May 16, 2013
- How to be a company that will get the media’s attention
- How to do just a little more for your customers that goes a LONG way
- How to show up in Social Media so that you don’t annoy potential customers
- How to make a big splash in marketing that gets the media attention
….and so much more.
This was a really content rich show. Download the show “Press, Media & Marketing with Peter Shankman”.
More about Peter Shankman:
Peter’s newest book “Nice Companies Finish First” released on April 2nd, 2013.
PR Week Magazine has described Peter as “redefining the art of networking”, and Investor’s Business Daily has called him “crazy, but effective”. Peter Shankman is a spectacular example of what happens when you merge the power of pure creativity with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a dose of adventure, and make it work to your advantage.
An author, entrepreneur, speaker, and worldwide connector, Peter is recognized worldwide for radically new ways of thinking about Social Media, PR, marketing, advertising, and customer service.
Peter is best known for founding Help A Reporter Out, (HARO) which in under a year became the de-facto standard for thousands of journalists looking for sources on deadline, offering them more than 200,000 sources around the world looking to be quoted in the media. HARO is currently the largest free source repository in the world, sending out over 1,500 queries from worldwide media each week. HARO’s tagline, “Everyone is an Expert at Something”, proves over and over again to be true, as thousands of new members join at helpareporter.com each week. In June of 2010, less than two years after Peter started HARO in his apartment, it was acquired by Vocus, Inc. Peter is now Vice President and Small Business Evangelist for Vocus, working out of New York City.
More about Make It Happen Radio:
You’re a big thinker with plenty of vision, heart, and passion.
You’ve got a big idea, a business you want to build, and/or a dream you’re ready to achieve.
So how do you bring that vision into reality?
How do you unlock the step by step plan to the Big Picture of YOU – your life, your business, and your success?
Enter Michelle McCullough. Successful serial entrepreneur, acclaimed speaker, and The Woohoo Radio Network’s resident Business and Success Strategist. Michelle has used her marketing know-how to help countless business owners achieve their goals by implementing proven, strategic methods, and she has the smarts, strategies, and experience to help you improve your life and take your business to the next level.
Whether you’re struggling to balance your business and personal life, wondering how to get more customers through the door, looking for ways to work smarter, or are overwhelmed by the everyday stresses of being a business owner, Michelle can help.
Stop wishing for success. Stop hoping for happiness.
Start your week off right and tune in Mondays for Make It Happen With Michelle McCullough on The Woohoo Radio Network from 5-6pm Central.
April 26, 2013
I can hardly believe it’s been two months since our event with Danielle LaPorte and I didn’t do a post-event recap! If there was a bad blogger award, I would get it. Though it’s never too late to capture something great (even late) and there was sage wisdom that day that I have to share with you.
Success On Your Own Terms – An Evening with Danielle LaPorte was the perfect to kick-off our 2013 event calendar.
I was lucky to spend the day with Danielle at three events.
We started the day with a personal and powerful lunch with eight women sitting around a fancy board room table chatting about business, relationships and REALLY making things happen. It was intimate and life changing. There was energy, and tears. Strategy and mastermind.
Then, I got to watch as Danielle spoke to an audience around the globe at Adobe. There were locals in the room and attendees watching from other Adobe offices around the world. One of my favorite moments from that talk was “Every flavor of fear comes with information.” As an entrepreneur, I experience said, “flavors of fear” on a regular basis. Sometimes daily. For me, entrepreneurial fears come in the form of what ifs. “What if I fall flat on my face?” “What if no one comes?” “What if someone doesn’t like this product or coaching program?” I loved the thought that I need to hear the information that is being provided to me through that feeling, but not to let it cripple me. I can waffle in indecision forever for fear that I’ll make the “wrong” choice or put the “wrong” offering out there. But honestly I need to feel the fear, learn from it and go. Powerful stuff.
And then Success On Your Own Terms – An Evening With Danielle LaPorte was the perfect cap to the day. The energy was high and it was an exciting night.
