Resolutions for the New Year

Year end is the perfect time to reflect on your success (or lack of) and plan for the New Year. Here are a few New Year’s resolutions for your business to guaranty success in the year ahead.

When running a business, it’s easy to stress about your workload. Delegation is key to a healthy work-life balance.

Make promoting your business a priority to attract new customers. Take time to make a marketing plan and follow through with it.

Make business planning a weekly event to keep you on track and focused.

Learn something new. While you are adding to your list of skills, it is also an opportunity to meet new people and potential customers.

Join an organization or networking group to generate new ideas, refine old ideas and make new contacts.

Give back to your community. Serve on a committee, become a mentor, volunteer, or make a donation to a local charity.

Make time in your calendar for yourself – if you won’t invest in yourself, who will?

Set realistic, relevant and achievable goals for the New Year. Goal setting allows us to be proactive instead of reactive.

Out with the old, in with the new! Is there something in your office that interferes or you lack that makes your work life harder? Don’t keep put off getting something you need.

Drop what’s not working and move on. Is your technique, a product, or a relationship not working? Don’t invest your time and energy in something that won’t help you succeed.

Success with your business is guaranteed as long as you keep working on it!

 

 

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Home Based Business Tax Deductions

An advantage of running a home based business is that there are income tax deductions you can claim. Here is a list of the top 5 home business tax deductions you don’t want to miss out on.

  1. Automobile Expenses

If you use your personal vehicle for your business, you can claim some of the expenses. Cost of fuel and oil, licensing, insurance, maintenance and repairs can all be claimed. You can also deduct interest on money you borrow to buy a vehicle as well as the cost of leasing a vehicle you use to earn your income. Note that you can only claim part of these expenses and there is a limit to the amount of interest on money that is deducted.

  1. Insurance

You can write off a portion of the cost of your home insurance if your home based business meets the conditions for claiming business-use-of-home expenses.  Home based business is considered commercial and is completely separate from your home insurance. Also your home insurance policy may be invalidated if your insurer is not aware of your home business.

  1. Office Expenses

There are two types of expense; office expense such as pens, paper, clips, stamps, etc. that can be claimed, and depreciable assets such as computer hardware, printers, and filing cabinets. If you purchase equipment for your business, you can’t deduct the entire cost of it on your income tax for the year. You would use the Capital Cost Allowance to deduct a calculated portion of the expense as it depreciates over time.

  1. Mortgage Interest & Property Taxes
  • If you have a mortgage on your home you can claim mortgage interest under business-use-of-home expenses, assuming your business meets the requirements.
  • If you own your own home you are doing business out of, you can claim property taxes as an expense.
  • If you are renting, you can deduct the cost of your rent.

Note that the portion of the expense deducted depends on how much of the space is used for your business.

  1. Other Business-Use-Of-Home Deductions

There are other expenses that home based business operators who qualify for business-use-of-home deductions can claim. Heat, light, water, maintenance, cleaning materials, telephone and internet connection are some of the most common claims. However, purchases and business expenses must be validated with an invoice or receipt of some sort to support the expense.

Be sure to do your research on the regulations and conditions for home based business tax deductions before doing your income tax. Speak to a business consultant or an accountant for extra help and advice.

 

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Year End Checklist

This year end checklist for small businesses will help you get your income tax in order and your business planning off to a good start.

  1. Get your financial books in order.

Doing your income tax may be easier for some more than others. In most cases, entrepreneurs have a bookkeeper to keep it all in order. Most business owners consider record management to be tedious but good record keeping not only makes things easier, but also gives you real stress relief at tax time. Either way getting your financial books in order has to be done before anything else.

  1. Determine you’re position.

The next step is to figure out where your business stands. There are two areas you need to look over.

Finances – Examine your financial documents and analyze ratios.

  • Balance Sheet – Shows your businesses assets, liabilities and equity.
  • Income Statement – Itemizes your revenue expenses, resulting in a profit or loss.
  • Cash Flow Statement – Reconciles your opening cash with your closing cash for a period of time, to show where your money has gone.

Goals – Evaluate your goals from last year.

Pull out your business plan and any other planning documents and review last year’s goals. Did your business accomplish what you set out to do? Make notes on your thoughts about your successful accomplishment of your goals, or lack of. This will come in handy when you are planning for the new year.

3. Plan for the years to come.

Now that you know where your business stands, set goals for the year to come. Planning often gets pushed aside because you’re hard-pressed for time, but it doesn’t have to be time consuming. Set goals that are relevant, actionable and achievable. Setting goals provides us with direction and motivation. Prepare an action plan and start implementing your action plan.

  1. Get your tax documents prepared.

Whether you prepare them yourself or turn them over to an accountant, this is the last step for your small business year end checklist.

Hopefully this year end checklist has you inspired and has made your business planning easier.

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Bigger Better Business

As a small business owner, you should always be looking for new ways to improve your business. There are so many ways to make your good business, better! Here are a few ways you can implement to improve your business.

Crunch your Numbers – You’re not doing yourself any favors by not monitoring your financials. Take the time to look at your numbers on a daily, weekly, monthly basis as long as they are not pushed aside and forgotten. Invest in a bookkeeper or software to keep track of where your business stands financially.

Make a To-Do List – Give yourself a few tasks to do each day to help manage your time and prioritize. Write it down and cross tasks off as you go to track what you have accomplished, making it more rewarding when the task has been completed.

Learn Something New – As a small business owner, taking the time to educate yourself with something new should be one of your responsibilities. Read business blogs for new information, tips and trends. Take an online course or a class at your local college to learn a new skill. Attend conferences to brainstorm with other small business owners.

