/Nellie Akalp
Nellie Akalp

About Nellie Akalp

Nellie Akalp is an entrepreneur, small business expert, speaker, and mother of four amazing kids. As CEO of CorpNet.com, she has helped more than half a million entrepreneurs launch their businesses. Akalp is nationally recognized as one of the most prominent experts on small business legal matters, contributing frequently to outlets like Entrepreneur, Forbes, Huffington Post, Mashable, and Fox Small Business. A passionate entrepreneur herself, Akalp is committed to helping others take the reigns and dive into small business ownership. Through her public speaking, media appearances, and frequent blogging, she has developed a strong following within the small business community and has been honored as a Small Business Influencer Champion three years in a row.

Four Ways Busy Entrepreneurs Can Show Their Loved Ones They Care

Although Valentine’s Day has passed, it doesn’t mean the time has expired for us busy business owners to show our family and friends we love them. Building and nurturing relationships never goes out of season. And now more than ever, with the divide among people getting wider as the political and social climate becomes ever more heated, I believe we all need to step up our efforts to show we care.

But when you’re an entrepreneur bogged down with countless tasks and multiple concerns on your mind, how can you mange all that AND show your people some love?

That’s challenging for all business owners—whether you’re starting a business or have been running one for years.

I’ve found the key is to plan ahead and make a conscious effort every day.

Some ideas for ways you can show your loved ones you care despite your hectic schedule include:

  • Break bread with them. Although it may be tempting to work through lunches and dinners, set time aside to dine with your significant other and/or family and reconnect. You will likely find you’re more productive and mentally alert after breaking away and spending time with them.
  • Listen to their concerns and challenges—even when you’re inundated with your own. They need you! And I always find it’s therapeutic to lend an ear and know you’ve made someone’s day better by just being there to hear what’s weighing them down.
  • Schedule one-on-one time. Whether a romantic rendezvous with your spouse, a shopping trip to the mall with your teen, or an hour at the local café with your best friend, schedule time to communicate one on one. When you’re dealing with daunting deadlines and a never-ending list of to-dos at the office, it may be the only way to ensure you and your loved ones have alone time together.
  • Embrace the power of “it’s the little things that matter.” Whether it’s stopping at the local convenience store on your way home to buy them their favorite ice cream or giving them a big hug “just because,” realize even the smallest gestures of caring can demonstrate your love in a big way. Best of all, this can literally require only seconds or minutes out of your jam-packed day.

The Difference It Makes

When you make the time and effort to give your loved ones the attention they deserve, everyone wins. They will feel needed and cared for, and you will feel better about yourself and less personally stressed because you’re not neglecting the people who matter. I find it also helps me maintain a positive attitude in my work. When your personal life has harmony, your mind has greater peace and can more fully focus on doing what it takes to make your business succeed.

Want more time to show your loved ones you care? Free up more time by using CorpNet.com to prepare and submit your business filings. Contact us today to save you time—and money!

You Can’t Put Your Heart Into Your Business If You Don’t Show Yourself Some Love, Too.

With Valentine’s Day finally here, February is perfect for reflecting on and celebrating how committed you’ve been to your entrepreneurial endeavors. It’s also an ideal time to assess how well you’ve been taking care of yourself.

As a small business owner, you likely work long hours, eat many meals on the fly (if at all!), regularly forfeit a good night’s sleep, and pass on countless invitations to enjoy activities outside of work. While those sacrifices may seem as though they’ll make you more productive and your business more successful, ultimately they can have the opposite effect.

I urge you to realize YOU are the most important asset your business has. And if you run yourself ragged, ignoring the needs of your mind and body, your business will suffer. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but eventually your entrepreneurial effectiveness will deteriorate due to your self-neglect.

As we celebrate the month of amore, how about showing yourself some love while you’re showing others affection?

To refresh your memory on how to do that, here are some ideas:

  • Get away.

Working non-stop can leave you frazzled and resentful. Even if for only a half-day, plan an escape from the grind. During your getaway, indulge in an activity you love whether it’s catching the latest blockbuster on the big screen or getting pampered at a spa.

  • Eat quality foods.