One of my highlights from Danielle was “Be fierce, but flexible.” It can be easy to give up. It can be easy to get started on a goal or business venture and hit a wall and say, “See, this just wasn’t meant to be.” What a mistake! Be strong. Success comes to the strong and the brave. Success comes to those that hit a wall and say, “That was a good learning experience.” Learn from it and move on. Be fierce in your goals and dreams and yet flexible on the journey. Be willing to alter the course that you use to get where you want to be. We are learners. Seekers, we are works in progress. Each day we will grow and learn new things. Just because you thought things had to be done one way, they can be done other ways to still get the same result. I have seen “Be fierce, but flexible” show up in so many ways since the event. I’ll be forever grateful for this insight.
I had may other powerful one liners that moved me, but here’s what some of our attendees said were their favorite takeaways:
“Well it was actually life changing for me. The entire experience. her thoughtful insights have flipped my business ideas around and I feel more on track and focused. The lunch was by far the most meaningful part for me and meeting the rock stars at the board room table and then hearing even MORE inspiration at the evening event. I mean Serrrrrriously? I love Danielle LaPorte”- Catherine
“I loved the thought that if you do something and fail, you will be farther along than if you hadn’t done anything, so just start.” – Pamela
“[My takeaway was] ebb and flow; more ebb before jumping to the next big thing.” – Adhis
“Failures are still progress.” – Becky
Even the men in the room loved the energy and advice!
“I’m no princess and I still loved every minute Favorites in my own words: “When I apologize for my message to the world, I’m cooked! Fierce but flexible. Just felt wrong for the shape of my heart. Decide to rise because you want to explore your place in the universe.” I love the word explore in that…sometimes the cleanest and most loving place I can come from is curious. Thank you Danielle…you gave me permission to be happier and I am grateful! Plus, I taught a class of 27 seekers the following day and your authentic vulnerability and sharing colored me freer for that challenge” – Jared
After the event, Danielle signed books and met with attendees (and fans) for over an hour. After the end of a long day, as I was driving Danielle back to the hotel her comment to me was, “Good group. They were so gracious and genuine.”
Thank you to all who were involved in making the days event fabulous. I honor those who came from from within the state AND those who drove and flew in from across the country. It was an honor to share the day with you, and I thank you for making one of my dreams a reality. A special thanks to event staff and volunteers, Adobe for hosting us and for homemadetoast.com for the beautiful photography.
If you attended the event and would like to share your “a-has” from the event, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
About the Author: Michelle McCullough is the Managing Director for Startup Princess and is also a sought after business strategist and speaker. She’s the creator of “The Life Balance Myth” coaching program and self-study system for entrepreneurs & professionals. She’s been featured in numerous media outlets including entrepreneur.com and UVBQ’s 40 under 40. She’s also the host of a weekly radio show. As a mother of two young children she knows there’s no time to mess around. It’s time to Make It Happen.
April 24, 2013
There will be many articles penned about Margaret Thatcher over the next few weeks, lauding her accomplishments and contributions to Britain and the world. But, if you read between the lines, you’ll find a common connecting theme — the impact of a woman leader during the most difficult of times. Hers is a fascinating story of doctrine and conviction, grace under pressure and unwavering confidence.
She led from the heart and embodied an ideological world view that shaped every decision she made. Her “Thatcherism” was rooted in her belief about the kind of leadership needed to save her country from economic collapse and preserve the freedoms she saw as fundamental to the British people. During years of immense challenge, she served as both captain and rudder, steering and steadying the ship of state on the course she saw as vital to the good of the whole. She saw through the smoke of internal conflict to what she believed to be the essential greatness of Great Britain: “There is no such thing as society,” she famously said. “There are individual men and women, and
there are families.”
Certainly, her “lead from the heart” approach created fast friends and fierce foes. About as many people loved her as hated her for her decisions and policies. Still, she had the courage not to be liked, but rather to be respected in what she thought was right. Her “Iron Lady”persona nonetheless had a gracious side that left an indelible impression on those who experienced it.
