The Checklist Every Small Business Owner Needs for New Hires

Growing your business to the point that you need to start hiring employees is exciting. However, it can be challenging to hire the right people and small businesses face additional challenges when it comes to compliance, cash flow, and keeping operations on track. Use this new hire checklist to make your onboarding process as smooth as possible:

1. Obtain the new hire’s ID, work eligibility, and tax withholding forms in order before you do anything else.

Make a copy of the employee’s government-issued photo ID and confirm that the new hire is eligible to work in the United States. This requires completing an I-9 form and checking with the government database that it’s valid. Neglecting to collect an I-9 at the time of onboarding can result in fines worth $375-$16,000 per violation, with another $100-$1,100 per violation if you fail to produce a valid I-9 for each employee at the time of inspection.

In order to make sure that the employee’s paychecks are calculated correctly from the first payroll period onward, you will need to collect a Form W-4. If your state and/or city has income taxes, you will also need state and local withholding forms. This is particularly important if your organization hires talent from multiple states, such as the greater New York City and Philadelphia areas. This is also the ideal time to complete direct deposit forms.

2. Order a background check.

If your newly hired employee has committed a crime in the past that is relevant to their job, i.e. an inventory manager committing larceny, you may be held liable for your employees’ actions and deemed negligent in the hiring process. You may not need every piece of information that comes up in a background check, but it can help ensure the safety and security of your clients, staff, and other stakeholders.

3. Enroll the employee in any benefit programs offered.

Even if there’s a grace period involved, it’s best to onboard new hires into any benefit programs immediately. As a result, neither of you will have to be inconvenienced by manual enrollment in the future. Health insurance and retirement benefits are the most crucial benefits for immediate enrollment.  If you offer any other programs like pre-tax transit passes, flex accounts, and wellness plans (e.g. gym memberships), you also need to get the new hire enrolled or leave instructions on how to do so.

4. Walk the new hire through your business processes, policies and procedures.

Once all the relevant government and payroll forms have been completed and you’re ready to proceed, the next integral step of the onboarding process is to familiarize new employees with the business environment and organizational culture.

If you have an employee handbook, provide your new hire with a copy. Outline the critical policies that are most relevant to the job, such as code of conduct, dress code, guidelines for remote work and total hours worked, parking rules, and other policies and procedures they should be aware of on the first day. As appropriate, order business cards with the employee’s name and contact information.

Other important aspects of readying the workspace include ordering name and security badges or employee IDs, updating any registries if located within a building or complex, keys, filing cabinets, and setting up new employee e-mail addresses.

5. Arrange the new hire’s workspace.

Does your new hire have a desk and chair, a properly set-up computer and any other tools that may be necessary? If the position is not a desk job, do you have the required uniforms in the correct size, along with tools and any other occupational gear your new hire will need? Is the area properly furnished?

6. Integrate new employees into the workplace.

Arrange for any meetings or lunches with the appropriate managers, clients, or key employees that new hires need to get to know better. Send a welcome email to all employees to introduce your new hire.  As appropriate, add your new hire to your website and social media.  Have them tour the workplace to familiarize themselves with how it operates and determine training or additional resources that may be required. Make sure that the new hires also understand the required job duties and how they fit within the department or overall organization. Encourage questions and comments throughout the entire process.

Onboarding can be a stressful time for smaller organizations that are just starting to grow. If you have questions about transitioning a new hire, please contact us.

How to Organize Spending Priorities for Your Newer Growth Startup

According to a recent study conducted by U.S. Bank, over 80% of all newly formed businesses that ultimately fail do so due to cash flow problems. If you needed a reason to believe that getting your spending in order and dedicating the time to drafting a proper budget for your new startup is important, look no further than that statistic.

If you take the time to properly budget now, you’re mitigating a significant portion of the risk you’re likely to face in the not-too-distant future. If you don’t, or worse—if you assume that you can just “make it up on the fly”—all you’re doing is setting yourself up for disaster. Therefore, if you truly want to make sure that you have the budget you need to continue to build the business you’ve always wanted, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

It Begins by Looking Inward, Not Outward

Maybe the most critically important thing for you to understand is that there is no “one size fits all” approach to creating a budget for your startup. Just as it’s fair to say that nobody does what you do quite like how you do it, that same unique quality must extend into the world of budgeting for your startup business.

Every business is different ‒ so while you can certainly look to some similar organizations for guidance and inspiration, be aware that their path is not one for you to rigidly follow. You need to start the process by looking at your long-term business goals ‒ where are you today, and where do you want to be in a year or five years from now? What are the steps you need to take to help you accomplish that? What are the mile markers you’ll need to hit along the way? Once you have the specific answers to these questions, then you can begin the process of figuring out what budget is most appropriate for your small business.

Once you contextualize everything through that lens, many of your priorities will easily reveal themselves. At that point, your job becomes making sure you’re spending money in a way that supports those goals first, and everything else second.

As you develop your budget, you can even use it as an opportunity to learn more about the business and the way it operates. Once you can better identify how much money you have on hand and where it’s going, you start to better understand things like:

  • The money you’re spending on labor and other materials necessary for your products and services;
  • Your overall costs of operations;
  • The level of revenue you’ll need to generate to support your business moving forward; and
  • A realistic idea of how much money you can expect to make in terms of profit, and when.

