There are currently over 13 million home-based businesses in the U.S. Additionally, more than half of all new businesses start in the home. For many small businesses just starting out or with only one or two employees, it makes a lot of financial sense. However, if your home is subject to a homeowners’ association agreement, your business may be prohibited.
Many homeowners’ associations completely prohibit any business in the name of protecting the sanctity of the residential nature of the neighborhood. In fact, many homeowners’ association agreements may prohibit home-based businesses and owners do not even know it because they tend to use boilerplate contracts where such provisions are included in the covenants, conditions and restrictions.
What do you do if you are living in such a neighborhood and are subject to a homeowners’ association with restrictive covenants on business? First, you can start by talking to members of your homeowners’ association board about updating the rules. Show them that low-impact business with few or no employees and no exterior evidence of a business will not negatively impact their neighborhood. Secondly, work with neighbors if they have concerns about traffic, noise, etc. Reassure them you can find a balance that will make all happy. Finally, stress the benefits of having a home-based business in the neighborhood. One such big benefit is having someone around during the day may discourage daytime burglaries.
Controlling your budget can be a struggle for any businesses regardless of your size. However, if you want to make a profit you know how important it is to effectively control your budget. Estimating your sales income fairly accurately, specifically estimating your costs, and keeping both under control are all important aspects of mastering a budget.
Here are three tips that can help you budget more efficiently:
Set Your Business Targets Yearly - this includes setting and revisiting your objectives and business plan on an annual basis. Events and circumstances constantly change. Without flexible up-to-date targets and objectives, how can you stay in the loop and remain profitable?
Maintain Proper Records – invest in a reliable, easy-to-use accounting system. It is essential for financial control and monitoring.
Follow the Cash – a monthly cash-flow statement allows you to closely track what money has been received and what is being paid out. By keeping a close eye on your creditors and debtors, you will be able to ensure that you are carefully controlling your
Benchmarking is a useful business strategy for any company, regardless of how big, or small, they may be. What is benchmarking? In a nut shell, it is the continuous process of measuring your products, services and work processes, against those of the recognized leaders in your field. Benchmarking can be an eye opening experience for any business. It’s a wonderful tool for exposing a business to new methods, ideas and tools to improve their effectiveness.
To benchmark, you must first begin by identifying your problem areas. The nice thing about benchmarking is that it can be applied to any business process or function. You can locate your problem areas through a variety of techniques including informal discussions with customers pr employees, using focus groups or marketing research, surveys, questionnaires, etc. Once you have a grasp on the problems, identify the businesses that are leaders in the areas you are struggling with and study their practices and philosophies to see what they are doing right.
Benchmarking takes time and some expense to do properly, but the payoff is well worth the effort.
You’ve got the idea, the desire, the skills but lack the necessary funding to start your own business. Finding that funding is not always easy. Traditional options such as SBA and bank loans, financing through your credit cards, or borrowing from family and friends are popular avenues to pursue, but they are not the only ones.
One additional possibility is the use of a grant to start your business. Business grants are grants available for specific industries, sectors and reasons. Contrary to popular belief, the federal government does not offer direct small business grants. However, many state development agencies offer direct small business grants and other types of financial assistance designed to assist entrepreneurs in starting or expand a small business.
While business grants are a great avenue to explore, its important to keep in mind that they are not the end-all, save-all financing option. Meaning, the application process can be both time-consuming and competitive, and usually will not cover all your start up costs. Therefore, its important to plan accordingly.
Nothing is more frustrating than having your computer go down or encountering a problem that takes a significant chunk of time to fix. And who isn’t afraid that you might accidentally hit the wrong key or fry your system some way? It’s easy to make mistakes when it comes to computers. In fact, many are quite common. Here are a few of the biggest ones and what you can do to avoid them.
Forgetting to use a surge protector. It’s not just electrical storms that can fry your computer quicker than an egg. Any surge in shared circuits or a power outage can do the trick as well. Remember though that most cheap surge protectors will survive only a single surge and need to be replaced afterward. An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is better. It has a battery that keeps power flowing smoothly even when there’s an outage; to give you time to manually shut down.
Installing/Uninstalling tons of programs. Many of us like to try new programs and free-trial offers when it comes to software. Unfortunately, the more programs you install, the more likely you are to run across ones that either include malicious code or that are poorly written and cause your system to behave improperly or crash. Even installing too many installations/uninstallations of only licensed, commercial software can do a number on your registry. Try to keep your installs/uninstalls to a minimum.
Neglecting backup. Backing up our files is something many of us forget to routinely do, but if we don’t it can be the most damaging. Try to get in the habit of using the built-in Windows backup program (Ntbackup.exe in Windows NT, 2000, and XP) or a third-party backup program and schedule backups to occur automatically.
