs say they have relied on business mentors, compared to just 14 percent of respondents whose businesses had failed.                 

If you need help figuring out what will make or break your business, visit www.score.org to get matched with a mentor today.  

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
GrowBizMedia.com | @rieva | More from Rieva

// by Jeanne Rossomme / Dec. 7, 2015 0 comments
Meeting

This is the last, but certainly far from the least, main reason that plans fall flat and do not achieve the desired goals.  Kicking off a new year and assembling your team to envision the future is an energizing experience. Teams leave planning meetings with a high level of optimism and commitment.  As leader, you will want to ride that wave as long as you can. 

But with all the time pressure of modern work life, that wave dies all too soon.  This is where planning usually fall apart.  To keep up momentum, you need to a set managing process before you walk out of the room. 

A plan managing process needs four elements: regular reporting meetings, a dashboard, a detailed plan and an owner.

  • Meetings:  Depending on the speed of the organization you need to have regular meetings to track plan progress.  In many cases you can structure fast “stand up” meeting of as little as 15 minutes weekly to report roadblocks and then longer monthly meetings to look at progress and any plan adjustments.  The key is to get them in the calendar now.
  • Dashboard: A good dashboard takes your goals for the year, establishes the few key metrics to track those goals and then reports back to the team on a regular basis.  Numbers don't lie and at the very least tell you directionally if your team’s activity is moving your company in the right direction.  Dashboards can be as simple as a spreadsheet or as fancy as a financial dashboard app.  The key is that the information can be easily and consistently collected and communicated with the team.
  • Detailed plan: Planning meetings usually end with an agreement on strategy and a few key initiatives.  Strategy can only become real when you drive to a list of tasks with a clear action, an owner, and a deadline for each.  Depending on the skills of each team member, you can ask for a detailed plan or create one and then get buy-in.  These task lists act as a powerful accountability driver for team members.  They develop the rigor of needing to present results at the monthly meetings, and personal performance tied to yearly objectives.
  • Plan owner:  You also need a leader who will take charge of making sure the process gets followed.  This role is best assigned to someone who is organized and committed to seeing things through.

Managing processes takes time up front, but they contribute an amazing boost to productivity and effectiveness.

Jeanne Rossomme
President
RoadMap Marketing

Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.
www.roadmapmarketing.com | @roadmapmarketin | More from Jeanne

// by Bridget Weston Pollack / Dec. 4, 2015 0 comments
Successful Startups

Did visiting your local shops and restaurants on Small Business Saturday inspire you to start your entrepreneurship journey? It’s hard to resist the excitement of a bustling small business!

Our new infographic, “Successful Startups: Why We Need ‘Em -- And How You Can Be One!” focuses on the bright outlook for small businesses in the United States.

America Loves Small Business

Entrepreneurs in the U.S. are viewed as having more opportunities for success and hold higher status than business owners in other developed countries around the world.

And what’s not to love? New businesses -- those less than one year old -- create an average of 1.5 million jobs per year, a much greater rate of growth than established businesses. And between 2005 and 2011, small firms produced 15 times as many patents per employee as large ones. American businesses are hotbeds for innovation!

Balance small business challenges with a strong team

Starting a small business doesn’t come without its challenges. In fact, small business closures have outpaced openings since 2008. Launching into a new business alone and unprepared can be a dangerous venture that leads to a grim outcome.

But with planning and purpose, you can increase your chances of success.

Starting your business with a partner or partners can build success through teamwork. “Top-tier startups were 59 percent more likely to have more than one founder,” Sage found in in its 2015 State of the Startup report. “When you have a partner to share the mundane day-to-day business tasks, you not only free up more of your time for brainstorms and decision making, but you also have someone who can collaborate on those more creative pursuits.”

Don’t delay in writing your business plan -- 78 percent of successful startups have one!

And of course, find a mentor right away. Seventy percent of small businesses that receiving mentoring survive more than five years. That’s twice the survival rate of those who don’t seek mentoring from organizations like SCORE! 
 

Download the infographic to learn more.

