small business

Your Rich Uncle Doesn't Do His Own Taxes and Neither Should You

Your Rich Uncle Doesn't Do His Own Taxes and Neither Should You

Thinking of doing your taxes yourself this year? Maybe you should think again. We have our first official Tax Court decision of 2019 and it’s a doozey. If you start to get nervous while you read this remember that Eliseo CPA, PLLC, the best accounting firm in Charlotte, is always here to help!

Do You Think That Your Accountant Needs to Live In Your Area? This Important Question Broken Down & Discussed by Our Small Business Accountant in Charlotte, NC

Do You Think That Your Accountant Needs to Live In Your Area? This Important Question Broken Down & Discussed by Our Small Business Accountant in Charlotte, NC

In a technology driven universe, almost everything can be done online. Are you aware that this also applies to financial and accounting services? Bet you didn’t know that your CPA does not need to live near you! It mostly depends on your personal comfort when dealing with your financial situation. Hiring an accountant will take stress off of you in terms of your personal and small business financial information and having someone on board that you know you can trust, are comfortable working with, and who clearly knows their stuff can make all the difference. So, why should you consider and feel comfortable with an out of state accountant? Read on.

Undervaluing Yourself and What it Can Cost You and Your Business

Undervaluing Yourself and What it Can Cost You and Your Business

Business owners are cut from a different cloth. They learn certain skills and amass expertise in their fields and then take that aptitude to the market for sale. To be successful you must be proficient, driven, and knowledgeable at the expense of investing endless amounts of time and money. Once you cross the entrepreneurial threshold you are now ready to add value only you can personally provide in your industry. All this being said, don’t you think you should get paid what you’re worth? Seems like a lot of effort and risk to have others tell you what you should be paid.

The CPA of Charlotte, NC

The CPA of Charlotte, NC

Eliseo CPA, PLLC, the Charlotte accountant for personal and small business that provides a full range of personal and business services that include accounting, payroll, consulting & advising, controller & CFO support, tax preparation & resolution, financial planning & strategy, and bookkeeping.

Separate Your Piggy Banks: The Importance of Having Business vs. Personal Accounts

Separate Your Piggy Banks: The Importance of Having Business vs. Personal Accounts

When you run a business, you have a lot to manage. Sometimes things get overlooked in the beginning, like setting up a bank account dedicated solely to the business. Why would that be important? Well, for starters, it helps keep your business and personal transactions separated, which is a best practice. There are also the legal issues which can result if you do not take the time to separate the two types of transactions. Nowadays many banks offer free business checking accounts so there shouldn't be much holding you back.

A Hidden Gem for all New & Existing Small Business Owners: The Library System

A Hidden Gem for all New & Existing Small Business Owners: The Library System

People don’t realize that libraries have loads of valuable information for everyone, including small business owners or individuals hoping to start a small business in the near future.

7 Essential Things Every New Business Owner Should Know to Prepare for Success

7 Essential Things Every New Business Owner Should Know to Prepare for Success

If you’re preparing to start your own small business there can be a lot of overwhelming paperwork and checklists of important things to complete. Before you dive into the process there are some things you should know to increase your chances for business success.

Common Business Startup Expenses

Common Business Startup Expenses

If you’re thinking about starting a new business, side hustle, or grind, you’ve got to know what you’re getting into. Every business will incur startup expenses in the beginning and you can’t just expect that customer sales will keep fuel your fire.

Inventory Management 101: The Simple and Painless Way to Manage Your Inventory

Inventory Management 101: The Simple and Painless Way to Manage Your Inventory

Did you know that within five years of opening the first Walmart, Sam Walton was making over $12 million per year? And that’s in 1960s money! Today, that would equate to roughly $90 million per year. In reality, Walmart makes over $400 billion per year now. Yes, billion

Top 5 Bad Accounting Habits That Could Be Holding Your Business Back

Top 5 Bad Accounting Habits That Could Be Holding Your Business Back

the survival of your business depends on having a solid financial plan, which means streamlined record-keeping, consistent financial analysis and, perhaps most importantly, cash flow management. The problem I typically see in small businesses is lack of knowledge about the most efficient and effective way to handle the accounting side of things

How You Can Buy a Tesla Model X and Write it Off as a Business Expense Like Elon Musk

How You Can Buy a Tesla Model X and Write it Off as a Business Expense Like Elon Musk

A couple of months ago I was asked an interesting hypothetical question by one of my clients. He’s got his eye on the highly anticipated new Tesla Model 3 that is set for release next year and wanted to know if his business could purchase the vehicle and use it as a marketing expense

How One Client's Gut Reaction Helped Stop a Scammer & Saved Her Thousands of Dollars in Fraud!

