2013 Tax Tips

I really didn’t know if I should title this post 2013 Tax Tips or 2014 Tax Tips, I went with 2013 since these tips apply for the year that just ended but the tips in this post may help you plan early for 2014 as well. At any rate, the Holidays are over and now is the time small business owners must prepare their taxes, obviously not the most pleasant task anyone faces. Two ways to ease the pain mighty be to outsource your tax preparation or find some very comprehensive software that greatly reduces the burden and risk for your business.

How to Choose the Best Tax Software for Your Business provides these five tips to choose a software solution.

  1. Find a comprehensive solution.
  2. Look for a low-maintenance solution.
  3. Make sure the software is easy to install and integrate.
  4. Find a solution that files all tax returns for you.
  5. Ensure the tax solution partner will back you up.

Please note that the software is much powerful than something designed for individual tax returns. This type of software can update changes in tax laws and other tax issues automatically if you choose the correct software solution. Some of the software can even file tax returns for you as in point 4 above.

I think this quote from the article sums up everything completely and how important it is to do the research and choose the correct tax software solution for your business.

Barsade said the bottom line is that business owners need to find an affordable, fully automated, single-source solution that addresses all of their tax compliance needs

“There are affordable services on the market now that can streamline and automate tax filing, giving you more time to focus on your business,” Barsade said. “By following these tips, you can find the right fit for your company.”

 

 

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Another Four Tips For Retaining Customers

We just posted earlier this month on why any small business owner needs to focus on keeping your current customers, but the main focus on the previous posting was four tips to maintain them. What the posting did not cover was why so many small businesses lose customers in the first place. Why Most Businesses Lose Customers (And How to Keep Yours) covers this aspect and begins with this interesting and sobering statistic.

The average small business loses half its customers within three years. That grim statistic comes from serial entrepreneur, speaker, and consultant Barry Moltz, who shared it at the recent webinar “Setting Your Small Business Up for Success in 2014.”

You can beat those odds, he says, by avoiding these common mistakes entrepreneurs tend to make:

Those are very sobering statistics, but the article provides these four mistakes to avoid that may help your business beat the odds.

  1. Being inconsistent.
  2. Staying silent.
  3. Failing to build a relationship.
  4. Not listening to what they’re saying about you.

I think all of these points are important, but 2 and 4 may be the most essential because they focus on communicating with your customers.

Remember the old slogan “Reach out and touch someone”- I know it was an old one, but it is very applicable to your small business and is a great example of point 2. Remind your customers on a regular basis of the link between them and your business.

The Internet age has made point 4 especially important. Any small business owner has to be aware of their online reputation either good or bad. To quote from the article:

“Ninety-two percent of customers trust recommendations from people they know,” Moltz says. “And 70 percent trust recommendations from people they don’t know, such as reviews on Amazon.” That means you need to know what people are saying about you on sites like Yelp and take action or respond when appropriate.

Whether you think they are or not, people are talking about you online,” Moltz adds. “They’re probably doing it right now.”

As if small business owners didn’t have enough to worry about, now they have to be on constant guard of their online reputation as well. The good news is that by monitoring and responding to bad and good reviews, a small business can greatly reduce the numbers of customers they lose.

 

Posted in Social Media, The Internet | Leave a comment

Good Reviews Help Small Businesses

I had heard of Yelp, but had only visited their site a few times so the first thing I did was visit their website after I read How Yelp Can Help… Small Businesses Take Advantage of Reviews [Infographic]. We frequently visit some bakeries and shops in Kirkwood, MO and in fact are picking up some petits fours on Christmas Eve so I was curious about the Yelp ratings of some of the stores we were going to visit.

I found out that most people rated the stores as highly as we would and thought about this quote from the article mentioned above.

The average increase in annual revenue for small businesses with Yelp accounts was $8,000, and $23,000 was the average increase in annual revenue for small businesses that paid to advertise on Yelp.

Moreover, 90% of Yelp users say positive reviews influence their buying choices, so you may be missing out on business if you’re avoiding Yelp.

Despite the benefits of actively using Yelp, however, 87% of small businesses don’t, and 22% of small businesses with Yelp pages never even look at their pages. Accordingly, a small business that is active on Yelp can seize a competitive advantage.

I wondered how many of the businesses we are going to visit were aware of how helpful Yelp could be in promoting their stores. I know I searched under the topic “Food” for my results and that is one of the top business types searched on Yelp (63%). The Infographic in the article provides a lot of compelling statistics on why you really should at least consider Yelp for your small business.

