News

Getting Real About Getting Social; Profiting From the New Media

Social Media & Business

Social media is no longer a catch phrase or a fad, it is a definite outlet for consumers to garner information about companies they’re interested in and products they want to purchase. For example, McDonalds (as of Nov. 14, 2013), has almost two million Twitter followers and 29.68 million Facebook likes; Disney has 45.21 million likes and 3.32 million Twitter followers.

When harnessed properly, social media can be a highly successful way to increase profit in your business. Unlike TV commercials and newspaper ads, the ultimate goal of social media is not to instantly get the audience to run out and buy your product (although that is definitely a bonus); it is to keep your brand top of mind.
If you own a restaurant, it’s fairly easy to promote your product; everyone gets hungry, after all. But if your business is something a little more selective, such as a bookstore, for instance, social media is an absolute must. But how do you use social media as an effective tool?

1. Decide which medium is the best for your business. Facebook is one of the more popular sites (as noted in the numbers above), and is one of the more flexible options. There is no limit on characters, like Twitter, and a successful post need only include an appropriate picture, and text. Twitter is great for restaurants and retail, as the best comparison to conventional media is a radio advertisement. You can repeat Tweets as much as you’d like, and include links or pictures as well. YouTube is another avenue that is included in the social media arena; it can be used for tutorials or short infomercials.

2. Create a social media strategy. Now before you run screaming, it’s not all that complicated. If you’ve decided on the media you wish to use, all you need to do is figure out a plan on using it. For instance; if you decided on Facebook, you need to decide on how many times per week you’re going to post (three is the suggested amount) and what topics you’re going to use. The same is for Twitter and YouTube; the interval of postings and the subject.

3. Keep it up. One of the hardest things about social media is finding the time to actually post content. If you have the resources available, assign an employee to create the content, or create a job position completely dedicated to social media; it’s done by larger companies all the time. The other option is to contract an outside company for your social media, but unlike traditional advertising, it is usually better to keep it in-house. It is much easier for someone already within the company to create content that is engaging to customers.

When you start upon your social media journey, keep in mind the following quick notes:

  1. Facebook posts must include a picture and content. No, it’s not a necessity to creating a post, but it’s a necessity to creating a successful post.
  2. Twitter posts (Tweets) must be concise and to the point. Always use #hashtags!
  3. YouTube videos should include searchable content in the “about” and should be cross-promoted elsewhere.

Government shutdown got you tightening your belt?

Here are some great tips on cutting your spending.

The government shutdown was very stressful, even if just one of your steady paycheques was affected. The shutdown may now be over, but you probably still have outstanding bills or purchases that need to be made. Can you make all of your bill payments at this time, and still have enough to put food on your table? Here are some simple but worthwhile ideas to curb your spending, and even have a little fun while you’re doing it.

  • Cut down on eating out. Even fast food restaurants these days are expensive; it is hard to find a meal for two, much less a family, that is less than $20. Save your wallet (and your health) by making all meals at home; make enough dinner to last the family through the following lunch as leftovers, or enough to repurpose in a different meal. There are many recipes on the Internet that lend well to different meals the following day.
  • Enjoy the outdoors. Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year, especially with the trees aflame in color and the scent of Hallowe’en in the air. Go for a walk in your local park, or even just down your street if one is not close. You’ll be glad you did! Dig out the glove and baseball, or even a kite if you live in a windy area. When was the last time you spent time working on your garden? Fall is one of the best times to maintain your plants, before the snow falls.
  • Spend time, not money. Not all activities that you do with your family have to cost money to be enjoyable. Make some cookies with your kids, spend a weeknight doing a puzzle or playing a board game. Not only do these activities cost very little, if not nothing, they will help bring your family closer together. Some other ideas include crafting; fallen leaves make excellent craft projects. Did you know that you can keep leaves from turning brown by microwaving them? Just do a quick Google search and you’ll find lots of art projects to try.
  • Speak to a financial adviser. If you’re having problems finding the money to pay your day-to-day expenses, book an appointment with your bank’s financial adviser. They should be able to provide you with some tips to keeping your costs down, and may even arrange different financing strategies, such as a debt consolidation, to decrease your payments.
  • Plan ahead. The government shutdown may be over, but there are many other incidents that might stop one or more of your paycheques from rolling in; you or a loved one may get sick, you might lose your job or any number of things. It is always a good idea to have some money tucked away just in case, also known as a “rainy day” fund. The cash can also be good for unexpected expenses, like having to repair your car, a new roof on the house or other household items.

