One of the numerous ways in which technology has benefitted small businesses has been to increase the number of payment options available. While conventional methods of payment like cash and cheque still exist, there are also a variety of other options like debit cards, internet transfers and mobile payments that have greatly facilitated payment infrastructure and made financial management significantly more flexible. Every business owner must wade through the alternatives and decide what type of payment options are right for their customers. This is based on several factors including their industry, common practices, location and of course business specific considerations. For example, a retailer will usually allow for payment by credit and debit cards, cash and possibly some form of mobile payment. Conversely, a law office may not offer a credit card option, but request payments via cheque or bank transfer.
Some payment alternatives for small businesses to consider are discussed below:
While incorporation has many benefits for small business owners, it does introduce additional complexities that are not faced by registered businesses. Unincorporated business owners are essentially taxed on their net business income, which allows for more time to devote to tax planning and how to spend all of your richly deserved profits. Incorporated business owners, on the other hand, cannot just withdraw cash from their businesses as the need or whim arises. There needs to be a formalized structure in place which usually takes the form of either salary or dividends. Either type of remuneration has tax and other implications that need to be considered before making a decision.
There are many employees out there to whom the promise of self-employment aka freelancing aka independent consulting (all of whom are ultimately small business owners) seems extremely appealing (particularly with a comfortable pair of pajamas). You might crave the feeling of accomplishment that is no longer possible at your current place of employment; you might want greater flexibility or feel that you are not being compensated enough for your skills or perseverance. Or you simply might want a change of pace.
While being self-employed can accomplish all of these goals, the transition itself is not as simple as it might seem nor is it the right decision for everybody. There are many factors that need to be considered and many mental and financial preparations that should be made prior to taking this potentially life altering decision.
Sam Spade, the hard edged protagonist of The Maltese Falcon, is in some ways the quintessential small business owner. He is a private detective (or dick if you prefer) with an office, a partner, a secretary and a network that would make a social media climber swoon. As a small business owner he takes on the risks of running a business and enjoys the rewards. He sets his own prices which vary significantly depending on the client and the job. (Recovering the Maltese Falcon is worth thousands, while searching for someone’s sister is worth considerably less). And despite his womanizing and wayward ways, he also embodies qualities that would behoove business owners to emulate.
Starting a small business is fairly simple. Having a successful business that meets your long term goals is a little more difficult. In this technological age, the tools to help you succeed are numerous and overwhelming. You are a Google search away from being bombarded with search results, many pages deep, that provide insight, tips, tricks, mistakes and guidance. The difficulty arises when you have to implement them, since every small business owner’s circumstances and business goals are unique. Keeping that in mind, below is a roadmap to help you focus on what is important, particularly in the early stages:Read More
I met with a small business owner recently who had just purchased a retail business and was looking for a new accountant. It seems that the current accountant was reviewing her books on a quarterly basis, preparing financial statements and doing the year-end tax returns – all typical accountant stuff. The problem was that the accountant, while charging this small business a fairly significant amount of money, was not really adding any value to their business. The bookkeeping, which was done by the previous business owner, was still being entered manually in ledgers (!). The quarterly accounting review consisted of checking the ledgers for mathematical accuracy and ensuring no major deductions had been missed without any discussion regarding the performance of the business. Worst of all, the accountant was not responding to the client’s requests for a meeting.
There are many great accountants out there, however it is important to ensure that you are hiring someone who will compliment your business and add value. Below are some of the qualities that should be considered either with respect to your accountant:
One of first decisions you have to make when embarking on your small business venture is the type of business structure to select. There are essentially two choices – business registration (sole proprietorship or partnership) or incorporation. Like many small business decisions, the answer can be ambiguous and depends on the business owner’s specific set of circumstancesRead More
One of the great benefits of working from home for freelancers, the self employed and small business owners is that you can deduct the costs relating to the space that you use to work. This can result in a significant reduction in your tax bill for costs that you would incur regardless, giving you one more reason to love being your own boss.
Criteria for Deductibility:
For home office expenses to be deductible, they have to meet the following criteria:
- It has to be your principal place of business i.e. you cannot deduct home office expenses if you have another office that relates to your business, elsewhere, even if you work 22 hours a day or you check your blackberry in bed.
- The space designated as your home office is used to earn business income and/or you meet clients or customers on a regular basis. You can deduct expenses relating to the workspace in your garage which is used for home improvement projects.
Modern portfolio theory assumes that we are rational investors and invest only in efficient and optimal portfolios that provide the maximum return for minimum risk. The truth (as posited by Behavioural Economists) is that we far from rational and are subject to a myriad of psychological influences and behaviours that prevent us from not only making optimal investment or business decisions, but can in some cases turn us into morons. We buy and hold too long or buy and sell too quickly; we refuse to accept losses assuming that we will recover our money or we sell losing investments way too soon; we are overconfident about our own abilities or place too much trust in “experts”; we maintain the status quo and do nothing or we change things too frequently. The dichotomies of investing behaviour are numerous and fascinating and have lead to creation of field of study referred to as Behavioural Ecomomics. Each of these behaviours also has a tremendous impact on our business decisions and are discussed below:
One of the most challenging aspects of starting a new business is knowing what to charge for your services. In economics terms, the ideal price is where demand meets supply. The problem, of course, is that at the beginning we tend to have a lot more supply than demand. This can lead to imprudent pricing decisions. Below are 3 considerations to take into account when determining the price for your services:
Perhaps the most daunting aspect of starting a new small service based business is building a client base. On the other hand, there is nothing quite so exciting as getting those first few clients.
When trying to generate new business, it is important to cast a wide net as you never know where potential clients may be lurking. There are many ways to build a client base, even with limited resources. I have outlined some below:
One of the most pervasive problems that face small business owners, particularly in the initial and growth stage of their enterprise, is maintaining sufficient cash flow. Many businesses with great potential have suffered an untimely demise due to their inability to pay their suppliers, employees and revenue agencies (always pay your government obligations otherwise Revenue Canada and Quebec will take matters into their own hands and potentially freeze your bank accounts). Often these issues can be prevented through a greater awareness of your small business’ cash flow requirements along with a proactive mindset. This list focuses on ten different ways you can manage this process to reduce the number of potential crises that arise:Read More
For the majority of income earners, employment status is pretty evident. If you are going to the same place every day, have an assigned cubicle with a computer and corporate stapler, and your boss tells you what you need to do, chances are that you are an employee. Conversely if you have several clients, use your own laptop, and are worried about where your next sale is going to come from, you are most likely, self employed.
Being self employed comes with many benefits. You can sleep in, work in your pyjamas and go shopping in the middle of the day. You no longer have to report to a boss who doesn't really understand what you do or deal with mindless workplace politics. It all sounds wonderful, but unfortunately there are also many challenges. Small business owners have to deal with uncertainty and risk. They need to be disciplined and deal with the many demands that being self employed can impose upon us. In the early stages of self employment, most of us have to take on the responsiblity of fulfilling the administrative functions that you find in a more established business. Some of the skills that you need to develop are: