Category Archives for "Small Business"

How to Stay Motivated When Working from Home

By Randall Orser | Employees , Home Based Business , Small Business

Due to the coronavirus many more people are joining those already working from home.  It is quite a change from your normal routine of going into the office five days a week and working with others, so you need to make your new work environment as comfortable as possible for you to be productive.  When working for your company from home you should still to stick to your normal hours of work as much as possible and it is important to keep in touch with your colleagues by phone or video conferencing so that you do not feel isolated.  

For those who are their own boss and have been working from home for a while you don’t need to worry about being late for work, being written up, laid off or fired.  However, you are solely in charge, so it is up to you to face all the challenges involved in owning a business, most of all making money.  

If you are now finding yourself in one of these two situations how do you stay motivated while working from home?

1. Work-life vs Family Life

When working at home family can be your biggest distraction, particularly now as most of your family including kids may be at home.  It is vital to set up a separate room in your house to work where you can close the door if necessary.  You need to let the family know that when you are in that room you are working and unavailable except for an emergency.  Don’t forget that this separate workspace can allow for a tax deduction if you are self-employed.

2. Keeping your concentration when working from home

Difficulty concentrating one of the biggest problems reported by people who work from home.  You may have to deal with family noise, activities outside your window or even the view of your backyard especially if the sun is shining.  You may be disturbed by people who have a hard time accepting that you are working from home and think that you can run errands for them or that you have time to chat on the phone.  Some solutions to these problems might be to close the blinds, wear noise reducing headphones or ask the family not to do noisy activities while you are working.  You also need to make sure that friends and relatives know that you are not available between certain hours because you are

working.

3. Motivational Challenges

It is up to you to motivate and challenge yourself unless you are still employed by a company and working from home.  In that instance you still have to answer emails and phone calls from colleagues for information and updates.  This will help to keep your mind on the job.  If you own your own business, it can be way more difficult to keep motivated and let your attention slip to more appealing things.  You need to keep your end goal in mind which is to grow your business and make money


4. Dealing with the lack of Office Equipment

If you are working from home, either temporarily or permanently it is important for you to have the necessary equipment to do your job.  When you are working for an employer at home, they should provide the equipment that you need to do the job.  If own your own business, you should invest in the office equipment that you need.  These days computers, and multifunction printers and scanners are way less expensive than they used to be.  Look out for low interest and interest free deals offered by stores to help reduce the costs and you may be able to offset some of these expenses on your taxes.

5. Getting Access to Company Documents

If you are working from home for your employer, they need to set up a way for you to able to access company documents from home over the internet.  There are many programs and apps that will allow you to do that easily.

6. Egonomic Issues

It can be difficult to keep your concentration if you are not comfortable in your workspace.  Make sure you are equipped with a proper office desk and office chair to support your back, neck and shoulders. Take a few minutes break each hour or two and standup, walk about and stretch.  Be conscious of your posture while working as bad posture will result in pain and trips to the chiropractor or for physio.

As working from home is becoming more of the norm and may become even more so as companies realize that their employees working remotely can save them money, and workers find that working from home gives them a better work-life balance.

Working from Home – Why it can be Advantageous for Employers

By Randall Orser | Business , Cloud-computing , Employees , Small Business

If your boss is on the fence about allowing you to work from home a compelling study from Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom was featured in an article by Ari Surdoval in Ideas.Ted.Com showed that it can be very advantageous especially for employers. 

When most people imagine working from home they see someone in their pajamas watching Netflix on their laptop.   They believe that working from home can be shirking from home.  Professor Bloom had previously worked from home himself and knew that it was becoming more and more common around the world, so he believed that there had to be more to it than just watching Netflix.  

In the US the number of people working from home has tripled over the past 30 years and was 2.4% of the workforce in 2017.  In countries where mobile technology and improving digital connections have coincided with traffic congestion and sky high commercial rents between 10 and 20% of employees work from home for at least part of their work week.  This was true of the company Bloom used for his controlled trial to put remote work to the test.  The company was one of China's largest travel agencies with a workforce of 16,000.  The company CEO recognized that the company was losing many employees in part due to workers being priced out of the city of Shanghai and having to endure long commutes.

