Why Pinterest is for Plumbers – Part 5

The following is an excerpt taken from the article, “Why Pinterest is for Plumbers”. For more information please visit www.contractormag.com.

Getting started

social_mediaSocial media is ultimately social. That means human. Be human. Don’t be afraid to share something about yourself. Personal boards can include motivational or inspirational quotes, photography, things to do with kids, practical household tips, recipes and so on.  Be creative.

Like any form of social media, spend some time on Pinterest. Check out other users’ boards.  Learn the nuances. Then, dive in. It helps you show the right audience how you can make their lives better and their homes more attractive.

Mid-Year Tax Planning: Do It Now to Save Later

The following is an excerpt taken from the article, “Mid-Year Tax Planning: Do It Now to Save Later”. For more information please visit www.sba.gov.

With just about half of the year already in the books, now is the ideal time to take stock of your business activities year-to-date. This will enable you to take wise tax actions that will pay off on your tax bill when you file your 2013 income tax return next year.

What to look for in your books

tax_advisor_shutterstock_105216713Determine whether you’ve been profitable so far, and whether your numbers meet, exceed, or fall short of your estimates at the start of the year. Also, face up to losses that you may ha ve experienced to date. If your analysis shows:

Better than expected, you’re looking for ways to reduce your taxes, so explore traditional actions such as:

  • Setting up a qualified retirement plan, such as an SEP or 401(k) plan, to save for your retirement in a tax-advantaged way
  • Buying new equipment and machinery to better run your business while capturing tax write-offs (explained later)

Also, make sure that your remaining estimated tax payments for 2013 are increased to avoid underpayment penalties.

Lower than expected, tax savings can still be helpful but may not be the most important action now. If your profits aren’t what you expected, or you experienced losses, reduce your remaining estimated taxes to conserve your cash and avoid making an interest-free loan to the government. (You can’t recoup overpayments until you file your return next year.)

Use expiring provisions

While Congress has a habit of extending expiring or expired provisions, you can’t count on this to happen this year. A number of important business-related tax breaks are scheduled to disappear on December 31, so take advantage of them while you can. Key actions to consider now:

  • Purchasing of equipment, machinery and off-the-shelf software. The dollar limit for 2013 is $500,000 for new or used items, as long as you are in the black. At present, the limit is set to decline to $25,000 in 2014. Alternatively, if you buy new items, you can use 50% bonus depreciation to write-off half the cost, whether or not you’re profitable. Either way, you can take one or both write-offs even if you finance purchases in whole or in part.
  • Improving your facilities. You can expense up to $250,000 of the cost of leasehold, restaurant, or retail improvements made before the end of the year. Costs over this dollar limit can be depreciated over 15 years (rather than the usual 39-year depreciation period for commercial property).
  • Raising capital. If your business is a C corporation in the fields of technology, manufacturing, retail or wholesale, you can induce investors to come on board with the tax law’s 100% exclusion for gain on the sale of “qualified small business stock” held more than five years. Since these deals usually take several months or more to put together, start now so that the stock can be issued before the end of the year; the exclusion is set to revert to 50% on January 1, 2014.

    piggy_moneyshutterstock_129073034

Revisit your recordkeeping

Summertime may be slow for you and an ideal time to examine your recordkeeping habits as they relate to taxes. The better your records throughout the year, the more deductions and other tax breaks you’ll be able to take advantage of when you file your return.

  • Recording your income and expenses. No matter how small your business or how much you hate numbers, it’s vital to keep a record of your income and expenses. Software or cloud solutions make this recordkeeping very easy and inexpensive.
  • Tracking travel and entertainment costs. Receipts to prove the amount of an outlay aren’t enough for tax law. You must also keep a record of t1040 taxshutterstock_129016154he date, purpose and other information related to each expense. Fortunately, there are apps to simplify this recordkeeping chore.
  • Tracking car or truck mileage. Unless you use a vehicle solely for business, you’ll need to keep track of the miles you drive for business if you want to take a write-off for vehicle usage. Again, apps can be used for this purpose.

Meet with your tax advisor

Nearly 90% of small business owners used paid professionals to prepare their tax returns. But how many use expert advice during the year to better position themselves from a tax perspective? Meet with your tax advisor now to review all of the above actions and devise strategies that you can follow for the balance of the year that are unique to your situation.

How to Market Your Business with Public Speaking

How to Market Your Business with Public Speaking

The following is an excerpt taken from the article, “How to Market Your Business with Public Speaking”. For more information please visit www.sba.gov.

Are you looking for a way to attract new customers, meet potential prospects and partners, and become known as an expert in your industry? Public speaking can do all of the above, and more.

If you feel like public speaking isn’t even an option for you because you’re shy, think again. I’m shy myself, though you wouldn’t know it to see me addressing conferences, crowds and audiences all over the country. Trust me, public speaking gets easier with practice—and it’s worth the effort.

public_speakshutterstock_120239710

Toastmasters is a great, free organization that can help you get comfortable speaking in front of a group. You can also try simply having a friend record you speaking and play it back so they can give you an honest critique of your speech patterns, body language and delivery. Finally, try breaking into public speaking with a less intimidating situation, like being on a panel discussion (where you’re not the focus of attention).

