Is It Profitable to Blog?

One of the many online marketing options available for businesses is blogging. A blog can act as a company’s daily newspaper, letting customers and followers know the latest news about what’s happening. It can also be a wonderful revenue-generator.

As long as the content of your blog is relevant to your readers, you can post on a wide variety of topics. You might want to let clients know about an upcoming sale, a new employee, or a tip related to a product or service of yours.

Some businesses make a separate revenue stream out of blogging. The most profitable blog today is the Huffington Post. Revenue from blogging can be earned in many ways:

  • By selling ad space to people who want to get their products in front of people who read your blog
  • From sponsors
  • By holding events your readers attend
  • From commissions from the sale of products on your site
  • By creating products and services such as membership sites which allow paid access to your resources

Making money from blogging through one of these revenue streams takes work. Not only do you have to find or create content, you’ll need to attract readers too.

You can also simply use your blog to generate a following for your products and services. The right content can improve customer service, educate customers on your products which leads to better client retention, or inform them of the benefits of your products during your sales cycle.

If you’re not a writer, there are plenty of freelance writers available that you can hire to create your blog posts.  You can also curate articles, meaning you can find existing articles and ask the author if you can re-publish theirs.

Creating a blog is easy with software like WordPress or apps like Blogger.com WordPress.com, and Wix.com, and all of these solutions are free.

Think about how a blog can impact your business for the better.

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Cool Apps: Amazon Echo

Did you ever want a secretary that could answer questions all day? While Amazon’s Echo product can’t fetch coffee, it can perform all sorts of digital tasks that come up in daily life at work and at home.

The Echo Dot looks like a small speaker that sits on your desk or table or in your car. It’s enabled with voice recognition and can be integrated with hundreds of apps. Its voice, named Alexa, can answer questions, spend money, play games, control components of your house, play music, and act as an alarm clock. And that’s just for starters.

Alexa listens to your voice and responds. A few of the questions that Alexa is capable of answering correctly include:

“Alexa, how old is Matt Damon?”

“Alexa, where is the closest sushi restaurant?”

“Alexa, could you order a stapler from Amazon?”

“Alexa, open Amex.”

“Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes.”

“Alexa, order a pizza.”

“Alexa, play music by Lorde.”

“Alexa, what’s on my calendar?”

With additional integrations, Echo can control room temperature and turn on lights. Echo’s range is one room in the house, and the biggest Echo fans have more than one in their house and one for the car.

Echo can be used for business or personal needs. Where it comes in for business is to give you insight in how your business ranks in voice search results. Ask Echo about your business by asking it to find a business similar to yours. For example, if you run a hair salon, ask Echo to find a hair salon. Does it mention yours or your competitor?

Echo can save you time, amuse your employees, and help you gain marketing insights into your business.

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Could Your Business Survive a Disaster?

As business owners, we want to remain optimistic about our business’s future. But life can happen, and we need to be prepared.  A good business owner thinks about all the risks to their business and has a plan in place to reduce or eliminate them.  In 2017, we’ve already had floods in the Midwest and California, a healthy dose of tornadoes, and an ice storm earlier in the year.  And those are just the weather disasters. Are you ready?

In 2015, Nationwide ran a survey that revealed that three out of four small business do not have a disaster plan.  The same survey noted that 52 percent of small business owners thought it would take three months to recover from a disaster.

The most common solution is to create two plans:

  • A disaster recovery plan, which details the steps needed to recover the business from a catastrophic loss
  • A business continuity plan, which details the steps needed to keep the business running in case of a major loss, such as a loss of electricity, location, or key personnel

There’s a lot of help online to help you create your plan. A few of the major items that should be covered include:

  • Employee safety: you’ll need an evacuation plan in case of a disaster that is life- or health-threatening.
  • Communication plan: how will you reach employees in an emergency?
  • Electricity contingency: will you need to access a generator?
  • Internet contingency: can your business survive without the internet for long periods of time, or will you need to find a way to get connected?
  • Location contingency: if your worksite is inoperable, do employees have another place to report to?
  • Employee roles: who will carry out the plan?
  • Private data: how will you safeguard private company and customer data?
  • Systems: do you have an inventory of hardware and software, including vendor technical support contacts? How will you prioritize which system to get back up first? Do you have agreements with vendors who can come to your aid quickly?

