Taking Action on your Business Ideas

For the aspiring entrepreneur, the world is filled with potential. The open-minded business owner is often a dreamer, one who constantly analyzes and screens the world around them, searching for problems, and then generating ideas and solutions to match those problems. Although it is often thought of this way, a small business owner or startup entrepreneur does not need to create the next Facebook or Uber; you can hunt for improvements in your own environment, especially by seeking areas of improvement in your own industry. What I seem to find is that there is usually no shortage of ideas, but typically lacking is the ability to jump-start them. It feels satisfying to fill your calendar up with tasks at the beginning of the week, but what can you do to make sure you complete what you assign yourself?

            Time and tasks are so important, but often mistreated. It is easy to get caught up with tasks that force you to be working inside your business, and often as a startup, there is no way around this. At the end of the day, however, you are in business to make money. Begin by analyzing your tasks in this light: does this work directly relate to revenue? If it does, funnel large amounts of energy into it. Administration tasks can be either outsourced or set aside to less competitive time slots. Do not surrender to the "tyranny of the urgency" either. Stick to your schedule and do not allow tasks to remove you from your primary goals. These tips are powerful ways to allow you to focus on what actually gets done at the end of the day. Many an aspiring entrepreneur loves to talk about the amount of hours they put in, or how early they get up every day. What would be far more impressive is how much work they get done each day - and time is not a measure of productivity.

            There is a temptation for a business owner to have the "do-everything-yourself" philosophy. The benefits of leaving some parts of your business to experts, however, are often far greater than the cost. For example, one of the most commonly suggested sections of your business to outsource are the benefits and payments for your employees. This industry rapidly changes with every new law passed that affects small businesses. A business owner would have to make sure compliance is met with not only Federal but state laws as well. Mistakes made in this section are not a pleasant experience, and there is no worse feeling than letting your employees down with a payroll mistake. This is just one example of how to make your operation more efficient.

            With so much going on in your business, and so many new ideas that can be explored, it is a good idea to have an extra set of experienced eyes to watch over you. A business coach is another, often over-looked tool to help you stay on track with any new idea implementation process and business success. Common Sense Business Solutions has been helping small to medium sized businesses in the Southeastern United States since 1993. Call 813.661.0049 or visit csbspro.com to learn more about implementing new ideas, fixing issues plaguing your business, or what you can do to bring your operation to the next level.

 

Cynthia Alloway is the president of Common Sense Business Solutions, Inc., a leading business coaching firm that assists small and medium sized business owners in solving business problems, growing their companies, and transitioning their legacy to the next generation. Cynthia is a QuickBooks Pro Advisor and has a wealth of experience in serving clients in the Southeast. Learn more at http://www.commonsensebizsolutions.com/president-bio/.

Hurricane Preparedness!

If you live in the Southeast like me, you are well aware of the astonishing amount of rain that can suddenly come crashing down from above during these summer months. Florida has had a relatively calm last decade; yet even in 2016, the hurricane damages to Florida approached $1.6B, and this was even without taking into account the large number of crops and other farming areas destroyed. Hurricanes are the state's most expensive disasters, but despite their massive size and power, steps can be taken to prevent and avoid the loss of property, and most importantly, life.

The first step may come as obvious to anyone who follows Common Sense Business Solutions. One thing I always hammer down my clients and followers is the necessity of making a PLAN for their business. But this practice is useful in capacities far outside just business usage! Making a solid disaster preparedness plan allows you to follow a set of put-in-place steps when disaster strikes, rather than chancing it and making it up as you go along. Part of your plan must include supplies, such as water, food, lights, batteries, radios, first aid, and contact information for shelters. Your plan must also include agreed upon action steps for you and your family to take. What if there is a situation in which you are separated from the others? What is the agreed upon meeting location? These things should be discussed as well as the best routes to make it to shelters and other locations of higher ground.

It is very important that you listen to the advice and announcements of FEMA. If given the order to leave, you must do so immediately! There is nothing more valuable than your life. Many people, out of stubbornness, have refused to leave and end up getting trapped or isolated. Always obey the evacuation orders and follow the designated routes. 

