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What Does Financial Literacy Month Mean for Small Businesses?

financial wellnessWhat Does Financial Literacy Month Mean for Small Businesses

Officially established by U.S. Senate Resolution 316 in 2004, April is recognized as National Financial Literacy month. While many use the month to focus on individual financial wellness and education, it also makes sense to examine what financial literacy means for the small businesses that are the backbone of the modern American economy.

 

According to a recent study completed by Intuit, 40% of small business owners identify as financially illiterate. Shocking, right? Perhaps it’s not when you consider that most entrepreneurs are not financial wiz’s, but instead are people who have a talent for identifying new ideas and nurturing them into businesses. It’s also true that most entrepreneurs are exceptionally busy people, responsible for wearing multiple hats and responsible to several stakeholders. During the business day you may be the CEO, but at home you’re just mom or dad, and maybe even the plumber.

 

Nevertheless, financial wellness is key to business success and this is especially true for small fledgling enterprises. We encourage you use the month of April to take a step back and evaluate how you are doing financially. Here are our top 5 tips for prioritizing your businesses financial wellness.

 

1. Stay Sharp – Continue to Educate Yourself 

  • This April, look for opportunities to continue your financial education. Check out your local Small Business Development Center or even your bank for finance workshops. You can also seek out online financial literacy tools to stay sharp when it comes to managing your business finances.

2. Hire the right accountant and schedule regular appointments. 

 

  • Choosing the right accountant is a big decision, and you will want to consider several factors. Some are obvious, like their degree and specialty. Others may be less intuitive,  like their proximity to your office, your rapport, and whether they’ll represent you in the event you’re audited. Once you decide on the best fit, be sure to schedule regular check-ins to ensure you are on the right track.

3. Control Businesses  Spending  

  • While it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of purchase orders and invoices, it is impossible to control your finances unless you have a sense of who you owe and who owes you. Create a small business budget and make sure that you have a sense of how much cash is flowing through your business each month. Also, watch employee spending and look for opportunities to eliminate waste.

4. Separate Business Spending from Personal Spending 

  • It’s generally a best practice to keep your business spending separate from your personal spending. Doing so can help you avoid tax problems while also saving you time when it comes to balancing your books. We suggest finding a small-business friendly bank, credit union, or other financial institution which can help you manage your business funds at an affordable cost.

5. Start a Financial Wellness Program for Your Employees

 

  • Increasingly, small businesses are offering financial wellness resources for employees. When employees are under stress from their personal lives it can impact their performance in the workplace. In the spirit of financial literacy month, consider what you can do to help your employees become more financially well.

Top 3 Insurance Tips for Cosmetology Entrepreneurs

ThinkstockPhotos-177339901There’s no denying the fact that cosmetology is big business. With nearly $85 billion in annual sales in the U.S. alone, the industry makes up a major segment of the American economy. And it’s easy to understand why – cosmetologists, many of whom are entrepreneurs, tap into a market that captures the most basic of human desires – to look, feel, and smell our very best.

It may not be the most glamorous aspect of the business, but ensuring that you have specialized cosmetology insurance coverage for your specific needs as a healthy and beauty entrepreneur is critical to your success. Whether you spend your days snipping, plucking, coloring, or blow-drying, you need to be sure that you’ll be protected in the event of an accident or mistake. To make sure that you and your business are protected, here are our top 3 tips for getting the right insurance coverage.

 

  1. Don’t Miss the Cut – Keep up with Regulatory Requirements

First things first – make sure that your insurance coverage meets minimum cosmetology insurance requirements. It is important to recognize that coverage requirements for cosmetology professionals can vary by state and locality. There are also federal requirements too. We recommend that you stay in contact with your state board officials so that you’re informed if regulations change.

 

  1. Maintain Your Monthly Regimen – Check into Flexible Payment Options

A penny saved is a penny earned, and checking into flexible payment options can help you avoid fees and lock-in discounts.  Look for providers that offer monthly payment plans to get the most flexibility for your budget. Remember that getting a salon insurance quote should not cost you anything and you can even compare different insurance policies, so don’t be afraid to shop around.

 

  1. Getting the Right Fit – Customize Coverage for Your Company

Make sure your insurance is as unique as your business.  Whether your company focuses on pedicures, acupuncture or blow-outs, it’s important that your coverage is tailored to your specific risks. It doesn’t matter if you’re at fault or if the shampoo girl is to blame; your business could take the fall. Here’s how you can protect yourself.

