By Cliff Ennico
Here are seven more New Year’s Resolutions for business owners.
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 2015 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.
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.
Renew Your Web Address. If your business is dependent on the Internet, make sure you check your domain name registrar 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.
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.
You should also consider investing in software that will:
- Automatically update the “drivers” for your computer peripherals (such as www.driversupport.com);
- Open any type of file someone sends you (such as “Ultra File Opener” from www.compuclever.com); and
- Back up your entire computer’s contents to a location in the “cloud” (such as www.mypcbackup.com).
Sheath Your SmartPhone. Make 2015 the year you stop being a “SmartPhone slave”. Make some rules about when you will use your SmartPhone or “phablet”, and when you won’t. Stick to them. Rule # 1: do not use any mobile device while driving a motor vehicle. Period.
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.
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:
Get Involved in the Political Process. We have a new Congress beginning January 1, one controlled by Republicans which (theoretically, at least) should be good for small businesses. To make sure it is, make your voice heard – contact your elected representatives periodically (to find them, go to http://hq-salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5950/getLocal.jsp and type in your ZipCode). Offer to serve as an informal (and unpaid) advisor on proposed legislation affecting small business. Or – if they aren’t responsive — maybe consider running for local office yourself next year.
A happy, prosperous and successful New Year to all of my readers.
Cliff Ennico (www.succeedinginyourbusiness.com), a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.