More than 500 employees in the call centre volunteered, about half met the study qualifications which included having a private room at home in which to work and a decent broadband connection as well has having been an employee for six months.  Those with even numbered birthdays would telecommute four days a week while the others would remain in the office as a control group.  Company managers were concerned that as the call centre workers were among the youngest in the company they might be easily distracted without supervision.  

The study lasted for nine months and the results stunned Bloom and the CEO.  The company saved $1900 per employee on office space during the study


Women vs Men as Entrepreneurs – Some Statistics

By Randall Orser | Business Income Taxes , Freelancing , Home Based Business , Small Business

Small business statistics Canada showed that in 2018 there were 1,079,000 self-employed women in Canada, accounting for 37% of all self-employed people.  Almost 60% of those were in unincorporated businesses with no employees.  There were 1,781,600 self-employed men and a much smaller percentage of these (37%) were unincorporated and had no employees.

The number of Canadian women entrepreneurs keeps growing and an interesting collection of statistics shows some of the differences between men and women who run their own businesses.  

  1. On average women business owners are younger and have fewer years of management or ownership experience when compared with male business owners.
  2. Women mostly choose to start and run small business in the retail and service sectors and they are more likely to be solo entrepreneurs.
  3. Women do not make as much money as men entrepreneurs but the gap is closing, they generally make 58% less than men operating their own businesses.

From the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Canada Report on Women's Entrepreneurship:

  1. In Canada nearly 85% of women surveyed said they were interested in starting a business.  Most are highly educated with college diplomas or university degrees. 
  2. 13.3% of women were involved with newer businesses and 10% in established businesses (operating for more than 3.5 years).  For men the figures showed 20.3% and 7.1%.
  3. Canadian women rank 1st for involvement in newer businesses, ahead of the UK, USA and other innovation-based economies.  They were 6th for established businesses.
  4. 54% of new female businesses were in the services sector followed by business services at 28.2%.
  5. Female business owners are less likely to engage in overseas trade than male owners.  For businesses with 25% or more customers outside Canada 31.7% were run by women compared to 37% by men.
  6. For businesses engaged in innovation 35.9% were owned by women, 44% by men.
  7. The gap in expectations for job creation is now not as wide as it was in previous years and will be roughly the same for the next five years.  However the expectations for job growth is higher for male owned companies 35.6% compared to 21.4% for female owned companies.

Reasons why women start their own businesses: (Paul Lima Globeandmail.com)

  1. A flexible work schedule is a great motivator but more so for women, 63% compared to 51% for men.
  2. 36% of men who start businesses do so to get wealthy compared to only 23% of women.
  3. Entrepreneurs who are driven to start a business doing something that they love is 69% for women and 64% for men.
  4. Women are less likely than men to start a business because they want to be their own boss, and are more likely to employ a spouse or child in their business.
  5. An almost equal number of male and female entrepreneurs listed their three main challenges to starting a business as finding clients, keeping a steady workload and working long hours.

Five to Ten a Day for Better Health (of Your Business)

By Randall Orser | Home Based Business , Small Business

We have been inundated with advice to eat well for our health’s sake. But, what about five to ten tips to better health of our business? Shouldn’t that be as important to the business owner?  Five to ten tips to follow a day can reduce the risk of failure and ensure your business enjoys a long and healthy life!

Five Tips to Overall Health:

  1. Prioritize and get things done:  When prioritizing, keep customers forefront (and suppliers, inventory, and staff). Without customers, where would you be? Complete tasks. Follow through. Finish paperwork.
  2. Plan ahead (but be flexible) – Get Organized:  Keep your eye on the road ahead. Ensure that you (and your staff) focus on the business plan, the marketing plan, and your original vision. Ensure that marketing campaigns are done ahead of time (ideally, a year in advance). Budgets and buying plans should be completed six months ahead, as well as any open-to-buy for product for promotional sales. Staff schedules and training should be well organized in order to coincide with seasonal upswings.
  3. Customers and Customer Service – It’s always about the customers:  Every business owner should prioritize any task that involves customer satisfaction. If you tell a customer that the product will arrive by the end of the week, then ensure that your promise is kept. If you tell a customer that you will call them, then ensure that you do. Broken promises do not impress customers. Always under-promise and over-deliver!
  4. Nurture all relationships including staff and suppliers:  Reward your staff, motivate your staff and keep them in the loop. Join professional associations.   Expand your communication channels. Get into the habit of mailing thank you notes to customers, staff, suppliers and those who have benefited your business. Pick up the telephone and have a one on one conversation. Stay in touch.
  5. Core competencies – What do you do best?  To thrive in the marketplace, a business must excel in at least one of the following: product offering, customer service, promotional strategies (branding), price or location.  Reminders to not only keep doing what you do best, but initiatives to keep improving. Never lose sight of what distinguishes your business from the rest. Learn to identify your strengths and build on them.

