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Chicago Far West Suburbs


Business Owners: Beware the Deadlines of March

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

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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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“Strap yourselves in…

January 31, 2019 / by Rick Lochner posted in Chicago Far West Suburbs, Business Advice, Small 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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New Year's Resolutions (and Reconciliations) for Businesses

December 26, 2018 / by Dawn Hershik posted in Bookkeeping Services, Business Advice, Small Business Advice, Chicago Far West Suburbs

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If you run a small business, the holidays can be a distraction. It's easy to lose focus during the rush (if you're in retail) or the lull (if you're not). Either way, this is a crucial time. You need to take stock of where your financials are as this year ends and the next begins.

Don't drop the ball before watching the ball drop in Times Square. As the year ends, resolve to …

Keep good records all year long. Yes, we offered the same advice at this time last year. Did you follow it? And if you didn't, don't you wish you had? Wouldn't it be nice to relax and enjoy some holiday time with family and friends instead of scrambling to pull together 12 months of records?

It's worth repeating: At a minimum, performing monthly reconciliations and keeping accurate, up-to-date records — including all expenses, such as equipment updates or mileage, as well as W-9 and 1099 forms — will make your life (and your bookkeeper's life) much easier at tax time. It will also prepare you for any unexpected audits. Perhaps most important of all, thorough records give you insights into your business that can make it easier to create accurate budgets and forecasts.

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Now Is the Time to Prep Those Pesky 1099s

September 13, 2018 / by Elliot Hershik posted in Chicago Far West Suburbs, Bookkeeping 101, Bookkeeping Services, Business Advice, Small Business Advice

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For small-business owners, eternal vigilance on important documents is more important than ever. That includes those seemingly routine year-end 1099 forms.

If You Wait, It Could Be Too Late
In an ideal world business owners would keep up with their 1099s all year long, as my colleague Jeanne Richards recently suggested they do. Haven’t given 1099-prep a thought yet? Don’t worry — it’s not too late. Now that it’s September, it’s the perfect time to check the status of your records and get them in shape before the end of the year.

Periodically evaluating your records keeps you up to date on which vendors or independent contractors (IC) are above the $600 threshold that requires a 1099. That’s a threshold that is easy to meet without realizing it. You might have given someone several small projects that were each well under $600, but together meet the threshold requirement. Or perhaps you forgot about an IC you used for a project early in the year — now is the time to make sure you have the records you need.

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Course Correction: Tweaks that Could Help Your Small Business Before Year’s End

September 4, 2018 / by Dawn Hershik posted in Chicago Far West Suburbs, Bookkeeping Services, Business Advice, Small Business Advice

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Like all good business owners, you started the year with a solid plan. But is your plan still as solid as you thought it was, or are there areas that could use shoring up? Here are some revisions to consider as the year winds down.

Look for Over- and Underperformers in Sales
This is the area that offers the greatest potential for improving your bottom line. It is also one of the easiest to analyze. Basically, all you have to do is review your year-to-date sales figures to see if you can root out both winners and losers — products or services that performed better than anticipated, as well as “dogs” that yielded disappointing results. (Here’s where budgeting, forecasting and ongoing analysis of your finances can be invaluable.)

With those figures in hand, it’s a simple matter of applying a little common sense. Increase your inventory and/or marketing efforts on whatever is performing well and sell off the underperforming products at a deep discount to generate cash. In the case of a costly or time-consuming service that isn’t generating a sufficient return, you can simply discontinue it — be careful to honor any commitments you have already entered into, of course.

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Get Your Small Business off the Filing-Extension Treadmill

August 30, 2018 / by Dawn Hershik posted in Chicago Far West Suburbs, Bookkeeping Services, Small Business Advice, Tips for Startups

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Two years ago, I blogged about how outsourced bookkeeping services can help you keep your financial records up to date and enable you to avoid filing for an extension on your business tax returns. With the September drop-dead nearing once again (this year it's September 17 instead of September 15), it's a good time to revisit the topic.

Putting the Tension in Extension
The deadline extension exists to give businesses a break in the event of unforeseen circumstances. For example, if a natural disaster impacts the business or a personal health crisis affects a key employee just ahead of the March 15 deadline, it would be unreasonable for the IRS to fine the business for filing a late return. (To be clear, we're talking about small businesses that are structured as partnerships or S corporations. Note that the Final deadline for C Corporations and individuals (with extension) is October 15, 2018) An additional six months ought to be ample time to resolve any issues.