Posted in Advertising, Marketing and Positioning, Social Media | Leave a comment

Customer Retention Tips

We’ve posted frequently in the past on how important it is to retain existing customer since it so much more cost effective than acquiring new customers, but I was surprised when I checked and we had not posted on this topic for some time when I posted Sales and Existing Customers. How important it is to keep your current customers struck me again when I read a recent article, 4 Tips for Creating a Customer for Life that began with this eye opening quote.

Savvy business owners try to build relationships with everyone who visits their store or website. That’s because they understand the cost of new customer acquisition is as much as 5 to 10 times higher than the expense of retaining a current customer and that repeat customers spend, on average, 67 percent more than new ones.

Those are some pretty compelling figures on why you need to make every effort to retain current customers and encourage repeated visits from those customers to your store. The article recommends these four tips to accomplish this task.

  1. Provide exemplary service.
  2. Hire staffers how are committed to customer satisfaction.
  3. Show your customers how much you appreciate them.
  4. Anticipate what your customers want.

By following these four tips you can maximize the spending of that very important customer base, loyal and repeat customers. I think in this instance the old saying “a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush” applies to customers as well as birds.

 

 

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Late Year Small Business Planning

Thanksgiving has come and gone and hopefully Small Business Saturday will be a big success at your business. If the outdoor chores at your home and business have not been completed (mine aren’t and I plan to finish the bulk of my home yard work tomorrow), now is the time to make sure to get them done before winter sets in. The change in seasons is also a good time to examine your business in preparation for next year so you can make any needed changes to make 2014 a great year.

Small Business Planning in the Fall recommends the following 10 points consider this fall as your get ready for 2014.

  1. Reduce your tax bill.
  2. Mind the books.
  3. Eliminate time waste.
  4. Review your business goals.
  5. Review all of your employee’s roles.
  6. Review vendors and services.
  7. Look at your sales strategy.
  8. Pay me.
  9. Know when you need help.
  10. Look ahead.

I did notice something about the list. It really covers all aspects of your business: accounting issues, better time management, employee management, suppliers, sales strategy, collection, and strategic planning.

On a final note, I think many times small business owners have trouble finding the time to devote to strategic planning for their business, but I think this quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower sums up how important it can be for the long term success of your business.

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

 

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A Great Example of Small Business Saturday

christmas-flyer2We got to take my almost three year old granddaughter to see Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus arrive at 9:30 last Saturday on a train in Kirkwood, MO. as mentioned in the flyer above (sorry for the poor quality image, I had to scan in one of the flyers posted around the area). I noticed in the middle of the flyer the part that they were promoting Small Business Saturday so I thought this would be a good example.

The whole promotion was a great success from what I saw that day. There was a lot of excitement from all the youngsters waiting for the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus and afterwords the large crowd began visiting the local bakeries that I have mentioned before and  all the small shops in the area. To illustrate how crowded it was, we had trouble finding seating in one of the bakeries and someone was waiting for our table when we left.

I also noticed that one enterprising local establishment that sold Christmas trees, decorations, gift items, etc. had someone passing out postcards to the people with some very enticing coupons that were good for a limited time. He was definitely taking advantage of a large crowd at the right time. I wonder how much extra business he generated for his business that day.

I did notice one last thing about the flyer above. Not only did they promote Small Business Saturday, they also promoted several events to continue to bring business to Kirkwood, such as three photo events with Santa to bring back people who couldn’t wait in the long line to see Santa that day (that would include my granddaughter) and a winter fireworks festival.

For everyone of the many events the flyer above emphasizes that dining and shopping will be available. I think this is an excellent example of promoting Small Business Saturday and local business at the same time.

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Small Business Saturday 2013

halloween

Halloween is over and the next big holiday is Thanksgiving, of course. Something important for small business owners is an event that closely follows Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday. I do a posting on it almost every year (2012 was the exception), but I’ve noticed I usually don’t post until fairly close to the event. I thought it might be a good idea to post about it a little earlier this year so I did a search on Small Business Saturday and came up with all sorts of valuable resources to help you get ready for this growing event (the link above is to one of the many I found).

Small Business Saturday is definitely expanding, as mentioned above, because I ran across How Small Businesses Can Benefit from Small Business Saturday that provided the following information about how small businesses feel about this event.

According to the second annual Small Business Saturday Insights Survey, released by the NFIB and American Express, nearly one-third of small business owners are starting holiday promotions earlier this year, and 70% say participating in Small Business Saturday will be helpful in attracting new customers .

The article then gives these four tips to make Small Business Saturday a success for your business.

  1. Visit ShopSmall.com.
  2. Spread the word.
  3. Offer something special.
  4. Make it festive.

I visited ShopSmall.com and there really are a lot of free marketing materials that can give you some great ideas and save you some time as you get ready for the 30th. By following the advice in the other three tips as well, your business can have a great Small Business Saturday. I’ll also try to do a follow up post on how successful it was this year.