Five More Tips to Overall Health:

  1. Look after the details – it’s always about the small details:  Is the exterior fresh and clean? Does a brightly painted door welcome your customers? Is there a bench, an attractive door wreath, or an eye-catching window display that attracts new customers? Do you have an area for weary customers? Does your children’s store have a toy area for children? Do you supply customers with coupons if you have inconvenienced them? Do you greet your customers by name? Do you capture their names on your mailing list?
  2. Look after the expenses – Pay your bills on time: Send out invoices and request payment in a timely fashion. Eliminate unnecessary perks; eliminate waste; eliminate frills that are not important to the customer. Look for less expensive ways to do everything. If not sure where to begin…call your accountant. Better yet, read your expense sheet and cut costs by ten percent. Pay your bills on time. If possible, pay within ten days and get a two percent reduction for early payment.
  3. Grow (innovate):  Successful entrepreneurs are never satisfied with the status quo. They understand that to increase their share in the marketplace the business must grow: better product; newer technology; more effective website; more informed and knowledgeable staff; timelier shipping: better distribution channels; and so on.
  4. Constantly change – re-invent yourself:  A healthy business realizes that change is a constant; change will keep customers coming back. Customers will return to see new product displays, new demonstrations, and new content. Customers will brand your business – as a leader. Keep your customers delighted, inspired and motivated.
  5. Old-fashioned principles are still true:  Keep your business honest, reliable and trustworthy. Stand behind your policies – with no exceptions. Advocate privacy and honesty on your website and in print. Ensure that all practices value those principles. When a business values old-fashioned principles, customers will learn to trust that business and sales will follow. (There are some values that never grow old.)

You will know that your business is strong and healthy when you have difficulty prioritizing the above tips. Is change more important than principles? Are relationships more important than the bottom line?   A business owner that puts the customer (and customer service) to the forefront understands that the suppliers, the product, the service and the staff make up the equation.

The most successful businesses thrive because their owners understand that all aspects of business must be healthy; one area cannot stagnate or be left unattended for the sake of another area. Because a successful business is a component of all best practices – each integrated to make the whole.

A healthy business will enjoy a long life…so integrate five to ten a day to increase your chances to survive. The life of your business might depend on it.

How to Determine Your Hourly Fees

By Randall Orser | Small Business

As an entrepreneur, are you concerned about whether your hourly fees are enough to cover your own salary, your expenses and are enough to secure a reasonable profit? If so, don’t despair. A number of entrepreneurs and small businesses have difficulty determining their hourly charges. Most have these issues when their new business venture first gets off the ground. Only later do they find out that their hourly charges aren’t enough. As such, it’s imperative to clearly define your enterprise’s hourly fees. This involves taking steps to ensure your hourly fees not only cover your salary, but that they cover your direct expenses, indirect expenses and provide a profit. So, where to begin?

A simple calculation to determine hourly fees

The calculation to determine hourly charges is quite simple. Hourly charges must account or the entrepreneur’s salary, their direct expenses, their overhead and their profit. When looking to determine your hourly salary, think of the salary you would be paid if you were an employee of a company. Next, your direct expenses and overhead must be accounted for within your hourly charges. Finally, you’re in business to make a profit. Don’t forget about the importance of securing the profit you’ll need to finance your enterprise’s future growth. It’s never enough to just cover your salary and expenses. You must account for profit in order to secure your company’s future. That profit comes from adding your hourly salary, direct expenses & overhead and dividing this total by your desired profit. We’ll provide the calculation below and then analyze each portion of the calculation in detain.

