Does Your Business Need to Change Course?

A while back, a CBS Corporate Business Solutions consultant advised a printing business that needed to change direction. Our consultant took the owner through a learning process so she could move her business forward. It can be difficult to say when your business needs to change course. Keep in mind that no business stays the same, ever. So even if you don’t like it, as markets fluctuate, your business may need to take a turn for the better. Here are several glaring signs that your business immediately needs to change course:

Slow Growth: It’s fine if the growth numbers for your company are not always inching upwards. Most companies go through periods of slow growth. However, the company should be able to overcome these slow growth periods. Compare your growth trajectory to that of your competitors. It should not be perpetually facing downwards. If slow growth is a prolonged issue at your company, then it’s time to reevaluate your goals and adapt a new strategy.

Challenges from Smaller Competitors: If the smaller competitors your business may have ignored in the past are looking like actual threats, then that should set off warning alarms. A smaller company can surpass yours if growth is severely lagging. It should be an indicator that your business is losing its competitive edge and should change course immediately to thrive in the future.

Low Customer Satisfaction Numbers: Nothing is more indicative of a need to change than low customer satisfaction numbers. While negative reviews, complaints, and low ratings are to be expected, the majority of the feedback your company receives must primarily be positive. Your company should continuously receive a lot of customer feedback. If feedback is declining, or is increasingly becoming negative, then it indicates an even worse fate: insignificance of your brand.

If your business faces any of the above problems, then it’s time to change course. Suddenly changing the trajectory of a business is not easy. It requires a solid plan. But first, you should seek advice from a CBS-CBS.com consultant to identify the underlying issues that are causing growth or sales problems at your business. After careful scrutiny, the consultant will be able to present you with a proposal for changing course and becoming competitive again.

How to Use LinkedIn, According to Its Founder

If you add every LinkedIn request you get, even the ones from complete strangers, then you are using the social network wrong, according to Reid Hoffman, the founder of the site. LinkedIn is the most popular social networking platform for professionals. CBS Corporate Business Solutions highly recommends owners of B2B small businesses to have a LinkedIn profile.

Hoffman’s advice about using the site comes from Keith Ferrazzi, the author of “Never Eat Alone.” Ferrazzi once met Hoffman, who gave him a golden piece of advice about using the site. As the anecdote goes, Hoffman encourages users to make “meaningful” connections on the site. Rather than add every friend request, as you would on Facebook, Hoffman suggests asking this question before accepting a connect request: Could this person introduce me? If the answer is no, then it’s best to ignore the request.

The point of having a LinkedIn profile is to make connections with mutual benefit. Mainly, it’s a great platform for initiating introductions with long-lasting business benefits. For B2B business, LinkedIn is a great place to find new clients.

Here are several other ways to make connections on LinkedIn:

Update Your Profile: Make sure your profile has a very professional and compelling headline. This is the most commonly read part of your LinkedIn profile. If it needs updating, then promptly do so.

Include a Picture: Do not leave the profile picture section blank. Also, do not upload brand logos or any other picture that is not a professional headshot of you. Most LinkedIn users look at the profile picture, so make sure you have a highly appealing one uploaded.

Use Keywords: It’s perfectly acceptable to use keywords relevant to your line of business on the profile, especially in the headline. However, the keywords must be inserted very naturally.

Upload Details of Your Resume: Upload professional details of your work experience that doesn’t fit in your resume on LinkedIn. Use the blank spaces to fill out job descriptions. A potential client interested in your business may look up your LinkedIn profile, therefore it’s important to stay as detailed as possible.

Want more advice on how to improve your company’s social media presence? Contact us at CBS-CBS.com.

Reasons Your Business May Fail

Some businesses do fail. Most owners do not want to imagine a scenario where their business might actually fail. While this is understandable, consultants with Corporate Business Solutions encourage business owners to imagine scenarios that may lead to failure. It’s important to keep failure in mind when running a business to avoid making a fatal mistake. Here are several situations to keep an eye on that usually cause small businesses to fail:

Not tracking cash flow – Many small businesses we review track sales, but not the cash flow. A business owner should always know how to predict the cash needs of the business going forward. Now, sales might have increased, but how did that affect the cash flow? Some businesses increase sales and also other expenses along with it, which can result in a cash crunch. If your business is not tracking monthly cash flow, then it could be on the way to failure by not being able to pay all expenses when they are due, including payroll.  If you can’t pay your bills on time, it can lead to punitive actions by suppliers which can have a snow ball effect on the business.

Spending too much on products – We do not recommend businesses invest on a product, service or infrastructure on the basis of “hopium”.  Business investments must be based on realistic sales numbers which indicate the market worthiness of the product or service. Businesses should develop minimum-risk products first. Then, make sure the product is actually profitable before proceeding to further investments.