So, as you develop a budget that is more specific to your growth startup, you also begin to better understand how that startup works. At that point, you’re not just able to make accurate, informed decisions about things like hiring or materials spending ‒ you can also go back and reconfigure your budget to account for any trends or patterns that you’ve discovered. This cyclical process is also a great way to make sure that you always have the cash necessary to take advantage of opportunities as quickly as possible, even ones that you didn’t necessarily expect.

The “Day One” Budget

For the sake of an example, let’s say that you’re planning a budget for a business that hasn’t technically gotten off the ground yet. At that point, your priorities are a bit different as you’re essentially trying to make “Day One” possible. Again, every business is going to be different from the next. But having said that, there are a few key things you will want to focus on to make sure that your opening goes as smoothly as possible:

  • Facilities costs – Where, specifically, are you going to do business? Do you need to rent a storefront? Are you working out of a commercial office space? Will you need a warehouse or other logistical assets? Regardless of which one best describes your situation, you’ll need to think about things like security deposits, any cosmetic or structural changes you need to make to the building, and even things like signage.
  • Fixed assets – Also commonly referred to as “capital expenditures,” these are things that your staff will need to do the jobs you’ve asked of them. This includes thinking about purchases like work vehicles (if applicable). You’ll also have to buy furniture and other equipment like computers and other technologies.
  • Materials and supplies – Costs in this category would refer not only immediate needs like office supplies, but also those related to marketing and other promotional activities in which you might be engaged. You’re going to need a steady stream of all these items to hit the ground running.
  • Miscellaneous – These are all the other costs of physically opening a business that don’t fall into the other three categories. You’ll need to work with an attorney and your Tarlow advisor to make sure the backend of your business is in order. Depending on your industry, you may need things like licenses and permits, which can be costly.

Remember: these aren’t necessarily the costs associated with running your business in the long-term. These are just the things you’ll need to take care of to make sure you’re prepared to open your doors in the first place.

Get Your Priorities in Order

From a longer-term point of view, you will need to organize your spending for your newer, growth-focused startup and get your priorities in order. Expenses like those outlined here will remain important. However, those are related to meeting short-term needs. To meet your long-term needs, you will need to be judicious about where you spend your money and, more importantly, why.

For the best results, try to prioritize expenditures that generate revenue or some type of sizable return on investment in the future. If your startup depends on a particular piece of equipment in order to successfully produce a key product, it stands to reason that: A) buying that equipment and B) paying to maintain it and keep it in proper working order would be top priorities as you literally cannot function without it. The more products you can produce, the more you can sell—and thus the more revenue you can generate.

Carefully review all of your expenses and arrange them in order of importance. For the most part, the things that are necessary to avoid interrupting your business in any way should be at the top of your list.

As you re-order certain budget items, be thoughtful of both the short- and long-term implications of that move. If you prioritize Factor A over Factor B, what chain of events could that cause? If you choose not to focus on computer maintenance and instead move funds elsewhere, what issues would that potentially cause? Are you in a business where slower or more outdated equipment would hurt productivity and your ability to serve your customers? Because if you are, that’s a move you might want to re-think.

Creating the right budget and organizing your spending priorities for your newer startup can feel complicated and time-consuming. This is an example of a situation where “getting it done” is less important than “getting it right”.

If you have any questions about financing your small business, or need assistance with organizing your spending priorities, please contact us. We can help you create a budget that supports your startup as it exists today, and help you prepare for the business it will become tomorrow.

The Key Steps to Take BEFORE You Start a New Business

Very few people think that starting a new business is easy. But at the same time, there are few first-time entrepreneurs who realize just how involved things are from the moment you start trying to bring that idea that previously only existed in your head into the real world.

There’s a massive amount of commitment required, even before your business technically exists at all. This is okay, because as the old saying goes, “anything worth doing is worth doing right.”

In fact, there are a number of key steps that you need to take BEFORE you’ve even started the business of your dreams that you’ll absolutely want to pay close attention to moving forward.

Identify the “Why” of It All
First thing’s first: Before you do anything else, you need to determine why you feel so compelled to start this particular business at this particular time.

Is it just because you think you have a great, sure-fire idea that is going to generate a lot of money? If so, you may want to take a step back… you’ll likely be disappointed. But if it’s because this will allow you to genuinely do something you love, and something that you think will make an impact on the lives of a lot of people, then, by all means, push ahead.

Identify the NEED
Next, you need to verify that this idea of yours is actually a viable one in the first place; essentially, you have to confirm that there is a genuine need in the marketplace for a product or service like the one you want to create.

DO NOT allow yourself to become “a solution in search of a problem.” Make sure that people are asking for a business like yours and that need is currently going unfulfilled.

DON’T Quit Your Day Job
Building a successful business is not something that happens overnight. This often takes years of planning and hard work, not to mention many mistakes along the way.

All of this is to say that if your ability to quit your day job and focus on your new business full time depends on an instant success… don’t quit your day job just yet.

DON’T Neglect Your Family
Yes, starting a business is something that requires a huge amount of your time. Yes, you need to devote every ounce of space in your brain and every free moment to this goal. But do not, under any circumstances, let that come at the expense of your loved ones and those around you.

You’re going to need quite a bit of support to get your new business up and running. If you neglect your family now, you’re not going to have that support later.

