Category Archives: Success

LEAVING A BUSINESS? WHICH EXIT PLAN IS BEST

exitSelecting your business successor is a fundamental objective of planning an exit strategy and requires a careful assessment of what you want from the sale of your business and who can best give it to you.

There are only four ways to leave your business: transfer ownership to family members, Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP), sale to a third party, and liquidation. The more you understand about each one, the better the chance is that you will leave your business on your terms and under the conditions you want. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about each one.

1. Transfer Ownership to your Children

Transferring a business within the family fulfills many people’s personal goals of keeping their business and family together, but while most business owners want to transfer their business to their children, few end up doing so for various reasons. As such, it’s necessary to develop a contingency plan to convey your business to another type of buyer.

Transferring your business to your children can provide financial well-being for younger family members unable to earn comparable income from outside employment, as well as allow you to stay actively involved in the business with your children until you choose your departure date.

It also affords you the luxury of selling the business for whatever amount of money you need to live on, even if the value of the business does not justify that sum of money.

On the other hand, this option also holds the potential to increase family friction, discord, and feelings of unequal treatment among siblings. Parents often feel the need to treat all of their children equally. In reality, this is difficult to achieve. In most cases, one child will probably run or own the business at the perceived expense of the others.

At the same time, financial security also may be diminished, rather than enhanced, and the very existence of the business is at risk if it’s transferred to a family member who can’t or won’t run it properly. In addition, family dynamics in general, may also significantly diminish your control over the business and its operations.

2. Employee Stock Option Plans (ESOP)

If your children have no interest or are unable to take over your business, there is another option to ensure the continued success of your business: the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

ESOPs are qualified retirement plans subject to the regulatory requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). There’s one important difference however; the majority (more than half) of their investment must be derived from their own company stock.

Whether it’s due to lack of interest from your children, an economic downturn or a high asking price that no one is willing to pay, what an ESOP does is create a third-party buyer (your employees) where none previously existed. After all, who more than your employees has a vested interest in your company?

ESOPs are set up as a trust (complete with trustees) into which either cash to buy company stock or newly issued stock is placed. Contributions the company makes to the trust are generally tax deductible, subject to certain limitations and because transactions are considered stock sales, the owner who is selling (you) can avoid paying capital gains. Shares are then distributed to employees (typically based on compensation levels) and grow tax free until distribution.

If your company is a stable, well-established one with steady, consistent earnings, then an ESOP might be just the ticket to creating a winning exit plan from your business.

If you have any questions about setting up an ESOP for your business, give us a call today.

3. Sale to a Third Party

In a retirement situation, a sale to a third party too often becomes a bargain sale–and the only alternative to liquidation. But if the business is well prepared for sale this option just might be your best way to cash out. In fact, you may find that this so called “last resort” strategy just happens to land you at the resort of your choice.

Although many owners don’t realize it, most or all of your money should come from the business at closing. Therefore, the fundamental advantage of a third party sale is immediate cash or at least a substantial up front portion of the selling price. This ensures that you obtain your fundamental objectives of financial security and, perhaps, avoid risk as well.

If you do not receive the bulk of the purchase price in cash, at closing, however, your risk will suddenly become immense. You will place a substantial amount of the money you counted on receiving in the unpredictable hands of fate. The best way to avoid this risk is to get all of the money you are going to need at closing. This way any outstanding balance payable to you is “icing on the cake.”

4. Liquidation

If there is no one to buy your business, you shut it down. In liquidation the owners sell off their assets, collect outstanding accounts receivable, pay off their bills, and keep what’s left, if anything, for themselves.

The primary reason liquidation is considered as an exit plan is that a business lacks sufficient income-producing capacity apart from the owner’s direct efforts and apart from the value of the assets themselves. For example, if the business can produce only $75,000 per year and the assets themselves are worth $1 million, no one would pay more for the business than the value of the assets.

Service businesses in particular are thought to have little value when the owner leaves the business. Since most service businesses have little “hard value” other than accounts receivable, liquidation produces the smallest return for the owner’s lifelong commitment to the business. Smart owners guard against this. They plan ahead to ensure that they do not have to rely on this last ditch method to fund their retirement.

If you need assistance figuring out which exit strategy is best for you and your business, please don’t hesitate to contact us. The sooner you start planning, the easier it will be.

