Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Closing out 2008

It’s the last day of the year and my head is truly hurting recounting all the accounting, client tracking, project tracking and number crunching for 2008; combining that with all the goals and planning for 2009.

It all makes me remember that a business is much more than putting a sign on a door and charging for services; it’s about organization, planning, and growing in not only your customer base, but your offering and partnerships.

2009 is going to be a great year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays!!

Remember to take time out to share with family and friends the Holiday season. Happy holidays and I look forward to working with all business owners looking to grow their businesses in the coming year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Administrative Partners win Grant

Last night, my company was awarded a Grant through the Women's Business Owners of Prince George's County. I am so excited about this opportunity. The organization doesn't just give money, its a 6 month business development bootcamp. The board of directors is made up of a diverse set of professionals, each serving as my mentor in their area of expertise. At the end of 6 months I will be awarded a monetary award -- if I make it through this bootcamp .

They also sponsor training in any area that I would like - be it a workshop seminar or class.

I'm so excited and am really confident that with their help my business is going to soar to the next level.

Just thought I'd share :-)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Seven Year-End Tax Tips

The autumn leaves are falling, a chill is in the air, holidays are looming, and, for small business owners, it's a good time to think about ... taxes. While no one likes to ponder the intricacies and implications of the Internal Revenue Code, taking the time to do so toward the end of the year can save your business a considerable amount of money come tax time.

So what can you do now?

1. Lower Revenue. Since your tax bill will be calculated on the basis of how much income your company has made during the year, a good way of keeping that bill down is to defer the receipt of as many payments from customers as possible into January. If your business operates on the cash basis of accounting, this can be easily done by simply delaying the mailing of bills for end-of-year purchases until very late in December, or permitting other bills that are due to be paid in January. Not only does this allow you to lower the current year tax bill, but you get to keep the tax due on those funds in the bank, accruing interest, for a whole year. Additionally, your customers will appreciate the added time to pay their bills, especially around the holiday season.

Note, however, that this strategy only benefits you if you won't be entering a higher tax bracket in the coming year. If you estimate that your business will be operating in a higher tax bracket next year, deferring payments until next year may cost you more later. Also, if your business shows a loss for this year, it makes less sense to defer the payments, since doing so only increases the size of your loss for this year and will have no tax impact.

Also note that simply not depositing a check received before the end of the year does not mean that you can defer that revenue to next year. The IRS requires you to include any checks received before December 31 as part of this year's revenue. Failing to do so could result in penalties if you are audited.

2. Make that major purchase. If you are considering a major purchase of business equipment, it's a good idea to do it now, so that the cost can be deducted from this year's taxes. As part of the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, signed into law earlier this year, the limit on Section 179 deductions for business equipment purchases was raised from $125,000 to $250,000, and the total amount of equipment purchases that are deductible was raised from $500,000 to $800,000. Both used and new equipment qualify for the deduction and you are able to finance the purchase. But any new equipment acquired must be put into use by your business by December 31 to qualify for the deduction.

3. Increase Expenses. You can reduce your tax bill by increasing the amount and number of deductions you take for business expenses like office supplies and office furniture. You can increase the benefit by charging such expenses on your business credit card, which means that-if you make the purchase in December-you get to claim the deduction for this year's taxes, but won't have to pay the credit card bill until next year.

4. Pay Recurring Bills Now. The same applies to bills for business services, like rent, phone service, and equipment leases, which should be paid before the end of the year, even if not due until after December 31. Consider pre-paying for bills that you know you will need to pay anyway like rent. Such payments can be deducted against this year's taxes. Make sure that pre-payments made now won't complicate your cash flow in January.

5. Contribute to a Retirement Plan: If you don't have one, you really should, and this is the perfect time to set it up. Payments made to a retirement plan-401(k), IRA, KEOGH, or SEP plan-are deductible against this year's income. Most retirement plans have a contribution limit.

6. Consult a Tax Advisor. Tax law is complicated. Very few small business owners, outside of CPAs themselves, have the time or inclination to acquaint themselves with the IRS code and the yearly changes made by Congress. Instead of trying to work it all out yourself, you are better off consulting someone who has made business taxes his or her profession. A tax advisor can make certain that your business is not only in compliance with all the relevant tax codes, but is taking advantage of every allowable deduction.

7. Consider the home office deduction. Do you conduct business out of any part of your home? Many small business owners have at least one room devoted to some aspect of their business, whether it is keeping shipping materials in the garage, or a bedroom that has been converted into an office or filing storage space. With so many small businesses operating partially or completely out of people's homes, the IRS allows small business owners to deduct a portion of rent, mortgage payments, utilities, and maintenance for qualifying home offices. The IRS has fairly stringent tests for such deductions, however, and it is advisable to consult a CPA about your particular situation to make certain it qualifies.


