Chart of Accounts – Do you understand what that is and how the accounts work with your reports in Quickbooks?

If you work with the software Quickbooks, which many small to medium businesses do, you have certainly come across the term, Chart of Accounts (COA).

What you may not know is how that works to help make up the picture of your finances, or how it relates to your tax return.

There is a lot of information we could go over for the COA purpose, but we will just touch on a few basics in this blog to get started.

Each industry can have a specific COA. Quickbooks helps determine that in the original set up, however it can be changed at anytime if need be. So for example, a retail shop and a construction company would each have different Accounts in their list.

  • There are different types of accounts to determine how the account functions in any transactions.
    • For example, the credit entry to an account that is a ‘BANK’ type will record differently than a credit to an ‘EXPENSE’ type account. 
    • A positive balance in an ‘ACCOUNT RECEIVABLE’ type account can be a good thing to the company financials, where a positive balance in an ‘ACCOUNTS PAYABLE’ may not necessarily be good to the company financials.
    • Some account types have depreciation adjustments made, such as the type ‘FIXED ASSETS’ so the number reflected on the Balance Sheet report may not be accurate throughout your fiscal year.
  • Each account serves a purpose for recording and tracking.
    • The more you spend on an ‘EXPENSE’ type account titled, ‘Office Supplies’, the higher the balance is as it accumulates what has been spent during a specific time frame. These numbers can help develop a budget.
    • An account type ‘LIABILITIES’ determines an amount that needs to be passed thru the company financials, but may not necessarily be the companies expenses, such as Employee payroll taxes.

So when thinking about how these accounts relate to the reports, Income and Expense type accounts produce the Profit and Loss Statement. This report does not include items like the Receivables or the Asset accounts. Those items come in to play with the Balance Sheet report. 

If you are struggling with how your chart of accounts relate to your financial reports, contacted your CPA or your bookkeeper. Many companies set up their chart of accounts incorrectly and this then flows thru and the reports are inaccurate. The COA is more important than most people realize. Ask for help if you are unsure. The more you understand how to interpret your accounts, the better decisions you can make to grow your business.


Please contact me directly if you have questions on your bookkeeping or need assistance setting up your Quickbooks Company file. I can guide, assist or manage your bookkeeping needs. If you have comments or suggestion for subjects you would like to see in a blog please contact me thru this site or with the information below.

Tammy Stifel
515.988.7532
Bookkeeping and Process Organizing

tammy@organizerforu.com
OrganizerForU

It is SUMMERTIME! What Wheel Are You Riding These Days?

Maybe you went on RAGBRAI or you went to the State Fair parade in anticipation of riding the Ferris Wheel, high about the ground for you to take in all the sites as far as you can see. Everywhere you turn, there is a wheel rolling along smoothly.

I like to present topics in terms everyone can relate to in their own way. As the Owner, you should be the Hub. You keep the wheel turning smoothly and efficiently. The spokes, your business partners and personnel, should be strong and supportive. Your customers are the tire or the seats at the end of those steel arms on the incredible Ferris Wheel.

Or are you trying to be multiple spokes and still trying to be the hub? Is your wheel broken causing your tire to be flat or a Ferris Wheel unbalanced and ready to topple over? Is there a weak support arm or spoke? Is your business rolling and turning smoothly with the position or positions you are responsible for?

Here are some quick tips to be sure that your wheel turns smoothly;

  • Determine your needs for resources outside of your inner office personnel such as
  • Draw a Wheel
  • Make a line for each spoke-support arm-which your Company needs in order to properly support your customers, represented by the seats on the Ferris Wheel or the tire.
  • Write the name of the business partner or the personnel on the spoke that corresponds to their responsibility.
    • Each person should be handling one spoke, possibly two, if they are ‘connecting’ spokes.  


The purpose of this exercise is to ensure your business is handling your customers in a well balanced, smooth process. You don’t want and overinflated wheel, ready to burst with the first tiny bump in the road. You don’t want a flat tire; your customer basis won’t support the spokes to keep the wheel turning. If you have the appropriate amount of spokes, but your wheel is flat, you may need to revamp the wheel. Reposition your spokes to fit the tasks needed with the skills of your personnel and the business resources you partner with. If you have bulges in your tire, you don’t have all the spokes you need; you probably are ready to get some outside assistance. If you find your wheel is overloaded for the amount of spokes you have, you need more. Look into your network and find the resources you needed to balance our wheel.


If you are unsure of what you need, be sure to attend the first Business Warriors Small Business Resource event on September 19. You can find more information about the businesses that will be represented by going to The Business Warriors site. This will help you determine what your business needs to find the right balance. Or contact me with your specific bookkeeping questions or business organizing concerns.

Tammy Stifel
515.988.7532
Bookkeeping and Process Organizing

tammy@organizerforu.com
OrganizerForU

Give Them Something to Talk About

Are your clients talking about your business? Are they spreading the word about the fantastic job you did for them? Aka: Word of Mouth Marketing!  Here are some tips for increasing the chatter.