The Art of Writing a Business Plan
At this point, you can start working on making your vision a reality. This part of the journey always begins in the same basic way: writing a realistic, actionable business plan that will guide your every move in the future.

With a business plan, you really do need to be as specific as humanly possible. You know where you’re starting, and you know where you want to end up. The job of a business plan is to connect those dots by way of a series of smaller, logical and achievable steps. It’s essentially the roadmap you’ll use to shine a light through the darkness, guaranteeing that you’re always moving in the right direction (and that this direction is forward).

The Entrepreneur’s Bet
As you write your business plan, you’ll also have to make what is often referred to as “The Entrepreneur’s Bet.” Essentially, you need to figure out how much money a business like yours needs to make in order to become profitable.

You also need to acknowledge that, once again, your business is very unlikely to be successful enough right away to have this bet pay off in the short term. A lot of new businesses are operating at a loss at first — that’s okay. But this is yet another step that confirms the path you’re on is actually viable and it’s one that you absolutely do not want to skip.

The Myth of the “One Size Fits All” Approach
At this point, it’s also important to acknowledge that there really is no one “right way” to start a business. The choices you have to make will be influenced by a wide range of different factors, many of which are unique to your industry, your business plan and even the vision that you’re starting with.

Case in point: You need to review all local, state and federal regulations pertaining to what you’re trying to accomplish. Different places have different laws, and ignorance is not an excuse for breaking them. Factors like how to become compliant, what standards a product has to meet and more will all be influenced by these regulations, and they will impact a lot of the steps on your business plan as well.

It’s Time to Start Thinking About Technology
Once this foundation is all in place, it’s time to start thinking about the tools you’ll need to bring your new business into the world. These days, that involves a lot more technology than people often realize.

This is another one of those steps that will obviously be impacted by the type of business you’re starting. A local brick-and-mortar retail store will obviously have different technological needs (point of sale systems, inventory management equipment, etc.) than an online marketing agency (graphic design software, collaboration tools, etc.).

But when built properly, your technology strategy and your business strategy are essentially one and the same. They feed into one another, and your IT helps generate the momentum you need to continue to grow and expand while remaining agile as well. It’s far too important to neglect.

Choosing the Right Business Entity
This is another important step you don’t want to skip because it dictates things like taxes, paperwork, liability and other legal elements of your business.

One of the most common types of business entities is the limited liability structure, or LLC. This is because it provides you with the level of flexibility you need right now, coupled with the protection you’ll need from a personal liability standpoint.

But that isn’t a guarantee that this is right for you. Other structures like sole proprietorships, partnerships, S corporations and C corporations all have their fair share of advantages and disadvantages. You need to pick the right one today or you’ll open yourself up to a world of problems tomorrow.

Finding the Help You Need (and You WILL Need It)
Finally, as your journey toward true entrepreneurship is about to begin in earnest, you need to understand two of the core pillars of successful business ownership:

  1. You do not know everything, even if you think you do.
  2. You cannot do it all alone, even if you think you can.

The difference between failed and successful business owners often comes down to the acknowledgment of these two points.

Rather than do a poor job at a business task for which you don’t have the skills, don’t be afraid to hire someone who does have those skills. Rather than guess at answers to questions, find the right advisors and mentors to guide you. Reach out and find the people who are willing to assist you and don’t be afraid to share your vision with them.

You WILL need help and there are people who are absolutely willing to stand by your side. You just have to want to look for them.

In the End
It’s fair to say that starting a new business is harder than you probably thought it was going to be, especially when you consider the sheer amount of time you’ll need to devote to the steps outlined above. But provided that you have a realistic vision and a passion that cannot be extinguished, success is no longer a question of “if” but “when.”

The stakes are high and the risk is higher, but the rewards are even greater if you persevere. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.

10 Mistakes Most Small Business Owners Miss When Starting Out

The process of starting a small business can be an arduous one; there are numerous steps that need to be taken — and often in a precise order — to legally establish a business. As a result, the process can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to overlook some important details and steps along the way. By being aware of a few of the most common legal and compliance mistakes made by small business owners when starting out, you can be better prepared for future success.

1. Misclassifying Employees as Independent Contractors
Regulators are coming down hard on misclassifications. The IRS estimates that this problem includes millions of workers. It is best to talk this through with an expert, but you can get some background on the guidelines at the United States Department of Labor website.

2. Choosing the Wrong Business Structure
One of the first major decisions you’ll need to make in regards to your small business is the type of business structure you will select. This can range anywhere from a basic sole proprietorship (which doesn’t require any special forms or paperwork) to a more complex structure, such as a corporation or LLC. Keep in mind that different types of business structures offer different tax benefits and other protections, so it’s important to thoroughly explore your options and select the structure that’s best for your unique needs. You’ll also need to go through the legal process of establishing your business under your desired structure, which may require help from a legal or other type of professional.

3. Failing to Apply for an Employer Identification Number
Unless you plan on operating your business strictly as a sole proprietorship (in which case, you will use your personal Social Security number when filing taxes), you’ll also need to apply for a unique Employer Identification Number (EIN). This number will be specifically associated with your business, and it can be helpful to think of it as a business Social Security number of sorts; it’s used to file your business taxes, open up dedicated business bank accounts, and the like.