If you are in business today using social media effectively is important

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube; whether you are a social media guru or not, these are things that you have heard of. You might be thinking of adding them to your marketing strategy, or you already have, and are trying to figure out how to use them properly.

When it comes to social media, the key is to start out small. Try all three mediums (you can use LinkedIn and Google+ too, of course) to see which is the best for your business. For instance, if you have a restaurant, the best medium would more than likely be a combination of Facebook and Twitter, as you can advertise meal specials on Twitter and provide pictures of your menu items on Facebook.

The following is a brief summary of each medium, which might help you to choose the best social media for your business.

Twitter

Twitter is more like a radio advertisement than anything else. Being at only 140 characters, Tweets need to be short, to the point and interesting enough to capture the reader’s attention. They can be repeated as often as you like, and can include as many variations on a theme as you’d like. Twitter is excellent for short-term sales (like the aforementioned lunch specials), real estate listings (Twitter is a superb tool for Realtors, as you can Tweet open houses, new listings, what have you) and advertisements of any kind. When you are writing your Tweets, keep in mind that you need to add hashtags (#thisisahashtag) and shorten your URLs (there are many out there, with Hootsuite and Tiny URL being the most popular).

Facebook

Facebook is more of a medium-term venue; most people visit Facebook when they have some free time to waste, so you can go into more detail with a Facebook post. Posts should be about 100 words, lengthwise, and always include a picture—the more engaging the picture, the more engagement your post will get. A picture of a question mark will do nothing to increase the engagement on an upcoming surprise sale, but a picture of the sale item with some parts blacked out will get people interested in the mystery. Facebook posts should either provide information, ask for an opinion or for people to participate, or be entertaining.

YouTube

Most people watch YouTube to learn something new or to be entertained. If you are a Realtor, for instance, you can post YouTube videos of your new listing; you can do a short how-to on improving your home’s curb appeal, or you can post a funny video about some of your Realtors. It all depends on what will best engage your current and potential clients, and the best way to reach them.

All three of these social media platforms work interdependently, but can also be cross-promoted; for instance, if you’re having a sale on winter tires, you can Tweet the actual sale, post a funny winter photo on Facebook and mention the sale, and on YouTube, you can post a video on choosing the right winter tire. The options are endless!

Small business tip – managing your time

TimeMany people think that being a small business owner is an easy endeavor. You can be your own boss, write your own pay checks, set your own hours; but what they don’t understand is these all come at a cost—your time.

When you work for someone else, you are able to let go all of the stress and worry from the day as soon as you clock out. You do not have any real investment into the job, after all, especially if it’s the type that someone else can do. Once you leave the office itself, you can put your mind on other things, like enjoying time with family or on your hobbies.

Running a small business is different. You are always on the clock. Whether it’s evenings, weekends, and sitting on a beach with your feet in the sand, you are technically always working. Something could go wrong in the office or an employee might have a question at any time.

So how do you manage your time wisely and ensure that everything gets done, while still being able to enjoy some time to yourself?

The important thing is to actually book time for yourself. If you run a business with employees, and have a shared calendar, ensure that each day you book yourself a lunch break, if not at least one 15-minute coffee break as well. That way your secretary, or whoever is in charge of your schedule, knows not to book anything during this time. Yes, there will be times – and many of them – that you will end up working through your lunch break or through a coffee break, but it will happen less if you actually schedule them.

No Stress Try not to stress when you’re home or not in the office. Stress is a large part of owning your own business, but it doesn’t have to own you. If you have a problem, you must realize that you cannot do anything about it during non-business hours. If it is a problem that needs more thinking than actual doing, write down the problem – and then write down the steps that need to be done to solve it. Normally anything that needs to be done has to be taken care of in the office or during the day, so there is no point in worrying about something you cannot do anything about. It’s an easy thing to say but a hard thing to do, but it helps.

