One of the biggest things that can cause fights in a marriage is money. No matter where you are in a relationship, it’s a good idea to discuss these major money topics so you’ll know where you stand.
Show me the money: Combine or keep separate or both
One of the best ways to avoid conflict is to put your money into three separate piles: yours, your spouse’s, and a joint set of accounts. In this arrangement, each of you has control over some money that is all your own. The household spending will then come out of the joint account, and you both will make contributions to it on a regular basis.
As a couple, you’ll need to discuss who will pay for what as well as what your regular contribution will be to the joint account. This is no small discussion. The more thorough you are, the less conflict you’ll have over money.
One spouse or partner will normally handle the joint finances, and it’s typically the person with the most accounting knowledge. However, you both should have access to this account in case of emergency.
Savings and future purchase goals
Do you have goals about upcoming large purchases? These might include:
- A home purchase or improvement
- Children’s education
- Health care needs
- Saving for retirement
- A car purchase
- A second home purchase
- A vacation
- Another item such as a boat, furniture, technology gadgets, a plane, or something else
- A nest egg or cushion
If so, calculate how much you need and make a plan to set aside the money you need in the time frame you agree on.
Do you like to spend more than your spouse? Or is it the other way around? When money is flowing, there is usually no problem. When money is tight, that’s when the problems come in.
When there are conflicts in the area of spending, the best course is to focus on priorities. If you can agree on your priorities and goals, it can often shift spending habits.
You may want to set a budget to stick as close as possible to expected spending limits. Start by recording current spending in these areas, and then agree on the amounts you want to spend in the future.
- Rent or mortgage payment
- Utilities, including electric, gas, water, garbage, phone, internet, cable
- Food and supplies, including grocery, kitchen items, liquor, and eating out
- Entertainment, including travel, vacations, local events, holiday decorations, Netflix subscriptions, tech gadgets, books, etc.
- House maintenance including repairs, cleaning, lawn care, appliances, and decorating
- Automobile, including gas, insurance, licenses, and maintenance
- Clothing and accessories, including dry cleaning
- Health care, including pharmacy, doctor’s visit, and HSA contributions
- Personal care, such as haircuts, nail care, etc.
- Tuition and/or education expenses
- Contribution to retirement and savings accounts
- Charitable contributions
- Taxes, including federal, state, local, school, and property
- Paying down credit card or student loan debt
What does retirement look like to both of you? Having this conversation will be enlightening. Know that dreams and goals can change over time as retirement approaches.
You’ll want to have an idea about what you’d like to spend during your final years so that you can make plans to start accumulating that wealth now. The sooner you start, the more years you have to build up your retirement assets.
Monitoring your progress
Keep an eye on your account balances to make sure everything is as it should be. Review bank and brokerage account statements and/or your budget once a month or at least once a quarter so there are no surprises or trends that sneak up on you.
When you reach your goals, reward yourself. Managing money is hard work, and you deserve to pat yourself on the back when a goal is achieved. If there is anything we can do to help you make your financial dreams come true, please reach out any time.
The start of a new year also means that it’s the perfect time to revisit old business strategies from last year so that you can maximize your revenue for 2019. If your financial numbers were fantastic last year, that’s great! Keep the strategies that worked for you and cut the ones that didn’t.
If your financial numbers weren’t amazing last year, or maybe you’re just interested to see how you can increase your revenue, we have you covered. Here are 10 ways you can boost your revenue this year:
1. Revisit your current prices and make adjustments as necessary.
Many people will tell you that increasing your prices will increase your profits, but that’s not necessarily true. Increasing your prices by a small amount might increase your profits without turning away existing customers, but make sure you research your competitors’ prices and adjust based on what makes sense in your market.
2. Bundle your services or products together.
Make your products or services more attractive by bundling them together and pricing them at a better deal than purchasing the services or products separately. Customers that only want one particular product or service should still be able to purchase the product or service à la carte, but offering different packages of increasing value makes it much easier to upsell to clients and increase your business revenue.