Creating a disaster recovery plan can be the lowest priority item on your to-do list as a business owner – until it isn’t.  If you have a lot to lose, then consider spending some time on a plan to give you peace of mind.

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The Power of Influencer Marketing

One of the hottest buzzwords in marketing this year is influencer marketing. Influencer marketing uses key people in thought leadership positions to spread the word about your brand.  These people may be paid or unpaid spokespersons for your brands, products, and services.

The profitable thing about influencer marketing is the leverage.  Instead of marketing or selling to one person at a time, you are marketing to key leaders with followings who can influence many people at once.

Influencer marketing varies by industry; here are some common examples:

  • Locating photos of your product already on social media and reaching out to those people to do more
  • Hiring a social media expert with a large following to talk about your clothing line
  • Having a prominent lifestyle blogger post a photograph containing your juice product
  • Starting a referral program for a makeup company so “regular” women will spread the word

The common theme to all of the above examples is finding people who have a huge number of followers that just happen to be your ideal customers.

To take advantage of this marketing method, ask yourself who is influential in your industry that has the ear and respect of your customer base. How could you partner with them so it’s a win for you, them, and their following?  You may or may not need to compensate them, depending on their revenue model.

There are plenty of apps to help you locate influencers relevant to you. A favorite is Ninja Outreach at ninjaoutreach.com.

Try reaching out to influencers to leverage your existing marketing and make your marketing dollars go farther.

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What Is Reasonable Compensation?

For small businesses formed as an S Corporation and with plenty of profits, reasonable compensation is a term you may want to be familiar with.

Many small businesses have organized as an S Corporation form of entity.  In many cases, the S Corp election allows a business owner to save money on self-employment taxes, especially if they are operating as a sole proprietor. S Corp profits, or distributions, are not subject to payroll taxes.

If you are a business owner taking a salary and contributing substantially to the operations of the business, you may think that you should just take the distributions and forget the salary.  After all, think how much you would save in payroll taxes.  But this has already been tried and shot down by the IRS in the courts.  And this is where the term reasonable compensation comes in.

The IRS requires that business owners that perform a substantial contribution to the business be paid a salary according to a number of factors.  This is called reasonable compensation. You can’t pay yourself below market and take a large amount in distributions.

The IRS has issued a fact sheet that describes the guidelines that can be used to determine reasonable compensation. They include employee training, experience, duties, time spent, history of distributions, bonuses, and many other factors.

There are also reasonable compensation ramifications for C Corporations as well.

If reasonable compensation is an issue or concern for your business, please feel free to reach out and let us know how we can help.

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Five Ways to Streamline Your Payroll Process

For business owners with employers, payroll is a necessary task that can slow your day and tie you down if you let it.  If you’re looking for a way to make payroll less time-consuming, here are five ideas you can put to good use:

  1. Employee Onboarding

If you hire a lot, empower your new hires by letting them do their paperwork for you.  A good payroll system allows employees to “onboard” themselves, completing the I-9, W-4, and direct deposit authorizations electronically, even before they show up for their first day. You’ll still need to ask for ID on their first working day, but at least you won’t have to do their paperwork for them.

  1. Integrate Employee Benefits

Rather than hire several separate companies to handle benefits, some payroll systems allow you to integrate benefits solutions right in their dashboard.  That way, you won’t have to re-enter employee data in multiple systems, which often gets out of sync.  Deductions and payments can also be integrated to save accounting time.

  1. Delegate Timesheet Entry

Require non-exempt employees to enter their own time; all you should have to do is approve it.  The right timesheet application can take care of that, and a great timesheet application will allow employees to enter time from multiple options, including timecard, cell phone, and others.

