Small Business Tips

April 2017 Archive
Baby Boomers Expected to Lead Business Boom

Baby boomers, those born between the years 1946 and 1964, represent 75 million of the nation’s population. And, in 2008, the first of that generation will hit the early retirement age of 62. Many boomers, however, don’t plan to retire. The new wave of business start-ups that is expected in the next couple of years will probably not be headed-up by 20-somethings as in recent years, but, rather, by potential retirees.

I Dream of Ownership
Of over 2100 people surveyed in a Yahoo poll conducted last year, 55% checked “own my own business” as the work they would prefer to do late in life. And 37% of those plan to start their businesses in the next five years. Ten percent of the general population owns their own business and, as a basis of comparison, 16% of baby boomers do. They make up 54% of all business owners.

Is there something in the water these days that has caused the boomers to keep on working through their golden years? You could say that. Many have a love of labor (who would of thought). But overwhelmingly it is their desire to be free and independent. Baby boomers are known to have what is called a “Peter Pan Complex.” They reject growing old in the traditional fashion, instead seeking new stimulations and challenges in their lives.

I can’t help but think about those commercials for retirement investments that talk about how, these days, retirees are looking at retirement in a whole new way. Instead of sitting in the rocking chair watching TV and darning socks, boomers reaching retirement age are taking motorcycle trips across country, skydiving, and just overall living the life they always wanted to. Why not add starting a business doing something you love to the list?

Want-to or Have-to?
Many boomers are going into business for themselves at retirement age out of necessity rather than desire. It’s the only way they will have an income during the latter part of their life. An unfortunate 90% of 45-54 year olds have less than $250,000 saved up for retirement. That equates to less than $10,000 annually to live on for 30 years.

You may be asking what the baby boomers have to offer that can lend to their success as entrepreneurs. Well, the typical stereotype associated with those reaching retirement age generally doesn’t apply to the boomer generation.

Baby Boomers:
1. are better educated that previous retiree generations.
2. are more willing to take on challenges.
3. have more funds available that younger entrepreneurs because they typically don’t have kids at home to support and have their mortgage paid off.
4. have more time available to develop their business correctly.
5. have years of experience in the real world.
6. have a vast network of connections from, frankly, years of being a part of this world.

I can’t help but cheer the boomer generation on. That’s what retirement should be… doing what you love. And why not make money doing it to support you in the years ahead? And let’s not forget, the successful businesses to come from the boomer generation will help the rest of us too, by creating new jobs, decreasing the tax burden and aiding the economy.

All I have left to say is, in the words of the 20-something generation to which I belong: “More power to ya!

• Start-Up Explosion on the Horizon
• Most Americans Dream of Starting Business
• Entrepreneurship and the Retiree
• Baby Boomers Boost Home-Based Business Market

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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, April 30th, 2017 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Ownership |

What to Expect from Technology in 2007

Have you seen Apple’s PC vs. Mac commercials (click to view ads)? You know, the ones where:

Two men stand side by side in front of a featureless, white background. “Hello, I’m a Mac,” says the guy on the right (who is much younger and dressed in jeans). “And I’m a PC,” says the guy on the left (who wears dorky glasses, ill-fitting khakis, and a jacket and tie). The two men discuss the many advantages of using a Mac and seem to agree that Macs are “better” than PCs [description courtesy of].

I love those commercials, and I’m utterly a PC fan. But they are so well made and appealing (which, of course, is the idea). In fact, the ad campaign is rather brilliant, I’d say.

And, with 2007 being a war of new technology release between Microsoft and Apple, I would say that we’ll be seeing this ad campaign for awhile. Both companies will be releasing new versions of their main computing operation systems this year. The releases are expected to lead to upgrades to both the inside and outside of computers as we know them, as well as increase the selling price, for the first time in nearly 10 years, by 20-25%.