 

  • General Liability Coverage: General liability insurance protects your business from another person or business’s claims of bodily injury, associated medical costs and damage to property.  For example, a new client enters a salon, trips over a blow drier chord and falls, injuring themselves. The client sues for damages. General liability insurance would protect you if such a claim is made.

 

  • Professional Liability Coverage: Professional liability insurance, also called errors and omissions insurance (E & O insurance), protects your business if you are sued for negligently performing your services, even if you haven’t made a mistake. For example, An aesthetician applies a chemical peel to the client’s skin, but the client had recently had a lot of sun exposure, and the peel causes painful and unattractive skin burns. The client sues the esthetician. Professional liability insurance protects you if such a claim is made.

 

Beauty may only be skin deep, but without the right coverage your liability could run much deeper. Follow our tips and make sure that your business is ready for the runway.

3 Simple Tips for Small Business Cloud Marketing

CloudMarketing is getting more complex for everyone, but for small business owners who often have to do more with less, the field can be even more challenging. Our customers are becoming increasingly media savvy –fast forwarding through commercials and breezing  through traditional print and radio advertisements. At the same time, the number of ways to reach them keeps growing. Needless to say, between staying on top of SEO, websites, a blog, and presences on Facebook and LinkedIn and Instagram, anyone could use a little help. Enter cloud marketing.

To compete in this new and crowded marketing landscape, many small businesses are turning to the cloud to optimize their marketing operations. Defined as the use of the internet and online portals to present products, engage with customers, and push brand messages, cloud marketing has potentially enormous benefits for all small businesses. If you are interested in activating cloud marketing at your small business, follow our top three tips for getting started.

 

1. Get Tech Savvy

Cloud technology tools like Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Oracle Marketing Cloud bring together all of your customer data and marketing programs, cross-checking client behaviors with messages and platforms so you can send the right message at the right time, across devices. These resources can help you  quickly determine which clients should receive a follow-up email with an offer and which prospects could use access to a white paper on your website.

  • Key Benefit:  Each client interaction is seamlessly recorded and used to inform future interaction.

2. It’s All About the Delivery

Marketing is all about timing. You can use cloud marketing to make sure that people see the best message depending on where they are in the buying cycle. No more accidentally sending a new client discount to current customers by mistake. Create content, define when it gets used, load in your customer data, and your marketing is set.

  • Key Benefit: You will save time. It’s like you have a marketing assistant to help control distribution and details of your marketing communications

3. Track, Evaluate, Repeat

You can also leverage the marketing cloud to track how impactful individual messages and posts are, comparing results both across and within target market segments. This tells you who liked which message on which platform and when. You can use that detail to inform how you approach customers going forward.

  • Key Benefit: Better marketing strategy. Once you know what works, you can stop doing all the other stuff.

Regardless of your type of business, it’s likely that cloud marketing can help streamline some of your marketing operations and processes. Adopting new business technology may seem overwhelming  at first, but when done right, you will definitely see the return on investment. So, consider leveraging some cloud marketing as you strive to reach your target clients.

3 Tips to Help Small Business Owners Calculate Payroll Taxes

TaxesIts time to bring out that tax calculator. It may not be fun, but calculating taxes and withholding for employees is a critical task for all small business owners. Both withholdings and taxes are dependent upon several factors  including (but not limited to) marital status, and allowances. For employers, underpaid tax liabilities can equate to fines, late payment penalties and accompanying interest. And for employees, a hefty bill could surface at tax time when they’re not prepared to cover it.

If you are looking for help, payroll software providers like SurePayroll offer several tax calculators on their websites to help you get started.” Whether you plan to pursue help or go it alone, you should review our detailed breakdown of top tips to consider when it comes to each component of payroll taxes and withholdings.

  1. Federal and State Income Tax

Each time a new employee comes on board, have him or her complete a Form W-4. The inputs, including marital status and allowances, determine the amount of federal income taxes to be withheld from the employee’s wages each pay period.

If your employee is unsure of how many allowances to claim or needs additional assistance completing the form, refer him or her to the  federal withholding calculator on the IRS website. Assuming your employees are also subject to state taxation, additional information about income tax withholding can be retrieved from your state’s Department of Revenue.

