Sharpening the Saw

sawIn Stephen Covey’s well-known and oft-quoted book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the last and final habit is known as “sharpening the saw.”  Covey explains that this habit “means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.”  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 sawing, for heaven’s sake?  Unfortunately, too much sawing and not enough sharpening makes your work less effective and eventually, inadequate.  Consider creating your own program for self-renewal using the following suggestions:

Physical. Neglecting your health will come back to haunt your business at some point or another, either in sick time, lack of focus, or compromised workflow.  And while we’re not suggesting you train for a triathlon, we are saying that taking better care of yourself will only benefit your business in the long run.  Getting plenty of sleep, water, and exercise, while enjoying a healthy diet, will provide the perfect foundation for a balanced life.

Social/Emotional. What’s life about if not making meaningful connections with the people around you?  Whether it be friends, family, or neighbors, take the time to associate with those you care for.  In fact, to demonstrate your commitment to balancing all aspects of your life, use the same calendar for both personal and business activities.

Spiritual. Covey suggests that honoring the spiritual element of your life might require “spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer or service.”  In addition, Walter Bagehot claims, “No great work has ever been produced except after a long interval of still and musing meditation.”  To many, meditation is a mystical, new-age activity for which they have no time, and those who practice it claim to be more adept at concentrating, critical thinking and problem solving—all of which are important skills for the business owner.

Mental. Regardless of your profession, it’s important that you continually challenge yourself mentally.  Learning new things and keeping up on industry advancements enables you to keep the saw sharp while improving your practice.  To do that, we suggest regularly honing your skills by investing in training that will improve your financial expertise.

Expand and Refine Your Financial Skills

Most of your competitors don’t offer specialized small-business accounting services.  But after completing the Professional Bookkeeper (PB) program, you can!  Consider a training program that is catered to your needs and busy schedule—one that will enable you to earn a professional designation after just 60 hours of your valuable time.

When you enroll in the Professional Bookkeeper Program you receive to the following:

  • Flexible training you complete on your own schedule
  • Rich and engaging training DVDs you can view again and again
  • Hands-on instruction and practice sets through which you gain much-needed experience
  • Training in building and marketing your new practice
  • 6 months of valuable follow-up support
  • The opportunity to earn professional certification
  • Our iron-clad risk-free guarantee

Expand your service offerings by enrolling in UAC’s valuable Professional Bookkeeper Program.  Call 1-877-833-7908 to enroll today!

Resource

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

Key Social Media Rules

The proliferation of social networking sites has left many professionals wondering how to best manage profiles in order to generate interest in their businesses.  In a recent Entrepreneur.com article, author Brian Patrick Eha describes “5 Social Media Rules Every Entrepreneur Should Know.”   Here we share three of his tips:

1. Produce quality content.  In order for your online presence to be valuable to others, you must provide them with information applicable to their particular needs and situation.  In order to accomplish this you must know your target market well and understand their most pressing concerns.  When you can address those, your tweets, posts, and pins becomes a valuable resource to their business.

2. Be open and engaging. Online communication can be tricky.  You need to ensure that all your correspondence is upbeat and personable so that your audience is drawn to your profile and attends to your updates.  Also, it’s important that you engage with followers, responding to their questions and requests.

3. Focus on a specific niche.  As Eha explains, “On social media, you can either be a generalist – producing and curating a hodge podge of content across many different disciplines—or you can choose to specialize in one or a few areas.  Specialists tend to bend more ears than generalists…” 

Using social media to promote your business can be daunting, considering all the different sites out there.  Following a simple set of ground rules could help you find greater success as you try to build your business online.

Enjoy Greater Prosperity!

Tax professionals charge 100 + an hour providing planning and preparation services to clients.  In the course of one tax season, many tax preparers earn what others take an entire year to bring in.  Universal’s Professional Tax Preparer Program will enable you to help your clients save enough money in taxes to more than cover your fees.  And what you earn in one tax season will more than cover your registration for this course.  

1.   Establishing the Tax Foundation.  Learn the entire process for determining income and adjustments to income, which will factor into the Adjusted Gross Income.  In fact, you’ll cover all the information necessary to prepare Page One of Form 1040.