4. Overlooking Important Permits and Licenses
Depending on the specific industry in which your business will be operating and your location, you may also be required to obtain specialized licenses and/or permits in order to legally operate. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of being shut down or finding yourself in serious legal trouble down the road. Take some time to research the specific types of permits or licenses that you may need to obtain, as well as the steps you’ll need to take in order to acquire them. Sometimes, this process can be time-consuming and even costly, so it’s not something you’ll want to put off until the last minute.

5. Not Knowing When to Speak to a Professional
When starting up a small business, it’s not uncommon to run a one-man (or woman) operation. After all, you may not have the cash flow or even the need to hire outside help in the early stages. Still, when it comes to making sure your business is squared away from a legal/compliance standpoint, it can certainly be worth the money to consult with tax and accounting professionals early in the game. You don’t necessarily need to onboard these experts full-time, but being able to turn to them for advice and guidance when you need it will help you avoid serious legal issues later on.

6. Putting Off Domain Name Registration
As soon as you have your business name picked out and registered, it’s also in your best interest to go ahead and register your website domain as soon as possible. Even if you don’t plan on setting up and launching your website any time soon, domain names are cheap, and having yours registered now will help you avoid a situation where the domain name you want is taken by somebody else later on.

7. Lack of a Comprehensive Business Plan
One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make when first starting out is that of not having a well thought-out and articulated business plan. A business plan is an important document that outlines in detail what your goals for your business are and how you will achieve them. This document is important not just for you and other members of your immediate team, but for potential investors as well. Should you seek financing for your company at any point, an investor is going to want to see and scrutinize your business plan — and it will likely have a major impact on the final decision.

8. Not Having Finances Squared Away
Another common mistake new business owners make is that of poor financial planning, which can lead to a lack of funding to get you through your first months successfully. Ideally, you’ll want to make sure your business plan accounts for all the company-related expenses you’ll incur during the first year of operation, as well as any personal expenses as well. Unfortunately, this is something that many small business owners overlook or miscalculate with disastrous results. The easiest way to avoid this mistake is to consult with a small business accountant during the early stages of drafting your business plan.

9. Failing to File Patents on Products or Ideas
It’s (hopefully) no surprise that you’ll want to be proactive about filing for patents for any unique products, prototypes or designs you may have. However, what many small business owners first starting out don’t realize is that they’ll also want to file patents on ideas, such as intellectual property, that could otherwise be stolen or copied and used by other entrepreneurs. After all, intellectual property can be just as valuable as a product prototype — so you’ll want to plan and protect these kinds of ideas accordingly.

Be careful to also avoid the mistake of waiting too long to file for relevant patents; the process can often be long and drawn out, so getting started as early as possible will be in your best interest.

10. Being Blind to Important Compliance Requirements
Last, but not least, make sure you’re aware of any and all compliance requirements that may apply to your business based on its structure, location, industry or other factors. For example, even if you’re keeping things “simple” by operating as a sole proprietorship, you’re going to be required to file and pay quarterly estimated taxes under that structure. Failing to meet compliance and other requirements can result in serious legal trouble, including fines and penalties, down the road.

When it comes to compliance requirements, such as annual reporting and tax filing, it’s always a good idea to keep a calendar of important dates, so you don’t forget anything. After all, you’ll have enough deadlines to worry about and remember on your own — especially during that first year of business operation. This is yet another situation where having a compliance expert, such as a tax or accounting professional, can really come in handy. He or she can assist you with annual compliance reviews, reminders on impending deadlines and the like.

From selecting a name and business structure to making sure your small business remains in compliance at all times, there are, unfortunately, a lot of opportunities to make mistakes as a new business owner. By keeping this information in mind and by working alongside the right types of professionals as you prepare to launch your new business, hopefully, you’ll be able to avoid these issues. From there, you can maximize your chances for success in the first year of operation and beyond.

First-Year Start-Up Tax Issues

If creating a start-up business were an easy thing to do, then a lot more people would be doing it. For those who make the decision to fulfill their dreams and go for it, success relies on being fully prepared. Some of the most common stressors encountered by entrepreneurs involve tax liabilities, whether business is booming or they’re struggling to keep their head above water. The best way to avoid these pitfalls is to learn about them ahead of time. Here’s what every entrepreneur needs to know.

Give Careful Consideration to the Type of Business Organization You Choose
The entity that you choose for your start-up will have a big impact on how your taxes are handled, so make sure you’ve done your research to find the option that works best for your specific situation. Factors like the state where you’re doing business and the type of business you’re operating will be a consideration, and so will your ownership profile. Businesses that don’t plan on adding partners or shareholders in the future or that anticipate changing owners in the near future are probably limited to establishing as a C corporation or an S corporation, with the former offering more flexibility on ownership shifts, as well as the possibility of international investors.

Though there’s no law to prevent you from shifting to another type of entity in the future, doing so can be disruptive, so it makes sense to take your time and choose the option that fits best and makes the most sense based on your current ownership plans.

Choosing an Accounting Method
Unless you’re an accountant or have experience and significant knowledge of accounting, it’s a good idea to sit down with a professional to determine whether you’re going to use a cash accounting method, an accrual method, or a hybrid of the two. If you don’t have a background in bookkeeping and taxes, it may seem like an academic question, but it plays a big part in determining your tax liability. A lot of the determination will also depend on the type of business you run. An experienced accountant will be able to walk you through the decision that makes the most sense and that will be easiest to implement in compliance with IRS regulations.