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Seven Attributes all Salespeople Need

July 10, 2018 / by Bill Bartlett posted in Chicago Far West Suburbs, Business Advice, Small Business Advice

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Originally published on the Corporate Strategies & Solutions website.

I train and coach thousands of salespeople each year and have taken advantage of this incredible opportunity to collect important data that is significant in helping my audience understand the complex nature of the “sales beast.” I have learned volumes about the motivation, behavior, skills and beliefs that propel high performers to be the best and have concluded there are real hidden drivers that provide fuel for high-flying success.

Recently, I spent time identifying the critical attributes I believe drive sales success and their relationship with salespeople to impact their sales success. Initial interviews with my sales audience surfaced attributes like: persistence, personality, intuition and likeability as well as time management, however, when I dug deeper and even took a behavioral x-ray, I found a totally different set of characteristics. Many salespeople just don’t know what their success drivers are and never try to dig to determine them. They just blindly accept their success, whether limited or not, as a bi-product of their hard work.

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A Real-World Example of How to Prevent Bookkeeping Fraud

July 5, 2018 / by Dawn Hershik posted in Chicago Far West Suburbs, Business Advice, Small Business Advice, Bookkeeping Services

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Perhaps nothing hurts a small-business owner more than learning they've been defrauded by a trusted employee. Let's take a closer look at a recent case in which a bookkeeper embezzled $600,000 from a pair of Chicago restaurants and see what business owners can learn about safeguarding their finances.

Never Let One Person Handle the Bills
This is one of those lessons that seem obvious in hindsight. In the Chicago case, the bookkeeper was responsible both for cutting all checks to the restaurants' vendors, with no oversight, and for performing reconciliations. Over a six-year period, she wrote herself $604,113 worth of checks from the company account, then cut checks with the same numbers for the vendors. The restaurant owners didn't discover the scheme until a company accountant was setting up a new bookkeeping system and noticed the discrepancies.

The guilty party had been with the company for almost 20 years. But she found herself "in over her head" with credit card bills and other debts and yielded to temptation, according to the Chicago Sun Times. The paper also reported that "on her way out of the office, she offered some advice: 'Make sure the next bookkeeper you hire doesn't do the bank reconciliations as well,' the complaint states."

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Why It's Vital to Keep Personal & Business Expenses Separate

April 12, 2018 / by Laura Zimmerman posted in Chicago Far West Suburbs, Bookkeeping 101, Bookkeeping Services, Business Advice, Small Business Advice, Tips for Startups

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When starting a small business, it's important to keep your business finances separate from your personal finances — particularly when it comes to expenses.

Tempting though it might be to use your personal credit card to buy a smartphone as you launch your business, that sets a dangerous precedent. If you don't treat your personal finances and your business finances separately, the law won't, either. This is known as "piercing the corporate veil." And it could mean, among other things, that you lose the liability protection that ought to come with incorporating.

Here are some tips on how to avoid that potentially disastrous scenario.

Don't Jump the Gun
Starting a small business can be stressful and time-consuming. It's easy to fall into "just-for-now" rationalizing. You'll purchase equipment and other startup essentials from your personal checking account. And then once you get up and running, you'll file all the proper paperwork to become a corporation and open a bank account dedicated to the business. No problem, right?

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More March (Tax Deadline) Madness

March 15, 2018 / by Elliot Hershik posted in Chicago Far West Suburbs, Bookkeeping Services, Business Advice, Small Business Advice

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Two years ago, I compared the annual "March Madness®" of the NCAA Division I college basketball tournament to the madness that surrounds the March 15 deadline for corporate tax filing. With basketball's March Madness upon us once more, it's a good time to revisit (and revise) those guidelines.

Buzzer-Beater
A game-saving shot at the final buzzer is the most exciting moment in basketball. But if you own a small business, being behind late in the game by not having complete, accurate records to present to a tax preparer isn't exciting; it's just stressful. This is especially true if your last-second attempt at a buzzer-beater is off target. Spare yourself (and your tax preparer) this anxiety by maintaining good financial records all year long. An outsourced bookkeeping services provider can help on this count.

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