What you eat affects how you look and feel—which in turn impacts your self-confidence and energy level. I’m not saying you shouldn’t partake in some Valentine’s Day chocolates (I certainly intend to!), but don’t turn a holiday-inspired splurge into a chronic bad habit. Fuel your body and mind with healthful foods that offer the nutrition you need to perform at your peak.

  • Get moving.

Nothing can bust stress better than working out. Whether powerwalking on the treadmill, a Pilates session, or pumping iron is your thing, carve out time to treat your body right.

  • Take five.

If getting away from it all for an extended period isn’t entirely possible, at the very least squeeze in short breaks throughout the day. They will give you opportunities to refresh your mind, regain focus, and, if necessary, adjust your attitude.

  • Say No.

Many entrepreneurs have a difficult time with this—and it’s to their detriment. I know, because I’m one of them! When you have an innate desire to help others, saying “no” to taking on tasks and responsibilities doesn’t come naturally. But if you say “yes” to every request, you’ll shortchange your ability to fulfill your existing priorities. Avoid overextending yourself by mastering the art of saying “no.”

Don’t treat tending to your own physical and mental well-being an afterthought. Make a conscious effort to show yourself some love this month, and make it a priority every month and year going forward.

Foreign Qualifying your Business – FAQs

Happy February! With winter now in full swing, we will be talking about a way to get away from the cold with Foreign Qualifying! This month, we discuss the opportunities of Foreign Qualification into another state and what the requirements are for those states.

 

Q: What is foreign qualification?

A: A corporation or LLC transacting business in a state(s) outside of their state of incorporation is typically required to foreign qualify in those other states.

 

Q: What constitutes transacting business in another state and when do I need to foreign qualify?

A: As examples, your company is considered to be transacting business in an additional state if…

  • You have a physical presence in the state
  • You have employees in the state
  • You accept orders in the state
  • You have a bank account in the state

State rules vary and this isn’t a complete list. If you have any questions about whether you need to foreign qualify in a state, you can speak with an attorney.

 

Q: If I incorporated in Delaware or Nevada (but don’t live/work there), does this mean I need to foreign qualify in my own state?

A: Delaware is often chosen as the state of incorporation, especially by larger companies, because it has the most developed and flexible corporate statutes in the country and is considered pro-business.  Nevada has also become popular because of its lack of state corporate income tax, franchise tax and personal income tax.  It also has relatively low fees.

However, if you incorporate out-of-state, such as in Delaware or in Nevada, but do much of your business in your home state, you will most likely need to foreign qualify in your own state. You will then be subject to the same fees, taxes and regulations as if you had incorporated there in the first place, and you will have paid filing fees (and, perhaps franchise taxes) to more than one state.

Example: If you have a small business and are going to be conducting a substantial amount of your business in California, it will likely be beneficial to incorporate in the state of California. If you incorporate out-of-state, such as in Delaware or in Nevada, but do much of your business in California, you will have to foreign qualify in the state of California. You will then be subject to the same fees, taxes and regulations as if you had incorporated in the California in the first place, and you will have paid state filing fees (and, perhaps franchise taxes) not only in the state of California but also to the state of Delaware or Nevada as well.

 

Q: What is the process to foreign qualify?

A: You will need to file a Certificate of Authority, which grants a foreign corporation/LLC permission to transact business in a state. In most cases, you will need to show a Certificate of Good Standing from your state of incorporation/formation in order to get a Certificate of Authority.

 

Do you have a question regarding Foreign Qualifications? Call the CorpNet.com team today for a free business consultation at: 888.449.2638

 

 

What Every Small Business Should Know About 1099s

Every year when tax time rolls around, I field questions from business owners about whether or not they need to send 1099s to their vendors. As common as 1099 forms are, they remain one of the most misunderstood Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requirements.

To make sure you understand the circumstances under which the IRS requires issuing 1099-MISC forms to vendors, I’m going to provide some basic “must-know” information here.

What Is A Form 1099-MISC?

You must issue an IRS Form 1099-MISC to each person you’ve paid $600 or more in services (including parts and materials), prizes and awards, rents or other income payments. The 1099-MISC only applies to payments you made in doing business; it does not apply to payments made for personal purposes.

To Whom Do You Need To Send A Form 1099-MISC?