Putting Internal Controls in Place
As a start-up, there are certain internal controls you need to put in place to ensure that your business is running smoothly and according to your stated objectives and goals. You also want to be sure that you’re set up to provide comprehensive information for external investors. Company policies need to be written and communicated with an eye to regulations. A CPA will be invaluable in helping you get these controls in place.

Paying Attention to Compliance
Every entrepreneur likes to do things their own way, but there are some issues where compliance is key. Failure to follow the rules and regulations could lead to stiff penalties and fines, or even to your business either temporarily or permanently being shut down. In addition to paying taxes on your business’s income, you also need to find out whether your locale requires a business license and what the rules are if you’re selling either a digital or physical product over state lines. Sales tax will need to be paid, workers’ compensation insurance will need to be purchased and a policy put in place if you have even a single employee, and if you’ve organized yourself as a Delaware corporation, then you’ll need to have an annual franchise tax report prepared, filed and paid, whether you generate income or not.

Creating a Way to Track Performance and Stay on Budget
One of the biggest mistakes new business owners make is failing to create a budget and stick to it. Failure to do so can easily lead to a shortfall in available funds, including those you need to pay your tax liability. Take the time to make a reasonable budget and establish what your start-up’s key performance indicators (KPIs) are for both cutting expenses and generating income. With those issues addressed, you give yourself a solid way to measure how you’re doing, and you’re likely to find both short-term and long-term tax planning easier too.

Starting a new business is a dream come true for many, but your focus has to go beyond your own area of expertise and interest. By working with a tax professional, you can be sure that you’ve addressed the tax-related problems that have tripped up many start-up organizations.

Please call us with any questions related to creating a start-up business.

Nine Best Ways to Start a Business Budget to Spur and Guide Growth

Building a business is a process that requires careful attention to many individual points, all with the goal of increasing customers, improving products, and building profit. There are many elements that contribute to the ability of a company to grow. One key area to focus on is the budget. From the foundation of the business, a well-planned budget can create a financially sound business with clear directions. To achieve that, consider these nine key ways to create an effective budget that spurs and guides the growth of your company.

#1: Know what you are spending first
It is impossible to create a budget without knowing where your money is going. To that end, business owners need to pay careful attention to every expense the company has. This should include expenses related to running the business such as marketing, employee costs, and property costs. Create a system where every dollar spent for the company is carefully tracked. While this type of oversight may seem intense, it gives you a foundation from which to build.

#2: Analyze each expense carefully
Now that you know where your money is going, the next step is to know if you are overpaying in any area. For example, you may be able to reduce your overhead on employee labor by improving your scheduling methods. You may be able to reduce your inventory purchases to be more in line with what you need right now to improve your working capital. Look at each item to determine if it is worthwhile or if there is a less-expensive solution.

#3: Build an expense-based budget
With this information in hand, it becomes possible to then build a budget. A variety of software programs, as well as the help of an accountant, can help you to do this. The goal here is to ensure that the amount you allocate to each expense matches what you are currently paying or your revised amount. In short, it is accurate. When changes occur over the month, you can spot them easily and take action to rectify your budget.

#4: Hire a tax professional for timely reports
You cannot know how well your business is doing or how it can grow without having access to in-depth information. Clear, accurate reports delivered to you can show your current profit and loss. They can help you understand sales patterns. They can also break down information based on the specific types of profit margins various items bring in and which do not pay for themselves. A tax professional is more than just a pro to file your end-of-the-year taxes.

#5: Create a cash flow projection
Now that you have a professional on hand, you can use this team to help you build a realistic, accurate cash flow projection for the next month. You can extend that to include cash flow goals for the next six months and then for the year. By having this present, you can see where your growth is occurring as well as any limitations within the process.

#6: Create a savings plan
It sounds like a personal money management step, but one of the most costly components of growing a business is expanding assets, building space, marketing, or other large investments. Your business has working capital, but do you have a growth account? This is an account that you are saving in to allow your business to make large purchases down the road. It can also help a company to manage costs in financial emergencies or situations where they need a significant amount of cash on hand. By having these funds, you do not have to tap into costly credit and loans to grow.

#7: Tackle debt with a lot of effort
Debt is one of the most taxing of components in managing a business. Debt is expensive. Every dollar you spend on interest payments is money not going toward helping your business to grow. Work with your tax professional to understand your company’s current debt, cash flow needs, and allowances that could be used to pay down debt faster. Create an aggressive plan to reduce your company’s debt so that you can free up more capital for short-term and long-term investments.

#8: Begin moving profits toward growth goals
Companies that have their financials in line are likely to begin to see profit more readily. With that comes the ability to grow. Some companies may wish to be aggressive here. Instead of borrowing for another location or launching a new product based on costly debt, begin to move a percentage of all profits toward the business’s growth plan and investments. It’s important for companies to recognize growth as a cost of doing business. For example, if a company has a 25 percent margin for profit on every sale, recognize that to just 20%. Tuck the remaining 5% into an investment for future growth. In other words, see investing in future growth as an expense for your company now. This way, you begin to readily put money aside.

#9: Develop a growth plan
What is your goal? How does your company foresee growing revenue, providing more services, or otherwise scaling? Work with an accounting firm to create a solid plan of action. This should include outlining all goals for the company (for a year, five years, and so on). Then, create financial expectations for the next six months and year. Your growth plan should also include all costs of growth – as well as any expected investments necessary to build that long-term picture.