Microsoft will be releasing Windows Vista toward the end of January. The new operating system boasts features such as Windows SideShow, a technology that enables laptop manufacturers to include a secondary or auxiliary display in future laptop designs, which can be used to easily view the critical information you need (such as e-mails), whether the laptop is on, off, or in sleep mode.

Other Windows Vista features include voice recognition and Windows Backup, which allows you to access lost elements of your hard-drive more readily, even if the system crashes.

Apple’s new operating system is called Leopard. Some features include Time Machine, a similar program to Windows Backup, which allows you to search for deleted or lost files. Another feature, Spaces, organizes your on-screen windows into categories such as “work” and “play.”

Apple is also due to release iTV, a video-streaming technology, this year. This unit, a box similar to the Mac mini and designed to send video from a computer or iPod to your television screen, is expected to sell for around $300.

Intel has jumped on the release train as well. Due to release this year is their new wireless technology, Santa-Rosa, which will feature the latest Wi-Fi as well as greater power saving capabilities and faster access to memory. Robson, another innovation that is designed for Windows Vista, helps to speed up the start-up and application loading processes, making them up to two times faster (finally!).

There is also expected to be a boom in the ultra-mobile PC industry that Sony and other electronics manufacturers have already tapped in to. A cross between a notebook and smart phone, ultra-mobile PCs are designed for the consumer to be able to take their entire computer absolutely anywhere.

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the innovations coming our way in 2007. It never ceases to amaze me how rapidly technology advances right under our noses. Who knows, maybe we aren’t far from the world of The Jetsons afterall.

• Tech – The Look Ahead to 2007

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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, April 29th, 2017 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Technology |

Business Trends in 2007

Ah, the joyous time for New Year’s resolutions. Dieting to getting fit, spending more time with your family, redecorate a bedroom… the list goes on and on. I’ve made more of a commitment than a resolution this year. I plan to start my own business.

I know, it seems kind of odd that I would write all of this information about small business and not have my own. But I have learned so much writing this blog the past few months. Enough, in fact, that I have the confidence to really follow my dreams and start something.

Some 671,800 small businesses started up in 2006, two-thirds of which can expect to be in business for at least two years. So, now it’s our turn. Are you ready? 2007 is our year, right?

Okay, so you may be with me on a positive outlook for starting a business this year, but your enthusiasm may be lacking due to the fact that you don’t know what kind of business to start. We all have ideas, but whose to say that our ideas land in a flourishing market? Don’t worry, help is out there.

The most important key to picking the right business to start in 2007 is to pay attention to the world around you. Find a trend and revamp it to fit your style and a specialized market. If ideas are scarce, is ready for you with their Hot Center — a list of the hottest business trends for 2007. And it’s a long list. You’re bound to find something you would enjoy.

Here are some possible ideas to get you brainstorming:

Home Sales Parties
Many stay-at-home moms are tuning into this trend in order to add a little adult time to their lives, as well as bring in some extra funds. Pick a product you believe in, whether it be makeup, jewelry, spa treatment supplies, home décor, scrapbooking supplies, etc., and arrange to have “parties” at other people’s homes. You get a certain percentage of the profits and your friends who host the party get special incentives as well.

Personal Service Industry
Put simply, saving time for someone else. It could be anything from a grocery shopping service, to walking their dogs, to putting together the scrapbooks others can never seem to get around to (one of the areas I plan to make part of my business).

If you have the talent, then put it to good use. One of the largest growing internet industries these days is a need for copywriters. Businesses want their webpage text to draw the consumer in, and they need good writers to do that. One of the best parts is that, typically, it’s a freelance job so the possibilities are endless.

This is an industry that will probably never go out of style. People want beautiful yards, whether it be for their home or business location. If you have a talent for sculpting the spectacular from rocks, water and flowers, then you should definitely consider this industry.

In a category all their own, despite the fact that you can practically find one on every corner. Thing is, if you have a block near you that doesn’t have a coffeehouse, chances are that you could start one there and be very successful. Everyone’s got to have their coffee. And if you can beat the prices and selection of “those other guys,” you’re in business.