A friend recently recalled an encounter between a Cuban-American gentleman and the then 84-year-old Lady Thatcher, while attending a London reception in 2010. He offered to find a place for her to sit and she was delighted. As she held on to his hand, he told her he was born in Cuba and the people of Cuba loved her and admired her for all
she did to help free the world. She then said to him in a very firm voice, “The people of Cuba shall also be free,” and then she put her other hand on top of his. His eyes welled up with tears, as did those of everyone watching. Her life was filled with such encounters — direct and personal and unwavering in conviction.
Thatcher listened intently to others. She respected and recorded insights from people across the spectrum, which helped define her own philosophy and thinking — some she would agree with others vehemently not.Welcoming then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to London, she extended a hand and said, “To make sure there is no misunderstanding between us – I hate Communism.” Still she would use her shrewd insights to guide nations. Colin Powell has observed that Thatcher’s measure of Gorbachev gave the U.S. encouragement about the prospects of dealing with the Kremlin.“I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together,” Thatcher said.
While she could indeed be rigid in her thinking, she never lost her love of learning, a love built through the scholarships she earned from high school all the way to Oxford University. She was not haughty about the sources of that learning during her career and even afterward.She had a habit of asking anyone she met from abroad,
“What’s the situation in your country?” And no matter whom she might be talking with, she would always inquire, “What are you working on?” It was those conversations that might lead her to reach into her purse to grab an ever present notepad to jot down ideas of particular note.
As a woman leader, the Iron Lady not only leaned in, she leaned forward. Known to work 16-hour days, penning her speeches in the wee hours of the morning, she showed that there is great strength in running toward conflict rather than from it, remaining strong and confident despite withering criticism.
She likewise showed the power of integrity, eschewing compromise when principle was at stake. Her ability to remain true to herself changed the face of her nation and our world for decades to come — and revealed bedrock leadership secrets for anyone tough enough to sacrifice popularity for courageous resolve.
About the Author
Laurie Brunner serves as President of MainStream Management. She has
spent her career building the business value, operating performance
and top line growth of mid-sized and Fortune 500 businesses. She can
be contacted at laurie.brunner@mainstreamllc.
April 23, 2013
When I’m writing an article for StartupPrincess.com, I often reach out to our followers on Twitter and ask them a question to get some feedback or tips on the subject I’m writing about. I did the same in preparation for this article.
I went on twitter and posted this: “PRESS OPPORTUNITY for Women Entrepreneurs on how you do #business #financial planning. Instructions here: https://www.facebook.com/startupprincess”
The answer: Crickets.
No response on Twitter, Facebook or email. There were lots of retweets, and then after some time I got one response from a friend (which is was so insightful, I’m posting it later as a full article).
I then had another woman who is also part of my network reach out to me. I asked her a little about cash flow and financial planning and she told me “off the record”, “Honestly, I don’t do it.”
She’s not alone. Most of the entrepreneurs I consult don’t do any kind of planning whatsoever. No financial planning, no business planning, no marketing planning, nothing. And they wonder why they aren’t experiencing what they want in their business growth and paychecks.
I know I sound like a broken record, but “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Here are some tips for financial planning that are critical to your business success:
1. Create an annual marketing and promotional calendar. Don’t be surprised that this marketing nerd started with a marketing plan instead of a financial plan. That’s how I roll. The reason I start here is because too many small business owners are running a DMP a.k.a. “Desperation Marketing Plan,” which means that because there is a lack of money, the promotions are coming from desperation instead of strategic planning. Some small businesses are so strapped for cash that they are running promotion after promotion. They have told their clients that there will always be a special price and they will never feel a sense of urgency to purchase the product. Words like “limited time offer” and “never so low” have lost their meaning.
Good promotions are six weeks apart and vary in the offer. Good promotions are ALWAYS in alignment with your brand. Some brands could never get by with steep discounts and hokey offers. Some brands would be better off “Stacking the cool,” as Frank Kern would say. Perhaps you could give bonuses instead of discounting your price. Perhaps you could come up with bonus products or offerings instead of always giving discounts. Think through your business and brand. Businesses that depend on repeat customers (i.e., retail and restaurants) can afford to do more discounting than high-end consultants. However, EVERY company needs to ensure their discounts increase transactions (or transaction amounts) instead of decreasing brand equity. To do this well, plan in advance. For example, it’s almost too late for Mother’s Day promotion planning. You need time to create, seed and advertise promotions so they can be successful. Plan your promotional calendar 12 months in advance so you can vary your offers and have time between promotions. You’ll have greater success instead of your own “set of crickets” when you put a special offer on the table.
