THINKING OF STARTING A NEW BUSINESS?

openforbusinessWith the year 2015 fast coming to a close, maybe you’re thinking of starting your own business in January, 2016. You know that you have the experience and the passion to launch a business of your own. But before you do, here are 20 questions to ask yourself to make sure you’re thinking about the right key business decisions.

1. Why am I starting a business?
2. What kind of business do I want?
3. Who is my ideal customer?
4. What products or services will my business provide?
5. Am I prepared to spend the time and money needed to get my business started?
6. What differentiates my business idea and the products or services I will provide from others in the market?
7. Where will my business be located?
8. How many employees will I need?
9. What types of suppliers do I need?
10. How much money do I need to get started?
11. Will I need to get a loan?
12. How soon will it take before my products or services are available?
13. How long do I have until I start making a profit?
14. Who is my competition?
15. How will I price my product compared to my competition?
16. How will I set up the legal structure of my business?
17. What taxes do I need to pay?
18. What kind of insurance do I need?
19. How will I manage my business?
20. How will I advertise my business?

Source: https://www.sba.gov/content/20-questions-before-starting-business

If you have any questions about starting your own business and need help in clarifying your business plans, please call our office today. As a CPA, Accredited Small Business Consultant, and Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Linda specializes in working with small business owners and provides tax, accounting, financial analysis, management, planning, and small business advisory services. She can help you to start, manage, and grow a successful small business. Call her today at (727) 391-7373 or else visit her on the web at http://www.LStortzCPA.com.

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OCTOBER IS NATIONAL WOMEN’S SMALL BUSINESS MONTH

womeninbusinessWomen’s entrepreneurship is on the rise, according to preliminary data from U.S. Census Bureau, which shows that women are increasingly becoming small business owners. U.S. business ownership rose 27.5 percent for women, and overall, America added one million net, new businesses from 2007 to 2012, a period in which U.S. employment fell by 3.8 million.

This is exciting news for celebrating National Women’s Small Business Month, created by the U.S. Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov), as it is important to not only recognize the contributions of women-owned businesses, but to help more women get started. Women still face many challenges when it comes to business ownership, and the Small Business Administration has the resources and assistance to help women-owned small businesses over the hurdles to start-up.

The U.S. Small Business Association broke some significant records last year: small loans under the SBA’s Community Advantage loan program went from $56 ½ million to $200 million – that’s an 80% jump. More importantly, capital was available to those who need it the most.

• Women’s lending was up 19%, and
• Minority lending was up 26.5%.

What can you do to help support women-owned small businesses? Buy from them, thank them, encourage them, brag on them, and tell your friends about them to show appreciation for their work in contributing to the U.S. small business economy by providing needed products and services.

If you are a woman, would like to start a business, and have questions or need help in getting started, please contact our office today. As a woman-owned firm, we specialize in helping women just like you to set up and run a profitable small business.

As a CPA, Accredited Small Business Consultant and Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, we specialize in working with small business owners and provide tax, accounting, financial analysis and management, and small business consulting services. We can help you to start, manage, and grow your small business. Our telephone number is (727) 391-7373, or you can visit us at http://www.LStortzCPA.com.

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! 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 is the movement of money in and out of your business; these movements are called cash inflows and outflows. 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 small 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.

Our local CPA firm, Linda A. Stortz, CPA, P.A., is the best resource to help you learn how about a cash flow statement, 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 small business.

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 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 troubles appear in your cash flow statement, giving you time to recognize a potential problem and plan a strategy to deal with it. Also, with periodic cash flow analysis, you can head off those unpleasant financial problems by recognizing which aspects of your business have the potential to cause cash flow gaps.

You can make sure that your small business has adequate funds to cover your day-to-day expenses by contacting us today. We can help you to help analyze and manage your small business cash flow.

As a CPA, Accredited Small Business Consultant and Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, we mentor small business owners to empower them with the knowledge and skills to run a successful business. Allow us to evaluate your small business needs. Give us a call today at (727) 391-7373 or visit us at http://www.LStortzCPA.com and www.tampabayaccountingservices.com.

