All posts tagged recordkeeping

Common Sense Business Tips

Common Sense Business Tips

If you’re thinking of starting your own business, or even if you already are an entrepreneur, there are certain common sense business practices that apply to any industry.  Check out the following list to see how many you currently incorporate into yours.

  • Keep accurate records.  This includes not only records of transactions, but also receipts from purchases, invoices for services performed or products sold, and all tax documents.  You can choose to keep hard copies, electronic copies, or a combination of both.  However, don’t forget to have a backup somewhere for anything electronic.  The more accurate and organized your records are, the easier it will be to correct a problem if or when it arises.
  • Organize your desk/office.  Wherever your main workspace is, it should be well-kept area; a cluttered, disorganized area will inhibit your productivity.  Even worse, you may be unable to locate an important document or product you need when you actually need it.
  • Treat customers and employees/colleagues with respect.  You’re bound to encounter difficult situations involving the people with whom you do business.  The way you handle such issues speaks a lot about your character and business ethic.  Sometimes problems cannot be avoided, but handling them calmly, professionally, and respectfully will help you maintain relationships that are important to your business.
  • Create a budget and stick to it.  Even when you’re doing well and money is rolling in, it is important to be frugal whenever and wherever you can.  Actually put your budget in writing, and revisit it frequently to see where changes need to be made so you can adjust accordingly based on your business’s evolving needs.
  • Cut down on the multitasking.  It’s inevitable that there has to be some level of multitasking involved in being a small business owner. However, don’t make it the norm.  Start and finish one task at a time to prevent you from losing your train of thought and forgetting important details.  Practice the self-discipline it takes to complete one task at a time and do it well.
  • Seek help, advice, and education.  Identify some industry experts and read their materials, take their workshops, subscribe to their blogs, etc.  There are countless successful entrepreneurs who have come before you; use their experiences to continually learn about how to run and grow your business.
  • Have a positive outlook; expect challenges.  Of course, you want to maintain a positive attitude about your business.  That is why you should always challenge yourself to be the best that you can be, but at the same time, be prepare for the challenges that may arise.  For example, before sinking every last dime into that new marketing plan, figure out what you would do if it falls flat. Being financially and emotionally prepared will help you move past any setbacks.
  • Get involved in the community.  Connecting with other businesses and organizations within your community is extremely beneficial.  It shows that you are vested in the best interests of the community and that you have something valuable to contribute.  Furthermore, it is a great way to network and meet the very people you hope to do business with.  Get in touch with your local chamber of commerce for ideas about how to get involved and who to contact.

How many have you implemented?  What other common sense business tips do you think need to be added to our list?  Please share your ideas below!

Free e-book “Business Owner’s Road Map to Success.” It has over 50 pages of techniques for everything a small business owner needs to master, from business planning and ethical selling to a success mindset. It’s all there and it’s free for you. To get it, just “Like” our Facebook Page here: Pass it on!

Effective Customer Profile to Generate Reorders

Effective Customer Profile to Generate Reorders

In the sales industry, the ability to close a sale is super important for any owner of a thriving business.  However, it doesn’t end there.  Generating reorders from your customers is as important as (or even more important than) the initial sale. Neglecting your reorder business can leave a significant amount of money on the table.

So how do you encourage reorders? It starts with a customer profile.

  • Creating a customer profile. As you work with each customer, create a written or electronic customer profile card that lists important information that will improve your follow-up. Here’s a basic and simple format:

Individual customer profile:

    1. Products/services that interest the customer
    2. Possible duration for reorder
    3. Special dates and occasions
    4. Preference for contact (phone, email, in-person, etc.)
    5. Other unique/special traits
  • Create a profile of a customer who continually comes back to reorder over a long period of time.  What is it about this prospect that makes the person a regular customer?  What wants and needs are being met by you, your product/service, or your relationship that inspires such loyalty? By answering these questions, you have a better idea about what might inspire such loyalty in other customers. Note these on the customer profile.
  • Strategize your marketing methods with the effective customer profile in mind.  In all types of retail, there is an oversaturation of promotions for new customers only.  You can help generate reorders with a marketing strategy that encourages past customers to patronize your business again.  Once you really pinpoint the wants and needs of your customers, you can tailor your marketing directly to them.  A special shopping pass that provides advance access to new products could draw in previous customers, especially if those new products are an improvement upon or an extension of those they already use and love.
  • Use customers’ purchase histories to understand their wants and needs.  Consider what the customer has already purchased as well as what he/she showed interest in, but may not have bought.  For example, let’s say a young woman buys a face cleanser, and as she is paying asks about the anti-aging nighttime cream but does not buy it.  The exchange between you and her may only last a minute or two, but valuable information can be gained by it and should be noted on the customer profile. It’s obvious that she cares about maintaining healthy skin, and you know that she will love your facial cleansing product.  Because she asked about the anti-aging product, it is clear that she does have some concern over whether or not this is something she should start using.  A great way to handle a situation like this is to make a follow-up call a few days after purchase to find out how she likes the cleanser and to give her some more information about the anti-aging cream or other similar products that might complement her nighttime skin care routine.  You’ve now shown her that you care about her satisfaction and are there to further meet her future wants and needs.  Such customer care and personalized information will keep that person coming back.
  • Invest in your customers so they will invest in you.  There are many ways to invest in your customers, and it doesn’t always have to mean cutting into your profits.  Do not disregard the value of offering a free sample; making it low-risk to try your products/services can be very effective for turning a one-time customer into a regular.  However, you should also be investing your time in things like frequent follow-ups and workshops or product demos.  Anything that fosters a good relationship with your customer will be good for your business.