Overspending on appearance – Appearances are important in the business world. But it can also get out of hand. More often than not, small business owners tend to overspend on leasing office space at fancy addresses, buying expensive furniture, sending partners on over-the-top business trips, and the list goes on. Spending a lot just to appear successful could lead to serious debt. Failure to control costs is one of the most common reasons small businesses fail. We recommend keeping things humble until the company actually has solid sales numbers to justify additional expenses.

Avoiding business taxes – Small businesses must be aware of all taxes related to running a business, such as payroll taxes. Avoid the temptation to solve cash flow problems by not paying payroll taxes on time. Failure to pay taxes can lead to costly penalties and could even lead to a shuttering of your business.

Overpromising – Do not promise customers or partners things you cannot deliver. Your company will be expected to deliver as promised, and if you cannot, the business will not survive.

Afraid that your business may go broke or fail due to any reason? Contact us at CBS-CBS.com to fix the problems and ensure the continual survival of your company.

 

How Restaurants Can Improve Employee Performance

The food service sector is one of the toughest industries to run a business in. Competition is high, and without a watchful eye, costs can run amok. CBS Corporate Business Solutions can help restaurant owners improve productivity with business reviews. Owners of the restaurants we have reviewed are quite concerned about employee efficiency. Business places like restaurants are highly dependent on employee performance. Inefficient employees can ruin customer service and drive up costs. Here are several tips our consultants recommend for restaurants that want to improve employee efficiency:

Provide Clear Instructions – If you want your employees to perform as you intend, vague instructions or directions will not deliver the results you desire. It’s important to make sure employees know what’s expected of them. Explain clearly which tasks employees must be carried out each day, the performance standards you expect for the employee, and how quickly the task needs to be done.  One of the foundations to the work we do for our clients is to develop the methods, systems and controls needed to operate a restaurant both efficiently and profitably.

Avoid Micromanaging – While it’s important to give clear instructions, it’s equally important to avoid micromanaging. No one likes it. Also, micromanagement leads to a “wait to be told” work culture, where the employer has to direct everything. A productive workplace has employees who can take the initiative. So, train employees well so they don’t always have to be told what to do.  When the proper systems are put in place, employees know what is expected of them.  In addition, employees have a clear understanding of what they need to do to be accountable.  Moreover, businesses which are system- dependent are more successful than those which are people-dependent.  The proper systems allow management to have more control.

Reward Good Performance – Reprimanding bad performance but never rewarding good performance can leave employees confused about the service that’s expected of them. If an employee does a really good job, it’s important to let them know you appreciate a job well done. Rewards can boost morale and also motivate others to improve their own performance.

Understand Their Work-Life Balance Needs – Overworking employees often leads to bad performance. It’s important for employers to understand that employees require sufficient time to spend with their families. So don’t force people to take on extra shifts or work on holidays. Seek willing employees to take on the extra shifts, when needed.  A respect for work-life balance will improve employee satisfaction and lead to better performance.

Make sure the employees you hire are well trained and have the necessary tools to carry out their jobs.

Unsure about whether your restaurant workforce is performing as well as they should? Contact us at CBS-CBS.com to get an affordable performance review.

What to Include in an Employee Handbook

The employee handbook is the booklet that most employers have available at the office and issued to new employees. It is a well-known feature at big corporations. Corporate Business Solutions strongly recommends small businesses to issue one too. The employee handbook is basically a document that lists all of the rules and regulations that employees of a company should adhere by. It is a very important document that can come in handy during potential future legal issues. Here is a list of things small business owners must include in the company employee handbook:

Anti-Discrimination Policy: This is a very important section of the employee handbook that indicates how employees should behave. Also, it details how your company plans to adhere to federal and state anti-discrimination policies, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Code of Conduct: These are the rules employees should follow in certain given circumstances. It includes information such as dress code and ethical behavior.

Non-Disclosure Agreements: Though not legally required, it’s recommended to include an NDA to protect your company’s intellectual property rights, among other things.

Work Schedules: Lists the amount of time a worker should expect to dedicate at your company. It also provides information on absences and vacation policies.

Compensation: This section details how your employees should expect to get paid and your company’s payroll policy.

Employee Security: Employers are legally and morally required to create a safe and secure environment for work. Use the employee handbook to tell your employees how you plan on achieving a safe and secure workplace.

IT or Cyber Policy: This is a very important section for all modern employee handbooks. The company cyber or IT policy should indicate how employees should use computers or handheld devices at work, acceptable online behavior, and also how employees can stay safe from hackers and malware when using internet-connected devices.

We also recommend including chapters explaining employee benefits, leave policies and any other topics deemed relevant for employee knowledge. If you require assistance in drafting an excellent employee handbook, contact us at CBS Corporate Business Solutions. One of our consultants will be ready to assist your business.