When you’re starting out in public speaking, it’s best to think small. Fortunately, speaking in front of small groups like the local PTA or business leads club can have huge benefits for your business.

Begin by figuring out what market you want to reach. For example, if you own a landscaping business, you might want to attract residential clients or owners of commercial facilities that need landscaping.

Next, determine where those customers are likely to be found. In the example above, you could speak to homeowners’ associations or gardening clubs if you’re trying to attract residential customers; for the commercial facilities, you could find landlord organizations and speak to those groups.

Figure out what type of subject matter will both be relevant to your target customers and also serve your business. For instance, the landscaper could speak to residential customers about choosing the right kinds of plants for different seasons, how to keep your home fire-safe with landscaping or how to prevent pests. For the commercial facilities you could talk about trends in landscaping or how to increase curb appeal. You want to talk about things that your business is able to provide for them, so there’s a natural tie-in between what you talk about and what you can do.

Promote the event. Use press releases, email marketing, your website and social media to let the local community know about the event. Depending on the venue, you may want to alert local media as well. (Perhaps you can even offer to write an article on the topic you’re speaking about, garnering even more publicity.)

micshutterstock_135053741Gather information about attendees. Have attendees sign up with their names, addresses and emails as part of registering for the event, or just make a sign-up sheet available at the event for people who want to get mailings or email newsletters from you. You could also do the classic “business card in a fishbowl” drawing and collect business cards in return for giving away a prize (like a free landscaping consultation).

Give away information. Handouts, brochures, checklists or other free information about both the topic you’re discussing and your business give people something to hang on to and remember you by. This is also perceived as adding value to your speech.

Follow up. Don’t be pushy, but do follow up after the event with attendees who’ve indicated interest in learning more or receiving communications from your business.

Keep it up. The more often you speak in public, the more confident you’ll grow, until eventually you may find public speaking to be one of your most successful methods of getting new business.

Why Pinterest is for Plumbers – Part 4

The following is an excerpt taken from the article, “Why Pinterest is for Plumbers”. For more information please visit www.contractormag.com.

pinLocal Business Boards, Continued

Show a sequence of the steps involved in a kitchen or bath remodel. Homeowners worry about the mess and time required. Show how you can transform a kitchen rapidly and painlessly.

Show pictures of your employees with descriptions about them. Show pictures of your company in action. Create a savings board with coupons and special offers.

Create a board with FAQs. These can be FAQs about your company, about a service, about a product, about anything.

Create topic-centric boards, such as water quality, solar thermal, rainwater collection systems, radiant heating, radon, etc. Pin images from government sites with informational pamphlets that people can download.

3 Types of Insurance You May Think You Have But Don’t – Part 3

The following is an excerpt taken from the article, “3 Types of Insurance You May Think You Have But Don’t”. For more information please visit www.sba.gov.

Home-based businesses

Just because you have a good homeowner’s policy doesn’t automatically give you the protection you need for your home-based business. If a business client is injured in a fall or the inventory you store in your basement is destroyed by a fire, your hhome-businesslshutterstock_111972227omeowner’s policy probably won’t provide protection. There are two ways to remedy this:

  • Add a rider to your homeowner’s policy to cover your home-based business. This option is useful if you have few business visitors and not too much business property to protect.
  • Obtain a separate business owner’s policy (BOP). This option is preferable if clients and customers regularly visit your home and/or if you have expensive business property (costly equipment and/or inventory on the premises).

Conclusion

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “there are …unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” You may be unaware of the type of coverage your business should have. Talk with your insurance agent to determine what risks your business faces and learn about additional coverage you may want or need.

Why Pinterest is for Plumbers – Part 3

The following is an excerpt taken from the article, “Why Pinterest is for Plumbers”. For more information please visit www.contractormag.com.

Local, business boardsmaster-bath-1shutterstock_109770068

As a service contractor, you are interested in local followers. That makes your Pinterest strategy two-fold. You must create boards to attract local followers and boards to drive those local users to your website when interested in the products or services you offer.

Some of the options for local boards are area attractionsrs, and so on. To find them, search for the town name, school name, etc., on Pinterest. By repining, you will help build your following. Make sure you include the town name in your board titles and pin descriptions.

Show images of products you have installed, but show the products as décor. Before and after shots are especially popular. The more focused you can make each board, the better. Create separate boards for faucets, kitchens, bathrooms, water heaters, disposals, handicap accessible products, etc.

faucet-detailshutterstock_93440857How to and educational boards are popular. You can take images of a video and link to the video. Don’t worry about teaching someone how to DIY.  Homeowners who really want to DIY are going to find a way. If your how to board looks too complicated, skilled or requires special equipment, the homeowner is not going to tackle the job, though she will consider you an expert.  Let people see why a camera can help. Show them how a jetter works. Show all of the wrong ways to braze as well as the right one. Homeowners are not going to buy a torch because of your video.

