Looking for fresh, effective ways to grow your business in 2020? You’ve come to the right place. In today’s market, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd, gain new customers or clients, and increase your company’s revenue. Note: We said difficult, not impossible! Below, you’ll find six fun, easy tips to help you achieve your goals and make your business bigger and better as it enters the new decade.

  1. Freshen Up Your Marketing

Have you ever given your house a new coat of paint? Well, consider giving your business one, too! Not literally, of course, but by freshening up your marketing techniques, clients and prospects will see you in a new light. For example, maybe it’s time for a new logo, more customer reviews to place on your site, or a new angle on your social media posts.  Finally, give that old, tired website a facelift: add some new photos, offer a colorful promotion, or add new team members. Change is good and helps keep people (and Google search algorithms) interested.

  1. Enhance Your Product or Services

Nothing piques an individual’s interest like a new product! If you can, try to add a new product to your existing line. Or, if it makes more sense, simply add features to products you already offer. You have room to be creative here. Think about what your clients really want and try to give it to them.

  1. Meet with a Financial Advisor

Do you have a financial advisor? Now is the time to meet with him or her and discuss your future goals. Specifically, ask about new opportunities (i.e. investments) to grow your company’s revenue. Now—the start of a new year—is the perfect time to invest in new assets, get funding for new projects or ideas, and cut any unnecessary costs. You are in control of your company’s finances, so make sure money is going where you want it and need it to go. (And if we can help, let us know!)

  1. Update Your Organization Chart

Could you benefit from hiring a new employee or two? Maybe your company could prosper with the creation of a new position? It’s time to update your organization chart and see what your business needs to grow for 2020. You may discover that you need additional staff and/or a position to help things run more smoothly and effectively.

  1. Excite Your Team

Don’t forget to take care of your own! Remember, without your employees, where would your business be? Could you make it by yourself, without any help from staff? Therefore, remind your workers that you care for them and that they’re appreciated. The gesture can be as big or small as you want. For example, you could add an employee perk or benefit. Or, consider doing something small yet meaningful, like a team dinner or bonding event—anything to help show your employees that they’re more than just staff.

  1. Strategy, Strategy, Strategy

We’ve saved the best and most important tip for last: strategy. Remind yourself why you got into this business in the first place, as well as what your goals are and what you want to accomplish. Then, take a look at your current strategy. Will your strategy help you achieve those goals? If so, then great; you’re on the right track! But if not, then it may be time to rework that business strategy.

Think about what you need to do or change to reach those goals, and then work on incorporating them into your business plan. It could be you just need a minor tweak or two, or maybe your company requires a larger kind of shift. Either way, only you can determine whether or not your strategy is working.

It’s a new year—a new decade—and change is good! Let 2020 be the year that your business really takes off and grows. Now is the best time to accomplish all of your goals, and whether you use the list above or have ideas of your own to increase revenue, remember that only you can make a successful change happen.

The topic of money affects our emotions, beliefs, and behaviors in a very personal and individual way. Whether we have enough, need more, or are indifferent can impact our overall financial status.  The most important thing to know about this topic is to be self-aware of your own feelings and actions and how they impact your wealth.

How do you feel about money in general?  Does your brain repeat common beliefs like “Money doesn’t buy happiness” or “All rich people are selfish?” Does money scare you? Excite you? Do you feel like you don’t deserve to have money? Or do you feel entitled to having money?  Is your ego wrapped up in how much money you make?

There is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions, but what your inner thoughts are telling you about money can impact on a subconscious level your ability to earn more or keep what you have.

How do you feel about how much money you have?  Do you feel blessed? Or do you feel like you never have enough?

What are your current behaviors towards money? Are you a spender or a saver? Your behavior may be driven by your beliefs and emotions. If you’re not happy with your behavior toward money, there’s an opportunity for you to change the relationship you have with money.

Once you can bring your beliefs and behaviors into your awareness, ask yourself if they are serving you well or hindering you? You may want to find some sort of happy medium that fits your needs. Everyone has different circumstances, but if you can change your beliefs and then your behavior towards money, then you might see a change in your ability to meet your financial goals.