Savvy customers want honest opinions before they buy and will trust those who come recommended.  According to Word of Mouth Marketing Association, those opinions in order of influence are:  54% word of mouth; 47% information from a website; 42% email from a friend; and 31% on line review. So you see how important it is to get clients to tell their friends how fantastic you are.

Check out some expert insight at www.WordofMouth.org. I like the five T’s described by Andy Sernovitz so will briefly get your juices flowing. I interjected a couple of my own tactics.

Talkers – identify the people who will talk about you; could be new customers, neighbors, bloggers.

Topics – give people a reason to talk; create a good, clear simple message that will spread. Provide over-the-top service and product!

Tools – help the message spread with easy to forward emails and a tell-a-friend button on website. Always give two promotional gifts – one for your client to keep and one to a friend or business associate.

Take part – be active in the conversation & very responsive to referrals; be active in your community not only to increase awareness but also to show you care and support. Think about providing a product that an event or non-profit needs – bottled water, backpacks, measuring devices,  co- branded with their logo and yours!

Tracking – have a system in place to track on line conversations; monitor communications so that you know what customers think (and say) about your brand.

For more ideas to boost your word-of-mouth marketing by using promotional products, contact:

Mary Anne Kennedy    
Maryanne@PrimarySourcePromotion.com

Primary Source, Inc.   
Promotional Products with a Purpose!
10441 Hickman Road, Des Moines, IA  50322
http://www.primarysourcepromotion.com/
515.727.8774

12.5 Tips for Using Social Media – Part 2

Okay, so you’ve waited long enough. Here are the rest of my Social Media tips!

Tip #7 – How often should you really post?

We all have friends and followers who post a hundred times a day, with little or nothing to say. Those people take the “if one post is good, 30 will be awesome” approach to posting. The truth is, your business is not the only reason they are on Facebook, linked in or Twitter. If you over promote, you run the risk of losing them and getting a dreaded “unlike.”But, make no mistake about it…frequency is key to keeping fan interest, so say something interesting a couple times a day at most and see what happens. If you need to bump up your frequency, then do it, but if your followers are telling you to “cool it” you’d better back off to once a day or every other day.

For now, test and measure to see what works best for your business and you will hit your stride. Again, like I have said before…only post one out of 10-15 posts about YOU…make the other posts added value or educational.

Tip #8 – It is okay to peek at the pros

When you were in kindergarten your teacher told you to never look at your neighbors paper, or it was cheating, right? Well, in the real world, that is called market research and it is okay to peek at your competitors and other professionals to see what they are doing. When it comes to social media, everyone has a different strategy and it is best to take a look at the experts to gain some insights. Every industry is different, so check out the website we follow to find influential twitter users within your niche. I would not recommend reposting everything you find, but follow the strategy your industry uses. If original content is king…start there, but if posting links to articles or asking poll questions is your industries favorite strategy, do that. It all boils down to doing what works best for interacting with your target market and if the wheel has already been created, don’t reinvent it.

Tip #9 – Who should be the one posting?

Social media does not have to be a one person show, in fact I recommend that you enlist the help of many to keep your pages fresh and light. If you hire a professional agency to strategize and post regularly for you, add in some comments or posts yourself to give your page a different flavor and personality. If you decide to have several people in your office share the responsibility of social media management, it is a requirement that all members of the team be knowledgeable about your strategy behind your social media. For example, Suzy from accounting might think your followers would be interested to know she had a bagel for breakfast. Unless you have a bagel store as a client and she mentions the bagel store in her post, that is something your customers are not interested in. Whether you have one or ten people managing your site, make sure everyone is aiming for the same target.

Tip #10 – How can social media be viral?

Viral is only a bad word when you are talking about the flu. In regards to social media, your goal is to make sure that all your posts and updates go viral. Meaning that your followers share, repost, send and re-tweet your valuable information to their network of friends. This is the equivalent of word of mouth advertising. If someone reposts something, chances are, it is pretty good. A simple tip is to somehow integrate the topic of Facebook into your conversation because, believe it or not, Facebook is the number one-most shared topic on Facebook. Another sure-fire way to make your posts go viral is to host a contest giving away a prize from your company. People will do pretty much anything for a free prize and if you tell them to send the post to three friends, then they can register to win your prize, they will! So when you are planning your social media strategy, don’t forget to throw in ideas to make your message viral.

Tip #11 – Staying true to your brand identity

What works for one brand may not work for another in the social media space. For example, the strategy for a movie store is completely different than that of a tax preparer. Consistency is key when you brand a business, so don’t forget to brand your social media pages as well. Customize your twitter page or use a distinctive avatar on Facebook. Branding is not all about the look of your business, but it is also about the tone of voice you use as well so make sure that you remain consistent with your messaging and tone as well as your vocabulary. For example, that movie store I mentioned earlier could use movie quotes and slang, where as the tax preparer would need to be more professional and informative. Needless to say, keep consistent with your brand and don’t confuse your followers with different looks and language than they are already used to.