I could go on and on. There are so many wonderful possibilities for a successful business in 2007 that, as long as you stick to the trends, you really can’t go wrong.


• What’s Hot for 2007?
• 13 Niches to Investigate for Part-Time Business

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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, April 28th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Ownership |

Elements of a Franchise Agreement

If you’re planning on investing in a franchise, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Though I can’t speak from experience on this issue, it’s clear from my research that most Franchise Agreements (which I will hereafter refer to as “FA”) are complicated and highly weighted toward the favor of the franchiser. defines a FA better than I could as representing a license to use a specific business operating system employing registered brands and trademarks for a specific period of time in exchange for a specified payment structure. And there is no doubt that a FA is specific about every little detail.

A Franchise Agreement does not mean that you are becoming part owner in the company. On the contrary, all rights to the brand, trademarks and operating systems remain solely the property of the franchiser. As a franchisee, you are more or less an investor, often temporarily.

Be sure that the terms of the FA reflect how the business is portrayed in the UFOC mentioned in yesterday’s post, Finding the Right Franchise. Though every FA varies tremendously based upon the company and product or service provided, most contain the following basic elements:

Operation of the Business
The rules, restrictions and obligations of the franchiser and franchisee regarding the successful operation of the business from the franchiser’s perspective. This includes the repair and maintenance that you are expected to contribute as well as the regulations regarding trademarks, patents, advertising policies, etc.

Where your specific business will operate and any exclusivity rights that may apply. Be aware that part of your investment in a franchise may be the purchase of real property for the business location. Many FAs require that, upon the termination of the agreement, the property be sold to the franchise company, often under market value.

The training and operational support provided by the franchiser throughout the lifetime of the FA. However, this is typically at some cost to the franchisee.

Duration and Renewal
The initial duration of the agreement and your renewal options. The initial term can range from 5-20 years, more frequently toward the shorter end with multiple renewal periods. Most franchisers prefer this policy because any changes made to the FA during the initial term are automatically put into effect upon renewal, and you typically have no idea what those new regulations will be beforehand. Therefore, the longer the initial duration of the FA, the better it is for you, the franchisee. Also remember that, the better your performance, the more favorable the changes will be.

Typically ongoing and usually 4-8% of monthly sales.

What your rights are regarding the sale or transfer of your franchised unit. Usually this contains an option for the franchiser to buy back the unit or have “right of first refusal.”

Dispute Resolution & Termination
The franchise regulations regarding the policy for resolving disputes between franchiser and franchisee, as well as the process for termination of the FA, if necessary.

As a legal assistant, I cannot stress enough how important it is that you have an attorney assist you with your review of the Franchise Agreement. An attorney can interpret the legal jargon usually found in a FA, and consult you accordingly to avoid an unfavorable situation later on.

• Free What’s in a Franchise Agreement?
• Buying a Franchise – Ready to Commit?
• Ten Key Provisions of Franchise Agreements

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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, April 27th, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Business Law, Startup |

Finding the Right Franchise for You

McDonald’s, Two Men and a Truck Movers, AlphaGraphics printing — well known national franchises whose appeal can be quite positive to the potential businessperson. With more than 5,000 franchise opportunities spanning the globe, knowing where to begin can be a bit cumbersome.

Should you invest in a franchise?
You must first determine if a franchise is even the right business endeavor for you. It’s important to understand that franchises are all about consistency. Each franchise unit is run by the same standards as the rest of them. If you are interested, you need to be able to answer “yes” to the following questions:

1. Am I willing to follow and embrace someone else’s business system?
2. Am I capable of being a follower?
3. Am I willing to be part of the franchise network, including accepting decisions that benefit the whole network, but not necessarily me as an individual?

It’s also important to evaluate your professional strengths. A franchise owner must have strong management and customer service skills to fully succeed in this type of business.

What franchises are you interested in?
With so many choices available, you will have to narrow your search to those options you are most interested in. The International Franchise Association and The American Association of Franchisees & Dealers provide franchise directories, reviews and guides to help you sift through the options. The Franchise Business Review provides reports on franchises based upon surveys taken by the franchisees themselves.