The ultimate goal is to be content with the relationship you have with money. Everyone is different, and that’s OK. You have to be you! But if you’re not happy with the relationship you have with money, there is opportunity for you to do some work in that area.  And if we can help, please feel free to reach out.

You might wonder why there are so many extra tasks at year-end. While the government requires much of the work, there is clean-up work and adjustments that need to be done to make the books accurate. It’s not always cost-effective to perform all of these updates monthly, so you’re actually saving money by doing some of them at year-end.

Here are just some of the items that are performed at year-end.

Tax-related:

  • If you have payroll, employees need to be sent their W-2s, and the federal and state government need a copy of the W-2s with a W-3 transmittal.
  • For employees, you must also have an up-to-date W-4 signed by them.
  • For employers, your federal unemployment 940 return is due.
  • If you have contractors, they need to be sent their 1099s, and the IRS needs the 1099s and the 1096 transmittal.
  • For contractors, you must also have an up-to-date W-9 form from them. You may also need to request an insurance certificate, or you may get a surprise at your workers compensation audit.
  • For vendors that claim exemption from sales tax, you’ll need to be sure you have an exemption certificate in your files from them.
  • If you pay sales tax annually, your return and payment are due.
  • Your personal federal, state, and local income tax and returns are due in the spring, and they can be extended until later in the year.
  • Depending on the type of entity your business is organized as, you may have franchise, federal and state tax returns to file. This deadline comes up sooner than the individual tax return due date.

Books-related:

  • Just about every asset on your balance sheet needs to be verified in some way or other:
    • Petty cash accounts need to be reconciled and reimbursed as of year-end
    • Bank accounts need to be reconciled with the bank statements. This includes PayPal.
    • Accounts receivable balances and all other receivables need to be tied to each customer and any amounts determined to be uncollectible need to be written off.
    • A physical inventory count needs to be taken and the inventory account should be adjusted accordingly.
    • Fixed assets need to be reconciled to their fixed assets ledger and depreciation should be properly recorded.
    • Goodwill accounts need to be checked and amortization adjusted.
    • Accruals, deposits, deferred accounts and all other asset accounts need to be adjusted if necessary.
  • Liabilities and equity need to be adjusted too:
    • Accounts payable balances and all other payables need to be tied to each vendor.
    • Liabilities that haven’t been recorded need to be added to the books.
    • Loans need to tie to lender statements, and interest paid on loans needs to be properly expensed.
    • The Equity accounts need to be checked and tied out to prior year balances.
  • Corrections and adjustments need to be made:
    • Any misclassifications and corrections need to be made on the books with adjusting journal entries or other classification tools.
    • If the client is a cash-basis taxpayer, a reversing journal entry needs to be made to get the correct tax numbers.
  • A clean set of reports can now be run and used.

Documents-related:

  • This is a good time to file and store your receipts in case you are ever asked for them. For long-term storage, thermal receipts should be copied or scanned in before the ink fades.

If you’re wondering why we’re so busy this time of year, it’s all of the extra work we have to do over and above the normal monthly load. If you have questions about any of this, just ask anytime!

In his book, The Rebel Rules: Daring to Be Yourself in Business, author Chip Conley describes what investors look for in a management team when considering providing startup money to new businesses. He says your management team should consist of a “brain trust that includes a passionate visionary, a ‘get-your-hands-dirty’ operator, and a responsible, finance-minded executive.”

Even if you’re never going to seek venture capital money to fund your business, this tidbit of advice makes a great strategy question to consider for your business, especially if you are an entrepreneur. Do you have these three roles in your company?

Passionate Visionary

The passionate visionary is a creative idea person. She has the technical knowledge that supports the service or product that will be created and offered. She sees the market need and just how to sell and position the product so that clients or consumers will want the offering.

The visionary often has more ideas than budget. The finance role can evaluate the profitability of the visionary’s ideas and prioritize the projects. The operator can execute the visionary’s ideas.

The visionary provides strategic direction for the company and keeps the market offerings fresh.

If your business is missing a visionary, you might also struggle to keep your practice full as often (but not always); the sales function could fall to the visionary. You might also find yourself getting stagnant with your service offerings and falling behind the marketplace.

The fix for a missing visionary is to develop a sales and marketing team and/or a research and development team that can serve these functions.

“Roll-up-your-sleeves” Operator

The operator is an action person who can execute. She gets things done. She can find and hire the right team. She is a systems builder who can develop the systems, job descriptions, procedures, and processes that makes the company unique.

The operator takes the visionary’s ideas and makes them happen. She needs the visionary’s ideas because she would rather take someone else’s ideas and work with them than create her own. She also needs the support of the finance executive to stay on budget and to focus on one project at a time or avoid hiring too many people.

A business without a good operator never gets the product to market and may also constantly be short of team members.

Responsible, Finance-minded Executive

The finance expert helps to make the dollars work for the company. She can tell us how much we need to sell and how much we can spend. She can also provide capital sources for the company via investors or loans.

The finance executive loves numbers and can help to make sure the company’s operations are profitable. She’ll work closely with the operator to make sure that the right number of people are hired at the right salary levels. She’ll work with the visionary to plan and budget for new sources of revenue and new product lines.

Without a finance executive, a company often spends more than they bring in and may not have a viable profit plan. They may also run out of cash which can cause problems with creditors and investors.

This is the role we can not only help you fill, but also help you build your financial literacy to the level that you need for the stage your company is in now and for the future.

Your Business Success Trinity

As you were reading, which role are you? Which role jumped out at you that might need shoring up in your business? You might be strong in one area and need to outsource another while keeping a strategic eye on things overall.

Take a look at each of these roles and objectively assess your business. How are all three roles being served in your company? Which ones need more development in order for your business to grow?

Getting clear on your company’s roles can very well take you to the next level of success.

Which trends impact your business the most? Which ones speak to you? Feel free to reach out to discuss any of these ideas with us.

As we welcome in a new year (and maybe a new decade depending on how you count them), it’s a perfect time to reflect on the trends that will impact us and our businesses. Here’s a list for your consideration and reflection.

Trend #1: Sustainability

Concern for the environment has made the list of many companies’ core values. The way businesses are run can have a huge impact on the environment. While we hear a lot of stories about large companies impacting sustainability, we can also do our part as small businesses.  In the accounting profession, many firms have gone paperless, transitioning from staplers, paper clips, and filing cabinets to digital storage which greatly reduces their footprint.

Trend #2: The Gig Economy

Young workers often have multiple jobs instead of the 9 to 5 jobs of their parents. This means there is more flexibility than ever before when it comes to hiring and retaining young workers. They can be employees, contractors, outsourced solutions, remote, local, part-time, full time, temporary, or permanent.  Sub-trends in this area include more virtual workers and many more opportunities for veterans.

Trend #3: AI – Artificial Intelligence

This trend is impacting the accounting profession in a big way via smart data entry, smart document fetching, and even smart bookkeeping. Marketing has also been impacted in a big way through online ads, customer service solutions, and marketing technology. In email, Google is finishing our sentences for us, and chat and other technologies are having fairly effective conversations via bots.

Trend #4: Stories

Storytelling is huge everywhere. People want to know:

  • The story behind your business and why you do what you do
  • The stories about your customers and the experience they have with you and your services
  • The stories from your employers and how it is to work at your organization

Digital communication has moved from text to graphics to video as bandwidth improves. Video makes stories even easier to share. Smart companies will leverage both stories and video going forward to get their message out.

Trend #5: Diversity Expanded

The conversation is no longer about race, gender, and even sexual preference. It’s now about authenticity and being the same person at work and at home. No one is “normal.” But it takes courage to reveal our differences, especially if they are outside the “standard.” Your courage is more likely to be honored in 2020 than it has in prior years.

Trend #6: A WOW Customer Experience

We’ve moved way past the time of “infotainment,” yet the concept is parallel. As businesses, the challenge is how we can deliver an entertaining, positive, and memorable experience while producing the outcomes the client desires.

Trends #7:  Drones

So far, drones have made appearances in photography, special effects at conferences, as toys, in movies, and of course, in war. I see them in use for safety reasons, going where people shouldn’t or can’t. They will become more pervasive in 2020 and there will be more rules, protocols, and court cases on their use.

Trend #8: User Interface

The move from desktop to mobile is nearly complete, with only the laggard portion of the population remaining. The move to voice is still a work in progress, and it will steadily continue to gain traction in 2020.