Here is some detailed planning as it pertains to different categories of Hurricanes:

Category 1/2: Winds are sustained between 70-100 miles per hour. Operating your business from a portable location, such as a job trailer, could result in severe damage. If you operate from this type of building you should begin making preparations several days in advance including relocation of computers and other electronic equipment (make sure you backup all files in advance). You should also make sure that critical documents such as loan papers, tax returns, insurance policies, contracts, etc. are moved to a secure and dry location.

Category 3/4: Sustained winds of 111-155 miles per hour... Most businesses will close for several days to several weeks. Make sure that employees know how to reach you and make them responsible for checking in - don't make it your responsibility to keep in touch with your employees. You will have a multitude of responsibilities during this time and you do not have time to babysit. If this type of storm threatens your area and your facility is not located in an evacuation zone, you may want to consider whether you want to offer the facility as a storm shelter for your employees. If you do, make sure that you have adequate supplies - food, water, a portable radio, flashlights and lanterns, batteries, blankets, first aid kit, possibly a gas generator. Remember that you probably will not have electricity or running water. Also, when the electricity is out most gas stations cannot function because their pumps will not work without electricity.

Category 5: A catastrophic storm with winds of 155+ miles per hour. This is a good time to ponder what types of financial reserves your business would require to survive a catastrophic weather event and to have savings goals that anticipate that at some point during the life of the business it may be necessary to cope with a major interruption of the business operations. Also consider whether your business can be operated from another location until the local situation improves.

  Being prepared prior to a disaster is always better than hastily making a plan during it. Ensure your business location or house is up to code. Regular maintenance of your properties will help with water flow and other issues; routinely clean gutters and drains. Always document your properties for later insurance and restoration needs. For some business models and practices, information may be the core of the business. The loss of data can be catastrophic. If you are not already backed up by an external database or some cloud server, it is a wise idea to do so, even beyond the disaster preparedness calling.

If you have employees, take responsibility and your leadership role seriously. Coach them and help them build their own plans and emergency systems up for your family. Your employees are your most valuable asset, treat them like such. There are many resources online available that can provide you more tips and specifics, but hopefully I got you thinking about the importance of disaster preparedness. Be safe this season, be wise, and PLAN!

If your business should suffer damages in a natural disaster, you may qualify for an SBA loan or other disaster relief (www.sba.gov/disaster). You can also prepare a step-by-step business disaster plan by visiting www.floridadisaster.org/business 

Cynthia Alloway is the president of Common Sense Business Solutions, Inc., a leading business coaching firm that assists small and medium sized business owners in solving business problems, growing their companies, and transitioning their legacy to the next generation. Cynthia is a QuickBooks Pro Advisor and has a wealth of experience in serving clients in the Southeast. Learn more at http://www.commonsensebizsolutions.com/president-bio/.

Peachtree Discontinuation

Discontinuation of Peachtree - What should you do?

Business owners who are familiar with Sage and Peachtree accounting software programs are most likely aware of Sage's decision to discontinue the operation and support of Peachtree accounting software. Customers may wish to upgrade to the Sage 50 platform, should they choose to continue their accounting software provider relationship with Peachtree.

Before making the decision to find another software or switch to Sage 50, take a look at this article to see my thoughts and suggestions on this situation.

Sage accounting software has been around for a long time, and Peachtree product lines were excellent for small business owners. The Sage 50 system, on the other hand, is more akin to companies with a slightly larger structure than your normal small, local business. In laymen's terms, it is simply overkill for the average small business owner, mostly due to its overly complex nature and pricing.

A much more affordable and better suited platform for the small business owner is Intuit's QuickBooks. While I do recommend this product line for the small or family business owner, there are a few concerns that I would like to address. Several clients of mine involved in this transition from Peachtree to QuickBooks have mentioned that when contacting Intuit, they get sold a product that isn't necessarily the best fit for their company. Now aware of the situation, I ask my clients consult with me prior to making the call, and I encourage other small business owners to consult with their business coach as well before making such an important switch.

