Sunday, August 26, 2012

Stop Working In Your Business

My client and I were talking about a challenge that she has been having around growing her business. She is an accountant and is often under tight deadlines. On top of the "deadline" work there is constantly other new work coming in. She works hard to make sure that all of her clients' work is done; however, the marketing, business growth and day-to-day admin work often fall through the cracks. On top of that she was feeling unfocused and that she was just chasing after deadlines all day.
I like to categorize these activities as "IN" your business, "ON" your business and "ADMIN". Unless you continually move these three areas forward you will not have a sustainable business.
In an ideal world you'll have plenty of support to help you, but the reality is that at the end of the day a lot of it simply falls to you to do. So how do you do it?
Here's a straightforward approach my client and I came up with.
1. At the end of each day review your "to-do" list and identify your top priority in each of these three areas ("in" your business, "on" your business, admin).
2. Be sure that these three things are very specific and are single tasks (none should take a full day on its own). If you're thinking about a project, be sure to identify the part of the project you are doing.
3. Create a list with ONLY these three things on it.
4. Review your list at the beginning of each day and get to work focusing on these three things only.
5. Review your list around lunchtime to make sure that you are still moving these three goals forward.
6. At the end of the day reassess and plan out tomorrow.
After we created this plan I shared some bad news with her... it wasn't only her "in", "on" and "admin" activities that weren't getting done. She was neglecting herself too. We agreed to add one more category to the list... "PERSONAL". What was one thing she wanted to do for herself each day? Some ideas we came up with were spending time reading a book, playing with her dog, gardening, taking a long bath and enjoying a dinner with her husband.
She's been doing this exercise for a week now and is finding herself much more focused. She also said that she's spending time "ON" her business and doing admin work each day.
Here are a few tricks she's learned to make sure the system works:
* Hang the list up so that it's visible and refer to it often.
* Don't overload any one area.
* There are times when one area seems to get short-changed. As long as you move each area forward a little bit it's okay. Just shift that balance back the next day.
What four things are on your list for today? Make it happen!
Carrie Greene is a speaker, trainer, coach and author of Chaos to Cash. She helps entrepreneurs cut through the confusion and chaos surrounding them so they make decisions, stop spinning and procrastinating and make more money.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Allowed Expenses for Tax Deduction

Did you know as a business owner of a sole proprietorship, you will pay a self-employment tax? Your business expenses can help off-set this tax. What can you deduct?
  • Car expenses (gas, repair, maintenance, taxes, tag fees)
  • Building expenses (lights, water, internet) a percentage of this if it is a home business
  • Cell phone (if used more than 50 percent of the time)
  • Clothes and dinning (if you can prove they are needed for business)
  • Equipment (will deprecate over time and can be deducted it until sells or has no value)
  • Supplies (are used up on a regular basis)
  • Accountancy and professional fees
  • Logo'd uniform
  • Advertising
  • Insurance
  • Postage
  • Safety Wear - such as a safety Helmet
All of these are included on a different line when you itemize your expenses. Keep track of these expenses all year long. Keep logs of money spent. You memory will not be reliable when it comes down to every penny. Certain deductions require proof that they were indeed needed for business (clothes, dinning, hotels, etc.).
Here are few do's and don'ts about tax deductions.
Do keep all gas receipts and a mile log.
As a sales person going from place to place each day, keeping a mile log really pays off.
Do keep money earned from the business separate from personal money.
Two accounts are better than one when it comes to owning a business. There is a chance you could get audited if you are still earning a check outside the business and don't keep it separate to track money from both sources.
Do keep a log of all you meetings.
Your need for clothes or dinning expenses will match your meeting log. If you are on a business trip and buy memorabilia, you cannot deduct that purchase on your taxes.
Don't throw all your paper into a bin for the whole year.
Your memory will not be reliable in 12 months to remember what dinning receipts went with which meeting and who you saw.
Don't try to deduct luxury items.
Your car washes, carpet cleaning, and office decor are not tax deductible. If you try to include these things in your expenses, you may red flag your account and get audited for sure.
If you are unsure if an item is deducible or not, consult an accountant to be sure.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Judge the Book by Its Cover

I often hear the analogy "the mechanics car doesn't run", or "the housekeeper's home is the dirtiest house". Is that the standard you want?
When hiring any professional - be it to work on my car, in my home, or in my business I treat their entire presence as their resume. If I drive into a mechanics, and there are broken and battered vehicles in the employee lot, I look for other signs that could show me what type of business this is. Are the employees happy? Well groomed?
The same holds true to the people you invite into your business. Do you practice the same due diligence here that you would when entrusting your car or your home with someone? Would you hire an HR firm that has high turnover, or pending or past law suits from current or ex-employees?
We tend to buy from people we like. A good salesperson will be able to establish the rapport, and build the bridge of trust with you. You trust that salesperson. Do you have confidence in the company they represent? When spending a few hundred dollars, or many thousands, I encourage you to practice your due diligence on the company you are hiring. Interview them the way you would a potential employee, as in essence that is what they are.
Here are some quick tips:
1. Google them - look for complaints - both unresolved and resolved.
a. Google them with lawsuit at the end of their name.
b. Google the owner's name(s).
2. Check with their local BBB.
3. Do they have client testimonials? Call them.
4. Look for industry specific websites or forums - for instance if you are hiring an HR firm, look at their reviews on Glassdoor. Look at their job postings to assess their rate of turnover.
5. How current are the articles on their website? What do they say? Do they reflect the vision of the company?
6. Look them up through their local Clerk of Courts website, for legal actions, or filings.
If any of these points reveal anything, that is your clue to dig deeper. You may still choose to do business with them, but at least you know who you are dealing with.