  1. Eliminate the Annual Worker’s Compensation Audit

Tie your worker’s compensation vendor to your accounting system, and you’ll be able to avoid that time-consuming annual reconciliation report required by your worker’s compensation insurance company.  You can also avoid the large annual payment because the insurance will be taken out each payroll cycle.

  1. Reduce the Frequency of Payroll

It’s not always possible, but if you can pay employees less frequently, you might be able to cut your payroll time in half.  Pay weekly employees every two weeks or pay bi-weekly employees monthly.  Reducing payroll frequency boosts cash flow as well.

Try one of these five ideas to streamline your payroll time and costs in your business.  And as always, let us know if we can help.

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Cool Apps: Hootsuite

Social media is an awesome marketing tool, but it can also be a huge time drain. If you post regularly, or want to post regularly, and use multiple social media platforms, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+, then an app like Hootsuite can save you a tremendous amount of time.

Hootsuite allows you to schedule social media updates or posts across multiple platforms. If you are posting in real time, logging on several times a day, then Hootsuite can save you a lot of time. You can enter tweets, posts, or updates ahead of time and tell Hootsuite when to post them. You can also enter one post to be posted on multiple platforms all at once.

All you need to do is write your posts ahead of time. Once you have a week’s worth, you can log in to Hootsuite, enter them, and let Hootsuite know when and where to post them.

One of the biggest benefits of Hootsuite is that it allows you to become far more consistent with social media, rather than posting when you feel like it. You can decide ahead of time if you want to post once a day, three times a day, or ten times a day. Then, you can write your posts all at once. If you want to post three times a day, then you’ll need to write 15 posts a week. Plan to write them on Friday morning, and schedule them for the coming week. You’ll be all set with your social media until next Friday.

Writing a post and using it on multiple platforms can also save time. There is little need to create separate posts for each platform, and with Hootsuite, you can enter your post and have it update your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ account all at the same time. In addition to those four, Hootsuite integrates with WordPress, YouTube, and Instagram.

Even if you still log into your social media platforms every day to increase your interactivity and engagement, you can still automate your posts to save time. Hootsuite is free for customers who have three or fewer social media platforms connected. Look for it at Hootsuite.com.

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Five Numbers You Should Know About Your 2016 Performance

Before we get too far into 2017, let’s take a look back at 2016 results and five meaningful numbers you may want to discover about your business’s performance.  To start, grab your 2016 income statement, or better yet, give us a call to help you compute and interpret your results.

Revenue per Employee

This number measures a company’s productivity with regard to its employees and is relevant and meaningful for all industries.  If you have part-time employees, compute a full time equivalent total and use that as your denominator.

Compare this number to prior years to see if your company is getting more or less productive.  Also compare this number to businesses in your same industry to see how your company compares to peer companies.

You may also want to compute other revenue calculations, such as revenue by geography, revenue by product line, or average sale: revenue by customer, if you feel these may be meaningful to your business.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

How much does it cost your business to acquire a new customer?  That is the customer acquisition cost and is made up of marketing and selling costs, including marketing and selling labor.  You’ll need the number of new customers acquired during 2016 in order to calculate this number.

Compare this number to prior years as well as industry peers.  You can potentially do a lot to lower this number by boosting your marketing skills and implementing lower cost marketing channels.

Overhead Costs

Overhead costs are costs that are not directly attributable to producing or selling your products and services.  They include items such as rent, telephone, insurance, legal expenses, and executive salaries.  Although it’s not standard practice to break out overhead expenses from other expenses on an income statement, it’s valuable to know the numbers for performance purposes.

Compare your overhead costs to prior years and industry averages.  You can actively manage your overhead cost by re-negotiating with vendors on a regular basis and trimming where it makes sense.

Profit Margins

Your profit margin can help you determine which division of your business is most profitable.  If you sell more than one product or service, you can compute a gross or net margin by product or service.  You can also compute margins by geography, sales rep, employee, customer, or any other meaningful segment of your business.