By Christopher Freeburn – Small Business Online Community at Bank of America


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Social Networking.. are you on facebook?

We're on facebook..Are you?

Click here to visit our business page and sign up as a fan today!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Showing Your Business Skills on the Job

Intrapreneurship is the opportunity to exercise your entrepreneurial skills within a company or organization. It is a great way to gain corporate independence as well as increase your profile within the company and the industry. Robert Wallace, author and CEO of Bithgroup Technologies Inc. in Baltimore, shares what it takes to become a successful intrapreneur.

Understand that an intrapreneurial venture requires many of the same skills as starting your own business. Is there a need for this separate business unit? Will you be able to manage the budget and resources required for success? How will you increase value over time?

Develop a business plan. Plan for development, sustainability, and growth with provisions made for change and innovations. Wallace also suggests that as you develop your plan, consider your professional goals and how the structure of your business plan will address them.

Know the rules of engagement in your company. "Every organization has a culture, and the culture defines the rules about how success is attained," Wallace explains. How receptive is your organization to new ideas or business concepts? What have been the channels of completion for other projects? "A lot of minority professionals don't understand that it's not just about the credentials and how hard you work."

Build strategic alliances that advance you. To move any idea forward, an employee needs the advice and support of mentors and advocates, senior level executives who will advise you on how to manage the political climate.

Taken from Black Enterprise Magazine (Kingsley Kanu, Jr.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Outsourcing for Small Business

The phone’s ringing off the hook, employees are working overtime to handle the overload, and your website is buzzing with activity. These are all “good” problems we wish for, but are you ready if they become a reality? Today’s business happens at warp speed, and efficiency is a key hallmark of success. One way to gain efficiency is to focus your energy on the things that are of core value to your business. Keep those activities in-house, and put your non-core functions on the hot seat – even small business outsourcing is a reality in today’s business environment.

To make outsourcing work for your business, try the following:

Analyze your expertise

Take a look at the value you offer your customers and where you focus your efforts. Are you spending too much time on areas that are outside of your expertise? Many times, it is more cost-effective to have someone outside of the company take care of these non-core activities. Research various service providers and ask for referrals so you can start outsourcing functions such as logistics, accounting, IT services, payroll, public relations, and more.

"A small business owner should evaluate outsourcing just as any other business decision,” states Walter Turek, senior vice president, sales and marketing for Paychex, a national provider of payroll, human resource and benefits outsourcing solutions. “Criteria should include:expertise in performing the function, confidence in the service provider, return on time invested, risk versus reward, and peace of mind consideration."

Outsourced but not out of mind

Once you find an outsourcing vendor, be sure to keep your eye on the ball! Since you can’t just walk down the hall to oversee the quality and timeliness of outsourced work, continue to tightly manage whatever functions you outsource. Arrange for regular reporting to ensure accountability and effectiveness.

Move “fixed costs” to “variable costs”

Some functions in your business require only part-time work. An example might be bookkeeping. If your needs add up to only four days a week in bookkeeping work, then consider outsourcing. That will allow you to move the burden of “fixed” costs (in this case, a full-time salary) to the “variable” side (an outsourced vendor). In essence, you pay for the outsourced functions only when you need them.

Jump on opportunities from downsizers

Be aware that the rigors of this economy are forcing big business to shed non-core functions. After all, corporations must find ways to maximize profitability, which they do in part by reducing their expenses. Just as in small businesses, outsourcing allows big companies to move fixed costs to the variable column. Like you, they pay for the outsourced functions only when they need them. From a business development perspective, this may represent a trove of opportunity for you. You can develop an entire business model centered on providing services that used to be in-house at large companies.

Our Bottom Line

The primary message here is that outsourcing is here to stay and it should be something you entertain for your business. Concentrate on the key aspects of your small business, where customers find value, and outsource other business functions to outside experts. If you monitor vendors carefully and focus on efficiency, you’ll be positioned for rapid growth and success.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Make Every Proposal Count

Your profile, portfolio, credentials, references, and feedback establish your credibility and showcase your skills - but, in most cases the first (and possibly the last) impression you make on a potential client will be through your bid proposal.