How One Client's Gut Reaction Helped Stop a Scammer & Saved Her Thousands of Dollars in Fraud!

Whatever you do, don’t proceed with a transaction if it doesn’t feel right or isn’t the right fit for you and your goals. Unfortunately there are plenty of bad people out there who will take advantage of others whenever they can.

The Top 7 Tips I Learned in my 1st Year as a Small Business Owner

This past Halloween marked the anniversary of my firm’s first full-year in business. A year later, I’m happy to say that starting my own business was one of the best decisions I have ever made! I have been able to help more people and small businesses than I could have ever imagined. Amidst the fun and excitement there have been some trying times and I wanted to share the top lessons I learned after running my business for a full year.

#1 Don’t be afraid to ask questions (or for help)

Starting a business is intimidating, especially if you do it by yourself. Be sure you ask as many questions as you feel necessary to figure things out. Seek out a mentor that you can run ideas past, and call on when faced with uncertainty or new challenges. You should also consider creating partnerships with your vendors so you can reach them easier if you run into an issue with a product or service. Having some humility and accepting that you do not know everything will help you find your way faster and make you a better business person in the long run.

#2 Be persistent & stay positive

You will be faced with some trying days, especially in the beginning. I was constantly told by peers and seasoned pros in my field that it would take three years for me to build a sustainable business that I could confidently rely upon for income. It hasn’t been three years but I feel like I’m well ahead of schedule. Even if you strike gold in the first few months of operation you need to remain persistent to bring in new business and stay positive when setbacks arise or business is slow. Think of successfully running a business as being the last man standing and you’ll do just fine.

#3 You can’t do everything yourself

Take it from a guy who has written about delegating tasks and responsibilities over and over again. Unless you are a freelancer, or have an ultra-rare lucrative passive income stream, you really can’t do everything by yourself. Consider hiring contractors that can help you get through tough projects or assist with administrative work so you don’t find yourself working 80 hour work weeks, missing important deadlines, or compromising on the quality of your goods or services. Businesses grow by scaling, and hiring people is one of the most common ways to do just that.

#4 If it’s not broke, don’t fix it…

As your business grows and you progress in your journey, you’ll be tempted to try new things or sell new products and services. Some of those that work will become cornerstones to your business. Eventually, you may be tempted to make changes (probably several times). My advice here is that if something works, then let it be. There is no point in disrupting a great marketing plan, a steadily selling product or service, or highly engaging customer-service experience. Even if everyone else is jumping into something else, do so with caution until you know a change is necessary.

#5 …but if it doesn’t work, adapt to change

All that being said, if something isn’t working, scrap it. This includes your business altogether. Time and money are too precious in the early years of your business to let things drag on. If you implement an idea then give it a pre-determined amount of time and measure the performance. If it does well then keep it, but if it’s flat or faltering then end it and move on to something else. Think about it, if an idea isn’t taking off and you’re investing time and money into it you might be better off doing nothing at all. Even if the measurable results show some success, if it’s not to the extent you desired it may not be worth all the effort. Be open to change and adapt when you feel the circumstances are right.

#6 Read & listen to others

Starting and running a new small business is hard but finding inspiration and motivation can be harder. Read a book from time to time and even consider listening to podcasts or attending seminars. Some of my best ideas from this past year came from a seminar I attended. I realized some obvious things I should have been doing but it took getting into a room of my peers and having it choked down my throat for a full day to take action. I also picked up some new tricks from that seminar which offered me a little competitive edge. Like me, you might just stumble upon a nugget of information your competition has never thought of that could benefit you immensely.

#7 Pay your taxes!

