What’s Standing In The Way Of Your Startup?

What’s Standing In The Way Of Your Startup?

Many challenges that pop up along the way to getting a startup off the ground can be avoided, or the impacts lessened, with due preparation. Not having set plans in place for all areas of your business is just begging for trouble. True, you certainly don’t need all of your ducks in a row to take the plunge and start a company, but you need a good picture of the ducks you want and where you want them to go. With a sense of direction and an understanding of your support structure, you’ll be better positioned to glide smoothly around unexpected obstacles and let would-be problems slide off your back.

What to plan for? If you’re already in business then maybe it’s time to revisit your original business plan. Look at the aspects you have adhered to and the ones that have evolved, additionally, if any initial goals have changed. As a fundamental, products and services should be working as intended. If not, this is where to find the first holes to plug. 

Improvements might be made administratively, perhaps by making updates to human resources, or consider shopping different automating platforms. There may also be lags due to lack of employees or equipment, then it’s time to scale.

Money is the most obvious hurtle that the majority of small businesses face. Before day one, an entrepreneur will have hopefully researched and compared financial options, along with worst and best-case scenarios. The SBA is an invaluable resource for low-budget startups. Traditional lenders, business lines of credit, or credit cards with generous rewards programs are a straightforward way to secure the capital needed to expand, or invest for growth. Private investors will provide freedom to move forward, but can also hamper the amount of control an entrepreneur has over business decisions.

After reviewing fundamentals and basic health of operations, it’s then time to ask how well defined is your brand? Does your company have a clear purpose and a coherent, memorable image? Embrace the factors that set you apart from your competition and echo them. Marketing strategies will be a constant conversation to be refreshed regularly. There’s always an opportunity for a new promo campaign to engage new and existing customers. If the well of ideas is running low, ask your following what they would be excited to be offered. Consumers always appreciate having a choice and a voice in creating options for themselves. 

Everyday efficiency could be hindering acceleration to the next level. Bookkeeping software can help not only automate a massive amount of otherwise tedious tasking, but it can also run analytics. This will render an overview of possible leakages of time or money, as well as show you the areas working for you and where you can capitalize or invest more. 

If you know something is holding you back but are unsure where, it’s best to take a magnifying glass and go back to basics. Look to your team for feedback on what their pain points are and how to optimize workflow, or what might boost the company overall. Make sure you’re delegating the right jobs to the right people, and that everyone is in the role that best suits their talents – without being micromanaged. 

If you do know what needs to be improved then the solution may be just to get out of your comfort zone and get out of your own way. We all fear failure and success, but in the long run the only thing worth fearing is regret. For some it’s from inaction, for others unwise impulsivity. A well-thought plan can give motivation or restraint as needed, while keeping a business on track and in sight of the goals it set out to reach.

Don’t Let Your Startup Fall Apart

Don’t Let Your Startup Fall Apart

With springtime blooming and summer just around the bend, it’s far too easy to become caught up with everyone around you winding down. But for a small business owner, especially one who might work from home, distractions can be detrimental and leave you scrambling to catch up when the next season starts.

Be aware of what your biggest derailments are and be honest about what temptations might lure you away from your important projects. If there are recreational activities you promised yourself or your family that you would not miss again this year, then make a plan and schedule the work you’ve committed to around it. Likewise, make sure the goals you have for your business and obligations to clients are met before detaching completely to have fun.

Rest is part of the work. Taking off a week or two, even just to staycation, can be like medicine for a weary soul after a year of long hours and stressful deadlines. What is the point of working all the time if you don’t take a chance to relax and revel in what you’ve built for yourself. Your family will appreciate your presence without having to look at or through a computer screen. 