2. Revisit your business plan (for some of you, this may need to read WRITE your business plan). Do you have a plan? Do you have goals in your business? Do you know how much you want to make a month? Do you know what steps you need to take to fill the gap from where you currently are? Writing a business plan isn’t about making your head spin; it’s about creating structure and purpose to your business so you have a map to follow to business success. Business plans also don’t need to be pages and pages long (unless you’re planning to get funding from investors or the bank. In these two instances you’ll need to be a lot more thorough in your business plan).
Here are the sections to a business plan:
a. Table of Contents
b. Executive Summary
c. Business Description & Vision
d. Definition of the Market
e. Description of Products and Services
f. Organization & Management
g. Marketing and Sales Strategy
h. Financial Management
You can get a lot of mileage out of a detailed paragraph or two for each of the above. Often just going through this process provides direction and ideas for changes you can make to build some financial security into your business.
If this still sounds overwhelming, don’t give up. We’ve had a lot of clients and readers who have benefitted from the Sticky Note Business Plan.
Every step you take to plan for the future adds strength to your financial foundation. You can’t afford NOT to do some better planning.
Once you’ve done some planning, you’ll probably notice some “holes”. Every business has ‘seasons’ where the money flows freely and other ‘seasons’ that feel like famine. Hopefully, you’ll then revisit your promotional calendar and figure out how you can make the feasts more plentiful and the famines less painful. For some, that means doing
promotions in those off times. For others that means building STRONGER promotions during peak times so that the good times can be GREAT. Your annual marketing and business planning is an important step to making strategic decisions in your business’ financial future.
3. Know when to bootstrap and when to go into debt. Though I’m a HUGE fan of bootstrapping and do everything I can to avoid debt in my life and business, it’s worth “charging” something from time to time. For example, I use my Visa card from Capital One to defer big payments for 30 days so that I can wait for receivables to come in that are a little behind. I have never had to pay interest on a business expense, and the card provides the ability to give myself “terms” on an expense. I also get the joys of the rewards and discounts from my card. I’ve never had a business loan, but I know good clients and good friends that have lines of credit at the bank so that they can take money out in lean times and pay it back in plentiful times. PLEASE get the advice and help of professionals as you make decisions like this. Your coach or mentor, local Small Business Development Center and even your local bank can be a great resource for bouncing off ideas and plans. Whatever you do, READ the fine print and make sure you understand the interest you’re paying and the payment schedule that’s expected. Keep your financial commitments so that you
don’t damage your credit or lose assets.
4. Keep up and be consistent. Trends change. Industries change. Sales ebb and flow. When necessary, revisit your promotional plan and your business plan and make the changes required so that you can keep up. That said, give your plans some time to work. Changing too much makes you a moving target and you’ll lose customers and potential customers because of your lack of direction and consistency.
5. If after all of this you’re STILL unsure about how to tame the financial ebbs and flows in your business, get some professional help. If the SBDC can’t help you, seek the advice of a mentor, consultant or coach. Often a second set of experienced eyes can help you strategize next steps.
Hopefully one (or more) of these tips will help you prepare for your next 12 months.
I’d love to hear your ideas and tips: How do YOU efficiently and strategically do your company’s
Michelle McCullough is the Managing Director for Startup Princess and is also a sought after business strategist and speaker. She’s the creator of “The Life Balance Myth” coaching program and self-study system for entrepreneurs & professionals. She’s been featured in numerous media outlets including entrepreneur.com and UVBQ’s 40 under 40. She’s also the host of a weekly radio show. As a mother of two young children she knows there’s no time to mess around. It’s time to Make It Happen.
I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa
for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s.
Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well
Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access
educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and
find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new
theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional
tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz
and visit http://visa.com/business.
*I further declare that this or any other advice should not be taken as a guarantee or business fact. I wish I could guarantee that my advice would make you rich and your business solvent, but I can’t. Your results and success are entirely in your hands. Good luck and make it happen!
April 11, 2013
Startup Princess is excited to be a part of Grow America’s “She Can Pitch” competition for Women-Led Businesses. I would love for one of “our own” to be among the winners. Take some time TODAY to review the contest requirements so you have plenty of time to put together a great entry.
Full press release below:
Salt Lake City — Grow America and Sage North America announced the opening of the “She Can Pitch” competition for women-led businesses. Participants pitch their businesses in a two-minute video and use their social community to help vote and share. The top 50 will be judged by a panel of investors and mentors and award recipients will win cash, mentoring and a chance to pitch investors.
Grow America, an organization dedicated to helping entrepreneurs succeed and create jobs, and Sage North America, a provider of business management software and services to more than three million small and midsized businesses in the United States and Canada, partnered to launch this competition.
A total of $10,000 in cash will be awarded to three winning companies ($5,000 for first place, $3,000 for second and $2,000 for third). Winners will also receive a one-hour mentoring session from either John Suh, CEO of LegalZoom; Brian Meece, CEO of Rockethub; Andrea Rudert, director of marketing and partnership development of VITAMIN W; Corey Drushal, executive director of Bad Girl Ventures; Michelle McCullough, managing director of Startup Princess; Dan Beldy, Founder & CEO of 11x; or Tom Ngo, Chief Product Officer of Idealab.
Additionally, winners will have a chance to pitch to an angel investor or venture capitalist and will receive a one-year subscription to Sage One, a cloud-based accounting, invoicing, task and time tracking solution for small businesses.
“At Grow America, our mission is to provide tools and a community for entrepreneurs,” said Cydni Tetro, president of Grow America. “Women-led businesses are a big component in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and they help create jobs. We’re excited to launch the ‘She Can Pitch’ competition in cooperation with Sage and to highlight and promote some of the great women-led businesses in the country.”
“For decades, Sage has been committed to helping entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed by delivering solutions that help them manage their businesses simply and effectively,” said Henry Benamram, vice president and general manager at Sage One. “Entrepreneurs and small businesses need all the help they can get. We are proud to partner with Grow America as the presenting sponsor of ‘She Can Pitch’ to help identify and assist some of the best women-led businesses in North America.”
In 2012, the State of Women-Owned Businesses Report stated that there were 8.3 million women-owned businesses in America. Add the 6 percent of women CEOs in the United States and the number of women-led businesses escalates. With an increase in women running and owning businesses, there is a need for resources, such as cash, mentoring, and access to investors.
The competition opens on April 9. To participate, companies should submit a 30-second to two-minute video pitch, product or company pictures and answers to some simple questions. With prepared materials in hand, the signup process only takes five to 10 minutes.
Companies can submit an entry at any time from April 9-30. Voting on entries will be open to the public from April 15-30. The top 50 entries with the most votes will advance to the final round for judging, where the businesses will be vetted and three winners will be chosen.
For more information about the competition, go to: GrowAm.com/Competition-Overview.
ABOUT GROW AMERICA
Grow America℠ is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs be successful by providing them with resources that assist them in building a strong company that will strengthen the economy and stimulate job growth. As an organization, it aligns partners, mentors and capital that the entrepreneurs need to create, launch and grow successful companies. For more information, visit www.GrowAm.com. Follow Grow America on Facebook, Facebook.com/GrowAmerica, and Twitter, Twitter.com/GrowAmerica.
April 8, 2013
Meet Laurie Hurley:
Laurie Hurley has been an entrepreneur since 1998.
Consulting, mentoring and coaching social media marketing
is her passion! A dynamic in-person networker, and sought-
after speaker, Laurie teaches you how to balance and
complement your online marketing efforts with your face
to face networking for maximum exposure to your Target
Market and potential customers.