Last but not least, pay your taxes! Business taxes can be extremely complicated to understand and first year business owners commonly fail to seek out the proper knowledge. Not because they are lazy or don’t want to, but because they don’t know they should have done so until it is too late. In your first year invest in a great accountant that will take the time to guide you through small business ownership. Their service won’t be free but I promise you that the mistakes you will never make because of their guidance will more than pay for their fees.

There you have it, my top 7 tips from my first year running my business. I hope you found them insightful. Be sure to follow my Firm on social media for more posts like this.

Are you getting the most from your accountant? The top 6 services that bad accountants fail to deliver to small business clients from day one

Since starting my firm almost a year ago I have had the opportunity to meet and work with so many amazing small business owners. Helping people achieve their goals and live out their dreams is one of the best parts about what I do. To help me help others I have created a routine series of questions I ask new small business clients when interviewing them. Among my questionnaire I specifically ask what they like and dislike about their current accountant (if they have one) or what they hope to achieve by hiring an accountant to help them on a monthly basis. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to use the term accountant in reference to a bookkeeper, degreed accountant, tax preparer, or CPA. Although the term is used interchangeably among most people in business, it’s important to note that each title brings a different level of experience and caliber of service to the table. In my opinion, all accountants should be versed in everything from taxes to bookkeeping, and be able to provide general advice on these subjects or point people in the right direction. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Below are the top 6 things your accountant should be doing to help you to grow your small business.

#1 Connecting Throughout the Year

This is the top complaint I hear from new clients. “My accountant never calls me” or “I only hear from my accountant once per year”. For all my peers in the industry, this just simply won’t do anymore. Clients deserve and expect to hear from their accountant more than one time per year. If you have retained an individual or firm to work with you throughout the year, they should be reaching out to you regularly to check in and see how business is going and offering to help however they can. They should also encourage an “open door” policy where you can reach out with “quick questions” without fear of being billed for a 10 minute conversation or simple e-mail reply. Be mindful not to overstep your contractual terms with whoever you work with and expect to be billed for additional services that may fall outside of what you are paying for. If you are unsure if what you need will be additional then try reading through your contract or asking your accountant if what you need is already billed in your current service plan.

#2 Asking Questions

It may seem silly but your accountant should be asking questions of you each time you interact. The questions should be probing for information so that your accountant may advise you to better operate your business. If all they are doing is putting your books together each month and collecting a fee then you need to seriously consider if you are working with the best person for the job. A strong partner will comment on results and ask clients their motivations behind decisions as well as challenge them to set goals to hold them accountable for results. Even having the ability to reach out to your accountant from time to time (see #1 above) is helpful to keep you on track and your accountant in the know for big decisions.

#3 Proper Accounting

Small business owners typically hire an accountant because they don’t trust themselves to keep up with their books or don’t want to do the books themselves anymore. Most business owners interview a few candidates and assume that because they have a degree or license they know exactly what they are doing. Based on some of the work I have seen from other “professionals”, I can personally attest that not everyone may know what they are doing. Despite hiring someone to do the books, business owners need to remain actively engaged in reviewing their financial information each month and asking for clarification when and where necessary. Some key indicators that business owners should review in their accounting software include:

-    Excessive non-accrual adjusting entries – this can be an indicator of poor training or misunderstanding of accounting principles or accounting software platforms

-    Unreconciled accounts – this can lead to incorrect information in the general ledger causing inaccurate accounting information and ultimately inaccurate tax reporting

-    Negative general ledger account balances – this is usually indicative of an inaccurate account balance and can be caused by a poor understanding of accounting principles, and again, result in inaccurate tax and accounting reporting

If you find that even one of these key indicators are triggered consistently without a reasonable explanation from your accountant then you should be concerned. I would recommend you have your accountant review your books and make necessary corrections or start searching for a replacement ASAP!

#4 Educating You (the Client)

Educating clients is by far the one thing I enjoy most about what I do. It allows me to strengthen the trust clients have in me while also helping them understand the “why” behind the decisions they are encouraged to make. There is nothing more rewarding than when a client has that light bulb moment of clarity and it all just clicks for them. Many accountants are trained with a “one size fits all” mentality but just because something works for the majority of clients that doesn’t mean it is the best decision for you. Your accountant should be taking time to walk you through the “why” behind their recommendations. If yours is not willing to give you that courtesy then you should evaluate how solid your relationship is and consider moving on to someone who is more patient, able, and willing to help you.