Tip #12 – How to bring the fun back to social media

If you have been in charge of your companies social media management for a while, you may be telling yourself “this used to be fun, but now it is a chore” and you find that you may be lacking in the updates? That is okay. Everyone gets into a rut sometimes. Now is a good time to revisit your strategy to see if you need to make any tweaks to it. Chances are, if you are getting tired of posting, your followers are getting tired of reading it, or they are simply ignoring your updates all together. Ask yourself why you wanted to engage in social media in the first place. To have fun and interact with customers, right? So, your assignment for the next week is go to your followers’ pages and react to their posts and re-energize yourself as to how fun social media can be. You will gain some new ideas and perhaps a fresh perspective on how to manage your social media pages.

Tip #12.5 – Share the wealth

Now, it is time to share the wealth and reciprocate those good relationships. You have asked your followers to share your links and re-tweet your but are you doing the same for them? Take a look at the other side of the coin for a moment and see life from your followers’ perspective. Have you seen a lead or two from friends, but not given any back? Social media is a two-way street where you need to give back as much as you get. So don’t forget to reciprocate your good fortune with your followers, share leads, give testimonials, comment on their links and videos, and your ever-growing network of friends will stick around for a long time.


About TRIO Marketing|Branding|Advertising
TRIO is a full-service marketing communications company providing a wide array of integrated marketing services to meet all of your business and marketing needs. At TRIO, we understand that each client is unique; therefore we provide customized solutions based on your goals and growth objectives. All of our recommendations are made specifically for you and your business.

TRIO Marketing|Branding|Advertising delivers an effective blend of creative talent and strategic thinking, delivering results that increase the bottom line of our client partners. We utilize our network of local experts in the community to execute the campaigns on the basis of design, printing and mailing.

Our Services include:

  • Marketing, Branding, Public Relations and Advertising Consulting
  • Strategic Annual Marketing Plan Development
  • Integrated and Interactive Marketing Services including E-mail and SMS Marketing
  • Promotional Products
  • Media Negotiation, Placement & Spot Traffic Management
  • Print Design & Production
  • Web Development & Search Engine Optimization
  • Direct Mail Services
  • One-on-One Business Development/Sales Team Coaching

At TRIO, we work hard to combine marketing talent and technology with outstanding customer service to build long-term partnerships with you and your business. Our strategies are delivered on time and in a cost-effective manner to achieve maximum response and grow your business.

Renee Schneider, Owner
TRIO Marketing | Branding | Advertising

515-259-0577 – office
316-644-7029 – cell
renee@trioagency.com
www.facebook.com/trioagency
www.trioagency.blogspot.com
www.trioagency.com

Performance Appraisals

Ugh…. Is there anyone who likes performance appraisals? Still, we’re stuck with them, so we may as well figure out how to make them work!

Performance appraisals, nobody likes them, everybody does them, and few are confident of the results. Employees should receive a formal performance review at least annually. Some positions require formal reviews every six months. Performance evaluations should be a continuous process.

So you might ask yourself, what should be accomplished during a performance review? HR On-Call, LLC has provided a performance appraisal model just for you.

Performance Appraisal Model

  1. Review mutual expectations. Both you and the employee should have open communication contributing to goal setting.
  2. Observe performance. Keep notes on both good and poor performance. A successful feedback meeting is one where there is a balance between positive and constructive feedback.  By pointing out an employee’s strengths and areas for improvement in a constructive manner, there is a greater chance that he/she will improve.
  3. Ensure there are no surprises during the performance appraisal. You should not “save up” performance issues/concerns and rather discuss progress towards improvement. All issues should be discussed prior to their appraisal.
  4. Encourage employee participation. Put the employee at ease. Use body language that indicates you are positive and open to ideas. Ask questions that are descriptive, not evaluative.
  5. Solve problems jointly. To get “buy in” from the employee, ask for his/her input first, before providing your input. Lead the discussion toward solving problems together.
  6. Encourage personal growth. Reinforce effective behaviors by pointing out the employee’s accomplishments. Build on these.
  7. Set future expectations. If appropriate, establish an action plan for improvement.
  8. Affirm confidence in the employee’s abilities, and encourage him/her to continue to do well.

Important steps to remember:                                          

All developmental needs related to the employee’s current job and the overall
performance rating should be privately discussed with the employee during the performance appraisal.

  • Both you and your employee should sign the form, indicating the review has been read and understood. 

  • It is important that your employees understand that a performance review does not necessarily mean an increase in salary.

If you would like some help with conducting your performance reviews or simply need a performance review template that works for you, contact Susan Arnold, HR On-Call, LLC at 515.401.2233 or susan@hron-call.com.

Susan Arnold
HR On-Call, LLC.
515.401.2233

Solving The Equation – Should Kids Help Pay College Tuition?

