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FINANCES
Financial Spring Cleaning Projects for Your Small Business
The arrival of spring stimulates feelings of renewal that inspire projects at home and in the garden. This stimulus should pour over to neglected areas of our small businesses. If best practices have recently gone on holiday for your business enterprise, start your spring cleaning by tackling these basic tasks.

Establish goals: Springtime is ideal for establishing your business goals in writing. Your daily tasks in the months ahead should focus on meeting these goals. Evaluate what you want to accomplish this year and consider what you need to do to achieve those results. Start dreaming and create some larger goals for the more distant future. Accomplishment of long-term goals starts with a strategic design outlined on paper.

Review accounting practices: Close examination of accounting reports is a key element in springtime business improvements. Regular scrutiny of financial data is key to diagnosing your small business. Get started with a little help from your bookkeeper or accountant to obtain and evaluate valuable financial reports. End guesswork about the profitability of various types of services or products you sell. Know the tax liability you're incurring on profits throughout the year and review costs to ensure funds are being maximized to their full potential.

Clean up tax bills: Always paying your taxes on time is a crucial spring-cleaning measure. It avoids penalties and allows you to focus on what lies ahead. Even if you receive an extension on the deadline for filing your tax forms, proceed immediately with completing your tax return. If you still owe some unpaid tax, late-payment penalties are accruing right now.

 
HOT BIZ TRENDS
Top Marketing Strategies for Start-Ups
 
Effective marketing efforts are born from clear strategies that target specific marketing objectives.

A start-up needs to make people aware of the company and its products and services and should focus on tactics that provide broad visibility. If yours is a B2C company with offerings aimed at local consumers, place ads in local directories or newspapers. If it's a B2B company, a direct marketing campaign targeted to businesses that match your ideal customer profile is a sound use of marketing dollars.

As the business grows, the focus can shift to attracting new customers. Include a reply coupon in your ads to capture prospects' contact info. Follow up via an email or a text directing prospects to your website or store for special offers or discounts.

Meanwhile, incent existing customers with customer loyalty initiatives. Offer discounts based on increased levels of spending and reward people for spreading the word about your brand. Customer advocacy and referral programs encourage current clients to send new customers your way with discounts, free services, upgrades, or special access to new products.

When it comes to online marketing, consider both organic and paid strategies. Organic marketing leads viewers to your shop, site, or brand through online content. You can drive their journey by posting engaging videos, blogs, tutorials, and social media content.

Paid marketing pushes ads and content to a specific target audience and typically is more upfront in its sales focus. Paid online marketing includes tactics such as banner ads, social media ads, and pay-per-click campaigns.

Don't be afraid to try new tactics if they are based on tried industry trends. Use the technology available to make it work for your business. Invest a little, and you could see big returns.

 
HUMAN RESOURCES
Recruiting and Hiring in the Digital Age
Finding and hiring the right team is vital to the success of any start-up or small or medium-sized enterprise (SME). However, these processes can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools to help small businesses streamline the recruiting, hiring, and onboarding processes.

To begin, check out online job boards like Indeed, SimplyHired, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, or CareerBuilder. Use one or more of these sites to prequalify candidates by location, skill requirements, and other criteria.

Next, invite prequalified candidates to take an online survey framed around the knowledge, experience, credentials, and specific skill sets your job opening requires. Online tests can evaluate skills, personality, and behavioral characteristics, including traits that indicate whether a candidate is aligned with your company's values and culture.

Having narrowed the field, your next step is to interview selected candidates. Customizable online interview templates offer a consistent way to interview candidates and enable you to compare them using apples-to-apples criteria.

Once you have determined final qualifiers for your job opening(s), the next task is to verify past employment, education, and background, and check criminal and credit reports. Sites such as BeenVerified, Truthfinder, and Checkmate consolidate these searches efficiently and cost-effectively.

Finally, streamline the all-important step of checking references by making candidates responsible for getting reference letters to you directly via email.

Once you have found and hired the right person, the onboarding process can also be streamlined using customizable online templates, digital signatures, and platforms that store and recall data when needed.

 
FINANCES
Take Little Steps to Avoid Big Tax Mistakes
 
Small business taxes can be a tedious burden or an effortless exercise. The key to this transformation is putting the right strategies in place. Here are three.

Mind the Recordkeeping Details

A precise process for recording business expenses is essential to maintaining accurate tax deductions. Having an organized system ensures that bookkeeping is continuously accurate.