 

Bridget Weston Pollack
Vice President of Marketing & Communications
SCORE
Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the SCORE Association. In this role, Bridget is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies for the organization to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services.
// by Michael Katz / Dec. 3, 2015 0 comments
Inspiration

I’m no historian, but apparently it was painter Chuck Close, who famously said, “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

I think that’s a valid point, particularly if you do the kind of artistic work where “waiting for inspiration” can turn into an excuse for not producing anything at all.

For those of us, on the other hand, who create “business content” – content that we need to promote ourselves as solo professionals – I think inspiration is worth waiting for. Or, at the very least, worth looking for.

Here’s what I mean…

If you’re a solo professional, you need to be creating content. Blogs, newsletters, videos, free giveaways … all that kind of stuff.

Whatever form it takes, if you want people to view you as a Likeable Expert (Hint: you do), you need to be sharing a point of view in some kind of consistent and scalable (i.e., more than just one-on-one conversations) way.

But it need not be a grind and inspiration can help a lot in that regard.The key is to structure your efforts in such a way that you tap into said inspiration (why am I suddenly talking like William F. Buckley?).

Here are three things I recommend for making that happen:

  • Pay close attention to your mood. Sometimes, I don’t feel like writing. Other times, I can’t get to my keyboard fast enough. Why the difference? I don’t know. But when the mood strikes, I pounce.

This morning, for example, I was about to leave the house when I suddenly got an idea about a particular topic. My office is only seven minutes away (depending on school bus traffic), but I’ve learned to never ignore the Good Writing Fairy, lest she leave me for someone else.

So I grabbed my laptop, sat down at the kitchen table, and got the words out of my head and into a document.

Try to notice when the words are flowing – and clear the decks, if possible.

  • Learn how to get in the mood. Inspiration may be mysterious, but it’s not entirely random. Certain things help to get us into a creative frame of mind. 

Maybe your thing is running. Or listening to certain types of music. Or yelling at annoying children.

My go-to writing mood-creator these days is a guy named Tony Horton, the creator of the P90X workout series. Not the workouts themselves; I just happen to love the way he talks. If I need a mood boost, I find him on YouTube and soak it up.

  • Stockpile. I don’t mean stockpiling complete newsletters. That’s usually a mistake because people try to have a bunch in the can before launching and, as a result, they never launch.

I mean stockpiling ideas.

I never sit down at a blank screen to write. Why? Because I spend my days collecting newsletter ideas: little stories and insights and snippets. I write them down (on yellow sticky notes) and keep them in a pile on my desk. When it’s time to write, I have something to work from.

There’s nothing scarier than an empty page. Collect ideas before you need them.

Here’s the bottom line. Sometimes a deadline looms and you just need to get it done. But if you can add some inspiration juice to the process, the getting it done part will be that much easier.

Michael Katz
Founder
Blue Penguin Content Club

Michael Katz is Founder and Chief Penguin of the Blue Penguin Content Club, a membership site for solos and freelancers with an interest in creating great content. Learn more here: http://bluepenguincontentclub.com/signupAlso connect with him on LinkedIn.
Blue Penguin Content Club | @MichaelJKatz | More from Michael

// by Canon / Dec. 2, 2015 0 comments
Business Plan

Starting a business involves some risks, so it’s important to do all you can to help improve your chances of success from the beginning. A business plan helps you start off on the right track by providing a guide as to where you see your business in the next few years.

A few reasons you need a business plan:

  • Investors and banks will want a comprehensive plan for your startup before deciding to give you funding.
  • A business plan can give you clarity about your goals and a deeper understanding of your market.
  • A business plan helps keep your day-to-day activities on target and organized.
  • A business plan can help you make financial and management decisions.
  • As your business grows, a business plan provides benchmarks against which to measure your progress.

In the same way each business is unique, so is each business plan. Yours should reflect not only the numbers, but also your startup’s culture, vision and personality. There are also business plans for different purposes—for example, a business plan used as part of a loan application may require more in-depth data than one prepared for the owner’s guidance.

Here are the must-have components of every business plan:

The Executive Summary (Company Description). This is where people start to read your plan, and your first chance to make a good impression. You need to concisely describe what your company does in the first paragraph of your Executive Summary. Be succinct, descriptive and appealing and explain the goals of your business. Why are you uniquely qualified to succeed? Is it your intellectual property, management team’s unique and/or extensive background, early (standout) accomplishments, key partnerships, favorable market trends, etc.?

