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Milwaukee


Tips for Creating Your 2020 Business Budget

December 10, 2019 / by Mark Schanen posted in Small Business Advice, Bookkeeping Services, Tips for Startups, Business Advice, Milwaukee

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Creating a business budget for 2020 will not only benefit your business in the next year, it will help establish a roadmap for success well into the future. A year ago I explained why your business would benefit from having a budget. This year, I'll get into the details of how to create one.

The primary benefit of having a budget is that it sets parameters. It forces you to make reasonable assumptions about how much your business is liable to spend in the coming year. That, in turn, helps you figure out how much income you'll need to cover your immediate expenses and also plan for long-term investments in the business.

While a budget is never exact, it's not just a wild guess, either. A budget's main value is to create an accountability tool. By setting a budget, you create a gauge for determining whether a particular initiative is working or whether you should change course before sinking more time, money or other resources into a losing proposition. A budget can also help identify successes that you should double down on.

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How to Overcome Your Business Blind Spots

September 17, 2019 / by Dave Molenda posted in Small Business Advice, Business Advice, Milwaukee

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In business, the biggest problem is the one you can't see. And the reason you can't see it is that you have a blind spot.

One of your most important roles as a business leader is to help your team identify and address those blind spots. And one of the most effective ways to do that is to start by acknowledging your own blind spots. That also gives you the opportunity to set ground rules for delivering feedback in a positive way.

Hone Your Tone
I can't stress enough how important it is to set a precedent for positivity. Sometimes a simple change in tone can make all the difference in how your message is received.

I realized, for example, that one of my personal blind spots is a tendency to interrupt people. So, in order to break the habit, I asked the people around me to point it out when I do it. But I also asked that they do it in a respectful way — by calmly saying, "Hey, Dave, you're doing it again." That's so much more palatable for me to hear than if people were to sigh, roll their eyes and say, "You're doing it again, Daaaave!"

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3 Keys to a Successful Small-Business Launch

January 8, 2019 / by Mark Schanen posted in Small Business Advice, Business Advice, Milwaukee

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Fifty percent of new small businesses fail within five years. That statistic has held steady for so long, it might lead you to conclude that business is a game of chance and success is as random as the outcome of a coin flip.

That's not the case. With research and preparation, you can push your odds of a successful launch well above 50/50.

1) Do your market research.
Too many entrepreneurs think with their hearts instead of their heads. Just because you love to do something doesn't mean people will pay for your product or service in sufficient numbers for you to turn your avocation into a vocation.

So before you quit your job and sink your life savings into pursuing your passion for cupcakes and baking, you'd better figure out how many people would be inclined to buy your cupcakes, how much they'd be willing to pay, and whether you can bake your cupcakes cheaply enough at scale to turn a profit. If the numbers work, then go for it. If not — and you need to be brutally honest with yourself — then don't quit your day job.

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Scary Numbers on Small-Business Fraud

December 20, 2018 / by Mark Schanen posted in Small Business Advice, Bookkeeping Services, Business Advice, Milwaukee

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"Small businesses lose almost twice as much per scheme to fraud" as larger businesses. That's just one of the disturbing findings in the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) "2018 Global Study on Occupational Fraud and Abuse."

According to the study, small businesses (which the ACFE defines as having fewer than 100 employees) sustained a median loss of $200,000 per fraud scheme, compared to $104,000 for larger businesses. Moreover, the study found that "a majority of the victims recovered nothing."

A Big Problem for Small Businesses
Why are small businesses particularly vulnerable to fraud? There are several reasons. First, many small-business owners start out in the corporate world (where high-level financial controls are part of the infrastructure) before venturing out on their own. So they tend to take security measures for granted and are too trusting of the people they bring onboard to operate their new business. Let's face it: No one hires an employee whom they think will try to defraud them.

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What Does It Take to Finance a Startup?

December 11, 2018 / by Mark Schanen posted in Tips for Startups, Milwaukee

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Congratulations — you have an idea for a potentially lucrative small business. All you need is the funding. Several avenues are available, and you should take the time to explore them all before deciding what's best for you.

In case you missed the emphasis, the operative word there is best. With that in mind …

  1. When evaluating financing options, remember that it's not always about the interest rate. Terms and conditions matter quite a bit. Even as a C corp, S corp or LLC, you can lose what you've invested, and you may be asked for "personal guarantees" that will entangle you long after a business fails.
  2. Match the duration of your financing with the duration of your assets. If you have two-year loans with a big balloon payment at the end and you can't roll your debt in two years because of a major recession, that's a big problem. Ever hear of Lehman Brothers? Yeah, they did that.
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Why Your Business Will Benefit from Having a Budget

October 25, 2018 / by Mark Schanen posted in Small Business Advice, Tips for Startups, Milwaukee

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Many business owners think of a budget as a limitation. Instead, they should think of it as a set of guidelines.

The purpose of a budget is to identify the points at which you need to implement various contingency plans. And the process isn't necessarily restrictive; a budget prepares you to react not only when something bad happens, but also when something good does. If you find that a competing company is unexpectedly for sale, for instance, can you adjust your budget in order to buy them out?

You Can't Do the Math Without the Numbers
For a small business, creating a budget shouldn't take more than a couple of hours, and the benefits are tremendous. If you're doing it right, it forces you to consider the financial metrics that are actually driving your organization. Where is your company, and what can it achieve in the next year? Or three years? Or five years? What steps do you need to take during the next several months to get started toward those goals?

Once you've set your annual budget, you need to reevaluate at least once during the year to determine where you are relative to your projections. That simple process can make your company proactive rather than reactive.

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