College expenses continue to rise, and paying for these expenses presents challenges for most families. For those of us who have been down that road, we know the cost of a college education can be staggering.

Because of these high costs, parents have debated for many years whether children should help pay for their college education. While there may not be a clear right or wrong answer to this question, both options have points to consider.

Kids Helping Pay
The old adage of having “skin in the game” applies here. The general thought is that children who are helping to pay for college will be more aware of the costs involved and more likely to take education seriously. They might be more careful about their chosen major and the classes they take, rather than dabbling in various topics of interest without choosing a clear path.

Helping pay for their tuition can also give students a great feeling of responsibility and maturity. After all, they are on the path to independence. In fact, this point is seen as such a positive that many college graduates include the percentage of college expenses they paid on their resume. It’s a way for them to show potential employers that they are adults and are ready for the challenges of the real world because they have experienced the real world of paying for college.

Another point to consider is whether the parents have the means to fund the college education. Many parents, even those who have diligently saved, have seen their incomes cut and their investments deteriorate. Unfortunately, they may no longer be able to pay for the entire experience. If their child wants a college degree, there may be no other choice but for the student to participate financially.

Many financial advisors advocate that parents be sure to prepare for their retirement first before they use all their excess funds to pay for college – better for the students to have school loans than have to take care of their parents financially after retirement.

Parents Footing the Bill
Many people say parents should pay the entire bill for college so that students can focus on studies and do their best with their academic endeavors. Carrying a full load of college classes is, in some ways, a full-time job in itself. For every hour of classroom time, students may need to spend one to two hours outside of class. So a 15-hour class schedule could easily translate into 40 hours of class and study time.

Others believe that a student’s stress level is greatly increased when they have to worry about their finances in addition to classes. They may also miss out on college activities, which some say is a major part of the college experience.

Another consideration is the parent’s income and asset levels. Many financial aid applications require this information. Students may not be able to receive substantial aid because the parents are deemed to be in a position to contribute a large percentage of the costs.

Finally, students who pay for their own college experience will likely enter adulthood with a large amount of debt. They will have to pay back thousands of dollars over 15 to 20 years, possibly delaying their ability to purchase or rent a home. This may result in their moving back in with their parents after college so that they have the funds necessary to repay their school loans.

Rising Cost of Tuition
At our firm, we have many young couples beginning their families.  My advice to them is to start saving for college early and often, possibly by starting 529 plans such as College Savings Iowa.  According to the US Department of Education, since 1978 the cost of attending a public or private college has tripled, with tuition increases rising at an average of double the general inflation rate.  So, who should pay for what? Well, whether the parents pay the entire bill or have the kids pay a portion of the tuition will, most likely, remain an unsolved equation due to many variables.  However, the important part is to start discussions early with your student, so everyone knows the plan and expectations. Let the savings begin!


Kathi Koenig, CPA
Partner – McGowen, Hurst, Clark & Smith, P.C.

kkoenig@mhcscpa.com
www.mhcscpa.com

Five Reasons NOT to Enroll in an HSA

Marty Trussell, a benefits professional wrote this article for BenefitsPro for their July 30 on line edition. The more I read it the more I felt compelled to address his reasons.

  1. HSAs are not instantly financed. Unlike a Flexible Spending Account, more often the Health Savings Account is ‘financed’ per pay period or monthly. This makes it difficult to ‘spend’ it immediately says Trussell. However, remember you can make payments on provider and facility charges. Also, let’s say it’s a non medical expense like glasses. You can purchase the glasses out of your pocket, once the money is in your health savings account at a later date, you can reimburse YOURSELF with no time limit for reimbursement.
  2. No prescription drug copays. It is true, payment for prescription drugs is the contracted retail pricing. As Trussell indicated, consumers are used to paying $20 for a prescription with NO understanding of the true cost. But being prudent also has its advantages. Ask the doctor when in his office if he has samples, or having them write the prescription from the Generic Consumer Lists available at the likes of Wal Mart, Target, etc.
  3. High deductibles are high. This one bothered me the most. Deductibles for health savings accounts usually are most cost effective at $2,500 for a single person and $5,000 for a family. What Trussell doesn’t express is that the family deductible is ‘community’. This means all medical and prescription drug charges for ALL family members apply to the family deductible. One person could meet the whole deductible (step off the corner and break an ankle) or a combination of all the family members add up together to meet the deductible. On ‘traditional’ style plans, it usually takes three family members each meeting a deductible for the family to be met. An average deductible and out of pocket are $1,500 for deductible with 20% coinsurance to $3,000, multiply that by 3 family members and you have $9,000 maximum expense in a calendar year. Under the Health Savings Account community deductible the maximum exposure is $5,000, so $4,000 of RISK has been averted. If you are someone who is a middle or low user, this is not paying for something you don’t use.
  4. 213(d) confusion. This is the part of the IRS Code detailing the allowable expenditures. Again, Trussell is right in that no one carries a ‘list’ of what’s allowable or not in their pocket. On average, I am confident that consumers know the basics. Those services provided that are covered by the health plan and prescription drugs. In 2011 the current president removed Over the Counter medications from the allowable expenses. There are many ways to find what expenses qualify. www.hsaed.com is written by Roy Ramthum, “Mr. HSA”, the professional HSA consultant who wrote the language for health savings accounts for President Bush.
  5. Education Gap. Finally, a point that I completely agree with Mr. Trussell. Education regarding the health savings account is critical. If employees and individuals do not understand how to use the format they will not like the benefit design. When the agent does their job proficiently, a consumer has an understanding of usage, collection of receipts etc… and will find the style of coverage to be worthwhile.


