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Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a method of electronic communication that is rapidly increasing in popularity. Used to make phone calls, VoIP technology uses a computer’s internet connection, rather than a cellular wireless or traditional wired telephone line. This technology is used not only by personal consumers, but also by businesses small and large. Here are 5 tips for using VoIP to improve a small business:
1. Use One Company for Internet and Phone – Any modern small business has a website and is likely already paying an internet service provider (ISP) for access to the internet. Rather than negotiating prices and dealing with customer service for two services, a company can save time, effort, and money by using their internet connection as their phone service provider as well.
2. Save Money on Long-Distance and International Calls – Unlike traditional telephone companies, VoIP services work regardless of the distance of the call, so pricing is not dependent on the number of local, long-distance, or international calls. This means that international calls, which can be especially expensive, can be handled without incurring additional costs. For small businesses that do business internationally or have business partners overseas, this can mean an enormous cost savings.
3. Better Voice Quality – Because of the nature of the medium and the wires that transmit the signals, VoIP services can provide cleaner, better-sounding phone calls than traditional phone companies. While it might not seem like a big change, having crisper more professional phone calls can be the edge a small business needs to win over customers or seal a big deal. Dropped calls or poor-quality calls, on the other hand, can devastate a company’s business.
4. Simplify Things for the Technical Staff – For small businesses, the internal technical staff is usually stretched thin at all times, and should be outsourced when possible. Keeping a business up and running smoothly 24/7 is no small task. Consolidating one’s internet and phone systems can provide a significant advantage, in terms of time and sheer number of technologies to monitor, to a company’s technical support and services team. For small businesses that don’t even have a dedicated technical staff, having a single number to call for technical support, rather than multiple numbers, can simplify things considerably. Prompt service and skilled technicians are key.
5. Additional Features Included At No Extra Cost – For starters, useful calling features like conference calls, call forwarding, and caller ID are all included for free. Additional features like video calls and video conferencing are also easy to add to VoIP services.
Here are seven ways for owners of small businesses to save money on their taxes.
1. Incorporate Yourself: If you`re still a proprietor or partner of a business, it`s time to incorporate yourself. Not only will you limit your liability, but you may enjoy lower tax rates on small business income and other tax advantages as well.
2. Be Home Based: If possible, continue (or switch to) being a home based business. Not only will you keep your overhead down, but you will be able to write-off (or deduct) the business use of your home.
3. Income Split: Pay reasonable wages to your spouse and children. In this way, you can legally divert income taxed at your higher rate to your family members that are in a lower tax bracket.
4. Rearrange Your Affairs For Maximum Tax Savings: Can you make some changes to turn your hobby into a moneymaking business? Can you use that extra room in your house as a home office for your business? Can you arrange to use your car more for business purposes? Can you arrange for more of your entertainment expenses to be business related?
5. Document Your Expenses Well: Do you document your expenses well so that they would survive a tax audit? Have you kept a mileage log so that you can prove the percentage business use you claim for your vehicle? Have you kept receipts for all your entertainment expenses and listed the business purpose on the back of each receipt?
6. Be Punctual: File all returns and pay all taxes due (income, payroll, sales, et cetera) on time. This way, you avoid expensive late filing (and payment) penalties and interest.
7. Develop a Tax Planning Mindset: Some people only worry about their taxes during tax season. However, you will save a fortune in taxes, legally, if you make tax planning your year-round concern. Do you make business and personal purchases, investments, and other expenditures with tax savings in mind?
Since most small businesses have suffered during the past several years due to declining sales generally caused by a chaotic economy, it should be helpful to explore the most practical and realistic marketing strategies available to them. Improving business development efforts is desirable during any financial and economic environment, but there are extra benefits to doing so when sales have declined for whatever reason. Because a typical small business owner does not have the luxury of choosing from many strategies available to larger companies, the marketing improvement process for small businesses is necessarily restricted to a relatively short list of business development alternatives. While the choices will vary from case to case, here are three marketing and business development strategies which will often be considered by small businesses:
* Increasing sales staff
* Business proposals
For most smaller companies, declining revenues have led to some financial challenges and the need to reduce operating expenses already. Therefore it is likely that a common limitation and goal in any marketing decision will be to keep the costs reasonable. When dealing with limited funds, small business owners should evaluate which marketing strategy is the most cost effective method. Business proposal writing usually emerges as the leading choice for small companies when cost effectiveness is taken into account.