Business owners who are considering transitioning to QuickBooks need to be aware of possible issues. Many think that the transition from Peachtree will cause you to have to start your accounting from scratch. This is not the case, and with the assistance of a QuickBooks Pro Advisor, you can convert your Peachtree data into QuickBooks format. It is not advisable to attempt without the proper technical know-how and tech support that comes with the Pro Advisor status.

Despite the pros and cons of each, the best way to make a decision is to talk with a business coach or Pro Advisor about whether to convert to QuickBooks or upgrade. While Sage 50 may be very appropriate for some businesses, others may want to explore whether QuickBooks would be a better fit for their accounting needs. Common Sense Business Solutions has been serving business owners in Tampa since 1993, and can gladly assist you in making your accounting software decision. We have experience in these types of conversions and can help you from the initial conversion and implementation to complete training if QuickBooks makes more sense for your business. Learn more at www.csbspro.com or just give me a call at 813.661.0049.  

Cynthia Alloway is the president of Common Sense Business Solutions, Inc., a leading business coaching firm that assists small and medium sized business owners in solving business problems, growing their companies, and transitioning their legacy to the next generation. Cynthia is a QuickBooks Pro Advisor and has a wealth of experience in serving clients in the Southeast. Learn more at http://www.commonsensebizsolutions.com/president-bio/.

Attention: Florida Business Owners!

If you own a business anywhere, not just in Florida, you probably are incorporated or structured around some sort of entity designed to separate your personal activities from business-related ones. If you aren't, it is probably a good idea to do so, especially in today's litigious society. Enjoy the benefits of having your personal assets protected. Just as easy as it is to file a corporate structure in Florida, it is just as easy to lose those benefits if you don't keep up with the requirements. This article will provide you with some guidelines on the requirements necessary for maintaining your corporation or LLC.

  By now, we all should have received this email from the state corporation department:

"Your 2017 Annual Report is now due. Annual reports for all corporations,

limited liability companies, limited partnerships and limited

liability limited partnerships are due each year between January

1st and May 1st. An annual report is a required report that

is used to update or confirm the Florida Department of State,

Division of Corporations' records. It is not a financial statement..."

This email is important! Although it states that you have until May 1 st  to file your annual report, it is best to take care of this sooner rather than later. Your annual report is not a complex document, and it costs only $138.75 for an LLC, or $150 for corporations. Not filing your annual report on time will be extremely bothersome to fix. Not only will you be required to pay the filing fee, but a $400 late fee in addition, and have to deal with the numerous problems in regards to insurance and other liabilities.

Additionally, be wary of possible scams. Either through email form or in the mail, you may receive notification requiring you to file "corporate minutes" and the associated filing fee. This is not required in the State of Florida, only the fees described in the official email are needed; all of which can be filed and completed on sunbiz.org.  Sometimes I see business owners who pay the scam filing fee, and think they are covered- and not filing the actual fee! If you are unsure about certain official emails or correspondence, be sure to contact Cynthia with Common Sense Business Solutions, who will be happy to inform you on the legitimacy of the correspondence.

Corporate structure provides the benefits of limited liability, ensuring that business owners are not personally responsible for the debts, liabilities, and litigation surrounding your business. In Florida, we have an affordable way to maintain this corporate protection, and if you follow basic guidelines you can ensure this protection remains in place. File your fees today!

Common Sense Business Solutions has been helping small to medium sized businesses in the Southeastern United States since 1993. Call 813.661.0049 or visit csbspro.com to learn more about fixing issues plaguing your business, or what you can do to bring it to the next level.

Budgeting for the New Year!

The end of the year has arrived, and it has been an eventful one! Come the end of December, and for the first half of January, you should be focusing on objectives you want to accomplish for the new year, 2017. It is a relatively simple task to come up with goals you want to achieve, but it is much harder to actually conquer them. One of the greatest issues I hear among business owners is in scarcity - you probably have great tasks at hand, but only a limited amount of funds and time available to tackle them. Thus, enters the necessity of proactive planning and budgeting - hopefully this article will provide you the basics and some tips to get started on your goals for the new year, if you haven't already.