#5 Understanding of Tax

Did you know that not all accountants prepare tax returns? In fact, many prefer not to. That doesn’t absolve them from understanding the tax implications of making certain decisions. If you have a bookkeeper who does your books and a CPA that prepares your taxes then your bookkeeper should be able to follow your CPA’s recommendations. Both parties should work directly with one another to ensure the books are prepared correctly. If your bookkeeper falls short of understanding even the most basic tax elections and strategies (including certain safe-harbor elections) then you may want to ask them if they plan to learn tax rules or simply find a more informed bookkeeper. You might find that you can get your books and tax work done for the same the same or less fees if you’re diligent in recruiting the right firm.

#6 Keeping up with Current Trends & Technologies

Technology is revolutionizing the accounting industry from top to bottom. Your accountant should be keeping up with current trends and new technologies that they can learn and recommend to make your life easier and ultimately more profitable. If your accountant is constantly focused on “paper-based” strategies or defaults to the SALY “same-as-last-year” mentality then it may be worth interviewing someone new. Progressive accountants are willing to coach clients into adopting new technologies and turn them on to leading trends relevant to their industry. Automation and mechanization will become paramount to success in the future and you want to be on the front of the wave rather than playing catch-up after they become necessary tools in business ownership.

In a world of options you no longer need to settle for the same rinse and repeat mentality that so many accountants love. You’re likely paying a considerable fee to have your accounting work done and nothing drives me crazier than when a new client comes along and I have to fix years of poor work for high fees. If, however, you find that you love your accountant and you have an amazing relationship with them, then there is no need to change that. Ideally you will develop a longer lasting relationship rather than changing firms every so often just to freshen things up.

Feel free to comment below or reach out directly to me via e-mail at jared@eliseocpa.com. You can also follow the firm on social media for future posts like this one!

How to Handle Tax Notices

Now that summer is officially here taxpayers have likely started receiving notices from the IRS (and states) for regarding issues with their most recent tax year’s filings. Some of these notices include recalculation of tax bills, failure to file (and pay) notices, and even the dreaded audit notice! As alarming as these may seem, and some of them may be, a more common reason a taxpayer receives a notice is a request for additional information. Long story short, most inquiries can be handled easily with a written response to the notifying party through the mail.

What to Do

If you find yourself in a position of having received a notice there are a few things you should do. First off, do not ignore the notice! I can’t stress this enough. As with most things in life, by ignoring the notice, you’re just going to make the matter worse. Even if you don’t think you can resolve the issue on your own, you’re better off hiring a tax professional to act on your behalf. The right individual (or firm) will be able to explain the notice to you and prepare any supporting schedules or correspondence on your behalf. If necessary, you can even complete a Power of Attorney to grant them authority to speak and act on your behalf. If you ignore the notice though, penalties, fines, and interest (as well as levies) can accrue quickly. I have heard several cases recently of garnishments being imposed among taxpayers at both the federal and state levels; all because those taxpayers ignored the notices they received.

Regardless of if you choose to retain someone to help guide you or go it alone, you’ll need to locate the documentation regarding the tax year you received a notice for. Notices typically indicate the year, issue, any recalculations made, and a response due date, as well as directions on how to respond. Make note of the due date since missing it carries its own consequences.

Formally Respond

When reviewing your notice you will be presented with options. You usually have the opportunity to comply (and pay any difference due) or disagree and explain your side. In the event that you find the notice is correct and you owe more in tax, your best course is likely to pay the amount due and move on. If the amount is large and you can’t pay it in one lump sum you should be able to enter into an installment agreement to pay it over time. If you disagree though, then it is worth your time to review your supporting documentation and draft a well-written response stating the facts as you have them and citing why you feel your position is justified. When drafting your response it is best practice to indicate all of the header information from the original notice as reference for the receiving party. Be sure to include your social security number and sign your response. If you are married and filed jointly with your spouse then you should include your spouse’s social security number on the response and have them sign the notice as well. Note that any unsigned written correspondence will not be valid.