Laurie’s clients are a mixture of newbie social media users,
baby boomers, small business owners, direct sales people
and entrepreneurs that want to overcome their overwhelm
online and make social media easy!
Laurie’s approach is straight-forward, nurturing, and
knowledgeable as she helps others to understand the power
of social media strategy, not just the “how to” but the “what
Laurie’s life previous to being self-employed was spent in
the fashion industry as a buyer and then the hotel industry
working for the famed, Waldorf-Astoria hotel. She resides
in Newbury Park, CA with her husband of 21 years, her two
teenager daughters, one dog and three cats. She is an avid
runner and a spelling bee champion.
April 4, 2013
But if content sounds like another thing to manage and you’re overwhelmed just thinking about it, today’s show is for you. Tune in to Make It Happen Radio, where my guest, Ann Handley is going to be sharing top tips for keeping up with content in a way that fits in with YOUR talents and goals.
This show includes:
- How to stay on top of content so that it doesn’t become it’s own business
- How to schedule your content strategically
- How to make content part of your annual marketing plan
- How Social Media is part of your annual content/marketing plan
And Ann shared some great tips for running a successful marketing, writing and speaking business. We’re all busy (she’s one of the busiest!) so you’ll also love her tips for how she does it all!
It’s was a great show. Download it for your listening pleasure.
Here’s more about Ann:
Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, a rich and trusted resource that helps businesses market their products and services smarter and better. Entrepreneurs, small-business owners and marketers in the world’s largest corporations make up its 361,000 subscribers, making it the largest in its category. (Does that sound like marketing-speak? It’s not; it’s just true.)
She is a 12-year veteran of creating and managing digital content to build relationships for organizations and individuals. Also, she’s a writer who blogs at her personal blog, A n n a r c h y, as well as American Express OPEN Forum, Mashable, and The Huffington Post.
Previously, Ann was the co-founder of ClickZ, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.
She lives near Boston in a slightly creaky, comfortable house with 2 kids, 4 dogs, good coffee in the kitchen, decent wine in the cellar, a stack of New Yorkers by the bed, and an occasional field mouse in the laundry room.
About Make It Happen Radio:
Successful serial entrepreneur, acclaimed speaker, and The Woohoo Radio Network’s resident Business and Success Strategist. Michelle has used her marketing know-how to help countless business owners achieve their goals by implementing proven, strategic methods, and she has the smarts, strategies, and experience to help you improve your life and take your business to the next level.
Whether you’re struggling to balance your business and personal life, wondering how to get more customers through the door, looking for ways to work smarter, or are overwhelmed by the everyday stresses of being a business owner, Michelle can help. Tune in Monday’s at 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PM ET. Learn more about the show, upcoming guests and more at michelleontheair.com
March 22, 2013
This week we had a great twitter chat with our twitter friends and the folks at The UPS Store! There were great questions and tips about “Getting In the Game” of small business ownership. I wanted to collect and share these little gems in cased you missed our #SBOAdvice chat.
To see the full recap go to the UPS Store’s Small Business Blog.
The UPS Store is hosting two more chats with great advice for Small Business Owners:
“Stay In The Game” Twitter Chat with Stephanie Chandler (@bizauthor) – Tuesday, March 26th at 3:00 PM Eastern Time
“Game Winner” Twitter Chat with Barry Moltz (@barrymoltz) – Tuesday, April 2nd at 3:00 PM Eastern Time
Follow along with the chat by following the feed for #SBOAdvice. Join the conversation. Answer questions, ask questions and you could win a Small Business Toolkit from The UPS Store!
How to Participate in the Twitter Chat:
1. Create an account at Twitter.com.
2. Follow @TheUPSStore.
3. Use our custom TweetGrid to view the conversation in real-time.
4. To join the chat, tweet your question or comment and include the hashtag #SBOadvice in your tweet. (TweetGrid will automatically include the #SBOadvice hashtag.) Make sure your tweet is 140 characters or less.
