Avoid Destructive Communication Barriers

effective-communication2Do you struggle to get your point across with colleagues, employees, clients or associates?   Professionals must be able to communicate effectively in order to succeed—it’s a required soft skill.  Before you can achieve effective communication, however, you must overcome some common barriers. 

The following 5 obstacles may be holding up your ability to communicate effectively in your professional and personal life:

1. Varying perspectives. We all have different points of view and often that can become a significant barrier in effective communication.  Depending on the conversation, understanding where those differences reside may be your first order of business in discussing key issues.  Be open to what other parties have to say, because only in sharing ideas do you happen upon new and innovative concepts that may change the way you do business for the better.

2. Message delivered to the wrong audience. Sometimes we preach to the choir.  Other times we’re selling meat to vegetarians.  In order for communication to be effective, we must ensure that we’re delivering the right messages to the right audiences, using language and terminology that’s familiar to them.

3. Unclear, inarticulate messages. If the audience can’t understand what you’re saying, there’s no use saying it.  Depending on how complicated your message is, you may want to share it with someone else to ensure it’s understandable.  If that can’t be done, try approaching your message like a stranger.  What exactly needs to be added, rearranged and revised in order for it to make more sense?

5. Apathy. Sometimes people just don’t care about your message.  In that case, you have to not only communicate a message but also enthusiasm.  Getting people excited about ideas can be a tough job, but if you understand what motivates them, you’re halfway there.

6. Forgetting that listening is part of communication. There are two key elements of effective communication: listening and speaking.  It’s not surprising that most people don’t realize that listening is the more important of the two.  If you’re not attending to the speaker and his/her message, it doesn’t matter what you say; your exchange will not be successful.  Effective communication requires both parties to listen and speak when appropriate.  That requires you to do your fair share of listening, and that doesn’t mean nodding your head absent-mindedly while replaying the last episode of Survivor in your head.

Whether you’re an accountant, a tax preparer, a motivational speaker or a celebrity chef, you must know how to communicate effectively in order to succeed.  Eliminating these 5 barriers is a great first step to accomplishing clear and concise communication.

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Take advantage of this FREE opportunity now!  Register today!

5 Tips in Running a Successful Family Practice

family-businessFamily businesses: they seem to work really well or fail miserably.  That’s not to say that family-run businesses can’t be highly rewarding and lucrative.  However, if you’re participating in a family business, it’s important that you understand what you’re up against.  Working with relatives can be tricky unless you have a game plan—a series of rules to live by in order to achieve maximum success.  Here are 5 tips in running an efficient family business:

1. Discourage alliances among family members.  This factor often contributes to the failure of family-run businesses.  When members of a family business begin keeping secrets from certain factions, creating alliances and excluding individuals from crucial business decisions, a division results that can destroy a company.

2. Communicate.  It’s no accident that this tip follows the one discouraging family alliances.  In order to avoid poor business etiquette that can seep into family-run organizations, it’s important to have open lines of communication.  As with any business, you should have regular managerial and staff meetings to ensure that everyone is on the same page.  Also, create email groups so that business correspondence is sure to travel to all vested parties. 

3. Only hire qualified relatives.  Family-run businesses can become the island of misfit employees if you’re not careful.  They are often the go-to business when Cousin Joe is down on his luck again, and your relatives believe you certainly have something that can keep him busy and employed.  Don’t get caught in that trap!  Just like any other viable business, you must hire qualified and trustworthy employees.  Hard as it may be, you shouldn’t lower your expectations in order to hire relatives.

4. Have a succession plan.  You may think you or your father or your great uncle Richard will run the company indefinitely, but the truth is, situations and circumstances change, and a company will be more likely to survive those changes if a succession plan is firmly in place.  You should go through proper legal channels to ensure your succession plan is solid.

5. Avoid arbitrary compensation plans.  Employees should be paid according to their expertise and overall company contribution.  If Cousin Joe, the guy who’s down on his luck, begins making more than a long-term employee with considerable expertise and experience, one could argue that this relative is receiving preferential treatment.  Don’t put yourself in such a precarious legal and ethical position.  Create a compensation chart, with the help of a professional if necessary, and follow it strictly.