If your business paid more than $600 to a vendor or sub-contractor [individual, partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Limited Partnership (LP), or estate], you are required to send a Form 1099-MISC to document what you paid them throughout the year. In general, anyone who worked for you—other than your employees—will need a 1099 from you.

Also, unless an exception applies to them, you need to issue a 1099 to your landlord if you are paying rent for business purposes. You must also issue a 1099-MISC to your attorney if you paid for legal services that amounted to more than $600 during the year.

Are There Any Exceptions?

There are. The list is rather long, but most commonly these types of vendors do not get 1099-MISC forms:

Also, you don’t have to send 1099-MISC forms to vendors to whom you made your payments via a credit card, debit card, gift card, or a payment network like PayPal. The onus to report vendor compensation is on those payment companies.

How Do You Figure Out If A Vendor Needs A 1099 From You?

I recommend before you request vendors to do any work for you, ask them for a completed W-9 form. The W-9 will give you all the information you need for filing taxes. It supplies a vendor’s mailing information, Tax ID numbers, and business structure (so you’ll know if the vendor is incorporated or not and does or does not need a 1099).

When Is the Deadline To Send 1099s?

By January 31, 2017, you must do two things to comply with your 2016 tax year 1099 obligations:

  • Submit Form 1099 to each vendor (reflecting what you paid that vendor in 2016).
  • Submit a copy of the Forms 1099 you sent to each vendor, along with a Form 1096 that discloses in total what you paid to all vendors who received 1099s from you.

Make sure you check on your state’s rules, too. Some states require they also receive your 1099s.

What Happens If You Miss The Deadline? 

Sending the required 1099-MISC forms late (or not at all) could cost you. The penalties vary depending on how far past the deadline you wait to issue the forms. If your business had gross receipts of $5 million or less, the amount you’re smacked with could range anywhere $50 to $260 per form (for tax years 2016 and 2017). If you’re caught intentionally not providing a payee with a correct statement for tax year 2016, you could face a fine of $520 for each form not submitted (that amount will increase to $530 for tax year 2017).

Where Can You Get 1099 Forms?

Unfortunately, you cannot download 1099 Forms from the IRS website. You can, however, order them from the IRS site and have them mailed to you, or you can pick them up at an IRS service center, post office, or another location that supplies them.

Eliminate Headaches—Do It Right From The Start!

Whether you’re in the early stages of launching a startup or already running a small business, I recommend you talk with a tax professional who can share more details about 1099s and the other aspects of filing your tax returns.

Starting a business or ready to change your current business structure? Contact us about making the registration process hassle-free and as fast as possible. We’re here to handle all of your legal document filing needs!

Five Steps To Becoming An Empowered Woman (Or Man) Business Owner

As a woman business owner, I’ve found that empowerment comes to us in two ways:

1. Access to external sources of inspiration and knowledge

2. Self-respect and self-confidence

You can sit around and wait for someone to empower you, or you can take the bull by the horns and take action to empower yourself. I will always vote for the latter of the two because it gives you more control over your entrepreneurial destiny.

Although women own nearly 30 percent of U.S. small businesses (according to the Status of Women in the United States website), I find that many of us still struggle with accepting it’s OK to seek empowerment on our own. We often think of it as something that is handed to us. That doesn’t seem very empowering to me!

So, what can women entrepreneurs (and men, too) do to boost our level of empowerment and reach our personal and professional potential?

1. Recognize what knowledge and skills you lack, and find tools and resources to increase your proficiency.

This requires a commitment to honestly assessing your strengths and weaknesses. After you’ve done that, actively seek blogs, books, webinars, podcasts, conferences, mentors, and other resources that will help you get up to speed.

2. Align yourself with positive people (professionally and personally).

I cannot emphasize enough how much this affects morale and motivation. Chronically negative people drain your energy and enthusiasm. When they direct their skepticism and sarcasm at you and your endeavors, they deplete your self-confidence and leave you feeling defeated. As much as possible, minimize your exposure to them so you can fill your life with people who truly care about you and who will encourage rather than discourage you.

3. When you meet people who exude empowerment, ask them if they’ll share their insight about attaining that level of confidence.