Software Suggestions for Improving Small Business Efficiency

We often recommend adopting new tech solutions for common small business productivity and efficiency issues we encounter during Corporate Business Solutions consultancy sessions. Nowadays, companies can easily download apps and enjoy enormous benefits. Here are some of the software programs we recommend for improving workplace efficiency:

Mint: Mint is a personal finance management software. It’s a great tool that business owners can use to track personal and business expenditure. The program can be used for free, but you can access many premium features that benefit small businesses with the paid version. Mint is also web-based, so there’s no need for downloading.

Huddle: This is a program that enables better collaboration between workers to improve overall efficiency. Huddle is cloud-based, so many people can access the program at once. It makes it very easy for employees working on the same team or a project to share files, memos, and notes.

DigitalQuick: This is an encryption tool that all businesses must use to keep sensitive data safe. Use DigitalQuick with cloud-based storage to ensure security. We encounter many clients who do not want to use the web-connected software because of security concerns. DigitalQuick is a good solution to keep data secure and enjoy the benefits of cloud technology.

Pertino: This program can be described as a cloud-based social network for professionals. It securely connects workplace devices and other resources to improve collaboration and reduce time spent working. This is a highly recommended tool for in-house IT departments.

Insightly:  This is a customer contact database that a company can use as the business grows. Basically, it’s a platform to manage contact information of customers. This application will benefit both customer support and marketing teams.

LiquidPlanner: This program is a really convenient application that allows users to manage projects online. It’s a highly useful communication and task tracking tool with great returns. Not only does this tool make project teams more efficient, it saves a lot of time as well.

You can get more business efficiency improvement suggestions at CBS-CBS.com.

How to Cut Costs at a Small Retail Business

Corporate Business Solutions provides management advice and cost reduction strategies for small retail businesses, among a host of other services. Retail businesses fail more often than not due to excessive expenses. Even retail giants like Wal-Mart and Macy’s have faced this dilemma. It’s important to start early to prevent a potential disaster if expenses are out of control. Here are several tips, gleaned from our years of experience, for reducing costs and managing finances better at your small retail business:

Automate inventory management – Automation is reducing costs for businesses in many different sectors. Retail is definitely one of the biggest sectors to benefit from new technology. In recent years, manual inventory management has gotten quite expensive. Some outlets have found budget success by switching to cloud-based software. According to one study, using cloud-based programs saved some retailers about 30 percent of operational costs. We know from experience that retail outlets, especially inherited ones, are quite stubborn regarding adopting modern practices. However, we highly recommend switching to new ways of managing inventory to significantly reduce costs.

Outsource non-core business tasks – If there’s room to outsource certain tasks or activities at your retail business, do so without hesitation. For example, if you need a writer to come up with product descriptions, hire a freelance writer, not a full-time employee. Small tasks not related to the core of your business, like graphic design, can be outsourced to save money, and in some cases, time. Outsourcing has other benefits too, such as getting expert advice in an area your staff is unfamiliar.

Go virtual and pay low rent – Thinking about expanding your office? We highly recommend switching partly to a virtual office instead. Virtual workplaces allow employees to connect with each other regardless of where they are located. Some parts of your business will probably require a physical office. You can pay low rent for a small physical office for the core group members and host other employees over a virtual office. You can also consider hosting virtual storerooms and the like to save money on actually leasing a showroom. For example, Audi, the car brand uses virtual showrooms in select locations to save money.

Of course, each business has unique needs. If you contact us at CBS-CBS.com, we can evaluate your company’s expenses and recommend cost-cutting measures as part of a long-term financial strategy.

IRS Audit Warnings for Startup or Small Business Owners

The IRS is now capable of identifying factors that lead to audits more than ever, thanks largely to improved detection systems. If you run a startup or a small business, you may be singled out for several reasons. Corporate Business Solutions can provide, through one of our affiliated companies, tax assistance to entrepreneurs who have failed to put the proper systems in place to keep the owner’s personal expenses separate from the funds for the business. We highly recommend owners of small and medium-size businesses establish the necessary internal controls and systems to avoid getting in trouble with the IRS.  Here are some red flags for business owners to keep in mind to avoid getting audited by the IRS:

Self Employment – Being self-employed at your own startup or small venture naturally raises red flags at the IRS. Self-employed persons may file for more deductions for businesses, which attracts scrutiny. One of the prime triggers for IRS audits is owning a home where you take a home office deduction for running a business and claiming significant business expenses which may not be justified. If you are self-employed, you must keep business and personal expenses separate without exceptions.