By focusing on each one of these areas, with the help of accounting professionals, it is possible to build a solid growth plan that addresses every need the company has. You cannot simply say you want to increase customers by 100%. You need a plan based on your financials to get you there.

If you have any questions related to this article, please give us a call.

Five Steps You Need to Take After Jumping Into Entrepreneurship

Congratulations! You’ve decided to dive into the exciting world of entrepreneurship and bring that great business idea to life. Whether you’re opening a local brick-and-mortar business that your community needs, looking to grow rapidly in the next few years and get an investor, or just keep things small and solo, certain steps come next that aren’t as exciting as preparing for launch, but need to be done.

Here are the five important steps to take after you’ve decided it’s time to go from idea to delivery.

1. Choose the Right Business Entity.
How you organize your business plays a major role in taxes, bookkeeping, current and potential ownership, and overall administrative burden. While all of these considerations would need to be made regardless of the current state of the tax code, it’s especially important to think about in the face of massive tax overhaul. The GOP tax reform bill has become law and many changes go into effect starting January 1, 2018.

Some owners of pass-through businesses can expect to get a bonus deduction of up to 20 percent of profits up to $157,500 for most filing statuses and $319,000 for married filing jointly. Ninety-five percent of U.S. businesses are pass-through entities, which is a sole proprietorship, partnership, S corporation, or limited liability company (LLC) using the same tax structure as one of these entities, with the maximum income tax being 29.6 percent for pass-through income. For C corporations, the maximum corporate income tax rate is dropping from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Taxes aside, each state also treats business entities differently and may present bonuses and disadvantages you weren’t aware of. For example, many small business owners reap numerous benefits from S corporations but if you’re a New York City resident, you still have to pay city income tax. New York State recognizes S status but New York City doesn’t. Sales tax nexus, risk management, and legal aspects are other considerations to make when choosing an entity.

Depending on your entrepreneurial goals as well as personal needs, you need to decide which entity makes the most sense for your operations. If you plan to change entities in the near future due to taking on a partner or investor, you should also factor in how the tax bill will affect you.

2. Register your business with the appropriate state, local, and federal agencies.
When you organize your business, you may automatically be registered into your state or local agency’s database after filing articles of incorporation or similar documents. Check with your local Division of Corporations or other authority to make sure that you’ve taken all necessary steps to register your business once you’ve decided which entity to go with.

If you’re forming an LLC, you may need to file additional paperwork such as a publication affidavit which is when the state requires you to announce your commencement in a newspaper. This can be inexpensive or present a major cost barrier. For any “DBA” claims where you’re not doing business under your actual name or business entity name, you also need to check with your county clerk regarding forms and filing fees.

For federal agencies, most of the registration has to do with hiring employees, but even if you don’t plan on hiring any in the near future or ever, you still need to get an Employer Identification Number from the IRS. If you need to obtain licenses or approvals before operations commence, you also need to prioritize contacting these agencies and getting your paperwork taken care of before working with your first client.

3. Find business advisers, mentors, and peers.
You want to work with business advisers who can teach you about not just business in general, but also about the specific type of business that you’re operating and your industry. A good business adviser is one that will tell you both what you’re excelling at and what really needs improvement and how to achieve your business goals.

You want to find an adviser who’s on the same wavelength as you, but who can also give you the benefit of their knowledge and experience for your particular industry. In seeking out mentors and professional peers, you’ll want to find spaces for your profession or business type online and in person to exchange ideas and learn from each other. They’re excellent ways to grow your business while learning the ropes and you’ll learn the dos and don’ts of pre-launch.

4. Pick the right accounting software.
Even if you plan on outsourcing your accounting and tax responsibilities to a competent professional, you still need to have an accounting solution in place for them to work with. Jotting your expenses down on an Excel sheet can be a placeholder when you don’t have that many transactions yet and haven’t formally set up an entity in the very beginning, but it’s not going to be a viable long-term solution.

Accounting software isn’t as cost-prohibitive as it once was and there are many different products on the market meant for small business owners, solopreneurs, people who travel frequently, and even programs and apps that work in the cloud designed specially for certain industries and types of businesses. Cloud accounting programs are perfect for busy people who use multiple devices, so your accounting professional can see transactions in real time and correctly adjust them as you go.

If your business has more robust accounting needs such as inventory tracking and payroll, you need to test out the program and see if it works well for you. For most people without accounting knowledge, figuring out how to get accounting software set up can be daunting, so you also want to see if your tax professional can help you with this or if there are training videos and courses for your software.

5. Get ready to launch!
Once you’ve taken care of these crucial items pre-launch, it’s time to get going! You can now focus your time and energy on building a great product, finding the best staff, and cultivating a following for your brand. It’s just part of the game when you own a business.

While your business entity and accounting needs might not be as exciting as putting together your website and initial marketing blasts, it’s extremely important to have them sorted out beforehand so you aren’t scrambling to get tax paperwork in order right when things are really taking off for you. By establishing your entity, business registration, publication affidavits, and other business-related paperwork beforehand with the help of a business adviser, you’ll also have peace of mind that these things were done right the first time and you won’t need to stop what you’re doing to keep mailing in forms.