2.   Becoming the 1040 Expert. This module deals with background information and forms that go into the 1040, Page 2.  We also discuss all the adjustments that can be made to gross income, including credits that are allowed and different types of deductions and exemptions that can be taken against that adjust gross income number.

3.   Profitable Business Returns.  In Module 3, we introduce you to the world of business organizations and their tax concerns.  This module is a practical companion to Module 2, as it give you experience in completing each of the schedules and forms common to business organizations.

4.   Building Your Successful Tax Practice.  Module 4 was designed to give you a head start in creating and running your own tax preparation service.  You will find yourself light years ahead of the competition as you put these strategies into play. 

Invest in your business by becoming a Professional Tax Preparer (PTP) before next tax season.  Universal’s PTP program will give you hands-on training in completing full individual (1040) and business returns while enabling you to further grow your business.  Call 1-877-833-7909 to enroll now.

Resource

Eha, Brian Patrick.  “5 Social Media Rules Every Entrepreneur Should Know.”  14 June 2013  Entrepreneur.com

Strategic Budgeting

cut-costsAs a financial professional you probably think you’ve got your budget under control.  You know numbers and watch your spending to ensure that you are managing your money well.  But unless you’re applying crucial budgeting strategies, you’re not using this valuable tool to its full advantage. 

Here are 5 tips that will help:

1. Ensure your budget aligns with your business strategy. This may seem obvious, but in the day-to-day tasks required in business management, strategy may be forgotten.  There are fires to put out, emergency expenses to pay, and last-minute purchases to make.  So unless you’re vigilantly monitoring your outflow, your strategy may be nickel and dimed into extinction.

If you don’t yet have a strategy, now is the time to develop one.  Does your business require more aggressive marketing techniques?  Are you attempting to grow your firm by hiring a support staff?  Or do you want to focus on retaining current clients?  Whatever your strategy, you should devise a budget that supports and sustains it.

2. Assess your Chart of Accounts. As a financial professional, you are likely familiar with the Chart of Accounts.  The Chart of Accounts enables you to set up categories that align with your management strategies.  It also enables you to establish a healthy balance between control and responsibility regarding business spending.

3. Establish accountability.  Anyone responsible for spending within your business needs to be accountable for their choices.  You may currently be the only person responsible.  However, it’s important that you acknowledge and assess your spending and then make any necessary changes.  You may determine that your budgetary items are best distributed among control areas like marketing, skills development, client retention, management, etc.  This may provide you with more control over outflow.

4. Regularly review your budget. Establishing a budget and then ensuring that it aligns with your business strategy is only part of this valuable process.  The true benefit of budgeting comes when you regularly review your budget with key players in your business.  In your review you can compare budgeted expenses with actual expenses and discuss discrepancies.  You can also talk with those responsible for various expenses and see how they might revise some of their spending choices.  This is also a good time to implement necessary changes and assess any changes implemented since your last budgetary review.

5. Revise as necessary.  A budget is not set in stone.  As mentioned in the previous tip, as you assess and review your progress it’s important that you make necessary changes.  In fact, that’s the beauty of budgeting.  As you monitor your income and outflow, you can make changes that will influence the future profitability of your business.

As a tax preprarer you may assume that you’ve been using this tool to its full advantage.  But if you haven’t been applying the above tips, you may be missing out of some of the best benefits of budgeting.

QuickBooks Made Profitable

Budgeting isn’t the only tool you can use to increase your business’s profitability.  Our program, QuickBooks Made Profitable, will teach you just how to use QuickBooks accounting software to attract and retain more clients.

Nearly 80% of small businesses use Intuit’s QuickBooks software.  While other programs may be useful, QuickBooks has definitely captured the small business market.  Mastering QuickBooks will not only enable you to better manage your budget and keep more efficient records, but it will also help you teach your clients how to use the software so that you can get the information you need which, making your job much easier.  This program will teach you how to leverage your time while saving clients money in taxes and helping them increase their profits.  What client wouldn’t be interested in that?  We’ll teach you how to use this valuable software package to generate more income!

Don’t wait to grow your business and experience the success your budget will certainly help you achieve.  There are countless potential clients out there in need of these specific services.  You can be the one to provide them.  Call Universal at 1-877-833-7908 to order QuickBooks Made Profitable today!

 

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

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