 

It is a dangerous practice, yet too strikingly common, for a business owner to dive into a new venture, year, or project without a budget. For the sake of definition, at its core, a budget is an estimation of your revenue and upcoming expenses, for a period of time in the future. But why even create a budget? If the obvious is not apparent, you NEED a budget if you plan on securing financing for a project, or for any other type of bank leverage. Also, by budgeting for the future, you can set caps on the amount of expenses you incur. It would be foolish to spend excessively, just to find you cannot cover overhead the next month. Having a budget and tracking your expenses will keep you and your business in check.

 

With many different inputs and outputs in your business, the estimation part of the budget can be challenging, especially if your business has a fluctuating accounts receivable turnover, or you are in a job (project)-based business, for example. Often, looking at your budget for the previous years is a good place to start, but sometimes you may not have this luxury, especially if you are just starting out. A great way to counter this issue is to conduct industry research. Build a list of comparable companies in your area of operations, or conduct research online to avoid conflicts of interest. Many entrepreneurs are more than willing to help a fellow business owner with estimating the trends in your industry. Additionally, your business coach should be an expert in setting realistic goals and budgeting for the same (if they are a good one!).

 

When building a yearly budget, don't make it complicated. There is no need to put a line item for every single expense, so feel free to categorize. Once you have your budget outlined for the year, break it down month by month. This step is important. Another bad practice I see way too often is business owners creating a budget - and then never touching it, at least not until next year when it is time to make another. A budget should not just be "something you have to do because you're a business owner" activity. Break your budget down month-by-month and work with your business coach to evaluate your progress throughout the year. All of your goals should have measureable timelines and budgets; if they don't then you cannot effectively judge your progress in the present nor plan for the future.

 

FOR MORE ON BUDGETING, AND FOR HELP ON BUILDING A BUDGET FOR YOUR BUSINESS, CALL 813.661.0049. COMMON SENSE BUSINESS SOLUTIONS HAS BEEN A PARTNER FOR MANY SMALL BUSINESSES IN THE SOUTHEAST FOR OVER 24 YEARS. CHECK OUT HTTP://WWW.COMMONSENSEBIZSOLUTIONS.COM/CLIENT-EXPERIENCES TO LEARN MORE. 

Push Forward to the Year's End!

  • Published on November 28th, 2016.

I'm sure by now most of you have gotten the message of some of my previous newsletters - it is imperative to set yourself goals and objectives to conquer. A plan without goals is not a plan, and it is good practice to remind yourself of these goals daily. And just to recap, sub-goals provide a way to reach your over-arching objectives one step at a time. Expanding on this, below are some motivation and advice to continue to push forward to the year end and finish strong.  

Probably the biggest obstacle blocking your path is you! It is a sweeping statement to make, but a clear fact when working for yourself. As a business owner, no one is there to check your progress daily, and we are all victims of allowing time to slip away, or delay things that should take priority. The popular saying "tomorrow is the day that never comes" applies in this context more than anywhere else, it is one thing to set goals and sub-goals, that is the first step. But it is a whole new challenge to take action on them daily. That is why reinforcement - writing them down daily - is a must.

We are faced with many different tasks every week. If we were to break these tasks down into different categories, they could fit into categories such as urgent, important, and extra tasks. For instance, a family emergency is both important and urgent, but calling a close friend back to discuss vacation plans could be important, but not urgent. Remove the extra tasks and focus purely on the main, important goal of your business for an extended period of time. For example, let us say your goal is to simply grow your business. To translate, anything that does not directly relate to increasing revenue should be deemed unimportant. For this example, with every decision, ask, "will this help increase sales?" If the answer is no, consider putting it off or outsourcing the task. Obviously you need to continue to work on current customer's needs - but this filtering process can help remove many distracting "tasks" that can otherwise block up valuable time. Don't wait until tomorrow!

Lastly, the holiday season gives you an opportunity to relax and enjoy family. Perhaps you will go on vacation, travel, or simply take it easy. There is valuable time in these weeks, however, and while approaching, the holidays are still weeks off. Finish the year out strong. While many players in your industry may begin relaxing early, you can gain the upper hand by continuing to expand. Let other businesses retract, you use the calm December month to keep moving forward strong. At the end of year, I will follow up with an article about your resolutions for the coming year, but for now, keep pressing forward, and remember to keep your goals clear and in front of you.

Common Sense Business Solutions has been helping small to medium sized businesses in Tampa Bay and beyond since 1993. Call 813.661.0049 to learn more about goal setting and taking your business to its greatest potential. 

4 Simple Ways to Get Back into the Grind

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that sunny summer is gradually coming to an end. You may have taken a vacation, you may have spent time with family and friends, but with the air getting cooler and September in full swing, it’s time to get back into the grind. Here are four quick and easy tricks (or “hacks”) that can help you re-fresh, re-focus, and ready yourself for the challenges ahead.

Analyze Your Progress

I have written about this in previous articles, and I am going to re-iterate it again here: you NEED to self-evaluate. As a business owner, nobody is breathing down your neck telling you when to wake up, when to work, what time you need to be in at the office: it’s YOU. Richard Branson has said the “greatest enemy you can face is yourself.” He is absolutely correct; you often have to overcome your own mind to combat procrastination and meet your goals. You may need to check in with your CPA to determine if you are facing any tax issues. This time of year gives you plenty of time to address this before it becomes a year end crisis. Check out my article on goal setting and analyzing progress.

Catch Up, But Don’t Multi-Task

It has been well documented that multi-tasking actually takes much longer than focusing on a single task at a time. We often think that we have the unique “ability” to get things done faster when managing a few tasks at a time. Yet even those who claim that ability have been tested as performing slower than consolidating all energy and focus on one activity at a time. Instead, keep a detailed calendar and map out what you expect to accomplish that day, with a time allotted to the task. You may find that you get more done, or that you need more help.

Set aside specific times where you can cancel out distractions

Find the perfect time of day where you notice you are most productive. Is it first thing in the morning? Or right after a run/workout? Organize your schedule so you place the most important thing of the day into that time slot, silence your phone, and close your office door. If FaceBook, Twitter, or other social media are a necessary part of your day, then allot a time for that on your calendar and once you are done, shut it down. The distractions of constantly running social media are huge time stealers! Lots of professionals set specific times where they monitor their inboxes per day – this is a smart strategy, if your business allows it.

Remember downtime

This can be far more important than realized. You may find yourself in panic mode, dealing with a crisis, or trying to catch up with impossible loads of work. It is important not to forget the reasons you work so hard at what you do. For many it is to support a family and spend time with them – make sure that you don’t lose sight on that purpose. Schedule time where you can relax; many successful people meditate. Another activity that the top CEO’s and leaders of the world practice heavily, is reading. The average American barely reads more than one book a year. Even if it isn’t a book, finding an educational or informative read is a good way to settle down after a long work day, while learning something new.

Let me know what you think about these tips! Common Sense Business Solutions has been serving small to medium sized businesses for over 23 years, and can help you in both your personal life and professional career.  Visit CSBSpro.com or call 813-661-0049 for more information.

How do I Create an Employee Vacation Plan?

Published on June 12, 2016

The hot and muggy air has arrived, the beaches are packed, and if you live in Florida like me, you are getting ready for the daily afternoon rain showers. Some of us may take this opportunity to travel or take a break from the grind. As a business owner, you probably put in far greater hours than a regular employee working a 9-­5 schedule. A short break from the stress and the rush of the work day can put you in a clearer state of mind while providing a period to step back and evaluate your progress. But what about your employees?

As an employer, you do not have to encourage employees to take vacation time off during the summer. In fact, it is not even a legal obligation for employers to offer their employees vacation time! However, statistics have shown that employees who take vacations and have a greater work-­life balance end up happier and more productive (seems like common sense). Work is often performed with more enthusiasm and to a higher standard when the worker is in a better mood. A good practice to follow when encouraging a work-life balance is to be a model for your employees. 