Over-the-Top Home Office Deductions – Be careful about what you deduct as business expenses when you run a home office. Don’t try to claim deductions for very small expenses like paper supplies or buying a new stapler, for example, if you are using those items for your personal convenience as well. Only those things which are exclusively used for your business qualify for a business expense deduction. Home office deductions must be well justified. The IRS will want to know whether the home office is used exclusively for work and has specific rules for when the space allocated for a home office as a percentage of the home cost can be deducted. Keeping extra careful track of all business expenses will help you present strong evidence.

Writing off Hobby Expenses as Business Expenses – It is illegal to pass off a hobby as a business for tax purposes. However, some people may engage in hobbies as if they are businesses. If your hobby business is largely unprofitable, that would ring off warning alarms at the IRS. Your hobby could get classified as unprofitable home businesses, where you cannot claim certain business deductions.

Excessive Generosity – It’s common for even small businesses to make charitable donations and claim a tax credit. However, eyebrows will be raised at the IRS if you are particularly generous in one year more than in others. Do not inflate your charitable donations.  You must have documentation for all charitable deductions.  If you donate more than $500, you must file a form 8283.

You can find more information about the business consulting services we provide at CBS-CBS.com.

Tax Tips for Small Businesses

Planning a good tax strategy is crucial for running a small business. Our experts at Corporate Business Solutions routinely offer professional help for smaller companies to develop a sound tax strategy for the long term through one of our affiliated companies which specialize in strategic tax planning. While it’s highly recommended that small business owners hire an knowledgeable firm with experience in strategic tax planning to develop a tax plan, there are some things the owners should also do. Here are several easy tax tips all small business owners should follow:

Track All Expenses – Do not forget to keep very close track of all business expenses for the whole year. Keep a record of expenses regardless of how small they are. You should record income and expenditures as soon as they happen, so you don’t forget to do so in a timely manner.

Keep Business and Personal Expenses Separate – This may sound like a no brainer, but some small businesses often struggle to keep up with this fundamental rule. Small companies are informal atmospheres. So it’s easy to get personal expenses mixed in with business ones. But avoid doing so at all costs. It can complicate your tax strategy. In addition, failure to keep personal and business expenses separate is one of the key issues which can allow a person suing the company to pierce the corporate veil to go after personal assets in collecting on a legal judgment.

Offer Social Benefits to Employees – Offering care benefits to employees, like health and dental, can actually reduce the tax burden for small companies. Therefore, worker fringe benefits should be considered as part of an overall compensation plan.

Get Trainee Deductions – The tax code allows businesses to deduct certain educational expenses needed to train employees and improve overall skills in the workplace. You can get tax deductions for things like attending seminars and fees spend for conventions.

Take Mileage Deduction over Auto Expenses – Mileage deduction is more advantageous especially when gas prices go high. So, if you are facing a choice between mileage deduction and an auto expense deduction on your form, consider the benefit of choosing mileage.

Donate Unused Inventory for a Deduction – If you have unsold inventory, donate it to a recognized charity instead of storing it in a costly way. Small businesses can claim tax deductions for donated inventory. Do keep thorough records of donated inventory because documentation is needed to get the deduction.

The above are a handful of simple things you can do to reduce the tax burden at your small business. Contact a CBS Corporate Business Solutions expert to develop a more comprehensive tax strategy for your company.

Tips for Staying Motivated When Running a Business

Running a business is not easy, especially when you are doing it on your own. Even successful businesspeople often have to stop and give a mental nudge to stay motivated. It’s not uncommon for even the most driven entrepreneurs to feel a little unmotivated or demoralized from time to time. There are steps you can take to remedy the problem:

Think Back—Whenever you feel a bit down, think back to what made you start the business in the first place. Relive the first spark that inspired you and you will find your drive again. If possible, take a look at your notes or photos from back then. You will rediscover your original inspiration that made you want to run a successful business.

Take a Breather—Here at Corporate Business Solutions, we encourage everyone to just relax and step back for a moment. Sometimes, too much stress can take a toll on your motivation and productivity. So it’s important to take a breather from time to time. Use these moments to take a look at the big picture and not let everyday negativity keep you down.

Look at the Things You have Already Accomplished—Has your motivation taken a toll because a recent project failed? Now is a good time then to take a look at things you have already achieved. You may have thought those things were impossible once too. Success is marked by failure. And sometimes we all need to celebrate the things we have already accomplished to move forward.

Make a New Plan—Perhaps you are going about your tasks or projects the wrong way. If you can’t find your motivation still, try to redo the plan for your company in a way that makes you want to keep on going. Look at your old goals or make new goals. Keep at it until you find your inspiration.

Last but not least, don’t shun professional help. Hiring a consultant or a reviewer may help you fix the issues that are keeping you down. Keep in mind that the experts at CBS-CBS.com are always here to help.