I’ve found most people who have an empowered aura about them are immensely gracious and open to sharing about how they’ve helped themselves. I encourage you to reach out to them for inspiration. Even though their approach may not work with precision for you, you will no doubt take away some valuable ideas to apply in your own quest for empowerment.

4. Start the day on a note of gratitude.

I make it a point to devote a few minutes every day to consciously thinking about everything I have to be thankful for. What better way to get a positive start? It immediately puts me in the right frame of mind for dealing with whatever work and life will bring my way. This is so simple to do. I dare you to find an excuse as to why you can’t try this!

5. Acknowledge that mistakes and setbacks happen.

Because they will. The good news is they won’t make you a failure unless you dwell on them. Get beyond goofs and misfortunes by treating them as lessons learned and by remaining agile so you can shift gears and move in a new positive and productive direction.

6.  Don’t be afraid to say “no” or voice your position. 

If people ask too much of you, learn to say “no.” Overextending yourself will create excess stress and pull you away from what really matters. Also, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion when you disagree adamantly about something. Although initially you might meet criticism, in the long run you’ll gain more respect. Most importantly, you’ll respect yourself—and that is mission critical for feeling empowered.

Empowerment Begins With Embracing Its Power

Whether you’re a female or male entrepreneur and regardless of whether you’re just starting a business or have been running your company for years, empowerment wields great power. I urge you to embrace its potential to help you mold your vision and achieve your goals and dreams.

Providing legal document filing services at affordable rates, CorpNet.com helps business owners save time and money. Empower yourself by knowing your business registration and compliance filings are in capable hands. Contact us today!

Should You Buy A Business Or Start One From Scratch?

Hope your New Year is off to a great start! As you’re looking to make 2017 a year of prosperity, have you set your sights on becoming a business owner? If so, you’re probably wondering whether buying an existing business or starting your own company will offer the best chances of success.

Both have their advantages and challenges, so how do you choose? I wish there were an easy answer, but I’m afraid you’ll need to do some research and put some serious thought into your decision. As you explore your options, consider the following pros and cons of starting a business from scratch and buying an established one.

Pros Of Starting From Scratch
• You begin with a squeaky clean slate, establishing and building your brand reputation from Day 1.
• You build your team fresh and new, selecting the right people for the right positions.
• You create your workflows to maximize productivity, without having any inefficient past processes to “fix.”
• You choose and develop the products, services, and packages you’ll offer to your customers.
• You establish your pricing to ensure profitability from the start.
• You choose your business’s legal structure to ensure the degree of liability protection you need and the most favorable tax situation.

Pros Of Buying A Business
• You have customers and incoming revenue immediately.
• You have employees who already know how to do their jobs and don’t need training.
• You have built-in processes and systems to operate your business efficiently.
• Your services and products are already to market, and you have established sales channels to get them into customers’ hands.
• Your business is already registered and has the necessary permits and licenses to operate legally in your state.

Cons Of Starting From Scratch
• You do all the legwork, including researching the registration requirements to form an LLC or incorporate your business and filing your state, federal, and local paperwork to operate legally.
• You don’t know for certain that your business idea will be viable and sustainable.
• You have to develop and put into place all the internal systems and processes needed to operate your business.

Cons Of Buying A Business
• Existing employees may be resistant to accept your leadership.
• If you find processes aren’t working efficiently, it may be difficult to initiate change because everyone is used to doing things a certain way.
• You may discover the legal business structure the former owners selected isn’t ideal.
• You may find your brand’s reputation isn’t as positive as you’d like it to be—that might be difficult to turn around.

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about as you weigh the options of starting your own business or purchasing one that is already up and running. I advise you to do your homework before deciding which route to travel. And consider seeking the guidance of respected and reputable professionals (attorneys, accountants, business consultants, etc.) who can help you understand the financial and legal aspects of what’s involved.

Remember, whether you’re starting a business or opt to buy and run one that’s already established, CorpNet is here to assist you with all your business registration and compliance obligations. Contact us today to help you take care of your filings so you can take care of business!

 

 

Dos And Don’ts When Transferring Leadership Responsibilities: Lessons To Learn From Obama and Trump

Changes in leadership don’t always happen seamlessly—or amicably. As is evident with the imminent transfer of leadership from President Obama to President-Elect Donald Trump, many factors influence how smoothly (or not) a change in authority will happen.

