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Bookkeeping for Small Businesses

Who keeps the books for your business? You know the dreaded invoicing, receiving, payables, reconciling, filing, general ledgers, liabilities, budgets, and reports. Many small businesses do not have a dedicated accountant or financial manager to take care of these tasks, which means that, often times, the job falls to a business leader or owner.

Chances are, if you are an entrepreneur, you have some grasp of handling the books and have been doing some aspect of it while your business has been growing. As your business evolves, however, the job of balancing the books and taking care of the bills or payroll gets more complicated.

That’s why Enterprise Center is offering Business Owners and Startups a seminar entitled “Bookkeeping Fundamentals for Small Business.” Every Tuesday and Thursday from 6-9pm, from May 21 to June 6, you can learn the basic steps of setting up and keeping track of your money in a simple, accurate manner that works for you.  

Bookkeeping doesn’t need to be the dreaded chore that keeps your sheltered in your office well into the evening. There are some fantastic apps that can help keep you organized and are fairly intuitive to use. Our advice is to do a bit of research before you download any software, as each app offers something a little different. Your business’s unique needs can be met with one of them.

QuickBooks

QuickBooks is a name that you probably recognize as it is one of the most popular small business accounting software programs out there. People love it because it has multiple tailored versions and top-of-the-line features. QuickBooks is meant for people who are not accounting experts. They put all the information in one, easy-to-use location.

Xero

Xero is great for businesses that are on-the-go and need something a little more mobile. Xero is a mobile app for accounting specifically geared for business leaders who need to do their bookkeeping remotely or while on the road. This is also great in case a client needs a quick update and you want to bring up the numbers on your phone. Xero has served over 1.2 million subscribers around the world.

FreshBooks

FreshBooks is yet another top accounting software that specializes in small business accounting. That means that it is geared for your company in mind, not the larger corporations. Each of the three versions of FreshBooks: Lite, Plus, and Premium, is tailored toward the specific needs of small businesses within a wide range of sizes and structures.

Have questions about keeping the books for your company or need a change in the app that you are currently using? Check out our seminar “Bookkeeping Fundamentals for Small Business” and register today.

 

Getting Real about Goal Setting

Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” — Fitzhugh Dodson

 

At the end of every fiscal year, do you find that you are just short of the goals that you so neatly created months ago? Or do you find that your business team took a left turn and went way off course and have not revisited the goals since the last time they created them? These are two extremely common problems when creating goals for your business.

Every business owner knows that creating and sticking to goals are what drive a business. Without goals, it’s difficult to identify ways you can grow, develop, and move toward continued success. Sometimes, however, when it comes to goal setting, it is easier to take a look at the mistakes that are common rather than the other way around.

Let’s take a look at a common personal goal that thousands of us make every New Year’s Eve and see how we can make it better. Many of us make it a goal or resolution to lose weight every year. While this is a wonderful goal that more of us should attempt, there is something wrong with the goal. Do you know what the mistake is?

The goal of losing weight is too broad. Most business owners make similar mistakes. Goals should be: achievable, measurable, and specific. Let’s rewrite the weight loss goal and see how we can improve it.

How about we change it to, “I will lose 15 pounds within three months.” Or, “I will lose at least two inches off my waist.” Or, “I will be down a dress size,” in the same time frame. Each of these is measurable, achievable, and specific.

Business owners should do the same thing when creating sales goals or any other kind of goal depending upon your field or industry. Each goal should be narrow in scope, have a time frame, and have a way to measure whether the goal has been reached.

Many business leaders use the SMART business model for goal setting. What are your biggest mistakes when setting goals? Do you get overwhelmed with the scope of a project? Do you make the goals too broad? There are a million mistakes that can be made. If you need help, you may want to attend one of our seminars on Setting and Achieving Transformative Goals.

 

Common Mistakes of New Business Leaders

Starting a business can be a huge undertaking that involves planning, money and exceptional leadership skills. Even rookies with deep pockets and amazing entrepreneur skills can make some common mistakes that can put a wrinkle in any well-laid plans. Learn from other entrepreneurs and their first-timer mistakes. Here is a quick guide of common mistakes to avoid as you set out on your new business adventure.