There are several kinds of business proposals, and not all of them will be realistic options for each company. Here are the two business proposal types which are likely to be worth reviewing closely:
* Formal proposal solicitations
* Informal and unsolicited proposals
Of these two types, the second (unsolicited and informal proposals) usually deserves the most attention by small businesses. Formally solicited proposals are typically announced by a Request for Proposal (RFP) process and are subject to more public awareness and competition by other companies. Depending on competitive circumstances, it is certainly possible that responding to an RFP might be well-suited to some small business situations. In other words, look carefully before deciding to ignore the RFP possibility.
An informal or unsolicited proposal process potentially offers the most freedom for a small business. Timing is frequently a major problem for an RFP because the company or government agency issuing it determines in advance when it will publish the Request for Proposal and in turn will also determine the deadlines for responses. The timing for unsolicited and informal proposals is effectively under the complete control of the small business which is preparing a proposal. The combination of reduced competition and scheduling flexibility usually makes this a compelling approach to business development and proposals.
Small businesses owners often find that there are certain times of the year when cash flow is not as healthy as it could be. This could be due to the fact that the business has seasonal customers, money being spent wastefully or through outmoded business practices. Regardless of the reason as to why money is being lost one thing is for certain good business owners and managers are all looking for a way to save the business money.
One way to save money in a small business is to implement small business management software. Software such as this enables a business with less than 50 employees to be operated via one software application. By being able to switch to one application a small business owner can save thousands every year as all other applications that require a monthly or annual fee to be discontinued.
As soon as they see just what small business management software can do many business owners and managers are keen to start using it. Not only can small business management software save a business money in terms of slashing the number of applications a business has to pay for it also saves money in other ways such as:
Increasing the number of leads that are converted into sales with ease. When using small business management software an employee can create a quote and save this to a customers file. This will contain their contact details and other relevant information. If this quote is not accepted within a certain period of time, this lead can then be chased up by the sales department.
By ensuring that projects are always completed on time a business will not lose customers. With small business management software projects can be assigned and tracked in real time. Managers and owners can quickly and easily check on projects that are nearing their due date in order to ensure that they are progressing as they should be. By utilizing this feature projects should never be behind schedule ever again, which means that money will be saved in the long run through customer retention.
Small business management software also allows employee calendars to be seen by owners and managers at a glance. This means that projects and so on can be planned with regard to staffing numbers. Money is therefore saved by ensuring that all employees are working to capacity and not being diverted to projects which are already fully subscribed.
As small business management software is web based it means that it can be accessed from anywhere in the world that has an internet connection. So if a manager or owner is away from the office on business they can access the application and get any information that they need. This saves business money as laptops and mobile internet is not required when an owner or manager visits potential customers.
These are just a few of the ways in which small business management software can save a business money each month.
Implementing an efficient telephone system can definitely improve the way you communicate with your customers and business associates. Small business telephone systems are a great option for budding business enterprises to maintain effective communication.
Convey a Professional Business Image
Repeated breakdown in your communication system and improper call management can adversely affect your business image. Small business telephone systems offer organized call management and professional business communication. The enhanced communication experience that they offer would certainly attract more customers and enhance your sale leads and revenue. These phone systems come with high-tech call handling features including find-me/follow-me call forwarding, call conferencing, music on hold, voicemail, fax to email, voice to email and more.
The auto attendant receives calls in a professional manner and is programmed to transfer them to extensions, mailboxes, call queues, groups and conference rooms, as directed by the caller. The virtual receptionist manages several calls arriving at the same time with incredible efficiency.
Manage your Business from Distant Locations
Business establishments with more than one office and/or a mobile workforce benefit a lot from this small office telephone system. The advanced call forwarding feature routes calls to landline numbers or cell phones configured as extensions. Your business can be easily administered from other locations and you can stay connected to your clients and workforce all the time. Using a broadband connection like DSL, Cable or FIOS, your mobile workers can become an extension of your business PBX phone system.
Powerful Voicemail System
Modern small business telephone systems minimize the odds of missing calls and messages. Unanswered calls are instantly routed to the voicemail system, so that the callers can leave voice messages. This facility helps focus on core tasks without worrying about not taking customer calls during busy business hours. Voice messages are forwarded to your email account as audio file attachments. Whenever a new message arrives in your mailbox, it is promptly alerted on your cell phone.
With these diverse capabilities, small business telephone systems facilitate effective communication with your business clients. To enjoy all the benefits of these phone systems, it is important to get the service from dependable providers. This would assure the smooth functioning of the system, structured services and advanced PBX features at reasonable monthly charges.
