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Tag Archive | "small-business"

Plan today to generate profits tomorrow



A business plan is an indispensable management and operating tool for using your time, capital and energy the most effectively. This plan of action for building a successful small business examines the environment in which you expect your business to operate, including potential problems, cyclical trends and opportunities.

If you plan to see financing, it is all but certain that a lender will require a business plan as part of the loan application. Putting your objectives in writing as you build a business plan also forces you to think realistically about sales, expenses, and short and long term goals. The more specific and measurable they are, the better. A complete business plan should identify target customers and how you will attract them; timelines for adding staff and infrastructure; approaches to differentiating your products and services from competitors’; and a host of other considerations. Ideally, it will show anyone who sees it that you’ve done your industry research, too.

Every business plan starts with a cover page containing your contact information (vital to loan officers and any other financial backers) and a warning that the document contains private information. The sections that follow include:

  •     Table of contents
  •     Executive summary
  •     Description of the company and its strategy
  •     Overview of the market
  •     Specifics of the product or service
  •     Plan for sales and promotion
  •     Financial issues and projections
  •      Appendix

A business plan benefits startup businesses as well as established enterprises that need to reassess their goals and strategies. SCORE counselors provide free, confidential counseling to help you develop, prepare, and improve a winning business plan.

SCORE’s counselors are ready to help you with any other aspect of your business, whether it is still a dream or has become your livelihood. For the SCORE chapter nearest you or to find a counselor online visit www.scoregr.org.

Get free and confidential counseling with SCORE, 111 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Call (616) 771-0305. Visit our website at www.scoregr.org or email us at score@grandrapids.org.

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Tips to save money and time running your small business


(StatePoint) Being at the helm of a small business can be overwhelming. Whether you’re already your own boss or are thinking of making the leap, these tips from small business owners can help you get organized and boost productivity.

Make it Official

“If you’re thinking of starting a business, the simple act of making business cards will make you feel so much more official,” says Laura Essl, owner of “Blue Eye Brown Eye,” a calligraphy and design service.

Essl, who recently partnered with Staples as part of their #MakeMoreHappen campaign to help small business owners learn about resources to help them get things done, suggests the Staples Copy & Print Center as a go-to destination for business cards, note pads and other customized supplies. Like others too busy to go to the store, she calls their online ordering system and takes advantage of free delivery for orders over $49.99 as “the cherry on top.”

Make the Effort

If you are newly taking a crack at operating a business, you may quickly notice the little things you took for granted as an employee. No longer relying on someone else to provide basics like pens, paper and file folders, it’s important to supply your office cost-efficiently.

Buying supplies haphazardly while you happen to be grocery shopping, for example, as interior designer Anissa Zajac, owner of House Seven was doing at first, is neither a good strategy for staying organized or on-budget.

“I spend most of my time visiting clients and so I don’t need a lot of supplies, but I’ve discovered that making a special trip to an office supplies retailer is well worth it for the money I will save in the long run,” says Zajac.

Get Professional

When working from home, it can be tempting to let things lapse into chaos. But if you video conference, meet with clients or just want to get serious, it’s important to differentiate your home office from your home, at least mentally.

“What I previously called my office was a makeshift desk in my son’s playroom. It worked fine for me, as my requirements and hours were flexible, but now that my husband is working from home and conducting online business meetings and conference calls, we quickly discovered that toys in the background was just not a professional look,” says Shannon Peterson, lifestyle blogger behind “Much Most Darling.”

When upgrading your office, Peterson suggests stretching dollars by taking advantage of resources like the Staples Rewards program, which offers rewards on purchases, cash back on recycled ink cartridges and special coupons and deals. She also points out that you can enjoy further cost-savings when opting for the generic store brand, which, in most cases, is as high quality as name brand alternatives.

More cost and time efficient ideas for small businesses can be found by visiting Staples.com and by following #MakeMoreHappen on social media.

When money and time is tight, as it often is when running a small business, turn to smart strategies to take your business further with fewer resources.