How have you used customer profiles to bring in reorders?  Please share your tips with us in the comments section!

Small Steps Can Lead to Big Payoffs

Small Steps Can Lead to Big Payoffs

Like many people in their mid-thirties, I have gone through several major life changing events over the past few years.  Building a career, having a child, and purchasing a home are just a few of the exciting events that I have experienced first-hand.

But with these events often come significant financial changes and a whole lot of planning for the future – retirement, children’s education, and aging parents, to name a few.  With so much going on and so many things to consider, keeping track of finances can be difficult, even overwhelming.

The recent purchase of a new home gave me a chance to reorganize and re-evaluate my finances and prompted me to track my budget more closely.  I started to track my expenses daily and found it to be an eye-opening experience!

Once I was able to see where my money was really going, I was able to plug the leaks and redirect my money to be more in line with my financial goals.  Here are some things that I have learned in the process:

  • Establish a system that works for you.  There are several record filing systems and budgeting methods to choose from.  If you find one doesn’t work for you, don’t give up!  Simply try a new system.
  • If you overspend, get back on track. Don’t let it give you license to blow your whole budget.
  • Work a slush fund into your budget.  Overspending is bound to happen and it will keep you from needing to tap into your savings.
  • Plan ahead.  One of my budget leaks was unplanned expenses while running errands.  Now before heading out the door, I always make sure that I have plenty of drinks, snacks, and activities for my son in order to avoid spontaneous purchases.

You don’t need a big life changing event to reap the benefits of tracking your expenses.  If you want to get started with your own budget, but feel overwhelmed or not sure where to begin, it may be helpful to speak with a financial counselor.  They can take a look at your situation, help you establish a budget and offer expert advice.  Here are some things to look for when choosing a financial counseling agency to work with:

  • Choose a non-profit agency that is accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA) or the International Standards Organization (ISO), or is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC).  Your local credit union may also be able to direct you to a financial counseling agency.
  • Find out what services are offered.  A good organization will have a range of services, such as budget counseling, debt management services, and credit report counseling.
  • Ask what, if any, fees are involved.    Most non-profit financial counseling organizations offer some of their services and educational information for free.  If you are interested in Debt Management services, fees should not exceed $50 per month, or so.
  • Consider the way you would like to receive the services.   Counseling may be done in person, or over the phone or internet.  Choose a method that will fit your needs.

Taking a few minutes each day to write down my expenses and review my budget keeps me on track to meet my financial goals, both short- and long- term.

Beth Luke ( is a financial educator for GreenPath Debt Solutions, a non-profit, national leader in financial education and counseling.

Free e-book “Business Owner’s Road Map to Success.” It has over 50 pages of techniques for everything a small business owner needs to master, from business planning and ethical selling to a success mindset. It’s all there and it’s free for you. To get it, just “Like” our Facebook Page here: Pass it on!

Top Ten Small Business Pitfalls

Top Ten Small Business Pitfalls

Did you ever hear the phrase, “Hindsight is 20/20.”? It’s easy to look back on our mistakes and identify what went wrong after the fact.  It is of utmost importance to avoid common pitfalls made by millions of others before you.  By learning from their mistakes, you can make smart decisions for your business and enjoy making your entrepreneurial dreams come true.  Here are the top ten pitfalls to avoid in your business and how to avoid them:

  1. Failure to educate yourself before you begin – There is so much that goes into owning a business that goes beyond knowing your industry.  Small business ownership is a marathon, not a sprint, so stamina is the key.  Since you will most likely be watching your pennies, take advantage of free resources, like those provided by the Small Business Administration .
  2. A non-existent or hastily written business plan – Believe it or not, too many people start up businesses without a plan.  Don’t worry; you don’t need an MBA degree to write up a business plan.  An effective business plan should include a description of your business; information about your industry, competitors, suppliers, and target demographic; a marketing strategy; and finances.
  3. Spending money unnecessarily – To control startup costs, consider the following: leasing any equipment you may need instead of buying, buying supplies second hand, purchasing a minimal amount of inventory to avoid overstocking, and dealing in cash as often as possible.
  4. Not collecting payments promptly – Remember, you are held to a tight standard in having to pay your own creditors; hold your customers to the same standard.  Always provide an invoice no matter how small the amount, follow up when necessary, and don’t be afraid to implement a cash upfront policy for delinquent accounts.
  5. Forgetting to plan for a rainy day – So your efforts are paying off; inventory is flying off the shelves, you’re teeming with new customers, and profits are way up.  Enjoy it of course, but don’t forget to save some of that hard earned cash for an unforeseen setback.  Just like the overall economy, certain industries experiences cycles of good times and bad.  Your business will be able to survive the hard times if you put away some money and have a contingency plan for if things suddenly go south.
  6. Getting set in your ways – Even the most successful business owners can have a difficult time adjusting to new trends in the industry.  Keep abreast of any changes, including innovative new products/services, a shift in customer needs/wants, price points, marketing techniques, and technology.  Chances are that your customers are aware of what’s new, so don’t get left in the dark.
  7. Doing it all yourself – If you have employees, trust in their abilities and delegate responsibilities.  Trying to meet every obligation on your own and micromanaging are both recipes for burnout and disaster.  Empower your staff by handing over certain tasks and projects; you’ll also find that they will become more invested in the success of your business when they know they are an important part of it.
  8. Inability to step away – Once you have established your business, you should make decisions that allow it to run smoothly without you once in awhile.  There will be times when you need to take a few days off for personal obligations, and let’s face it: who doesn’t need a vacation every now and then?
  9. Poor marketing – From traditional marketing methods to those of the 21st century, there are more ways to market your business than ever before.  As with anything else in your business, do your research to decide what is best.  It might be a good idea to only focus on one or two methods at first, such as targeted direct mail campaigns and an effective website.  Collect information about what is working and adjust your marketing efforts accordingly.
  10. Lack of discipline – This is especially important if you have a home-based business.  Our households are rife with distractions such as laundry, cleaning, a ringing phone, and even our own children.  These things take time away from your business, which in turn takes money out of your pocket.  Create a strict schedule for yourself and stick to it, make a list of what needs to be done and when, and minimize needless distractions.

What pitfalls have you encountered in your business?  Please share your problems and solutions with us in the comments section below!

Free e-book “Business Owner’s Road Map to Success.” It has over 50 pages of techniques for everything a small business owner needs to master, from business planning and ethical selling to a success mindset. It’s all there and it’s free for you. To get it, just “Like” our Facebook Page here: Pass it on!

DSEF & CBBB: Take This ID Theft Quiz for National Consumer Protection Week

DSEF & CBBB: Take This ID Theft Quiz for National Consumer Protection Week

Today’s highlighted blog post from the Council on Better Business Bureaus (CBBB):

Take This ID Theft Quiz for National Consumer Protection Week

By Holly Doering

Hi everybody, and happy Monday. Depending on where you live, you might be celebrating Frozen Food Day, Mardi Gras, or If Pets Had Thumbs Day (at least according to an Internet list of “wacky holidays.”) But one thing everybody should be celebrating is our 14th annual National Consumer Protection Week! Running through March 10, this holiday will shine a national spotlight on consumer safety in the U.S.

I thought it would be fun to take a little quiz on identity theft from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: Answer to see what your risk is. I myself scored 45—not bad, but I could do better.

___     I receive several offers of pre-approved credit every week. (5 points)

___     I do not shred the pre-approved credit offers I receive (cross-cut shredder preferred) before putting them in the trash. (5 points)

___     I carry my Social Security card in my wallet. (10 points)

___     I use a computer and do not have up-to-date anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection. (10 points)

___     I do not believe someone would break into my house to steal my personal information. (10 points)

___     I have not ordered a copy of my credit reports for at least 2 years. (20 points)

___     I use an unlocked, open box at work or at my home to drop off my outgoing mail. (10 points)

___     I do not have a P.O. Box or a locked, secured mailbox. (5 points)

___     I carry my military ID in my wallet at all times. (It may display my SSN.) (10 points)

___     I do not shred my banking and credit information, using a cross-cut “confetti” shredder, when I throw it in the trash. (10 points)