For example, income tax reporting necessitates classifying all ordinary and necessary business expenses in specific categories. To achieve this, a checking account and credit card dedicated exclusively to business purchases are crucial. Resist using these for personal expenditures. That creates a bookkeeping mess to clean up at tax time. Take recurring draws from the business account to a distinctive personal account for your non-business spending.

Check stubs or memo lines on check images should convey the appropriate business expense category for immediate recording of the correct bookkeeping category. If you happen to spend personal cash for a business expense, account for these immediately before losing track of the transaction or its categorical purpose.

Additionally, maintain a mileage log for business travel with your personal vehicle. The business may reimburse you for some vehicle expenses. Do not have the business pay for all your personal automobile expenses and expect this to qualify as a business tax deduction.

Put the Right People on Your Team

A qualified bookkeeper will ensure that you have complete records throughout the year. This professional should examine financial statements at least monthly to clarify any uncertainties. Then, at tax season, your books will be ready on time for your tax accountant. This has the added benefit of allowing an analytical review of expenditures to determine areas where you can reduce costs to improve profit.

Avoid the temptation to handle reporting of business taxes yourself. Income tax rules change and the logic applied to some expense categories does not apply for tax purposes. For example, the cost of fixed assets is generally deducted as depreciation over several years, but is not required in all instances. Don't jeopardize valuable deductions by failing to rely on professional tax preparation for your business.

Be Proactive with Payments

Having an organized bookkeeping system and valuable people on your accounting team are only part of the commitment to streamlining small business taxes. The final element in the design is your resolve for proactive tax-related action. Never miss a tax filing deadline. Late-payment penalties are harsh, and late-filing penalties are even more severe. Remember, filing an extension for submitting a tax return does not extend the due date for paying your taxes owed.

Last, the amount of taxes should not come as a surprise. Your tax accountant can estimate the expected tax on your business profit when you keep accurate records throughout the year. A minimum amount of tax should be remitted during the year to avoid a penalty for underpayment of estimated tax. Even if you file your tax return and pay taxes by the due date, failure to remit estimated tax payments will trigger a needless penalty.

Your bookkeeper and tax accountant can help you avoid neglecting this important issue.
 
 
Michele Ball
 
 
 
 
 
Perfect Additions
 
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Worth Reading
Prioritize Which Data Skills Your Company Needs with This 2x2 Matrix
By Chris Littlewood
 
Harvard Business Review
 
More and more jobs require workers who can analyze and use data effectively. Opportunities to learn these skills may seem endless. Deciding which to learn can be difficult. This article offers a matrix to help you prioritize. The best skills are those that take little time to learn and are the most useful for you now or in the future.

Battle of the Bots

Hubspot

As messaging apps continue their popularity, companies are increasingly using bots to interact with customers. The intent behind these bots is good, but bots can quickly become as frustrating as their predecessors. This article describes how your business can maximize the power of bots. The key is to understand how bots can create conversational experiences orientated around helping customers.

How to Create a Big Online Presence for Your Small Business
By Andrew Gazdecki


Forbes

Small businesses cannot afford to neglect the power of digital marketing. Search engine optimization (SEO) is key to attracting new customers and keeping old ones. This article breaks it down into three parts. First, companies need to show up by having a digital presence. Second, they need to invest in the space. Just like owning physical properties, digital spaces need to be maintained. Third, companies succeed by studying competitors’ achievements and failures.

LINKS YOU CAN USE
This Month - Business Budgeting
Expenses. Profits. Revenue. The bottom line. Some business owners love these terms and enjoy crunching numbers. Others cringe at their mention and hate the thought of budgeting. Either way, they're an essential part of managing a business. Wherever you find yourself on this spectrum, use the following links to enhance your business budgeting:

Not sure how to get started? Here are the basics:
How To Start a Business Budget

If you need a few tips to improve your budgeting methods, find 10 here:
10 Budgeting Tips For Your Business

Wondering how much of your budget should be devoted to advertising and marketing? Gain insight with these facts and figures:
How Much Do Small Businesses Spend on Advertising and Marketing?

Does your budget match your business strategy? Use these tips to keep these two in alignment:
The 5 Essentials for Aligning Your Budget With Your Business Strategy

Budgets that were good only at New Year's aren't good at all. Discover how to build a year-round plan:
How to Build and Use a Business Budget That's Useful All Year Long
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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