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Simple Budget-Reducers for the Micro Business
An entrepreneur's competitive thirst isn't quenched until every angle has been maximized. This includes control over expenses. Every cost-cutting measure results in more money for the business owner, and this is especially true for micro enterprises, where small expenditures represent substantial overhead percentages. Each business owner must examine the intricacies of his or her operations to determine how to trim the fat off the budget. Here are four list toppers:

Phone savings: Ditching your landline is an ideal expense reduction technique for solo operations providing remote or mobile services. Typically, a cell phone is the only line you need.

Storage savings: Switch to paperless documents. Storing electronic documents rather than cabinets full of paperwork saves space, ink, envelopes, stamps, and sheets of paper. Send invoices electronically, use accounting software to keep your bookkeeping in order, communicate via email, and save correspondence in virtual folders on your computer.

Marketing savings: Online marketing - often more effective than traditional advertising - is commonly a do-it-yourself endeavor. Free online guides and tutorials are available that provide instructions for website maintenance, blogging, and sending e-newsletters.

Rent savings: If your business has physical space for serving customers, rent is likely your largest recurring expenditure. A delicate balance of priorities is required to attain a convenient site for the public while reducing long-term cost. If you have flexibility with location, consider sharing space with other businesses or renting space away from pricey main boulevards.

Make Your Meetings More Meaningful
Pointless, endless meetings are the bane of the workweek. But meetings don't have to be a boring waste of time. Use the following tips to make your meetings more productive.

Start with proper preparation. Before calling a meeting, have a clear purpose, a well-defined agenda, and specified outcomes that you want to achieve. Limit the scope of the meeting to two or three topics or objectives.

Make sure everyone has all the information they need prior to the meeting, and set an expectation that attendees will have read, reviewed, or prepared necessary materials in advance.

Schedule the meeting for no longer than it needs to be, and don't feel compelled to use all the time allotted.

Bring the right people together. Make sure those who need to be in attendance are present. If certain details concern only a subset of the group, hold those discussions in another meeting.

Begin on time and be disciplined about maintaining focus. Take it upon yourself to set appropriate amounts of time for each topic and to keep the discussion on track. If necessary, use phrases such as "We need to move on," or "We'll address that at a later time," to steer people back on topic.

Make sure everyone leaves the meeting with a clear sense of what was accomplished or decided and what needs follow-up.

Finally, consider holding stand-up meetings. These meetings tend to be shorter because people are less likely to pontificate when they can't sit down.

Boost Your Cybersecurity with Password Best Practices
Passwords may be annoying, but they are key to protecting personal information and private documents. In a business context, passwords guard financial data, intellectual property, trade secrets, customer lists, and more.

Passwords are cheaper and more convenient than other forms of authentication, but they can be cracked in a number of ways. User devices may be compromised with malware or a keylogger. Passwords can be ascertained using a word list or dictionary program that breaks the password by brute force. They can be deduced through sniffers, which look at raw data transmitted across the net and decipher its contents.

Knowing that passwords are vulnerable to cracking, it's important to practice good password hygiene. Use these best practices for your own passwords, and instruct employees to do the same:

Don't use common words, proper nouns, words with numbers tacked on, foreign words, or words that are written backwards. Password-cracking programs are adept at processing letter and number combinations until a match is found.

A password should not include anything related to your name, nickname, name of a family member, favorite team, or pet. It should not contain any recognizable numbers like phone numbers or addresses.

Increasing the number of characters in a password significantly enhances security. Each additional character multiplies the possible combinations, making the password far more difficult to break.

Choose passwords that are not easily guessable. Think in terms of passphrases rather than passwords. Choose a phrase that is easy to recollect, then convert some of the letters into other characters (e.g., substitute the number "3" for the letter "e").

Avoid using the same password on multiple accounts, and never disclose a password to others unless they are authorized to have it.

What You Need to Know about Buy-Sell Agreements
Business partnerships can be beneficial, but they can also be messy. When someone else shares in your business success, having a formal written partnership agreement is a proven avenue for avoiding stressful conflicts. One crucial topic to cover in these agreements: buy-sell events. It is essential to detail what happens when a partner separates from the partnership enterprise.

Buy-Sell Definition

A buy-sell agreement outlines transfer of a partner's interest in the business. It describes when and how the departing partner redeems his ownership. A number of occurrences may activate implementation of the buy-sell agreement. Each of these events is expressed in the agreement.

The agreement should also specify conflicts that compel any partner to tender his ownership. Examples include failing to allocate a specified amount of time to the business, and taking excess draws of profits relative to ownership percentage.

Triggers of Buy-Sell Events

Most commonly, the death of a partner will trigger the buyout of the decedent's business ownership from his heirs. In addition, buy-sell agreements often come into play in the event of disability or bankruptcy. A disability is generally defined as one that impairs the partner's ability to perform his duties to the business. In bankruptcy situations, the solvent partners need protection against an unknown party suddenly becoming a partner by purchasing the liquidating business interest in the bankruptcy process.

Some buy-sell agreements become effective in the event of a partner's divorce. This prevents an ex-spouse from becoming a partner with the remaining business owners. Additionally, a buy-sell agreement is often implemented simply because a partner retires or no longer wishes to participate in the business.

Buy-Sell Accounting

Essentially, buy-sell agreements identify how remaining partners acquire company shares owned by the departing partner. Purchase of an exiting partner's ownership is typically not made by the partnership; rather, the individuals who will continue owning and operating the business make the acquisition. Company cash isn't used unless it's first distributed to the remaining partner, who then uses it to buy out the selling partner. Correctly accounting for these steps is essential, and the tax implications are tricky.

Price is usually determined by a business valuation conducted by an independent third party. The value determined for the departing partner's ownership is often too expensive for the remaining owner to pay with cash. Consequently, seller-financing terms are commonly arranged.

A buy-sell agreement may contain stipulations that the partner who's leaving must provide financing to the buying partner, or a discounted price based on a present value calculation at the time of the partner's departure can be embodied in the agreement. This makes procurement of outside borrowing easier on the remaining owner.

Frequently, insurance is obtained for funding the purchase price when executing a buy-sell agreement - especially in the event of a partner's death.

With much to consider in the structure of these agreements, professional counsel in these matters is vital. It is highly recommended business owners contact their financial adviser before entering a partnership or arranging any buy-sell agreements.
Michele Ball
Perfect Additions
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This newsletter and any information contained herein are intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial or medical advice. The publisher takes great efforts to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this newsletter. However, we will not be responsible at any time for any errors or omissions or any damages, howsoever caused, that result from its use. Seek competent professional advice and/or legal counsel with respect to any matter discussed or published in this newsletter.
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