Thursday, December 10, 2015

Do Your Own Payroll

One of the best ways for small businesses to save some money is to do their own payroll.  While you might be worried that you need to be an accountant or hire an accountant to process your payroll, there is really no need.

There are several online payroll software programs that can help you process your payroll, taxes, and W2s all on your own.  These programs calculate the federal and state taxes for you, including what should be taken out of each employee's check and what your company's tax liability is for each payroll.  You still have to complete and file your returns. But, at least you know the calculations are correct. A good program to use is Intuit online payroll program.  This program allows you to process your payroll from any computer, so you don't have to be at the office or even in the country to process your payroll.  All you need to do is get on a computer and enter in the hours. So, you could be on the beach in the Caribbean and still get your payroll done on time.

Payroll software or programs take the element of error out of your payroll process.  You enter in the information from each employee's W2 and the wage rate, and the program will calculate the correct amount of taxes.  Doing payroll by hand leaves a ton of room for error and also takes quite a bit of time.  With a program, you payroll is calculated in seconds.

Depending on the program you choose, the program can also calculate your quarterly payroll tax returns, annual returns, and W2s.  The program may even send you reminders of when each return is due.  While you might have to pay between 50 to 100 dollars a month for your payroll software, if you choose an online program,  and have a fair number of employees, the cost is still way less than what you would pay an accountant.

When you do your own payroll, you also learn all about the taxes that you pay and can know for sure that all the IRS forms that you need to complete are being done on-time and correct.  When you leave it up to someone else and don't understand what needs to be done on the financial side of your company, you run the risk of someone talking advantage of your ignorance and actually not doing everything he/she should be doing as your accountant.

Save some money and educate yourself on the payroll process and tax obligations for your company to protect you and your company.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

How to Create Your Company Website

A website for your company legitimizes your company and its services and makes it easier for clients to find you.  Depending on your type of business, you company can expand its cliental and range of services through a stable online presence.  These days website hosting services are affordable and easy to use.  There is no need to go out and hire an expensive IT service or person to build your website.  You can do it yourself by following these steps:

  • Find a hosting service for your website. Hosting services usually charge per month for your first website, which would be your main domain.  JustHost offers this at around $9/month.  By purchasing such a service, you can have additional websites hosted from your own server for around $15/year for each new domain.  Having your own hosting server is convenient if you have multiple businesses or associations that need independent websites.   Other companies such as bluehost and iPage offer such services starting at $4/month.  In choosing a hosting service, you want to make sure that the service has few down times and offers you unlimited domain options so that you never outgrow your service as you expand your business. Read the reviews of hosting services to get an idea of how often their sites goes down.  Every time your website and email goes down, you lose business.  As a result, you don't want to go with just the cheapest service but you want to pick the one that current clients claim has few down times and a quick responses to support help. 
  • Use oneclick installs.  Installing a template for your site is easy with oneclick installs. They save both time and money.   Most hosting sites offer oneclick installs for free for your new website,  so that you just press a button and Wordpress (for example) can be installed on your site.  This service gives you a template to work with and prompts on where and how to put content on your site. Most first time website creators find Wordpress themes easier to work with than other themes such as Joomla.  All hosting services have support services that will walk your through any aspects of creating your site.  Don't be afraid to just call them and have them walk you through.  Once you get the hang of posting your own content, you can do so at any time and make changes at any time.  No more waiting on someone to help you. 
  • Relevant Content.  Post content that is relevant to your business such as your services, testimonials from satisfied clients, and samples of your work.  Organize your site so that it is easy for clients to find the information they might be looking for such as how to contact you, hours, locations, and services with clear headings for each section. Clarity and clear headings on your site is a must for making sure potential clients aren't hunting for the information and leaving your site frustrated and confused.
  • Website Emails.  The use of company emails with your new domain name rather than using free emails such as gmail and yahoo signals to potential clients that you are an established business here to stay and not a fly-by-night.  Your hosting server should provide you company emails to go along with your new site.  Use them. 
  • Domain Renewal.  Renew your domain each year.  Don't make the mistake of forgetting to renew your site and lose the domain to someone else. Once you have established your online presence, you need to hang onto it.  Having a stable website address for your business indicates that you are a stable company and makes it easier for clients to find you year after year. Locations and phone numbers can change.  Your online presence should be stable. 
Small businesses need to hang onto their capital.  They can't afraid to waste money paying for services they can do for themselves. Don't be afraid to try your hand at creating your own website. There are plenty of tools and services to walk you through each step of the process.  Basic websites are easy and quick to create.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Management is Everything

Looking to get your business on the upswing instead of continuing to struggle just to make it day to day?  Take a good look at your management.  Even a small business owner and a small business, needs a little help in running a good company.  You can't be every where all the time. You can't make all the decisions. Emergencies come up and sometimes you need someone you can trust to make the correct decision at the right time.

