Small Business Tax Deductions – It’s All About Expenses

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There are many things that you can deduct for your small business, but how can you make sure the government will see things the way you do? You might have a list of many business deductions, but making sure they are legit and easy to track is the bigger battle. Setting up deductions as expenses and keeping business expenses separate from personal expenses is the essential first step.

Pay for business expenses from a business bank account, credit card or PayPal.

Many small business owners are able to grow their business quickly, but organize their expenses and look for deductions toward the end of the year. To avoid end of the year angst, it is much easier to use a separate credit card and/or bank account to pay for your business expenses as opposed to constantly reimbursing yourself on the fly.

Keeping things separate will make business expenses easily identifiable when tax time comes. Of course, if your business is a corporation it is even more necessary, as tax reporting is done differently, even if you are a Corp S.

Staying organized all year will also make sure that deductible expenses won’t get lost in the process.

Fund your small business like a bank and avoid lost deductions.

If you need to infuse capital from your personal accounts to the business, develop a loan structure that benefits both you and the business. It is much easier to track and take advantage of interest if you set up loans with repayment schedules that include interest. The beauty of this method is you can set up a payment schedule that doesn’t handicap your growing business while being paid interest that generally gets lost on credit cards. Make sure the interest is realistic and the re-payment schedule is consistent, besides being something the business can afford.

Pay for legitimate expenses right away to avoid scrutiny. Your new business can’t always pay for all the expenses at the beginning, but for tax purposes consistency is important. If you use your car, cell phone, home office or anything else for business, it is best to have the company pay for these expenses right off the bat. Not only will this help you determine the true financial picture of your company, it will also make more sense to the government, should an audit come down the pike in the future.

For guidance on what deductions can be claimed for your small business, look no further than the government. The IRS.gov and SBA.gov have plenty of information to guide you on deducting and capitalizing expenses enabling you to understand now what expenses can be deducted.

Avoid end-of-the-year headaches.

There are many deductions available to small businesses that can be realized at the end of the year, but the more you pay for things right away, the easier your tax prep will be. Understand your business, the expenses that you have that can be deducted and start paying for them right away.

Most expenses like rent from your home/office, utilities, phones and even auto expenses can be set up as monthly payments. It’s simply converting your deductions into expenses that ultimately legitimize your business and avoid scrambling at the end of the year and even IRS scrutiny.

Stay Customer-Centric from CRM through Support

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Each business is different in its own way. Likewise, each customer is different in his/her own way. A single all-encompassing customer support approach might not really hold good in real life. That’s one of the trickiest things in managing a customer support helpdesk.

There’s the customer who gives you so much of revenue directly. Then, there’s the customer who refers so many new customers to you. There’s also the customer who needs a little more help from your side. Oh, and there are many more kinds as well. How do you keep an eye on each of them and serve them differently, every single time?

We’ve finally solved that puzzle. Or, so we think. Zoho Support now has the next level of customization in workflows. You can create request-driven workflows for specific accounts or contacts imported from Zoho Support into Zoho CRM.

So, if Bob is your high-net-worth client, his request gets handled in a certain way. If Tracy is your hot prospect, her request gets handled in a different way. For Example: Bob’s requests can send an e-mail alert to your helpdesk supervisor and Tracy’s can be assigned to one of your senior support representative. You can as well handle, different requests from the same person in different ways.

These are just dead-simple examples. There are so many ways in which you could use this feature to your advantage.

To set this up, you can simply follow the usual steps to create a workflow. But remember to choose your desired field under contacts or accounts, while creating a workflow rule for requests.

George S Patton once said “Always do more than is required of you”. We believe in exactly that. And, with this feature, we hope you’d believe in the same for your customers as well.

Do give it a spin and tell us what you think about it. We’d love to hear from you.

Tackling Traditional and Social CRM Integration

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Not being able to lock down the customer profile is the reason so many companies have a difficult time with CRM integration, said Barton Goldenberg, President of ISM, during a presentation on preparing and launching a social CRM strategy at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City.

Typically, a CRM system consists of customer profiles filled with product information, service information, and outstanding financial information. That data alone gives you an idea who your customer is and what opportunities exist. The problem, said Goldenberg, is that many companies who are building CRM or have a CRM haven’t mastered the customer profile process, which perpetually asks questions such as:

“What information should I gather from which systems?”

“How do I pull it all together?”

“How do I keep it up to date?”

“How do I make sure my sales, my marketing, and my customer service use the profile to identify opportunities to identify, to cross sell, and to up sell?”

Many companies haven’t mastered the customer profile process right from within their CRM system, said Goldenberg.

The complexity of the traditional CRM compounds itself when you integrate the customer’s emotional and sentimental input, a.k.a. social insight. Whether that profile process is solid or not you’re going to try to integrate the social with the traditional CRM.

Now that you’re collecting all this sensitive information about the customer, how can a representative approach the customer so that neither party feels awkward, asked Goldenberg.

Four steps to smooth integration

Here’s Goldenberg’s four-step guide for a smooth CRM-to-social engagement and integration:

  1. Make sure your traditional CRM vendor can deliver an excellent customer profile.
  2. Bring in the social media either through APIs or call outs to social communities.
  3. Listen, filter that information, and use it in your customer engagement system.
  4. Train all users, representatives and customers, to better use the system so it’s not uncomfortable and not a burden for anyone. It should be something that’s desired where both parties want to combine forces to make it work.

Three Tips to Entice Collaboration in the Workplace

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Collaboration is such an awesome idea in principle, but when it comes down to implementation it doesn’t always come out so rosy. The determining factor of any collaboration tool’s success is participation. So before you even think about what tool to use, how are you going to get people to participate?