Your accounting system may be able to generate an income statement by division if everything has been coded correctly and overhead has been allocated appropriately.  Reach out if you’d like us to help you with this.

Seeing which service or product is most profitable can help you decide if you want to try to refocus marketing efforts, change prices, discontinue items, fire employees, attract a different type of customer, or any number of other important decisions for your business.

Breakeven Point

Do you know how many units you need to sell in order to start generating a profit?  If not, the breakeven calculation can help you learn this information.  The formula is Fixed Costs / (Sales Price per Unit – Variable Costs per Unit) which results in the number of units you need to sell in order to “break even” or cover your overhead costs.

The breakeven point helps you plan the amount of volume you need in order to ensure that you have healthy profits and plenty of cash flow in your business.

These five numbers can help you interpret your business performance on a deeper level so you can make better decisions that will lead to increased success in your business.  If we can help with any of them, please give us a call any time.

Posted in Accounting, Business Tips | Leave a comment

Understanding Payment Terms

If there is a period of time between when your customers receive your goods or services and when they pay for them, then several things are true:

  • You have a balance in Accounts Receivable on your balance sheet that represents how much customers owe you
  • You have an invoice process that you follow
  • You have granted credit to customers
  • You may have some that don’t pay as quickly as you’d like them to

Each invoice you send should have payment terms listed.  A payment term is the period of time you expect the invoice to be paid by the customer.  Your payment terms should be set by you, not your customers!

Payment terms are always measured from the invoice date and define when the payment should be received.  Here are some common payment terms in accounting terminology, and then in English.

Net 30
Payment is due 30 days from the invoice date.

2/10 Net 30
Payment is due 30 days from the invoice date.  If you pay the invoice in 10 days, you can take a 2% discount off the total amount of the invoice as an early pay discount incentive.

Due Upon Receipt
Payment is due immediately

If you use Net 30 or Due Upon Receipt, then you may want to change your terms to get paid faster.  When people see Due Upon Receipt, sometimes they translate it into “I can take my time.”  A more specific term spelled out such as Net 7 or Net 10 will actually get you your money faster than Due Upon Receipt.

Do you have issues with people paying you late?  If so, you might want to set consequences.  Consider adding a line on your invoice that provides interest charges if the payment is late.  Utility companies do it, and so do many businesses.  A common percentage to charge is 1% – 2%, however, some states have laws that limit you to 10% or another percentage.

The wording would be something like this:

“Accounts not paid within __ days of the date of the invoice are subject to a __% monthly finance charge.”

You will also need to make sure your accounting system can automatically compute these fees.

If you have questions about payment terms, your invoicing process, or your accounts receivable, please reach out.

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Positive Pay

Positive Pay is a service offered by banks that is designed to reduce fraudulent check-cashing against your account.  If you are writing checks on your bank account (as opposed to using ACH transactions), then the positive pay service, which usually has an extra charge, may be beneficial.

When you activate positive pay, you must send a file of checks that you have written to the bank.  The bank will not cash those checks against your account unless they match by check number, dollar amount, and account number.  Your file may also include the date of the check and sometimes the payee.  Some banks are also able to match payee, but not all of them, so be sure to ask about this.

If there is a mismatch among checks presented for payment, the check will be treated as an exception item and your company will be notified.   A representative of your company will let the bank know whether to pay or exclude the exception check.

Positive pay helps to deter a couple of types of fraud:

  • Checks where someone has changed the amount
  • Stolen blank check stock, even if you don’t know about it being stolen

Positive pay is not designed to prevent the type of fraud that occurs when checks are written to a ghost vendor and erroneously approved by management.

If you use positive pay, you should separate the file creation process from the person who actually writes and/or signs the checks.  This will give you better internal control.

The main challenge with positive pay is making sure the bank receives the file of checks before they are presented for payment, including any manual checks written.  Another issue is the extra cost, although some banks offer this service at no extra charge.

For companies worried about check fraud, consider looking into positive pay with your local bank.

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