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Two Quick Ways to Improve Business Cash Flow Next Year
Avoiding life's negatives is generally a noble aim. And when it comes to cash flow, every business owner wants a positive outcome. Running low on cash signals trouble ahead. Judicious management of cash flow is more crucial to sustainable operations than generating new sales. After all, a business can survive slower revenue, but not without cash. The usual methods for enduring a cash crunch are establishing a line of credit, negotiating terms with vendors, and offering discounts for early-paying customers. Implementing a couple more creative measures, however, can result in permanent cash flow enhancements.

One important cash-saving procedure is timely remittance of taxes. Income tax payments in particular are supposed to be made in equal installments throughout the year. Penalties are assessed if you underpay the required estimated tax installments. Waiting to pay after year-end may mean parting with a surprisingly large chunk of cash. If you're not sure how much taxable income to expect for the year, the IRS has a "safe harbor" formula based on your tax in the prior year. Your accountant can make this calculation, but doing so necessitates filing your tax return by the initial due date.

Another technique can improve cash flow for a business that receives recurring customer payments, such as contract work. This is accomplished with direct electronic payment using the Automated Clearing House (ACH). ACH transactions may be established with your customers to push funds directly to your bank account. Similarly, an ACH direct debit arrangement permits your bank to pull funds from a customer for preauthorized amounts. These methods eliminate invoicing and waiting for payment. The result: faster cash flow and a better bottom line.

Cause Marketing: The Intersection of Business and Philanthropy
As millennials increase their influence and purchasing power, businesses large and small are looking for effective ways to attract their interest, their dollars, and their advocacy. One of the best ways to cultivate loyalty among younger consumers is with cause marketing.

Cause marketing refers to a business's support of an initiative, a nonprofit organization, or a cause so that people associate the business's brand with the cause.

Traditionally, cause marketing relied on corporate giving, but for many companies today, purpose lies at the heart of their business model, and the cause is baked in.

In the past, some brands made the mistake of randomly picking a cause just for the exposure it brought them.

But authenticity is a key differentiator in cause marketing, and there is a fundamental difference between supporting a cause and standing for a purpose.

Millennials want authentic messages, authentic products, and authentic experiences, and they are not taken in by those brands that use social responsibility as a ploy.

It's a winning strategy, but only if there is real alignment with and a genuine commitment to the identified cause.

The success of companies like TOMS Shoes, Warby Parker, Patagonia, Burt's Bees, The Honest Company, and Whole Foods attests to that.

While millennials are driving the demand for more purpose-driven brands, more and more consumers are putting their money where their hearts are and are willing to pay extra for brands that use business as a force for good.

Plug the Leaks and Improve Your Bottom Line
Does it sometimes feel as though your cash flow is simply dribbling away? As a small-business owner, you need to be on the lookout for fiscal leaks and plug them up as soon as possible. Here are some places to look.

Recurring service charges: You may be paying for services or subscriptions you no longer need. If you're not vigilant, it's all too easy to let these charges become unaudited background noise.

Process inefficiencies: These can take the form of redundant workflow procedures, suboptimal scheduling, physical distractions in the work area, or poor ergonomic planning. Whatever the causes, these are leaks that need to be plugged.

Obsolete or outdated technology: Investing in new technology can be pricey, but up-to-date systems ultimately pay for themselves. Whether it's new equipment that speeds production or higher-speed internet that helps you connect with your customers, investing in technology is essential for business growth today.

Employee turnover: Recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training new employees is costly. It costs money to hire a headhunter or employment service, and it requires a significant expenditure of time and effort to do it in-house. Plus, turnover is often accompanied by lost productivity and damaged relationships. Minimize this leakage by paying industry-standard wages and keeping a finger on the pulse of workplace morale.

Performance issues: This leak often springs from not dealing promptly with employee behaviors such as malingering, abusing sick leave, spending too much time on social media, long email exchanges, and other time wasters.

Small-Business Financial Resolutions for the New Year
The approach of a new year inspires hopeful thoughts for the future. Topping the list is an eagerness for financial security, but achieving this requires more than abstract desire. Financial goals are only attainable when one constructs a workable design for the future. Despite uncertainties that may arise, commitment to a few indispensable actions can help your business thrive in the year ahead.

Start Early on Taxes

Perhaps the best protection against uncertainty is starting early on tax return completion. Tax season starts right after the middle of January. By the end of January, you have no excuses for not knowing prior year results.

A commitment to organized financial statements assures that tax return preparation work proceeds smoothly and is completed early.

Your accountant will likely have some annual bookkeeping adjustments for tax purposes. You only need to have the books in order that summarize ordinary day-to-day results of business operations. You should be aware of key elements such as total revenue, totals paid for each business expense category, and year-end asset and liability balances. Make sure your bookkeeper has enough information to reconcile the books to financial institution statements for bank accounts, credit cards, and loans.

Tax returns have deadlines. Long before the due date of your income tax return, you want to know the amount of any tax you owe.

Commit to Financial Evaluations

Maintaining reliable financial records throughout the year allows you to monitor business performance. Conducting regular self-analysis assures you're on track for achieving your objectives. Be sure to plan for devoting time next year to recurring examination of business financial statements. This is the only path to quickly resolving any omissions or errors.

If you're not sure how to interpret the business financial statements, professional accounting help is all you need. An accountant can summarize income from various products or services as well as describe where the money is being spent along with spending trends. Armed with this information, you can make optimal decisions about directing your time and other resources to maximize profit.

Reduce Business Expenses

A surefire way to increase business profit next year is to reduce expenses. Revenue can remain unchanged while the bottom line improves simply from lower costs. Resolving to save a fixed amount is too abstract. The better resolution is determining a precise expenditure target.

A cost-reduction goal may seem small, but it adds up over the course of a full year. Lowering a recurring monthly expense by $20 puts an extra $240 in your pocket. Since $20 isn't much, select a few categories for this savings. Reducing the monthly cost for insurance, telephone, and internet by $20 each delivers a $720 annual savings. This means a lot to a small company. Even a large enterprise strives for this amount of profit increase, because it's enough for a loan payment on a large amount for expansion or upgrades.

Completing your tax return early, committing to regularly scheduled financial statement examination, and continuously checking up on specific cost-reduction goals are resolutions to keep for success throughout the new year.
Michele Ball
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This Month - Target Markets
Trying to target everyone is the same as targeting no one. For a business to thrive, it must focus on the right customers. This means creating marketing campaigns that are directed at your target market. But what should your target look like, and how big should it be? Use the following links to find your market and focus your advertising dollars appropriately.

Could you describe your typical customer? Use this overview to learn how to define your target market:
How to Define Your Target Market

As you work to define your target market, you have to step outside your own preferences and demographic. Here's why this is important:
Remember: You Are Not The Target Audience

Is your target market from a particular generation? Here's a guide to targeting specific generations and unique characteristics within each market:
Know Your Target Market

Social media is an effective tool for defining and reaching your target audience. This link will help you determine which social media outlet best fits your customer persona:
The Hidden Mysteries Behind Researching Your Target Audience with Social Media
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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