11 Pieces of Info You Should Collect from Your Customers

As a small business owner, you should know who is buying your products or services. Not only should you know the names of these customers, but also you should have more knowledge about who these individuals really are – and why they choose to do business with you over others.

For Get to Know Your Customers Day, let’s explore the types of information you should learn and collect about those who support your small business:

1. Name

Get a customer’s full name, including middle initial. If you have two customers with the same name, you need to find a way to distinguish between the two as your business marketing strategies should target all unique individuals you know. If someone has a nickname, it’s helpful to obtain it as well.

2. Mailing address

Be sure to get the mailing addresses of your customers. This includes street address, city, state, and the full zip code. If you ever send out flyers, mailers, or other direct-mail marketing pieces, you’ll need to know exactly where to send these materials. Be sure to clarify any P.O. Box, apartment, or suite numbers to ensure what you’re sending out is going exactly where you intend to send it.

3. Phone number

Get all phone numbers for a customer. These may include a home phone landline number, an office phone, and a cell phone. Categorize these numbers appropriately. You may want to send text messages to your customers with special offers or alerts. You obviously want to send these messages to cell phone numbers.

4. E-mail address

Get your customers’ e-mail addresses. Whether they only have one e-mail account or use several accounts on Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail, get as many of them as possible. E-mail marketing is a big part of the business marketing strategies out there that can help increase your sales. Create customer e-mail lists that you can use to blast out your latest special offers.

5. Payment information

Obtain specific payment information from customers, such as a credit or debit card number. Doing so can make it so easy for a return customer to buy from you without having to swipe their card or enter this payment information on your website. Also, consider noting whether customers pay with cash or check. Just make it clear that all customer payment information is kept completely confidential and will only be used if a customer chooses to make a future purchase.

6. Date of birth

If they’re willing to provide it, obtain the date of birth of a new customer. Demographical information can be a huge help in your small business marketing efforts.

7. Purchase information

Determine the specific steps a customer took to buy from your small business. Document all purchases made by each client. By determining these actions, you can find out what people are buying most, what is causing them to make these purchases, and then you can use this info to increase sales in the future by having past purchasing data on file.

8. Hobbies and other interests

It may sound corny, but find out what your customers like as far as hobbies and other interests. This information may help you pitch certain products or services to specific customers in the future. Perhaps you could give out a survey and include a question like this.

9. How they found your small business

Determine how each customer came to you. Was it a referral? A YouTube commercial they watched? A website that linked to your company’s Facebook page? Collecting this information lets you know how effective your business marketing strategies are working – and which strategies are the most effective to utilize.

10. Where else they shop

Ask customers where else they have shopped in the past – or currently shop – for similar offerings that you offer. Find out why they have shopped at those businesses, and ask if there’s anything different about your approach. This could be vital information to help you learn how your small business separates itself from the rest of the pack.

11. Customer reviews

If you can get customer reviews, testimonials, or any other feedback, this data can go a long way. Learn what customers like most about your offerings. Determine how you can improve things based on any negative feedback you receive. You can also use positive reviews in your business marketing efforts.

Learn more about building your small business while staying compliant with all business regulations by working with 1-800Accountant. Call 1-800-222-6868 or check out www.1800accountant.com.

6 Ways to Make Every Business Meeting Productive

1-800Accountant explains how to hold a productive meeting in a small business.

1-800Accountant explains how to hold a productive meeting in a small business.

Meetings are a significant and necessary aspect of working as a small business owner. Perhaps you’ll be meeting with current employees or job candidates. Maybe you’ll meet with potential business partners, investors, marketing firms, web designers, or anyone else out there who could lend a helping hand to the success of your startup.

To ensure you make the most of each and every business meeting you’re involved in, 1-800Accountant offers up these simple tips to make a business meeting productive:

1. Type up and distribute a meeting agenda.

A meeting agenda is basically a roadmap to help all attendees follow the meeting. Your agenda should consist of bullet points that outline the various subjects you’ll be covering. Prepare it in advance, and e-mail it or print out hard copies for everyone. This document should be fairly short as the actual meat of the meeting will come through the ensuing discussions. Consider including people’s names on the agenda in relevant sections as well to bring their attention to certain items.

