219.736.7777 dot 1581 East 90th Place, Suite D Merrillville, Indiana 46410

What are you doing this holiday season?

As business owners we struggle to increase sales, reduce costs, retain good employees, etc. This has been especially challenging in 2010 and looks to be only marginally more productive in 2011.

At year end (typically the holiday season) is when employees generally get some feedback on their performance or are recognized for their contributions throughout the year. How do you recognize your valuable employees, strengthen team comradery, keep everyone motivated for the upcoming challenges and still balance the other important priorities?

-Are you planning a company holiday party?
-Will there be any employee bonuses?
-Will there be any cost of living increases?
-Do you perform annual performance reviews?

Not all recognition needs to be monetary. According to Abraham Maslow (you’ve probably heard of his heirarchy of needs) – After we have achieved saftey, clothing, food, housing, and social interaction; we are most motivated by praise, awards, decorations, and gifts, along with desire to work/act as we please according to our talents and interests. We all want to feel like we contribute to the success of the business – we are part of something bigger!

Creativity is key. You can find ways to praise, recognize, and motivate your team!

Ask us the question you are dying to know the answer to! Submit your question in the contact us section of our web page. We will reply!

Are You On Top Of Your Competitors?

Here is a list of questions that every business manager should be able to answer with an unqualified yes. They relate largely to the fundamental need of identifying and understanding your competition, and if you find yourself giving a no answer to any of them it means you could be short of valuable information that would provide you with a competitive advantage.
Do you know who your competitors are?
Do you know where they are and how big they are?
Would you be aware if any new competitors entered your market?
Do you regularly monitor your competitors advertising and promotions by looking for their advertisements, visiting their premises and looking at their websites?
Do you talk to your suppliers about your competitors and gather information about what they are buying and what quantities they purchase?
Do you encourage your employees to keep an eye on marketing activity by your competitors and pass any good ideas on to you?
Do you keep up to date with technological developments in your field and will you know if your competitors adopt new technology into their business?
Do you know the statistics of your marketplace – what your share of market is and what market share is held by each of your major competitors?
Have you conducted a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis on your business? Are you prepared to deal with any competitive threats that might be identified?
Do you know what opportunities exist for you to grow your business ? either by taking business away from your competitors or by expanding into new market areas?
Do you know what is happening in the legislative environment that might affect your operations such as new laws relating to workplace safety or product standards that could pose a threat to you or mean that you will have to change the way you conduct your business?
Do you regularly research your products against those of your competitors?
Are you able to respond quickly if you find your product offers fewer features and benefits or needs improvement?
There may be a lot of work involved in finding the answers to these questions but, a business that knows and understands its rivals has a much better chance of being able to withstand competitive onslaughts and to formulate strategies that will take business away from others in its industry.

Death and Taxes

The difference between death and taxes…….congress can not make death any worse!

What do you think of President Obama’s tax cut deal?

On the surface, it looks like it addresses several concerns for each taxpayer segment, from the unemployed to taxpayers to businesses. Hopefully it will provide the additional stimulus needed to ward off recession and fuel growth. It’s appeal varies depending on whether you share Democratic or Republican ideologies.

Two things stick out to us:

#1 – By maintaining the Bush era tax-cuts, it should eliminate the uneasiness created by “fear of the unknown”. Consumers and business owners did not know if their tax liabilities where going to go up in 2011; and this resulted in causing most of us to “hunker down” and wait to see what happens next. Hopefully this fear is eliminated and we can get back to business – banks loaning $, businesses investing in capital, and unemployment dropping.

#2 – The balooning National debt. This deal adds between $700 – $900 billion to the deficit. How soon before the debt is too large to manage? Are we prepared to pass this burden to our children in order to let them figure it out?

It’s never easy! We need strong leadership to make the tough decisions that have to be made. We need to work together to save our future! The world is watching!!

Are you ready for a fresh look at your business?

It happens to all of us, we get busy surviving the challenges of the day. The problem is that this happens routinely and eventually we get stuck doing things a certain way. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but are we doing things as efficiently and effectively as we could be? Left un-vetted, ad-hoc processes can evolve into “the culture” of the business. You’ve heard it before – “That’s the way we’ve always done it”.

As business owners we need to step back and question the various processes and procedures that are operating within the business. Are they relevant, effective, or efficient? This is difficult when you are living within the realm of consciousness that created them.

That is why we need someone from outside the organization to provide a fresh look into the inner workings of the business. They can challenge “That’s the way we’ve always done it”, and provide alternative options. Options that have been reviewed and customized for our specific businesses.

Business management consultants are an excellent resource for providing a business review.

Sign of the times!

State of Indiana tax returns filed, by year.