Real management is hard to do and it is even harder to find good managers.  It is like hunting for a needle in a haystack.  But, don't give up.  It is worth the struggle it takes to find the right person who can do the job. It takes so much pressure off you as the owner to have a good solider you can count on who has your back.  So, don't give up!

What makes a good manager?  It is not what you think.  It is not about having enthusiasm or good ideas or even about kissing your butt. Anyone can talk a good game.  It is easy to come up with great ideas.  It is also easy to come up with excuses.  When it comes to management, you have to evaluate your candidates by their actions not words.

Look for someone who:

  • toes the party line, backs you up with action when you make a decision (especially a tough decision like letting someone go) and doesn't undercut you in front of other staff;  loyalty is the key and it can only be shown through actions not words
  • solves problems and addresses issues without asking you to throw money at a problem;  you need a fiscally responsible person who can think creatively about dealing with an issue and not just think about how you can and should spend your money - it is always easier to spend money than save money
  • works hard without complaining about pay, hours, or staff;  you don't need someone who complains as that means they don't believe in your business - bottomline
  • operates with a broad vision of how to make the company a success;  focuses on the bigger picture of sales and income performance and works to find ways to maximize the profits instead of how improvements benefit them on a personal level.

Yes.  You almost need to find a mini-me.  Someone who cares about your business as much as you do.  There are people out there who put themselves second to their work.  There are people who take pride in their work and want to do a good job.  Find one of those people and promote them to management - even if you have to spend the time to teach them and train them.   Get rid of management that is weak, complaining, costs you too much money and drags down the morale of your entire operation. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Family Business

Small business owners are always tempted if not obligated by guilt or necessity to hiring family members.  Hence, the term "mom and pop." Hiring family members can have its advantages.

  • They might work for free or cheaply while you are first building your business, especially if they are your children and have no choice.
  • They might just be more loyal than your average employee. 
  • You feel more comfortable having people you know around you in case you mess up or don't know what you are doing. 
  • You don't have to search for employees and worry about trusting new people.
  • They might be less inclined to report you if you are late with paychecks.
  • They might not try to collect unemployment. 
All of these points make it easy for the small business owner to go straight to the family tree when looking to make new hires. 

However, this strategy does have its downsides:

  • Less separation from work and home. Work problems follow you to your home. 
  • Family holidays could become mighty awkward if you had to fire your cousin because he was a bad employee.
  • Family members do take advantage, show up late, do less work - all behind the shield of being a part of the "family."  Just because they are family members doesn't mean they are naturally good employees.
  • The number one downside is that it is very hard to grow your business if you only hire family members.  Unless you have a really big family, most businesses would like to grow beyond the size of their family. 
When you hire family members, you create an environment for your business that says you are just about the family.  Any new employees coming in are going to naturally feel left out.  No matter how hard you try to seem like a fair employer, it will seem like nepotism.  If you have more family members than non-family members, the family culture will dominate. Your small business will be filled with more conversations about personal family business and other inside jokes than work business, and those from outside the family will never understand or fit in.  As a result, outsiders won't truly feel as if they belong in your business or as if they can have the opportunity to become a vital member of the team. Loyalty and group teamwork will suffer when all workers don't feel like an equal and valuable member of the team.  Good employees will only stick around a place where they feel they have an equal chance of advancement and opportunity.  

If you want to ever expand your business, you must think outside the family tree and about how you can recruit the best and brightest to build your brand.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Always Get it in Writing

Sometimes people call you to offer you a special deal on a service or ask you to come to an event or provide you with instructions of what you have to do to complete a particular project.  While this personal phone call is a great tactic to get you to pay attention to what is being requested or demanded of you, it can also get you in trouble.

When you only receive a verbal communication, it can be challenged.  It is a good idea to protect your small business by getting the information in writing via email.  If someone gives you a deadline, ask for a written communication or create one yourself. One tactic is to reconfirm the information over email.  Start your communication by stating "as per phone conversation on such as such date . . . (restate the request made)."  This tactic is especially helpful if you are dealing with someone who is trying to threaten you or claim that you were negligent or insufficient in some way.

Another tactic, is to request a followup email of any invitations, meeting requests and informational requests so that you can better keep track of all your appointments.  Simply ask the person to send the information in writing as you are so busy that you don't want to forget.

As a given, all requests for payments should always be in writing via an invoice or order form before you cut a check. Get estimates in writing for costs of services and have a contract drawn up before work begins, so that you can be assured that the price won't unexpectedly increase.

Lastly, when and if you have to fire employees, it is a good idea to put any employee reprimands and warnings in writing to protect your business and provide a track record of why you had to get rid of a certain employee.