Key tip: In the event you are unsuccessful at retrieving a completed Form W-4, the IRS recommends classifying the employee as single with zero allowances when computing the amount to withhold.

  1. Social Security and Medicare Withholding

The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) is responsible for the implementation of Social Security and Medicare taxes. Here’s how to calculate these important withholdings:

  • Social Security withholding. Both the employer and employee must contribute 6.2 percent or 12.4 percent total. Earnings of up to $118,500 are subject to social security withholding. Any amounts over this threshold are exempt.
  • Medicare withholding. Both the employer and employee must contribute 1.4 percent. All earnings are subject to taxation.
  • Additional Medicare tax. If the employee is paid more than $200,000 in wages, any payments over this amount are subject to additional Medicare tax withholding of 0.9 percent.
  1. Federal and State Unemployment Tax

The Federal Unemployment Tax Act, also known as FUTA, mandates withholding of 6 percent. However, employers may also be eligible for a credit up to 5.4 percent, which would subsequently decrease withholding to 0.6 percent. FUTA withholding only applies to the first $7,000 in employee wages. It’s important to note that employees who generate earnings in Alaska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania must also remit payment for federal unemployment taxes.

Key tip: To learn more about FUTA and how it should be computed, take a look at the 2014 Instructions for IRS Form 940.

In addition to the federal unemployment tax, employers are also responsible for State Unemployment Insurance (SUI).

With the proper resources on hand and knowledge of the tax code as it relates to your responsibilities, you can ensure withholdings for payroll taxes are calculated properly. Luckily, there’s technology that can make this easier for you. Consider using a software to streamline this process of even consult a small business accountant. It just might be worth it.

4 Ways to Prep Your Small Business for Spring Success

461965361Not all small businesses suffer from seasonal sales slumps, but many do during the winter as the weather hampers both clients and employees. As a season of new beginnings, spring is the perfect time to think about some ways to reinvigorate your business. We’ve prepared a list of four ideas for picking up spring’s sales as winter fades and the high season of summer approaches. Think about this list as a bit of spring cleaning for your business, but also bear in mind that you can use it year round.

  1. Check in with past clients

Winter can be slow for any type of business,  so as spring starts it is the perfect time to grab lunch with a past customer to see how they’re doing, get feedback on their experiences with your business, and ask for referrals.

  1. Energize your staff

Don’t skip weekly staff meetings that emphasize the importance of enthusiastic customer service. Remind employees that they are the face of the company.  Everyone is responsible for continued sales and impressing customers enough to generate referrals. If you have a sales team, consider a special spring  bonus (or even a non-financial incentive)  to keep them motivated.

  1. Have a sale

It’s hard to stand out in a sea of spring sales, but if you market your sale to past customers or your best clients the incremental revenue increase can be significant.

  1. Create lists for work and play

If a spring break vacation  is in your future, make a list of all the fun things you’ll do during that time. Then make a list of what you’ll get done before vacation, tying one or two items on the “work” list to an item on the “vacation fun” list. This can motivate you to burn through the “work” list and will make the “vacation fun” experiences even more enjoyable.

Spring is meant for renewal and shaking off the doldrums of winter. Enjoy the fresher  air and sunshine while also keeping your sales up. There’s no reason to assume the two are mutually exclusive.

4 Business Lessons You Can Learn from March Madness

March Madness and running a small business may seem like they have nothing in common. How Basketballcan a 23-day college basketball tournament help you manage your business?

The NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament is a lot of fun, but it’s also big business and there are some principles you can apply to your work.

Here are four take-aways from the spectacle that is March Madness that you can use to improve your business.

1) Leveraging new technology is always a good idea

Technology never stops moving, which makes some entrepreneurs stop following the changes and just stick with the tried-and-true. But in doing so they miss opportunities to increase efficiency and reach customers with ease. An organization as large as the NCAA, with a multi-billion dollar TV contract, isn’t being pressured to do anything different. But, by making sure games can also be viewed online, they’re making fans happy, increasing fan engagement and achieving higher viewership. Adopting new technology can be disruptive and intimidating at first, not to mention the cost. But, that beats sitting still while your competition moves forward.

2) Embracing competition brings out the best

NCAA basketball players have to put forth their best efforts to advance to the latter stage of the tournament. Each round of the tournament brings higher stakes, and tougher competition.  The same holds true for small business owners. You might think life would be easier without competition, but then what would motivate you to put in 110% each and every day? Competition can help bring out the best in you and your business and push you to higher performance.