In the last year alone, health savings account usage has increased 18% to almost 15 million individuals and families. The state of Indiana offered the health savings account next to the traditional ‘cadillac’ health plan beginning in 2006. In 2012, over 90% of the 28,000 state employees have accepted the consumer driven healthcare plan. Mitch Daniels, the governor, is no slouch with the money. Each employee is given a yearly contribution to the health savings account and as of November 2011 the average health savings account balance was $10k.

Finally, the health savings account utilizes and promotes the 100% paid preventive benefit provision enacted in 2010. This benefit is crucial for consumers in that they utilize preventive benefits to find medical issues early so treatment is less expensive.
As a health savings account consumer with a family of eight on the plan, consumer driven healthcare has truly been beneficial for us. We’ve even had that ‘bad year’ when we maxed out the deductible, and yes, I am still making payments on that. The good news is the premium I have not wasted over the three years of having this plan has well been spent over and over.

Janis Van Ahn, Owner

10546 Justin Drive
Urbandale, IA 50233
http://health-insadvisor.com/
jvanahn@heartland-insgroup.com


Why you need a Human Resources Audit?

The best way to avoid potential employee lawsuits is to conduct regular HR audits. Employment law is constantly changing and your policies and practices should also change to stay current and to be compliant with those legal changes. HR On-Call, LLC can help with a complete Audit, however, be aware that many of the lawsuits can be traced to the following employment areas.

Hiring:  

  • Does your organization have compliant job descriptions?
  • Do you ensure all applicants fill out an application?  
  • When was the last time you had your job application legally reviewed?


Employee Discipline:

  • What does it say in your employee handbook about discipline?
  • How do you ensure violations have been properly investigated?  
  • How do you know how far to take the correction?
  • Are you consistent with employee discipline amongst all your employees?


Employee Evaluations:

  • Does your organization have & follow a written schedule for performance evaluations?
  • Do performance evaluators receive proper training?


Terminations:

  • Has the termination decision been compared to other terminations?
  • Can you be assured that the termination is not based on retaliation?
  • Are you comfortable that you have proper termination documentation?
              


If you are concerned that you might need an internal audit to review these items above or simply review your files and organization, please contact Susan at HR On-Call, LLC at  515-401-2233.

Susan Arnold
HR On-Call, LLC.
515.401.2233

What is the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act?

Last Thursday the Supreme Court decided that the Affordable Care Act mandate that all Americans purchase health insurance was constitutional.  What does it mean for individuals and small business owners?
 
The Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act was enacted in March 2010 with primary goals to:




  • Expand coverage for Americans without health insurance
  • Reform the delivery system to improve quality and drive efficiently
  • Lower the overall costs of providing healthcare

Pretty lofty goals, so how are these to be attained?  Within the bill is amandate that all Americans are required to purchase healthcare.  This provision is why 26 state governors took the bill to the Supreme Court contesting that a requirement to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional as the federal government cannot require a citizen to do something.

 
So what will we see next?  Provisions of the bill began being implemented in 2010 to the likes of Preventive Care paid by the carrier at 100%, adult children can remain on parents plan until age 26, no pre-existing for children under age 19 and no lifetime limitations.
Additional provisions will continue being implemented in 2012 with a majority to be implemented in 2013/14.
 
In 2012 provisions to be implemented surround hospital and physician requirements. 
Consumer provisions begin in 2013 with the following (not all inclusive):

 
Increased Medicare payroll tax by .9% on high-income earners


3.6% tax on net investment income of high-income individuals



FSA (flexible spending accounts) limitations


Medical expense deduction floor increases from 7.5 to 10%


2014 is when the employer and individual mandate will go into effect. 

At this point, realize the presidential election in November could cause change or a repeal of the act.  For us as consumers and small business owners, it is our job to participate.  We cannot afford to be uniformed or misinformed by only listening to sound bites on commercials.  This presidential election is very important in many ways, including our healthcare system and payment for care.

Please feel free to contact me with questions about the Affordable Care Act and how it affects you or about Medicare and individual health insurance.  At Health Insurance Advisor I do my best to ‘Educate Individuals to make Informed Choices’.