Whether you’re taking over running a business or handing over the reins to your responsibilities to someone else, expect some bumps in the road. But be careful not to become a source of agitation and dissent through the process. This recent presidential election, which has been simultaneously entertaining and frustrating at times, can teach us some valuable lessons about what to do and what not to do during a leadership transition.

 

Lessons Learned From Obama and Trump: The Dos And Don’ts Of Changing Leaders

  • Don’t undermine the capabilities of either the incoming or outgoing leader.

If you’re the new boss in town, bad-mouthing the outgoing person in charge won’t sit well with those loyal to their incumbent leader. And if you’re the one passing the baton, lack of confidence in the new leader will create distrust and distract employees from performing to their potential. To minimize the stress your team may already be feeling over the change, resist the impulse to undercut the qualities and strengths of one another

  • Don’t expect everyone to be enamored with the change.

While some of your staff members might be excited about the new era ahead, you can bet others will be anxious, annoyed, or angry—possibly all three. Prepare to bear the brunt of their harsh criticism whether you’re the new leader or the one leaving your post.

  • Don’t underestimate the power of words.

I saw a quote online that really resonates with me, “Words are free. It’s how you use them that may cost you.” Keep this in mind as you navigate the challenges of handing over or accepting leadership responsibilities. Through this recent presidential election, we’ve seen how choosing and using words reactively can create animosity and negativity. Before speaking and before writing, pause to think about your words and choose them carefully before you share them with business colleagues, employees, vendors, customers, and the public at large.

  • Do show enthusiasm for continued progress toward common goals.

Find points of agreement where you and the other leader can demonstrate unity. Sure, you may not see eye to eye about plenty of things related to how the business should be run, but now isn’t the time to dwell on that. Your employees need to have some sense of consistency and common ground.

  • Do provide/accept information and insight to make the transition fluid.

As the outgoing leader, be cooperative by openly sharing essential information with the new leader so she can more adeptly step into your shoes. As the new leader, be open and receptive to the insight the outgoing leader has to share. Put ego aside and realize your predecessor has knowledge and experience that can help you lead more effectively.

 

Your Top Priority As A Leader

Both outgoing and incoming leaders have one thing in common: a job to do! Pointing fingers, making snarky remarks, and stirring up drama will only distract you from doing right by those who work in your business and those who do business with your company. If you keep that in mind through every step of the process, the transfer of leadership will go much more smoothly.

 

Remember, Corpnet.com is here to help leaders of businesses in all industries take care of the business filings needed to legally run their companies. Check out our FREE Corporate Compliance Tool, and contact us today about how we can save you time and money.

 

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By | January 13th, 2017|Corporate & Business Law, Entrepreneuring|0 Comments

To-Dos When Starting a Part-Time Business

So you’re not ready to quit your “day job,” but you want to start a business? Many entrepreneurs dip their toes to test the waters by launching their businesses part-time. In some ways, it’s the best of both worlds; you pursue your dream of business ownership while still bringing home a steady paycheck.

Although there are some considerations unique to starting a business part-time, you’ll find other aspects are the same as when starting a company full-time.

For example, you have to take the necessary steps to operate your business legally.

 

  1. Make sure you can legally use your business name.

Either check your state’s Secretary of State database or do a corporate name search to see if anyone else has registered the name you want. I also advise using CorpNet’s free trademark search tool to see if someone has already filed for a trademark on the name.

  1. Select a business structure.

By default, your business will be considered a sole proprietor unless you file for a different legal structure. Operating as a sole proprietorship offers simplicity, but it does not separate your personal and business finances and liabilities. That means if your business is sued, your personal assets might be in jeopardy.

I recommend considering formally registering your business by either forming an LLC (Limited Liability Company) or incorporating (C Corporation or S Corporation) to protect yourself. Doing so shields your personal assets from the liabilities of your company.

Before talking with an attorney for guidance, you can start learning about the advantages of different business structures by using CorpNet’s Business Structure Wizard.

Note that the different structures offer different taxation pros and cons, so I suggest also talking with an accounting or tax professional to explore which structure will work best for you in that respect.

