Archive for December, 2009

2010 — A Year Of Opportunities

December 30, 2009

While many companies are still pulling in their efforts, a surprising number are expanding.
Our 2010 Small Business Outlook Study is showing surprising strength.
In fact, compared to last year’s survey, budgets are up an average 7% for such items as sales, marketing and IT resources.
What is down are salaries, employee benefits and bonuses.
Hiring plans are level with few companies reporting plans to expand staff.
Sales and marketing groups are being augmented but the big investment seems to be in Internet sales and customer service.
If you want to take the survey, http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BQJ2M9S
We are seeing a significant proportion of smaller firms saying they are investing in sales efforts.
Confusion reigns about what healthcare benefit costs as well as planning.
Most respondents don’t think the new healthcare legislation will have a positive effect on them.
For marketers to small businesses, the watchword should be value.
Marketers must demonstrate how will their product or service help clients add to profits.
The survey shows surprising strength for companies offering value-based products and services.
One cloud on the horizon — many firms are cutting back on travel expenditures.
The recent terrorist attack didn’t help with some firms reporting they had put off travel plans until February.
Regardless of what happens in the early months of 2010, smaller firms seem bent on making 2010 a positive year.

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How To Alleviate Small Business Distress

December 18, 2009

2009 has not been a good year for many small firms.
In our surveys, small business respondents have talked about the failure of clients and customers to pay their bills.
“Its like a cascading waterfall, our customers don’t pay on time, we can’t pay our suppliers,” lamented one midwestern focus group participant.
Some smaller firms have been forced to contemplate closing or bankruptcy.
This is a drastic step that should only be considered as a last resort.
One supplier we know took a job and continues his business at night and on the weekends.
Here are some things a small business leader can do to alleviate some of these pressures.
* Pay only the bills that will close the company down if not satisfied.
* Talk to suppliers and stretch out payments and/or ask for discounts for prompt payment.
* Seek financial help from banks or business partners.
* Offer discounts to customers for quicker payment.
* Look at your current situation and try to take a long view of what is happening.
* Talk to your employees and ask them how they can help. (Never borrow from your employees by withholding pay, rather ask them what they can do to help the financial situation. Often, you will be surprised at some of the positive suggestions that come out of these talks.)
* Cut your own personal expenses to ease the mental pressure .
* Above all, be positive to employees and customers alike.
Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents often talk about the great depression.
Pundits say this last recession was/is as bad or worse than the depths of 1930’s crash.
Often, they look back and say that era encompassed some good times and a great learning experience.
View this year as a learning experience and remember to stay positive, things will get better.

Some Year-End Tax Reduction Strategies For Small Businesses

December 9, 2009

For everyone:
• Take charitable donations by the end of the year and make sure you have receipts for all contributions above $250.
• Take advantage of the $13,000 gift tax exclusion which can be done without reporting to the IRS for any number of individuals and not pay a gift tax.  
For business owners there are some things that can be done:
• Some expenditures (business equipment, supplies, etc.) qualify for the up to $250,000 business property Section 179 expense of assets bought and placed into service this year.
• In a partnership or S corporation, you can take advantage of business losses for 2009.
• If you are self-employed or own a small business, you can set up a retirement plan and take advantage of making payments toward the plan, which will reduce your 2009 taxable income.
• Consider extending your subscriptions to professional journals, paying union or professional dues, enrolling in (and paying tuition for) job-related courses, etc., to bunch into 2009 miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2 percent-of-AGI floor.
Also you should consider making changes that will reduce your income tax for the 2010 tax year by taking the following actions:
• Increase the amount you will set aside for next year in your employer’s health flexible spending account (FSA, HRA or HSA), especially if you set aside too little this year. Be sure to include costs for over-the-counter drugs, such as aspirin and antacids.
• If you become eligible to make health savings account (HSA) contributions in December of this year, make a full year’s worth of deductible HSA contributions for 2009.