Once you’ve found a balance to scheduling work and play, stick to it. When others in your life have more time on their hands it’s less likely for them to understand that you may not have the same luxury. Communication is necessary to explain your need for focus and healthy boundaries may have to be set on the days your phone keeps buzzing. If you have small children, this is obviously not an appropriate approach and your schedule may need to flex according to naps, snacks, and cartoons. If you have older kids they might be drafted to help with chores, cooking, and babysitting in order for you to have the extended periods of quiet you need to produce quality work by deadline.

Just because you’ve disciplined yourself to smash your goals, and not let business slide, while life around you seems like a party, does not mean you can’t enjoy the work you do, or enjoy yourself while you’re doing it. If you can take your laptop to a park and sit in beautiful weather surrounded by nature, then plan to regularly. Extra long hours of sun can easily extend our workdays, so take extended breaks on your own watch whenever possible. Working hard does not mean overworking. If you work smart, and find a good balance between accomplishing and rejuvenating, you’ll be on track for accelerated success the entire year, and still be able to say you had a great summer.

Summer Time Startup Challenges

Summer Time Startup Challenges

“Summertime, and the living is easy,” they say. For some industries like hospitality and tourism, business is in prime gear, but for some sectors and regions the summer is a time to slow down and assess previous quarters then plan for the back to school and the holiday rush. 

The summer is time for brainstorming and detailing the next direction for your brand. If there’s a new product, collection, or service you’ve considered featuring, now is when you can map out your launch. Maybe there’s a way to refresh existing offerings by adding new options and varieties. Bundles can be popular if you have several similar products that can be sold together at a discount. Or creating sampler packages containing, as example, four – four ounce jars for the same price as a sixteen ounce jar can generate excitement for your entire line.

This is also a chance to formulate your marketing strategy for the coming months. What special deals do you plan to run and how do you plan to promote this? Are you planning any big events either online or in person? If you have a new product to unveil, then a launch party is probably in order. Or perhaps you pride yourself for being an authority in your field and enjoy sharing insights, then perhaps educational workshops can be held live or recorded for purchase. Maybe your focus for boosting sales is amplifying what’s already working for you, and giving your customers an opportunity to get a little more for their money. This could mean generous sales or free trials with the purchase which allows customers to try items they don’t yet know they love.

The slower business months are also an ideal time to refresh connections with both buyers and sellers. Have an efficient CRM system in place to keep track of client information including contact info and history. Make sure your email list is current and consistently providing useful and engaging content, and not letting that powerful marketing tool sit idle. It’s also a good time to meet with suppliers and potentially negotiate better pricing, or even shop for new vendors.

If the mid-year months are a downtime for you, take it easy on yourself and definitely catch up on the rest everyone needs, but also use this as a chance to reflect and formulate. Look at the evolution of your brand and how the face of your company is growing, while still maintaining its core values and integrity. Is your mission the same or has it changed and adapted as the whole world has? Visualize the path you desire your business to go and set the intentions, using this as a guide for a flourishing season ahead.

When Is It Time To Scale Up Your Startup?

When Is It Time To Scale Up Your Startup?

As any business owner can tell you, few things involved in running a company will be fully predictable or predetermined. Gauging when it’s time to go bigger, or maybe trim down, can almost be a sixth sense. Just like knowing when to start a business, timing is never perfect but if the right factors align, and the risks are not too heavy, we jump. 

The most apparent tell-tale sign it’s time to scale up is if you find yourself unable to fulfill orders because you are too busy, understaffed, or lack inventory, and not because of debt. If you have more business than you can handle, it’s definitely time to run the numbers and consider expanding.

How strong is your returning customer base, is it consistent enough to project a portion of future revenue? What is your rate and consistency of customer acquisition? Is the rate of growing demand surpassing operating costs? How large is the margin between your best and worst days? If you decide to explore financing options, can you show potential investors a stable and profitable performance record?

Have you hit prime goals and positioned your team to set the bar higher? How high were your initial targets and are your next aims realistically within reach, without being too simplistic? Is your staff excited for the next level? When a business is apt for launching to new heights, the energy is reflected by the employees who are flourishing in an environment of creativity and new possibilities. They can see they’re work is paying off and leading somewhere valuable.

