3 Spring Cleaning Practices to Get Your Financial House in Order for 2015

spring clean your financesIt’s starting to feel like spring, meaning it’s a good time to do a little financial spring cleaning. If you didn’t tackle some of these tasks before the end of the year, take a few steps today to get your financial house in order for 2015.

1. Review your credit profiles.

At least once a year it makes sense to take a look at both your personal credit score and your business credit profile to make sure they are accurate and to get a pulse of where you are. One place you can access your free personal credit report is at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Although they don’t offer a free annual report, you should also consider reviewing your business credit profiles with Dunn & Bradstreet, Equifax, or Experian at least once a year. Any mistakes on your profile could negatively impact your ability to secure a small business loan.

2. Clean up old files and financial records.

It’s also a good time to clean up files and consult with your CPA or tax lawyer to implement an efficient way to manage archiving documents. The IRS offers some general advice regarding how long specific documents should be kept on file. Here’s a list of some of the most common business documents and how long the IRS requires you to keep them on file (but be sure to consult your CPA or tax attorney for details):

  • Business Income Tax Returns and Supporting Documents—The IRS recommends you keep your final tax returns permanently and any supporting documents for at least seven years.
  • Employment Tax Records—They also recommend you keep all employment tax records for a minimum of four years after the date those taxes were due or were paid (whichever is the latter).
  • Business Ledgers and Other Key Documents—Your CPA will likely suggest you keep these documents permanently and will help you determine the best way to archive these records.

3. Set Financial Goals.

Although there are a lot of financial goals a business owner might consider, here are two often overlooked goals that might make sense for you and your business:

  • Increase your financial knowledge. Although most small business owners don’t start a business because they are expert accountants, it’s important for every small business owner to be an expert on the finances of his or her business. Unless you love the bookkeeping and accounting process, you’ll eventually hire someone to manage those day-to-day tasks. Nevertheless, you will need to review the books on a regular basis and keep track of budgets. You’ll also want to make sure you can read a few basic financial reports like a Profit & Loss Statement, your Balance Sheet, Income Statement, Statement of Retained Earnings, and Cash Flow Statement. If you don’t completely understand these reports right now (which isn’t uncommon) have your accountant explain them to you, so you do. If they can’t or won’t, it’s time to find a new accountant.
  • Learn more about small business financing. The world of small business financing has changed a lot over the last several years. Overall small business lending from banks has decreased, making it more difficult to acquire financing from that traditional source. Fortunately, non-bank lenders are entering the space to fill that void. But be aware, these lenders may offer a range of loan products that should be matched to your particular need. A loan that might be a great fit for one situation might not make sense in another. What’s more, loan terms are often different from those associated with a traditional small business loan. You’ll need to do some homework to determine which loan might best meet your needs, and what options you may qualify for. Businessloans.com, a credit education tool created by OnDeck, is one resource that seeks to provide an overview of the small business lending landscape and offers insight into the different loan types available to business owners.

Sweeping away the winter cobwebs isn’t the only way to approach spring cleaning. Looking at the financial health of your small business once a year is an important part of keeping your financial house in order.

Ty HeadshotTy Kiisel is a contributing author at BusinessLoans.com, a new resource full of content addressing all aspects of business financing for small business owners. Ty has over 25 years of experience in the trenches of small business and provides personal anecdotes and valuable tips to help small business owners become more financially responsible.

It’s Not Sexy… But It’s Time to Talk Conversion Rates

Today’s Guest Post is by Tristan Barger – Enjoy!

Not properly analyzing the success of every campaign might seem like an isolated issue. What you don’t realize is this lack of knowledge instigates several unintended (and seemingly unrelated) problems.

ideas and business planHow can small businesses track and analyze marketing tactics to determine what is successful and why some campaigns fail? Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of local small businesses. I am also the owner of a locally owned SMB and face many of the same challenges my customers struggle with. Most frustrations we discuss are the same across all industries: Local competitors with prices so low they can’t compete, or national competitors that carry brand recognition that potential clients instinctively trust, or the business owner is doing the job of the CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, etc.

All of these can be wrapped up into a single issue that impacts every dollar you spend. Most small businesses don’t have the resources to try, or haven’t found a successful method to track real conversion rates and ROI on marketing and advertising investments. You might have one preferred method of marketing (online, print mailing, partners, broadcast, seasonal promotions, etc.), but even if you only use one marketing method, you still have no way to determine how successful it is against word-of-mouth and customer referrals.

Untitled3With no standard method to evaluate marketing campaigns business owners are left with no way to calculate investment costs, leads generated, appointments scheduled, deals closed or the final conversion rate of specific campaigns. You have no clue what’s working. You don’t have the resources to determine if you’re losing money every month on marketing campaigns, what campaigns are just draining your budget without generating a single lead or if you should be investing more in marketing methods that are successfully bringing in qualified leads.