2. Determine what you want to accomplish ahead of time.

Make an effort to set specific goals for any meetings in your small business. Determine what you want to get out of a meeting, what information you need or want to learn from the meeting attendees, and what you need to communicate to those around you. The biggest key to knowing you’ve had a productive meeting is by walking away feeling better and more informed.

3. Set specific and consistent meeting times.

Perhaps you hold weekly meetings with your staff. Nail down a specific day and time to meet each week, and stick to it, whether it’s Mondays at 9 a.m. or Wednesdays at 3 p.m. Be sure to select a time when everyone is available to meet – and can give you their undivided attention.

4. Ensure everyone is engaged and participatory.

When all participants are fully engaged in a business meeting, everyone will benefit from the discussions at-hand. It’s difficult to deal with individuals who don’t seem interested in what you’re talking about and have nothing to contribute. Ask these types of attendees questions about the topics being discussed. When everyone offers something to the conversation, the meeting will be much more productive and comprehensive.

5. Eliminate any potential distractions.

Have your business meetings in a quiet place, such as a conference room in your office. Require all participants to turn off their smartphones and put them away. If possible, avoid using complicated technology to present information in case there’s a technical glitch that delays things. Distractions are not only annoying, but they also can increase the length of a meeting. Who wants to meet any longer than they have to?

6. Only hold meetings when they are truly necessary.

Business meetings should only take place when necessary. There’s no point in rounding up people for a face-to-face meeting or conference call if there is not enough business to discuss. If you hold a standing meeting on a certain day and time, don’t feel like it’s set in stone because there just might not be much for your agenda. Hypothetically, every meeting should accomplish something new – or at least make progress on an ongoing subject. On another note, only invite people to a meeting who really need to be there.

For all of your small business tax and accounting needs, along with business development guidance, turn to 1-800Accountant today. Call 1-800-222-6868 or visit www.1800accountant.com.

Image credit: The image included in this blog post is used with permission via the Flickr Creative Commons license.

Cutting Your Taxes: Tax Tips for Beauticians & Barbers

There are many tax tips for beauticians and barbers that can help you keep more money.

There are many tax tips for beauticians and barbers that can help you keep more money.

If you’re a beautician, hair stylist, or barber, you’re probably used to cutting hair on a daily basis. What you may not be an expert at is how to cut your taxes and keep more of your money. Consider these tax tips for beauticians and barbers to help reduce your next tax bill from Uncle Sam:

Consider setting up a formal legal entity for your business.

If you run Jodie’s Hair Salon, having a formal name is one thing. But you should consider establishing your salon as a formal legal entity, such as an LLC, S corporation, or C corporation. Business entities allow their owners to take advantage of more IRS business tax deductions, give them added credibility, and can also reduce the chances of an audit.

Claim all eligible tax deductions for beauticians & barbers.

As a self-employed professional in the beauty industry, you may be eligible to claim these deductions on business expenses when filing your return:

  • Property rental costs for your salon
  • Maintenance expenses for property, i.e. utilities, a cleaning service, structural repairs
  • Equipment, i.e. computers, cash registers, furniture, lighting fixtures, barber chairs, scissors, razors, hygiene supplies, hairdryers, window displays, office supplies
  • Cost of goods sold, i.e. hair care products, shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, hairspray, etc.
  • Employee salaries, insurance, retirement accounts, sick leave, vacation pay, awards, bonuses, etc.
  • Depreciation on property
  • Fees for accounting, legal, and other professional service providers
  • Property insurance, liability insurance, etc.
  • Marketing/advertising expenses to spread the word about your hairstyling services
  • Business gifts to customers (limited to $25 per recipient per year)

Remember that tips are considered taxable income.

Cash tips you receive from your customers are considered taxable and are subject to federal income taxes, along with Social Security and Medicare taxes. Tips are also subject to taxation through your state income tax – if you operate your business in a state with such a tax.

Account for property taxes.

If you operate a beauty salon or barber shop in a space that you’ve purchased, you are likely on the hook for property taxes. These taxes can take a big bite out of your budget, especially if you operate your salon in a high-traffic area or downtown in a major city.

Account for possible sales taxes.