Market Analysis. Here you need detailed target market statistics and research. Then explain your market research to readers, including your business’s unique selling proposition and what makes it appealing to customers. Are there new markets you’ll explore in the future, new product lines you’ll add or new services you’ll offer? Show the reader that you know your market and understand where your best prospects lie. You should also include information about each of your sales strategies, such as digital, print, direct sales, etc.

Financial Projections. This section outlines what your business will accomplish financially over the next three to five years. Potential investors, creditors and business partners will want this information so they know they're making a good investment with your business. If you are creating the plan to get immediate funding, you need to include a formal funding request and specify how much capital you need now and in the future. Go over this section with your accountant to make sure everything is worded correctly.

Your Team. The organization and management section of the plan tells your readers about the structure of your business and who in the company is responsible for what. Make sure your business plan explains how each member of your staff adds to the success potential of your business. Also project what future positions you see as important to grow your business in the coming years.

Service or Product Line. Thoroughly describe your product or service, including any associated patent/trademark information or research and development activities.

Businesses change to reflect the current economy and fluctuating market trends. Your business needs to be flexible to accommodate whatever the economy will support. As it grows, revisit and revise your business plan. For example, once you have a track record of real financials, you can revise your financial projections to more accurately reflect where you are and where you want to go. If you find you need to hire sooner than you expected, update your plan’s team section and budget to reflect the changes. Create new projections and new goals, and watch your business flourish.

Canon
SCORE Corporate Patron
Canon U.S.A., Inc.

Canon U.S.A., Inc., is a leading provider of consumer, business-to-business, and industrial digital imaging solutions. Committed to the highest level of customer satisfaction and loyalty, Canon provides 100 percent U.S.-based consumer service and support for all of the products it distributes. 
USA.Canon.com | @CanonUSA | More from Canon

 

// by Rieva Lesonsky / Dec. 1, 2015 0 comments
Cloud Hosting & Storage

One of the smartest ways to make your small business more productive is to use cloud storage and sharing for your business documents and data. That’s why I was so shocked to find that nearly half of U.S. small businesses in a new survey by Clutch still don’t use cloud storage. 

Of the 52 percent of small business owners who use cloud storage, 53 percent use Dropbox; rounding out the four most popular services are Google Drive, Apple iCloud and Microsoft OneDrive. Yet 48 percent of small businesses don’t use cloud storage at all.

Cloud storage offers so many benefits to a small business, I don’t know where to start. Here are a few that stand out:

  • The cloud can provide additional security. Compared to storing sensitive customer or financial data on your own in-house computers or servers, storing that information in a secure cloud can actually be much safer. Instead of relying on your own tech know-how to keep your data safe and secure, when you use a cloud storage provider, you've got the benefit of their equipment and expertise protecting your information. This can be especially useful if your business has to comply with standards such as HIPAA. Be sure to ask for details about a cloud provider's security and compliance if this is a concern.
  • The cloud can provide peace of mind. In addition to security, a good cloud storage solution will automatically update and sync your files across all devices whenever someone makes a change. That means whoever pulls up a document or spreadsheet can feel confident they’re working on the latest version. If you're worried about things getting overwritten, look for a cloud storage solution that maintains past versions of your files, too.
  • The cloud makes it easier to work together. When your data is stored in the cloud and you also use the cloud to share files with your employees or customers, it really cuts down: time wasted waiting for someone to send you a file, time wasted waiting for someone to come into the office and sign a document, time wasted inputting the whole team's comments into a master document. Cloud sharing allows your whole team to access files, view them and edit them—if that’s what you want them to do. When choosing a collaborative cloud sharing solution, make sure it allows for different levels of access so you can control who sees what and who edits what.
  • The cloud makes meetings simpler. You can use online video conferencing solutions to hold meetings without the need to travel or even be in the same office (great if you have independent contractors or remote employees). Look for a videoconferencing tool that enables features such as screen sharing so everyone can view a document, presentation or video at the same time.
  • The cloud expands with your business. If you store your data on hard drives or backup drives, you've got to worry about running out of space and make sure you always have enough storage space. That means buying more equipment—and that's a hassle. With cloud storage, you can add more storage space with just a click, and all the mechanics are handled on the provider's end. When your business is growing, you've got enough to worry about, so it's nice when storage isn’t one of them.