Calculation: (salary + direct expenses + {overhead or “indirect expenses”}) / profit

Coming up with your hourly salary

Don’t shy away from your hourly salary. If you’ve decided to move forward with your own business, then you’re well within your right to have the same salary, if not more, than you would if you were working for another company. This may require you to research your given profession. Concentrate on defining your hourly salary relative to your experience, where you live and where your customers will be located. Again, it might require some analysis, but you should have plenty of information at your disposal.

Understanding the difference between direct & indirect expenses

Determining your hourly fee means you must understand the difference between direct and indirect expenses and how both play a role in your enterprise’s cost structure. First, direct expenses are those expenditures that go directly to a specific job, product or service. In essence, these expenses include the raw material, parts and labour that cover the production of a given product or the work involved in providing a given service. Indirect expenses are those expenses that are seen as above and beyond a company’s direct expenses. These would include those costs pertaining to gas, equipment and car maintenance, taxes, insurance and other miscellaneous support costs. Indirect expenses are expenses that can’t be attributed to any one product or customer, but who are still an essential part of running a business.

  • Direct expenses: Expenditures that go directly to a specific job, product or service.
  • Indirect expenses: Support expenses that can’t be attributed to a specific job or product, but who are essential in running a business.

The Role of Overhead

Overhead essentially summarizes the company’s indirect expenses. These overhead expenses pertain to those support expenses that are an essential part of the company’s operations. As an entrepreneur, you’re likely just concerned with covering your own time. However, as your company grows, you may need to hire employees. Their salary will become a part of your company’s overhead, as they fall under those indirect expenses that are an essential part of managing your business. The easiest way to calculate a company’s overhead is to take indirect expenses and divide them by direct expenses. Most companies will track their expenditures over a given period. Some may track expenses by week, while others will focus on monthly or quarterly periods. In this case, it really depends upon the size of the enterprise and the fluctuations in those expenses. Small companies have more flexibility in tracking their overhead because they can immediately determine the impact of any minor changes. Larger enterprises typically review their overhead over a given quarter or year. The calculation for overhead rate is shown below.

Overhead rate = indirect expenses / direct expenses

The key is to determine your overhead rate and then use that rate to determine your indirect expenses for each hour charged to customers. This simply involves taking the overhead rate and multiplying it by your direct expenses. Why use overhead when you can simply track indirect expenses? Well, the fact is, as your enterprise grows, you’ll have to track your overhead more closely. Gradually, your overhead will likely level out and become more consistent over time.

The importance of profit

Never forget the importance of securing a profit within your hourly fee. Profit finances expansion and secures your enterprise’s long-term future. Most entrepreneurs simply cover salary and expenses. Therefore, define your enterprise’s profit and be sure to include that profit within the fees you charge your customers.

An example of working out the hourly fee

Let’s assume you work 50 hours a week and that you’ve defined your hourly salary to be $50.00. In addition, you’ve tracked your direct and indirect expenses over a period of one week. Your direct expenses total $3,000.00, while your indirect expenses total $1,000.00. Your direct expenses would be the $3,000.00 divided by 50 hours, or $60.00 an hour. Your overhead rate would be your indirect expenses of $1,000.00 divided by your direct expenses of $3,000.00. This would give you an overhead rate of .33 or 33%. Now, you could just use your indirect expenses of $1,000.00 and divide it by your 50 hours per week. This would give you $20.00 an hour in indirect expenses. Or, you could use your overhead rate of .33 and multiply it by your direct expenses, which would give you $990.00 of indirect expenses, or $19.80 for every hour charged. For this example, we’ll stick with the $20.00 an hour as summarized by our indirect expenses.

  • Salary: $50.00 an hour
  • Direct expenses: $60.00 an hour
  • Overhead or indirect expenses: $20.00 an hour
  • Profit: 20%

Calculation: (salary + direct expenses + {overhead or “indirect expenses”}) / profit

($50.00 + $60.00 + $20.00) = $130.00 / .80 = $162.50

In this case, you should charge your customers $162.50 an hour.