Your time is your time. If a client needs something done during off-business hours or calls you when you’re at home, graciously let them know that you are not at the office right now and you’ll get back to them as soon as you can in the morning. If at all possible, try not to check your e-mails or your voice mails during this time either; your family, your sanity and definitely your sleep habits will thank you.

Running a successful small business is a hefty challenge, but if met with smarts and dedication, it can be an enjoyable one as well.

How to be fiscally responsible in your small business and still enjoy some R&R

blog425Summertime is upon us and many of you are in the midst of your vacation or are in the final planning stages for that August getaway. Many small business owners struggle with leaving their business to others, and end up taking their work with them—or never going on vacation at all. Here are some tips to enjoying your summer getaway, and ensuring everything is running smoothly with your business while you’re gone.

1.    Automatic invoicing. Automatic invoicing is not only a big time saver; it makes it extremely easy when tax season rolls around to compile all of your revenue data. Instead of stressing about where one invoice number disappeared to (when it is quite common to miscount invoices and have that number never issued at all), you can be rest assured that everything is in order. Automatic invoicing programs can range from cheap to higher range; it all depends on the size of your business and what you need to decide the correct software for you.

2.    Train your employees. Even if you do not take vacation, there will be times when you aren’t able to make it into work; family emergencies, unforeseen circumstances—any of these can result in you not being able to make it to the office. Before these things happen, make sure you sit down with your employees and walk them through your invoicing system, so that when you do go on vacation, or something happens, they know how to handle it—without having to call you every five minutes.

3.    Prepare your employees. Before you leave on vacation, go over all the current projects or orders, outstanding invoices, anything you can think of that might occur while you are gone. Leave all the files that are necessary with your employees—so they are not scrounging for a key to access them in your desk. Preparing your employees in this way will also give them a chance to ask any questions they might have during your absence.
These are only a few hints to ensuring your vacation goes smoothly; just remember to relax once your feet hit the sand!

When you are overwhelmed or fatigued in live, a little R&R can be the solution to getting yourself back on track. What do you do when your business is the source of your fatigue and overwhelm?

Also remember that In life, R&R means rest and relaxation.  In business, it means Revenue and Results.  The personal R&R is temporary.  The business R&R needs to be permanent.  Here’s how.

Assuming that you claim your business as a solopreneur, you are one of a developing populace of modest organizations that are assessed to achieve 70% of all organizations in the US; organizations that don’t have workers. Notwithstanding, you may be consummately content not to need to supervise others or be answerable for their activities or work item. But what if your ultimate goal is to grow your business beyond yourself so you can enjoy the financial reward you’ve always dreamed of?

Questions to ask when hiring a CPA firm

Hiring a CPA firm is the financial equivalent to finding a new doctor. It can be intimidating and it is hard to tell if you are asking the right questions. What if you miss an important detail?

At Mark Robertson CPA, we’re committed to educating our clients about our work. We put together a list of questions to ask when interviewing a CPA firm, even if it is ours.

The Relationship

Any relationship can be difficult but the one with your CPA should not be on that list. The key to making it a beneficial relationship is good communication. Unlike a personal relationship, you get to ask the difficult questions first.

Main contact: Since many firms have more than one person working on one account, ask if the person you are speaking with will be your main contact. You want to build a rapport with your main contact as well as know they will be available to answer your questions.

Response turnaround rate: Nothing is worse than waiting for an answer on an important financial issue. Ask what the firm’s policy is on returning phone calls and emails. This way, you can manage your expectations and not continually hit refresh on your email.

Hours of operation: While it seems like obvious information, you do not want to discover the firm takes off every Wednesday and Friday afternoon when those are the best times for you to handle your financial business. This information can often be found on the firm’s website or any marketing collateral.

Education and Experience

Credentials: Make sure you are clear on what certification the accountant has (CPA, enrolled agent, or unenrolled agent.) and how long they’ve been in the position. If you’re dealing with a large firm, find out if the person servicing your account is a partner or junior accountant. After all, you don’t want to pay for partner level pricing when a junior accountant is the one handling your account.