Whether you submit a proposal on one job or 100 jobs, you're only looking for one outcome: to be hired. Here are some ways to make every proposal count:

Know the client.
Some clients have posted a number of jobs. Check out their previous projects and get a feel for their business and the skills they tend to need. Also check out their feedback, both given and received: you'll get a feel for how they like to work and communicate, and you may also get a sense of what's most important to them (timely communication, frequent status reports, asking lots of questions early in the project, etc.)

Ask questions.
Use private messages (PMBs) to get clarification and additional information. You'll not only better understand the project, but you'll begin to build a working relationship with the buyer.

Tailor each proposal.
You may be tempted to use standard text in your proposals. Don't. Each client and each job is unique; your proposals should be, too. Clients can more easily ignore proposals that appear to be boilerplate or generic, so, if you do cut-and-paste, tweak the results to ensure you specifically address the client's needs. Every proposal should read like it was developed specifically for that particular client.

Stress the benefits.
Your proposal isn't about you – it's about the client. The client wants help meeting a need or solving a problem. While you should certainly describe yourself, make sure you describe the benefits and advantages of what you will do. And if you can, explain how you can add additional value or features to the project.

Don't oversell.
Avoid overstating your skills and promising more than you can deliver. State exactly what you will do and use facts to back up your skills and experience. Provide relevant samples or links to previous work – the more relevant, the better. Buyers can get a sense of your design skills if you include a sample of a brochure you created, but if they need a website created, providing links to sites you've designed will be much more effective.

Get to the point.
Clearly explain your services, features, and benefits. Be concise in demonstrating your skills and experience. Include one or two quick descriptions of previous work you've done – work that is applicable to the project – and refer the client to your profile and portfolio. Longer is not always better.

Also, avoid jargon. Elance is a global workplace, and word usage varies from country to country. Get rid of catch phrases and just say what you mean in simple, clear and everyday language.

Let your personality show.
Share your enthusiasm for the project or the client's business. You and your potential client will work together on this and hopefully many more projects – give them a chance to see you as a real person.

Review your proposal as if you're the client.
Put yourself in their shoes: How would you respond if you read this proposal? Is it engaging? Does it clearly state the benefits you'll receive? Do you feel confident the provider can deliver? Do you get a sense of the provider's excitement and interest in the project? Bottom line, would you consider hiring this provider? Forget what you know about your skills and work ethic – focus instead on what your proposal says about you and what you'll do.

Critiquing your own proposals can be tough, especially if you do so moments after you finish writing. If that's the case, take a few minutes to review old proposals you've written. They won't be as "fresh," and you should be able to critique them more objectively. Chances are you'll find things you wish you'd done differently – apply what you learn to help make each new proposal count.

Taken from

Monday, November 10, 2008

Taking a Break Can Help Grow Your Business

One of the strategies of business growth highlighted on the popular website, suggested that a business growth strategy was “taking a break”. With the holidays just around the corner, this might just be the encouragement you need to take a break and spend time with your family and plan for the coming year’s business opportunities.

The article mentioned that there is too much of a good thing. The same things that give you a mental buzz can also stress you out if you don’t take a breath and relax now and then. This will also ensure that you don’t’ lose the fun factor in your work or the passion for what you do. This is why mental time outs are an important part of business.

This mental break may not come in the form of a physical vacation, but perhaps just taking a few minutes away for the madness during the day to take a walk around the block. You must give yourself permission to stop. Some ways to deal with this mentioned were:

1. 1. Keep a time log. This will help you keep track of the time you wasted and you can use this time to do something that will help you relax.

2. Plan for each activity. Pad extra time around meetings and task to account for time-killers such as traffic.

3.3. Evaluate the quality of your clients. Only do business with clients who don’t take advantage of you, who pay you on time and who are pleasant.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tips for Choosing a Tax Preparer

If you pay someone to prepare your tax return, choose that preparer wisely. Taxpayers are legally responsible for what’s on their own tax returns even if prepared by someone else. So, it is important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare personal returns. Most return preparers are professional, honest and provide excellent service to their clients. Here are a few points to keep in mind when someone else prepares your return:

  • A Paid Preparer is required by law to sign the return and fill in the preparer areas of the form.
  • The preparer should also include their appropriate identifying number on the return.
  • Although the Preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return. In addition, the preparer must give you a copy of the return.
  • Review the completed return to ensure all tax information, your name, address and Social Security number(s) are correct. Make sure that none of these spaces is left blank.
  • Review and ensure you understand the entries and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign.
  • Never sign a blank return, and never sign in pencil.
  • If you have provided specific authorization in a power of attorney filed with the IRS, you may have copies of notices or refund checks mailed to your preparer or representative; but only you can sign and cash your refund check.
  • A Third Party Authorization Check Box on Form 1040 allows you to designate your Paid Preparer to speak to the IRS concerning how your return was prepared, payment and refund issues and mathematical errors.