With half of all small businesses unable to survive into their fifth year, adapting your capacity in a timely and flowing manner is critical. If too much doubt lingers, with too much uncertainty of income versus overhead, then patience might be your ally until you have the justified confidence for bold moves. But if the iron is hot and the wheels are in spin, then sitting on your momentum could trip your progress and halt success. If you know you’re ready to take on more, and have the need to evaluate growth options, take time for an objective assessment of your overall progress. When the fire is there, and enough factors come together to outweigh the risks, leap forward fueled to reach unknown realms of opportunity and wealth.

Common Challenges For Small Businesses

Common Challenges For Small Businesses

It’s no secret that half of all small businesses will fail within their first five years. Rather than let those odds take anyone off course from their dreams, it’s possible to prepare for potential challenges by looking at areas that tend to be weak spots for other companies. They say that the devil hides in the details, so if your startup is on a bumpy road to success, solutions could be around the corner with a fresh outlook and just a few tweaks.

If you end up coming upon problems that keep repeating, it might be time to ask yourself if you’ve been listening to the feedback of others. Some improvements could come from their perspectives, and they could hold information that would better inform future strategies. Ask your employees regularly what can make their workflow more fluid and what consumes the most wasted energy. If there are systems that can be automated, weigh in with your team about the possible benefits.

Hiring stellar talent is significant. To have the most advanced products, innovative concepts, and shining public relations, you need to put effort into bringing the best possible candidates on board. The hiring process is extremely cumbersome and costly, be discerning in your choices and then cultivate a supportive working environment to ensure you retain those valuable team players for years to come.

As much as you appreciate a good worker, you also appreciate a good customer. Even if you don’t have a budget for huge discounts and major benefits, reward your customers however you can. More importantly, have the best customer service in town. Your buyers will understand you are trying to make it as a business, and if they believe in your product they’ll be proud to support you. As long as they see their support is genuinely appreciated, and they don’t just feel like “a number.”

Engage customers with thoughtful and substantive content on industry related topics they care about; keep them informed. Engaging on social media will also help better identify and understand your target demographic. The better you know who your buyers are and what they want, the better you’ll be able to exceed their expectations. Producing regular blogs and sharing them across media platforms will draw constant interest. Developing a readership will cultivate a profound connection for existing and potential clients, while elevating your brand to expert level. Informative videos are another outlet for building that subscriber list and achieving brand awareness.

Attracting new business from a cold start is expensive, but bringing people in through immersive content will not only build your company as an authority, you’ll be more likely to retain loyalty. Giving the option to subscribe to an email list is a simple was to generate leads and then further nurture those relationships as your business grows. Email marketing proves to be the most efficient promotional tool and it gives the most in return. Each promo you run should have its own landing page on your website with a sign-up box for your mailing list.

Make sure also that you’re financial plan is sound. Your records, too, are organized clearly so regular reports can be made to have a constant monitor on the fiscal health of your company. Be realistic about scaling and what you’re able to actually accomplish with current resources. Don’t put the cart before the horse, or shoot yourself in the foot, by making promises you’re not sure you can keep. When starting out as a young name in the market, your word is often all you have to offer until you can prove yourself on the record.

Starting out in the business world is thrilling and scary at the same time. Have patience and an optimistic approach when encountering setbacks. Look at the basics, as the answers you’re missing might be hidden in plain sight.

Filing Taxes As A Small Business

Filing Taxes As A Small Business

With almost enough time into the new year for recovering from the holiday season, Tax Day fast approaches. No matter if you’re a new startup or a neighborhood fixture, there’s never a wrong time to establish good practices for record-keeping that will have you prepared to get the most from your fiscal year. When it’s time to file you’ll be ready for the task ahead, which is confusing enough. In addition to your listed expenses and organized receipts these guidelines will make filing as painless as possible.