Using the cloud has definitely changed my business for the better and made my life much easier. If you still haven't joined the cloud club, what are you waiting for?

Need help choosing a cloud storage provider or figuring out how to maximize the cloud’s value to your business? Talk to a SCORE mentor. Visit www.score.org.

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
GrowBizMedia.com | @rieva | More from Rieva

// by Rochelle Robinson / Nov. 30, 2015 0 comments
Taxes

Tax and Record Keeping Tips for Your Small Business

Small business owners face a great deal of challenges, but taxes always appears at the top of the list. Small business owners need to make sure they are paying what they should and taking the appropriate deductions to reduce their taxes.

Protect Your Business
No matter what stage of business you are in, it’s a good idea to consult a professional tax advisor. A knowledgeable tax advisor can save you both time and money as well as endless problems and hassles from the Internal Revenue Service.

Most small business owners turn to qualified Certified public accountants (CPAs). CPAs have been trained in business accounting procedures. To find a qualified CPA, check with other small business owners or contact your state’s CPA association. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) offers a listing of state CPA associations.

Pay Your Taxes Quarterly
If you’re a sole proprietor, which means you solely own an unincorporated business, the federal government requires you to pay income taxes each quarter. The federal government does not recognize an LLC as a classification for federal tax purposes. An LLC business entity must file as a corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship tax return. You must pay federal income tax, along with Social Security and Medicare taxes, known collectively as self-employment tax. Tax laws change frequently; contact your tax advisor to determine how much you should set aside. Read more: IRS Publication 505: Tax Witholding and Estimated Tax and Tax Calendar for Small Businesses and Self-Employed (Publication 1518)

Keep Good Records
Keeping well-organized records ensures you can answer questions if your return is selected for examination or prepare a response if you receive an IRS notice. As a small business owner, you should keep all your tax records for a minimum of four years.

Examples of important documents business owners should keep include:

  • Gross receipts: Cash register tapes, bank deposit slips, receipt books, invoices, credit card charge slips and Forms 1099-MISC
  • Proof of purchases: Canceled checks, cash register tape receipts, credit card sales slips and invoices
  • Expense documents: Canceled checks, cash register tapes, account statements, credit card sales slips, invoices and petty cash slips for small cash payments
  • Documents to verify your assets: Purchase and sales invoices, real estate closing statements and canceled checks

Take every LEGAL deduction you can
There are two basic tax concepts small business owners need to know, business expenses and capital expenses.

  • Business expenses are the cost of conducting a trade or business. These expenses are common costs of doing business, and are usually tax deductible if your business is for profit. According to the IRS: To be deductible, a business expense must be both “ordinary” and “necessary.” An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your field of business. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your business.
  • Capital expenses are the costs of purchasing specific assets, such as property or equipment,which usually have a life of a year or more and increase the quality and quantity of products and services. There are two ways to deduct capital expenses. You can “depreciate” them by deducting a portion of the total cost each year over an asset’s useful life; or you might be able to deduct the cost in one year as a Section 179 deduction.

Purchase Small Business Accounting Software
Small business accounting software saves you time compared to handling the books manually and is usually more efficient than using a simple spreadsheet because it reduces or eliminates redundant data entry. Narrow down your preferred accounting software choices by making a list of the features you need to run your business ranging from Inventory management, sales tracking, payroll, and tax reporting. Word of mouth referrals can be a valuable tool so talk to other small business owners and inquire what software they use and ask about the pros and cons.

Some well known accounting software: QuickBooks series by Intuit, Simply Accounting and Peachtree Complete Accounting Software by Sage Software, and Cougar Mountain Software.

Note: The Internal Revenue Service offers a Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop, composed of nine interactive lessons designed to help new small business owners learn their tax rights and responsibilities.

Rochelle Robinson
Business and Wealth Advisor
WealthSide Capital
Rochelle Robinson is a business & wealth advisor serving as a CEO of WealthSide Capital, a pioneer in business and financial management services and Managing Editor of WealthSide.com, a leading interactive financial empowerment community. Rochelle is focused on small business solutions, personal finance management, and achieving financial freedom through wealth creation.
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