Annual education: CPAs are required to attend several classes each year to stay up-to-date on the latest tax laws and other related information. In the state of Nevada, CPAs are required to complete 20 hours of continuing education to maintain their licensure. You can make sure their license is current at the Nevada State Board of Accountancy.

Experience: Ask about their other clients. You want a firm who is familiar with your type of account (self-employed, small business, etc.). This question will also give you an idea about their availability to service your account.

Services

How can you make me more money? Go ahead. Ask the question. It is a good barometer to feel out the firm’s level of interest. Did they carefully review your files before your meeting? Do they already have an idea of how they’ll handle your account? Is their explanation full of industry jargon or do they explain complex concepts in language you understand? Remember, a CPA’s success is tied to your success. You want them to be committed to you.

Am I paying too much money in taxes? We all want the answer to be yes. However, this is a good question to assess if they plan a quarterly review of your financials. At this time, a proficient CPA identifies if you are in the right situation or need to make adjustments so you pay the least amount possible.

Conflicts of interest: While you want the CPA firm to be familiar with your business, you don’t want the same accountant handling your competitor as well. Find out if they perceive any conflicts of interest and ask how they handle these situations.

Fees: Ever received a bill that was much higher than you anticipated? It’s no fun and figuring out what went wrong takes a considerable amount of time. Ask about the firm’s fee structure. If they charge an hourly rate, find out how much a three minute phone call costs versus an email. Will a fax cost you? At the end of your initial meeting, you should be provided a good faith estimate.

Above all, listen to your intuition. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t be afraid to ask more questions and keep looking. Have questions about Mark Robertson CPA firm and our services? Feel free to grill us. We don’t mind!

 

 

Reboot Your Business and Reap Success

While financial drivers retain their importance,

people orientated factors will be critical to sustaining success over the long term.

 

This month we’ve decided to take a deeper look into a smart yet necessarily sophisticated idea that has great potential to grow your business in 2013 and beyond. Inasmuch as one would think that this success would have to come from ‘outside of the box’, it’s just the opposite.  The whole concept is much like ‘rebooting your computer’ to update or refresh your processes or information. The rebooting concept makes total sense to us so we thought we’d share our take on the concept with you now.

Last year, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) surveyed a variety of CEO’s across the country in an effort to define how these leaders and their companies were dealing with the business and financial challenges that impacted their success on a day to day basis.  And within this study, they pinpointed what these leaders were doing differently to succeed in this very challenging business environment.

And the answer is …

When all was said and done, the overriding answer has to do with the ‘human dimension” – that being your relationships your partners, vendors, and employees.

The survey further defined that “the human dimensions of business—areas such as talent development, intellectual property, and relationships with suppliers and customers—will be the primary focus of top executives during the next two years. “

As a result, we concur that there is a clear need for companies to put more emphasis on demonstrating how these human factors contribute value. Yet with all of the challenges that CEO’s and human resource managers have on their plate, who can find the time to truly evaluate this “non-financial” talent and implement the skills to company’s best behalf?

We all should. As Jim Singh, CFO of Nestlé emphasized, ‘We must understand where the business is creating value, where it is destroying value, and recommend value added options to improve’.

While 63% of those surveyed agreed that it is important or very important to improve expertise in measuring non-financial value, only 51% said that they did this well or very well. Take note: whether you like it or not, it’s time to look inside the box.

It’s time to reboot.

At Robert Robertson CPA we offer a variety of services that can help you ‘reboot’ your operation.  In fact, we often learn about our clients’ businesses so intimately, we become an integral member of their management team. And because we work with such a variety of businesses across so many industries, we have seen the evolving array of talents that exist internally that are re-designing processes, improving efficiencies, and leading to greater financial success.

For a complimentary consultation, and to learn more about our belief in the value of rebooting business, contact us today at 775 825-5522   www.renocpafirm.com

 

SIX STEPS TO A BETTER BUSINESS BUDGET

Hopefully have completed your taxes in time for the big deadline around the corner; if so, it’s time to reward yourself with a little time to relax and regroup as to where your business has been, and perhaps how you can make it more profitable and enjoyable for the balance of the year.