CASH FLOW: THE PULSE OF YOUR SMALL BUSINESS

cashflowCash flow is the lifeblood of any small business. Some business experts even say that a healthy cash flow is more important than your business’s ability to deliver its goods and services! While that might seem counterintuitive, consider this: if you fail to satisfy a customer and lose that customer’s business, you can always work harder to please the next customer. If you fail to have enough cash to pay your suppliers, creditors, or employees, then you’re out of business!

What is Cash Flow?

Cash flow, simply defined, is the movement of money in and out of your business; these movements are called inflow and outflow. Inflows for your business primarily come from the sale of goods or services to your customers, but keep in mind that inflow only occurs when you make a cash sale or collect on receivables. It is the cash that counts! Other examples of cash inflows are borrowed funds, income derived from sales of assets, and investment income from interest.

Outflows for your business are generally the result of paying expenses. Examples of cash outflows include paying employee wages, purchasing inventory or raw materials, purchasing fixed assets, operating costs, paying back loans, and paying taxes.

Note: An accountant is the best person to help you learn how your cash flow statement works. Please contact us and we can prepare your cash flow statement and explain where the numbers come from.

Cash Flow versus Profit

While they might seem similar, profit and cash flow are two entirely different concepts, each with entirely different results. The concept of profit is somewhat broad and only looks at income and expenses over a certain period, say a fiscal quarter. Profit is a useful figure for calculating your taxes and reporting to the IRS.

Cash flow, on the other hand, is a more dynamic tool focusing on the day-to-day operations of a business owner. It is concerned with the movement of money in and out of a business. But more important, it is concerned with the times at which the movement of the money takes place.

In theory, even profitable companies can go bankrupt. It would take a lot of negligence and total disregard for cash flow, but it is possible. Consider how the difference between profit and cash flow relate to your business.

Example: If your retail business bought a $1,000 item and turned around to sell it for $2,000, then you have made a $1,000 profit. But what if the buyer of the item is slow to pay his or her bill, and six months pass before you collect on the account? Your retail business may still show a profit, but what about the bills it has to pay during that six-month period? You may not have the cash to pay the bills despite the profits you earned on the sale. Furthermore, this cash flow gap may cause you to miss other profit opportunities, damage your credit rating, and force you to take out loans and create debt. If this mistake is repeated enough times, you may go bankrupt.

Analyzing your Cash Flow

The sooner you learn how to manage your cash flow, the better your chances for survival. Furthermore, you will be able to protect your company’s short-term reputation as well as position it for long-term success.

The first step toward taking control of your company’s cash flow is to analyze the components that affect the timing of your cash inflows and outflows. A thorough analysis of these components will reveal problem areas that lead to cash flow gaps in your business. Narrowing, or even closing, these gaps is the key to cash flow management.

Some of the more important components to examine are:

  • Accounts receivable. Accounts receivable represent sales that have not yet been collected in the form of cash. An accounts receivable is created when you sell something to a customer in return for his or her promise to pay at a later date. The longer it takes for your customers to pay on their accounts, the more negative the effect on your cash flow.
  • Credit terms. Credit terms are the time limits you set for your customers’ promise to pay for their purchases. Credit terms affect the timing of your cash inflows. A simple way to improve cash flow is to get customers to pay their bills more quickly.
  • Credit policy. A credit policy is the blueprint you use when deciding to extend credit to a customer. The correct credit policy – neither too strict nor too generous – is crucial for a healthy cash flow.
  • Inventory. Inventory describes the extra merchandise or supplies your business keeps on hand to meet the demands of customers. An excessive amount of inventory hurts your cash flow by using up money that could be used for other cash outflows. Too many business owners buy inventory based on hopes and dreams instead of what they can realistically sell. Keep your inventory as low as possible.
  • Accounts payable and cash flow. Accounts payable are amounts you owe to your suppliers that are payable at some point in the near future – “near” meaning 30 to 90 days. Without payables and trade credit, you’d have to pay for all goods and services at the time you purchase them. For optimum cash flow management, examine your payables schedule.

Some cash flow gaps are created intentionally. For example, a business may purchase extra inventory to take advantage of quantity discounts, accelerate cash outflows to take advantage of significant trade discounts, or spend extra cash to expand its line of business.