Now, all of this may seem confusing, but the basic approach is to determine your salary, add your direct and indirect expenses and then determine your profit. Be comfortable with tracking your enterprise’s overhead as you will likely be hiring some help in the future. By tracking overhead, you’ll become more comfortable with how it impacts your hourly fees. If it’s simpler to track your indirect expenses at the beginning, then do so. However, be cognizant of the fact that as your enterprise grows, you’ll have to enact strategies to mitigate your expenditures, and that means to reduce your company’s overhead.

Meeting a New Client in your Home Business

Four Steps to Finding New Clients for your Home Business

By Randall Orser | Freelancing , Home Based Business , Small Business

Thinking about starting a home business?  Probably the hardest task for a new business is getting those first few clients or customers.  One of the problems is that most home business owners are not savvy in marketing and hate the idea of doing “sales calls,” therefore many struggle to get enough clients.  Generating business and clients takes a lot of time, but the process can be speeded up by learning how to prospect and guide customers towards a sale or becoming a regular client.  It is reality that many prospects do not say yes on first contact with you, so you need to develop a plan to stay in touch with them until they are ready to buy.  Here are four useful strategies to use:

1.  Make sure that you zero in on your target market:  Make sure that you identify who might want what you are offering and are able to pay for it, anyone else is a waste of your time and money.  It is not enough to send your message out into the world and hope that it will stick.  Defining your most likely client by a number of criteria applicable to your business, makes it easier to find them and to send messages to entice them to check out your product

2.  Build a potential customer and client list: Just as you need a guest list for a party, you need a client list in order to have a business.  

  • Start by making a list of personal contacts for quick and easy sales, then ask these people to recommend you to their friends and contacts. 
  • Call back to your existing customers for resales, it is easier to sell to an existing happy customer than to find new ones.
  • Offer referral incentives to current customers
  • Search out potential customers on the internet and use social media such as Linked in. Participate in Trade Shows or Craft Fairs, these events are good for networking with other businesses that might fit your market.  You can also generate new customers by exhibiting your work.  Even if you don’t make a sale you will probably be able to build your contact list.
  • Join your local Chamber of Commerce and network with other businesses in your area.  Join groups involving your target market and attend workshops that might help you to build your business.
  • Purchase a lead list, however this can be expensive and usually achieves low results, but if you are in a bind this is an option.  If you do a Google search for mailing lists, you will find lots of companies to reach out to.

3.  Make personal contact with your prospective client:

  • Cold calling scares most people but it the best way to contact clients to ask them what they need and tell them what you can do for them.  Prepare yourself by writing an easy flowing conversational script to introduce your product or reason for calling.  Remember telling is not selling so don’t do all the talking. Ask questions and present the benefits of your product so that the focus of the call is on the customer.   End your call with a call to action, such as asking them to commit to a trial period, or get an email or physical address so that you can send them more information.  If they say they are not interested ask if they know anyone who might be and get a referral.
  • Email: while not as effective as a direct conversation it is less scary and a good way to introduce yourself.  Do not send just a “buy” email, instead offer something of value.  Give an explanation of who you are and provide a coupon or other incentive.  Make sure that you include an unsubscribe option in accordance with anti-spam laws.
  • In-person: Make an appointment to meet a prospect on your list or walk into their business.  You can often meet prospects while you are out and about in places such as grocery stores or coffee shops.  You should always tailor your presentation to how you can meet their needs and have sales material on hand such as brochures or samples.  End your meeting with a call to action or promise to follow-up.
  • Traditional Mail:  Similar to email snail mail is not the most effective way to get sales but it is a great way to increase awareness of your business.  Create a postcard, brochure or letter and send it yourself or hire a fulfillment house to do it for you if you have a large volume.   Don’t forget that a personally placed stamp makes the item look less like junk mail.

4.  Follow-up then follow-up again:  When you meet with prospective customers, you will probably hear NO a lot. Sometimes it is a firm no, but it could be a no, for now.  80% of sales are not made on the first contact or the second or even the third contact, it may take more that to make the sale.  It is important to set up a non-annoying system of follow-up, such as an email list or an agreement to call back in a period of time. 

You must keep track of all your communications and there are many free CRM databases available on line that you can use.  Create calendar reminders to follow-up on your phone.  It is important to build a relationship with your prospective clients which will hopefully lead to a sale.  