 

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Keep Your Most Valued Employees

Recent news suggests that the employment market is finally beginning to rebound. There are sure to be some bumps in the recovery, but now might be the time to take some steps to hold on to your best employees before some other small (or large) business tries to snatch them away.  7 Ways to Hang Onto Your Best Employees provides these seven ways to hang on to the employees you value the most.

  1. Offer a strong company culture
  2. Make work fun
  3. Create a connection with employees; make them feel valued and appreciated
  4. Make work healthy
  5. Listen and communicate
  6. Develop and implement a strategy
  7. Know their generational cravings – feedback and mentoring

As I read the article and looked over the list, I could see that the company I work for is following many or most of points mentioned above and I’ll just give three of the many examples I noticed.

Make work fun – Our company is based in St. Louis and during the recent playoffs and World Series we frequently had days where we could dress more casually as long as we wore red or Cardinals inspired shirts or jerseys. Unfortunately we didn’t win the Series, but it certainly made our company a more fun place to work on those “red” days.

Create a connection with employees, make them feel valued and appreciated – I have two great examples of this of the many I could describe during the year. Every year our company has a very fun company picnic with all kinds of activities aimed at children and grandchildren of employees and it is always a huge hit. In addition our company has a Christmas party with great food and music that always puts everyone in a festive mood (I just got my RSVP in my paycheck envelope this week).

Listen and communicate – Our company has an open door policy so any employee can voice their concerns, problems, or positive thoughts to management at any time. Late in the fall there is also a time when all new employees or any other employee can schedule a time for a one on one meeting.

These are some great examples of how our company is retaining great employees and they have worked very well over our over 60 year history and hopefully some of the tips in this article will work for your business as well.

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Time to Open Pandora’s Box?

I think almost every school child in America learns at some time about Pandora’s Box (at least I know I did). Even if you didn’t,  it is a very common and frequently used term. I’m sure most of you have heard as well about Pandora Internet Radio (usually just referred to as Pandora) and I just assumed they got their name from Pandora’s Box. I did some research and found this article that details how my assumption was correct. So what does Pandora have to do with your small business? If your small business marketing includes radio advertising there is some news on Pandora that you may find very interesting.

Pandora takes aim at local radio advertisers reports on an expansion of Pandora in selected local markets throughout the country.

Oakland, Calif.-based Pandora first embarked on the local market strategy in 2011, beginning with offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and New York. It’s spent the past two years expanding its sales staff nationwide.

St. Louis is one of 30 markets in which Pandora has hired sales staff as it seeks to compete head-to-head with local radio stations for ad dollars. Its regional sales staff of 60 employees nationwide is growing, and Pandora plans on ultimately having an office in each of the top 50 radio markets.

The entrance of Pandora into local radio markets puts additional pressure on local radio stations since Pandora has the following advantages over traditional radio advertising.

“For advertisers seeking to target 30- to 40-year-old females in a certain community, we could do that exactly,” Tartaglia said. “Other radio stations use survey data from Arbitron to get estimates (on users), but it’s imprecise. When you compare that to guaranteed delivery, it is a definite advantage that our advertisers receive.”

Tartaglia said another advantage Pandora has is the infrequency of its ads compared to other radio stations. “We have one-fourth the number of ad units that a traditional FM station has, so your ad will stand out more,” he said.

While these are big advantages for Pandora, local radio stations have a couple of their own advantages, they are locally programmed and support local events. They also provide local news and traffic that is simply not available on Pandora. It will certainly be interesting to see how this all works out in the future.

 

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Time to Buy

Trouble_in_the_Pumpkin_Fiel

If your small business has a company car, van, or truck sooner or later you are going to have to look for a replacement (it looks like the two “farmers” in the image above waited a little too long!). If your business is currently vehicle free, sometime in the future you might be in the market for one or need a new one for personal use. I recently read Best and Worst Times to Buy a New Car that provided these tips to get the best deal.

  1. Shop Early in the Week
  2. Make your offer at the end of the day
  3. Visit at End of Month/Quarter
  4. Get Deals on Outgoing Models
  5. Snag Year-End Savings
  6. Look for seasonal discounts on body styles

I thought the article presented some excellent ideas on saving money on your next vehicle purchase. It also mentioned the worst time to buy a car:

These historic statistics show that springtime may not be the best time to buy a new car: More people are out and about as winter weather clears, and tax refund checks are warming consumers’ pockets. With summer days ahead, more shoppers with a little extra cash in hand are looking for their next new car — which means dealers don’t need to offer quite as many discounts to entice those eager shoppers to buy.

Keep these tips in mind and plan ahead when a new vehicle is in your future and you may be able to save some money.

 

Posted in Expenses, Purchasing | Leave a comment