WHAT INDUSTRIES ARE HOT FOR ENTREPRENEURS IN 2015?

enteringstartupWe’re already seeing certain trends for 2015 that promise growth opportunities for entrepreneurs—particularly in areas where old and new industries overlap. While business prospects vary region to region, there are six general sectors that entrepreneurs can’t afford to overlook.

1. Education Services
Traditional ideas about learning are fading fast, which makes the education industry “ripe for disruption,” according to Shawn Sadowski, the entrepreneurs in residence at Cogswell College, which offers a master’s program in Entrepreneurship & Innovation in Sunnyvale, California. Small businesses are behind on college-level software suites for at-home learning, as well as MOOCs—massive open online courses.

“Online education is key right now in [K-12],” he adds. “There’s a lot of diversity of opportunity in education technology.” That opens the field to any innovator who is passionate about learning to develop software and technologies that can be integrated into classrooms, engage students and help connect parents with teachers.

2. Mobile SaaS
The small-to-midsize business market for Mobile SaaS—software as a service for tablets and smartphones—is expected to reach $19.7 billion by 2017, according to a report by Strategy Analytics. “There are tons of opportunities for capitalizing [on the development of] software services for mobile devices,” Sadowski says.

To support this new subscription-based model, “firms are creating the next great app or software as a service,” he says. For instance, rather than having to download an entireQuickBooks program onto a computer, small businesses are starting to offer consumers simpler ways to access accounting services when they need it.

3. Mobile Payment Trends
Smartphones may be ubiquitous, but using them to make purchases is still relatively new. More and more sellers will be looking for ways to reach consumers quickly and reliably. You don’t necessarily have to compete with the likes of Apple Pay. But as mobile wallets and otherpayment technologies are being tested in the marketplace, why not look for ways to capitalize on the trend?

4. Construction-Related Industries
As financing for construction projects becomes more available, residential growth is poised to take off this year. Commercial construction starts for 2015 are predicted to rise 15 percent, a point higher than last year. That spells opportunity for dozens of industries supported by contractors: from the developers, brokers and realtors making deals, to carpenters, landscapers and decorative lighting salespeople called in after a sale is closed. Even videographers will be selling their services to the increasing numbers of housing professionals who are showcasing their services online.

5. E-commerce
Online retail sales are on the rise. The availability of Web-hosting companies like WordPress,Yola and Weebly means that even the least-techie entrepreneurs among us will have an easier time taking products to a worldwide market. Capturing this growing market of online retailers, and innovating the way the industry works, continues to be a profitable move for entrepreneurs.

6. Healthcare
Let’s not forget the vast policy changes in U.S. healthcare in the last couple of years. Whether it is creating a seamless way to offer medical services to the newly insured or creating refreshing content for healthcare publications, independent innovators will continue to benefit from this industry.

Are you thinking of starting up a small business? Call our office today so that we can help you plan your new venture!

Source: Curley, C. (2015). What Industries Are Ripe For Entrepreneurs In 2015? Retrieved from http://www.nfib.com/article/what-industries-are-ripe-for-entrepreneurs-in-2015-bizhelp-67734/

As a CPA, Accredited Small Business Consultant and Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, we mentor small business owners to empower them with the knowledge and skills to run a successful business. Allow us to evaluate your small business needs. Give us a call today at (727) 391-7373 or visit us at http://www.LStortzCPA.com and www.tampabayaccountingservices.com.

TIPS FOR PART-TIME ENTREPRENEURS

smallbusinessownerIf you run a business part time, you probably face challenges that full-time entrepreneurs don’t have to deal with. After all, many people who run a part-time business also hold down a full-time job, or have other obligations that keep them from dedicating 100 percent of their time to the business.

If you’re looking for ways to improve efficiency in your part-time business, here are some suggestions to consider.

1. Use Time Management Apps
One of the biggest challenges many part-time business owners have is finding the time to accomplish all that needs to be done in fewer hours per week. That can be a problem in a part-time business because if you’re not making the most of your time, your business’ productivity — and, ultimately, profitability — will suffer. Luckily, there are some apps that can help you manage your time better.

Basecamp: This project-management app helps you streamline communications with everyone you need to stay in touch with for your projects. With it, you can handle multiple projects at once, pull together the people you need, and conduct all communications from one place, including progress reports. Sign up for a free two-month trial on the site.