2008 actual – 5,011,850
2009 est – 4,822,400
2010 est – 4,740,800
2011 est – 4,745,400
2012 est – 4,784,800
2013 est – 4,832,800
2014 est – 4,871,600
2015 est – 4,899,600

5 years down the road, we still do not get back to the 2008 level of tax returns filed.

Are You Running Your Business Through Your Checkbook?

Are you an employee or a contractor?

Seven Tips for Business Owners

As a small business owner you may hire people as independent contractors or as employees. There are rules that will help you determine how to classify the people you hire. This will affect how much you pay in taxes, whether you need to withhold from your workers paychecks and what tax documents you need to file.
Here are seven things every business owner should know about hiring people as independent contractors versus hiring them as employees.
1. The IRS uses three characteristics to determine the relationship between businesses and workers:
Behavioral Control covers facts that show whether the business has a right to direct or control how the work is done through instructions, training or other means.
Financial Control covers facts that show whether the business has a right to direct or control the financial and business aspects of the worker’s job.
Type of Relationship factor relates to how the workers and the business owner perceive their relationship.
2. If you have the right to control or direct not only what is to be done, but also how it is to be done, then your workers are most likely employees.

3. If you can direct or control only the result of the work done — and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result — then your workers are probably independent contractors.

4. Employers who misclassify workers as independent contractors can end up with substantial tax bills. Additionally, they can face penalties for failing to pay employment taxes and for failing to file required tax forms.
5. Workers can avoid higher tax bills and lost benefits if they know their proper status.

6. Both employers and workers can ask the IRS to make a determination on whether a specific individual is an independent contractor or an employee by filing a Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding, with the IRS.
7. You can learn more about the critical determination of a worker’s status at IRS.gov and Indiana.gov

Will Social Security be there for you?

The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the financial health of the Social Security Trust Funds and the long-range outlook remains unchanged. The combined assets of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds will be exhausted in 2037, the same as projected last year.

Start-up business survival tips

While it may be a bit of an exaggeration to say that most new businesses dont survive past the first two years, government data does show that seven out of 10 new employer firms last at least two years, with only half surviving for five years.

Statistics aside, there is no doubt that steering a fledgling business venture through the startup phase and the immediate years that follow is likely to be a huge test of entrepreneurial character.

Here are some strategies and tactics to consider as you struggle and stride through the first few years of entrepreneurialism.

Year 1 -One of the first things start-ups learn is that very few things in business go quite to plan. While there are many things you can do to take care of setting up your business ? you will always encounter the unexpected. From un-forecasted demand that you cant yet cope with; new tax laws that you had no idea applied to you; unreliable suppliers; unruly business partners; or clients that dont pay on time ? the unpredictable lurks around every corner.

And while you may not be able to predict the pendulum swings of running a business, you can prepare for them and this means having a plan and plenty of cash reserves. A business plan is one of the most important tools in your business arsenal . Yet, many start-ups put writing a business plan on hold until they find they need to get a business loan. A well-prepared plan (that is revisited often) will help you steer your business on its course, and even help you navigate any bumps in the road. Try to think of your business plan as a living breathing project, not a one-time document that gathers dust on a bookshelf once youve secured your first customer. Part of your business planning strategy should be a focus on maintaining cash flow. It is important to recognize:

- Understanding and Expanding Cash Flow
- The Basics of Revolving Lines of Credit
- What to do When a Customer Wont Pay

Year 2 – While Year 1 is an education for new business owners, it should also be a year in which your business grows. But looking back, what would you have done differently? Year 2 is a great time to reflect on your business successes, failures and shortcomings. Year 2 is also the time to emerge from the start-up weeds and work ON your business, as opposed to working IN it. Revisit your business plan, evaluate the year objectively, and dont overlook your personal goals (are you happy with your new life as an entrepreneur, what would you do differently to help you enjoy the fruits of your labors?).
Becoming a fulfilled and successful business owner involves positioning yourself as a true advocate for your business, not just a salesperson. Some of the most successful brands in the world are where they are today because the entrepreneur behind the brand is out-front advocating its products, its successes, and its core values ? think Richard Branson or Steve Jobs (both of whom founded empires from start-ups). Becoming an advocate isnt difficult but it involves relinquishing control of some of the day-to-day business operations that you have gotten used to as a start-up. Find ways to make sure that your customers know the face behind the business while maintaining the right balance between – being there – and having the business run without you.

Year 3 – Woo hoo! You made it to Year 3. Youve found your niche and are hopefully doing well. Its an exhilarating time. And while the highs and lows of business still apply, by now you should have a good view of your financial projections, which can help you prepare for market and seasonal fluctuations. If your niche is working for you, stay true to it. Talk to your loyal customers about their needs and whether you are serving them effectively, assess emerging threats, consult your closest advisors regularly (accountant, partner, marketing team, etc.) and refine your business and marketing strategy to stay ahead of the curve.

Year 4 – Congratulations, you are well on your way to defying the odds.