___     I throw away old credit and debit cards without shredding or cutting them up. (5 points)

___     I use an ATM machine and do not examine it for signs of tampering. (5 points)

___     I provide my Social Security number (SSN) whenever asked, without asking why it is needed and how it will be safeguarded. (10 points)

___     Add 5 points if you provide it orally without checking to see who might be listening nearby.

___     I respond to unsolicited email messages that appear to be from my bank or credit card company. (10 points)

___     I leave my purse or wallet in my car. (10 points)

___     I have my driver’s license number and/or SSN printed on my personal checks. (10 points)

___     I carry my Medicare card in my wallet at all times. (It displays my SSN.) (10 points)

___     I do not believe that people would root around in my trash looking for credit or financial information or for documents containing my SSN. (10 points)

___     I do not verify that all financial (credit card, debit card, checking) statements are accurate monthly. (10 points)

Ok, now tally up your points. Guess what? Each one of these questions represents a possible avenue for an identity thief. How did you do?

  • 100 + points – Recent surveys* indicate that 8-9 million people are victims of ID theft each year. You are at high risk. We recommend you purchase a cross-cut paper shredder, become more security-aware in document handling, and start to question why people need your personal data.
  • 50-99 points – Your odds of being victimized are about average.
  • 0-49 points – Congratulations. You have a high “IQ.”  Keep up the good work and don’t let your guard down now.

Remember, you cannot prevent identity theft. Criminals can commit identity theft relatively easily, but you can reduce your risk of fraud. One of the best things you can do is to check your 3 credit reports at least once a year. If you are a victim of identity theft, you will catch it early by checking your credit reports regularly. Your annual free credit reports are available from (877) 322-8228 or at

Over thirty different agencies are participating in providing great information for consumers this week, including the BBB, so check out National Consumer Protection Week information. Also, sign up for a daily tip from the BBB!

DSEF and Council on Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) fosters honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. for more information.

Habits to Build Your Business

Habits to Build Your Business

Think about something positive you do during the course of any given day that would be considered habitual. Jogging every morning before work?  Checking in on a loved one with a phone call?  Reading at least a few pages a day of a new novel?  Chances are you have established some good habits throughout your life that enrich you in some way.  Building a successful business also requires good habits.  How many on the following list are part of your business protocol?

  • Set goals.  This tip includes both short term and long term goals for your business.  Maybe a short-term goal would be to update and enhance your website.  What can you do each day to achieve it?  A long-term goal might be to expand your overall online presence by year’s end.  What can be done each month to reach it?
  • Define success. Success is measured differently by everyone, so take some time to reflect upon what is important enough that represents success to you.  For some, it might be a dollar amount; for others, the flexibility to make one’s own hours.  Your definition of success may change throughout your time as an entrepreneur, but having a concrete idea of what it actually is will keep you motivated and on task.
  • Prioritize. It can be tempting to try completing everything that needs to be done all at once.  However, this is unrealistic.  Owning a business requires stamina, and without pacing yourself, burnout is bound to happen.  Prioritize your tasks and reassess your list regularly. 
  • Organize.  Disorganization can literally cost your money.  If you need to bring order into your office, do so immediately.  If you are already sufficiently organized, establish habits that will encourage you to stay that way.  Small business ownership is a sort of juggling act, one in which chaos and clutter have no place.
  • Personalize.  The one huge advantage small businesses have over corporate giants is customer relationships.  Assess the relationships you have with your customers and the service you provide them.  How can they be improved?  What can you offer that goes above and beyond?  Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and being a poster-child for exceptional customer service will benefit your business in a multitude of ways.
  • Identify the bad habits.  The creation of good habits must come from the replacement of bad ones.  Figure out what you are perpetually doing that is ineffective for your business, and come up with a way to replace those things with good habits.  For example, do you procrastinate when following up with customers?  Replace this bad habit by dedicating a set window of time every day or week to exclusively contact your customers that need a follow-up.  Stick with this plan consistently, and before you know it, it will be second nature for you to stay on top of customer service.
  • Change one thing at a time.  As with anything new, it takes time to make the behavior habitual.  Do not try to change your whole work life in one fell swoop.  Choose one element on which to focus, and perfect that first before moving on to the next.  This will facilitate consistency and long-term maintenance of those good habits. 

What habits do you practice that contribute to building a successful business?  Please share with us in the comments below!

Free e-book “Business Owner’s Road Map to Success.” It has over 50 pages of techniques for everything a small business owner needs to master, from business planning and ethical selling to a success mindset. It’s all there and it’s free for you. To get it, just “Like” our Facebook Page here: Pass it on!