3) Being behind can be alright

No one wants to be in second place. But being second-best can have an incredibly powerful motivating effect. Jonah Berger and Devin Pope analyzed 18,000 NBA games and found that teams that were losing by a point at halftime were more likely to win the game than teams who were ahead by one point at halftime. Being behind can be motivating and with determination and hard work it will only be a temporary state.

4) Be Courageous

March Madness is at its most intriguing when it has a Cinderella story, when some relatively unknown team, against all odds, manages to achieve success and take down a powerhouse. These stand-out stories usually happen when a team comes into the tournament with a solid game plan and has the courage to stick to it. Small business entrepreneurs have an opportunity to live these stories  every day. If you’ve done your homework, have a solid plan and are ready to play…Have a little courage and reap the results.

There are likely dozens of business lessons hidden in the 60-plus games that make up each March Madness. We hope these four will help you view the mega-tournament as more than something that’s zapping your staff’s (and your!) productivity, and give you some ideas for bringing the winner’s mentality to your small business.

How KTech grew from an idea in to a business

Bobby Kneisel was working as a systems administrator for a large corporation when he noticed that a lot of the people he knew who owned or worked for small businesses were lacking the IT help they needed. After lending a hand to a few small businesses who needed help, he realized this was something he could build a business around.

ktechlogohigh

KTech launched in 2011 while Bobby was still working a full time job, working nights and weekends as he proved the concept with his first few clients.  By 2013, KTech was big enough for him to leave his job and concentrate on the business full time.

KTech was not only able to provide small businesses with affordable IT support, they also implemented a work and billing system that made more sense for them and their clients.

“We initially started as just time and materials, but after about a year, the managed services model was something I thought would be the best value for our clients because the customer’s cost fluctuated a lot, ” said Bobby Kneisel, President of KTech.  “Our entire focus since inception is to provide the absolute best possible service to our clients and a big part of that is making sure that we keep costs predictable. At the end of the day, what sets us apart is our dedication to providing the best service, highest uptime and highest customer satisfaction in our market.”

Bobby_Kneisel_KTech

 

Bobby Kneisel

CEO

KTech Solutions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KTech is a success and Bobby, his wife and their clients are happy with the company’s progress over the past 4 years and Hiscox is happy to have them as clients.

Here’s feedback from just one happy client:

KTech Solutions, LLC has been the IT provider for Prescription Hope, Inc. for over 3 years.  As a national advocacy program in the pharmaceutical field, it is important that their IT systems are secure and always running properly.  KTech Solutions has made this possible for Prescription Hope.

About KTech Solutions

KTech Solutions, LLC is a IT Managed Service Provider for small to medium sized businesses. We partner with our clients to ensure that their technology solutions are stable, reliable, scalable, and headache free. We provide full support for servers, workstations, laptops, networks, and all the technology in between. In addition, we for our fully managed clients we provide Virtual CIO services. We meet with our client’s quarterly to discuss the company’s goals, the current performance of their technology, and plan for the future. We also provide them with a disaster recovery plan, capacity planning, and replacement cycle planning.

All in all we are a full service IT company, the only things we don’t do are run cable and write code, but we have partners we work with for that too.

5 Types of Toxic Employees

It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is, toxic employees can ruin any environment.  Toxic employees can cause good ideas can get sidelined, enthusiastic employees to become discouraged and kill overall morale.  GetVOIP put together a great infographic on the different categories of toxic employees and how you can reduce their, negative, impact on your organization.

5 Types of Toxic Employees

5 Types of Toxic Employees

Which states have the highest taxes?

It’s that time of year again: tax season. It’s natural for small business owners to consider which states are the most small business friendly when it comes to tax rates. If you could operate your business in a lower tax state, while maintaining, or growing revenues, would you move?

State-Taxes

The Small Business Tax Index 2014: Best to Worst State Tax Systems for Entrepreneurship and Small Business released in April 2014 has all of the data you need to consider a move and some key trends:

  • North Carolina has moved from 38th to 22nd place for lowering its corporate income and capital gains tax rate from 6.9% to 6.0% between 2013 and 2014.
  • Arizona’s corporate income and capital gains tax rates declined from 6.968% in 2012 to 6.5% in 2014, and will be phased down to 4.9% by 2016.
  • Indiana’s corporate income and capital gains tax rate fell from 8.0% in the first half of 2013 to 7.5% in the second half and is scheduled to fall to 6.5% this year.

