Want a profitable business? Focus on customer service

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Customer service is one of the most vital yet overlooked paths to profitability. It’s time to consider how to harness the power of customer service.

Even with the best of intentions, many companies talk up customer service but don’t actually deliver. In order to really provide great customer service, every employee needs to be tuned in to how he or she can contribute to keep customers coming back again and again. This ultimately affects the net profit of any business.

Customer service includes every element of the sales transaction between your business and a customer. Though you may consider customer service just a matter of being polite to customers, it actually involves several other considerations, including:

• Being truthful in advertising your product or service• Providing a product or service that meets or exceeds customer         expectations

• Being prompt in delivering your product or service• Letting customers know you appreciate their business

• Handling customer complaints or other concerns promptly and politely• Being polite and cheerful in dealing with customers – even when they are “just looking” instead of buying

Get your employees involved

Be persistent and consistent in improving customer service. Ask your employees to compile lists of the behaviors that contribute to good customer service in your specific line of business. Then ask them to bring their lists to a staff meeting. Discuss the areas where your company could improve customer service. Decide on specific actions to take and determine who will take them, and when.

It’s important to follow through to be sure that the changes you decide to make are actually made. Your net profit will show the positive results of your efforts.

Find Apps to help

Think about getting a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software or app to help keep track of your customers.  It makes it easier to keep in contact and track important information so you can maintain and build more loyalty to your product or service
There are several other App options to help you keep in regular contact with customers.  Many of them can automate your social media posts, send out birthday messages, etc.  There is so much technology available to help you keep in contact and ensure that your business is one they think of when they need your service thanks to your great customer service and your regular contact.

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Consider creating an accountable plan for Unreimbursed Employee Expenses

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Now that itemized deductions have been suspended through 2025, employees can no longer deduct unreimbursed business expenses. Fortunately, you can help your employees out with a tax benefit that is also deductible by creating an accountable plan. When set up properly, it will allow you to reimburse employees for business travel and other related expenses while preventing the need to pay payroll taxes on the reimbursements. Call us if you have questions about setting up an accountable plan for your business.

These times, they are a changin

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I have been trained on, certified on, demoed on so many new software and apps in the last few months that I almost feel like my brain will explode. But man, what I am discovering is incredible. I have seen the light and am embracing cloud based software and apps like it is the greatest thing since the cell phone freed us up.

My industry is changing so rapidly and so significantly that I can get excited about it again. Where some feel artificial intelligence will replace tax preparers and bookkeepers, I am feeling pumped about what we can now do when not spending hours and days completing those tasks. We can now help clients streamline, automate, accelerate the flow of information from your business so that both the accountant and the client can dedicate energy toward growing the business, making sound, real-time decisions, reading the financial information so you know what you need to do to climb to the next peak of success.

I am completely rebuilding my practice to embrace the relationship, the soup-to-nuts accounting product, partnering with our clients in a way we have never done before and I am excited to get here everyday and find more ways that we can apply the same ideas to my company that I am suggesting to clients.

If you are lagging behind, don’t really know what apps do or how you might use them, have not checked in with your competitors or your industry to see what is the latest and greatest, you are missing out on some really great stuff that will transform you business. We want to transform businesses!  And we now have the tools to do it in a really exciting way!

5 questions to ask before starting a home-based business…These days you can work from anywhere!

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If you’re getting tired of the view from your cubicle and want to start a business of your own, you’ll need to figure out a few things first.
A lot of people consider self-employment because they’ve lost their seemingly stable jobs in the corporate world. Others just dream of making it on their own. As online marketing becomes easier and more accessible, and employees discover the advantages of telecommuting, home-based work alternatives are becoming increasingly attractive.
But, have you really planned, investigated and strategized this business idea to the point that you are ready to take the plunge? Get off the ground running with a solid, well thought out platform and have an accounting professional on board to spare you the pitfalls many businesses make that sabotage a good idea or make the path to success so much more of a struggle.
If running a business out of your home sounds good to you, don’t quit your day job just yet. Take time to fully investigate the pluses, minuses and ramifications of starting your own home-based business. Here are five questions to consider:
• Is there a market for your product or service? Just because your coworkers or relatives rave about your new business idea, don’t assume that everyone shares their enthusiasm. You’ll need to rely on a variety of marketing tactics to get the word out about your business, especially if you won’t have a brick-and-mortar location that will naturally pique customer interest in your community.
• Are you excited about your business idea? To be successful, you’ll need to dedicate yourself to your business day in and day out. If you aren’t enthusiastic deep down about your firm’s product or service, you may find it difficult to weather the storms that confront every business.  Have you investigated your industry, attended conferences, educated yourself on how others are making a go of it?
• Is it a good fit for you? If you don’t like working with the public, a retail business probably doesn’t make sense for you. Or perhaps your business will require hours in front of a computer. If your forte is face-to-face interaction with people and not holing up in your house for hours, you may need to rethink your strategy.  There are work environments that you can consider that are not traditional offices where you can get out of the house, interact with people, build a network, etc.  Isolation is not fun.  Look into creative office solutions if you need that kind of energy that a home office might not provide.
• How will you allocate time for the business? For many people, a home-based business is convenient and often begins as a part-time venture. Do you have the discipline to stick to a work schedule when your TV is staring at you from the living room? Allocating a specific room for business (with a door!) will help you compartmentalize work life and home life.
• How will you finance startup costs? As a general rule, you should have funds set aside to cover at least six months of your home-based operating expenses. Without an adequate financial buffer, you may spend many unproductive hours just trying to keep the business afloat.
For those willing to take the plunge, a home-based business can provide great satisfaction. But as with any business venture, it pays to do your homework. If you would like to discuss issues related to starting a business, give us a call.  We know business, we know how to organize one, what the tax strategies are, how to build a business plan, who you need on board as partners toward your success.  We can transform the process to get you up and running faster than you can do it on your own.  And we love to help small businesses!