Make sure to keep track of important dates and be certain of deadlines; these vary for different kinds of business structures. Additional types of tax payments, like payroll, have more frequent due dates.

If filing yourself, know the correct forms you need for your business, on top of your personal 1040. Sole proprietors report profit and loss on a Schedule C. Partnerships report income, losses, and expenses on a Schedule K-1, which is usually filed with a Form 1065. Corporations show gains, losses, income, deductions, and credits on Form 1120 or 1120S. You may also need special forms for specific situations, like a home-based business or self-employment tax.

As you become a record-keeping ninja, it’ll be much easier to gather the information you’ll need to file accurately and make the most of your deductions. Knowing what documents you’ll need is also helpful. Prepare in advance all income statements, payroll sheets, bank and credit statements, depreciation schedules, receipts for expenses and large purchases.

If you’ve been freelancing, even part-time, your income is taxable. The IRS expects you to pay roughly 30% of your wages (after deductible expenses) to be estimated and paid quarterly.

Operating or taking your business across state lines will affect your filing, and you’ll need to file for the states you’ve lived and have worked in. Different states have different rules but you should almost always be ready to pay sales, payroll, and property taxes. Additionally, whether or not certain types of debt forgiveness are taxable, as income, will also change by state.

In many cases tax filing can be straightforward enough to handle on your own, especially with good organization and preparation. But it may be worth hiring a reputable tax pro simply for the peace of mind in knowing that not only are your bases covered, but also you’ve exhausted every deduction and retained all that you’re entitled to.

Are You Claiming These 20 Tax Deductions?

Are You Claiming These 20 Tax Deductions?

Tax season is difficult enough without adding the complication of trying to track every expense. But when you see the amount of deductions your small business may have accumulated, you’ll soon start accounting for almost everything you spend. Here are twenty ways to save that you may not have considered, for C-corps, S-corps, LLCs, partnerships, and sole proprietorships, (though some rules may vary).

  1. Rent.

If your business pays rent or a lease, that’s deductible. If you work from home you can check IRS Publication 587 for what you are entitled to. This can include mortgage interest, utilities, repairs, and insurance.

2.          Utilities.

         Electricity, water, trash, phone, etc.; all of your utilities are deductible.

3.          Office Supplies.

Everything from pens, to tissues, to light bulbs are all office supplies and they are deductible. 

4.          Furniture. 

Office furniture is considered an office supply.

5.          Software.

         Software can be claimed on the Schedule C tax form.

6.          Auto.

If you plan to deduct business related transportation expenses then it’s important to keep track of them, although the IRS does have a standard mileage rate that can be applied. Rules are different if your vehicle is solely for business purposes or split for personal use as well.  See Publication 463 for details.

7.          Travel.

If you sometimes leave your company’s home city or your tax home to conduct business, for longer than a day, than those expenses is likely deductible.

8.          Entertainment.

Schmoozing a client or throwing an office party can all be deductible, but again, different rules apply so it’s important to save receipts along with the purpose of the event.

9.          Marketing.

Anything marketing related is deductible. Everything from online ads, to business cards, to the contracted graphic designer can all be credited.

10.       Contract Workers.

Hiring freelancers and independent contractors is deductible.

11.       Wages.

Salaries you pay regular employee, including commissions and bonuses, are deductible, unless your company structure does not include regular employees, as in sole proprietorship and partnerships.

12.       Benefits.

Certain employee benefits can qualify such as insurance, education assistance, dependent care, or retirement. On Form 1040, self-employed individuals may claim personal deductions for payments made into their own retirement fund.

13.       Gifts.

Gifts for your employees are deductible, to an extent.

14.       Insurance.

Many types of insurance are deductible like business insurance and the owner’s health insurance are fully deductible. Other write-offs can come from auto, liability, property insurance, as well as costs of worker’s comp. While small businesses may receive additional credits for employee health coverage.

15.       Taxes.

Ironically enough, the taxes you pay for the cost of doing business can be written off, in addition to employer taxes. This includes unemployment, FUTA, and, FICA, and can also include from federal to local income, or sales tax and property.

16.       Money Owed.

If your business loaned money that wasn’t returned, this can be claimed as “bad debt.”

17.       Interest.

If your business is paying down a loan taken from a traditional institution, the interest payments can be deducted.

18.       Professional Fees.

Legal and accounting fees for your business are deductible.

19.       Startup Costs.

Business expenses are discussed in Publication 535, but typically startup costs are viewed as capital expenses and considered investments. These deductions can happen over multiple years.

20.       Inventory.

If your business handles a physical product or keeps any kind of inventory, then the cost of the goods you sell is deductible. This can account for cost of raw materials, storage, factory overhead, and labor.

         Knowing these entitlements are available, next tax season may start with a plan to track and organize much more of where your business is spending. Which, in the end, will keep you and your accountant smiling.

How To Pick A Name For Your Startup

How To Pick A Name For Your Startup

It’s less than ironic when entrepreneurs go through all the complexities of starting a business, and find themselves still stuck for a name. A basic requirement for a title might be to pick something that will reflect your intention or inspiration behind your business. One thing is certain; you need a name you love.

Your title should be catchy and memorable, yet symbolic of what you do. Something too ambiguous will leave people confused. A dose of mystery can be an excellent marketing strategy to create intrigue, but when trying to attract your first customers, you’ll have better success if your messaging is self-explanatory. No matter how cool, a vague title will be extra challenging to brand. If your name represents what your company does, you already have a foundation to build your voice around, without having to define a fundamental identity. The goal is to connect with potential clients, not make them guess, because chances are they won’t. You also want to consider SEO, and traffic brought in from searches of the type of product or service you provide.

A name tells who you are, but be careful that it’s not so specific it gives no room to grow. In case your business expands its menu of offerings, be mindful, so that you won’t need to change your name later.

You want an original title. Run thorough web searches for your choices. Check for available domain names, trying to secure a .com if you can. If the domain you prefer is taken, there’s a chance the owner is willing to sell. 

See who else using the name you want. If your business is entirely different from other companies, than there should be no interference or conflict. If you plan to register as a corporation or LLC, check with the Secretary of State that there’s no one else with a name so similar that you may not be able to register. To determine if you can trademark it, search USPTO.gov.

If you really are suffering a block and cannot seem to come up with a name that sings to you, try a site to help brainstorm. VisualThesaurus.com let’s you visually play with keywords. Naminum.com produces theme-based titles. Shopify Business Name Generator also lets you check for domain availability.

Once you have a handful of options, say them aloud to make sure they still sound good. Then ask friends and family on how the names translate to them. They may have insights and perspectives unseen to you. There may be negative cultural or linguistic implications you may not know, or you may find that your message doesn’t hit as clearly as you expected. They may also see potential in something you’re overlooking or downplaying.

Sometimes just stepping away and coming back to an idea with a clean slate and fresh eyes is all that is needed. Inspired moments tend to occur just at the right time, and it’s better to skip contenders that don’t quite fit. Your business is your baby; it’s what you produce in the world. The name you choose should be iconic of the mark you leave and worn with confidence.

How Can Startups Set Up Bookkeeping

How Can Startups Set Up Bookkeeping

Even if you have superior accounting skills, the idea of setting up a bookkeeping system for your startup can still feel like a monstrous undertaking. But with a proper approach, the thought doesn’t have to loom like a mountain’s path. 

With good organization and the right software, the process of getting started can flow more like rolling hills than impassable terrain. Like many other initial systems you set in place, they need to function efficiently down the line, carefully avoiding any potential accidents or obstacles in operations. The extra energy put into researching and implementing the best accounting framework from day one, can save untold time, money, and frustration in the future. With some great options in bookkeeping applications, it’s just a matter of being prepared with your current records and clear in your financial goals moving forward.