Janis Van Ahn, Owner



10546 Justin Drive
Urbandale, IA 50233
http://health-insadvisor.com/
jvanahn@heartland-insgroup.com


Five Tips for Healthy Business Growth

Believe it or not – how you grow your business can sometimes be just as important as whether your business grows.

Business growth carries with it a certain amount of risk.  To avoid potential pitfalls, consider the following tips for successful growth.

  1. Find your key focus.  It is important to select and stick to a key focus, particularly in times of an uncertain or slow economy.  Do what your company is good at.  Produce the products that can be delivered consistently and successfully.  It’s harder to add new services or venture too far outside your scope during a recession.
  2. Don’t become overconfident.  Like a favored team that lets down its guard and loses to an underdog, an attitude of overconfidence can bring about business loss.  Owners who have had success in the past must guard against gaining a sense of omnipotence.  Overconfidence is unrealistic and can spell disaster.
  3. Don’t define your business by your products or services.  Virtually any product or service can become obsolete over time.  Don’t define your business  by your product, but rather from your customer’s needs that you are able to satisfy.
  4. Make your marketing message consistent.  If you want to grow your company, marketing is essential.  How you market is important.  A key way to grow your business is to have a consistent marketing message.  In today’s complex world, marketing messages have to be very simple, direct and constant.
  5. Practice what you promise.  Customers will be the most intolerant of mistakes when money and time are tight.  For example, if your marketing campaign promises a certain turnaround time, you need to live up to that promise.  Otherwise, you risk reducing your customers’ satisfaction or possibly losing customers altogether.   

Practicing these few steps and being proactive can help you achieve a healthy business growth.


Kathi Koenig, CPA
Partner – McGowen, Hurst, Clark & Smith, P.C.

kkoenig@mhcscpa.com
www.mhcscpa.com

So You Want to Buy a Business; Do You Know What Steps to Take?

As the story goes…A very nice couple was sitting at the table one morning enjoying coffee. While reading a sale ad in the newspaper one spouse says to the other, “I would love to own that business.” The other spouse, upon finishing a sip of coffee, politely says, “Ok, let’s go to the bank and get some money and buy it.” And so they did.

Well, wake up and smell the coffee! (Pardon the pun) But, if only it were that easy. In the REAL world, there is a lot more to buying a business, even beyond the decision of how much to pay, how to pay and knowing what you’re buying because you have had the financials reviewed by your CPA.

This needs to describe the business you are buying;

  • Well established
  • Has efficient and effective procedures in place
  • Has employees that understand their tasks, are efficient, & enjoy working for the Company
  • Has a well-established and maintained customer list.  

These assets together produce the company you are interested. So the question of the year, ‘why would you sell that part short or put less emphasis on the value of those assets’? They are probably the most important part of the success of the soon-to-be-your company. Without these people, procedures and processes in place, the business may not be as enticing to you.

In order to make the transition as seamless as possible and as less disruptive to the customers and the employees as possible, you need to respect the ‘system’. You need to the appreciate all that has gone into making this business so attractive to buy; to the extent of investing time to learn what tasks you will be taking on.

Here are some tips to do that:

  1. Come in with an open mind.
  2. Talk to the people that understand that Company and industry – THE EMPLOYEES.
    1. Value their opinion and respect their knowledge. They are most likely a vital part to the current and ongoing success to the business.
    2. Understand and trust that they know what it takes to make the company ‘tick’ each day.
    3. Even if you are never going to be in charge of a task or procedure, you need to take the time to understand the task and value the employee that has the skill-sets to manage that task.
    4. Know that there are things that you don’t know.
      • Realize that it could be even more than you even imagined.
    5. Be a help, not a hindrance.
      • Be prepared to handle the things that are vital to this business transaction being successful.
    6. Respect the process in place.
      • If at all possible, be available and involved prior to the final transferring of funds. The employees that will remain thru the transition want be confident that you understand, this is their livelihood that you will be responsible for. They don’t want anything to fall between the cracks.
    7. Don’t go in with ideas or asking questions about what needs changed.
      • Again, this business in being bought because it is successful. Consider that just maybe most processes have been perfected and streamlined and don’t need any immediate changes.
      • Let the dust settle. There will be a time and place for changes. But until you have been involved for more than a few days or weeks, do you really believe you have more effective ways of handling things than the people who have been doing it a lot longer……

Some of this may seem like common sense. Do a checklist with yourself. Be sure you are ‘personally prepared,’ beyond financially prepared, to buy that business.

All that being said, be excited about your new venture. Be proud to tell people about your new business and be proud of the people that make it what it is, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

If you need assistance in managing the transition of a business purchase, find a resoureces, like OrganizerForU, that has assisted in business ownership transaction. The more experienced guidance you recruit, the smoother and most likely happier everyone will be after the final line is signed.

For more organization and bookkeeping tips, log onto OrganizerForU and click on Tips.