  • Keep an Eye on Finances – Watching the bank balance can be nerve wracking but is in your best interest. Always have your finances updated and keep a regular check on your money owed and money earned. Cataloguing each can save you lots of heartache later. Knowing your cash flow will help you keep your mind on the ultimate goal of your company.
  • Making Poor Hiring Decisions – Your team is one of your more important assets at your company. One bad hire can mean your business downfall. Hire for skill, talent and intelligence rather than convenience or pay scale.
  • Poor Management – There is a balancing act between laissez-faire managing and micromanaging your company. Learn to balance by delegating and relying on experienced managers.
  • Failing to do Research – New business leaders need to be aware of the changing market, sales, and the ins and outs of your competitors by researching completely. A dedicated development team can keep you up-to-date if you have the wallet for a team member who can keep you informed.
  • Failing to Create a Business Plan – A great plans need to be changed and adjusted but failing to start with a goal and steps in the process can be deadly for a new business leader. Always have your eye on the goia whether it is long term or short term.

 

Business Plan Elements

Being an entrepreneur of a small or medium sized business means that you need to have a broad range of skills and the right people on your team to make a successful run at starting your own company. Part of the success in the first few years of any new business can be tied back to the details and pre-planning of the main elements of a business plan.  Here are the critical main elements that every business plan should have as well as some tips to get you started on the right foot.

According to Entrepreneur Online, there are seven key parts to any business plan. Each part is fairly complex and needs to be planned and executed carefully.

  • Executive Summary – In the words of the entrepreneur, what is this business all about and what is the main product/service that will be offered? Where does this business fit in to the industry? This should be short and to the point in very professional language. Within this summary should be: a description of the business concept and an overview of the financials that relate to the company. Include an outlook of major achievements and goals for the first year(s).
  • Company Description – Start by describing the industry that you are joining and how your company will fit into or make its mark on that industry. Be sure to include in the description the structure of the company as well as the legal form that it will take. Give specifics of how your company will have the edge over its competitors.
  • Products/Services– In this section, describe in detail your service or product. Emphasize how your product or service is unique. Show how your company will do or sell things in its own way and differentiate from competitors.
  • Market Analysis-This section should illustrate your knowledge about the particular industry your business is in. Explain your target audience and how pricing, distribution and marketing strategies will make your company profitable within a competitive environment.
  • Strategy and Implementation – Explain your marketing strategy from traditional print and store front strategies to the complex strategies that come with your website, social media and paid advertising.
  • Organization and Management Team – Describe in detail how your company will be structured. Who are the key members of the team and who will be responsible for what?  Allow for evolution of this section as things may change throughout the growth and success of the company.
  • Financial Plan and Projections – Develop financial projections that look one year, three years and five years into the future.  This section will probably need the most revision as the industry and market fluctuates.

Patents Basics

Inspiration is a wonderful thing. It has led to inventions and progress in so many fields. Do you have an idea for your business and want to get the idea or innovation patented? The process for filing for a patent can get a bit tedious so, do your homework and understand what issues may lie ahead of you. We also suggest discussing your case with a patent attorney.

According to Entreprenuership.org a patent grants inventors the right to exclude others from making, using, selling (or offering to sell) or importing their inventions throughout the United States for a limited period of time. To obtain a patent, the inventor submits his or her application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (known as the “USPTO”).

There are three main types of patents:

  1. Utility Patents –  Almost any product, process, or ornamental design that is new, useful, and non-obvious is patentable. What we normally think of as a patent is known as a “utility” patent, because it covers the usefulness of a product—the way it operates, what it produces, what it does, etc.

  2. Design Patents- Design patents protect the ornamental design or appearance of an article (i.e., they do not protect aspects of a product that are functional). A few examples of designs that may be protected by design patents include the ornamental aspects of furniture, packaging, shoes, game boards, and fonts.

  3. Plant Patents (used less frequently) are for certain new varieties of plants that have been asexually reproduced, for a term of 17 years.

