Much of what I’m been writing over the summer has felt pretty positive as I have focused more on general business concepts that can make one both happy and profitable – and who doesn’t feel positive about those things? Maybe this positivity means I have been enjoying the season, or maybe there was just a need to get out of the tax morass it felt like we were in for more than half a year as tax reform was hammered out and then we worked on hammering out its ramifications.
I think it is now impossible to keep these two things separate, though.
I know I am not giving any breaking news updates here, as I am sure that most reading this know that both Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen have been found guilty of various crimes. I will not regurgitate the stories here, but suffice to say that both situations are an entangled mess of politics and finance. I will also not take any political stand or guess what this could mean for any politician’s future, but it is now indisputable that people close to the current president were involved in financial dealings that were not on the up and up.
And have we not talked this summer about how, if you have not been taking a fully honest look at your financial numbers, there is only so much you can do with them until they catch up to you? Move things around for a time and all can still look good, but they’re not actually good.
These situations also show that keeping an eye on the culture and vision of your business is necessary. The stories show that somewhere along the way, people lost their way. After all, when ostrich jackets and porn stars play large roles, things have gotten messy. And messy is clearly not leading to any positive outcomes for anyone.
I also always write about how there are no secret ways to find financial loopholes or secret rules that the rich get to live by. Everyone should take advantage of all they are allowed within the law, but the key is to stay within the law. If you have to get real creative, chances are you are falling out of that realm.
Now at the same time, we also are hearing encomiums about former Senator John McCain following his passing. Those tales come from the opposite end of the spectrum, as he was a man who seems to have been almost universally respected. There is a lesson in there about living one’s life with honor, With honor, even if you disagree with someone, you will still earn their respect.
So let these little political reminders reinforce some of those points we have discussed in the past couple of months. After all, examples can come from both ends, the good and the bad. Pick the right people to emulate, push yourself in that direction, and you will not have to worry about things catching up to you in the long run – no matter who you are, who you know, or what position you hold.
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Word is that Amazon is in the considering buying Landmark Theaters. This leads one to wonder if there is anything that company doesn’t want to do.
Over the summer, I have written a good deal about business theories that can lead to success. When looking for such lessons, it is always good to look at those that have had success and currently there are not many companies in a tier with Amazon when it comes to growing and thriving.
It’s a little humbling/disheartening to think it is possible people could read this who do not realize that Amazon began as an online bookseller before it was an adjective preceding Prime, Music, Video, Kindle and Alexa. One could have a long talk about whether this is a good or bad thing, but Amazon even sold books so well that it precipitated the demise of bookstores both big and small. One cannot, however, debate how good the company was at what it did.
The first lesson there then is that even if you want to work within a long-established industry, make what you do new and different than what everyone else does. If you do that, you ensure there is still room for you. I mean, I can’t imagine that 25 years ago there were many people who would have predicted that a giant business empire could begin by selling books. The space to do that, however, clearly did exist.
If Amazon only ever sold books, though, it may have remained successful, even to a high degree, but it would not be the company it is today. That higher level of success came from not being idle. So Amazon went from changing how we bought books to changing how we read books and was at the forefront of delivering e-readers.
The second lesson here then is to not be afraid to change. If you only ever do one thing, you will get left behind. Just ask those bookstores that no longer exist.
And as you keep having more success in more areas, you can keep trying to have more success in other areas. Who would have thought such a company would then be revolutionary with new shipping policies, then go off and create award-winning entertainment, too. Now, Amazon could be trying to change brick-and-mortar grocery stores by removing checkouts, and who knows what their movie theaters would look like.
So at the start, businesses should have a vision for what they want to do, and remain committed to doing it very well and different than everyone else. That gives people a reason to keep returning to you. Doing it really well in the right way can then sure you’re profitable enough to give you the means to do new things.
Knowing what you’re doing well and where you’re succeeding helps you put your efforts in the right places and continue growing. So think both small and big, but do it mindfully so that you can keep track of what’s working and what’s not. We love nothing more than seeing our clients grow and prosper, so if you need help tracking just how well you are doing, let us know and we will help you get to where to you want to be.
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For the past few weeks, tax talk has died down in this space. You may think that’s because in the middle of the summer there isn’t much tax stuff to talk about. You would be wrong, though, as I will prove in this summer tax highlights blog.
The first thing worth mentioning here is that if you have filed for an extension, keep an eye on the calendar. You only have about two months left to file. That six months that you gained with the extension sounded like a long time back in April, didn’t it? And two months probably still sound like a long time, but they mean you haven’t filed in eight months, so you might want to get a move on.
And why wouldn’t you get a move on? If you’re set to get a refund, get that money into your pocket (or account) so that you can do things with it instead of the government. If you’re set to have to have to pay, figuring out exactly how much and getting it handled could help you stave off potential penalties and interest.
Next up on the tax docket is urging everyone else to take a look at the calendar. When tax reform passed in December of last year, a lot still felt up in the air, and no one (tax professionals included) felt immediately confident on how it would affect everyone as a rule. More and more guidance has come since then, though, and now good guesses can be made.