There are franchise consultants out there, but before you rely on one, be aware of the fact that franchisers pay them for the new prospects they bring in, so a consultant’s motivation may be a bit biased in favor of the companies they are working for.

What do the details tell you?
Once you’ve narrowed it down to the few franchises you are interested in, it’s time to dive into the details for each of them and figure out which is best for you. Be sure to obtain a Uniform Franchise Offering Circular (UFOC) from each franchise. The UFOC contains information regarding how the business is ran, any litigation or bankruptcy filings, investment costs and fee requirements, the franchise rules and restrictions, and contact information for each of their franchise units.

Take advantage of the fact that you have the contact information for those who have been where you are. Contact other owners in the franchise and get feedback from them. Find out how long it took him to earn a profit. Ask her if the franchiser is as helpful and supportive as he should be. And most importantly, has it been worth the time and money — would he do it all again?

How do you make it official?
Once you’ve determined which franchise you would like to get involved with, you should hire an attorney who specializes in franchising. It’s important that you don’t make a final decision until you’ve consulted an attorney and he/she has examined the Franchise Agreement thoroughly on your behalf.

Franchise Agreements can be tricky and, depending on the details, can turn you off to the idea completely. If you go it on your own, you may not know the fine print requirements. An attorney will help you to comb through the details so that you can be certain that the potential franchise is the right fit for you.

Check back tomorrow for more information on what a Franchise Agreement should contain and what snags to look for.

• Business Week Online: Finding the Perfect Franchise Fit
• How Can I Tell if Franchising is Right for Me?

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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, April 26th, 2017 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Startup |

MasterCard Global Small Business Survey 2006

Mastercard Corporation has posted an interesting global survey of small business owners and their outlook for the future.

A total of 4000 small business owners from around the world who manage businesses with 1 — 99 employees were polled. A total of 500 respondents were surveyed from eight countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, France, Brazil, China, Hong Kong and Australia.

Small business owners around the world have differing views on the current business climate but feel more optimistic (28%) than not (21%) about the upcoming year. They work a little more than 50 hours a week but spend 18 of those hours on administrative tasks. While competition was seen as the top challenge they will face next year, half of small business owners around the world feel that globalization will help their business, rather than hurt it.

The section that stuck out the most to me was the question of what motivates small business owners to run their businesses:

Globally, small business owners say that making enough money to cover living expenses (70%) and having more control over the future (64%) are important motivations for running their own business. Small business owners in Brazil are the most likely out of all those surveyed to say that providing employment (71%) and contributing to society or the community (64%) are important motivations, while small business owners in China are the most likely to say that building something that can be passed on to their family (59%) is an important motivation. Those in the United States are the most likely to say that being their own boss (67%) is an important motivation.

MasterCard Global Small Business Survey 2006

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By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, April 25th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Ownership |

Preparing for an IRS Audit

Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, sometimes you might make a mistake on your tax returns and the IRS will audit your business. Most audits are prompted by large losses in your business over a number of years, which would lead the IRS to wonder how you’re producing an income.

Typically, IRS audits are face-to-face, but about one-third of them are letters from the IRS asking for an explanation regarding a specific item on your tax return. Audits can be regarding your entire return or just a portion that the IRS has questions about.

If you receive a letter requesting an explanation, first consult whoever prepared your return. If it was prepared by someone who is not a professional accountant, you should consult one to find out the best way to handle it. Respond in writing, on your company’s letterhead, and provide copies of all related documentation. Always send any correspondence with the IRS by certified mail, so that you can confirm the package was received.

If you have to face the IRS in a personal meeting, make sure that you obtain representation by either a lawyer or CPA (Certified Public Accountant). Don’t try and take care of the situation by yourself, as there are probably many laws and regulations you aren’t fully aware of. You can also have the meeting video taped, but you must give the IRS ten days written notice if you choose to do so.

