No matter where you stand politically, there is a feeling that we are living in interesting times. Where is the impeachment inquiry going? Are we on the way to recession? Is Joaquin Phoenix more creepy or genius? These are the questions that will define our age.
But they don’t have to define your business.
At least two of those questions could certainly have a big impact on the financial state of the nation. For business owners, it feels impossible to not prognosticate a bit, taking a guess at where things are going and imagining what that could mean for you down the line.
Granted, this is a fruitful endeavor for many businesses, but not all of them. I’m going to go with a general rule that if you are a big enough enterprise to have people who can afford to spend time on such issues, it is not a bad idea to have contingency plans in place for possible future events. If you are a smaller company where energies are best used elsewhere, though, keep them elsewhere. When you are in that situation, the best thing you can do is make sure your own house is in order.
When it comes to such future thinking we often get lost in ideas that don’t really have any data attached to them. We get a feeling of something that might happen, imagine it leading to a second incident, and keep spiraling until the first logical leap is lost in the miasma. The key here is that these flights of fancy don’t serve you at all if they aren’t backed up by something concrete.
So do you even have anything concrete to start from?
That is where the importance of having your house in order is highlighted. If you are keeping on top of your company’s financials, then you can actually tell when things change. If you do not have solid numbers from the beginning, then any decisions you make are being done on a whim and they will feel good if you like or want change or feel uneasy if you felt you just had to do something.
No matter what situation you are in, know that if you would like the comfort of knowledge in uncertain times we would love to help. If you do not have the foundation of good recordkeeping and reporting, we can get you started so you can start tracking where you are and figure out where you are going. If you already have a solid foundation, then we can help you analyze your numbers, track new ones, and keep you moving forward based on them.
Only with such diligence and planning can you be ready to react to outside forces if they do start to have an effect on your business. Beyond that, only with that diligence and planning can you know if those forces are having an effect on your business.
You hear lots of talk about how self-care is important and this is also true when it comes to business. Caring for yourself doesn’t only have to be done alone, though, so let us know if you need to get a better handle on things.
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Recently, USA Today ran an article about how many Americans are lagging in saving for retirement. Such bits of news never surprise me, for we all have times when we fall victim to thinking about the present at the expense of the future. What stood out to me was some of the things that are mentioned as ways to start saving more – all the way down to making coffee at home. Such a simple thing shows how easy it can be to spend less than you currently are.
For the most part, people’s income increases as they go through life. Even smaller, cost-of-living raises sends you through that dynamic. Often, though, that extra gets eaten up on the expense side of things. Those things can be very small, but it feels good to take those income advances and turn them into going out to eat more, a slightly bigger vacation, or such similar things. Once you get in that mindset, though, it can be difficult to halt and change to one that prioritizes saving.
Now of course, there are some people out there in unfortunate situations who literally barely make enough to get by. Most people, though, could benefit from an honest analysis of where their money goes and see where they could pull back and help secure their future. That is where some of those small moves mentioned in the article come in. That is great for almost everyone individually, but I also want to encourage business owners to take the same outlook.
Even very small business owners can quickly lose a handle on what their expenses look like. At the beginning, you may be very concerned about where money is going because there is not a lot of it. Once you hit a comfort zone, you start to put your efforts elsewhere and give less attention to every transaction going through the bank. Renewing some of that attention can help your bottom line continue to grow.
So the first step is just to make sure that you are keeping track of those financials and not winging it at the end of the year when it comes time to file taxes. It’s great if you have enough money coming in that you don’t have to worry about it and there is always enough to cover expenses, but that lax attitude definitely means you’re spending money that you don’t have to.
You may be surprised at software licenses you are still paying for and not using. You may find it shocking to actually see how much lunch costs when you calculate it on a monthly basis. And is it really possible to go through that much paper and that many pens?
Of course, it’s never going to be that no expenses are necessary. There are things you need to make your business work. You do not, though, need expenses that are only dragging your business down. The only way to ensure you are not paying for such things is to make sure you have updated books, giving you the ability to get the reporting you need to see such things. So if you need help with that, don’t hesitate to contact us. You could save more than it costs to do so.
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I write about tax scams a few times a year because there is never a stop to the warnings coming out about scammers using new tactics to try to frighten or bully people into paying money. Well here is the good news, I have nothing new to report on that front today!
But then, of course, the bad news …
These attempts by scammers never stop and I wanted to speak a little more about the use of email in these scams, for I am afraid that I may not focus on those enough. Yet, email remains the prime mode that most of the potential scams that come into our life.
I think I may not have given enough attention to this tactic because I find it so easy to ignore. For one, all large email providers have pretty good filters that put a lot of the potential bad emails into a spam or junk folder. I do recommend checking these folders periodically to see what has been placed in there (for occasionally ones you do want to see get shuttled there), but if you don’t recognize the sender, delete them all.
Another reason emails seem easier to ignore is because they are less personal. If you answer a phone call from someone actually voicing they are trying to collect on taxes, your emotions muddle the mind more than reading an email that says the same thing. You also have to react more immediately to that voice on the phone than words on a screen.