3. Offer free gift with purchase.
Tacking on a complimentary or free service to your products or services could be the small push needed to close sales. Even better, you could add a complimentary or free service to your highest-quality bundle. As an example, the cosmetics industry has been doing this for decades.
4. Start a new product or service line.
If you’re limited to just a few products or services, it’s time to expand. If you mow lawns, offer a leaf collection or snow removal service. If you sell shoes, add socks. If you manage a restaurant, consider offering alcohol. Expanding the scope of what you’re selling will provide you with additional revenue.
5. Expand your geographic reach.
If you’re still only offering services and products locally, consider expanding your reach, especially because the internet is so readily available nowadays. Think about which services you can offer virtually; some may require you to invest in cloud-based delivery systems. If you only sell products at a physical location, ecommerce is a huge industry and you could definitely increase revenue by having a storefront online.
6. Learn to say “no” to bad clients.
This may seem counterintuitive, but learning to turn away bad clients is really important. When clients are ungrateful, unreasonable and just take up too many of your resources, you have to realize that they are unprofitable. By turning them away, you can devote more of your attention to building relationships with your best customers and creating new, profitable opportunities.
7. Make your online presence known.
Everyone uses search engines and social media to find the right business to serve their needs, so make sure you can be found online. Create a website for your business and make sure your have business pages on social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. You’ll have to develop some marketing strategies and optimize your site to rank high, but, when done right, these channels can drastically impact the amount of revenue you get.
8. Manage your online reputation.
When you have many good reviews, your credibility goes up and your business is more appealing to potential clients and customers. If your clients leave you an amazing testimonial, it’s a good idea to ask them to post it online as well—especially on Yelp, your Facebook Business Page, and Google Reviews. On the other hand, negative reviews will look bad to potential clients and can negatively impact your revenue, so make sure you respond appropriately to the review and show potential clients that you care about getting things right.
9. Encourage customers and clients to sign up for a continuity program.
Do you have loyal customers? Reward them by offering a membership or continuity program with VIP benefits. Retail, restaurants, and service businesses can set up privileges like faster service, discounted prices, and frequent purchase rewards that many consumers will pay a small monthly fee for.
10. Encourage customer referrals by building and nurturing customer relationships.
Connect with clients and build strong relationships through effective communication, providing exceptional service, getting feedback, addressing concerns, and showing appreciation. Doing so can increase repeat customers, customer referrals and your business revenue.
If you’re looking to boost your business revenue this year, definitely give these strategies a try.
Many people in their retirement years have regrets about not saving more during their earning years, but you don’t have to be one of them. All you need to do is be realistic and proactive about saving. It’s all about paying your future self.
Circumstances can arise that can erode savings you hoped would be there for retirement. Some of those events include not being able to work due to poor health or a bad job market, unanticipated hospital bills, a divorce, overestimating Social Security benefits, bad investments, procrastination, and simply not realizing how much you need to live on.
The good news is you can prevent future regrets by making a strong savings plan now. As a small business owner, you may not have a retirement plan, so it’s essential that you create one for yourself. You earn an income today. Put some of that income toward paying your future self, and pay that “bill” first each month or each paycheck.
To be proactive and build as much savings as possible, take these steps:
- Increase your financial skills by learning how to fund your retirement, including all that traveling you’d like to do.
- Take care to manage your investment risk and be realistic about investment returns. In good markets, purchase rather than rent or lease so you are building an asset.
- Put as much aside as you can, and try living just below your means.
- If you do have periods where you are out of work, try living frugally until your income is back to normal.
- Optimize your business profits and apply some of them to your savings plan.
- Minimize taxes where possible so you can keep more of what you make.
- Make everything work twice as hard for you:
- Get credit cards with loyalty programs.
- Sign up for frequent customer programs to earn points.
- Make sure your bank is giving you the best deal on interest.
- Sell unused belongings on eBay and put the money in savings.
- Cancel used subscriptions and memberships for both your personal and business needs and move the saved money to savings.