Generally speaking, a service like a haircut is not considered taxable. However, if you sell hair care products like shampoo or hairspray, you’ll need to collect sales taxes from your customers who purchase these items from your business. Be aware of your local area’s sales tax rates. If you have multiple salons, these rates could vary by location.

Get more tax tips for beauticians and barbers – along with tax tips for all professions – by working with the accounting pros at 1-800Accountant. Call 1-800-222-6868 or check out the “Services” page on www.1800accountant.com.

Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog post is used with permission via the Flickr Creative Commons license.

What Kinds of Small Business Marketing Costs are Deductible?

Social media marketing is one of many types of marketing you can deduct as a small business owner.

Social media marketing is one of many types of marketing you can deduct as a small business owner.

Opening the doors to a new small business and spreading the word about it is not cheap. Fortunately, the IRS allows entrepreneurs to claim marketing expenses as a tax deduction when filing their taxes each year. No matter what type of startup venture or established company you operate, you should be able to deduct the following types of small business marketing expenses:

- Print advertising

Let’s say you run a small ad for your small business in your local daily newspaper. Maybe there’s an industry-related publication in which you buy ad space. Perhaps you print out marketing collateral or have business cards made to promote yourself. Whichever options you choose, you can write off print advertising costs as a tax deduction when filing your taxes with Uncle Sam.

- TV and radio commercials

Would you love to hear an excited narrator describe your startup venture in a booming radio voice? Want to see your products come to life via a television spot? These types of small business marketing can be costly, but they remain a very effective way to gain leads and make sales. The good news is that TV and radio advertising expenses are tax deductible. From production to buying ad time on a local or cable station, you can typically claim all of these related costs as a write-off for your business.

- Signage/billboards

If you have a retail location for your bike shop, you’ll probably need some signage on the exterior of your building with your company name and perhaps some other information. You could also have a marketing firm create a billboard ad for your company to be displayed on the side of the road. These types of marketing costs are also deductible.

- Internet/search engine marketing

The Internet is a fantastic 21st-century marketing tool. You may want a “.com” or “.mobi” website for your small business. You may choose to utilize Google AdWords or create banner ads on relevant sites as a way of driving traffic to your own website. Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo offer other search engine marketing tools as well. Most forms of Internet marketing cost something, so you can deduct your online advertising costs since they’re considered a business expense.

- Social media marketing

Do you have a Facebook business page, a Twitter business account, or a LinkedIn business profile? Social media is an extremely effective and convenient way to reach your potential customers online, especially since everyone is browsing the web on every possible device these days. From Facebook ads to YouTube commercials that precede your favorite videos, social media marketing is a big industry. Thankfully, small business owners can write off these costs.

- Promotional events

If you haven’t officially launched yet, you may want to hold a “grand opening” for your new retail store or mom-and-pop restaurant. If you’re established, you may choose to hold events or attend trade shows to make others aware that you exist. Any expenses for promotional events you host or attend to get the word out about your small business are generally fully deductible.

Get more small business marketing and tax deduction tips through 1-800Accountant. Call 1-800-222-6868 or check out www.1800accountant.com.

Image credit: The image included in this blog post is used with permission via the Flickr Creative Commons license.

6 Essential Traits to Look for When Building a Small Business Team

Assembling a small business team is much like building a new house. You have to carefully handpick the materials you’ll need to maintain a successful enterprise over time. The following 7 traits are those you should look for when hiring individuals to join your team in hopes of attaining a prosperous future for your small business:

1. Self-motivated

Seek out those who are self-motivated. This means individuals who can get up each morning with an inner-drive and motivate themselves to work hard each day. We all get down on ourselves at times, which is normal, but adding those to your small business team who are already eager to do great things can be a big benefit.

2. Proactive

The term active is in the word proactive – and for good reason. Someone who is proactive is able to take the bull by the horns and get things done without being hindered by potential conflicts or stress. For example, if a problem pops up with the backend workings of a website, a web developer would immediately jump into action to get it resolved so that a company’s website would be fully functional again in no time. Proactive individuals can make the right decisions when necessary.

3. Innovative

Finding innovative thinkers is not always the easiest task. But hiring these types of professionals is critical to the ultimate success of your startup venture. An innovative thinker is one who thinks outside the box and comes up with unique and refreshing ideas to help a small business grow. Look how far innovative thinking took Steve Jobs in his career.

