Tax Professional vs a Tax Preparer

Do you have a tax professional or are they just a tax preparer?

It’s that time of the year again. Time to file that lovely tax return and as usual you cannot turn on television, open your email or browse the internet without being bombarded with advertisements from individuals or tax preparation programs that say “choose me” or “you need us” WHY…… “because we are the best”. And if that is not enough as you drive around town, new tax offices are popping up on every corner. Where did all these people come from? Everyone knows someone who “DO TAXES” but what does that really mean? You can “DO” your taxes. You can buy a tax preparation program take all your tax documents (W2, 1099, K-1 etc.) plug the numbers into the program and pump out tax return, but do you really trust that you have prepared it correctly. So you file the return and pray you don’t get audited by the IRS. Well when you place your tax information into the hands of someone who “DO TAXES” that is what you are getting.
These are the individuals that fall into the category of the tax preparer. They have purchased the right to use a tax preparation program, learned how to use it and learned just enough tax law to prepare tax returns and make some quick cash during tax season. At the end of tax season they shut their doors, roll up the side-walk and you don’t hear from them again until next year.

By now you’re asking yourself “How do I know I have the right person preparing my taxes?” Answering this question is not easy. With all the tax preparation chains out there you would think that tax professionals are a dime a dozen. But the fact of the matter is that nearly all of the individuals that work at your tax preparation chains are NOT tax professionals. They are hired and trained on how to “Do Taxes”. When they are not at the tax office they are your plumber, electrician, sales associate at the local retail store, hairstylist/barber etc. When tax season is over you may never see them again. Your tax professionals are individuals who take the time to learn and study the tax law and the internal revenue code. The key is to ask the right questions that will help you to be reassured that you are dealing with a tax professional and not a tax preparer. Questions you may ask are “Are you authorized to practice before the IRS?”, “How much experience do you have preparing taxes?”, “Are you familiar with the changes in the tax code?”, “If the IRS examines my return, what is your policy on assisting me?” For the small business owners “Do you have experience working with my line of business?” or “Do you have experience working with businesses that are similar in size and type?” The tax professional will answer these questions and make you feel comfortable with their level of training and education. The tax professional’s services do not end when your taxed are filed. It is a year round process. Once the return has been filed, your tax professional should sit down with you to prepare for next year’s return.

On Customer Service for Small Business

No doubt you’ve been on the receiving end of lousy customer service a time or two. You’ve come to a company with questions only to be told by some sterile voice to press this or click that until you arrive full circle to your starting place with no help at all. Or, worse, you’ve reached some bored Customer Service Representative who calls you by name but delivers only the infamous phrase, “I am sorry, but there is nothing I can do.” Now that you are the business owner and on the other side of the equation you must remember that feeling of frustration and helplessness when attempting to provide your customers with superior customer service.

Unless we are taking the time to review our customer service policies and observing what is going on with our customers it is nothing more than lip service. We spend the majority of our time focusing on how to bring new business in the door. Unless those customers leave happy with the quality of service they have received they will not be repeat customers. And wasn’t the goal of the promotion to create a lifelong customer for they are the key to the success of your business? You see good customer service is all about bringing customers back and sending them away happy; happy enough to pass positive feedback about your business along to others and become repeat customers. Creating this long term relationship can be as simple as implementing and consistently doing the following 8 things:

1. Answer the phone. Your customers called to talk to a live person not a robot.

2. Don’t make promises unless you will keep them. Reliability is one of the keys to any good relationship and good customer service is no exception.

3. Listen to your customers. No one likes to have to repeat themselves. Let the customer talk and show them that you are listening by making the appropriate responses, such as suggesting how to solve the problem.

4. Deal with complaints. No one likes complaints and we often deal with it by saying , “You can’t please everybody.” But how about pleasing this one person this one time and position your business to reap the rewards of quality customer service.

5. Be helpful – even if there is no benefit. Solve a simple problem at no charge sometimes. That person will most likely remember this kind act and come back when they have a something major.

6. Train your staff (if you have one) to be always helpful, courteous, and knowledgeable. Talk to them about good customer service and what it is (and isn’t) regularly. Most importantly, give every member of your staff enough information and power to make those small customer-pleasing decisions, so they never have to say “I don’t know, but so-and-so will be back at…”

7. Take the extra step. Take the time to walk your customer to a product or through a service if necessary. Make yourself available for follow up questions.

8. Throw in something extra. Whether it is a coupon for a future discount, additional information on how to use the product, or genuine smile, people love to get more than they thought they were getting. And don’t think that a gesture has to be large to be effective.

Applying these simple eight rules consistently will make your business known for its superior customer service. And the best part good customer service will bring more customers to you than a coupon or promotion ever did.

Social Media Marketing for Small Business

In the past few months I’ve learnt a lot about the importance of having sound marketing strategies for small and growing businesses. One powerful tool that often goes underutilized by many companies especially in the less ‘glamorous’ industries is social media. It’s however important to note that social media, when used the right way, can lead to a great increase in Website Traffic that can in turn increase revenue streams.

Here are a few tips to have in mind so as to effectively use this powerful marketing channel:

1. The Website: Your company needs to have one. This may seem as a no brainer but I for one have on multiple occasions disqualified the legitimacy of an organization purely off of the state of their websites. Make sure you put in the adequate time to ensure that your website is a proper representation of your company’s image. Fortunately, it’s now possible to find very inexpensive website developers.