Logically organize all of your records regarding the issue(s) in question, categorically and chronologically. Neatness and organization will build your credibility with the auditor. Also, be sure that you only bring documentation related to the items that the IRS wants information about. Extra documentation is burdensome and unnecessary, and you don’t want to volunteer information about your taxes if they don’t ask about it.

At minimum, you will need to provide the following documentation:
• bank statements and cancelled checks
• receipts
• print-outs and disk copies of electronic records and logs
• appointment books, calendars and/or journals
• worksheets showing your calculations for each item
• an extra copy of all documentation

It’s important that you keep your cool and don’t get overly defensive, as that might make you seem guilty to the IRS auditor. You may even want to prepare some notes for yourself to remember events and explanations. When you’re in the meeting and under that kind of pressure, you can often simply go blank or stumble over words. Having notes on what you want to convey to the auditor will help you to keep things straight in your head.

After the meeting is over, the auditor will provide a written report regarding his conclusions and what additional taxes, if any, you owe. Keep in mind that, if the meeting and result are unsatisfactory, there is an appeals process available. This is where having a video tape of the meeting will come in handy, especially if the auditor was not willing to hear you out. There is also an appeals process available for any liens, levies or property seizures resulting from an audit, including appeals for hardship reasons.

Overall, if you are prepared and organized and can show that the issue at hand was a legitimate and unintentional mistake, then you will probably only face paying additional taxes. If nothing else, you will have definitely learned from the experience.

• Preparing for an Audit
• WorldWideWeb Tax: How to Prepare for an IRS Audit

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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, April 24th, 2017 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Taxes |

The Right Way to Write-Off Business Expenses (Part 2)


As a continuation of yesterday’s post, below are some additional tax deductions you should handle carefully.

Home Office
If you work from home, you can only write-off the percentage of your bills related to the area dedicated solely to your business. For accuracy, which is something the IRS appreciates, hire a contractor to measure your home office space professionally and provide the square footage that your home office occupies.

Once you have the measurements, figure out what percentage of your home is dedicated to your business. You can then write-off that percentage of your mortgage/rent, utility bills, etc. Keep in mind, however, that this area of your home must be used exclusively for your business. If it is, in any way, used for personal matters (i.e., your home computer is used for both business and personal), then you cannot right off percentages of your household bills.

Home Computer
If your home computer is used for both personal and business matters, then the expense of the computer is not deductible. Instead, you will need to keep a log of the time you use it for business purposes, much like with your home office. Then, determine a percentage of your time in which you use the computer for business and that is how much of the computer is deductible.

Another option would be to invest in a laptop that you use for business purposes only. This will allow for the entire expense of the laptop to be deductible.

Phone Bills
If you have a home office, phone bills do not fall under the category of bills you can write off a percentage of. As long as your phone, whether a mobile or landline, is not used a lot for personal calls, then you can write off the entire bill.

However, if you use the phone for both, then you will have to be sure and get an itemized bill from the phone company and indicate which calls, both incoming and outgoing, were business related. It’s a good idea to also indicate which client each call was related to.

The best and easiest way to avoid extra time and effort is to simply purchase a separate cell phone or get a separate phone line in your home for business calls only. If you opt for the separate cell phone, you can also write-off the phone itself.

As a general rule, if you can wear it outside of your job, such as a new suit you wore for work but also to church or a funeral, then it is not deductible. However, if you perform as a clown for children’s birthday parties, then your clown costume is deductible. Another example would be the costume a Las Vegas showgirl might wear.

These are just a handful of the vast expenses that you might be able to write-off each year. It’s a good idea to consult with a professional accountant if you are not familiar with all the regulations. It’s better to spend a little extra money getting some help the first few times than to make a mistake and get audited.