Taken from eNews for Small Business

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Consider Employment Agreement for Your Stars

One of the main issues that I hear from some of my clients is the concern that an employee will run away with their clients and become competition. A recent article in the Washington Business Journal addressed this concerned, stating that the critical assets for success are the key people, their confidential information and their goodwill. Losing any of these and your bottom line will be affected.

One way to prevent this is by addressing these issues in a “well crafted employment agreement”. It can prevent employees from unfairly competing or from misappropriating confidential information upon their departure. Employee agreements can include restrictions on taking or using confidential information or “trade secrets”. This can include anything from price lists to marketing strategies.

Non compete agreements generally prohibit or limit employees from engaging in unfair competitive practices, such as soliciting customers or using sensitive information gained from their previous employment. Restrictions on contacting customers who are current customers of the business or who were customers during a recent time frame are generally also included.

Remember for an employment agreement to be most effective, it must be tailed to the specific needs of the particular business. For example, non-compete clauses must be clear and unambiguous and should specifically state what types of conduct are prohibited. They should include a specific geographic scope and duration.

Taken from the Washington Business Journal – Edward Sharkey

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Virtual Assistants in the News -

Virtual Help for Real Entrepreneurs
Learn the many roles a virtual staff can fill to help grow your business. By Pattie Simone | October 14, 2008

If you're like most entrepreneurs, you've got piles of paper cluttering your office and to-do lists that seem to be multiplying like rabbits. The good news is that many of the tasks that keep you from being as productive (and profitable) as you could be can be outsourced. You may not think you can afford to hire help, especially in these economically turbulent times. But the fact is you can't afford not to.

Today's Profit Formula
The internet lets you access scads of talented folks with a click of your mouse. And while some tasks, such as filing or greeting clients, might require on-site work, many administrative, marketing and sales functions can be handily accomplished using the services of one or more Virtual Assistants (VAs).

Having a VA frees you up to do what you do best. The smart profit formula for lots of successful entrepreneurs (whether they're a firm of one or many) involves a little front-end investment for maximum returns.

For example, Danny Bradbury, a Canadian freelance writer with clients in his home country, the UK and the Middle East, has seen his workload decrease by 25 percent and business increase 30 percent since using a VA for administrative tasks, such as scheduling interviews, transcribing interviews, tracking down contacts, doing back research and registering him for webinars. Sounds like a darn good deal, right?

Three More Takes Regarding VA's
Laurie Macomber, president of Colo.-based Blue Skies Marketing, an SEO company serving clients across the country, uses a team of virtual workers from different areas (including Canada) to handle diverse functions. Her VA, Melissa Silva, [works] out of her Georgia home. She accomplishes an impressive list of tasks for Macomber, including:
  • Team management and communications
  • Scheduling and tracking jobs
  • Setting up virtual password protected communications and file sharing system
  • Sending presents to clients for referrals, writing and sending out handwritten thank you notes
  • Research
Proofreading and "prettying up" documents
According the Macomber, aka the Google Guru, along with the benefit of having time to run her business, she loves that she doesn't have to deal with any personnel or HR issues typically associated with a part-time or full-time employee.

"At first I thought it was outrageous when I discovered the cost would range from $30 to $35 an hour, but their hour is so efficient," Macomber says. "Their 15 minutes is another person's hour."

Michael Katz, chief penguin of Blue Penguin Development, an electronic newsletter relationship marketing firm in Massachusetts) concurs. He went back to work with a VA after a three-month stint with a less productive employee. His L.A.-based VA, who works for Ohio-based Coaches Marketing Source, handles behind-the-scenes tasks that include the mail server and shopping cart, as well as projects related to spell checking and what Katz calls "important detail work."

Katz found his VA through a friend's recommendation. Katz says his VA experience has been purely positive. "She allows me to be more effective. I know that there's a direct connection between the increased income I see coming in," Katz says, adding it covers the expense of paying his VA.

Kim Beasley is the owner and senior developer of several businesses, including CustomizeWordPress and Agape3 Business Services, a five-year-old web design and business consulting firm in St. Louis. She has clients all over the world, including Australia and Canada, due in no small part to her team of VAs. Unlike Katz, who prefers to utilize his VA for back-end tasks, Beasley assembled a VA team of professionals with specific skill sets that directly handle many of the services she offers. Her three VAs take care of graphic design, content management, audio and video editing, as well as a range of internal administrative work like managing Beasley's calendar, scheduling webinars and training, putting networking information on Facebook, etc.