To help you out, Mark Robertson CPA of Reno, Nevada, is offering some free advice to you today on how to build a better business budget.
Tip No.1: Check Out Your Industry

Thanks to the World Wide Web, there is endless information about how to make a small businesses better.  And, if you search the Web hard and deep enough, I bet you will find insight about how business owners who do what you, are doing a better job every day.  Although the internet offers a tremendous wealth of information, there’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned face to face chat with someone who runs a similar business.
Tip No.2: Review Your Expenses

In the business world, department heads are asked on a monthly basis to go back to their budgets and fine tune their estimated expenses.  When was the last time you really took a pencil to your own spreadsheets and did your due-diligence?  Pay particular attention to line items that were dramatically over or under projections.  And, due to today’s ever changing trends, it’s not uncommon to have to adjust some pre-determined expenses in heat, communication, and other critical business operational needs.

Tip No.3:  Be Conservative With Your Revenue Projections

Now that you are moving forward into 2013, you have a good feel for the rate of revenue growth to date.  Use this insight to possibly alter your business revenue projections.  And do remember, these are not set in stone.  If you have plans to broaden your target market or to seek assistance to implement a new advertising or marketing campaign, adjust your projections accordingly. As a business owner you have full control of balancing your budget on a monthly basis.
Tip No.4: Trim Where Trimming May be Warranted

If there is anyone in your business that knows where cuts can or have to be made, it’s you.  If times are tight, you have the responsibility to find the cash to pay an important bill, invest in a new product, or capitalize on a new opportunity.  Some thoughtful maneuvering on your part could provide you with a little more peace of mind


Tip No.5:  Re-qualify Your Suppliers

Every smart business keeps their suppliers on their toes.  Do you?  Spring is a great time for ‘cleaning house’.  If you have not been fully satisfied with your suppliers or vendors, there is no better time to prepare an RFP (Request for Proposal) and re-bid their products or services.  It’s your responsibility to your business today and the future of your business dreams of tomorrow.
Tip No. 6 Build Your Contingency Fund

We can’t always know what the future will bring so plan accordingly.  As you sort through your financial spreadsheets, be sure there is a line item for contingencies.  This could include a much needed office expansion, coverage of damages incurred by Mother Nature, or a need to react to a severe change in trends that relate to your product and services.  Like they say in the Boy Scouts:  Be Prepared.

That’s just the beginning.

For over 10 years, Mark Robertson CPA has provided personalized financial guidelines to individuals and businesses throughout Nevada and California.  We love to share our stories about how we have helped others succeed … and we’d appreciate the opportunity to do the same for you.

Call Mark Robertson today at 775-825-5522.

STARTING A NEW BUSINESS? START WITH THESE SIMPLE STEPS

With the first two months of the year behind us, we’re finding that there are some new businesses popping up throughout Northern Nevada.  If opening a new venture is on your resolution list, we’re here to help.

Many of the services that we provide at Mark Robertson C.P.A. deal with the everyday financial needs to run a successful business.  From accounting, to Quick Book training, to day to day financial planning and much more.

Within our capabilities is the support system we can bring to the table to help a launch a new business; a sample of our Business Start-up services includes:

  • Book Keeping
  • Entity Selection
  • Restructuring Advice
  • Accounting Software Selection
  • Software Implementation and Support

While we’re preparing your company internally, here are some of the things you may want to do yourself to jump-start your new business in 2013.

1.           Write a Business Plan

Thanks to the amount of information on the Web, there are endless suggestions for how to write a business plan.  The U.S. Small Business Association has some excellent resources to get your mind wrapped around your dream and put into focus.

2.              Get Advice From People Just Like You

Here in the Reno area there is an excellent association called SCORE. This is a Chapter of a national organization comprised of entrepreneurs, corporate managers, and executives residing in Northern Nevada who enjoy providing business advice.

3.              Seek out Seminars or Workshops

It is not unusual for SCORE our local Chamber of Commerce to host helpful workshops for businesses large and small. As fate would have it, SCORE is hosting a comprehensive workshop entitled: “Simple Steps for Starting your Business” throughout the month of April.