For other businesses, cash flow gaps are unavoidable. Take, for example, a company that experiences seasonal fluctuations in its line of business. This business may normally have cash flow gaps during its slow season and then later fill the gaps with cash surpluses from the peak part of its season. Cash flow gaps are often filled by external financing sources. Revolving lines of credit, bank loans, and trade credit are just a few of the external financing options available that you may want to discuss with us.

Monitoring and managing your cash flow is important for the vitality of your business. The first signs of financial woe appear in your cash flow statement, giving you time to recognize a forthcoming problem and plan a strategy to deal with it. Furthermore, with periodic cash flow analysis, you can head off those unpleasant financial glitches by recognizing which aspects of your business have the potential to cause cash flow gaps.

Need assistance? We can help you analyze and manage your cash flow more effectively and make sure your business has adequate funds to cover day-to-day expenses.

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QUICKBOOKS REPORTS THAT YOUR BUSINESS SHOULD RUN REGULARLY

qbgraphYou send invoices because you sold products and/or services. Purchase orders go out when you’re running low on inventory, and there are always bills to pay, it seems like. All of this activity is, of course, important in itself, but all of your conscientious bookkeeping culminates in what’s probably the most critical element of QuickBooks: your reports.

Reports can tell you how many navy blue sweatshirts you sold in March, what you paid for health insurance premiums in the first quarter, and how much you bought from your favorite vendor last month. They’re very good at drilling down to get the precise set of numbers you need.

But carefully customized and properly analyzed reports can do more than tell you how many golf clubs to order and when it’s time to switch phone services. They can help you make the business decisions that will help you take your growing company to the next level. There are several that you should be looking at regularly, some of which you can interpret easily and use in your daily workflow. We’ll help you with the interpretation of the more complex financial reports.

Who Owes Money?

That’s probably a question you ask yourself every day. You don’t necessarily have to run the A/R Aging Detail report every day, but you’ll want to run it frequently. It tells you who owes you money and whether they’ve missed the due date (and by how many days).


Figure 1: By running the A/R Aging Detail report, you can see whether you need to follow up with customers who have past due invoices. 

As with any report, you can modify it to include the columns, data set and date range you want by clicking the Customizebutton. When you create a report in a format that you think you might want to run again, click the Memorize button. Enter a name that you’ll remember, and assign it to a Memorized Report Group.

Getting There

There are two ways to find the reports you want to see. You can open the Reports menu and move your cursor down to the category you want, like Customers & Receivables, which will open a slide-out menu of options there.

Or you can open the Report Center, which lets you explore reports in more depth. Each is represented by a small graphic with four icons under it. You can:

  • Run the report with your own data in it
  • Open a small informational window
  • Designate it as a Favorite, and
  • View QuickBooks help.


Figure 2: If you access QuickBooks reports through the Report Center, you’ll have several related options. 

Other accounts receivable reports that you should consult periodically include Open Invoices and Average Days to Pay.

Tracking What You Owe

Reports can also keep you up-to-date on money that you owe to other people and companies. An important one is Unpaid Bills Detail, accessible through the Vendors & Payables menu item. Though you can modify its columns, this report basically tells you who is expecting money from you, the date the bill was issued and its due date, any number assigned to it, the balance due, and relevant aging information.

Vendor Balance Detail is critical, too. This report displays every transaction (invoices, payments, etc.) that contribute to the balance you have with each vendor.

Standard Financial Reports


Figure 3: We hope you’ll let us help you by running and interpreting these standard financial reports. 

QuickBooks report categories include one labeled Company & Financial. These are reports that you can run yourself, but they’re critical for understanding your company’s financial status. We can customize and analyze these for you on a regular basis so you’ll know where you stand. They include:

  • Balance Sheet. What is the value of your company? The balance sheet breaks out this information by account (under the umbrella of assets, liabilities and equity).
  • Income Statement. Often referred to as Profit & Loss, this shows you how much money your business made or lost over a specific time period.
  • Statement of Cash Flows. How much money came in and went out during a specified time range?

