May 9, 2010 |
Dear Karen: How can we improve sales? Answer: Track sales performance. See where your sales leads originate and which ones are most effective. You can't identify what's working if you're not monitoring it closely. "Identify the real drivers of your business, and stop throwing away money on what's not working," said Jeff Solomon of Leads360, a Los Angeles software firm. "Chances are, one or two sources generate the bulk of your revenue." Instruct your sales staff to respond to inquiries within five minutes, send follow-up e-mail and stay in touch with potential customers.
January 31, 2011 |
Dear Karen: I'm 20, and no one takes my business seriously. What can I do? Answer: Overcome negative perceptions about your youth by running your company in a professional and serious manner. Don't cut corners on things such as licensing or legal agreements. You may be tempted to design your own website to save money, but unless you can produce high quality, don't. "I would say it's twice as hard, at least, to be considered a legitimate and stable business" when you are a young entrepreneur, said Andi Enns, a college student and marketing consultant in Kansas City, Mo. She recommended that you present your youth as an advantage by including compelling stories about your journey into entrepreneurship in your marketing campaign and on your website.
March 14, 2011 |
Dear Karen: How can I save for retirement? Answer: There are simple retirement plans designed for entrepreneurs. You set them up and deduct contributions yourself, without a plan administrator or complex tax reporting, said Margaret A. Kruse, assistant vice president of Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America. SEP- and SIMPLE-IRAs are tax-advantaged retirement plans. If you have employees, you can contribute amounts equaling up to 25% of their compensation into the SEP-IRAs.
December 27, 2010 |
Dear Karen: Is the tax credit for hiring formerly unemployed people going to stay in effect for 2011? Answer: The Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act, or HIRE Act, was signed in March as part of President Obama's $18-billion jobs bill, but it expires at the end of this year, said Brandon Edwards, chief executive of the Tax Credit Co. in Los Angeles. The act provides businesses with an exemption from Social Security payroll taxes for every worker hired this year who had been unemployed for at least 60 days before the hiring.
February 13, 2011 |
Dear Karen: I don't know who can build my website. Suggestions? Answer: Start right and hire a professional rather than a moonlighting student, said Erin Presseau of New England digital marketing agency SilverTech. "Think about what website you envision for your new company and put your initial requirements on a list," she said. If you'll rely on the Web company to formulate business concepts, look for a "digital or interactive agency," Presseau said. If you simply want someone to build a website to your specifications, look for website design and development firms.
April 18, 2011 |
Dear Karen: I have an accountant who keeps good financial records for my company. Do I need a chief financial officer? Answer: An accountant records business transactions and produces financial documents, which is adequate for many small companies. As you grow, you may consider a CFO, who will not only crunch the numbers, but interpret them strategically. "While an accounting manager may be proficient at accurately recording the daily business transactions, a CFO will analyze that data to help you direct your efforts to your most profitable business segments," said Jess Meyers, project manager of Lyndon Group, an accounting and technology outsourcing firm in Orange County.