From an article by Mindy Lilyquist

Things you Should Know about Starting a Business in Canada

By Randall Orser | Home Based Business , Marketing , Small Business

Even though there are rules and regulations that would-be business owners need to follow in Canada, it was still ranked as the third best place in the world to start a business in 2016. In 2019 according to the World Bank’s Doing Business it only took one procedure and an average of five days to register a firm.  However, the ease of doing business ranks at 22 in a range of 1–190. 

If you are considering starting a business in Canada, here are some things you should know:

  1. You need to be a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant to start a business in Canada.  You cannot do it on a student or visitor visa or while on a work permit.  You may be able to form a partnership with other Canadians, but it does not mean that you can reside in Canada, you would need to become an immigrant.
  2. Not all businesses need to be registered.  If you start a sole proprietorship and use only your legal name as the name of your business, then you do not need to register your business with your province.  In Newfoundland and Labrador no sole proprietorships or partnerships need to register their business names.  You do however need to check if your municipality requires you to register your business.
  3. Registering your business name does not protect it from use by others.  Different forms of business ownership offer more business name protection, but none provide full protection.
  4. The Canadian system of Incorporation is very different from that in the US.  Canada has no limited liability corporations (LLCs) other than those of professionals such as doctors, lawyers and accountants.  There are also no S corporation structures in Canada.  Incorporation can be established on a federal or provincial level.  To protect yourself from liability incorporation is always the best form of ownership to consider.

Financing:  Most business start-ups are financed by their owners using their own money.  Most Canadian small business start with less than $5000 according to an Intuit Canada study of entrepreneurship.  There are few grants for Canadian start-ups and those available are usually specific to particular industries, locations such as Northern Ontario and groups of people such as aboriginals.   

Business Loans:  The long-time option for financing both start-ups and established businesses is the Canada Small Business Loans Financing Program.   However there are also other options such government sponsored and non-profit agencies that provide loans as well as private loan sources.

Small Business Taxes:  Business owners can get back the amount of GST that they pay on goods and services consumed during the course of doing business.  Small businesses do not have to register to charge and remit GST if they qualify as a Small Supplier making less than $30,000 per year.  Even if you make less than $30,000 per year you may want to register your business because otherwise you will not be able to claim back any GST you have paid out on business purchases through Input Tax Credits. 

Income Tax Deductions:  Deductions such as Investment Tax Credits are open to sole proprietors and partnerships.  In addition, home based business owners can claim The Business-Use-Of-Home-Deduction and legitimate business expenses and write these off against their business income.  

From an article by Susan Ward

Four Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a New Business

By Randall Orser | Home Based Business , Small Business

As companies all over the country are downsizing and jobs are lost or because workers are retiring but need more income, millions of people have taken to starting their own businesses and are hoping to earn a considerable income through their own efforts. While many individuals have succeeded as small business owners, some were met with failure simply because of inadequate planning. The truth is that starting a new business takes a lot of time and effort; you need to consider certain factors before launching a business. If you’re toying with a business idea you think is going to be a hit, ask yourself a few questions before you take the plunge into the business world.

  1. Do you have time to run your business? So many people mistakenly assume that just because they will be running their business from home, it means they will have a lot of free time on their hands. On the contrary, quite the opposite is true. Most home-based business owners need to work a lot more and a lot harder to match the income they used to make when they were working in a traditional office. This is particularly true during the first few months of running the business. Once your business has taken off, however, you may be able to relax a bit and work less hours. Before this happens, you will probably have to work extra long hours, so that’s an important factor you have to consider.
  2. Are you qualified? Quite often, people think they have a brilliant business idea and find out too late they aren’t qualified to offer that particular service. Let’s assume you’re a mom of four and you’ve just started a business that involves child care. Being a mother of four, you’re quite confident in your capabilities in this field. Your potential clients, however, are likely going to look for an individual who is not only experienced but certified in child care as well. In this case, you will have to get the certification or come up with another business idea where your skills will be put to better use.
  3. Do you have room for your business? Many home businesses start out small. Once your business takes off, however, you may find yourself in need of bigger space for your supplies or your products. Unless you have extra space in your home (e.g., a spare room or garage), you may soon have to expand outside by renting storage space, which is obviously an additional expense. If you don’t want to deal with such problems, think ahead when you are still in the business planning stage.
  4. Are you financially capable of running the business? Money is one of the most significant factors you have to consider before starting a business. Many people underestimate the costs required to set up a business. Even if they take out a loan, sometimes it isn’t enough to cover all the initial expenses. To avoid these hassles and to increase your chances of business success, plan your finances thoroughly.