Trend #9: Actionable Analytics

Capturing information digitally gives businesses a huge amount of data to utilize but small businesses have barely scratched the surface of this profitable information. It’s time they started catching up, and that’s something our firm can help you with.

Trend #10: Pace of Transformation

New business models in companies like Tesla, Uber, Google, and Facebook will continue to show up at a rapid rate. The business that’s most nimble will be the one that changes the game or at least stays in it without folding.

Which trends impact your business the most? Which ones speak to you? Feel free to reach out to discuss any of these ideas with us.

You’ve received them—probably more than once—and every single time, they’re painful, tedious, and unsolicited. Robocalls . . . Need we say more? You can experience a robocall, or an automated telephone call delivering a recorded message, on both a personal and business phone line. From scammers scamming to political parties politicizing, these calls can get in the way of your daily business activities, stop productivity, and simply annoy the life right out of you.

Here’s how you can fight them.

Don’t Let the Robocalls In

Unfortunately, robocalls can plague all types of calls, whether it’s a cell phone, analog, or VoIP call.

First, if or when you receive a robocall, hang up. Easy enough, except, you know you will eventually get another call, and then another, and more after that. These calls keep coming . . . like cockroaches.

Put your name on the National Do Not Call Registry; it’s free! Will it sufficiently work? No, not always. Yet, taking this step is proactive and it might keep one or two callers from connecting with you.

When an unwanted call does come in, there is often an option to “press a number” that is supposed to delete your number from the robocall registry. Viewpoints are split on this idea, as some say it works and others believe it does the complete opposite of what it’s intended to do. We recommend taking your chances and pressing that number. However, if you’re on the fence, don’t worry; we have more options for you!

Cell

Try downloading a call-blocking app, such as Nomorobo or Robokiller. These are subscription apps that don’t discriminate against carriers. You can also check with your particular provider to see if they offer any special blocking option. For example, Verizon has the Caller Name ID app. Both iPhones and Androids have built-in call-blocking features, while Samsung has a “Smart Call” feature to squash this issue.

You can limit your cell phone calls to “contacts only” by setting the “Do Not Disturb” feature on your smart phone, but is this a realistic option for business owners who often need to take calls from people not yet in their contacts?

Analog

Again, try contacting your service provider to see what options they offer. You may also consider purchasing a call-blocking device. Some of the call-blocking devices on the market can block up to 5000 numbers, such as the CPR V5000, which is available for less than $90.

VoIP

A little trickier to fight, contact your Internet provider to see if they have a service to stop robocalls coming in via VoIP. With some clever searching, you may find an innovative blocking option online. Though, if you find a compatible match, it could be costly. Always report the unwanted call to the Federal Trade Commission.

Stop the Robocall Madness Now

The truth: Robocalls are becoming more frequent each year thanks to the double-edged sword that is the Internet. These calls show no sign of stopping. If you want them to end, you need to take action—and right now!

A great way to make a wonderful start to 2020 is to wrap up 2019 feeling organized and on top of the world. Here’s a checklist of items that you can start on now to make your year-end close go smoother than ever before. And don’t worry if you don’t know how to do some of these tasks – that’s what we’re here for.

