Anticipating 2014 Social Media Changes

social-mediaTechnology is moving at breakneck speeds, and it’s changed the way businesses market their services.  And because social media is an effective marketing tool, it’s important to anticipate how it’s evolving so that we can take advantage of this powerful technology.

In a recent Entrepreneur.com article, social media blogger Rick Mulready shares “5 Social Media Predictions for 2014.”  Here we pass on three we believe can impact your business for the better in the New Year:

1. A shift toward visual storytelling through short-form video.   Twitter’s Vine app and Instagram’s 15-second videos have become extremely prevalent and demonstrate the popularity of short videos that share a story.  Mulready expects this to become an effective marketing tool if businesses use them right.

2. Businesses will embrace the ‘fandom.’  I recently attended a ComiCon where I witnessed just how far fans will go to celebrate the movies, comic books, television series and video games they love.  The same holds true for your die-hard fans; they can be the most effective marketing tool.  As Mulready explains, “Connecting with and giving these fans the tools to help them spread the word about your business will go a long way.”

3. Google + will continue to grow in size and importance.  I remember the day I became frustrated enough with Facebook to open a Google + account in hopes of making a permanent move in social media platforms.  I was disappointed to discover that not many of my friends had made the same move.  That seems to be changing.  Mulready says that “Google + now has 300 million active users.”  While that’s dwarfed by Facebook’s 1.2 billion active users, it’s taking the lead of Twitters 232 million active users.  So as Google improves its services, it promises to become only more popular in 2014 which will bode well for your marketing plan.

While some small-business owners would rather use old-school methods for marketing their services, that’s not the most effective approach.  In this day and age of high-tech professionals, it only makes sense that you connect with them using the social media they frequent with the tools they find most appealing.  Take the time to create a social media plan for your business that will enable you to increase your prospective client base in 2014.

FREE Universal Resources

If you found this article helpful and are looking for more ways to virtually connect with colleagues and prospective clients, consider taking advantage of our other free resources; join our free accounting and tax forumsfollow us on Twitter and like us on FaceBook.  You’ll be surprised at how Universal’s virtual community will enable you to stay in-the-know.

Resource

Mulready, Rick.  “5 Social Media Predictions for 2014.” 16 December 2013 Entrepreneur.com

ACA Employer Shared Responsibility (ESR) Brings Complexity To Tax and HR

There are many changes under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).   We’d like to thank our valued strategic partner Ankur Khosla-Ghandi with PAYCHEX for the following information regarding the Employer Shared Responsibility (ESR) provisions that are almost here. Are your clients prepared to comply with the new guidelines?

An important part of the ESR provisions is the End of Year (EOY) reporting requirement that provides details on the insurance coverage that was offered to full-time employees.

  • Employers who are considered Applicable Large Employers (50 or more full-time employees, including full-time equivalents) based on their 2014 calendar year workforce, are required to begin reporting ESR information to the IRS for calendar year 2015, using Forms 1094-C (employer transmittal statement) and 1095-C (employee statement).
  • Form 1094-C and 1095-C must be filed with the IRS each year no later than February 28 or, if filing electronically, by March 31 following the end of the calendar year for which the return applies. Form 1095-C must be provided to full-time employees on or before January 31 following the end of the calendar year for which the statements apply.

For tax year 2014, reporting for Applicable Large Employers is optional but recommended. The idea for reporting for this year is to ease the transition when reporting becomes required for the 2015 tax year.

Rely on Paychex for Help with ESR Provisions

Paychex has the answers, information and solutions to help you and your clients with all ESR provisions, including EOY reporting requirements. These solutions include the following, and additional fees may apply:

  • Applicable Large Employer Analysis and Monitoring. Paychex helps track and calculate the number of full-time employees and full-time equivalents (FTEs) for payroll clients, to help determine if an employer is subject to ESR provisions.
  • Full-Time Employee Analysis and Monitoring. Paychex assists payroll clients in determining which employees may subject the employer to potential ESR penalties if they do not offer adequate and affordable coverage. The analysis shows measurement periods, administrative periods, and subsequent stability periods to determine full-time employees as outlined in the ESR provisions.
  • Coverage Adequacy Analysis and Monitoring. Paychex assists clients who have their insurance provided through Paychex Insurance Agency or Paychex PEO with assessing the adequacy of their health coverage by evaluating whether it provides minimum essential coverage, minimum actuarial value, and affordable coverage according to ESR provisions.
  • Year-End Reporting Requirements. Beginning in 2015, Paychex will assist clients with filing and preparation of Forms 1094-C and 1095-C.