Tammy Stifel
515.988.7532
Bookkeeping and Process Organizing

tammy@organizerforu.com
OrganizerForU


12.5 Tips for Using Social Media – Part 1

You’ve asked for it…now you get it. Here are my 12.5 tips for proper use of the Social Media space! (So…you will have to tune in to the next blog for the rest of the tips, but here are six tips to wet your whistle!)

Tip #1 – Just get started

Many businesses are afraid of jumping into the social media space, and trying something new with their marketing. Take it from me, it is a little scary to take that leap of faith, but trust me, it’s worth it. All you have to do is just get started. It does not take a big budget to get started in social media marketing. In fact, much of social media marketing is human capital, or simply hiring an employee who is responsible for your social media maintenance. Start by listening. Look for conversations your customers are having online. Sign up for Google alerts that mention your product or brand. Then, join in the conversation! Just remember to be honest, authentic and transparent and you will be fine. If you take the first steps to engage your customers in a conversation you will learn more about how your brand fits into the social media space and your learnings will help guide your future programs. Have fun and just get started!

Tip #2 – Do you need to hire an expert?

Either you are just starting your social media campaigns (congratulations, by the way) or you are an old“pro” by now, but regardless of your tenure, I am sure you have asked yourself if a social media agency should be doing all this work for you? Keep in mind that there are hundreds of social media professionals out there who claim they are the experts in this ever-changing field. Many are great, but consider this. Is your agency walking the walk and talking the talk? Are the consultants you are looking to hire interacting with their consumers on Facebook? Do they have a blog or a twitter feed? Judge the agency not solely on their pitch but on their actions. And most importantly, remember that the consumers want to connect with you and not your agency. So don’t just sit back and let the agency do all the talking! Engage with your customers and respond to their posts personally. That is what the “social” part is all about.

Tip #3 – Don’t fret about your follower numbers

How many “likes” do you have on Facebook? Do you have 500+ connections on linked in? Don’t fret about the number of followers you have on your social media sites because it is not about the quantity, it is about the quality of your network. Sure, there are ways you can attract thousands of followers in a matter of days, actually, it is not that hard, but the types of followers you want are not computerized bots but rather those who will engage with your conversation and share your postings with their network of followers too! If your network is genuine fans of you and your business, 10 of them are worth more than a thousand bots. Yes, it takes a while to organically build up a great social profile, so focus on building great content while being helpful and educational. Like we say in Iowa… “if you build it, they will come.”

Tip #4 – How to really listen to your customers

We spend a lot of time talking about customer outreach – using social media to send out your message and create a network. That’s the ‘talking’ part of social media. But it’s also very important to “listen,”here’s why:

  • If someone says something nice about you or your product, you want to thank them
  • If someone says something NOT nice about you or your product, you want to address or fix the problem
  • If someone mentions you or your company or your industry in a blog, you want to respond and chime in

But how do you know if someone’s talking about you? Google alerts is one easy-to-use and free way to be notified when someone talks about you. To sign up for Google alerts, you’ll need an account on Google. Once you’re on the inside, go to ‘my account’ and scroll down until you see your products – you can add and delete these at will and there are many useful applications on the Google platform. Click on alerts and it will walk you through the simple process. Pay attention to what notifications you receive because you may need to alter your alert parameters. This is a great place to start learning what your customers are truly saying about you and your company! It’s okay! Go be the fly on the wall! This is the one time it is socially acceptable to eavesdrop on the conversation.

Tip #5 – How to interact with your customers

Everyone knows that in order to make your social media work better you need to interact or engage with your customer. How do you do that? There are several methods to start conversations with your network. One simple way is to ask your followers to share your tweets, posts and status updates with their network so your message becomes viral. If people make comments on your links and updates, respond back to them in a relaxed, positive manner. This is a great way to react to feedback from your customers and create raving fans within your customers. Another tried and true method to making social media interactive is by adding photos and videos to your posts. Due to the size of the thumbnail image, your followers almost always will click through to view the link. Encourage them to make comments and share with their friends. Social media should be just that…social, so have fun chatting with your customers and you will sure to have a great following.

Tip #6 – 5 tips for better postings

Are you getting confused about what to post on your Facebook, linked in or twitter pages? Here are five tips to making your posts better, in turn, making them more visible in the social media space.

  1. Post a variety of content to attract interactions with your network of followers
  2. Post regularly. Depending on your industry and your content you can post a couple times per day, but in general once per day is plenty. Too much will turn off your consumer. But remember, too many posts about YOU will cause people to UNLIKE you. That’s bad. So, rule of thumb, 1 out of 10-15 posts should be about YOU. Stick with added-value, educational or funny content that relates to your brand.
  3. Post your content after working hours, like around 8pm. Studies show that more people are on Facebook around 8pm, so the chances that your post will be seen are greater.
  4. Post videos directly instead of links to the videos so people can view th
    e video on Facebook. And be sure to include links in video descriptions to encourage traffic back to your site.
  5. Ask questions and solicit feedback from your fans to encourage interaction. Make your social networking a social event.