5. The TweetGrid will refresh automatically. You should see your question appear in the conversation.
It’s Tax Time! Four Ideas For Smooth & Stress Free Tax Reporting (That will also help you avoid an Audit)
March 21, 2013
Last Friday at 10:49 PM I sent all of my tax information to my accountant so he could do my taxes. As a solo entrepreneur that works with a team of contractors and interns, I handle the tracking of expenses all year. Don’t tell any one, but I typically save all of my receipts in a file box and then enter them all at once. I know, horrible right?! Every year I VOW that I’m going to track as I go, and every year I end up spending about 10 hours to recreate my expense log before I can even send my files over the fence to my accountant.
Shame on me.
As a creative, it’s easy to say, “Finances aren’t my strong suit.” It’s easy to fess up and get professional help, but the fact of the matter is, we still have to make sure we are running our books so that they don’t run us.
This is my 14th year filing out tax forms for me AND a business (I started my first business at the age of 19, my first year in college). Now that my files are turned in and I can sleep a little better at night, I’ve thought of four tips I can pass along for a smoother tax time (that will also help you avoid an IRS audit).
1. Get a professional. Don’t do your taxes yourself. PERIOD. I hired a professional five years ago to take over my taxes and I should have done it from the beginning. The amount of additional money I got back my first year more than paid for the fee (and because I had a business the cost was tax deductible). My accountant is worth his weight in gold. He found me exemptions I didn’t even know about, and he helped me understand some of the BIG mistakes and IRS red flags I had in my books. Unless you want to read all 74,000 pages of the IRS tax code, I suggest you let a trained professional help you AND go to bat for you! My accounting firm will back me if I get an audit from the IRS and work with me to get it resolved (may it NEVER be necessary). (Here’s a little factoid, when the IRS began in 1913, the tax code was 400 pages).
2. I’m preaching to myself here, but keep track as you go and find a system that makes it easy for you to manage. I asked on twitter on March 14th “What is your favorite software or app for your business?” Almost all of the answers came back with financial software and apps. Interesting! Freshbooks was one of the top open-ended responses. A system that I had never heard of until that day. Since January 1st, I’ve downloaded QuickBooks to my phone, but it still has “new” across the top because I haven’t opened it. Last week, I downloaded Capture N Go, a picture taking software that makes capturing the date, amount and location of your expenses easy. So far, me likey. Remember that though I’m a HUGE fan of outsourcing the right things to the right people, this is one of those things that I think needs to stay close to home. Sure, let someone else crunch the numbers and fill out the forms correctly, but don’t let someone inexperienced work on your finances just because it’s “cheaper”. I turned a stack of receipts over to my assistant, gave her some training and had her enter them into the computer for me. I ended up having to redo half of the work because she had classified things in the wrong categories and transposed numbers. Lesson learned.
3. Be honest. This really should be number one, because I feel so strongly about it. I hear a lot of entrepreneurs say, “The government won’t notice if I inflate this number.” or “I deserve a bigger tax break, I’m a small business owner.” and then get “creative” in the numbers. I’m grateful for a country where small business ownership is an option for me. By going into business, I agree to abide by the laws of the land when I put an “OPEN” sign above my door. Not to mention the fact that whether you believe in karma or not, I think it’s bad “business” for us to decide what running a business is worth on the back end. If you don’t like a law, work with your law makers to get it changed instead of being dishonest in your tax accounting. Do you want someone deciding behind your back what your service is worth, and leaving that amount at your register without you knowing?
4. Don’t rely fully on digital options. Keep a notebook in your purse, bag or car. As digital as this age is, cell phone batteries die, and programs don’t open because we forgot our password or for any number of other reasons. A surprising about of my mileage this year was in my physical pen to paper calendar because digital apps and tools weren’t working at the time. Don’t leave money on the table. Track everything, report everything and let your accountant tell you what you can and can’t deduct.
Finally, I’d love for you to share the systems and tools you use to keep up on finances all year long. What software, apps or programs do you use? What do you outsource and what do you do yourself?
I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Information and opinions are presented solely for informational purposes, and are not intended, nor should they be construed, as a substitute for legal, accounting or tax advice. You should consult an attorney or tax advisor for individual advice regarding your own situation. Visit http://facebook.com/
March 15, 2013