Upgrade your Technology – By improving your technology, you’re making a more efficient business. Invest in faster more powerful machines. Update software to simplify your daily tasks.

Go Green – Being environmentally friendly creates a more efficient workspace and reduces the amount of money you spend on supplies and utilities.

Improve Customer Service – Customers make your business and there is always room to improve customer services skills. They should always come first and you should always make them feel valued to insure they will return for the same excellent service.

Accept New Challenges – If you are starting to feel a little too comfortable and routine, accept a new challenge. Business growth comes from trying new things. Look and act on new opportunities as they come.

As a small business owner, your goal is to always strive to make your business stronger and more profitable.

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Bartering In Business …

Bartering is when you swap or trade goods or services for those of another without exchanging money. We do it all the time with family and friends, so why not with other business owners?  There are many different ways to barter that can be effective ways for small business owners to expand your businesses and/or reduce your costs.

Bartering has many benefits and there are a number of reasons why you may want to explore bartering.

  • Often you can fill a need that you have without spending any money
  • You may meet business owners from a different industry and create a relationship that provides various opportunities
  • You can build a network of colleagues that may become a source of referrals

Typically, bartering begins when one business owner approaches another business owner who offers something they require.  Make a proposal that indicates the services or products involved, the value, and an explanation as to why it will be mutually beneficial.  You might be surprised how easily an agreement can be made.

Whether you are a seasoned entrepreneur or are just starting your business, bartering arrangements should be treated like any other business relationship. There are steps you should take to ensure that you are supporting your small business and creating the foundation for a successful experience.

Before agreeing to a barter arrangement, measure what you will be giving and what you will be receiving in return – the two should be of relatively equal value. You should also verify that the other person is qualified to provide the product or service that they will be providing and that they have the authority to make the agreement.  It is normally better to work out the particulars of a barter arrangement through the business owner or manager.

A written agreement should outline the terms of the bartering arrangement, and it can be the most important part of the relationship.  Be sure to clearly outline what each party is providing as well as a timeline or deadline. You should also plan to communicate with the other party on a regular basis in order to continue to build the relationship.

Bartering is not always in the cards – do your homework and choose reputable businesses that you want to be associated with.  Bartering is a give-and-take proposition that can be very valuable to both parties involved, but only if both parties understand the concept.

 

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Mix Up Your Marketing Strategies

Selling your product or service is the general goal for small businesses. Position your business in front of your target audience and offer them something they can’t refuse. Take the time to develop a marketing plan that will set you apart from your competition. It should clearly identify and focus on the most effective marketing tactics for your small business.

Here is a list of small business marketing ideas to get you thinking of how you can promote your business effectively.

Marketing Plan

  • Create a marketing plan
  • Start your market research
  • Refine your target audience

Marketing Materials

  • Update your business cards
  • Make your business card stand out

In-Person Marketing

  • Write and elevator pitch
  • Introduce yourself to other business owners
  • Join your local chamber of commerce

Direct Mail

  • Use tear cards, inserts, props and attention-getting envelopes to make an impact with your mailings
  • Send past customers free samples or incentives to regain their business

Advertising

  • Advertise in the Yellow Pages
  • Advertise on Facebook
  • Advertise on the radio
  • Use a sidewalk sign to promote specials

Social Media Marketing

  • Start a business blog
  • Create a twitter account
  • Start social bookmarking your online content

Email Marketing

  • Offer gift to people willing to add their email to your address list
  • Send regular emails to your list
  • Start a monthly email newsletter

 Contests, Coupons and Incentives

  • Create a coupon
  • Create a frequent buyer rewards program
  • Give away a free sample

Relationship Building

  • Send out a customer satisfaction survey
  • Volunteer your time for a charity event
  • Sponsor a local sports team

With the right mix of ideas, strategies and activities, you can identify the most effective marketing tactics for your small business.

 

 

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Should You Go Paperless?

With new and changing technology, you have the tools to transition your overflowing files to an organized digital format. That doesn’t mean going paperless is easy or the right decision for your small business. Here are some of the pros and cons of a paperless office to help you decide.

The pro of a paperless office

Environmentally Friendly – According to statistics, paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste, and that is just paper. The production and disposal of ink cartridges and the energy used by printers is another number to factor in. Going paperless is an environmentally conscious decision.

Cost Effective – There are benefits for your small business budget. Consider how much you spend each month on paper, ink, postage and the space it takes to store all of your physical supplies and documents. It can get quite costly. Switching to paperless could result in huge savings for your small business.

Easy Access – Paperless means all of your documents are digitalized. You can back them up to the cloud or access them through a remote desktop, giving you the ability to work from home or on the go. Digital file systems are much easier to organize, search and tweak over time. Going paperless makes what once was a painful process to find a document as easy as conducting a search.

The cons of a paperless office

System Failure – Digital may be quicker to access, but it can be lost just as quick. Take into consideration what would happen if your system crashes. You could lose everything. If you decide to go paperless, it is important that you have a system for backing up and protecting all documents off-site.

Security – A serious concern when going paperless is the security of documents and sensitive information. Encryption, local servers and restricted access, which all have their own benefits and costs, are solutions worth looking into.

Revamp Processes – Reviewing your current operations processes and finding alternatives are part of the transition to paperless. You may need to begin using an electronic signature service, online invoicing and payment services to replace the need for physical documents.

Time Intensive – There are a lot of factors to consider when you switch to paperless and it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to consider all of the implications and just as long to implement all of the changes to your operations.

Going paperless may not be the right decision for every small business. It is important that you do your research before you decide if the benefits outweigh the challenges and help improve your productivity at the same time.

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