Business Tax Notices

If you are a business owner then the scope of notices you might receive is different. In addition to receiving a notice related to income taxes, you may also receive a notice regarding sales taxes or payroll withholding taxes. Most commonly, notices for either of these types of taxes arise out of a failure to file the correct forms. If that is the case, you should file any missing forms and remit the associated taxes immediately. Since sales taxes are controlled by the states, you are playing with fire if you fail to file and pay on time. The states have the authority to close your business until all back taxes have been paid. This is clearly not a problem you want to have. You can treat payroll taxes with the same urgency (if not as a higher priority) because those cases you will likely have the feds and state looking to be paid.

I hope you found this brief read helpful. It’s hard to give specific advice because all notices are different as is every taxpayer's situation. As unexciting of a topic as it is, the information is handy to have nonetheless. Taxpayers should take time to think through their options if they receive a notice, but they certainly should not wait too long to act or ignore them either. If you have questions you should reach out to a professional or contact the notifying party for guidance in resolving the matter. Individuals will find it hard to live their lives if garnishments and levies are imposed upon them, and similarly, business owners can have their operations halted if they do not comply with the notices.

Have a tale to tell? Leave your comments below!
 

A Post Office Alternative

I’m writing about an unusual topic this week; the post office. Last week I had a less than pleasant experience at my local post office which prompted me to do some research into how to streamline use of their services. What I came across was a noteworthy service that I am excited to try. Note that I am not affiliated with this service, or endorsing it, but I am encouraging anyone who must use the USPS to save their time and patience by finding an alternative to approaching the post office counter.

The Issue

I was out running errands last week, one of which was to mail copies of amended tax returns via certified mail to the IRS. When I arrived at the post office (in the middle of the afternoon) I was surprised to find a line of probably 20 people waiting to be helped. It looked as if people were lining up early for the next iPhone release.

Having made this my first stop of the day, I walked past the line of unhappy customers to fill out a few certified mail labels and then left for about a half an hour to run my other errands and come back. When I returned, to my amazement, the line had barely moved! There were different faces but the line was still as long! I had to mail the returns and at that point was stuck waiting in line for about 30 minutes to do so.

Alternatives

I could have used the postal kiosk available at the front entrance of the post office but I have had issues with the kiosk in the past. I feel that it has not only charged me the incorrect postage, but I’m also not confident I have received the mail service I desired (certified mail). It may have been user error but I’m pretty good with technology so I’ll toot my own horn here and say that’s not likely. I’m less concerned about the prices I have been charged and the lack of usability with the kiosk and more concerned that my mail get where it needs to go correctly. Using the kiosk also requires me to go to the post office and the whole point of my blog this week is to alleviate that chore.

Another option is to use a private delivery service like UPS or FedEx, but because 99% of what I mail goes to the IRS, I feel it is imperative that I use their preferred method of delivering correspondence. It should also be noted that UPS and FedEx could cost upwards of 10x what the USPS charges and therefore is cost prohibitive most of the time. There is still the need to find a drop-off point or schedule pickup for items, which isn’t the end of the world, but not nearly as convenient as tossing outbound mail into any mailbox box for the carrier.

An employee could easily handle the mail for me as well, but the reality is that it would be a waste of their time as well and no one should have to stand in line as long as I did last week for a three minute transaction to mail something.

Finally, there is an online solution which I will discuss in detail below.

My Digital Discovery

Since most of what I mail is sent via certified mail it was really important to me that any online service I use be able to accommodate this service. Typically, certified mail must be handled at the post office in person but after some searching I came across a company called SimpleCertifiedMail.com. Their service will allow me to create an account, pre-fund a postal account (which is refunded if I cancel my account), create certified mailings when I need them, and pay a service charge only when I use the service (no monthly fees). The company even provides special envelopes to use that are compatible with their service and tracks everything digitally for me in one place! According to their website, once I purchase my postage and assemble my items to mail, I can drop everything in the nearest mailbox and move on with my day. Although I have yet to try this service, I am really excited for the prospective boost in productivity & efficiency that it will bring me by not having to make any more trips to the post office.