Family businesses can be lucrative and fulfilling ventures, but only when handled properly.  Take the necessary precautions to ensure that your family business is in the best position to succeed, with all those involved.

Join the Discussion

When it comes to topics like this one, it can be difficult to find a group of small business owners with whom you can ask questions, share insights, and offer advice.  Luckily there are online discussions groups, listservs and forums to help you connect with these individuals.  Universal Accounting Center has developed a forum for financial professionals to provide just that community environment for which you may have been searching.  Please join us and make our community stronger, and to “talk” about issues that matter to you.  Members are free to ask questions, provide resources and take advantage of the resources others may offer.  Join us today! 

Home-Based Business Strategies

home-based-tipsWhile running a business from home can be inexpensive and convenient, it can get tricky as you try to balance work and home life, sometimes all from the same room.  In order to ensure that your professional and personal lives don’t collide in the process, you should have a strategy or at least some techniques that will help you manage your home-based business effectively.

In a recent SmallBizTrends article, author Timothy Carr shares “Work at Home Strategies for Success that May Surprise You.”  Here we detail 5 of his 9 suggestions:

1. Set a Morning Routine.  The way you start the morning will set the tone for the remainder of your workday. When you’re able to establish a specific routine that enables you get into the work flow, you’ll find yourself more productive.  As Carter explains, “Being intentional about what you do before you go to work is the foundation to the day’s success.”

2. Shut the Door.  This advice actually comprised two of Carter’s nine suggestions.  He believes that in order for your home-based business to be successful, you must create a distraction-free space in which you can work.  In order to maintain a high level of professionalism, and to more easily distinguish you work life from your personal life, you should establish an office in a more secluded area where you can enjoy peace and privacy.  The same applies from the other side of the door.  You should be able to “clock out” every day and focus your time and attention on your family.

3. Get Dressed.  Carter states, “Of course, you don’t have to go all out and wear a suit and tie, but psychologically, it helps to get dressed professionally.  Part of the habit of getting dressed up for work gets your mind into ‘work mode’ since you’re not heading to the office.”

4. Set Your Hours.  If you task yourself with working whenever you have a free hour or two, it won’t be long before you’re laboring morning, noon, and night.  You’ll find that you’re much more productive when you set a work schedule that you honor.  Be sure to share this work schedule with both clients and family, and ask them to respect that schedule.

5. Take Your Breaks. Whether you’re running your practice full or part-time, you’ll quickly discover that unless you take a break, you will quickly experience burnout.  Avoid this by giving yourself regular stints of rest and relaxation.  You’ll find that taking regular vacations will also help you rejuvenate your efforts, enabling you to better focus on your work when you’re open for business.

Mastering QuickBooks

It’s important that you continually look for ways to improve your skill-set.  UAC’s Professional Bookkeeper’s Guide to QuickBooks (PBG) will enable you to master this accounting software, saving yourself time and energy as you work with your own and/or your clients’ accounts.  To become more efficient by learning all the time-saving features QuickBooks offers, enroll in the PBG Program today!  Call Universal at 1-877-833-7909.

Resource

Carr, Timothy.  “Work at Home Strategies for Success that May Surprise You.”  23 February 2015  SmallBizTrends.com

Invest in Yourself!

Businessman in officeAs a small-business owner, you are the greatest asset to your company, which also means that enhancing your professional development is the best investment you can ever make.  Author and entrepreneur Jeff Olson agrees, and in a recent Entrepreneur.com article explains that “The Smartest Long-Term Investment is You.”

He begins by quoting Lincoln who once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”  In this, Lincoln demonstrates how enhancing one’s tools can actually be more important than performing actual tasks.  The problem is, if you’re like many professionals, the idea of taking a time-out to rejuvenate yourself may seem a little self-indulgent.  Aren’t you too busy chopping down trees, for heaven’s sake?  Unfortunately, too much tree-chopping and not enough axe-sharpening makes your work less effective and eventually, inadequate.

Olson suggests you spend just as much time sharpening as you do chopping.  He explains, “Read just one chapter of an information-rich, inspiring book every day. Listen to 15 minutes of a life-transforming audio. Take a course or seminar every few months. Most of your life — 99.9 percent– is made up of things you do on automatic pilot. It’s essential that you take charge of your automatic pilot’s training and never stop investing in yourself.”