The journey to a successful business is definitely not an easy one. But if you’ve got a pre-launch roadmap and the right professionals on your side, you’ll minimize your chances of dealing with irksome bureaucratic obstacles so you can focus on growing your business. If you have any questions about jumping into entrepreneurship, and the important steps to take afterward, please contact us.

A Beginner’s Guide to Bookkeeping

If you’re a new business owner, you might not remember the last night you slept more than four or five hours. Your days may be filled with developing marketing strategies, screening potential employees and trying to figure out how to set up a bookkeeping system. If working with numbers isn’t your favorite pastime, the latter activity may be posing quite a challenge. If you can relate to this common scenario that new entrepreneurs face, the following beginner’s guide to bookkeeping might calm your frayed nerves and set you on the right course.

Cash Versus Accrual Basis of Accounting
A pivotal first step when setting up a bookkeeping system is deciding whether to use the cash or accrual basis of accounting. Cash accounting requires you to record transactions at the time cash changes hands. Both actual money and electronic funds transfers constitute cash. If you’re a sole proprietor working from home or at a one-person office, opting for cash accounting can make sense. However, if you’re going to extend credit to your customers or request credit from your suppliers, you must utilize accrual accounting. Accrual accounting dictates that you record sales or purchases immediately, even if you receive cash from a customer or pay cash to a creditor at a later date.

Single- Versus Double-Entry Accounting System
Single-entry bookkeeping is similar to maintaining a check register. You record transactions when you make deposits into your business account or pay bills. This method only works if you own a small company with a low volume of transactions. If you own a mid-size or large business that is complex, a double-entry bookkeeping system is needed. With this type of system, at least two entries are made for every transaction. One account is debited, while another one is credited. A simultaneous debit and credit system is the key to a double-entry bookkeeping system.

Balance Sheet Basics
Before you can successfully develop a bookkeeping system, you must understand the basic balance sheets accounts: assets, liabilities and equity. If you don’t carefully track these items and ensure the transactions that deal with them are recorded in the right place, your books won’t balance. The accounting equation is a simple formula you can use to ensure your books always balance. This handy equation is: assets = liabilities + equity.

Assets
Assets are things your business owns, such as accounts receivables and inventory. On the balance sheet, assets are typically listed in order of their liquidity. For instance, the assets section of a balance sheet might begin with cash followed by marketable securities, inventory and accounts receivables. These accounts are referred to as current assets. Fixed assets, or tangible assets, round out the first portion of the balance sheet. They include things you can touch such as land, buildings and equipment.

Liabilities
Liabilities are things a company owes to third parties such as suppliers and banks. The liabilities section of the balance sheet comprises both current and long-term accounts. Current liabilities, those expected to be paid within a year, typically include accounts payable and accruals. Accounts payable contains amounts owed to suppliers. This account may also encompass credit card and bank debt. Accruals consist of taxes owed, including:

  • Sales taxes
  • Social security taxes
  • Medicare taxes

Long-term liabilities, such as bonds and mortgages, aren’t expected to be paid off during the next year.

Equity
Equity represents the ownership a business owner and other investors have in a company. If you’re the only person who has put money into your business, the equity section of the balance sheet will only have one account in it.

Income Statement Basics
In addition to being familiar with balance sheet accounts, understanding income statement basics is critical to setting up a superb bookkeeping system. The income statement consists of revenue and expense accounts.

Revenues
Revenue represents all the income received when selling goods or services. On the income statement, revenues are classified as either “operating” or “non-operating.” Operating revenues stem from your business’s main operations. Sales is an example of this type of revenue. Non-operating revenues are earned from some other activity such as rent or interest revenue.

Expenses
Expenses are the costs incurred to run your business. On the income statement, expenses are classified as either cost of goods sold, operating or non-operating. Cost of goods sold represents the cash a company spends to manufacture or buy the products or services it sells to customers. Operating expenses are the costs a company incurs as part of its regular business activities excluding cost of goods sold.

Examples of operating expenses include:

  • Supplies expense
  • Wages expense
  • Rent expense
  • Utilities expense

Non-operating expenses are incurred for reasons outside the scope of normal business activities such as interest expense.

Benefits of Working With a Bookkeeping Professional
Besides familiarizing yourself with the aforementioned beginner’s guide to bookkeeping, working with a professional accounting expert is a smart idea. Numerous details go into managing your enterprise’s bookkeeping. Even a trivial mistake such as putting a decimal point in the wrong place can wreak havoc on your books. In addition to assisting you in setting up and managing a bookkeeping system, our professionals can help you raise financing, develop a pricing structure for your goods or services, and discover ways to save money on operations, which may decrease your stress levels and increase your odds of long-term business success.

Startups: Research Credit Can Offset Payroll Taxes

A little-known tax benefit for new, qualified small businesses is the ability to apply a portion of their research credit – no more than $250,000 – to pay the employer’s share of their employees’ FICA withholding requirement (the 6.2% payroll tax). This can be quite a benefit, as in their early years, start-up companies generally do not have any taxable profits for the research credit to offset; quite often, it is in these early years when companies make expenditures that qualify for the research credit. This can substantially help these young companies’ cash flow.

Research Credit – The research credit is equal to 20% of qualified research expenditures in excess of the established base amount. If using the simplified method, the research credit is equal to 14% of qualified research expenditures in excess of 50% of the company’s average research expenditures in the prior three years.