4. Adaptable

Running any small business or startup venture requires a great deal of adaptability on the part of the business owner. The same can be said for those he or she manages. People who are easily frustrated by change are not the ones you’d want in your business. Find candidates who have proven to be adaptable in prior positions, and inquire in your interviews about how they’ve dealt with change and the need to adapt. You never know what lies ahead on your business path, so being surrounded by individuals who can handle uncertainty is a must.

5. Reliable

Reliability may be the most important trait to be on the lookout for when assembling your staff. Find people who will get to work on time. Find people who will get their work done each day. There is no greater feeling than knowing you can rely on someone to get the job done within a certain timeframe.

6. Loyal

It’s hard to find loyal employees who will stick it out through the thick and thin. The good news is that there are loyal people out there. Do your best to identify and hire these types of workers. Focus on nabbing individuals who are looking to grow into a position and move up the ladder. If you can keep your best employees with you for several years, your chances of long-term success will go up significantly.

1-800Accountant is here for all of your small business accounting and consulting needs. To learn more about how we can help you put your business on a path to prosperity, call 1-800-222-6868 or visit www.1800accountant.com.

Reeling in the Savings: Tax Deductions for Fishing

Reeling in tax deductions for a fishing business is much easier than reeling in a big catch.

Reeling in tax deductions for a fishing business is much easier than reeling in a big catch.

It’s National Fishing Week! Fishing is a hobby many amateur anglers enjoy in their free time. But it’s also a big industry. Many entrepreneurs out there run fishing charters, give fishing tours and lessons, and are active on the water in a variety of capacities.

The IRS generally allows self-employed individuals in the fishing trade or those who own a fishing-based business to reel in some savings by claiming the following ordinary and necessary fishing expenses as tax deductions when using Schedule C of Form 1040:

Property

  • You can depreciate the cost of your fishing boat for a trade or business using the 7-year property depreciation approach. You can depreciate traps, nets, pots, and other such items using this model as well, unless you determine that you will only be using them for less than one year. In this case, you can claim their initial cost as a deduction.
  • For any repairs or improvements to property like fishing boats that increase their value, make them more useful, and lengthen their life, you must depreciate the money you spend to make these modifications. Otherwise, you can claim these expenses as a write-off.

 

Transportation Expenses

  • You can typically write off the fuel you buy for your fishing boat. (NOTE: You may be eligible to claim a fuel tax credit as well.) Consider maintaining a mileage log with data on the distances you travel on your boat for business purposes.
  • You can only deduct transportation if it is for business purposes. For instance, if you report to an office complex where you house the administrative side of your business and then drive to a dock where your charter is housed, you can write off this trip behind the wheel using mileage or actual expenses.

Fishing Tools & Equipment

  • Fishing reels, tackle boxes, storage bins, coolers, life jackets, GPS systems and other common tools and supplies needed for fishing trips are considered deductible business expenses.

Meals & Entertainment Expenses

  • Meals are deductible for fishing professionals if you’re away from your ordinary “tax home” doing business and your trips are overnight or long enough to require a time of rest for you to perform your trade. Fishermen often spend many hours using their reels throughout a workweek, making it common for them to need to reenergize with food they bring on their boats. That’s why this deduction can be a nice perk to save on taxes.
  • If you conduct business activities during a meal or entertainment event, you can write off 50% of these expenses.

Marketing Expenses

  • Any expenses you incur to spread the word about your fishing business are deductible, including business cards, a website and web hosting, social media marketing, etc.

Home Office Expenses

  • If you operate your fishing business out of your home office when you’re not on the water, you can deduct a portion of your residence via the home office deduction. This may include phone and Internet access, electricity, and other expenses. Take a percentage of your home bills based on how much is spent on business activities, and then you can write off this amount on your tax return. You may also use the flat-rate home office deduction method by claiming $5 per square foot of home office space for up to 300 square feet with a maximum deduction of $1,500.

Get more tax deductions for fishing and ways to save money through IRS business deductions by working with the accounting pros at 1-800Accountant. Call 1-800-222-6868 or visit www.1800accountant.com.

Image credit: The image included in this blog post is used with permission via the Flickr Creative Commons license.