Reports can only generate information about what you’ve entered in QuickBooks and exactly where it’s been entered. So it’s crucial that you follow standard accounting practice as you proceed through your daily workflow. As a CPA and Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor, I’m available to answer questions that you have about entering your information in QuickBooks and getting the reports that you need to make wise financial decisions. The future success of your business depends upon it.

CLOSING YOUR BOOKS ON THE FIRST HALF OF 2014: NOW WHAT?

closingthebooksJune 30 is the end of the second quarter in 2014 for most small businesses that operate on a calendar year; July 1 starts the third quarter. Now is the time to assess your results year to date, reassess your projections for the remainder of the year, and put your plans into action.

Assessing results
Has the first half of the year been profitable, or as profitable as you’d hoped? The only way to know is to review your revenue and expenses to date. Compare the results with your expectations from your business plan. What the results mean:

  • If you hit your target, congratulations! You’ve obviously got a good handle on your sales, and expenses haven’t exceeded your budget.
  • If you exceeded your target, determine the reason or reasons why. You must be doing something right and you need to identity this so you can capitalize on it going forward. Did new marketing efforts pay off? Did you implement new technology that significantly cut costs?
  • If you fell short of your target, determine the reason or reasons why. Was revenue too low? Were expenses too high? Did you experience an unusual event, such as a catastrophic storm?

Projecting revenues and expenses
Take the lessons you’ve learned from your assessment, couple that with expectations about customers and expenses, and devise new projections for the balance of the year (or longer).

  • Revenue side. What are you doing to retain customers? Find new customers? Are you seeing any changes in customer buying habits? Quantify your revenue projections based on what you know about your customers specifically and the market in general.
  • Expense side. Look at your expense budget to uncover potential cost increases. For example, if your current health plan is up for renewal, find out if possible what the new premiums will be. This will help you decide what to do about health coverage in light of the new cost and the rules under the Affordable Care Act.

Actions to take
Planning is not merely a cerebral activity. There are actions you can take now:

  • Update your business plan. If you don’t have a formal plan, consider creating one (even if it’s only one page). This will serve as a roadmap that you can follow in the coming months to try to meet your projections. It will also serve as a benchmark against which to assess your efforts at the end of the year. The business plan includes your budget (a discussion of which follows), your marketing efforts, strategic planning, and more.
  • Review your budget. As part of your business planning, you’ll need to check your pricing and see whether changes are warranted. If you’ve experienced price increases in your monthly expenses, you may want to pass on some or all of this to customers; your margin can handle only so much. Also look over your expenses to see where changes can be made. Take advantage of technology to trim expenses (e.g., use videoconferencing instead of traveling distances to customers and clients).
  • Meet with your tax advisor. Now is likely a slow time for CPAs and a great time to meet with yours to discuss tax issues for you and your business. Make sure you’re taking advantage of opportunities that can reduce your tax payments and implement best practices for your company.

Conclusion
You can’t run a business by crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. Realistic planning and follow-up will go a long way in helping you to grow your business, handle disruptions, and achieve your dream.

Written By: Barbara Weltman, Big Ideas For Small Business

Source: http://www.barbaraweltman.com/articles/financial/financial_article_details.asp?id=268

SURPRISE YOUR CUSTOMERS TO BUILD LOYALTY

customerloyaltyCustomers generally expect to get what they pay for. If you go beyond that to deliver something extra and unexpected, you can set your company apart from the competition. To that end, here are five ways to surprise customers and beat “the other guys.”

1. Get to know people personally. Do you reach out to customers soon after a purchase is made, just to see whether they’re satisfied? Think about the positive impression you’ll make on customers by doing so. Making contact can be as simple as inviting customers to take an online survey or as involved as making a phone call or sending a personalized email or a handwritten thank-you note. Longtime loyalty stems from gestures like these.

For example, salespeople at The Mitchells Family of Stores in Fairfield, Connecticut, contact customers by phone, email or handwritten note, “not trying to sell them anything, but letting them know we’re available to do alterations, or to come to their home and look at their closet to see what is still wearable,” says CEO Jack Mitchell.

2. Offer help even when you don’t benefit from doing so. Like every other business, you have a customer-service policy and need to maintain certain standards. But when a valued client makes a special request, it may make sense to deviate from the rules. For example, you could provide free shipping on an exceptionally large order. Or, if you can’t satisfy a customer’s particular need, you could make a referral to a business that can. Customers are often surprised by this level of attention, and they’ll remember a business that provides it.