A Note to Readers

You might be wondering why I’m even writing this blog. Well, I like to share efficiency hacks whenever I stumble upon them and because I’m probably not the only person in the world with this dilemma I felt I should share this one. For those of you reading that send mail without the need of certified service, or those who send the occasional package, I would still encourage you to use whichever service you prefer (USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.), but be sure to pay, print, and prepare everything for mailing at home or your office before you drop your item off for shipping. There is absolutely no reason to wait in the long tangled lines of the post office in today’s digital world (unless you have a truly unique situation). Most services even allow you to schedule a pickup time so you never have to go to their location to send anything.

I know I’m not the only who has been through this. Feel free to share other options I missed or your experiences with the USPS and the other private delivery services in the comments section below!

10 Step Guide to Organizing a Business - Part 1

Lately, I have received numerous questions about how to formally organize a business. The inquiries have ranged from what is required to organize, to what products or services people should sell. I can help answer the former but if I had the answer to the latter, then I would be doing that myself :)

To keep this post easier to read I am splitting it into two parts. I did my best to write this in a logical order for first time business owners to better understand, but some may argue that the steps outlined can be performed in a different order. Your order may vary as requirements will differ from county-to-county and state-to-state.

Of course, I want to disclaim up front that I’m not a lawyer and I’m not giving any legal advice here, just basic information on the typical procedures to organize a business entity. You wouldn’t start a crazy diet or exercise routine without seeking medical clearance first, would you? I didn’t think so. Be smart on this matter and seek a licensed professional attorney before starting any business or organization process.

Below are the first 5 steps that any entrepreneur will want to know and understand before starting a business.

#1 Decide what you want to do or sell – Cost $0

This is probably the most critical component of any business. You can’t have a business if you don’t have a product or service to sell. Maybe you are phenomenal at underwater basket weaving and want to sell your baskets online. Or more practically, maybe you’re a killer golfer and want to offer training services. Either way, you need to decide what you want to sell. Every business is unique and will need to follow different rules in order to be compliant and successful.

#2 Pick a business name – Cost $0

This may not seem like a critical step, but in reality it is. A name can carry so much weight with it. It can represent goodwill, present a professional image, or even become so catchy it becomes a household name (think Band-Aid). You can be as creative or generic as you choose. My personal opinion is to keep it simple in the beginning; you can always upgrade or expand in the future. There is a catch here though; the name you choose cannot be used by another entity. I won’t go into too much detail, but clearly you won’t be able to start a company called “Microsoft”, because not only is the name taken, I’m fairly confident it’s a registered trademark. Most states will not let you use a name that has already been taken (at least in that state). Although a name may be available in your home state, if for some reason it is trademarked, you’re likely to receive a letter one day asking you to stop using the name and/or likeness. You can do a more extensive name search nationwide, but that's usually not necessary in your early years.

#3 Choose a structure – Cost varies

Now that you have something to sell, and a business name to go with it, you will want to decide on a business structure. The most common business structures are:

1) Sole Proprietorships
2) Partnerships
3) Corporations
4) S Corporations
5) Limited Liability Company (LLC)

The IRS has done a fantastic job of explaining each different structure so I have provided the respective links for each structure for your reference. The type of business you own and operate will largely help decide what structure makes the most sense for your business. There is no one-size-fits all approach here and you will reap significant reward by consulting with a licensed attorney, as well as a licensed CPA, to discuss the legal & tax benefits and drawbacks to each structure.

Once you have determined your business structure, there will be some administrative paperwork to file. The amount of paperwork mostly depends on the structure you elect. I can’t stress enough the value and benefit of having a legal expert guide you through the process to ensure nothing is missed. Do-it-yourself services such as LegalZoom are perfect for those familiar and comfortable with the process. If this is your first time though, consider the expense of professional help as an investment in your learning and understanding of the business world.

#4 Register your business – Cost varies (usually about $25)

Next you will want to register your business with your local county. You will need to obtain a DBA or “Doing Business As”; aka “Certificate of Assumed Name” here in North Carolina. This certificate allows you to legally represent yourself under your business name. It is a fairly simple process, but it differs slightly for every county and state so check with your local authorities regarding what you need to do to satisfy this requirement.