Perhaps the most important thing to do when creating a workplace vacation policy is to work closely with your employees during the planning stage. Often, there are employees who do not even use their vacation time. By discussing and finding out their wants and needs, you can decide whether or not to accumulate excess vacation time, among other things. One solution could be to allow employees to carry over or be compensated for half of their unused vacation at year end but lose the other half if unused. A vacation plan is not a cut and paste system that works perfectly for every firm. It must be custom built around your unique company. By discussing and gathering insight from your team members, you can offer a system better fitted toyou than what is given by the "textbook".

The necessity for communication continues. Offering a very flexible vacation plan where employees have freedom in picking and choosing dates is fine, but ensure that effective time management is stressed. Failure to plan could leave your business short­-handed. It is good practice to encourage employees to plan well ahead and schedule their vacation days in advance. Being proactive rather than reactive provides you with more efficiency.

In summary, if you decide to institute a vacation policy, ensure that it includes theemployee's input from the start, offers full transparency, plans far ahead, and is enforced. As a result, you will enjoy less headaches while allowing your workforce to achieve a better work-­life balance.

Common Sense Business Solutions, Inc. has been working with small to medium sized businesses of all kinds for over 20 years. Business coaching can help you to avoid some serious pitfalls. Don't learn expensive lessons the hard way. Call today to set up coaching for your business.

For information, visit www.csbspro.com

It is Time For a Check-Up...

  • Published on March 28, 2016

Not too long ago, around New Year’s (seems like yesterday, yikes!), I wrote an article about setting goals for the year and why these goals are important to the success of not only your business, but yourself as an individual. Just to re-cap, a well-structured and defined goal layout is imperative to keeping you on track, for the year can get very hectic, as we all know. I also stated in the article that it is important to keep these resolutions active by sticking to them! For many people the motivation to maintain their goals slowly fades away as the year progresses…

Fast-forward to today, the end of March, the end of the 1st quarter. So what about those goals you wrote down in January? Would you say you have made your objectives, or are you slacking? I cannot stress the importance of this self-examination. As business owners, nobody is going to be analyzing our progress but us. No boss is going to be breathing down your neck, the decision to self-check is entirely up to you. It is important to take the time to sit down, compare side-by-side what you wanted to do with your current headway.

If you feel that you did not achieve as much as you could have, however, do not beat yourself up. The cool thing about your goal sheet, sticky notes, white board, or whatever you write your goals down on, is that it is a living document. You can change, modify, and improve your goals. They are not set in stone, but make sure they are challenging yet attainable. If an unexpected event, for good or bad, occurred in the 1st quarter, it is perfectly acceptable and encouraged to alter your goals to reflect that. What if you are ahead of schedule? That’s great! So stretch yourself even more.

Did you not make goals at the beginning of the year? Don’t worry, there is still time. Set them now, for the remaining three quarters. People who have written their goals down are 10 times more likely to achieve the desired results than those who don’t! Remind yourself of them every single day, write them down in the morning, very first thing. One great idea I heard is to write down your goals as if you have already accomplished them, for example: “I work out every single day for one hour.” Doing this trains the brain into accepting there is no other option. If you write “I will…” it can often lead us in believing it is okay to put the goal off for another day or another week, because it “will” be done. An old saying tells us that tomorrow is the day that is always coming but never gets here.

For more information on this topic, please see my January article:https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-new-years-resolutions-can-benefit-your-business-how-alloway?trk=prof-post

It is very important to fabricate a structured goal sheet with clear distinctions for personal and business goals. A business coach can help you in developing these goals and measuring your success rate.

Common Sense Business Solutions, Inc. has been working with small to medium sized businesses of all kinds for over 20 years. Business coaching can help you to avoid some serious pitfalls. Don't learn expensive lessons the hard way. Call today to set up coaching for your business.

For information, visit http://www.commonsensebizsolutions.com/

Paying Taxes Isn't Always a Bad Thing...

