2016 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 hire a bookkeeper to keep it all in order. Most business owners consider record keeping to be tedious but good not only to makes things easier, but also to give you real stress relief at tax time. Either way, getting your financial books in order has to be done before anything else.

2. 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.

  • 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 the past year.

Pull out your business plan 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 and achievable. Prepare an action plan and start implementing your plan.

4. 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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Buying vs Leasing Space

Whether you are starting up, making the move from home-based business to a store front or your lease is about to expire, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of buying or leasing space for your business.

Here are a few things to take into account;

Location

If you buy space in an upcoming area or at the bottom of a real estate cycle, the property may increase in value in the future. On the other hand, if you lease space and your customers don’t like the location you can ride out the lease then find a better location without losing too much money.

Overhead and Long-term Stability

Mortgage rates have been declining for decades and don’t fluctuate like lease costs do. By owning the space, your business overhead is fixed for the mortgage period.

Leasing costs are affected by improvements to the building, changing real estate values, demand, and other factors. There is also no guarantee you will be able to renew your lease at the end of a lease period.

Do you want to be a property owner/landlord?

If you are leaning towards buying, property taxes, maintenance and repairs, security, parking, insurance, etc… All become your responsibility. An advantage of owning property is the possibility of subletting extra space. However, dealing with tenants can be frustrating and time consuming. When considering buying or renting, you should take into consideration how much extra time can be taken up by being an owner/landlord.

Before making your decision, it is always important to consult the experts. Speak to an experienced realtor, lawyer, mortgage adviser, and your accountant to make sure it is the right choice for your business.

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Building Your Online Brand

Today online presence is an important part of a successful business. Without it, you are disconnected from a lot of potential customers.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re building your online brand.

  1. Have a vision for your brand.

Think you have a great business idea? Be confident in what you have to offer and have a clear vision and plan for where you want your business to go in the years to come.

  1. Choose a unique brand name.

Choosing a name that is long, hard to pronounce or doesn’t relate to your business is a common mistake. Choose a brand name that will stand out and be memorable.

  1. Get help with your website.

Setting up your business website properly is key to getting your business out to customers. Leave it to the experts, it may seem like an expense, but it will save you time and money in the long run.

  1. Send out a clear message.

It is important to be active on social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but make sure you keep things relevant to your business. Keep your business and personal social media sites separate.

  1. Google yourself.

Google is the most common search engine, so Google yourself and see where you rank. If your website doesn’t show up on the first page, there is a good chance you won’t be seen. This is where SEO and setting up your website properly comes into play.

  1. Proofread your copy.

Don’t underestimate the importance of proofreading your content before publishing. Not only does it make your business look unprofessional, but it also reflects poorly on your brand.

  1. Mention others.

The purpose of social media is to network with others so use it to build a friendly and supportive community where you can share information instead of pushing your product or service.

  1. Mention what you have to offer.

On the other hand, don’t assume people know what you do, especially if you have a unique brand name. Make sure what you have to offer is clear on your website and all social media.

  1. Join the conversation.

Customers like to see a personal side to the business. Engaging in discussions is an effective way to promote your product or service without seeming pushy.

 

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Calculating Start-up Costs

Whether you are trying to secure funding or you are trying to figure out what it will take to get your business up and running, an accurate estimate of start-up costs is necessary to predict financial performance for the first year or few years.

Every business has different cost requirements, but these steps will help you gather some numbers to start.

  1. Determine your start-up cost structure.

Here are six cost categories for new businesses;

  • Cost of sales
  • Professional fees
  • Technology costs
  • Administration costs
  • Sales and marketing costs
  • Wages and benefits

Think about these cost categories, how they affect your business and how they will be weighted across your business.

  1. Develop comparables

Compare industry leaders with your business’s costs. Some aspects like your revenue numbers will be different, but it will help you break down how much you should be spending on each cost category.

  1. Project start-up costs conservatively.

When calculating start-up costs, keep in mind you may need to cover expenses for a few months before you even open for business. And once you are operating, it will take time to become self-sustaining. Be conservative in the early stages with your cost projections and estimated revenue.

  1. Separate one-time costs from reoccurring costs.

Distinguish which costs you will have year-to-year like salaries and rent from one-time costs like furniture and equipment. This will allow you to establish a budget for after the start-up period.