#5 Obtain a federal tax ID # - Cost $0

Are you starting to see the bigger picture yet? You have a product, a name, a corporate structure, you registered with your local authorities, and now, you are finally ready to register with the federal government. Let me be very clear, no matter what, YOU SHOULD OBTAIN A FEDERAL TAX ID # (also known as an EIN). Without this number you will not only potentially be handing out your social security number to everyone you do business with, but you will not be considered anything other than a Sole Proprietor. If you do nothing else, file an SS-4 for an EIN. It’s ridiculously easy and can be done online instantly here.

That’s all I’m sharing this week. Check back next week for the final 5 steps on how to organize a new business!

Did I miss something or ignore a critical step? Or was I immensely helpful and inspiring? Either way, leave your comments and questions below!

5 Mistakes Small Business Owners Make

Happy New Year everyone! I’m sure there are many aspiring entrepreneurs out there looking to start their own business in 2017. To help them get started, I am sharing five of the most common mistakes I have observed small business owners make.

#1 Improperly Organizing Their Business

Every business needs to be legally organized somehow, whether as a sole proprietorship, an LLC, a partnership, or some other way. My advice is to keep it simple, at least in the beginning. Consider what you are going into business to do. Are you a young guy mowing lawns on the side just to make a couple of extra bucks? Or are you a seasoned attorney looking to provide legal advice to clients? Every business is different and therefore would benefit from a different legal structure.

Often times, businesses benefit from keeping things simple in the beginning. Certain structures carry significant administrative requirements which can be time consuming and costly, outweighing the benefits they provide. Instead of picking an overkill option from day one, consider drawing out a one-year, two-year, and three-year plan so you know when it might make sense to have an elaborate business structure. You can always reorganize your business down the road without sacrificing what you have worked so hard to build. Spend the time and money to consult with a trusted attorney to help you evaluate all of your options and make the best decision.

#2 Doing Everything Themselves

All small business owners are guilty of this at some point, me included. They want complete control over everything and do everything themselves because they think no one else can do it as well; but that’s just not true. You should do as much as you can for as long as you can, but once you start to feel the pressure, you should consider hiring someone to help you out. Even using a virtual assistant or part-time administrative assistant can save you stressful hours of work that are not usually related to building your business or making you money. It’s also a wise decision to find a trusted attorney and CPA to assist you with your business, no matter how small your operation is. Face it, you don’t know everything and the more help you can get in the beginning the fewer mistakes you will make in the long-term.

#3 Not Setting Up Accounting From Day One

Not to be biased, but every small business needs an accounting system. Even if it’s just a spreadsheet in Google Sheets, it’s better than nothing at all. Preferably, every small business owner would use an accounting platform like QuickBooks Online or Wave. I commonly find that owners are too busy to even setup accounts with these services, let alone do the work. How can you make informed decisions if you don’t know the financial status of your company? You can’t. You will only get so far before you come to the realization that an accurate accounting of your business’s financial activity is a common theme of successfully run businesses. Do yourself a huge favor and start with an accounting platform from the first day. Spreadsheets are a good Band-Aid, but eventually you will need to upgrade.

#4 Misunderstanding Business Taxes

Business taxes and individual taxes are two different worlds. The rules are often completely different, and the IRS has done a stellar job at preventing taxpayers from being able to abuse the code in either world. There are circumstances where your business taxes may be just an extension of your personal taxes, but when they are not, you must file the appropriate forms on-time. Failing to file, or filing late, can bring very stiff penalties.

Regardless, the results of your business taxes are typically reported on your personal return somehow. If you ignore filing for your business you may find yourself having to amend previously filed individual returns just to report business income. In addition, many business owners get caught up with constantly trying to minimize their tax liability year-after-year and never plan, failing to consider the long-term effects of their decisions.

Questions about depreciating assets in full in their first year, reasonable salaries for the owners, and business tax credits for specific industries are just a few examples of how a tax professional can help you. Doing it yourself may not be the wisest choice and working with the right CPA may seem costly in the beginning, but if they are a true business partner, then the mistakes they prevent you from making will more than make up for their fees and likely save you more in the long run.

#5 Failing to Network/Market Properly

Networking is critical from a business development standpoint. If you fail to network or market your product or service effectively to the right audience, then you’re wasting your time and losing out on precious revenue. Take some time to read up on industry-related marketing strategies and listen to podcasts to gain insight on how you can best package and sell what you offer to the right audience. Learn from those who came before you to save time and money. Reach out to those you follow in your community for business advice. You can have a million dollar idea but if you’re in front of the wrong target audience it’ll never sell well. Remember, you are in business now and at the end of the day that also makes you a salesman. Perfect your pitch and make sure you’re spending the right amount of time with the right people.