As a business owner, you will most likely be filing for a utility or design patent. The registration process includes: a clear and concise description of the company’s declaration that it is the original and sole inventor, written drawings (where necessary) of the invention, filing fees; and, one or more of the company’s “claims” of exclusivity. Be sure to be very specific in your documentation as you must prove that you are the first to do something or make something like this. The United States Patent Office has a complete list of patent laws and resources. Please,  follow the link above. 

BLS Provider CPR (1-day Initial or Renewal Course, multiple sessions available)

(Initial or Renewal Course based on the 2015 AHA Guidelines)
Basic Life Support (BLS) is the foundation for saving lives after cardiac arrest. This course teaches both single-rescuer and team basic life support skills for application in both in-facility and prehospital settings. This course is designed for healthcare professionals and other personnel who need to know how to perform CPR and other basic cardiovascular life support skills.

In addition, BLS training can be appropriate for first responders, such as police officers and firefighters, as well as for laypeople whose work brings them into contact with members of the public, such as school, fitness center, or hotel and restaurant employees.

Students must pass a written exam and skills test in order to qualify for a BLS Course Completion Card.
Upon successful completion of this course, students will receive a completion cad valid for 2 years.

Conveniently scheduled on Saturday, please choose the session that works best for you.

REGISTER NOW!

Kickstart your Start Up

Starting a new business can be exhausting with the intricate planning, making financial decisions, and filling out the appropriate legal paperwork and licenses. But, embarking on a new business venture can be exhilarating as well. How do young entrepreneurs walk that fine line between being exhilarated and exhausted? Experts say that they kick off their start up with some common strategies that will take them on the path to success. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

  • Plan on Doing a lot of Planning – Create a simple business plan that includes your vision, mission, goals (both short and long term), strategies and an action plan. Break down your goals into smaller goals before you take on too much. The U.S. Small Business Administration has template and strategies to making the most of your planning stage and Business Plan stage.
  • Assess Your Finances – How are you going to afford to run your business? What sort of financing have you secured? Startups requiring a lot more funding up front may want to consider an investor.
  • Define your Legal Structure – What kind of entity is your business? If you own the business entirely by yourself and plan to be responsible for all debts and obligations, you can register for a sole proprietorship. Alternatively, a partnership, as its name implies, means that two or more people are held personally liable as business owners. If you want to separate your personal liability from your company’s liability, you may want to consider forming one of several different types of corporations.
  • Register Your Business Name – Naming your business is an important branding exercise, but if you choose to name your business as anything other than your own personal name then you’ll need to register it with the appropriate authorities.
  • Obtain Permits and Licenses – Get a list of federal, state and local licenses and permits required for your business. Read More 
  • Register for Tax Identification Purposes – Register with your state to obtain a tax identification number, workers’ compensation, unemployment and disability insurance.
  • Build Your Team – Define what positions you will need to kick start your company and then find the best and the brightest.
  • Grow Your Business – In order to make a profit and stay afloat, you always need to be growing your business. Reinvesting and making connections are a great way to get started on this. Stay active on social media platforms, take part in networking groups and keep your brand in the forefront in your community.

How to Grow Your Small Business

So you started your own business? Each sale, each new client and each business connection you make grows your small business just as you dreamed right? But maybe you want to continue to broaden your client base.  There are many options to consider when thinking about expanding and growing your small business no matter what field you are in.

What are some of the most effective small business expansion tips to grow a business beyond its current status? Let’s take a closer look at steps you may want to initiate to grow your small business. 

  • Social Media – If you are looking for a fairly cost effective and easy way to reach more of your targeted audience try a social media campaign. Do some research on which social media platform attracts your  demographic and start posting in that medium. The more your name is seen the better.  Social media can be an invaluable tool for engaging with consumers and expanding your brand recognition.
  • Open Another Location – This is often the first way business owners approach growth. If you feel confident that your current business location is under control, consider expanding by opening a new location.

  • Merge With or Acquire Other Businesses in Your Market – There are bound to be other companies in your field who may have similar goals. Explore merging, partnering or possibly even acquiring those companies as a way to expand. 