About TRIO Marketing|Branding|Advertising

TRIO
is a full-service marketing communications company providing a wide
array of integrated marketing services to meet all of your business and
marketing needs. At TRIO, we understand that each client is unique;
therefore we provide customized solutions based on your goals and growth
objectives. All of our recommendations are made specifically for you
and your business.

TRIO
Marketing|Branding|Advertising delivers an effective blend of creative
talent and strategic thinking, delivering results that increase the
bottom line of our client partners. We utilize our network of local
experts in the community to execute the campaigns on the basis of
design, printing and mailing.

Our Services include:
  • Marketing, Branding, Public Relations and Advertising Consulting
  • Strategic Annual Marketing Plan Development
  • Integrated and Interactive Marketing Services including E-mail and SMS Marketing
  • Promotional Products
  • Media Negotiation, Placement & Spot Traffic Management
  • Print Design & Production
  • Web Development & Search Engine Optimization
  • Direct Mail Services
  • One-on-One Business Development/Sales Team Coaching

At
TRIO, we work hard to combine marketing talent and technology with
outstanding customer service to build long-term partnerships with you
and your business. Our strategies are delivered on time and in a
cost-effective manner to achieve maximum response and grow your
business.

Renee Schneider, Owner
TRIO Marketing | Branding | Advertising

515-259-0577 – office
316-644-7029 – cell
renee@trioagency.com
www.facebook.com/trioagency
www.trioagency.blogspot.com
www.trioagency.com

Some Relatives Are Easier To Deal With Than Others

If you are like most people, one of the last things that is probably on your mind during the month of June is taxes. After all, tax season ended two months ago, and well, we don’t have to deal with that “less than favorite” relative, Uncle Sam until next year – right?  Well not so fast.  With the Bush-Era Tax Rates scheduled to expire December 31, 2012, a little tax planning for you and your business now, could save you money and be well worth the effort later.  Following are changes that will occur should the current tax rates expire, along with a few tips to help you minimize your tax liability.

Changes as the Bush-Era Tax Cuts Expire:

  • Tax Rates: Tax rates for individuals will remain at 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35% for the duration of 2012, but will revert back to 15%, 28%, 31%, 36% and 39.6% in 2013.
  • Capital Gains Maximum Tax Rate: This tax rate is currently at 15%.  However, similar to marginal tax rates, the capital gains rate will increase to 20% in 2013.
  • Qualified Dividend Income: Dividend Income is taxed at the same rates as capital gains (maximum rate of 15%). However after December 31, 2012, dividends could be taxed at a rate as high as 39.6%.
  • Itemized Deductions: Throughout 2012, itemized deductions will remain the same.  However in 2013, a phase-out of total itemized deductions is scheduled to be implemented.  If this had been in effect for 2012, it would have been applicable to taxpayers with an adjusted gross income greater than $173,650.  (This amount adjusts for inflation.)


Tax Planning Tips

  • Get Organized: You need to keep close track of your deductible expenses through the year.  If a pile is starting to accumulate, take the time to sort through your receipts and file accordingly.  A little organization now, will save you hours at tax time, and allow you to accurately estimate your expenses for a tax projection and planning.
  • Manage Your Adjusted Gross Income: Many tax breaks are based on your adjusted gross income (AGI). Several breaks are available to you dependent on your AGI, such as the child tax credit, rental real estate loss allowance, education credits and deductions, and other tax breaks.
  • Set Up and Contribute to a Retirement Plan: If you own a business, you can save for retirement through a tax-advantaged plan.  For instance, you may establish a Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) or a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) with relative ease.  This will allow you to plan for your future and reduce your tax liability.
  • Hire Your Child: If you are self-employed, you can hire your child which shifts income from your tax bracket to their tax bracket.  You will also have payroll tax savings if your child is under the age of 18 and the child will be eligible to contribute to an IRA.
  • S-corporation Losses: An S-corporation’s losses are deductible by the corporation’s shareholders up to the amount of the shareholder’s basis in his or her corporate stock.  If it looks like your S-corporation will show a loss for the year, make sure that you have sufficient basis in your S-corporation stock to take advantage of the loss deduction.
  • Capital Gains: As stated above, the anticipated capital gains tax rate is set to be at least 20% in 2013, so if you are considering selling highly appreciated stock it might be wise to do it before year-end at a lower tax rate of 15%.

These are just a few items to assess during a mid-year business review.  There are more.  But taking the time to meet with your CPA and discuss the items listed above will ensure you have a good understanding of your company’s financial situation and the information needed to minimize your tax liability….and make your interactions with Uncle Sam go “relatively” well.


Kathi Koenig, CPA
Partner – McGowen, Hurst, Clark & Smith, P.C.

kkoenig@mhcscpa.com
www.mhcscpa.com