"I believe in using the strengths of my VAs, and those things I feel I can outsource, I do," Beasley says.

Because of the web and the various business-related portals and programs (such as Basecamp, GotoMeeting, Twitter
and Facebook) these entrepreneurs can do everything a traditional brick-and-mortar does, and more; including client prospecting, account management, selling products and providing services. Effective VAs are worth their weight in gold.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Guide to Gracious Entrances and Exits

Revolving Doors
Who Goes First: First to arrive. Host leads the way for guests, pushing gently and meeting them at the other side.

Yield To: People with disabilities, elderly people, slow travelers, those with bulky packages, your host.

Other Considerations: Maintain the pace. Do not stop or suddenly change speed.

Who Goes First: First arrivals. Guest enters before host. Host can leave first, holding the door for guest while providing directions.

Yield To: People with disabilities, people getting off.

Other Considerations: Hold the door or door button for people who are entering, exiting or on their way to the elevator. Make room for those who are entering or exiting. Don’t crowd. Don’t push. Don’t gossip. Greet those you recognize. Announce your floor before arriving there.

Stairs and Escalators

Who Goes First: The host. Otherwise, first arrivals.

Yield To: People with disabilities, people in a hurry.

Other considerations: Don’t rush people on stairs – instead go around them.


Who Goes First: Whoever gets there first.

Yield To: People with disabilities, someone whose hands are full.

Other Considerations: Hold door for the person behind you. If someone holds the door for you, say “Thank you.”

Taken from Complete Business Etiquette Handbook - Chapter 5

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Top Graduate Programs for Entrepreneurs

As business owners it is important that we constantly continue our entrepreneurial education; whether it is via workshops and seminars or formally returning to university programs. An interesting article in October’s Entrepreneur magazine highlights the Top 25 Graduate Programs.

Graduate Programs

1. Babson College, Babson Park Massachusetts

2. DePaul University, Chicago

3. University of Southern California, Los Angeles

4. The University of Arizona, Tuscon

5. University of South Florida, Tampa

6. University of Illinois, Chicago

7. University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles

8. Drexel University, Philadelphia

9. Chapman University, Orange, CA

10. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

11. Temple University, Philadelphia

12. Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles

13. University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI

14. Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

15. Monterey Institute of International Studies, Monterey, CA

16. Rice University, Houston

17. Tulane University, New Orleans

18. Syracuse University, Syracuse

19. University of Chicago, Chicago

20. University of Virginia, Charlottesville

21. University of Louisville, Louisville, KY

22. Simmons College, Boston

23. University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

24. Rollins College, Winter Park, FL

25. City University of New York, Baruch College, New York City

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pay It Forward

Pay if forward!! What does that mean? No matter what stage of business you may be in, you have experienced trials and tribulations that have gotten you where you are. Most business owners give back to the community in one way or another. On great way to do this is to assist other business owners through sharing your experiences in business. This can be done by participating in networking events that allow you to interact with other business owners; taking in what they have to share and sharing your own experiences. There are also organizations such as SCORE that of provide opportunities for mentorship other business owners.

Paying it forward doesn't have to be solely in the area of business. There are many local and national charities that may be able to benefit from your expertise. Why not explore these avenues of community service to see how you can "pay it forward".

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Building Confidence in Selling Yourself and Your Products/Services

Confidence to exceed in business cannot be faked. Therefore, it is important to build a core level of confidence so that even in times of nervousness or uncertainty, you will not be moved.

1. Continuous preparation and action assure unshakable confidence.

Everything thing that you do contributes to how people view you and your business. Do you follow up after meetings and sales? Do you stop and think during the day “What is the most productive use of my time right now?” Do you pour your heart and your mind into everything that you do?

We build confidence by planting seed for future opportunities and not by being complacent or unproductive. Once we stop and coast along, our skills decay. Success breeds success; that because we come to a point in our actions where our enthusiasm is the culmination of all the hard work that went before.

2. You must solidly believe in who you are and the value of what you are selling.

Do not second guess yourself and what you believe in; improve who you are rather than try and be like someone else. Are you operating from your core belief system and taking the actions your gut tells you to take. Most people don’t realize how powerful they become when they don’t have to think through their actions.

We become unsure when we don’t prepare enough, read enough study enough or work hard enough. Our confidence comes from knowing we have put the work in and prepared for success.

So here’s to success in business.

Taken from Entrepreneur magazine Sept 2008 – Solid to the Core by Barry Farber