Small businesses are often beaten out by larger competitors because the bigger business has better practices than the small ones do. The good news is that there are many of the business best practices that are used by big companies that can be translated for small businesses.
These business best practices are some of the best kept secrets and will in the long run make a business more successful. Here are a few ways you can use these business practices to fit your small business.
One: Borrowing ideas from other companies is one business practice you can use in your small business. This is known as best practice benchmarking and it can lead to vast improvements in your business structure if it is done the right way.
Most small businesses have a tighter budget than the big businesses do so the business practices that you learn can save money and can be even more beneficial to you than it would be for the big business. When you emulate another business and how they cut costs, you will be able to do the same thing they have done in a much shorter time period.
Two: You have to have a clear understanding of business methods if you are going to borrow their business practices. You need to do some heavy research and ask questions. This will help you figure out how others were able to get the job done to get them to their goals.
This is imperative if you are going to have success using these practices with your small business. One helpful way to find out the information you need is to send surveys to businesses that are successful in the business field you are looking at.
Three: Once you have studied the business best practices and you know how that business uses them, you will need to translate them to fit your small business. Before they will work for your business t want business practice you can use in your small business is borrowing ideas from other companies here may be some crucial modifications that need to be made.
Four: One business practice that is imperative to the success of any business of any size is to have good communication in your business. This means that you need to communicate on a regular basis with your employees.
You have to do this to make sure that everyone is on the same page business wise. Otherwise, you may find problems cropping up that you will have to deal with.
Emulating business best practices is fine but you want to make sure that you don’t steal their practices outright. Always do your research and use the business practices that you can modify to fit your small business. Don’t do anything to get your business in trouble in the future.
Wondering if your business is too small for a group retirement plan?
One of the keys to attracting and retaining top employees is to offer a high-quality retirement plan. A group savings plan conveniently helps employees save money for the future while reducing and deferring taxes today. Plus, the investment you make in a group retirement plan is an investment you make in your organization, your employees and your reputation. Everyone’s a winner.
Three options stand-out depending on what you want to accomplish with your plan and how much flexibility you need. These are: 401(k) plans, SEP IRAs and SIMPLE IRAs.
The 401(k) Offers the Most Flexibility and High Contribution Limits The traditional 401(k) is probably the most widely known retirement product on the market. It’s the fully loaded, high performance SUV of retirement plans. It’s generally defined as one that enables a business owner and employees to make consistent, tax-deferred contributions during the length of their careers.
SEP IRAs are Pretty Easy to Start and 100% Funded by the Employer Simplified Employee Pensions, more commonly referred to as SEPs, are also a popular retirement plan choice as they offer a contribution limit that’s similar to a 401(k). It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a 401(k) plan, but it’s got a good engine under the hood. One of the most important things to understand about SEPs is that 100 percent of the contributions made are by the employer (no employee contributions allowed) and these dollars are immediately vested for the employee.
The SIMPLE IRA is a Solid, Affordable Third Option
The SIMPLE IRA’s name is a bit misleading (it actually stands for Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees). While both employer and employee can contribute to the plan, the employer must match and matching is vested immediately.
If you do decide that you want to offer a retirement plan, you are definitely going to need some professional advice and guidance. Pension rules are complex, and the tax aspects of retirement plans can also be confusing.
As a financial planning and wealth management professional firm, Mintco Financial has been helping its clients effectively plan for comfortable retirements.
Michael Minter, as a managing partner of Mintco Financial, is a trusted investment management professional who carries more than 16 years of experience in this challenging career field.
Throughout his professional history, Michael Minter has gained strong insight into what skills and knowledge is necessary to perform investment management, wealth building services, small business development and retirement plans.
Michael MInter is also author of the book I-Plan, a guide for your financial security.
Call Michael Minter at 813-964-7100 at Mintco Financial.
Retirement Planning for Small Business
When running a small business, marketing your products and services is an important aspect your must consider and plan for. No matter what industry you play in you will no doubt have competition. Even if you provide a better service or product you still need to stand out so consumers know. Marketing can be a big cost but there are also many affordable alternative to advertise your business.
Here are three simple advertising ideas and suggestions to give you high visility.
Vehicle back windows
A rear car window covererd with a sticker of your business is an affordable option to promote your business. Whenever your car is being driven around your business is being seen. For as little as one hundred and fifty dollars this is a small investment. Depending on how many years your sticker last, the breakdown cost of purchasing you rear window sticker works out to be even less.