Part 1: Travel Expenses and Vehicle Usage

• Top Tax Write-Offs That Could Get You in Trouble

Recommended Readings:
• Google Answers: Tax Write Offs When Self-Employed
• Top Business Write-Off Audit-Triggers
• 5 Year-end Small Business Tax Tips

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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, April 23rd, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Taxes |

The Right Way to Write-Off Business Expenses (Part 1)


Write-offs can be headache when it comes to preparing income tax returns for your business. They are often what causes a business to be red-flagged by the IRS because there are so many regulations and many small business owners just aren’t sure how to do it right. I will be addressing this in two parts, simply because there are so many different items to cover.

Here are some pointers on how to handle a couple of the most common tax write-offs correctly.

Travel Expenses
With any travel expenses that you plan to write-off, you will need to be able to prove that the travel was directly related to your business, such as a product convention or meeting with a client.

Flight costs typically aren’t a problem, even if you always fly first class. It’s the limo from the airport to the hotel that would be cause for concern. Meals are deductible at a rate of 50% of the bill. If you are taking client to dinner, you will need to be able to show that you discussed business at the meal.

This is where a journal or electronic log really comes in handy. When traveling on business, be sure to document your daily events, like which clients you spoke to, where and when you met and what you discussed. Should your business ever be audited, the IRS will require you to produce such a journal.

Family vacations are not a tax deduction, unless your family members are part of your business. You have to justify that by holding business meetings or by all parties attending a business convention while on the trip. If you go to the Bahamas and lay on the beach all five days, chances are you really shouldn’t try to write that off.

Vehicle Usage
If a vehicle is used exclusively for your business, then generally you can deduct the entire expenses for operation of the car. However, the standards of “exclusive use” are hard to meet. It’s more likely that your vehicle is used for both personal and business and you will, therefore, have to determine what operation expenses are considered deductible.

Generally, travel between two business destinations is considered a deductible operation of the vehicle. This can mean travel from your home office to the post office to deliver mail or the supply store to get office supplies. This also includes travel from one client’s location to another’s and back to your place of business.

Travel to work locations that are different from that of your regular place of business also count. However, travel from your home to your regular place of business on a daily basis is NOT deductible, even if you have your business advertised on the side of your car.

Generally, travel deductions using a vehicle are calculated by mileage. Again, in your journal, indicate the odometer reading upon departure from a business location and upon arrival at your new business destination. Also indicate how this travel relates to your business.

Part 2: Home Office and Clothing

• Top Tax Write-Offs That Could Get You in Trouble
• Travel Expenses, Meals & Entertainment

Recommended Readings:
• Google Answers: Tax Write Offs When Self-Employed
• Top Business Write-Off Audit-Triggers
• 5 Year-end Small Business Tax Tips

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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, April 22nd, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Taxes |

IRS Audit Triggers

IRS Audit

Part of being a self-employed business owner is the requirement for a lot of record keeping. Incomes and expenses probably make up the majority of those records, simply because it is necessary in order to keep up with the IRS and their grueling and complex rules governing taxes on the income your business generates. If you don’t meet their expectations, your business could be red-flagged and even audited, and that’s something I’m pretty sure we all want to avoid.

So, how do you avoid it? First and foremost, you must keep accurate records. Estimates and assumptions about the income and expenses associated with your business will only draw attention to you. Your best bet is to write everything down, each and every day, even if it seems insignificant.

There are a number of things that trigger the IRS into examining your business practices more thoroughly. They are:

1) Not Filing
This is probably the most obvious trigger, and you would expect it would often be avoided. But many business owners, especially those who are just starting out, fear they won’t have the funds to pay the taxes they will owe. So they simply don’t file returns. Bad idea. It’s better to file and owe back taxes than to go to jail for not filing at all.

2) Overpaying Family Members
If a family member works for you, be sure that you pay them according to their actual responsibilities and experience and at a rate comparable to the rest of the job market. Don’t pay them more than they’re worth just because they’re family.

3) Income Boost
If your income for the current year is excessively higher than previous years, the IRS will want to know why. The reason may be legitimate, like the fact that the demand for your business skyrocketed. But keep in mind that the IRS will then expect your return to show additional expenses in order to meet that increase in demand.