Summer’s a time for vacations and tax planning.  Don’t wait until Fall to schedule something…too much of the year will have passed by then….Schedule it now so you are more likely to get it done.

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Don’t let the warm weather go straight to your head. Make a point to review your tax plan and make effective changes while you still can this year.
It’s tempting to take a break from everything this summer, but you may regret it come tax season if you push off tax planning. Here are some tips to help you keep your head in the game even when your feet are in the pool:
• If you are a sole proprietor with children, consider putting them on the payroll during the summer months. Wages paid to your children under age 18 are not subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes. What’s more, their earnings are not subject to federal unemployment tax until they turn 21.If employing your children is not an option, you might still be able to score a deduction by sending them to summer camp. Day camp expenses for kids under 13 can provide a tax credit of up to 35 percent. Just remember, overnight camps do not qualify, and usually both parents must work to claim this credit.
• Keep in mind that tax deductions for moving have been limited. The recent tax code changes have eliminated the moving expense deduction. That means most taxpayers will no longer be able to deduct moving expenses. There are exceptions to the new rule, so know before you move what the tax impact of a move will be for you.
• Business and pleasure can mix – if you follow the rules. Perhaps your sights are set on some leisure travel. Tacking on a few fun days before or after a business trip might be a tax- and cost-efficient way to pay for a vacation. But you have to follow all the rules if you want your business travel to remain tax-deductible. Travel that is primarily for charitable work might also qualify you for a tax deduction.
No matter what your summer plans are, this is always a good time for a general tax checkup to ensure your withholdings and estimated tax payments are on target. For help with any of these issues, contact our office to schedule a review of your particular situation and how to make the new tax law make sense for you.

Are you a seasonal worker? Check your withholding!

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Even if you only work during the summer and fall, you still need to check your tax withholding for 2018. Your tax return will likely be affected by the major changes to come from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed at the end of last year. Changes that may affect you include tax rates and bracket changes, an increase to the standard deduction and the elimination of personal exemption plus other deductions.

You can check your withholding amounts using the IRS Withholding Calculator.

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Do you feel like you have been left behind sometimes?

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Do you look at other businesses and think, how did they get so successful, so large while I am still plugging away and working too hard for the progress I feel I am making?

There are a few things to think about to get out of your rut and move into the world in which other businesses live:

* When was the last time you wrote a business plan that clearly defined what you want to do with your business? If you say never….then you think goals are accomplished and success is achieved with no blueprint, no plan, no strategy?

* Did you decide some time back that you did not have the budget to spend on a qualified, experienced accounting/bookkeeping person/firm/process? My industry got undervalued over the years with the onslaught of QuickBooks and TurboTax. Those are software that, yes, do the task reasonably well, but they do not come with experience, education and expertise that a qualified accountant has. It is software, not a consultant! We build relationships that help you really launch a business. We do not sit in our office punching numbers into a machine…

* Have you really taken a look at what technology is out there to standardize, streamline, automate tasks and processes? When they say there is an app for that, THEY REALLY MEAN IT. If you have not looked, or hired an accounting firm to propel you into the 21st century, you are WAY behind and missing out. There are apps that automate everything and anything that is done over and over in your business. Massive amounts of time are being saved and processes are being automated to standardize any and everything…improving the quality of everything!

The people in front of you and your business invested time, money and energy into building something that was scalable, easy to grow and duplicate, easy to manage, easy to get, train and keep qualified employees. If you are afraid of making an investment in these kinds of business-changing ideas, that is why you were left behind….My two cents….but, I’m right!