Make Tax Time Less Stressful with These Seven Tips 

By Randall Orser | Business Income Taxes , Small Business

If you took the time to make a list of all the tasks you need to do to manage your business and then ordered them in terms of how much you liked doing them, where would record management come in? Two hundred and seventy? Or even lower?
But while most of us consider business record management to be scut work and tend to give it a low priority, good record management not only makes our working lives easier, but can give us real stress relief at tax time. Here’s what you can do to make record management easy:

1. Keep your business and personal expenses separate.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But this is the part of record management that trips up most people. If you take a potential client out for a round of golf, for instance, is that a personal expense or a business expense? (The answer is personal, because green fees are not a deductible business expense.) Vehicles that you use for both personal and business reasons are another perennial problem.
You need to know what qualifies as legitimate business expenses and what doesn’t, and be sure that your business record management reflects this accurately.

2. Get sufficient documentation for all business expenses.

Many business people make the mistake of thinking that “lists” are good enough for record management purposes. For instance, they have a list of purchases on their credit card statements, and think that that’s good enough in terms of claiming those purchases as business expenses.
Unfortunately, the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) is more demanding. They do not accept credit card statements or cancelled cheques as sufficient documentation for expenses when an invoice or receipt would normally be issued.
In terms of good business record management, there are two points to bear in mind:
a) Always get a receipt. Get in the habit of asking for a receipt whenever you make a purchase – no matter how small. Little expenses add up, too, and you need the documentation for your business records.
b) Label your receipts, if necessary. There are still businesses around that hand out receipts that don’t have anything on them except the date the item was purchased and how much it cost – which isn’t very helpful when you’re staring at a receipt trying to figure out what the item in question was and which business expense category it fits into.
When you get a receipt, look at it and write the missing/relevant information on it, such as what the receipt is for and the expense category.

3. Get a separate bank account for your business – and use it.

While the fees for business bank accounts are notoriously high compared to personal accounts, a business bank account is absolutely necessary for good business record management. A business bank account helps you keep your business and personal expenses separate. You will deposit all your business revenues into the business account, and withdraw any business-related expenses or payments from the business account only.
What kind of business bank account should you get? A chequing account – preferably one that delivers monthly statements and returns your cancelled cheques to you.
Business cheques help make your record management easy because you can use the memo line on the front of each cheque to document the business purpose of the expense.

4. Have and use a separate credit card for business expenses.

Using your personal credit cards for business purposes will swiftly drop you into a record management quagmire. A business credit card greatly simplifies your business record management by helping keep your personal and business expenses separate. (It also helps make your business look more professional.)

5. Keep a mileage log of your business travel.

If you use any of your vehicles for business purposes, a mileage log will be a big help in record management. Note the mileage (or kilometer) reading on the odometer at the beginning of the year and then enter the mileage by date each time you use the vehicle for a business purpose.
Keeping your mileage log in the glove box of your vehicle will make this easy. If you have more than one vehicle that you use for business purposes, keep a mileage log in each.

6. Keep all your business records for a particular tax year together and in one place.

Having your business records scattered all over the place is a real time-waster when it comes to accounting or preparing your taxes, and organizing your business record management system by fiscal year will make it much easier to find the business records you need when you need them.

7. Keep your business records for the correct length of time.

For some reason, there seems to be a lot of confusion about how long you must keep your business records. For tax purposes, “if you file your return on time, keep your records for a minimum of six years after the end of the taxation year to which they relate” (CRA).
This six-year period starts from the last time you used the business records, not from the time the transaction occurred.
The CRA also has rules about the destruction of business records; see Canada Revenue Agency’s website for details.
These seven things you can do to make your record management easy aren’t difficult. Like a lot of the administrative business related to running a business, they just require establishing good habits and persistence. But if you apply these rules of good record management now and follow through, you’ll see a huge difference next tax time and your accounting will be easier all year long.

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