  • Published on February 24, 2016

Uh oh… it’s that time of year again… so grab your checkbooks and get prepared to write it out to “Uncle Sam!” Taxes may bring grumbling and stress to the business owner, but I am going to try to shed a little positive light on your payment of taxes. I would like to mention some things to avoid that may hurt you in the long run, not necessarily legally, but also in your business’s general standing. The first thing to acknowledge and grasp is as Benjamin Franklin once said: the two things that are certain in life, taxes being one of them. To do business in this country, taxes are inevitable. However, this being said, you have every right in the world to legitimately minimize your tax payment through maximizing your deductions. All BUSINESS related expenses that you accumulated can go right down on your tax form- and you should make sure you deduct as much as you appropriately can. That is why we hire the experts, and why you pay your CPA good dollars.

What I am NOT in favor of is the so-called “creative accounting,” or whatever other term you want to sneak by. If you legitimately owe taxes on your business’s income, it is your legal obligation to pay that. A classic example to avoid this is “I am just going to show zero profits!” The downside: a business that profits nicely for its owners is considered a healthy businesses. When seeking equity or debt, whether from private money or a loan service, the qualifiers will definitely want to see some proof that you can make the covenant. Why go down the path of personally guaranteeing a loan, when your business’s profits could easily have been enough for the banker’s approval? Additionally, what about your exit strategy? What if you wish to enter retirement soon, or have thoughts about selling? You would want the enterprise value of your company to be high as possible, and to show proof on your financial statements that you are a healthy, well-run business. A business that never shows a profit will have a hard time qualifying why someone else should pay $$$ to purchase this business. For more tips on an exit strategy, please see my article on getting ready to transition your business at:https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/concerns-challenges-family-owned-businesses-part-2-cynthia-alloway?trk=mp-reader-card

To go even further, let us just suppose that your business has consistently shown losses for several years. The IRS can actually then reclassify your business as a hobby. The IRS will look at several factors before determining this, but ultimately can bestow the “hobby” title, which prevents you from taking any future losses. This has some serious consequences that can result in more financial pain than if you had just paid your taxes. A key point on this subject is how the IRS will check your profit motive- if you are clearly attempting to make profits you will not receive this classification. If it is apparent you are attempting to reduce your payments… then your business will become your “hobby.”

For more on this, please see this great article: https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/Small-Business-Taxes/When-the-IRS-Classifies-Your-Business-as-a-Hobby/INF22852.html 

As a general reminder, drawing money from your business account does NOT count as an expense. Equity distributions do not lower the profits of a business. Many business owners incorrectly classify these payments as expenses and then are shocked at the end of the year when their profits (and taxes) are much higher than they anticipated.

 

Common Sense Business Solutions can provide hands on training in learning to understand financial statements and utilize them as a diagnostic and management tool to identify problem areas and run your business as profitably as possible. We are located in Valrico, FL, and have been providing services to the Tampa Bay Area for over 23 years. 

Why New Year’s Resolutions can Benefit your Business, and How to Actually Maintain Them:

The arrival of a new year always has great significance- it is a symbol of great things yet to come, but most of all, change. Shortly after New Year’s, there always appears the infamous “resolutions”; like the decision to spend at least an hour in the gym a day, the choice to stop bingeing at your favorite fast food restaurant... or a faithful attempt to never drink or smoke again. We all unfortunately know that no matter how gung-ho and strong willed the resolution may be at the beginning, they usually do not last to the end of the year. Most of the time, even the most resolute attempts may die out after the first quarter. Despite the odds being against success, a well-planned out and enforced New Year’s resolution may be just what is needed to add a few extra hours to your day, increase business, or better serve your clients.

How do New Year’s resolutions apply to your business? What resolutions can be implemented to help in your daily business activities, or even to grow? One of the most common examples for business owners is the mission to increase productivity during the work day. We are all given the same 24 hours- how we spend it is purely up to us. During the day we are overloaded with information and distractions, not all of it beneficial. Social media is one of the largest causes of disruption, despite it being addicting and fun. Keep your resolutions simple, such as limiting your time on Facebook, or the number of Tweets per day. Keep in mind that although your social media posts may be business related, ask yourself; is it taking time away from your priorities, such as that project for one of your top clients? Always make sure that those lesser important activities really do stay on the lower rungs of the ladder.