  1. Catch up on your books, especially if you do them only once a year. By doing it now, you’ll be able to get into your accountant faster this time of year and they will appreciate getting the work done ahead of their crunch time.
  2. Catch up on bank reconciliations in case they are not up to date. Don’t forget your savings accounts, PayPal, and any other cash equivalents. Void any old uncleared checks if needed.
  3. Review unpaid invoices in accounts receivable and get aggressive about collecting them, especially if you are a cash basis tax payer. Clean up any items that are incorrect so that the account reconciles.
  4. Write off any invoices that are no longer collectible.
  5. Ask employees and vendors to update their addresses in your payroll system so that W-2s and 1099s will reflect the correct addresses.
  6. Collect any W-9s that you don’t already have on file for contractors that will receive a 1099 form from you.
  7. Collect workers compensation proof of insurance certificates from contractors so you won’t have to pay workers comp on payments you have made to them.
  8. Collect sales tax exemption certificates from any vendor who has not paid sales tax.
  9. Decide if you’ll pay employee bonuses prior to year-end.
  10. Review employee PTO and vacation time and reset or rollover the days in your payroll system.
  11. After the final payroll runs, contact your payroll software company to make any W-2 adjustments necessary for things like health insurance.
  12. Set the date to take inventory, and once you have, make adjustments to your books as necessary.
  13. Write off any inventory that is unsalable. If possible, sell scrap inventory or other waste components.
  14. Prepare a fixed assets register, calculate depreciation, and make book adjustments as needed.
  15. Record all bills due through year-end, and reconcile your accounts payable balance to these open bills.
  16. Make loan adjustments to reflect interest and principal allocations.
  17. Perform account analysis on all other balance sheet accounts to make sure all balances are correct and current.
  18. Make any additional accrual entries needed, or if you’re a cash basis taxpayer, make those adjustments as needed.
  19. Get an idea of what your profit number will be. Choose whether you want to maximize deductions to save on taxes or whether to want to reflect more income. Decide what you can defer into 2020 or what you want to have as part of your 2019 results.
  20. Match all transactions with their corresponding documents – receipts, bills, packing slips, etc. – to make sure you have the paper trail you need.
  21. Download your bank statements and store them in a safe place.
  22. Download any payroll reports and store them in a safe place.
  23. Scan in paper documents so that they’re stored electronically.
  24. File any important papers such as new leases, asset purchases, employee hiring contracts and other business contracts.
  25. Prepare a budget for 2020 and enter it into your accounting system.
  26. Take a look at the 2020 calendar to determine which holidays you’ll close and give employees a copy.
  27. Review your product and service prices if this is the time of year you do that and make any changes you decide on.
  28. Update your payroll system for any new unemployment insurance percentages received in a letter each year.
  29. Update the mileage deduction rate if that rate has changed at the beginning of the year.
  30. Set a time with your accountant to go over 2019 results and get ideas on how to meet your financial goals in 2020.
  31. Review the metrics you’ve been using in 2019 and decide on the list of metrics and corresponding values that will take you through 2020.
  32. Celebrate the new year; it’s a wonderful time to gain perspective and be hopeful about the upcoming year.

Start 2020 with a bang and this year-end checklist, and feel free to reach out if we can help with anything.

Congratulations, you’ve landed a new customer! Or, perhaps you prefer the term “client.” Either way, you should be excited; in this particular climate, sparking fresh interest in any kind of business can be challenging. Yet, you did it, and now comes the next part: What to do after you have officially landed that customer/client.

The following essential list of to-do’s will help ensure you not only keep your customer happy but that you KEEP them—period! Take a look; you will discover the list can apply to everyone and anyone.

  1. Welcome Your New Customer

A simple “thank you” goes a long way. Remember, with today’s competition, it is more important than ever to stand out. Nothing will help you stand out more than by showing appreciation to any new customers. Make sure to welcome them and thank them for choosing you/your business. This can be done in person, via card, or even email. Though, written form will likely make a lasting impression. Also, reinforce all of the benefits of choosing YOU!

  1. Make a Smooth Handoff

If you think about it, this new customer has joined your family—let them know that! Introduce them to your staff (i.e. their new family and friends). Specifically, make sure they are acquainted with their person of contact and ensure it is a good fit by all involved parties.

  1. Get Them Onboarded in a Fun Way

During the initial meeting—orientation, if you will—give your customer all of the vital information they will need to easily navigate your business and get the most from your services. This information could include passwords to access certain areas, emails, phone numbers, a glossary of keywords, etc. If you could present this information in the form of a video, even better! Videos are much easier to understand and leave a lasting effect!

  1. Be Their New Best Resource (Goodies Added)

Do you have a new client kit? You should! This kit can include anything pertinent to the relationship with your new customer (i.e. relevant paperwork, files, contact information, etc.). Spice up this kit with some goodies, though! Everyone loves goodies. Make sure to properly read your customer to get a better understanding of their likes, but in general, these goodies could include candy and sweets, candles . . . You get the idea.

  1. Connect with Them on Social Media

Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, almost everyone is on at least one social media platform. Connecting on social media will not only allow you to know your customer/client better but is also a great way to network with “friends” of your customer.