He suggests other ways to invest in yourself as well, of which you’ll find that many of them won’t even require much time or money to achieve.

  • Study professional books and magazines.
  • Learn from friends, mentors, and colleagues.
  • Attend professional seminars.
  • Complete professional development programs.
  • Advance your education and training.

Steven Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, calls this habit “sharpening the saw.”  Covey explains that this requires you have “a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.”  We suggest you reflect on your own life to see how you can enhance all these key faucets.

Master Proven Marketing Techniques

One way to sharpen your axe is to learn how to better market your services and secure new clients.  Our Universal Practice Builder (UPB) program will enable you attract and retain more clients so that you can build a more lucrative practice.  Here’s just a sampling of what you will gain from enrolling in this phenomenal program:

  • A guarantee of $30,000 in new annualized billings in only 12 months
  • The skills to become a Profit Expert for each of your clients
  • 12 marketing strategies that you can implement immediately
  • A process which can produce 15 to 25 qualified leads per month
  • 3 months of coaching via telephone and Internet
  • Training to use QuickBooks to attract more clients
  • Access to a plan proven to help retain clients
  • 5 business assessments
  • A customized business website
  • An iron-clad guarantee

Mastering proven marketing techniques is a great personal investment!  Allow us to show you how.  Call 1-877-833-7908 today to enroll in the Universal Practice Builder Program.

Resource

Olson, Jeff.  “The Smartest Long-Term Investment is You.” 13 May 2014 Entrepreneur.com

“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw.” StephenCovey.com

PTIN Renewal and New Filing Season Program

Treasury tax check with cash.

PTIN Renewal

If you’re a paid tax preparer and haven’t already done so, now is the time to submit applications and renewals for your PTIN.  The IRS recently released information, including an audio troubleshooting video, designed to help tax professionals complete this important requirement with little time and energy.

It can be accomplished by completing three simple steps:

  1. Login to your PTIN account (or register for a new one).
  2. Complete the online renewal application which requires the verification of personal information.
  3. Pay the $63 renewal fee online using a credit or debit card.

You can also fulfil this requirement using a hardcopy form that can be mailed directly to the IRS for processing.

Annual Filing Season Program

The IRS is encouraging non-credentialed tax preparers to increase their level of professionalism by obtaining continuing education credits.  Tax preparers become eligible for the Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP) by obtaining 18 hours of continuing education which includes a six-hour federal tax law refresher course with test.  All those who received an AFSP Record of Completion from the IRS will be included in a public database of return preparers the IRS will launch in January 2015.

Those who passed the Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) test offered between November 2011 and January 2013 must fulfill the 15-hour CE requirement each year to secure an AFSP—Record of Completion.  According to the IRS press release, “Those who passed the RTRP test and certain other recognized national and state tests are exempt from the six-hour federal tax law refresher course with test.”

With programs such as these, the IRS continues to encourage paid tax preparers to increase their professionalism by investing in continuing education.  Also, changes in the representation rights of return preparers will change come 2016.  At that time:

Attorneys, CPAs, and enrolled agents will continue to be the only tax professionals with unlimited representation rights, meaning they can represent their clients on any matters including audits, payment/collection issues, and appeals.

AFSP participants will have limited representation rights, meaning they can represent clients whose returns they prepared and signed, but only before revenue agents, customer service representatives, and similar IRS employees, including the Taxpayer Advocate Service.

PTIN holders without an AFSP – Record of Completion or other professional credential will only be permitted to prepare tax returns. They will not be allowed to represent clients before the IRS.

For more information, visit the official IRS website.

Universal Accounting Helps Tax Preparers Succeed

At Universal, we also believe it’s important to prepare for the future, and we’re interested in seeing your future success as a tax preparer.  Our Professional Tax Preparer Program is designed to help professionals like you master tax preparation, becoming efficient in the completion of individual and business returns.  If you would like to learn more, visit Universal for a free video today!

Resource

–.  “New!  Annual Filing Season Program.”  IRS.gov

–.  “PTIN Requirements for Tax Return Preparers.”  IRS.gov

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