- Periodically reach out to vendors to get a better deal on the expenses you incur. This could be for phone plans, utilities, and any other routine expense. Put the difference saved in savings.
- Select cars and trucks with good gas mileage and also high resale value. Consider that using Lyft or Uber may be cheaper than maintaining a car, depending on how much you drive. Put the difference in savings.
There are hundreds more ways to save more, and these will get you started in the right direction for 2019.
Reputation management is a relatively new area within marketing. In a way, it’s similar to digital public relations; it’s the management of a company’s reputation online. There’s also a customer service component to reputation management.
Unlike public relations workers before the internet came along, today’s reputation managers must deal with what customers and other stakeholders publish publicly on social media, blogs, directories, and many other locations online.
A large part of the reputation management function is to monitor and reply to reviews. Company reviews are available on hundreds of sites. The most common places to look for reviews are Yelp, Google Business, Bing, Amazon, and shopping carts.
If a company receives a positive review, thanking the customer in a response is a nice gesture and recognizes their time spent writing the review. It also reassures others that the company is paying attention to customer feedback.
If the review is negative, swift action should be taken to respond, to apologize publicly, and to take the conversation to a private communications channel such as email or direct messaging. Customer service should get involved to resolve the issue quickly and satisfactorily. In some cases, posting a follow-up response to ask the client if the issue has been resolved is appropriate.
Companies should monitor more than just customer reviews. Sites like Glassdoor allow employees to post job satisfaction reviews for prospective workers. Companies in industries with chronic talent shortages will want to allocate resources to monitor these sites effectively.
Reputation management is not all about reviews; it’s also about mentions. Whenever your company name, CEO, or brand names are mentioned, a reputation manager should know about it.
There are now several apps that perform reputation management monitoring so that you’re alerted quickly to reviews or mentions. A very quick free option is to use Google Alerts to scour the web for company name mentions. Many of these apps also help a business garner more reviews and optimize them to improve their reputation.
Whether your business needs to worry about reputation management depends on many factors, but hopefully this overview will give you an idea of what’s possible in this space.
2019 is right around the corner, which makes today the perfect time to think about your business goals and where you want to be one year from now. As year-end wraps up, you’ll soon know your financial numbers for 2018. You’ll then be able to evaluate how you did and map out a new plan for 2019.
If you’re like many small business owners, you may have started your business without a business plan. Most businesses don’t need a long 20-page document that will just gather dust on a shelf. But you might want to consider putting together a short, 1- to 2-page concise document that includes the basic components of a typical business plan: mission, vision, strategies, and objectives.
A mission statement describes what the company is in business to do. And while you could simply state a mission similar to “Our mission is to sell our products and services,” you may want to think bigger than that in terms of how you want to be known or to impact more than your customers.
A vision statement describes your company’s future position. It’s what you aspire to be. It could again be, “Our vision is to sell more products and services than any other business.” Or it could be more inspiring and uplifting.
Your business strategies support how you’ll get from where you are to what is stated in your mission and vision statements. While there may be many ways to accomplish your mission and vision, strategies are the approaches you’ll take to get there.
Goals are measurable destinations with a timeline that are created from your strategies. Objectives finally get down to the nitty gritty and state the tactics and action plans you need to execute to put all of this work into play.
Each of these items can be written out on a few lines, taking up all together no more than a few pages. The benefits of having a concise business plan are many: if you think of an idea you want to do, you can check the plan to make sure your idea falls under your vision, mission, and strategies that you’ve laid out for the year. If it doesn’t, then you’ll know that your idea would take you off track from your plan, and you know how easy that can happen these days with all of the distractions and options available to us.
You may want to add additional sections to your plan depending on your strategies. If you plan to launch a new product or execute new marketing strategies, you might want to add a Market Summary section. If you seek new funding, you might want to have a section on funding options. With business planning, it makes sense to do what’s relevant, and nothing more or less.
We wish you the very best in 2019, and if we can help you with the financial portion of your business planning, please reach out.