Sprinklr: Whether you need to plan a social media campaign, analyze customer behavior, organize your online content, or plan and execute an online marketing campaign in real time, you can do it all from with help from Sprinklr.

RescueTime: This app monitors your time online, so you can figure out where you’re spending the majority of it, and where it’s going to waste. You can view your logged time on your personal dashboard, and you will also be emailed a weekly report showing how you spent your time the prior week. Use a free version of the app or pay $9 per month for the premium version.

2. Explain your Time Restraints to Friends and Family
When you’re running a business at night and on the weekends, you rarely have time for long phone calls or a lot of social activities during your part-time work hours. Many non-entrepreneurs mistakenly believe that when people run their own business, they can follow any schedule they want, so they don’t always respect your time. Be sure to explain to the people close to you what kind of time restraints you are under, and ask for their support.

3. Consider Taking on a Partner
Since time is so limited in a part-time venture, some entrepreneurs start their business with a partner who can help share the load. This not only frees up more time because there are two people working on projects and tasks, but it doubles the abilities and talents brought to the company.

4. Outsource as Much as You Can
Part-time business owners have just as many marketing, customer service, and organizational tasks as full-time entrepreneurs, but only a fraction of the time to do them in. You can outsource some of your work, such as content creation, accounting, marketing, and administration tasks. You will pay less than you would for an employee, and you can scale your workforce according to your needs.

5. Use Financial Forecasting
If you plan to eventually go full time, you’ll have to keep a close eye on your financials to know the right time to take the leap. Financial forecasting can help you do that, so you should regularly run financial forecasting reports such as a break-even analysis, which predicts when your business will begin to pay for itself, sales projections to estimate the amount of sales you will bring in within a predetermined time period, and other financial forecasts.

6. Decide Whether or Not to Tell Your Boss
It is not illegal to start a part-time business while holding down a full-time job, unless you signed an employee contract that prohibits it, or if you have a noncomplete document that prevents your part-time business from competing with your employer’s. On the other hand, your employer is counting on your to do your job, so don’t allow your business’ needs to interfere with your job performance. Whether or not you tell your boss about the business is entirely up to you, and will depend on your specific circumstances. You are under no obligation to do so, unless you signed one of the documents mentioned above.

Running a part-time business is demanding. To be successful, you should take every possible opportunity to get more done in less time and track your business’ success.

Source: Kearns, Suzanne (2015). Retrieved from http://quickbooks.intuit.com/r/am-i-ready/6-tips-for-part-time-entrepreneurs

As a CPA, Accredited Small Business Consultant, and Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, we mentor small business owners to empower them with the knowledge and skills to run a successful business. Allow us to evaluate your small business needs. Give us a call today at (727) 391-7373 or visit us at http://www.LStortzCPA.com and http://www.tampabayaccountingservices.com

10 THINGS TO DO AS A STARTUP ENTREPRENEUR

startup(1) Be realistic: It’s great to be a cheerleader for your company when dealing with customers and clients, but you must be realistic when it comes to understanding the limitations of your business, making financial projections, accepting apparent weaknesses, etc. We’ve all heard the expression, “Don’t drink your own Kool-Aid.” This principle applies to new ventures as it can get a startup entrepreneur in real trouble. Be honest and realistic as you move forward. If not, trouble can come before success!

(2) Slow down: It’s a never-ending problem all founders and small business owners have. There is never enough time in the day to get everything accomplished. It’s either too much to do by yourself or a lack of delegation. Whatever the problem, you must find time to step back from the business to relax, enjoy, and think. Yes, think. Without some “down” time, you cannot properly plan, innovate, or make improvements. Work smarter, not harder and longer!

(3) Full energy: You can only be successful in a small business when you devote your full energy to your new venture. This doesn’t mean working yourself to death (see #2 above). It does mean, however, that whatever hours you devote to your new endeavor whether full-time or part-time, it needs to be with your full energy and devotion during those hours. Who wants to do business with you or, possibly, invest in your business when you’re not giving it your “100%” when needed? Work on your new business with partial energy and see only partial results!

(4) Hatch your eggs: Make sure your eggs hatch before moving forward. Every entrepreneur wants to make a big splash right out of the starting blocks. It would be wonderful if it works that way but most of the time, it doesn’t. Throw a small pebble, make a ripple, and see what works. Then you’re ready to throw a boulder and make a big splash. Make sure the eggs hatch before moving on!