“Be willing to refer customers, even to your competitors,” says Maria Korolov, editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. “Then, when the customer is in a market for whatever it is you’re selling, they’ll remember you and come back.”

3. Solicit feedback. Is there a place on your website where visitors can easily offer suggestions or voice a complaint? Making the process simple shows how much you value your customers’ opinions. When a problem occurs with your service or product, offering a candid admission of the error — as opposed to excuses — may help you retain a potentially alienated customer. Always follow up with anyone who complains to let the customer know the problem has been resolved.

“The right follow-up can often rescue a customer,” notes Richard White, founder and CEO of UserVoice.

4. Be generous with discounts. Customers expect markdowns on goods or services from time to time. What they may not expect is a surprise 5 percent discount on their next invoice with a note saying, “Thank you for being such a great customer.” Consider offering other special discounts or free samples as rewards to loyal customers. This tactic also can be useful for repairing your relationships with complaining customers (see #3).

5. Keep your top employees happy. In a bricks-and-mortar setting, customers put a lot of emphasis on how well they’re served by employees. Staff members who do an outstanding job of assisting customers are often a small business’s most valuable asset. Take care of these employees in order to keep turnover to a minimum.

Visitors to your website or your store won’t always make a purchase. But it’s still important to be gracious and attentive to their needs, no matter what. “The key is to always make your customer happy,” says Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, founder of Retail Minded. “If they remember a great experience in your store [or website] — even without a purchase — they are more likely to return again.”

by Lee Polevoi on  Read more: http://blog.intuit.com/marketing/surprise-your-customers-to-build-loyalty/#ixzz31srqCjR9

TEN PERSONALITY TRAITS THAT EVERY SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR HAS

Whether I’m out on the speaking circuit, working with startups, back in Ann Arbor teaching MBAs, or just socializing in a coffee shop, I’d say there’s one question I’m hit with more than any other.

It comes in different forms, but the essence of the question is the same: “What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?”

Over the years, my answer has evolved. But I’ve found myself settling on ten traits that are shared in common by virtually every truly successful entrepreneur I’ve met, observed or studied. The true rock stars are all:

1. Passionate

You need to be driven by a clear sense of purpose and passion. Typically, that passion comes from one of two sources: the topic of the business, or the game of business-building itself.

Why do you need passion? Simply because you’re likely to be working too hard, for too long, for too little pay with no guarantee that it’ll work out… so you need to be motivated by something intrinsic and not money-related.

2. Resilient

If you’re going to build a startup, you’ll need a spirit of determination coupled with a high pain tolerance. You’ll need to be willing and able to learn from your mistakes – to get knocked down repeatedly, get up, dust yourself off, and move forward with renewed motivation.

People will constantly tell you your baby’s ugly, that your business won’t work. Now, you should listen carefully and be open to constructive criticism. But after a while, having the door slammed in your face repeatedly can be withering, and the best entrepreneurs learn to feed off the negativity and actually gain strength from it.

3. Self-Possessed

You need a strong sense of self. You can’t be threatened by being surrounded by talented, driven people. To truly succeed, you’ll need the self-confidence to surround yourself with people “who don’t look like you”… that is, people with skills, background and domain knowledge that complement your own. And check your ego at the door: you shouldn’t be too proud to make coffee for the team, empty the waste baskets, or do the bank runs.

4. Decisive

You’ll need to develop a comfort-level with uncertainly and ambiguity. Entrepreneurs gather as much information as they can in a short period of time, and then MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!! The attitude is that it’s not going to be perfect… We only have 9% or so of the data from which to base our decision… but if we wait to have all the information, we’ll never get moving… and be mired in indecision. (Big organizations are really good at this – the mired thing – saying, We don’t have enough information, so let’s continue to study… form a committee or a task force)

5. Fearless

On the sliding scale from “risk-averse” to “risk-seeking,” it shouldn’t surprise anyone that entrepreneurs tend to be closer to the latter. But you don’t need to be a nut-case, the sort who bungee-jumps without a helmet. Smart entrepreneurs develop an intuitive ability to sniff out and mitigate startup business risk. But you know you’re going to fall down, and feel comfortable with that fact and that you’re going to learn from your failures and adjust as you go.