  1. Register your business name.

When you form an LLC or incorporate your business in your state, registration of your name automatically happens. However, if you choose to operate as a sole proprietor and want to use a fictitious name for your company, you must register your business name by filing a Doing Business As (DBA). Don’t skip this step! It will allow you to operate your business under that name in your state and it will prevent other sole proprietors in your state from using that name.

  1. Get the licenses and permits you need.

Depending on the type of business you’re operating and where you’re located, you may have to secure licenses and permits to legally run your business. Federal, state, county, and/or local licenses and permits might apply to you. To avoid costly penalties and fines, research which permits and licenses you need to have to legally run your business.

 

Part-time Doesn’t Mean You Should Approach It Half-Heartedly.

Aside from the legal considerations in starting your part-time business, keep these things in mind, as well:

  • Know your limits.

There are only so many hours in each day, so carefully assess your capacity to work in and on your business before jumping in.

  • Make sure there’s no conflict of interest or legal restrictions.

Check with your employer about any rules that would prevent you from starting and operating your type of business while still on that company’s payroll.

  • Take it seriously.

Although you may still be working for someone else in your other job, you’ll need to give your part-time business serious time and energy if you ever want to make it a full-time endeavor.

 

Need Help Getting Your Part-time Startup Off The Ground?

If you’re planning to give part-time entrepreneurship a go, CorpNet is here to help you take care of all the business filings required to legally launch and run your business. Contact us today to make sure your part-time business has all of its registration paperwork submitted accurately and on time.

By | January 11th, 2017|Running A Small Business, Starting a Business|2 Comments

Ready Or Not – Is Your Business Prepared For 2017?

Congratulations on what I hope has been another prosperous year for your business! With 2016 coming to a close, now is the time to reflect on your successes and what you still need to do to make sure you’re set to make the upcoming year better than ever.

Do you have all of your business’s end-of-year responsibilities wrapped up?

Here’s a list of questions I recommend you ask yourself, so you can identify what you still need to take care of before the New Year begins:

  1. Have you organized all your accounting and tax records?

Tax time can be painstaking enough without needing to dig through a disorderly pile of receipts, invoices, and other paperwork. The more organized you are with your income, expense, charitable giving, past tax returns, W-9s, 1099s, etc., the less time and fewer headaches you’ll have when working with your accountant or tax preparer.

  1. Did you prepare and approve your 2017 budget?

Having a budget for the upcoming year can help steer your finances in a positive direction. Your budget will help you establish limits on expenses related to the various areas of your business. By identifying what you expect to spend throughout the year and how much revenue you expect to take in, you can more quickly recognize what has gone amiss if profitability isn’t where you want it to be.

  1. Is your marketing plan in place for the New Year?

Just as your budget can guide your business’s finances, your marketing plan will provide a roadmap that drives which strategies and tactics you’ll use to promote your business. And it will help ensure you schedule time to execute them. From printing advertising materials to engaging on social media to creating website content to exhibiting at trade shows to launching email campaigns, your marketing plan should identify all of the ways you intend to get your business in front of prospective customers.

  1. Have you assessed your need for new hires?

If you had a difficult time growing your business this year because you were understaffed, maybe it’s time to add employees. It will take some time to create job descriptions, determine wages/salaries (and put them in your budget!), and work through the other considerations that go along with hiring, so begin now. That way you’ll be able to begin accepting resumes and interviewing candidates as early as possible in the New Year.

  1. Have you reviewed your business structure to make sure it’s still the right fit?

If you’d sleep better at night with a greater degree of liability protection or if your business’s tax situation isn’t ideal, it may be time to change the legal structure you selected for your business. This is especially true for sole proprietors. Either forming an LLC or incorporating your business will separate your personal assets from those of your company. So personally, you will have limited liability if your company were to be sued. That means your home, vehicle, savings accounts, etc. will have more protection than if you continued to operate your business as a sole proprietorship.

You can use our Business Structures Wizard as a resource to help determine which structure might be best in your situation. Before making a decision about changing your business structure, however, I recommend talking with an attorney and tax professional to make sure you understand all the pros and cons of each option.