What I find most interesting is that year after year the biggest frustration I hear is a problem that has thousands of solutions available. Some CRM software platforms are as cheap as $25 a month. So what is the real problem? The solutions aren’t built for 75 percent of the small businesses I work with. These businesses don’t have the resources to track the necessary information or set-up these systems to complement their business and marketing model.

But even with these often complicated software services, business owners still find that one of their major obstacles is determining what leads came from where? Most SMBs offer only a few primary products or services and users end up getting overcharged for software platforms that bill them for a long list of capabilities that they will never use.

There is no solution that will work for every small business owner. But there is a solution that will work for your business, you just have to find it. So before you put that corporate helmet on and start banging your head against the wall, start by simply identifying where most of your qualified leads are coming from. You do this by asking customers the right questions. Get as much information as possible, i.e. where they heard of your company, if they are shopping around for prices with your competition, and most important, DON’T forget to ask for all of their contact information so you can keep them in a lead database.

Once you start looking into the number of qualified leads that come in and the close rate, you will get a better idea of what kind of CRM service you need. Do you simply need call tracking? Do you need web analytics and keyword tracking? Is this something you can handle in-house or should you look into having a partner do it and just send you the reports every month telling you what investments are working and what you should stop dumping money into?

From personal experience, I will warn you that you might discover you have a bigger problem that needs to be addressed before anything else is done. If your close rate of qualified leads is at 15 percent, you need first to identify where in the process things start to “go off the rails,” and fix it. It could be an administration issue, poor communication with staff or a larger problem related to the kind of leads you are attracting.

This process allows small businesses to invest their money where it will yield the highest return. I still haven’t perfected the process myself, but every day we get closer to a system that works for our business. Another crucial thing to keep in mind is that a business cannot succeed without understanding where qualified leads are coming from and focusing their budget on those programs to grow their customer base.

Tristan BargerTristan Barger is President and CEO of Golden Mailer, Inc.

As the owner and CEO of Golden Mailer, Inc., Tristan wears many hats. Tristan leads his team through positive motivation and is an avid believer in marketing and advertising solutions at a local level. Every aspect of Tristan’s role is founded on a specific goal: to bring local businesses the information they need to succeed through marketing production and quality services. With an 80 percent client retention rate, he works hard to foster and build his relationships with clients through hands-on marketing tactics.

Time-Saving Hacks for Your Small Business

Today’s Guest Post is by Madison Aki – Enjoy!

Small business owners seem to have about as much extra time as Scrat the Squirrel before the world froze over. Their home lives are scarcely separate from their business lives, and things can get a little messy. If you can relate and are looking for some time-saving hacks for your small business, then it’s your lucky day.

Daily Goal Setting

I find that all my best ideas hit me square in the noggin while I’m driving, showering, or half-sleeping. Okay, rarely with that last one, but when this happens, and I don’t have a pen handy, I’m glad I’m bff’s with Siri. Whether it’s your phone or good old fashioned pen and paper, write down your daily goals for the day. List your priorities in order from greatest to least, and you’ll have ammunition to start the day.

Photo at morgueFile
Photo at morgueFile

What’s App?

How great is it that there is an app for everything these days? Great for you and your time-saving needs, not so great for that self-acclaimed entrepreneur in your Business course five years ago (chances are his/her app idea is already in the works by a ten-year-old genius). Here’s a list to glance over that may help get you out of the office by 6 pm on Friday night:
Asana: scheduling app that helps you delegate tasks to team members
Shyp: shipping app that allows you to snap a picture of what you need to ship and someone will come by and take care of it for you
Brewster: an app that sorts all of your contacts and updates current contact information
Zirtual: a little personal assistant app. Siri can only do so much…
Pocket: an app that lets you save an article or other content to read later.


Let me guess. The last time you asked for help was 20 years ago when you were too young to read the answers on the bottom of the cereal box. Understandably so, most small business owners are independent to the point where help seems unnecessary, but don’t let it become a fault. If you really want to save time, don’t let your ego get in the way of asking for help from people who can cut out some of the fluff for you.

Outsource What’s Necessary

While delegating is step one to saving time, outsourcing is numero dos. What, you’re telling me that you live in the age of the tech boom, and you don’t know how to write a website?! You’re a menace to society! No, you’re not, but you are if you try to learn code and build one overnight. Outsource things like this to save training, interview, and hiring time. Just make sure you know how to communicate with your outsource-ee…nothing’s worse than a language barrier, no matter how inexpensive their services are.