What can be most malicious about those emails, though, is the way they can linger even if you do delete them. This usually happens if you let them install something on your computer. So a big word of advice is never download anything from an unknown sender no matter what the email says it is. Beyond that, keep yourself extra safe by never even opening an email from an unknown sender if it contains attachments.
For remember, if the IRS really wants to get in contact with you, it is not going to start doing so via email. The agency sends notices by regular postal mail first. So I’m not saying that you’re never going to receive an email from the IRS in your life, but if you think you’re receiving news that way about a potential issue for that first time that’s asking you to pay money, don’t trust it.
Furthermore, even if these are legitimate issues, they are never issues that you have to handle by yourself. Even if you prepared your own taxes, that doesn’t mean that you can’t seek outside help from someone to understand the situation instead of only being fed information from those seeking to collect a debt from you. So if you’re not sure where you stand, at best this outside help can alert you to a potential scam. At worst, that help can help you mitigate whatever legitimate issues you are facing.
So when it comes to any potential scam, don’t be rash and remember that we are always here to help guide you through all tax matters, even those ones.
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Occasionally in this space I like to pass along general business advice outside of the financial realm. I am not trying to claim any great expertise in the area, but through my own journey and by watching and listening to those of my clients, there are some ideas that I know contain value. I found one of these earlier this week.
I was cleaning out my email when I noticed this article from Inc.com was claiming there were five words that make every meeting better. I have been in enough awful meetings in my life that I was compelled to look. I imagine I’m not the only who has been in those situations, so I’ll tell you those words here – “Who’ll do what by when?”
I’ll now try to leave aside my snarky immediate response that the contraction is a cheap device to make this come in at only five words. Besides that, I think this does get to the meat of the issue of why some meetings can feel so pointless.
Because it’s not all meetings that feel pointless. We leave some feeling that much has been accomplished and that much will continue to be accomplished. It is the ones where it feels like nothing got done that are so trying. You know, the ones that did not have an answer to those five (or six) words.
There is so much underlying those words that may seem obvious, but their explicit statement can make you feel more productive and on a good track. First is simple momentum. You want to be working on tasks that are leading somewhere. You want to be working with others who are working on tasks that are leading somewhere. Laying out where you are going helps the finish line feel closer.
Second is making your time feel valuable. If you’re meeting to just talk about how great you are and high-five each other over the table, then that meeting was unnecessary. There are parts of doing a job that just become part of the standard operation and they don’t need to be discussed. The time spend going those things is still worth something, but discussing them is not. If you can answer that five-word question at the end of meeting with something you haven’t done before, that is more valuable.
I want to finish now by focusing on the time element of the question. Note that it’s not only who is going to do what, but when. For you do want to keep up that momentum I mentioned, but it is going to feel pretty weak if the next steps are a year away. It may feel like not everything needs a deadline, and sure, some tasks are not pressing, but those tasks may never get done if they do not have a time element placed upon them.
So take this with you on how you approach meetings, and even how you approach your own work in your mind. Being deliberate keeps things in the front of your mind, keeps them moving forward, and helps see that they are accomplished.
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Last week I wrote about the incoming Hurricane Dorian and how it looked like it was about to create a moment when we had to remember the necessity of binding together in our shared humanity to help those who needed aid. Since then, we have seen images from the Bahamas showing a path of destruction that is absolutely devastating and heart breaking.
So consider this another reminder/plea to help to the best of your ability.
Much of what touches us about such scenes is a natural empathy. We don’t need to hear personal stories to immediately understand the feelings one would have when faced with such a situation, to find so much of what was yours destroyed. Take it as a warning then to make sure you are doing what you can to make it through such a situation if you are ever faced with such misfortune.
This doesn’t come from any prepper standpoint. There can certainly be some wisdom in making sure your home is provisioned with food and water that could survive without electricity, but it is not my place to give such advice there. I can, however, urge that you keep your finances in mind when it comes to imagining such events.
For instance, do you have all necessary documents backed up somewhere? It is a good thing to keep key documents in containers that can survive calamity, but it can also only take a minimal amount of time and effort to see that you have digital backups. This can be even more key for a business, because it could take many hours to reconstruct your books if you lose paper documents or a computer where you kept the only copy of your company’s financial file.
I don’t want to list out everything you may want to think about when it comes to preparing for disasters, but here is a link to a short IRS YouTube video that can help you continue brainstorming about actions you should take.
And sure, videos made by the IRS don’t sound like the greatest way to spend your time. I am frequently deeply involved with issues concerning the agency and I never want to fire up some popcorn and settle on the couch to take in some tax information. Such things, however, are great for communicating important information via media that can reach a lot of people. This is actually something that the IRS is pretty good at.
The agency has even prepared this web page that aggregates information about Hurricane Dorian. There is not a lot on the page, for thankfully the storm did not carry the same level of destruction to the United States, so necessary IRS actions were minimal. But it is still good to know that such actions are taken when needed and the government communicates them to the public in multiple ways.
So just know such things exist, take some preparedness actions if needed, and let’s all hope together that it won’t be necessary to have such discussions many more times throughout the rest of the year.
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