A common question when setting up the accounting system for your business is whether you will use the accrual or cash method of accounting. If you are unsure which one to use consider this. The accrual method of accounting requires that you record your business activity when it happens. The cash method wants you to record your business when the actual money changes hands.
Let’s say you run a catering business and you have been contracted in May for a September wedding. Under the cash method, you would record the income only after you have received the acutal cash payments in hand. Under the accrual method, you would record the income only after you have completed the actual contracted work and the obligation exists for your customer to pay you, i.e. you may have sent a bill but not received payment yet.
The cash method of accounting requires less bookkeeping, but it does not necessarily provide an adequate account for transactions that are in process or partially complete. To find out which method best suits your business needs, contact a qualified accountant.
It seems like every time we turn on the television there is either another topic or extremely sensitive news story bombarding us. It’s only human nature that we would want to talk about it with others. Therefore, many of the “hot” news stories make their way to our workplace. Unfortunately, it could create a potentially litigious situation for employers.
Remember the case a few years back about the Seinfeld episode? A Miller Brewing Company executive discussed an episode with a female employee where Jerry could not remember the name of one of his dates. All he could remember was that it rhymed with a female body part. The employer felt uncomfortable, told the executive so, he apologized, but she still pursued a sexual harassment lawsuit against him.
The point is our workplace environments are just as diverse as our culture. What one person does not consider offensive, another individual may. Just because one person may believe its worth discussing because it was on the news, does not necessarily make it social acceptable or appropriate conversation for the workplace.
If you are an employer, it is important to send a message to all employees regarding their need to be conscious of the topics they choose to discuss at work, or the non-work emails they want to share with fellow co-workers. Today, it is very easy to cross the line. As an employer, you do not want to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit when you could have taken easy steps to prevent it.
Statistically, more and more people are reaching the age where the idea of retiring should look appealing. However, surveys and studies indicate that more and more Boomers are thinking of starting a new business instead of their golf game. For example, a 2003 AARP survey found that approximately 15% of Boomers expect to own businesses in retirement. The attraction of finally being your own boss and building something for yourself is a strong allure for many of the 50 years old and older crowd. Yet, there are drawbacks to consider.
A senior advisor for the AARP cautions that some seniors need to think twice about starting a new business. The primary concern being that many Boomers may exhaust their savings and find it difficult to financially rebound if there was a setback. With 66% of all new businesses failing within the first 4 years, it’s a strong concern to consider. The other concern is sheer physical exhaustion. The hours poured into a new business venture can drain even the youngest entrepreneur at heart.
One potential business opportunity that is proving attractive to the Boomer entrepreneur is the idea of owning a franchise. While an entrepreneur must still invest a lot of capital, and devote hours to starting up the company, franchises have historically performed better than independent ventures. Additionally, many former employees are attracted to the strict formula that franchisers provide to owners who have spent years working for someone else.If you thrive on coming up with your own idea and unique business, then franchising is probably not for you. However, if you are exploring new business opportunities it may be one to consider.
As an employer, correctly dealing with an employee’s claim of harassment can seem like you are navigating a potential mine field. Even if you have solid, written policies in place regarding how these types of claims will be handled, and even if you follow through and terminate a problem employee, you still need to remain diligent.
Harassment may not stop with the termination of the employee actually doing the harassment. There have been several instances where other employees have taken it upon themselves to create a hostile work environment for the individual who reported the harassment. Several recent court-rulings have affirmed that you, as an employer, have a responsibility to ensure that retaliatory acts against an employee for filing a harassment claim do not occur.
That means reviewing and updating your anti-harassment policy to ensure that retaliatory acts are grounds for termination. Additional safeguards you could take include conducting periodic employee and management training; and, when specific complaints are filed, remaining alert to possible retaliatory harassment. If you fail to do so, you may find yourself as party to a sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit under Title VII.
As a small business owner, you have choices when it comes to selecting a bookkeeping system. You can choose to do it manually, purchase an off-the-shelf software, or use an online system. Whichever method you choose, there are advantages and disadvantages with each that should be considered:
Advantages: easy, cheap, and fast to set up. If you are not carrying large inventories or generating a lot of invoices, this method would prove effective.
Disadvantages: easily misplace papers and invoices that support your system, difficult to handle complex transactions, and hard to generate reports quickly if needed.
Advantages: automates difficult transactions and can provide you with detailed reports quickly.
Disadvantages: if you are not computer literate or accounting-challenged, you may experience a huge learning curb. Also, you should expect to have annual upgrade costs.
Advantages: you can access your records with any computer, any where that has an internet connection. You do not have to deal with the hassle of setting up software or upgrading your system.
Disadvantages: system may not be as user-friendly, slower to access, and not as feature-rich as off-the-shelf software.
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