6. Financially Prepared

You’ll need the right personal financial profile to make the leap. This doesn’t mean that only the rich can be entrepreneurs. But unless and until you’ve got the personal financial ‘runway’ (ability to go without a steady paycheck and subsidized benefits) of at least 18 to 24 months (ideally longer), you might hold off on quitting your day job.

Consider launching the startup as a side-business if that’s possible, while continuing to work the 8-to-5 shift to cover the bills. Or approach your boss about going part-time. Then, once your business generating cash flow, you can dial back on your hours, or submit your resignation and go full-time with your startup.

7. Flexible

I challenge you to find an entrepreneur running a startup four or more years old where that business doesn’t differ dramatically from the vision sketched out in their original business plan. The point is that the folks who stay on their feet are the ones who stay flexible and adjust to new information and changing circumstances.

8. Zoom Lens-Equipped

Can you ‘pan out’ to see a compelling big vision for your business, then ‘zoom in’ and focus on near-term startup goals? Successful entrepreneurs can facilely move back and forth between these two views. They’re able to articulate the big picture, while simultaneously managing and executing to the ‘zoom-in’ picture.

9. Able to Sell

Whether you’re a born extrovert or introvert, as a founder/CEO, you’ll find yourself always selling. You’ll be selling your vision to prospective partners and funding sources. You’ll be selling prospective recruits on why they should quit their day jobs and join this startup they’ve never heard of. You’ll be selling your products and services (yes, you’ll probably be personally closing at least the first few sales). You’ll be selling your employees on why they should remain calm and stay with the ship when the seas inevitably get rough.

10. Balanced

You may not start out with a fool-proof gyroscope, but to survive as an entrepreneur, you’ll need that strong sense of perspective. How to maintain simple, clear focus. How to be at peace with, and learn from, a failure. Understanding that not all battles are worth winning, and when to walk away. Knowing that most in your startup aren’t as entrepreneurial as you – that this may be a very cool job for them, but it’s still a job. Knowing when to go home and give your loved ones a hug. When to go for a run.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/traits-of-successful-entrepreneurs-2013-2#ixzz31YB56K6V

If you are curious about whether you have these personality traits for entrepreneurship, please visit us at http://www.LStortzCPA.com

 

 

 

CASHING IN ON SMALL BUSINESS OPTIMISM

small business openFor the first time in five years, small-business owners are feeling more optimistic about their prospects, according to the recently released Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index. Specifically, the index rose 21 points for the first quarter of 2014 to +45, which is the highest it’s been since the third quarter of 2008. The results are based on a January survey of 603 U.S. small-business owners.

Much of the increase in optimism has to do with the general improvement of the economy as a whole. The complete survey results [PDF] show that specific triggers of the shift include better access to credit, anticipated increases in revenue and staffing, and improved cash flow.

Of course, small-business owners continue to face some very real challenges: According to the Index, 21 percent of those surveyed say generating new business is currently their biggest hurdle. Other obstacles include government regulations, hiring, and health care.

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

If you’re feeling optimistic about the future, why not seize the opportunity to invest in your business? Here are four ways to do just that.

1. Make renovations. If you’ve been putting off major renovations to your office or another essential aspect of your small business, now is the time to seriously consider an upgrade. Set aside time to crunch the numbers to determine whether the investment is feasible. Building renovations often result in improved conditions for your employees, which can be a good way toincrease loyalty over time.

2. Update your technology. If your software is outdated, update it. End of story. Yes, it costs money, but if you have a bit extra in the kitty right now, use it. Obsolete software leaves your company computers more vulnerable to hackers and viruses, the damage from which can be even more costly to repair.

3. Hire additional staff. If your employees have been running ragged to keep up with the tasks assigned to them due to previous budget cuts, now is the time to consider loosening the purse strings a bit. Bringing on new staff can reduce workplace stress and enable each employee to do the best job possible.

4. Advance your skill set. If you’ve been putting off training for financial reasons, you don’t need to hold back anymore. Go ahead and pay for courses or seminars. Or, invest in training for your employees to advance their skill sets as well. The more you all know, the better prepared you’ll be to overcome the specific challenges of your industry.