Show a sequence of the steps involved in a kitchen or bath remodel. Homeowners worry about the mess and time required. Show how you can transform a kitchen rapidly and painlessly.

3 Types of Insurance You May Think You Have But Don’t – Part 2

The following is an excerpt taken from the article, “3 Types of Insurance You May Think You Have But Don’t”. For more information please visit www.sba.gov.

Water damage

flood_insshutterstock_122886430Water damage is the most common type of property damage for commercial buildings businesses, according to some  insurance companies. But there’s water damage, and then there’s water damage. Some types of water damage are covered by your business owner’s policy (BOP), but others are not.

  • What’s usually covered: BOP’s typically limit coverage to water damage from within. This means damage that results from freezing pipes, broken pipes or other accidents causing water to be inside your facility.
  • What’s usually not covered: BOP’s typically don’t cover water damage from without (outside your building or under the foundation). This can result from flooding (e.g., from storms, snow melts), water main breaks, or sewer backup.

You can obtain coverage for water damage that ordinarily is not part of your BOP. This can be done in some cases simply by extending the coverage of your basic policy.

However, if your business is located within a flood zone, the only way to obtain coverage is with a separate flood insurance policy from the federal government (not a private insurer). The cost of coverage depends on where your business is located (the closer to a serious flood area, the higher the premiums). Find more about this coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Why Pinterest is for Plumbers – Part 2

The following is an excerpt taken from the article, “Why Pinterest is for Plumbers”. For more information please visit www.contractormag.com.

shutter plumber smilingHow it works

Pinterest is organized by boards. Each board is a topic. Users pin pictures on the boards that they find on the Internet or upload from their computers. Each picture is complemented by a 500 character description and a website URL. As a business, it’s important that you include your company name, phone number and URL in your descriptions. You can even include Twitter hashtags, such as #plumbing.

pinUsers who like the picture can repin it onto one of their boards. In this way, a pin can become viral. Users can also “like” a picture and, depending on the settings, comment on it. This helps create interaction for a sense of community. Users can also follow other users or boards.

3 Types of Insurance You May Think You Have But Don’t – Part 1

The following is an excerpt taken from the article, “3 Types of Insurance You May Think You Have But Don’t”. For more information please visit www.sba.gov.

Insurance is the backstop for business owners when things go wrong. Things happen, but owners want to be financially protected for the unexpected. The problem is that owners may assume they’re covered for certain events but find out after such events that they were mistaken. Don’t fall into the same trap. Here are three common situations you may assume you’re covered for but may need to make changes to be protected.

Terrorist events

crumble_buildingshutterstock_43379665You’re a restaurant owner whose windows have been blown out by a terrorist’s bomb. Or you have a medical office but patients can’t access your office because the street is closed following a terrorist attack. Will your business insurance policy help you? It depends.

After the September 11 attacks, insurance policies were clarified to exclude coverage for property damage resulting from terrorist attacks. However, businesses can obtain coverage for such events by paying extra. The *Wall Street Journal reported that about 60% of companies across the country do carry additional coverage for terrorism. Unfortunately, many small businesses don’t because of the added cost.

defend_terrorshutterstock_67101247So are you covered or not in an event such as the Boston Marathon bombings? It depends on whether this is officially certified to be an act of terrorism. The Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act was passed post-9-11 to help insurers pay for terrorism claims. Under this law, terrorism coverage is now necessary for claims resulting from an act of terrorism and basic coverage does not provide protection if the Treasury Secretary, the Secretary of State and the U.S. Attorney all certify an event to be an act of terrorism. Note: This law is set to expire on December 31, 2014, but could be extended by Congress.

Even if you have terrorism coverage, it may only provide protection for property damage. You usually need a separate business interruption policy to protect you for lost profits resulting from acts of terrorism and the aftermath. Business interruption insurance pays for your operating costs (e.g., rent, utilities and wages to employees) in addition to the profits you would have earned during the period your business was forced to close. Find more information about business interruption coverage from *InsureU.

Why Pinterest is for Plumbers – Part 1

The following is an excerpt taken from the article, “Why Pinterest is for Plumbers”. For more information please visit www.contractormag.com.

plumber_kitchensinkshutterstock_85627669Pinterest may be the greatest social media site ever created for residential plumbing service contractors. Not only is it the fastest growing social media site, it’s the most female centric, with a lot of women searching for home improvement ideas.

Consider the following:

  •  Depending on source, Pinterest is 70% to 80% women.
  •  The number one pinboard is the home (17%), according to R J Metrics.
  • The most popular names for boards are “For the Home,” “My Style” and “Products I Love” (also according to R J Metrics).
  •  It is considered one of the best sources of traffic to women’s magazines. Retailers also consider it a major source of traffic.