 

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Quick Tips to Boost your Productivity Levels

Here are a few tips to improve your productivity levels.

  • Arrive early, stay later

Get to your most important task right away to save yourself some extra hours. Arriving early and staying late could make all the difference.

  • Plan each day the night before

Taking 15 minutes to make a to-do list and prioritize it will give you a head start on your day. Prioritizing tasks by importance is a reminder to push you forward with achieving big goals.

  • Leave the office for lunch

Getting out of your work environment for lunch can ease stress levels, refresh your creativity and help you re-focus. It’s a chance to clear your head and think about how the rest of your day should go.

  • Minimize distractions

Distractions are everywhere. Working at a computer, there is temptation to check social media and surf the internet. Set boundaries and abide by them. Minimizing distractions will increase productivity.

  • Keep your goals in sight

Keep a list of your goals where you will see them throughout the day to keep you focused and motivated to accomplish them.

  • Always try to beat the person you were yesterday

Keep track of your accomplishments, daily victories will transform your business. Be in competition with yourself.

Everyone wants to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the work day. Break the bad habits that are taking up your valuable time. Higher productivity levels will help you accomplish your goals and lead you to a more successful business.

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Top 5 Small Business Marketing Tips

Target your customers where they hang out on social media.

To reach the full potential of your social media accounts, you must make an effort to reach your customers where they frequent most often online. Marketing directly to your potential customers on popular fan pages and groups is a great way to gain new customers while staying active online.

Don’t be afraid to sell direct online.

As ecommerce continues to grow, many businesses old and new still don’t have shopping carts on their websites. Not giving your customers the option to buy online is taking away profit from your business. For those that do offer online shopping, make sure it is set up properly so that it can be a painless transaction without question or frustration.

Use stunning imagery to grab your customers’ attention.

Using images in any marketing communications is more likely to catch your audiences’ attention than a block of words. This will not only make your marketing message pop, but it will also be more memorable with a photo.

Market to your customers how they like to be marketed to.

Put yourself in the customers’ shoes, would you want a message every day, week, month? How much is too much for your customers? How do they prefer to be communicated with? Via social media, e-newsletters, texts, etc? Your customers are only willing to absorb so much information about what you have to offer so don’t overkill it.

Hire a marketing agency so you can do more of what you love.

You didn’t start a business to do marketing, so outsource your marketing needs to an agency. If you don’t have the budget to hire a marketing firm, partner with someone you trust who has successfully marketed their business.

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4 Tips to Evaluate your Business Idea

So you’ve spent some time thinking and you’ve decided to quit your day job and start a new venture as a business owner with your great business idea! Wait a minute, let’s take a step back… Before committing to starting your business full time, it’s important to evaluate the potential of your business idea.

Here are some things to consider when testing the feasibility of your business idea.

  1. Find your target market.

A key factor in running a successful business is having customers who want to buy your product or service.  Picture your ideal customer, their age, gender, income, and location. This will give you a better idea of who you are targeting and how many are in your area.

Conduct a market analysis to determine how big the market is, how saturated it is and if there is room to add your product or service to the mix. Once you have done your research, then you can decide if it is the right target market for your business.

  1. What makes your product/service unique?

While you researched information to identify your target market, you probably found other businesses with similar products or service in your area. This doesn’t mean your business won’t work, it just means you will have to identify what makes your product or service different from the others. You can do this by creating a unique selling proposition, an effective tool that helps you define your brand and make your business more memorable.

  1. Research your competition.

Along with knowing who your ideal customer is, you also need to know who else is trying to target that same audience. Knowing who your competitors are and what they offer that’s different from your product or service is important to understand before you move forward with your business.

  1. Financial forecasting.

A big concern for most business owners is money, especially at the start. What will it cost you to get off the ground? Where will your capital come from? What are you start-up and ongoing expenses? What is your earning potential once you’re up and off the ground? These are all questions you should have answered before starting your business so you have a better chance at success.

Going through this type of evaluating may seem like a long process but it could save you time and money in the long run. Once you’ve done your research and have decided your business is feasible, the next step is to create a business plan.

For more information on business planning, contact the Cornwall Business Enterprise Centre.

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