If you plan to stay small and don’t intend on expanding, then cash accounting is probably the best method. It allows you to record cash flow as it comes in and goes out, making your books simple and straightforward with minimal adjustments. For those companies seeking to launch themselves to higher realms, accrual accounting is the logical method as it allows for more flexibility to reflect what your bottom line actually is and then present more holistic data to potential investors. With accrual accounting income and expenses are recorded at the time of delivery rather than time of payment.

You’ll need to determine which bank to open a business account, as it’s much easier to track spending and profit if you have a separate account outside of your personal funds. When shopping for the right bank, consider fees charged, services offered, transaction limits, online and mobile capacity, physical locations, security, customer support, rewards, interest rates, and possible credit or lending options.

Now it’s time to see which software is appropriate. It is possible to do manual record keeping, but even a simple spreadsheet program like Excel will save endless hours of input and enable at-a-glance information that’s easy to see and read. 

For more complex capabilities, Quickbooks is the most universally popular way to optimize your record keeping. Automatically integrate between accounts, track income and expenses, even generate invoices and reports to help project revenue or analyze the overall financial outlook of your company at any moment. 

Be ready to receive your first buyers by having a payment system in place. Even a tool as simple as PayPal or Stripe will open you to digitally accept transfers for a small fee. For advanced processes like invoicing and receipts or international payments, then Recurly or Chargebee are designed for those services.

If you have employees, you’ll need a dependable payroll system. There are PEO’s and HR solutions that specialize in this, but for small startups, just be sure to cover your legal responsibilities. Ensure working status of staff, calculate payroll tax to be withheld, register for payroll tax in your state(s), and file employment tax forms. 

Now you’re up, running, and keeping track. Remember to be consistent reconciling your bank statements with your company ledgers regularly, and avoid getting backlogged. Establish a habit of generating reports to maintain a clear vision of where you are fiscally in the present and how far you can expect to excel in the coming quarters.

When Is The Right Time To Start Your Business

 When Is The Right Time To Start Your Business

No matter how fated some things seem, when it comes to executing our dreams, there is no preset plan for when and where it will happen. If you have the ideas, the clear plans, and life seems to align so that your goals could possibly come to fruition, then it’s time to jump in and start your business.

You’re motivated and inspired; you have an awesome product and a vision for how your brand will look. You’ve done the research. For example, you understand the logistics of packaging, transport, accounting, and how to structure as a corporation. You’ve checked out the competitors, their pricing, and realized which key advantages set you apart. You know your niche. You’re figuring out how to start, but before making it official, you stop at the idea.

If you’ve been able to successfully test your product several times, then it could be time to get out of your comfort zone and hit the ground running. Host a pre-launch, or soft open to create a buzz and gauge audience response. When sales begin you’re ready to launch. As soon as customers have their wallets out you’re in business. Capitalize on that energy to create even more momentum; strike while the iron is hot.

You don’t need to know exactly where the road will lead; figure it out as you go. Start by generating word of mouth advertising, and keeping a consistent social media presence. Gather feedback from your followers to help determine potential directions. Learn from others and seek mentors who have been successful in your field or in their own. Save yourself the mistakes they’ve made and try to acquire any hacks that only come through experience. Soon you’ll build a stable foundation, develop a fluid brand, and look toward marketing strategies and future financing options. One step at a time, as the most important step is the first one.

Timing will never be perfect for any of our big moves in life. It’s difficult not to suffer analysis paralysis overwhelmed by factors, choices, and “what if’s.” Sometimes it’s just a matter of blind faith, confidence, and intuition to open new doors of opportunity. Don’t fret over getting all of your ducks lined up, once you have a few in a row the rest will follow, as long as the leader stays on track. So as long as you have the discipline, the commitment, and the drive, all that’s left is the decision to take the plunge.