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How to Avoid the Top 3 Marketing Mistakes

April 2, 2019 / by Karen Barnes-Rivera posted in Small Business Advice, Business Advice

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No business can succeed if it's not marketed properly. In light of this simple truth, it's remarkable that so many businesses treat their marketing as an afterthought.

It's time to put your company's marketing efforts top of mind, starting with an awareness of the three most common mistakes — and how to avoid them.

1. Silver-Bullet Syndrome
We've all been guilty of this. Basically, it's deluding yourself into believing that one simple change in your marketing approach will fix everything. For instance: "If I just do social media, that will be a game-changer."

The problem with this approach is that it relies on tactics rather than strategy. In the military, we used to say, "You always stay focused on the mission but flexible on the details."

In the scenario above, "doing social media" is a detail. It's not the mission.

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Tax Test: TCJA Edition

March 28, 2019 / by Jane Lvovskiy posted in Small Business Advice, Bookkeeping Services, Business Advice

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How did you do this tax season with the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act? The answers (and your grade) are at the end.

1. If your small business constitutes a "pass-through entity," how much of your net business income are you allowed to deduct?

  1. 0%
  2. 10%
  3. 20%
  4. I'm not sure what a "pass-through entity" is, but it sounds unpleasant

2. You spent $1.1 million in 2018 to repair your warehouse roof and buy much-needed new equipment. How much of that is deductible under Section 179?

  1. All of it
  2. $1 million
  3. $500,000
  4. Um … tell me what Section 179 is again
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How to Accept Credit Cards Without Accepting Crippling Fees

March 19, 2019 / by Walter Ramin, Merchant Service Specialist posted in Small Business Advice, Manhattan Financial District, NYC - Midtown, Tips for Startups, Business Advice

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There's often a narrow margin between a successful business and a struggling one. Something as simple as credit-card processing fees can spell the difference between black ink and red. But if you think those fees are an unavoidable cost of doing business, think again.

When the Fine Print Isn't So Fine for You
As we trend toward a cashless society, more and more businesses have begun accepting credit cards — which also means accepting the processing fees that come along with them. But what many merchants fail to realize is that those rates are flexible. And the merchants often end up paying way more than they need to.

To give you just one example: Let's say your business accepts different cards with processing rates that range from 1% to 3%. Some third-party processors simply round everything up to the highest rate and charge 3% for all cards. So even if you accept four cards that charge 1% and just one card that charges 3%, you end up paying your processor 3% across the board. The merchants are actually entitled to rebates in that scenario, but few know enough to ask.

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How to Fund Retirement Through Your Small Business

March 14, 2019 / by Jay E. Hochheiser, CFP®, CEPA posted in Small Business Advice, North Shore Long Island, Tips for Startups, Business Advice

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As a wealth management strategist for more than 30 years, I advise clients on how to build and balance their three pools of money. Retirement planning isn't just a matter of saving money; it's a matter of investing money and allocating resources in a way that delivers the best return. So the goal is to get the longest compounding curve out of the assets that are taxed the least.

Unfortunately, not enough people implement a net after-tax plan early enough to generate the assets they'll need to have the kind of retirement they want — or even to have a solid retirement at all. This is especially true of small-business owners, who are often so consumed with the demands of operating the business that they fail to plan for the future.

Plan for the End Right from the Start
A detailed exit strategy should be a part of every business plan. But it isn't enough to map out an exit strategy for the business — you need one for yourself, too. In fact, if you start your own business, it's even more important to factor in retirement planning than it would be if you simply kept working at a job somewhere. You'll no longer have access to your employer's plan because now you are your employer.

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Five Tips on How to Negotiate a Commercial Lease

March 5, 2019 / by Ed Douyon posted in Small Business Advice, Manhattan Financial District, NYC - Midtown, Tips for Startups, Business Advice

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If you have a great commercial lease for your business, consider yourself fortunate. And don't take it for granted. Things can change at any time.

I had a client who had been in the same location for more than 20 years when the landlord summarily decided to raise the rent by $25 per square foot. With just a few months' notice, we had to scramble. We found a good building, and the prospective landlord loved my client — but evidently not enough to avoid nickel-and-diming them to death when it came time to sign the lease. I guess the landlord figured he had my client over a barrel because time was so short.

The landlord figured wrong. My client nixed the deal and continued looking. In the end, we found them an even better location, with a favorable sublease. Moral of the story: You don't have to let the landlord call all the shots when you negotiate a lease — even in a tight market like New York City (where my firm operates). The following are five tips to help you get the best terms.

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Financial Controls and Best Practices for Your Business

February 28, 2019 / by John Gleason posted in Small Business Advice, Metrowest, MA, North Shore, Bookkeeping Services, Business Advice, West Houston, Central MA

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Like many small-business owners, you started out as a jack-of-all-trades. Whatever needed to be done to keep the doors open in those hectic first months, you did it: sales, marketing, IT, maintenance, administration and bookkeeping.