2. Social Networks: I’m talking about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs etc. These platforms can be very helpful when reaching out to potential customers and getting your company’s name out there, for FREE. It’s very helpful as it adds a personal touch to the face of the company. It’s important to post articles on your websites first before linking them on the other social media pages, as this strengthens the SEO of the webpage.

3. Target market and Positioning: Make sure you research who your target groups and ensure that you are utilizing platforms that will reach those groups. After understanding your potential customers, it is another task to figure out search patterns and online behavior. Use this knowledge then to reach out to your target market accordingly.

4. Distributing Content: Finally, it’s important to manage your pages as its worse to create one and let it go unattended than not to have one at all. There are various channels such as HootSuite that can help with the scheduling of posts in advance for regular activity. Whether this may be daily or weekly depends on how much valuable content you have to send out. Again, make sure the appropriate company image is well represented. If utilizing the formula works and increases traffic to your sights; keep doing it! If not, change it up, and don’t be afraid to try new methods until you find out which one works best for you!

Growing Your Business Using Freelancers

When your business reaches a certain point, there are certain decisions that you have to make in order to maximize your profits and increase efficiency. The same advice doesn’t work for everyone’s situation, but there are some I’ve found to be applicable even when organizing one’s changing daily life objectives and plans. Here is one major tip you can utilize as you to prepare for growth.
Outsourcing: I have come to learn that there are some jobs that better done by someone else so as to free up your time for the more difficult or important aspects of running your business.

It is usually difficult to opt to pay someone else when there isn’t a lot of revenue flowing in, but you need to remember that your hourly rate is higher than what certain free lancers may command, so why not let them get the job done. Some of the prime tasks to outsource include those in the tech sector such as web coding and design, editing of write ups and even administrative assistance.

There are various internet sources to find great freelancers from all around the world such as on oDesk and Craig’s list. When searching for a freelancer, look through some of their previous projects so you can gauge their level of quality before making your decision. Make sure at the onset, you set expectations of the time it will take to do the job and the final product required. This can be done through time tracking devices such as Harvest and the ones offered on oDesk.

It’s also important to treat your employees well so you can lay the foundation for a future job with them and maintain good reviews on the freelance platforms; it also helps with good karma. Finally do not be afraid to fire fast! The inconvenience incurred earlier on is infinitely less than the future frustration. If the expectations are not met, find another person to do the job. Good luck and go forth and outsource!

Forecasting for Small Businesses

It’s very easy to get caught up in the day to day activities to ensure your business continues to run smoothly that you completely forget to plan for the future of the company. Granted, forecasting may never appear as urgent as the rest of the pressing issues on your to do list, but in reality, it is more crucial for the overall growth of your business. This is because it allows you to see what aspects of the business need a lot of attention and where changes have to be made for the long term profit of the company. Here are some tips to consider when forecasting for you growing business.

Always set benchmarks that you have to adjust over time as your business grows. These are helpful when looking back to see if past set expectations were made and how your business is doing in reference to other companies in the same boat. A good way to see where your business stands at the moment is to study your interest rates, fixed and variable expenses. How have these changed over time and how do you expect them to change with growth?

Tech Resources:
Utilize available tech resources; QuickBooks is an efficient and simple one to use. These web based resources can help make the forecasting process fast as they’ll show snapshots of different aspects of your business as it stands. Once they show you where you stand, you can calculate the money to allocate towards staffing, advertising and whichever other departments may require it.

All in all, forecasting is just a clear picture to repeatedly glance at to see how far your business has come and what steps will be necessary to take it even further and achieve the goals you had set.

What Makes A Quality Bookkeeper?

There are multiple individuals and companies out there who now offer the service of bookkeeping. What does bookkeeping entail exactly? Bookkeeping essentially covers any form of recording an organization’s financial transactions. Some of these transactions include cash flow, billing and lines of credit. The individual who performs this function is known as a bookkeeper or an accounting clerk. It is paramount to select a quality bookkeeper for the smooth running of the businesses and for adequate monitoring of profits, losses and expenses. Here are some characteristics to search for when making this important business decision.

1. Referrals: do you know of anyone else who recommends their services? Word of mouth and personal recommendations are the best way to judge the services offered by potential bookkeepers. This could come from friends and colleagues or online reviews by past customers on platforms such as Yelp and Google Places.

2. Is the service custom fitted to your needs? It’s important to note that cookie cutter bookkeeping procedures don’t exist for all persons and businesses. Make sure you select a bookkeeper who takes the time to understand your business and design for you the perfect service package for you.

3. Do they have the appropriate qualifications for the industry? Whilst experience in the bookkeeping world may be sufficient over time for a bookkeeper to offer professional services, while seeking out the best ones, qualifications are helpful in the weeding out process. Those who concentrated in business, finance and accounting fields of study usually have the adequate foundation to build upon their skills. Computer skills are also fast becoming a necessity in the business. It is therefore necessary to ask for qualifications and past work experience to ensure future quality services.

4. Would you prefer to have further advice and consultation? You should consider if you want the services offered to stop at the books or if you would like a future business advisor who understands your financial transactions. This would be invaluable as professional consultation can sometimes make the all difference in the success of your business.

5. Do you get more value than doing the bookkeeping yourself?
Of course the main overarching question most people have when considering bookkeepers to hire is if they even need to pay somebody else to do the job. It is however important to understand that the value of having freed up time after outsourcing this process allows you to dedicate the necessary time and energy required in the other parts of your business and reduces stress and unnecessary risks due to armature mistakes.

Contact Hatch and Associates Inc. today to receive quality bookkeeping services customized to your specific needs!