By Cliff Ennico
Here are seven more New Year’s Resolutions for business owners.
6. Find Three New Sources of Saleable Product. If your business is selling stuff online, one of your biggest challenges is finding high quality stuff to sell at a profit. If you’re not currently taking consignments, you’re out of your mind. Take out an ad in your local newspaper saying “I Take Consignments!” with a toll-free telephone number. Trust me, you will get calls. Let the local senior citizen community know you are available to help them clean out their houses and apartments when they move into an assisted living facility. Finally, make 2014 the year you cut out the middlepeople in your life — go to www.worldwidebrands.com and www.globalsources.com and find out where you can buy the stuff you’re currently selling directly from the manufacturers in Asia and “drop shippers” in the United States.
7. Get Your Taxes Right. If you have been selling things on eBay or Amazon and haven’t been paying taxes, now is the time to get into compliance with the tax laws. The IRS and state tax authorities are losing patience with people who don’t know they are in business when they’re selling online, and it’s only a matter of time before you will be required to pay income and sales taxes in every state where your business has a legal “nexus”. Get a copy of my book “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book,” and read it cover to cover – it’s the best twenty bucks you will ever spend.
8. Renew Your Web Address. If your business is dependent on the Internet, make sure you check Network Solutions (www.networksolutions.com) at least once each year to make sure your Web address hasn’t expired. They do send you renewal notices, but often these get picked up as “spam” by your antispam software, so you never see them, your Web address expires and gets grabbed by someone else. Pick a date that’s easy to remember – like your birthday – and renew each of your important Web addresses on that day.
9. Update Your Software Twice a Year. Just about every software program gets updated at least once or twice a year, but not every software developer sends you an e-mail announcing the latest updates. Make it a point to visit the Website “home page” of each software company whose products you license, and look for a button that says “check for updates” or something like that. It just may save your computer. If you are still using Windows XP or 2000, be sure to upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 (or Vista if you have a strong stomach) before April 9, 2014, when Microsoft has warned it will stop servicing many of its older products.
10. Sheath Your SmartPhone. Make 2014 the year you stop being a “SmartPhone slave”. Make some rules about when you will use your SmartPhone, and when you won’t, and stick to them. Rule # 1: do not use your SmartPhone while driving a motor vehicle. Period.
11. Get Control of Your Bookkeeping. If your bookkeeping system consists of a shoebox, you have absolutely no idea what’s going on in your business. Sign up for your local community college’s evening class on QuickBooks Pro® and learn to do it the right way. If you use “live” bookkeepers, meet with them at least 3 or 4 times every year, review your chart of accounts and other operating statements with them, and get their opinions on things you are doing right and things you need to improve. Because they look at your business from “5,000 feet up”, they may see risks, problems and threats that you can’t.
12. Start Escrowing for Estimated Taxes. If you pay estimated taxes to the federal and state governments four times a year, and find yourself occasionally without enough cash on hand to make the tax payments, you need to start “escrowing” for these taxes. Take your gross sales each month, withdraw 40% of that amount from your business checking account, and deposit it in an interest-bearing savings account. Do this every month, and learn to operate your business on the remaining 60% of revenue. This way you will be sure to have enough cash on hand to make your tax payments when they come due.
And a 13th resolution:
13. Get Involved in the Election Process. This is a midterm election year, and so far few candidates for Congressional seats have said anything about what they will do to help small business owners. Go to their Websites, participate in their periodic “town meetings,” and ask them. If your Congressperson or Senator is running for re-election this year, call up her campaign director and volunteer to be an advisor on small business issues. Whatever you do, don’t be silent. If you don’t make yourself heard, then you won’t have any right to complain when your business gets clobbered with high taxes and crazy government regulations in 2014.
A happy, prosperous and successful New Year to all of my readers.
Cliff Ennico(firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com. Copyright 2013 Clifford R. Ennico. Distributed By Creators Syndicate, Inc. Follow Cliff: @cliffennico.