Qualified Research – Research expenditures that qualify for the credit generally include spending on research that is undertaken for the purpose of discovering technological information. This information is intended to be useful in the development of a new or improved business component for the taxpayer relating to new or improved functionality, performance, reliability or quality.

Qualified Small Business (QSB) – To apply the research credit to payroll taxes, a company must be a QSB and must not be a tax-exempt organization. A QSB is a corporation or partnership with these criteria:

  1. The entity does not have gross receipts in any year before the fourth preceding year. Thus, the payroll credit can only be taken in the first 5 years of the entity’s existence. However, this rule does not require a business to have been in existence for at least 5 years.
  2. The entity’s gross receipts for the year when the credit is elected must be less than $5 million.

Any person (other than a corporation or partnership) is a QSB if that person meets the two requirements above after taking into account the person’s aggregate gross receipts received for all the person’s trades or businesses.

Example – The taxpayer is a calendar-year individual with one business that operates as a sole proprietorship. The taxpayer had gross receipts of $4 million in 2016. For the years 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, the taxpayer had gross receipts of $1 million, $7 million, $4 million, and $3 million, respectively; the taxpayer did not have gross receipts for any taxable year prior to 2012. The taxpayer is a qualified small business for 2016 because he had less than $5 million in gross receipts for 2016 and did not have gross receipts before 2012 (the beginning of the 5-taxable-year period that ends in 2016). The taxpayer’s gross receipts in the years 2012-2015 are not relevant in determining whether he is a qualified small business in taxable year 2016. Because the taxpayer had gross receipts in 2012, the taxpayer will not be a qualified small business for 2017, regardless of his gross receipts in that year.

The research credit must first be accrued back to the preceding year, where it must be used to offset any tax liability for that year. Then, the excess (up to $250,000 maximum) can be used to offset the 6.2% employer payroll tax. Any amount not used is carried forward to the next year.If you have questions related to the research credit or if your business could benefit from using the credit to offset payroll taxes, please give us a call.

How An Accountant Can Help Your Small Business Boom

One of the most positive qualities that many small business owners share is a burning desire – an insatiable willingness – to “do it all.” It’s what separates entrepreneurs from employees in the first place. An employee is more than willing to set out on the path that someone else has carved for them. An entrepreneur has a need to carve a path for themselves.

Unfortunately, this mentality can also get even the most passionate small business owners into a bit of trouble – particularly when it comes to their finances. Being able to balance your own checkbook and running the finances of a small business are NOT the same thing, nor should they ever be treated as such. To that end, the importance of finding the right accounting professional to help support your small business as it continues to grow and evolve cannot be overstated enough.

There are a number of essential ways, in particular, that an accounting expert can help your small business.

When You’re Just Starting Out
Perhaps the most important role that an accounting professional will play in terms of your small business takes place when you’re just starting out. One of the most common mistakes that many business owners make involves selecting the wrong business entity – a small problem that can have major ramifications when tax season rolls around. A accounting pro who is intimately involved with the makeup of your business from a basic level can help make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

Along the same lines, an accounting professional can also help make sure that your accounting system is properly set up in the first place. They can make sure that you’re picking the right accounting system that actually supports your long-term goals for your business and can create a chart of accounts to offer superior visibility into money coming into and out of your organization.

The Day-to-Day Grind
Another one of the hugely invaluable ways that an accounting expert can help your small business comes by the small, yet critical, decisions they make on a daily basis. A financial expert can help give you greater visibility into cash flow (including accounts payable and accounts receivable), for example. Cash flow and other instability issues are one of the major reasons why most small businesses fail in the first place, and having the right person at your side can help you avoid them altogether.

An accounting professional can also help make sure your security controls are properly set up and executed, particularly in terms of factors like compliance. Remember that we’re living in an era where the average cost of a data breach has ballooned to almost $4 million. If the security aspect of your finances is not properly accounted for, it could be putting your entire business at risk. Even one small data breach could expose the personal records of multiple clients, something that opens the door to things like lawsuits, and that could eventually close the door on everything you’ve worked so hard to build.

Other Benefits
A financial professional will also play an important role when it comes to growing your small business. Remember that both an inability to scale up as fast as you need AND growing your business faster than you can sustain are additional reasons why many small businesses fail. Because such a large part of your growth and expansion pace has to do with personal finances, it stands to reason that bringing someone into the fold who can leverage their years of experience to your advantage is a very good idea.

A financial expert can help you raise money – particularly helpful if you’re getting ready to bring a new product or service to market. If you ever decide that this chapter of your life is closed and that it’s time to look for new opportunities, these professionals can also help sell your small business as well. Selling a business is a process filled with potential mistakes just waiting to happen, and the expert hand of someone who has been in this position before is something that you literally cannot put a price on. It isn’t just an investment in your organizational ability – it’s an investment in the future of your business as a whole.

In the End
The fact of the matter is that there really is no “one size fits all” approach to small business accounting. Every business is a little bit different, which will require a certain level of care and finesse when it comes to finances in particular. Only by consulting the help of a professional as early on in the process as possible will you be able to avoid the normal pitfalls of running a small business and create a financially stable foundation from which to work.

If you are considering starting a new business, it may be appropriate to consult with this office before you get too far through the process. Please call for assistance.