Don’t overload the sticker with too much details. Keep the sticker bright and colorful. Avoid a cluttered look with too much details. Keep it simple. Don’t put more than three items of information. Your logo with business name, phone and tagline is all you need.
Large car magnets are another cheap alternative. These magnets are strong enough to withstand high speeds. To repeat – keep the design simple. Order many at a time and hand them out to your friends for their cars. You can purchase four magnets for as little as fifty dollars.
An alternative to magnets is use multiple smaller sized ones. A stack of twenty five magnets can be bought for about thirty dollars. Get people to take notice by scattering you car with these. When people take your magnets you know they’re working.
Ask your signwriter to print you a large banner. The cost of a small banner can be as little as one hundred dollars. We’ve even seen banners from as low as six dollars.
Use the small banners effectively by parking at the front of a busy event or location. Hang the banner from the side of your car. Your car and banner can’t be missed.
These are three simple advertising ideas to kick start your marketing on a budget.
Click Here to see Ryan Johns working these advertising ideas
Small business literally means those where the total workers are less than hundred and the capital is also less than a million. This definition varies from country to country but the key point is that it indicates the small scale business or personal business. The small businesses account more than fifty percent of the GDP for a country. Therefore each country put a lot of its concentration in the development of the small businesses. But there is still a problem that every entrepreneurs face at the initial stage, that is finding a start up business loan.
For a young entrepreneur, raising a fund is the most crucial part. This is because most of the people can come with the creative business ideas but when the question is the investment, more than ninety percent entrepreneur does not have the ability to fund the start up cost. And for them the most common solution is the bank loan. But the worst thing is although there are many schemes offered by the banks and other financial institution, getting a loan is still hard like before.
When a person apply for the start up business loan, the bank authority show little respect about his small business ideas and act like that the person will never going to pay the loan. This kind of obstacles often makes the situation hard for the young entrepreneur.
On the other hand, other resources for funding are also limited. Most of the people do not have enough money or property of their own to be self funded. There are different financial organization but, they have a higher rate which is not favorable for the small business. Therefore the bank loan is the most suitable for funding the small businesses.
The SME loans of different banks should be easier to get for the young entrepreneurs. And also more attractive offer should be created from both the bank and the government to aid the small businesses. This will be beneficial for the economy because according to the record, the new employment rate is higher in the small business industries. Also the revenue is also higher from the small and medium businesses.
As February rushes by, those New Year resolutions may be turning into distant memories if not forgotten dreams. Except for that one significant promise, to become master of your own destiny and invest in your own business.
If you are dreaming of owning your own business, there are some trends in your favour. Slow to moderate overall economic growth in many countries hard hit by the recession is forecast to continue through 2011. In the US, the small business sector remained in recession in 2010, lagging in recovery, and is now predicted to see stronger demand and better business conditions this coming year. Key trends seen as driving the growth of small business are
small manufacturing businesses in niche markets aided by technology making barriers to entry lower,
the weak dollar aiding US manufacturing cost competitiveness,
the internet becoming more widely known to small business as a low cost way of sourcing and selling goods and services.
Small business growing more familiar with and making greater use of social media in their local marketing efforts -think Groupon Inc and its highly successful coupon business supporting local deals!
When time is not on your side, the resilient and proven franchise business model allows you a faster and often comparatively risk adverse track to generating positive cash flow. Although its your own business, you don`t have to go it alone making a proven franchise operation a smart choice. Strong viable franchise opportunities are there for the qualified buyer, so how to join that select group?
Access to financing from traditional sources is expected to remain tight in the US throughout 2011, in spite of the Governments continuing efforts to support small business through tough times. We recommend that potential franchise buyers be cautious when selecting companies to do their 401(k) rollovers or when selecting a financing company with all of the fraud that has occurred in the banking sector over the last several years, finding a reputable company to provide your financing is more important than ever and a winning point in your favor with franchisors.
MatchPoint Franchise Consulting Network was founded in 2006 with a mission of helping companies expand their franchise networks and improve their system. The advice offered freely to franchise buyers by MatchPoint consultants is vital to the buyer in making a better, prudent, buying decision. The advice offered by our consultants does not make us lawyers; it is there to help the investor with a high quality due diligence process.
MatchPoint consultants know the red flags in the investment field. It takes the very few promoters that practice business fraud to taint the dream of the franchisee and their family.
That`s where seeking the independent advice of an expert franchising consultant is prudent and invaluable.