Ready Or Not—The New Year Is Near

How did you fare after answering the above questions? If you’ve discovered you’re not quite prepared for 2017, I say, “Better late than never!” Try to schedule some time between now and the end of the year to tackle at least a few of the to-dos. A little work now can go a long way toward putting your business on the right path in the New Year.

Planning to change your business structure in 2017? Don’t deal with the hassle of completing and submitting all the paperwork on your own. At CorpNet we’re here to take that off of your plate, so you can spend your time and energy growing your business. Contact us today!

By | December 20th, 2016|Business Checklists|2 Comments

5 Ways to Keep On Top of Your Accounting

A small business lives or dies by its cash flow. If you’re not staying on top of your accounting, you could be making significant mistakes that can derail business growth. Failing to reconcile your business bank accounts, not keeping track of income and expenses, or waiting to apply payments to open receivables leads to incomplete or incorrect accounting information.

Business accounting doesn’t have to be an onerous task. With the right mindset, tools, and support, you can stay on top of your accounting and keep accurate track of your business’ income and expenses. These five tips will help you manage your numbers even if you’re not a ‘numbers’ person, and keep careful track of your accounting data.

Five Ways to Handle Small Business Accounting

  1. Hire an accountant: Some business owners have neither the time nor the inclination to complete their own accounting tasks. For these business owners, hiring an accountant makes sense. Look for a local accountant so it’s convenient to meet with your accountant on a regular basis. Make your accountant’s life easier by collecting all of your paperwork in a folder or envelope, and organizing it before your meetings. Keep track of all expenses, save receipts, and include bank statements and other payment indicators. To find a small business accountant, ask at your Chamber of Commerce or local business meetings, look through local listings, and schedule interviews and appointments with a few to find someone who has the skills and experience you need for your small business accounting needs.
  2. Purchase and use accounting software: There are many excellent small business accounting software packages on the market today. Each can be customized for your business needs. Accounting software makes it easier and simpler to track expenses, apply payments to open receivables, and track customer expenses. If you aren’t sure how to set up your books for the year, speak with a local accountant. Some are certified by accounting software providers such as QuickBooks to teach and manage the software packages and will set up your system for a nominal fee. This service may even be free of charge if you use the same accountant for your taxes and end of year accounting, depending on who you work with. While QuickBooks may be the popular software, there are plenty of alternative options to choose from to fit your business needs.
  3. Set reminders: Common small business accounting mistakes include not updating your books regularly, failing to send invoices on a timely basis, and leaving open invoices unpaid. Set weekly or monthly reminders for accounting tasks. Block and hour or two to update your books regularly and track down unpaid invoices. A simple calendar reminder on your smartphone or in your calendar tool on your computer can help keep you up to date and on-task with your accounting needs.
  4. Set and keep an invoice schedule: Make sure you establish a schedule to invoice customers or clients. Each business owner must evaluate and determine a schedule to invoice customers, but make it a routine to keep your cash flow even and regular. A service provider may send invoices upon completion of the service. Others may choose to invoice customers on the last day of the month or the 15th. The schedule itself does not matter, but having a schedule does. The more you can make invoicing a simple routine, the easier it is to stay on top of it.
  5. Organize your paperwork: By far the biggest hurdle many small business owners have to leap is staying organized. This can be especially problematic for businesses on the go, such as lawn care companies, mobile food trucks, and others who work in a non-traditional office setting. Many items can be organized and stored on your laptop, smartphone or a cloud-based file system such as Google Docs, but others involve paper receipts. These should be stored in a central location until you are ready to tackle your accounting. You don’t need a fancy storage system; a shoebox or an envelope can suffice. Just be sure to use it regularly and store it in a safe place until you are ready to input your data into your accounting software or drop it off at your accountant’s office.

Professional Advice Is Invaluable

Even if you choose the do-it-yourself route and handle your own basic accounting, a yearly ‘checkup’ with a professional accountant or CPA is highly advisable. Small business accountants are both numbers-ninjas and business strategists. They can advise you on how to use accounting software, the latest IRS rules, changes and requirements, state taxation laws, and other issues pertinent to your accounting needs. With a good accountant by your side, you can be sure that your business’ financial information is handled competently.