Health Care Reform Presents Overwhelming Complexity – Rely on Paychex to Help.

Contact: Ankur Khosla-Gandhi for more information or assistance:

801-999-0881
akhosla@pachex.com

10 Tips for Blogging Success

BThey’re everywhere these days.  People have personal blogs, political blogs, travel blogs, health blogs, corporate and small-business blogs.  But do you really need a blog? 

Small-business blogging is a popular, and cost-effective, method of marketing. But the point is not just to get a blog out there; the point is to have it rise to the top of competing blogs.  So, how do you do that?

Here are a few tips that will help you create a blog worthy of a significant and loyal following.

  1. Read other small business blogs.  You’re more likely to see what works by reading other blogs, especially those in the tax industry.  Do a quick search, and bookmark all those you want to follow.  This is, possibly, the most effective way to witness what works and doesn’t work in the wonderful world of blogging. 
  1. Update frequently.  People expect to find new information on a blog, so you’ll loose readers quickly if you neglect it.  While some blogs update daily and others two to three times a week, you’ll find your sweet spot, once again, by visiting other small-business accounting blogs to see what they’re doing. 
  1. Build in numerous links.  Not only do visitors find that useful, but those same sites just might return the favor by adding your link to their site, increasing your traffic. 
  1. Include free and practical information.  Not only does this demonstrate your tax expertise, but it demonstrates a professional generosity which current and potential clients will appreciate. 
  1. Avoid blatant self-promotion.  While your blog is obviously a good way to get the word out about your valuable services, you should avoid successive posts that only boast about your services.   
  1. Enable social sharing.  Most blogging systems allow you to add links to posts, enabling readers to share your blog via Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Doing so gives will increase your readership more quickly. 
  1. Keep posts short and sweet.  The nature of blogging is to abbreviate rather than blather on and on.   Most readers opt out of reading a post that involves much scrolling. 
  1. Respond to comments.  The great thing about blogs is that they are conversational.  Readers can post comments to the blogger and visa versa.  Encourage that interaction because it inspires greater loyalty among your readers. 
  1. Include pictures.  Graphics add professionalism and interest to your posts.  Look for an inexpensive graphic subscription that would enable you to easily find and upload images to your blog. 
  1. Avoid negativity.  Nobody likes to continually read text through which the author rants and raves about the injustices of the world—that is, unless those readers themselves are Negative Nellys.  Keep your posts positive. 

Once you get your blog up and running, share the URL with current clients, have it printed on your business card, include it in your email signature, and provide a link to the blog from your website.  You may discover that blogging might be one of the best marketing tools you’ve used in a long time.

Enhance Your Skillset!

Consider what your life would be like without the convenience of modern technology.  Without software programs like QuickBooks, we would be required to do things the slow, old-fashioned way.  Thankfully, we don’t have to.

The Professional Bookkeeper’s Guide (PBG) to QuickBooks will enable you to master this software program that over 80% of small businesses use to manage their accounting.  Once you do, you will be able to work more efficiently as you use all the features, functions, and shortcuts QuickBooks offers.  Not only will the PBG enable you to manage your own books more efficiently, but it can increase your bottom line as you add QuickBooks consultation, help and setup services to your menu.  With hands-on training you can earn a professional designation as a QuickBooks Specialist that will give you the creditably you need to convince prospective clients that you are an outstanding tax professional!

With just one small initial investment, you can increase your income and your clientele.  Don’t wait to thank us.  Call Universal at 1-877-833-7909 to order now!

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.

Register for Universal’s FREE Start Today Seminar

From DC to Texas and Canada to California—Universal travels the country providing free 3-hour seminars teaching the secrets to establishing a successful accounting and bookkeeping service.  There you’ll learn how to enhance your service offerings while increasing your bottom lime!  Look at our schedule and register for one of our seminars in a city near you.  As attendee Dennis Shumway explained, “I have been involved in financial service for 20 years and have attended seminars all over the country. The quality of this class has been head and shoulders above any class that I have ever taken.”

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! 

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