Schedules Are Your Friend

Oh great, you’ve got three meetings today and extra time for diddly squat. Stick to your schedule and if a meeting is running long, end it! Lord knows your group could go on and on about how you DON’T need a dress code, but please do not let meetings run your life. Be effective, stick to the addendum, and more importantly stick to your schedule. You’ll save a lot of time in doing so.

Utilize The Online Hangout

You’re out on business and have got some down time before you meet that potential client. Or better yet, you’re working from home today and want to be as effective as possible. Hop on to your Gmail and get a Google Hangout going. This beautiful invention allows you to meet with the entire marketing team, instead of just one person over the phone.

Become A Speed Reader

Wouldn’t it be great if you could speed-read through a case study and use the main points to better your business? To become a good speed reader, all you’ve got to do is practice. The amount of time you’ll save reading through documents will be a game-changer.

After reading this, I wouldn’t be surprised if your motivation meter just detonated the room. In all seriousness, use these tips to give yourself and business little more time to focus on other important aspects. Now go and continue to change the world, Superhuman!

Madison AkiMadison is a Community Relations Specialist at Cougar Mountain Software, an accounting software company helping out small businesses. She majored in Business at BYU-Idaho and enjoys running, sewing, marketing, and fashion illustration.

4 Types Of Remote Contractors To Avoid Hiring At All Costs

Today’s guest post is from Sarah E. Brown– Enjoy! 

photo credit:  / 123RF Stock Photo
photo credit: / 123RF Stock Photo

Remote contractors can be a fantastic resource for your small business. Independent of your geographical location, remote talent can offer specialized help and services your business needs. They can help you grow your company and reach your goals in ways you simply couldn’t on your own or with an outsourced agency. But the wrong remote contractors can be a serious waste of your time, energy and money, and can dilute the reputation of your brand. Here’s a guide to the four types of remote contractors to avoid hiring at all costs.

The “Bad Attitude” Remote Contractor.

When you bring on a remote contractor, you won’t engage with him or her in the same way you would in the office, which is why hiring a contractor who’s got a great attitude is even more important. In addition to performance and results, it’s imperative to work with people who will treat you and your business with respect. Don’t accept anything less.

The “Radio Silent” Remote Contractor.

It’s 10am on a Monday–do you know how well the project your contractor is working on is doing? For example, can you find out within 1-2 business days exactly how your AdWords campaign is performing? There’s nothing worse than needing an update on a project and getting only radio silence in return. The right contractor will communicate regularly and keep you in the loop–no exceptions.

The “Black Box” Contractor.

Your contractor should ideally be delivering massive value to you and your business–value that s/he should be able to readily quantify and discuss with you. You should run, not walk, if a contractor balks at inquiries for explanation of value. You should be able to know not only what your contractor is actually doing, but also know how it’s actually helping your business.

The “Barely Available” Remote Contractor.

If your contractor won’t commit to agreed upon deadlines, or it takes weeks before work actually gets done (if at all), s/he is not a good fit for your business. Successful marketing requires time and regular account maintenance. Momentum is crucial. Hire someone who is dedicated, committed to getting results for your business.

In the comments, tell us about a time you hired a remote contractor and how it worked out.

Sara E. BrownSarah E. Brown is a digital marketer at PPCPath in Boulder, CO. PPCPath is the most cost-effective way to get better-performing AdWords campaigns. Follow @PPCPath on Twitter or visit http://www.ppcpath.com.


Public Relations (Earned Media)

photo credit: Blue_Yeti_0015 via photopin (license)

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your business isn’t either; it takes some conditioning and active outreach to create awareness for your brand and your clients as well. We believe to be successful we must constantly be learning and expanding. It is in that spirit that Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network holds exclusive bi-weekly training calls to give our consultants opportunities to learn from thought leaders in small business, marketing and consulting as a benefit of being part of the network.

This week, we are examining the different aspects and importance of public relations, or better named “earned media.” We are joined by Kathi Kruse, of Kruse Control Inc. and author of the leading automotive social media blog in the U.S. and Canada, and later by David Smith of Valens Point, LLC, a marketing organization that develops strategies for services-based small business owners. In particular, Smith provides DTM consultants with access to Outmarket Marketing Suite for volumizing public relations efforts.

During the call, we discussed the seven steps for small business public relations:

  • Build your list.
  • Match your message.
  • Pitch relevant stories.
  • Guest write and contribute.
  • Conduct influencer outreach.
  • Build speaking opportunities.
  • Consistently release content.

We would love to have you as part of our team!  Interested in learning more about the bi-weekly training calls and the rest of the benefits of joining the Network?  Click here to sign up for our next Discovery Call.