The report also gives its recommendations for 15 states with the best and worst tax systems.

Best states for small business taxes: Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, Washington, Florida, Alabama, Ohio, Colorado, Alaska, Indiana, Michigan, Arizona, North Dakota, and Utah.

Worst states for small business taxes: Delaware, Wisconsin, Idaho, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont, Maine, New York, Iowa, Hawaii, New Jersey, Minnesota, and California.

While moving an existing business from one state to another is a monumental feat not every business can undertake, it’s helpful to know how your state’s tax rate compares to others. You might even be able to use this information to pressure your state and local governments to ease tax burdens on small businesses in your state.  No matter, what it’s always advisable to have a professional help you with your small business taxes.

How to use social media for your next PR campaign

Many small businesses are waking to the power social media for helping everything from lead generation and brand awareness to customer support and product research.

But did you also know that social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr can actually enhance your ability to connect with journalists and bloggers possibly interested in covering your business?

More and more media use social media to find story ideas to cover and sources for quotes to use in articles and other content they produce every day.

Finding and pitching journalists used to be the exclusive domain of PR agencies with subscriptions to pricey media lists and ‘rolodexes’ filled with best friends in the media. Nowadays, any small business armed with a good story idea and a targeted social media strategy can get the attention of just about any journalist anywhere – provided they pitch the right journalist with a timely story idea.

In order to improve your small business’ chances of getting great buzz in news outlets ranging from local newspapers to national magazines, keep some of these ideas in mind:

KISS: remember the KISS principle? When you reach out on social media, economize the use of your language as much as possible. In the case of Twitter, a popular micro-blogging platform used extensively by media professionals, you have to keep your pitch to 140 characters or fewer.

Research: use your search engine to discover what media outlets and which journalists, bloggers and producers are covering your industry and/or geographic market. If you derive 99% of our business from a 50-mile radius, then focus on media outlets in your immediate vicinity. Some journalists list their email and phone numbers but many more fly under the radar so the only way to reach out to them is through social media.

Make a list: create a hit-list of the media professionals you plan to target and note the date and social media platform used when pitching them. For example, say you email a journalist; you could follow up the email later the same day with a tweet saying you emailed a pitch about something of value and hope to hear back soon.

Protocol: journalists are very busy people and not observing some basic rules-of-the-game could land you in the doghouse. Be sure not to over pitch a reporter (more than 3-5 touches per campaign) or use what might be perceived as aggressive language. If you receive a rejection graciously then thank the journalist for his or her time. Your politeness will leave a good impression and make it easier to pitch your business in the future.

Follow-share-pitch: when attempting to win the attention of a busy journalist on social media it helps to do some stalking first. Read the posts a journalist makes, the articles he or she writes and share them liberally through your social media platforms – namely Twitter. If a journalist posts a lot on Tumblr, a microblogging platform owned by Yahoo, then following and commenting on posts is a great way to begin developing a “virtual relationship” that could make pitching him or her easier at a later time.

Facebook: before using Facebook to pitch your story idea, make sure a journalist actually has a public-facing professional account. Many TV news reporters have Facebook profiles to increase their reach and win followers. Many print and online journalists, however, tend to keep a strict separation of their personal and professional lives. You can always pitch a media outlet’s Facebook page but you may end up getting lost in the shuffle as editors and reporters typically aren’t tasked with monitoring the Facebook page.

Twitter: it bears mentioning that Twitter is the go-to social media platform for media research and outreach. Adhere to the “follow-share-pitch” guidance above and you can’t go wrong. When following journalists, don’t expect to be followed back as many have 1000s of followers just by virtue of their very public position. Use Twitter to get the initial attention of a journalist; if you get a bite, then ask if you can email more details.

Final note: using social media is a great way to augment a traditional approach to pitching a journalist, which involves email and phone calls.  Stay engaged with journalists on social media by becoming a resource to them – share different kinds of news of interest, not always your own. Over time, you will be a valued partner in their discovery and coverage of newsworthy topics, some of which could be about you!

Dave ManzerAbout Dave Manzer:  Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech startup PR firm for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave about the PR over Coffee blog, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

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