4) Inconsistencies
Make sure your federal tax return is consistent with your state tax return; that the income and expenses match down to the last penny. If there are differences, even subtle ones, you’ve caught their eye.

5) Bad Accountant
The IRS has a checks and balances system with which they keep tabs on accountants and other tax preparers. If a preparer is doing something wrong, not only will they get audited, but so will all of their clients. This means you. So check your accountant’s references thoroughly before hiring him.

6) Extreme Expenses
If you have an itemized expense on your tax return that just doesn’t match up with your income, the IRS will notice. For example, if you’re claiming an income of $30,000 and itemizing a $5,000 desk for your home office… well, it’s pretty obvious that something’s not right and the IRS will want to follow-up.

7) Write-offs
As every business owner knows, incorrect write-offs are one of the largest triggers for an audit. If what you’re writing off doesn’t match what is expected of your business practices, the IRS will probably want an explanation. There are so many rules regarding write-offs that it’s a whole other topic in itself, which I will address tomorrow.

Bottom line: pay attention and be thorough when it comes to your income and expenses throughout the entire year. Don’t wait until January to put everything together for the previous year, but keep record as you go. This will help you to avoid mistakes that trigger audits.

Also, be smart. Don’t try to find loopholes and “work the system.” That’s what gets business owners in trouble. The IRS is cracking down on small business these days, so it’s best to just stick to the rules, even if it hurts a little.

• Top Tax Write-Offs That Could Get You in Trouble
• WorldWideWeb Tax: How to Avoid an IRS Audit

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Last Minute Tax Tips
What IRS Auditors Look For
The Right Way to Write-Off Business Expenses (Part 1)
The Right Way to Write-Off Business Expenses (Part 2)
Preparing for an IRS Audit

By Michelle Cramer
Friday, April 21st, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Taxes |

The Warning Signs of a Doomed Partnership

Just as in an unhappy marriage, the problems in an unstable business partnership tend to result in feeling unappreciated and ungratified, having unmet expectations and facing events that cause doubt and distrust. Problems left unattended will result in one or both of you dissolving the partnership.

To keep your partnership in tact, watch for the warning signs:

1) Communication Breakdown
If every conversation you attempt to have with your business partner turns into a war of words, then chances are you’re having a hard time communicating. When we’re holding a grudge against someone, we often have a tendency to always go on the defensive. Our ears shut off and our mouth won’t quit. If you can’t listen to each other, then you’re not communicating at all.

2) Everything is a Competition
Your partnership should be a compliment of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, but, when tensions rise, things tend to become competitive rather than complimentary. If you are constantly trying to out-do your partner, rather than work with him, then there’s probably an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

3) Financial Problems
This can be anything from the business being under financial stress, to different views on how money should be spent, to disagreeing on the division of profits. If money is an issue, than so is something else.

4) Dominance Issues
If you’re fighting for control of the business, then you are probably not happy with the way your partner is managing her share of the responsibility. When you try to do everything yourself it comes down to a trust issue. There is something that has caused an inability to trust your partner’s productivity.

5) Different Goals
It’s safe to assume that, when you started the business, you and your partner had the same vision for the future. But, as time progresses, those goals may change and differ. That in itself is not a danger, but the inability to compromise and combine your visions is.

Keep your eyes open for the warning signs and meet issues head-on before they become problems. And, if things look bleak, you may want to consider going to a partnership coach before calling it quits. More often than not, an unbiased mediator can help put your business partnership back on the path to success.

• Your Partnership About to Crash and Burn?
• Business and Professional Coaching

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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, April 20th, 2017 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Ownership |

Picking the Right Business Partner

Nearly 70% of all partnerships fail, typically because the people involved were so excited about their idea that they didn’t take the time to make sure that they were compatible for a business relationship. The majority of partnerships are formed between friends who assume that since they already get along, there shouldn’t be a problem. There are distinct differences between getting along with a friend (or family member) socially and the relationship remaining strong under the daily stress of running a business.