As your business grew, you added employees, vendors, an attorney on retainer. Now you couldn't do everything yourself if you wanted to. To support the continued growth of your business, you need to implement some basic financial controls and best practices. How do you go about it effectively?

Glad you asked.

First, Figure Out Where You Are
This is actually a good time of year to take your business' pulse. You need to put your tax records in order, and you should be compiling a forecast for the new year. That's not a burden — it's an opportunity. Good, thorough bookkeeping records aren't just an indication of how you've performed in the past year, but are a blueprint for growth — if you know how to interpret them.

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The One Financial Report Every Healthcare Practice Must Have

February 19, 2019 / by Jane Gilpin posted in Small Business Advice, Bookkeeping Services, Downtown San Diego, Healthcare

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At Supporting Strategies, we stress to small-business owners the importance of acquiring a basic understanding of key financial statements. From balance sheets to cash flow statements, we cover just about every financial report a business might need.

For the most part, healthcare practices are no different from any other type of business. A healthcare practitioner needs to understand, say, a profit and loss statement. However, one financial report that all practitioners must be familiar with is the accounts receivable aging report.

Why the Healthcare Industry Has Different Priorities
Although governed by the same accounting principles as any other business, healthcare practices face unique challenges. Government regulation, for one, including compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). If you operate a healthcare practice, it's critical not only that you understand HIPAA laws, but that your bookkeepers and/or accountants do as well. (Here's one example of why this is so important.)

Suffice to say that if you want to avoid violating privacy laws, and the financial penalties that can result, you must carefully monitor the information you enter into the bookkeeping system.

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Business Owners: Beware the Deadlines of March

February 14, 2019 / by Elliot Hershik posted in Small Business Advice, Chicago Far West Suburbs, Business Advice

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"Beware the ides of March," Shakespeare wrote. Well, we have no idea what "ides" are, but we do know our tax deadlines.

Are You Prepared for the March Tax Deadline?
It never hurts to have a reminder about changes in tax laws, because each year brings new ones — especially this year.

You might have changed the structure of your business this year, which could in turn alter your filing status. For example, have you switched from an S corporation to a C corporation? If so, not only are you positioned to possibly pay a lower tax rate — a flat rate of 21% instead of the graduated scale from 15% to 39% — but your filing deadline also moves back from March 15 to April 15.

For S corps, partnerships and multiple-member LLCs, the deadline remains March 15. And don't think that the partial shutdown of the federal government will buy you any additional time. It does not affect any filing deadlines.

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Give Your Healthcare Bookkeeping System a Checkup

February 5, 2019 / by Jane Gilpin posted in Small Business Advice, Bookkeeping Services, Downtown San Diego, Healthcare

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Is your healthcare practice's cash flow suffering from clogged arteries? Take our checkup and find out.

Open Your Mouth and Say "Aargh!"
Most practitioners enter the healthcare field because they want to help people, not because they want to run a business. But failing to observe good business practices can create cash-flow problems that impede your practice's ability to provide quality care. Furthermore, insurance reimbursements and a thicket of regulations make healthcare an especially complicated business.

The complexity starts with third-party billing systems, which have become as much a part of healthcare as jokes about hospital food. Any healthcare provider who accepts insurance as payment is required to submit a bill with a current procedural terminology (CPT) code to the billing department. While larger hospitals typically have an in-house billing department, most smaller practices outsource that responsibility to a third party.

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“Strap yourselves in…

January 31, 2019 / by Rick Lochner posted in Small Business Advice, Chicago Far West Suburbs, Business Advice

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This blog was originally published on the ricklochner.com website.

…we’re going to jump to light speed!”

I still remember the audience’s reaction to this scene in “Star Wars: A New Hope” in 1977. We had never seen anything like it on the big screen until then and, of course, now it seems almost archaic! Today’s 21st century business environment can feel very much like everything is moving at perpetual light speed. It is also this metaphor we use to highlight the first of five Keys to Success initially mentioned in last month’s newsletter (click here to read). The first Key to Success is Get Ready to Warp (warp speed is faster than the speed of light). Simply stated, it is not the ability to adapt that matters as much as the speed at which the leader is able to adapt in order to stay relevant. Here are three things a 21st century leader can do to stay relevant:

  • How well do you know your industry? While I was once asked if I had a crystal ball to see the future, no one has that ability. However, we do have the ability to understand our industry well enough to understand key trends and how those trends impact the leader’s current and future business. In the May-June 2018 issue of “Harvard Business Review,” Jason Trujillo, IBM’s Director of Leadership Development sums up this dynamic with one sentence. He states, “IBM’s cultural transformation is aligned with the reinvention of our business, with almost half our revenue coming from businesses we weren’t in six years ago.” Six years to a company as large as IBM is virtually light speed!
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