Posted in BusinessComments Off on Tips to save money and time running your small business

Check your tax forms for errors and avoid fines for 2013

TAX-Check-tax-forms(BPT) – Tax season will be here before you know it and businesses everywhere want to handle their reporting quickly, efficiently and on time in order to avoid the penalties and fines associated with missed deadlines. In recent years, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has increased its penalties for misfiled or late tax forms. As a result, it’s more important than ever for leaders of small to mid-sized businesses to stay on top of changes and be doubly vigilant in assembling and reviewing their reporting documents.

As simple as it may seem, one of the most important but least utilized steps to this review is simply double-checking all reporting documents and deadlines. It is vital to double check the information on tax forms for accuracy and be aware of year-end deadlines to prevent errors resulting in fines or other penalties. If filing is not done by the deadline, taxpayers will face failure-to-file penalties.

“Tax season doesn’t have to be a stressful time of the year that starts ulcers for small business leaders,” says Janice Krueger, a tax and reporting expert at Greatland, one of the country’s leading providers of W-2 and 1099 products for business. “A recent study revealed that 39 percent of filers are never certain that they are meeting all the rules and requirements when reporting annually. We want to help alleviate those concerns by informing taxpayers about filing requirements and deadlines, along with the ramifications of errors and/or late filings.”

Many 1099 and W-2 reporting penalties have doubled or even tripled over the past few years and it is increasingly essential that businesses file and complete all wage and income filings on time. Here is a list of filing penalties for W-2 and 1099 forms Greatland believes taxpayers should be aware of this season:

* The penalty for failing to file accurate information on returns is $100 per return.

* The maximum failure-to-file penalty is $1.5 million.

* If returns are filed within 30 days after the due date, the penalty is $30 per return.

* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns within 30 days is $250,000.

* The penalty for filing returns more than 30 days after the due date, but before Aug. 1, is $60 per return.

* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns more than 30 days past the due date, but before Aug. 1, is $500,000.

For small businesses, defined as organizations with annual gross receipts of $5 million or less for the three most recent tax years:

* The maximum failure-to-file penalty is $500,000.

* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns within 30 days after the due date is $75,000.

* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns more than 30 days past the due date, but before Aug. 1, is $200,000.

To make sure your business has all of the accurate information needed, you can find a full list of federal and state filing regulations to remember on Greatland’s W-2 and 1099 fact center website.

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Protect Your Business: Make A Plan

A lack of preparation could easily spell disaster for a business.

(NAPSI)—Despite the many risks small businesses face, many remain unprepared to handle the unexpected. One way they can minimize their risks is to create a Business Continuity Plan.


Scary Numbers

Only 6 percent of small-business owners say they’re not at all confident about being adequately protected against a disaster, according to a survey conducted by Travelers at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce America’s Small Business Summit. That same survey found that 44 percent of small businesses are operating without any type of business continuity plan, a plan designed to keep the business operating after an unexpected event.

That false sense of security and lack of preparation could easily spell disaster for a business. One- quarter of small businesses hit by a major disruption never reopen their doors, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Other data suggests that even if businesses did reopen, most wouldn’t fully recover.


The Solution

A strategic business continuity plan, combined with securing the right insurance coverage, is critical in making sure a business can continue to thrive after a disaster. Policies to consider include a standard multiperil or business owner’s policy and business interruption coverage. Business owners should also talk to their agents about additional options like flood coverage.

Formulating a business continuity plan, depending on the complexity of the business, may only take a few hours and can help ensure a business lasts years after a disaster.

The plan should include everything from important phone numbers of service providers to locations of backup data. For help getting started, business owners can visit www.travelers.com for free tips on developing a plan. These plans can provide the necessary road map to assist in handling a crisis, but they work best when communicated effectively and frequently with employees. Once a business continuity plan is developed, owners should walk employees through different scenarios that can significantly affect a business and explain how to manage the consequences.

Small businesses play a vital role in helping the nation’s economic recovery. Properly protecting a small business through risk management is essential to its long-term survival.



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Claiming the small business health care tax credit

If you are a small employer with fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees that earn an average wage of less than $50,000 a year and you pay at least half of employee health insurance premiums…then there is a tax credit that may put money in your pocket.