  1. Meeting with the Customer for the First Time

There will come a point when you have that first review meeting with your customer. Be sure to deliver value and explain the service you’ve performed so far. The most essential take away from this step is that your customer feels comfortable and knowledgeable. This is a perfect time to verify any information that may seem unclear or complicated; encourage questions during this meeting.

  1. Ask for a Referral or a Review

The best way to drum up more business is word of mouth. You can ask immediately or want until your relationship has blossomed and become strong. Asking for a referral or a review (or both!) is completely acceptable and a good business practice.

Incorporating these seven items into your new customer onboarding process will get your relationship off to a great start. By showing your customer they are important, you stand a better chance of securing their future business and attracting even more potential customers.

Does your business ask your customers for their credit card numbers at any time during the sales process?  If so, it’s essential that you honor the privacy of your customers’ private data as well as stay in compliance with the Payment Card Industry rules.

Every business that has an account with a merchant services vendor is required to follow PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance when collecting and storing credit card data. There are many different levels of compliance depending on the technology you use to capture and store credit card data.  These levels depend on whether you use a point of sale terminal, the customer hands you their card, orders are entered through an online shopping cart, or a combination.

In all cases, there are several no-no’s that you’ll want to share with your staff to make sure they are properly trained:

  1. Never ask a client to send a credit card number via unsecure email.
  2. Never take down a credit card number over the phone on paper before entering it into your system. If you do, you need to shred the paper immediately.
  3. Don’t ask clients to take a photo of their credit card to send to you.

If you need to use credit card authorization forms in your business, you’ll need to consider the proper collection of these forms as well as the proper storage. Storing a credit card outside any system requires you to follow further PCI compliance steps.

  1. After a client has signed and completed the credit card authorization form, you will need to provide a secure, encrypted email connection for them to send it back to you. Alternately, you can set up a private client portal for them using Box, DropBox, ShareFile, or another generic portal or file transfer app.  Just sending a pdf via email is not a great idea unless the PDF is password-protected and the password is sent via secure, encrypted email.
  2. Once you’ve received the form on your end, you’ll need to keep it in a secure place. If you print or download it, you’ll need to follow physical building security protocols to stay in compliance with PCI as well as to protect the customer data.

It’s not a surprise that so many credit cards get hacked each year.  It’s inconvenient to customers and vendors when their credit card gets compromised, and much of this can be prevented through proactive and safe measures. Respect your customers and help them keep their credit card data safe.

One of the most important parts of managing a business is making sure there is enough cash to keep the business going. As a business owner, you probably have a very good idea how much cash you have in the bank at any time. The smaller your business is, the more likely you are to keep a close eye on cash.

Checking your cash balance is a daily function you should be on top of. Yet there is another often-overlooked responsibility that many business owners don’t spend enough time on, and that is managing your future cash, especially in light of unplanned situations. Looking ahead helps reduce your business risk and allows you more time to correct any upcoming dip in your cash balance.

Having enough cash is akin to having a safety net for your business. It can sometimes even mean the difference between staying in business and going out of business. To plan how much you might need for your safety net, you can use a few different methodologies.

One way to plan your safety net is to prepare for the worst-case scenario. How long would your cash hold out if no revenue were to come in but all expenses kept going out? Some questions you might ask:

  • At what point will your cash run out? How many weeks or months of cash do you have?
  • Do you have a line of credit you can tap at a bank?
  • Do you have other loans or sources of cash that you can tap quickly in case of emergency?
  • What expenses could you shut down without hurting your business if you had to?

Another way to plan your safety net is to do what the average business does: acquire the amount of cash you need for two to three months’ worth of operations and keep it on hand. Alternately, you can make a plan to liquidate that much cash on a very fast basis and only put your plan in place if it’s needed.

An easy way to get these numbers is to look at your bank statements in conjunction with your average accounts receivable and accounts payable balances. If that’s all Greek to you, no worries. Feel free to contact us and we can help you figure out a safety net number that you’ll feel comfortable with and that will keep your business risk low.

Once you have a safety net in place, you’ll gain peace of mind for your business. It’s one step in an overall disaster preparedness plan that you can make for your business.