Business partnerships are often compared to marriages. In fact, if you are in a partnership, you will likely spend more time with your business partner than you do with your marital spouse. Much like in a marriage, it’s important that you take time to first find out if you and your perspective partner are even compatible for the long term.

When considering starting a partnership with someone, you must first examine your own strengths and weaknesses to determine if you are partner material. If you have a tendency to work better alone, or prefer to do so, then a partnership is probably not for you. If you can consider the suggestions of others and be open-minded when making decisions, then you’d probably make a good partner. Talk to your spouse, family and friends to get their input as well.

Once you have determined that you are able to meet the challenges of being a business partner, you should to examine the relationship you currently have with the other person.

Ask yourself the following questions:

• Do we have the same motivation?
• Do we have the same values and work ethics?
• Do our skills and strengths complement each other?
• Are we able to communicate with each other, even on touchy subjects, in a cool, calm and respectful manner?
• Deep down, do I 100% trust this person?
• Have we been able to adequately resolve conflicts/disagreements in the past?

Hopefully the answer to all these questions is “yes.” If not, then the next item on your list should be to sit down with your prospective partner and discuss the reservations you may have about the partnership. Laying those items on the table, and monitoring the other person’s reaction to them, will be a strong indicator of whether or not the partnership will work.

Also, talk to the other person’s previous partners and employees to get their feedback on how well he/she works with others. Be aware that, should your prospective partner refuse to provide you with contact information for her former counterparts, then that is a red-flag that you probably shouldn’t do business with.

If all signs point to proceeding with the partnership, then it’s time to test the waters. Take on a challenge together, like meeting a deadline, as see how that goes. Determine your expectations for the other person and see if they are met throughout the project. It’s also important to clearly define the responsibilities of each person, as this will be something a partnership requires every day.

Take your time and be sure this partnership is the right one for you. Don’t let the excitement of your idea allow you to rush into such a commitment. The failure of a business partnership can be devastating, both to your business and personal relationship with the other person. Taking time to find the right business partner can result in a mutual motivation and support, as well as a highly successful business.

• Is a Partnership the Right Choice for You?
• The Art of Picking the Right Partner

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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, April 19th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Startup |

Internet Business Sees Holiday Shopping Boom

Now is the time to have an Internet business, as holiday shoppers are increasingly finding their stocking stuffers through online retailers.

From November 1st to December 3rd of this year, internet shopping rose to $12.42 billion, an increase of 25% since last year. The number of people making Internet purchases jumped 17%, while the amount of money spent by each buyer increased by 7%.

The retail areas seeing the most increase: videogames, jewelry and even tickets to concerts and shows.

An abundance of holiday Internet shopping occurrs on what is called “Cyber Monday,” the Monday following Thanksgiving each year. That is when online retailers debut their holiday products, virtual door busters and promotions such as free shipping with purchase.

However, with increased Internet shopping comes increased security concerns. An average of 46% of the 155 million web shoppers are concerned about the security of their personal information when making a purchase, but those numbers are typical.

Software developers such as Microsoft have been working hard to counteract shopper woes, such as upgrading security features of Internet Explorer web browser. The new version warns users if the site they are visiting is an imposter rather than an actual retailer. The down side is, as a new system, this only works 30-40% of the time.

Online retailers are also taking extra precautions. More frequently they are purchasing liability insurance that will cover themselves and their customers in the case of identity theft. By advertising this protection on their websites, retailers hope to encourage buyers to proceed with a bit more confidence.

Despite the reservations that the risk of identity theft pose, online purchases are expected to continue to increase over the holiday season and in future years as consumers enjoy shopping from the comfort of their own home. After all, who really wants to fight the crowds when you can get deals just as good online?

Online Holiday Sales Statistics

• Business Week: Web Shoppers Spend More for Holidays
• Stamford Advocate: Online Shopping Popularity Continues to Rise

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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, April 18th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Technology |