I would love to hear what mistakes other business owners have made, or have heard about in the business community. Post your stories in the comments section below!

5 Apps for Entrepreneurs

As an entrepreneur it’s important to run your business cost and time efficiently (work hard not smart). You’re most likely a one-man, or woman, shop, and all business owners starting out know you’ve got better things to do than to pour endless hours into the mundane and administrative tasks of your business. Hiring someone can be expensive and in the beginning unpractical. That’s where apps come in.

Apps can act like micro workers. They can automate portions of your business and pick up the slack where you can’t, or don’t particularly want to. Most apps (and recurring monthly subscriptions) offer a free version or are very inexpensive. Considering the immense work output you gain from using apps, I highly recommend implementing them in your business. Even with the use of multiple apps, you can get all that you need for significantly less than the cost of hiring someone and you will save precious hours each month.

Here is a list of some of my favorite apps:

#1 QuickBooks Online

I use QuickBooks Online (QBO) for all my bookkeeping needs and prefer it among the competition. It handles all of my banking transactions, invoicing, and reporting. QBO can also handle payroll but I have found they are more expensive than other service providers. The mobile app let’s you see your business’s current financial condition and you can take pictures of your receipts and attach them right to the corresponding transaction for sound record keeping. The category recognition is pretty accurate and the reconciliation tool makes reconciling accounts fast and easy. QuickBooks is the most widely used accounting software in the world among small businesses and if you ever need help with it there is an extensive network of ProAdvisors in place to help you (like me). It’s the best you can get and you can’t go wrong.

#2 Google Applications Suite

Anything Google can be considered best-in-class. The Google Suite of Applications is like the lite version of all Microsoft Office applications. I wish I could replace my Microsoft Office software with Google's, but Google isn’t quite there yet. That being said, for any new entrepreneur, the free suite offered by Google is more than plenty. Unless you’re preparing overly complex spreadsheets, or really need to step up your presentations, it should suffice. In addition, Google Drive is the perfect cloud storage solution for all your files and the efficiency of being able to collaborate with others is truly amazing.

#3 Scanning App

I have no specific recommendations but any scanning app that can efficiently scan documents and upload them quickly to your cloud drives is a winner. You could even use the camera app pre-installed on any smartphone and that would be good enough. I use Office Lens, which is free, and scans up to 10 documents at once. I love the quality but it is not the fastest. Scanning apps often crop out background imagery that you don’t need (like the table you scan your documents on) and are typically clearer than the camera apps pre-installed on most smartphones. Whether in the office or on the road, you need a scanning app for efficient paperless document management.

#4 E-Signatures

In today’s technologically driven world we need to be able to get our work done from anywhere. Gone are the days of mailing documents back and forth or e-mailing, printing, signing, scanning, and e-mailing documents back and forth. Consider the use of apps such as Adobe DC or DocHub to get your documents signed (legally binding) fast, easily, and within compliance standards. Professionals all over the world swear by the efficiency you gain from using such platforms and regardless of which one you choose the cost will be well worth it.

#5 Zapier

Last but not least is one of my favorites, Zapier. This app lets you make Zaps. A Zap brings together two or more apps by triggering events. For example, if a client were to upload a file to my cloud directly, then I could setup Zapier to work between my cloud provider and my e-mail provider to send me an e-mail notification that a file had been uploaded. This is a very basic example of what Zapier can do. I have only scratched the surface of what it can do in my own business, but from what I have experienced, I know it can do so much more to keep my business humming along efficiently. I highly recommend looking into this app for anyone seeking to automate parts of their business.

Get Downloading!

This list is certainly not all encompassing, but rather some of the highlights of my favorite and recommended apps for any entrepreneur. Your time is valuable and these apps will help you make the most of it, especially in your early days. Check them all out by clicking on the links throughout the post. Most are available across platforms including iOS, Android, Mac, and PC.

What are some of your favorite apps for productivity and efficiency? I would love to hear them in the comments below!