(5) Competence counts: Entrepreneurs “think” they know best and, maybe, they do when it comes to the technical aspects of their businesses. When it comes to other areas such as taxes, accounting, insurance, or legal, it pays to obtain professional and competent advice. Don’t try to do something yourself today only to hire a professional tomorrow to undo your mistakes. Pay to get the competent advice right from the start. Pay now or pay later!

(6) Narrow your focus: It would be nice to be all things to all customers, but it usually doesn’t work that way. Narrow your focus and concentrate on what you do best. Determine your strategy, define your target market, and don’t deviate. New opportunities and new markets can be profitable, but they must match the internal resources and strengths of a business. Be a great business in a narrow market rather than a mediocre business in a broad market. Focus first, then expand!

(7) Market research: Of course you know that your product or service is going to be successful, but have you checked with prospective customers for what they want? Market research is a powerful tool that can help lead a new business in the right direction. You can do it yourself. Ask, talk, send surveys, read industry publications, search the Internet, have a “think tank” dinner with respected business colleagues. When so much information is available before you start your business, why not take advantage of it? Market research just might be an eye-opener!

(8) Be prepared: It’s exciting to get a new business off the ground, but you must be prepared. This means having everything in place, so there is no faltering when the “doors open.” Financing, employees, marketing, procedures, etc. must be in place and ready to go. Why stumble at the opening when you can start running? It’s all about being prepared!

(9) Be passionate but prudent: You can’t be a small business owner if you’re not passionate about what you do. Unfortunately, being passionate does not always equate to being successful. Be practical, wise, and sensible when making business decisions. New startups do not have the luxury of poor decision making…and survive. Take the opposite approach. Be prudent and succeed!

(10) Know your numbers: You’re not an accountant. You don’t want to be an accountant, but you still need to know the numbers of your business…inside and out. What is your estimated revenue, cost of goods sold, gross profit percentage, cash burn rate, or current ratio? If the numbers don’t work, then your business might not work. Don’t leave all the numbers to someone else. Perhaps, they can do the preparation, but you still need to understand the numbers!

Source: http://www.aasbc.com, 10/23/14.

FIVE BASIC TAX TIPS FOR NEW BUSINESSES

newbusinessIf you start a business, one key to success is to know about your Federal tax obligations. Not only will you probably need to know about income taxes, you may also need to know about payroll taxes as well. Here are five basic tax tips that can help get your business off to a good start.

1. Business Structure. As you start out, you’ll need to choose the structure of your business. Some common types include sole proprietorship, partnership and corporation. You may also choose to be an S corporation or taxed as a Limited Liability Company. You’ll report your business activity using the IRS forms which are right for your business type.

2. Business Taxes. There are four general types of business taxes. They are income tax, self-employment tax, employment tax and excise tax. The type of taxes your business pays usually depends on which type of business you choose to set up. You may need to pay your taxes by making estimated tax payments.

3. Employer Identification Number. You may need to get an EIN for federal tax purposes. Give us a call to find out if you need this number. If you do need one, we are available to guide you through the process of applying for it online.

4. Accounting Method. An accounting method is a set of rules that determine when to report income and expenses. Your business must use a consistent method. The two that are most common are the cash method and the accrual method. Under the cash method, you normally report income in the year that you receive it and deduct expenses in the year that you pay them. Under the accrual method, you generally report income in the year that you earn it and deduct expenses in the year that you incur them. This is true even if you receive the income or pay the expenses in a future year.

5. Employee Health Care. The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit helps small businesses and tax-exempt organizations pay for health care coverage they offer their employees. A small employer is eligible for the credit if it has fewer than 25 employees who work full-time, or a combination of full-time and part-time. Beginning in 2014, the maximum credit is 50 percent of premiums paid for small business employers and 35 percent of premiums paid for small tax-exempt employers, such as charities.

For 2015 and after, employers employing at least a certain number of employees (generally 50 full-time employees or a combination of full-time and part-time employees that is equivalent to 50 full-time employees) will be subject to the Employer Shared Responsibility provision.

Have a business idea? Call us first. We’ll make sure you have everything in place to make your new business a successful one.

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