Getting things in writing can help you protect your small business by providing a chain of evidence for all your interactions and expenses so that you have a written account of all business transactions and what happened during each exchange ~ providing easy access to backup evidence against fraudulent charges, false accusations and any claims of wrongdoing.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Online Solutions for Troubled Times

Today's massive meltdown of hosting services such as Justhost, Hostgator, and Bluehost as well as a bunch of other services controlled by Endurance International Group and technically owned by all the same people that was caused by only God knows what but blamed on a "router" caused a multitude of small businesses to be without their websites, emails, and now telephone services for basically 6 to 8 hours.  Consumers cried foul, asked for their money back, tried to switch services and cancelled numerous accounts citing loss of dollars, missed opportunities and unprofessionalism as main reasons for taking their business elsewhere.

Yes, today's outage was an inconvenience and horrible for all those impacted.  However, server outages happen daily across the globe in one form or another to a lot of people.  Some last only a few minutes, some a few hours, and some days and weeks.  Websites get attacked and hacked, emails get blocked as spam, mechanical and technological failures occur and have always occurred.  Yes, it seems like hackers are growing, spying is everywhere and every single day someone somewhere is attacking your wordpress blog with spam comments and causing your site to crash. However, we are also becoming more and more addicted to instant access to our websites, emails and other Internet-based forms of communication.  We want to pay $2.99 for our website and have it never go down.  This reasoning is a bit unrealistic and sets you up for gross disappointment.

So, how do you save money and not have a server outage ruin your small business?

First of all, accept that server outages are going to happen and you will lose some business when they occur.  That is life. These losses can be regained in the future so don't despair for too long.

Second, don't put all your eggs in one basket.  Meaning, don't buy all your services from one cheap-o provider.  Diversify your communications.  Have backup free email accounts like yahoo and gmail for if and when your work email goes down.  Don't set up your VOIP phone service with your website hosting service and with your Internet provider.  Have different accounts.  Yes, they means remembering to pay multiple bills.   However, when one goes down it doesn't mean all go down.  If your office Internet goes out, you can go to a coffee shop and still read your emails and work on your website.  If they are all the same provider, you don't have that option.

Thirdly, develop a presence online in multiple forms.  Have a social media site as well as a website. Chances are pretty good that your website and your Facebook and your Twitter are not going to all go down at the same time.  Use your social media sites to keep up with your clients during website server outages and communicate with people who have questions.  These services are also useful when your telephone service goes down and you can't be reached.  You can quickly post that you are still open for business and give alternate ways in which you can be reached.

Lastly, maintain a positive outlook.  Doom and gloom never got anybody anywhere. So, don't you start.  These situations are momentary hiccups on the road of life.  Treat them as such and deal with them with a calm attitude and before you know it all your invaluable technological services will be back up and running at 100% with no worries for you or your clients.

You don't need to go out and buy the most expensive web hosting service you can fine.  Because, chances are, that service will go down at one point in time.  Instead, plan for the inevitable and work with what you got and take advantage of the multiple of online solutions for your business.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Storage Ideas for Small Spaces

A cluttered room is often the result of living or working in a small space.  As stuff accumulates, the room will quickly look like a dump with over-flowing shelves and stacks piled up in the corner.  Working in an office full of papers piled in boxes and every corner occupied with mounds of stuff is often not a comfortable place to work.  In addition, it sends the message to clients that you are not very organized.

Here are some ideas to make the most of the space you do have with little money:
  1. Snap and go plastic shelves that you put together yourself can be an affordable way to get items off the floor and into some kind of order.
  2. Bankers boxes for magazines can help keep them neat and orderly. These letter-sized boxes can also be used for daily files that require easy access.  They don’t take up much space and can be put right on your plastic shelves.
  3. File cabinets.  They can be expensive.  However, you can get them used at thrift stores for about 20 dollars.  Just keep your eye open for those good deals.  Network and get old file cabinets from other businesses.  People throw out file cabinets all the time as they upgrade to new ones. You can put more than just files in your filing cabinets.  You can put extra supplies such as copy paper, packing tape, scissors and extra computer cords to get them out of your way and save space in your desk area.
  4. Store extra folding tables and folding chairs in the closet and bring them out only when needed.  You can save a lot of space by storing things that aren’t used daily and bringing them out only when needed.  There is no need to have a lot of extra chairs around if you can fold them up and put them away until needed.
  5. Label boxes, folders and file cabinets for easy put away and retrieval.  If things are labeled, you will be more likely to put things in their appropriate place and also find it easier to find them when needed. It just takes a few minutes to make a label, but it will save you valuable time in the future. 

So, make the most of your small space by getting organized and presenting an organized and competent appearance to your clients.