The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit is specifically targeted to help small businesses and tax-exempt organizations. The credit can enable small businesses and small tax-exempt organizations to offer health insurance coverage for the first time. It also helps those already offering health insurance coverage to maintain the coverage they already have.

Here is what small employers need to know so they don’t miss out on the credit for tax year 2011:

Qualifying businesses calculate the small business health care credit on Form 8941, Credit for Small Employer Health Insurance Premiums, and claim it as part of the general business credit on Form 3800, General Business Credit, which they would include with their tax return.

Tax-exempt organizations can use Form 8941 to calculate the credit and then claim the credit on Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return, Line 44f.

Businesses that couldn’t use the credit in 2011 may be eligible to claim it in future years. Eligible small employers can claim the credit for 2010 through 2013 and for two additional years beginning in 2014.

For tax years 2010 to 2013, the maximum credit for eligible small business employers is 35 percent of premiums paid and for eligible tax-exempt employers the maximum credit is 25 percent of premiums paid. Beginning in 2014, the maximum credit will go up to 50 percent of qualifying premiums paid by eligible small business employers and 35 percent of qualifying premiums paid by eligible tax-exempt organizations.

Additional information about eligibility requirements and calculating the credit can be found on the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit for Small Employers page of IRS.gov.



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Small business Saturday and Sunday

Everywhere you turn, you hear and see ads and commercials promoting Black Friday specials at the big chain and department stores. But what about the small mom and pop shops—the small businesses—whose survival depends on you shopping there?
Charlie Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, the state’s leading small-business association, is encouraging holiday shoppers to invest in their communities by shopping at small businesses the Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving.
“Black Friday is when a lot of people get up early and line up outside the giant department stores, but if you’re looking for something unique and want to support your community, then you need to shop at small businesses, too,” said Owens.
According to a 2011 report by Ernst & Young, more than 90 percent of all businesses in Michigan are registered as flow-through companies, usually sole proprietorships, partnerships and other small operations.  They account for more than half of all jobs in the state.
“Small businesses drive our economy, and if we’re going to create jobs in this state, we need a healthy small-business community,” said Owens.
“Small and independent business owners are among the most generous supporters of civic groups, local charities, youth sports, school activities and virtually every other form of community activity,” Owens said. “Shopping locally is a way for people to help their friends and neighbors and create jobs and opportunities in our communities.”
Check out the ads and specials in this week’s paper to find small businesses in our area. And check out our website at home page for some Internet-only coupons!

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Choosing A Startup Or Small-Business Phone System

(NAPS)—If the thought of saving time, trouble and money on your company’s phone service rings the bell for you, technology may bring you good news.
You can act, sound and function more like a future Fortune 500 business using the equipment you have—better.

How To Do It

For one thing, you can wed your phone system to software that helps you care for customers and empower your sales team. It can also provide sophisticated auto attendant on-hold music or messaging, record a call on demand and send you your voice mails transcribed in an e-mail.

How It Works

That’s because cloud computing can eliminate hardware and its headaches. The cloud is simply computers connected though the Internet or an intranet with the ability to reach out and retrieve data processed elsewhere by supercomputers. It’s now possible to add business voice service to the cloud—especially when it’s fine-tuned for quality and ease of use. It’s even possible to create different greetings according to the time of day and the day of week.
It works through “VoIP,” which stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol.” In other words, your phone system works over the Internet rather than over traditional phone lines.

What You Get

Other features include:
•    Reports for all incoming and outgoing calls in the system
•    The ability to literally link dozens of phones in dozens of places
•    A dashboard that shows real-time status of co-workers
•    Integration with Outlook or other calendaring
•    A dial-by-name directory
•    Command and control functionality from your smartphone
•    You pick your phones, then plug and play with confidence.

What Others Say

In a recent Microsoft survey, 50 percent of small businesses using the cloud say it improved their bottom line.
It’s all available, without a contract, from Vocalocity.

What Else To Do

Other technologies to consider, say the experts at the U.S. Small Business Administration, include:
•    Accounting software. It lets you see profits and losses at a glance and can help you design and maintain a budget.
•    A calendar system
•    Time-tracking software. It can help you determine which tasks result in profit and which don’t.
•    E-mail management. Stream­lining all your e-mails to one account can help you stay organized.

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