DSEF & Money Wise Women: Organizing Your Financial Records

DSEF & Money Wise Women: Organizing Your Financial Records

Today’s highlighted post from Money Wi$e Women Get Smart Teleseminar Series (click here):

Organizing Your Financial Records

Organizing your financial records provides you with a sense of freedom and accomplishment. Learn some simple steps you can take to organize your financial records. You’ll also learn what records to keep and which records you should toss. Once you’re organized, you’ll be ready to determine your net worth.

Stacey Anderson, Organized Innovations

Stacey Anderson is a Professional Organizer, speaker and author. As founder of Organized Innovations she has tackled almost every dis-organized situation out there. Her book Get Organized : Get Revitalized is chalk full of quick, easy to implement tips for those struggling with getting started. Stacey is an active member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and is currently on the Seattle Chapter board. She has been a guest expert on local radio and has been featured in many local newspapers.

DSEF proudly sponsors the free Money Wi$e Women Get Smart Teleseminar Series hosted by Marcia Brixey, Founder and President of Money Wise Women Educational Services and author ofThe Money Therapist: A Woman’s Guide to Creating a Healthy Financial Life. The series covers topics related to business and finances and provides women the opportunity to learn from professional experts in a safe, comfortable environment.

To find out about upcoming teleseminars, visit

Turn What You Love Into Income

Turn What You Love Into Income

Have you ever thought to yourself, “If I could only get paid to do what I love?”

Maybe you can. In fact, that’s how many entrepreneurs get started. But you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to want to make some extra spending money. The bonus is doing something that you love!

Here are some steps to help you get started:

  1. If you have more than one idea, start by imagining them and pick the idea that brings the biggest smile to your face.
  2. Next, do some research:
    • Is there an obvious way to make income with what you love?
    • Talk to other people with the same interest and see if there’s a void that needs to be filled.
    • Take a look at what’s in the market now and ask yourself if you could that and/or do it better.
    • Talk to a diverse group of people about your income producing idea and ask if any of them would purchase something like that from you.
    • Ask yourself what’s the least expensive way to start that will still provide greater value to potential customers.
  3. Write down your goal or your mission statement. Include your specialty or uniqueness that only you can bring to this product/service. But keep it simple. For example – I will work part time and would like to generate $300. My uniqueness is to provide personalize service and offer customers buying my scented candles a chance to join my weekly Yoga club at my house.
  4. Consider your first 30 days a trial and error period, and be sure to fully commit yourself to doing whatever it takes to be successful. During this period assess how, where, why, who, what, when you can improve, and make sure you can earn a reasonable profit for your efforts.
  5. You may also want to create a simple business plan (optional for now). Include your goals, operational expenses, who your customers are, marketing strategy, and an overview of competitors.
  6. Nurture testimonials and word of mouth to attract new customers and grow.
  7. Keep asking your customers for their feedback and continue to improve and learn.

The key is to keep it simple. You want to share your passion, avoid wasting money, and earn some extra spending money. In the end, you want to still love what you do while you gain some financial benefits. You may be surprise to find yourself a budding entrepreneur, or you may simply want to keep a good thing going.

Do you love what you do? How did you get started with your business? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

Recordkeeping for your Business: What do you need to track?

Recordkeeping for your Business: What do you need to track?

As a business professional, keeping accurate records is essential to your success. Doing this allows you to:

  • Monitor the progress of your business
  • Prepare any financial statements
  • Identify the source of receipts
  • Keep track of deductible expenses
  • Prepare your tax returns
  • Support items reported on tax returns

Recordkeeping Systems
Which system works best? The quick answer is “the one that works for you.” Opting for expensive and elaborate recordkeeping software may not be the best choice if you’re just starting your business — and if your business is large and well-established, tossing paperwork into a shoebox will likely cause headaches at tax time.

The system you choose should be one that allows you to easily track your income and expenses and keep your business documents in an orderly fashion and in a safe place.

What to Keep?
Saving these items is a must as you’ll need them to prepare your tax returns (and as support for items reported on tax returns):

  • Paid bills
  • Invoices
  • Receipts
  • Deposit slips
  • Cancelled checks

What Else?
The links below are to sites that are great sources of recordkeeping information. They’ll help you determine exactly which items you need to keep to ensure your business runs smoothly — and legally!

  • Moneywise Women Get SmartFree monthly educational teleseminars on a range of financial topics.
  • The IRS Which records to keep, how long to keep them and why. Articles, videos, publications and answers to frequently asked questions.
  • SCOREThis nonprofit resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides info on local-area recordkeeping workshops and more.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration Information on how to manage your tax obligations, tax recordkeeping and more.