4.              Location, Location, Location

One of the proof points of a good cliché is that it is actually true, and ‘location, location, location’ is no exception. Finding the right location will be one of the most important business decisions you will make when starting your new venture. Plan well ahead, do your homework and feel free to consult with any of our staff at Mark Robertson CPA before you enter into a permanent or long term space arrangement.

5.        Organize your Business’s Legal Structure

One the more important decisions you will have to make is how your company will be structured: Limited liability company (LLC)?  Corporation?  Sole Proprietorship or Partnership? Of all the decisions you make, this is without questions the most important one relating to taxes; not only will this decision have an impact on how much you pay in taxes, but it will affect the amount of paperwork your business is required to do, the personal liability you face and your ability to raise money.

6.              Secure at Tax I.D. Number

This is easier than you think.  Reach out to the Web at SimpleFilings.com and you’ll have this task checked off your ‘to do’ list in no time at all.

7.              Obtain Business Licenses and Permits

The State of Nevada has developed a good resource to help you obtain the appropriate licenses for your business.  There is a list of Frequently Asked Questions on line, or if you’d like our assistance in sorting out all of the important details, just give us a call.

That’s just the beginning.

There are many critical steps that have to be completed before you open the doors. When you’re ready for professional help to help make your new business come to life, call the business start-up professionals in Reno, Nevada.

Call Mark Robertson today at 775-825-5522.

QUICK ADVICE ON HOW TO PREPARE TO FILE YOUR TAXES

Last month I shared my thoughts on some of the best New Year’s Resolutions I have found for jump-starting your income for 2013.  Today, I thought it would be appropriate to use this month’s newsletter to help you prepare to file your taxes.

Whether you choose to try to do this yourself, or seek professional help, our website actually tells it in a nut shell:

“Whether you like it or not, today’s laws are so complicated that filing a relatively simple state return or federal tax return can be very confusing.  Even if you use a computer software program, there’s no substitute of the assistance of an experienced tax professional.”

We certainly would hope you would reach out to your favorite CPA Firm in Reno, Nevada.  And when and if you do, the information below will make it a much more enjoyable experience for all involved.

GET ORGANIZED

Before you head out the door you will need to do some homework.  Every client of ours has different needs and backgrounds so what you may need to bring to us may be a little different than the next yet the ‘must have’s” include the following:

  • Identification

Driver License or Passport

  • Social Security Card
  • Income Verification

Depending on your personal situation, you may need one or more of the following:

W-2’s

1099 –MISC (for those who are self-employed)

1099-INT (interest)

1099 DIV (dividends)

1099-B (brokerage trades in stocks, bonds)

1099-SSA (social security)

K-1 (partnership income, trust, etc.)

In addition, you will need to produce information about any other non-tracked income from employment, property income, alimony, jury duty pay, retirement income, etc.  This does not need to be anything formal; a simple word document or excel spreadsheet is acceptable.

  • Expense Documentation

Job related expenses (rent, dues, supplies, entertainment, fuel, etc.)

Real estate taxes (and any information due to theft or casualty to your home)

Mortgage interest paid

Health care (insurance, eye care, dentists, doctors, medicine)

Motor vehicle registration

Gifts to charity

Last year’s tax preparation fees

Gambling losses

Moving expenses

Daycare costs

Child support

Student loans

Contributions to IRA

PLUS any information on any pre-paid tax payments to have made in 2012

GET HELP

The option is always open to tackle your taxes or seek professional help.  To help you sort this out, those who have a simple life without a lot of deductions usually can pull their information together and file electronically on-line.

However, if you fall into the following categories, we suggest you call us at Mark Robertson CPA:

  1. You have no time in your life for this.
  2. You hate to pay any more money than need be to the government.
  3. You want to make sure you are doing the right thing.
  4. You have a very complicated business situation.
  5. You know you may be in trouble with the IRS from a previous tax situation.
  6. You have had nightmares about the IRS knocking on your door …

 

OK, you get the idea.  We’re here to help.