Really good guesses can be made when you actually look at your situation from its individual perspective. Therefore, if you have not yet done so, you might want to take a look at the IRS’s withholding calculator. Answering a series of questions here will let you know what you should be having withheld from your paycheck to meet your tax obligation. Your tax picture isn’t going to look exactly the same as last year, so wouldn’t you like to know?
The IRS’s latest call for who might want to check their withholding went out to people with high incomes and complex returns. But the agency has told many different types of people that they might want to use it, though, so I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t benefit from the knowledge.
And remember that look at the calendar? Did you notice that we’re rapidly moving toward the end of the year? That means that if you want to make some changes, time is starting to run low for making them effective. Do it now while your moves have time to make a significant difference.
Finally, the IRS also recently put out a notice to remind people that tax reform extended the time limit to challenge a tax levy from nine months to two years. The change in law applies to levies made before, on or after December 22, 2017, as long as the previous nine-month period hadn’t yet expired. This is one of those things that may not affect a large percentage of people, but it is still worth putting out there, for it could be very valuable to those people.
Because after all, tax news never stops around here.
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Last week, I wrote in this space about how having a culture where workers can take ownership over what they do benefits everybody involved in the operation. Maybe it was because those ideas were in my mind, but I then found myself drawn to another article on the culture of a workplace. This time, it was about a marketing mindset mentioned in this article from Accounting Today.
The biggest point of the article is that the highest performing accounting firms market themselves. This isn’t a wild concept, for it takes a long time for a business to achieve a spot where it is known enough to not really need marketing. But even then, there’s a reason there why you still see McDonald’s commercials.
I can’t possibly get into HOW one should market in this article (largely because I am nowhere near an expert in the area), but I do think this necessitates a mention of WHAT you should market.
There is not one answer here that will cover every business, but if you are a business, you should have one answer that covers yours. If someone asks you what you do, do you have a good, prepared answer? If you don’t, then you should. And once you do, that is what you need to market.
I mean, sure, you don’t do one thing in one way every single day of your work life. The jobs where that happens are mind-numbing, and not the ones anyone ever wants to talk about. But think of all the different work tasks you do throughout the day, they mostly have the same end goal. That goal is what you do, and that is what you should be marketing.
The Accounting Today article speaks of a marketing culture, though, which is different than just putting out advertisements and hoping they find the right people who need your goods and services. A marketing culture comes from the inside. It means that those who work with you also know the answer to the question of what do you do, and they answer it with a nod to what the company does and not just what they do as individual piece of the operation.
In there, we return to last week’s ideas of letting workers take ownership of the things they do. Few people want to only be invested in their one small task, they want to be part of the bigger picture. Allowing them into that bigger picture leads to better work and better works, and letting others outside the operation know that bigger picture leads to natural marketing and more customers.
If you don’t know the answer to that big question of what you do, though, don’t fret. Many people start ventures with only a vague idea of what they want to do. As long as you love what you do, you are on your way. Narrowing that focus, though, can help give you more direction and get your message out to the right people.
Sometimes finding this focus can start with figuring out what aspects of your business are running the best and are the most profitable. So as always, remember we are here to help you answer these business questions and give you the tools and knowledge to grow.
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Sometimes I come across pieces written for accountants that I feel have more far-reaching lessons that should be taken beyond our world, and it is to one of those that I want to talk about this week. This article was featured in Accounting Today under the main title “Art of Accounting,” but with a subtitle of “Staff Who Take Ownership.” It is that latter part that I want to talk about here, and not just because I’m unsure how artistic accountants ever are.
The broad theme behind the article is that staff who take “ownership” over what they do are better, more conscientious workers. And I think this stands to reason, as we have all worked with people who only do the tasks required of them on a surface level, check off the box that is done, and let the ramifications of it be handled by others. Those who take ownership are more interested in how it plays out throughout the rest of the operation. More interest, more diligence, more follow-through, those are all traits that it’s easy to see as positives.
The article’s author speaks about teaching staff to take ownership, though, and I wonder how much that is something that can be taught. I believe that businesses should be set up in ways that allow employees to take interest in the endeavor beyond their immediate tasks, but I think that is more a part of workplace culture than something that can be taught. When it is encouraged as part of the culture, one can find people who naturally embrace that, find those who have the drive to do more than what is asked of them, and they will stand out as people who will be worth holding onto.
That is something that I try to embrace in my own work, to where it even goes beyond those who work directly with me. For in my business, it is necessary that I have a number of clients outside the immediate operation, as well, but the same dynamic works best there.
Because sure, there are clients who only need us to do a certain number of tasks, and that is as far as the relationship goes. We are confident that we can still do this very well, be a part of their operation they rely on, but things never go further than that.
There are other clients, however, where we get a little deeper. Since our work puts us in close contact with their financial data, there are many areas we could touch on. This can evolve into more detailed reporting, pointing out inconsistencies, or even becoming more of an advisor than just a reporter. This all depends on the type of company and what they are trying to do, but moving beyond has to start with a mindset that people shine when allowed to look beyond the tasks they are assigned.
So yes, we like to take ownership over the work we do, no matter what type of work it is, and the ability to do more is only something that ends up benefitting everyone involved. Take this chance then to think about the idea of ownership, and whether you have the ability to show initiative and do more in your job, or if you have the ability to enact a culture that will allow those types of workers to shine.
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