On the topic of priorities, is there a resolution that can assist in achieving your broader business goals? One great mistake is in the failure to plan effectively. Remedy this by creating a plan to counter problems, and follow up with your plan on a monthly or quarterly basis.  If you often find you are spending more than you should for the purchase of supplies, create a budget and shop around until your purchases will coincide with your budget. If you’ve had trouble in the past managing your cash flow, make it your resolution to start a monthly update, and future projection estimate. How closely can you land to your projections? Most problems can be resolved through planning, but you have to ensure you STICK to your plan and its follow-ups.

As stated in the introduction, the Achilles Heel of resolutions is motivation. They are only effective when kept and maintained. Without enforcement, they will quickly be forgotten. If you are taking the step to make a resolution, then it must be important to you. It is well known that you will be more successful in obtaining your goals if you write them down. People who write down their goals are 40% likely to achieve those goals - those who don't write them down are only 4% likely to succeed. Your goals should be challenging but attainable. If you achieve every goal, then you are not setting yourself up for personal growth; if you achieve none of your goals, then you weren't serious in your goal planning to start with.

Break your goals down into categories: Financial, Business or Career, Physical, Intellectual, and Personal. Set no more than 3 goals in each category in order of importance. Make your goals measurable. For instance, if one of your financial goals is to fully fund your IRA in 2016, Then the entire year's goal will be $5,500 ($6,500 if you are over 50). This equates to $458 or $541 per month depending on your age. At the end of each month or quarter you can measure if you are on track and make adjustments which will result in a higher likelihood of goal achievement than a mere year-end review. As you achieve a goal write ACCOMPLISHED by that goal. At the end of the year do a review - if you achieved 40% or more, then you have done very well. Keep your notes from year to year and you will be amazed - first at what was important to you and second at your progress. Upon review of my goals from last year, I found that I had achieved exactly 50% - meeting 100% of my goals in one area but 0% in another. I have high confidence in achieving some pretty challenging goals in 2016 while obviously I need to give more attention to certain areas of my life this year.

Common Sense Business Solutions has been working to help others set goals and served as an accountability partner to those goals for over 20 years. We serve small and medium sized companies in Tampa Bay and beyond. Visit csbspro.com for more information.

Warning Signs of Financial Trouble

The best course of action is always to be proactive in averting financial difficulties in business but unfortunately many business owners find themselves reacting to financial emergencies that could have been prevented with a few simple protocols.

Here are some warning signs:

 You carry the balance on your line of credit for extended periods of time. A line of credit is designed to be a temporary solution to a cash flow problem. Generally the balance will ebb and flow dependent upon many circumstances. However, if your balance constantly increases and never decreases or if you are maxed out and paying only interest, then this should raise concern.

 You don’t understand your financial statements. This indicates that you are either uneducated in the basics of understanding your business finance or someone has “muddied the waters” to the point that you cannot understand the financials. Either is a flashing “warning sign” and should be remedied immediately.

 You have a constant overturn in staff. This may not seem like a big deal at the time but hiring and training is an expensive process in which you lose your investment if you cannot retain your employees.

 You are behind on payroll or sales tax. This is a very serious problem because you are considered a fiduciary in handling these taxes and the money collected on behalf of your employees or customers should never be considered a part of your cash resources. It is a “liability” and the governing agencies do not take the mishandling of these funds lightly.

 Your cost of goods sold is out of line for your industry. This can indicate numerous problems such as inaccurate estimating of projects, overcharges by vendors, failing to increase prices when your vendors raise the cost of your purchases, or even theft. This is a number that needs to be accurate with good accounting and paid attention to on a regular basis.

Common Sense Business Solutions, Inc. has helped many businesses successfully navigate through these and other issues that can negatively impact the profits of a company. The investment in consulting services is usually far outweighed by the rewards of operating the business from a point of strength rather than uncertainty or fear. Call today to discuss how business coaching can propel your business to the next level – (813) 661-0049.