Read more: http://blog.intuit.com/trends/cashing-in-on-small-business-optimism/#ixzz2zzsBIYGx

If you have questions about small business optimism, please  call your “trusted small business advisor” today.  We are only a phone call away – (727) 391-7373.

 

SKYPE YOUR WAY TO A BETTER BOTTOM LINE

Since its release in 2003, Skype — the world’s first practical VoIP service with video — has enabled geographically distant colleagues to converse as close as face-to-face as possible without being in the same place at the same time. Businesses big and small have adopted and adapted the service to lower costs and increase revenues in interesting  ways.

Here’s how various entrepreneurs and organizations are using Skype to their advantage, plus five features that may boost your bottom line.

Skype on the Job

Jason McCoy, a voice-over artist who operates McCoy Productions, uses Skype as a way to let his remote clients virtually sit in on his recording sessions for them.

“Producers and directors listen in as I record in my studio and provide me with feedback and direction,” McCoy says. “Skype is patched into my studio so that only my end of the conversation is recorded, but I can hear the client through my headphones the whole time.” Involving clients in the recording process reduces the time McCoy needs to deliver the perfect recording, he says.

Lori Feldman, who runs the consulting firm Database Diva, keeps a Skype chat window open with her four co-workers throughout the course of the business day, even though they are all located in the same room.

“Skype allows us to coach each other privately without clients knowing that we’re doing so,” Feldman explains. “For example, as a salesperson, I may be talking to a client who has a technical question. Instead of putting the client on hold to track down our programmer, I just Skype-chat him. He responds via chat, and I don’t disrupt the flow of my sales call. Skype helps us collaborate more effectively to close more sales.”

Speech and language pathologist Ita Olsen, who owns OlsenSpeech, coaches her clients via Skype. Contrary to her initial beliefs, she says, video chat is more effective than in-person coaching.

“Speech pathologists have traditionally needed to implement cues, things to help people to use their new speaking skills in all areas of their lives into their training. Traditionally, a client works on their speech in a faux training room and then goes out in the real world and has nothing to remind him to use his new speech skills,” Olsen explains.

“When a person is working with me in their own office or in their kitchen, everything around them becomes a cue, a reminder to use their skills. When I Skype with a client, they can see themselves,” she says. “This helps them work on facial expressions, body language, and even how to use their mouth to speak. That makes the webcam training more efficient.”

Emergency Medical Care in New York created a new division to provide telemedicine services to area nursing homes. “The doctor sees the patient through Skype, and the nurse on the other end takes the patient’s vital signs and manages the webcam to help the doctor evaluate the patient. We have even seen patients through the Skype app on our tablets,” says Dr. Steve Okhravi, the company’s CEO and founder. “This is a very promising venture for us.”

5 Lucrative Features

Use these built-in features of Skype to save — and make — money.

  1. Screen-sharing — Sharing your screen with a customer or colleague is free on Skype. Windows PC users can right-click during a video call on Share Your Screen. (Mac users simply click Share Screen.) Group screen sharing is available with Skype’s Premium service, $10/month. You can view presentations, do consultations, or collaborate on projects or upcoming assignments.
  2. Call recording — Skype doesn’t natively support call recording, but various third-party providers do. Record calls to save time and money on activities such as employee orientations, product introductions, or business meetings (for clients or staff members who were unable to attend in real time).
  3. Call forwarding — You can forward Skype calls to a second Skype contact for free. To send calls to your mobile phone, you will need to purchase Skype credits (2.3 cents per minute in the U.S.) or a one-, three-, or 12-month subscription. It doesn’t matter if your computer is on, the forwarding is handled on the back end by Skype.
  4. Remote monitoring — Use this feature to keep tabs on your office after hours while you’re out to make sure lights haven’t been left on or there hasn’t been a break-in. Here’s how: Set up two Skype accounts and, while logged in to your office account, set it to auto-answer any incoming calls, thus activating your webcam.
  5. Customer service — You can add a Skype button to your website to let customers and prospects contact you with a click of the mouse. This makes getting in touch with you quick and simple. You can talk them through service issues, address concerns about a purchase, or close the sale.

Read more: http://blog.intuit.com/marketing/skype-your-way-to-a-better-bottom-line/#ixzz2ziLB5nXJ

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