  • Stay Competitive – Technology changes so rapidly these days that it would be easy to be left behind if your new company does not keep up with the latest and greatest technology. This is especially true if your company is in anyway related to the tech world or relies on technology to provide a product or service.
  • Target Other Markets –  Your current market is serving you well. Are there others? Probably. Use your imagination to determine what other markets could use your product.
  • License Your Product –  This can be an effective, low-cost growth medium, particularly if you have a service product or branded product

  • Diversify –  Small-business consultant McGuckin offers several ideas for diversifying your product or service line:

    • Sell complementary products or services
    • Teach adult education or other types of classes
    • Import or export yours or others’ products
    • Become a paid speaker or columnist

Keys to Developing a Successful Business Plan

 

Every successful business needs a solid foundation. That foundation usually comes in the form of clearly set and articulated goals to guide the business. A business plan articulates those goals and serves as a compass for most businesses. This living document generally projects 3-5 years ahead and outlines the route a company intends to take to grow revenues. How, then,  do business leaders create a successful business plan that will guide the company from its fledgling days into years of prosperity? Here are some suggestions and tips from those that have come before you on this journey.

 

  • Before drafting your business plan decide on your goals both short and long term.
  • Put your goals to the S.M.A.R.T. test. ISMART is an acronym that asks if your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. It’s a simple tool used by businesses to go beyond the realm of fuzzy goal-setting into an actionable plan for results. If you have not heard of this method of analysis Google SMART planning and get started.
  • Find a guide that can help you draft your business plan. For example the US Small Business Association has comprised a step-by-step process to write your business plan. Entrepreneur Magazine has written a comprehensive site that helps young business leaders get started in the right path.
  • Consider all the major categories that you will need to cover in your business plan.  Some of the following aspects may need the assistance of experts or professionals who have experience in starting up a small or medium sized business.

 

Executive Summary – A snapshot of your business plan as a whole.

Company Description – A brief description of what you do and how you differentiate your company from others in your field. You may want to include a thorough description of what you sell or what your specific services will be.

Financial Aspects – This section should include how the company will be financed and projections into the future.

Marketing Analysis – Include the research that you have conducted on your field and where your company would fit into to the overall picture.

Business Organization – Discuss how your company will be organized with management and leadership.

 

Business planning should never be done in a vacuum so plan who you want to include in your pre-launch discussions. These choices can help set your company off in the right direction.

Steps to Starting a Successful Business

Did you know that approximately 543,000 new businesses get started each month? According to the Washington Post nearly half of those will fail within the first five years. This is a staggering number. Are you considering starting a new business venture and are frightened at the possibility of failure? One of the best things you can do is research what others have done to be successful in launching a new business. Here are just a few ideas compiled from the professionals at the U.S. Small Business Association, Forbes Magazine and Entrepreneur.

  • Plan, Plan, Plan – “Planning carefully before launching a new business is not limited to preparing a business plan”, says Bruce Bachenheimer, clinical professor of management and director of the Entrepreneurship Lab at Pace University in New York City. While writing a business plan is certainly helpful, the real value is not in having the finished product in hand, but rather in the process of researching and thinking about your business in a systematic way.
  • Know the Market – This goes hand-in-hand with creating a comprehensive business plan. Ask questions, conduct research or gain experience to help you learn your market inside and out, including the key suppliers, distributors, competitors and customers.
  • Make the Right Contacts – Get in touch with people who can assist you all along the way. The U.S. Small Business Association has helped many business people launch successful businesses. They even have a step-by-step program to follow and experts to guide you. Read More.
  • Cash Flow and Financing – While there is not enough room in this blog to get into the nuances of financing your new venture, be sure to have all your ducks in a row including understanding your cash flow, how to keep costs low and where to turn if you need financial help in a bind. Entrepreneur online offers that they have, “Never seen a startup business where expenses were at least 30 percent more than initially planned or anticipated, and revenues are at least that much less.”
  • Have your Marketing Plan Ready to Fly – Too many new businesses are focused on the plan, financial issues or other issues to get the marketing plan set to roll the moment they are on the ground. Be prepared with a website, social media marketing, digital marketing  and traditional marketing methods to kick off your new business.