At the Zoho user conference, Zoholics, in Burlingame, California, I caught up with Jacob Morgan, Principal and Co-Founder of Chess Media Group and author of the upcoming book “The Collaborative Organization.”

One of the chapters in Morgan’s upcoming book is about how you get people to adopt collaboration.

I asked Morgan to offer up three tips:

  1. MUST have senior level support: It can’t just be the CEO saying, “Yeah, you should do this,” but rather he/she has to actively participate and encourage others to participate as well.
  2. Make it part of the normal workflow: People won’t collaborate if it’s an additional thing they need to do on top of their normal workflow. Let them access their current information through collaboration.
  3. Training and education: Teach employees why they should be using the tools, not just how to use them. Invite collaboration in how the organization does business and into the values or mission of the company. You can also use collaboration as a means to review employees. Morgan said some companies are experimenting with this technique.

The Facts about Social Business Adoption

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While those people working with social are getting some value of it, most don’t know how to take social technologies and adopt processes to it, said Esteban Kolsky, analyst with thinkJar after his presentation at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City.

Kolsky’s analyst firm questioned over 300 people in a study about the adoption of social technologies in business.

Here are some of the key findings from the study:

  • Confusion of the value of social networks does not hinder adoption. In general, across all CRM services (e.g., marketing, sales, service) the social aspect still has lots of confusion.
  • Virtually everyone believes that social media will become a key communications activity with customers.
  • Social media is a new set of channels for the business to use, nothing more.
  • The volume of social media information to track and access is overwhelming.
  • Today, adoption of video and pictures is huge. Esteban argues that people relate to the images more.
  • 1 out of 4 senior managers “get” social media as a business tool.
  • Two of the biggest hindrances to adoption of social media are, in order, security issues, not understanding the benefits, and not sure which business cases can leverage social media.
  • The survey was split into thinking and adoption. When it came to questions about adoption, there was about a 50 percent drop off.
  • Marketing is using social simply to provide information.
  • Only 37 percent see social as an area for escalation which is the opposite of what customers do. On Twitter, 93 percent of interactions get escalated.
  • Knowledge creation and knowledge management are going to drive social in the service space.
  • For employees, they found usefulness with their corporate blog, Twitter, video, pictures, and the social business platform.
  • 43 percent have been using social media for more than 24 months.
  • 39 percent of people believe that social CRM is not applicable, are not using it, and are not interested in using it. Esteban believes this number is low since they sent a certain percentage of surveys out via social media.

Current state of social

Right now, content is the key aspect of social CRM. There’s little understanding as to how generation, management, tracking, and reporting work with social. There’s no strategic plan, yet. Next stage is analytics and measurement and then finally the goal will be a collaborative enterprise, said Kolsky.

CRM 2.0 is for Sales Management

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What is your sales staff doing to help sales management figure out which customers to go after, asked Jim Dickie, Managing Partner of CSO Insights in his presentation, “CRM 2.0 for Sales Management,” at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City.

To develop your business, you have to find great sales people specific to your business and second, find the right customers to help your business grow.

Sales DNA assessment

You want people that will not only be successful but will also want to stay for a long time. You can determine that by looking at these three criteria, advised Dickie:

  • Innate Talent: Are they strategic or tactical? Long term or short term?
  • Culture Fit: How do they fit within the culture of the organization?
  • Acquired Skills: Will they be happy here over time? Even if you bring on a great salesperson, but they’re not happy, that’s a bad hire.

What customers should you go after?

Salespeople often go after high performance customers, meaning those that are great consumers of your products and services. Problem is these customers could be low potential meaning you’ve maxed them out. Dickie suggests you seek high potential customers that are low performing. There’s greater opportunity in that space.

In sales today the sin is not to lose. The sin is to take too long to lose. That’s why analyzing your pipeline can’t be a once a year process. It has to be ongoing. Dickie argued that it’s OK to have a decreasing pipeline if you’re getting more out of the customers you’ve already got.

The Sales Ecosystem

The sales ecosystem is a combination of things that are in and out of your control. You must constantly deal with economic shifts, competitive landscape, political environment, and prospecting. Even if you come up with the best strategy to handle it, nothing’s going to happen unless you have the culture to support your strategy.

Hiring the right talent, finding customers with great potential, and building a strategy with the right culture, is the great new potential of sales management.

Dickie concluded with this thought from Allan Lam, SVP for Fairchild Semiconductor:

“Do I have the capacity to persevere? Do I have the stomach to face failure? Let’s be really frank. If you embark on a journey like this and two years down the road the efforts are not showing any results, you can lose your job, but I also believe that if you don’t do anything, you are going to get fired anyway.”

SimplyCast Integrates with Zoho CRM

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This is a Guest Post by Michael Cusden, Marketing Manager at SimplyCast.

The entire team at SimplyCast is thrilled at the addition of Zoho CRM integration to our list manager. Since it is our goal to help our clients access important customer data no matter where it is stored, it only makes sense to include Zoho.

SimplyCast’s all-in-one marketing solution & Zoho CRM are used by businesses to manage customer information in order to create targeted online campaigns. SimplyCast is an web-based marketing platform that provides users with automation and the ability to engage with clients on the preferred mode of communication.

A key component of SimplyCast is its all-in-one model that lets users create professional email, survey, voice, event, fax, SMS, press release and Twitter campaigns from one account and send accordingly.

SimplyCast selected Zoho for CRM integration because of Zoho’s proven ability to provide high levels of functionality and performance, and to provide an automated way to import contacts from Zoho CRM to their application.

Zoho CRM integration enables Zoho users to manage their leads and contacts making sure online marketing campaigns managed in SimplyCast always have the right lead, prospect and customer information included. Users will have the ability to seamlessly upload contacts, leads and prospects with no exporting from Zoho CRM or worrying about incorrect customer data. Read more