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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Thankful for the Journey at Hammernik & Associates

It’s a slower week, here in Hammernik World. And I have some thoughts, which are perhaps a bit more meditative than normal because of how this holiday works for tax professionals.

The December holidays are wonderful, of course — but they are a calm before a big storm (tax season). We’re usually furiously prepping for the season, and seeking to understand the last-minute tax code changes that Congress often foists upon us.

And this year we’re contending with an entirely new layer of complexity by handling insurance reporting requirements on tax returns. Pretty complicated preparations for that are still underway.

Which makes this week a little sweeter. Yes, we’re preparing, but it’s not so … frantic.

So, this week of thanks — I’m beginning by looking back.

And when I do, I’m reminded of my firm’s many blessings. For instance, I do NOT take for granted that you have chosen us to walk with you as we give you advice and help take care of your business, especially around tax time. It’s hard to trust your “baby” (your business) to another, and we don’t take it lightly.

And maybe you can relate to this one: I also look back this week on the journey to get here. As anyone who runs their own business will agree, it’s a giant leap to go out “on your own”. I still remember what it was like to take this dream I had for Hammernik & Associates and put it into reality. I was a little bit scared, but I was hopeful. I remember the friends and other business-owners who helped me along the way … and how risky it all seemed.

Well, the risk DID pay off of course, and I’m happy about what we’ve been able to create around here at Team Hammernik. Now we get to be the ones helping people pursue THEIR dreams.

For a new business owner, the first step seems really big … until the next step comes! And then you realize that running a business is a series of these decisions … you become a good risk-taker, if you stay in it for long.

But it sure helps to have somebody with a cold, clear eye to make sure you know what you’re getting into.

Which brings me to what I’m thankful for this year, as a business owner … and hopefully as your friend.

As I gather at my table with family and friends this season … I am thankful for you — and people like you. Thank you for your trust, for your business year after year … and for making my first step into starting and running a tax firm “way back when” so rewarding now.

And what I’m excited about as we head towards the end of 2014 … well, here’s to helping YOU keep the IRS off your back in 2015!

Looks as if we’re all going to need it …

Warmly (and until next week),

Dale Hammernik
(414) 545-1890

Hammernik & Associates

Dale Hammernik’s 4 Steps to Business Networking Done RIGHT

Before I get to the meat of my article today, I did want to encourage you, as a business owner, to take a good, hard look at your revenue for the year so far, and consider a few tax possibilities before it’s too late.

1) Project your income for the year and estimate your basic tax bill.
2) Defer income if possible. Always a good strategy, unless you’re due extra deductions and credits this year.
3) Accelerate deductible expenses.
4) Consider a 179 Deduction (taking an immediate deduction for CapEx instead of depreciating it). Extender bills in Congress could increase the limit for this from $25K to $500K. Stay tuned.
5) Consider opening retirement accounts.

Those five above are some “quick and dirty” tactics that every business owner should apply before year-end. If you want to get more granular (and in my opinion, you should), let’s get on the horn: (414) 545-1890

Now … I’ve been to my fair share of conferences, seminars, BNI groups, etc. etc. ad infinitum. And I’ve seen “all types” in those settings. You’ve probably met a few of them yourself in your own dealings…

First, there’s the Business Card Bandit — slinging out their contact details like a carnival barker, and always glad to tell you about what they do. Then, of course, there’s the Network Marketing Mavens — eager to have you discover their fantastic business opportunity. The “I’m-Here-Because-I’m-Here-Every-Week” Banker is always a reliable staple. Oh, and let’s not forget the radio salespeople!

Anyway, I’m sure you could add your own little list. But the subject of my post this week is about doing these groups RIGHT.

And, if you’re smart, you’ll also see that this post is not just about networking groups … but that there are hidden marketing gems in it for online and offline marketing as well.

Dale Hammernik’s 4 Steps to Business Networking Done RIGHT
“For our own success to be real, it must contribute to the success of others.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

If you want to succeed in your business, then meeting people who’ve already succeeded before you is going to be a huge help. In fact, this could be the sole difference between success and failure. But how do you network locally and at seminars? Learn from my mistakes… and from my many years of seeing these groups work. Because this “mini crash course” I’ve put together will help you build relationships that’ll help boost your network AND your business.

And, of course, these tips hold true in online networking, as well.

1) Make Friends First
In my experience, this business axiom holds very true: “All things being equal, people prefer to do business with people they like. All things not being equal, people still prefer to do business with people they like.”

If you want someone to share with you their success techniques for building their business, then the first step is to build a friendship with them. Get to know them as human beings and allow them to get to know you. Show a little vulnerability, as well as curiosity and interest towards them.

Once you have a bit of a relationship, THEN talk business.

2) Give First, Before You Take
Perhaps you’ve discovered a marketing or management technique that’s been working really well for you — so don’t horde it for yourself. There has to be some “give” as well as “take” in any kind of business relationship. Share your knowledge and your insights freely, and others will do the same.

3) Take The Next Step: Join a Mastermind Group
Meeting with other like-minded people on a regular basis can really help drive you forward.

There are two important things that happen when you’re around other people like yourself: First of all, you get to share ideas, techniques and stories that’ll help you figure out more ways to be successful.

The other thing that happens is that you start to build off of each other’s momentum. If one person is making more money than the others, everyone else will start making more money. Everyone will start taking more action. The energy begets more energy.

If there isn’t a mastermind group near you, then start your own group. It’s not that hard to find like-minded people near you. Get these people together and ask them to bring people they know. Soon, you’ll have a great group of like-minded individuals.

4) Find a Mentor
If you’re bringing in $20,000 per month to your business, and want to be doing $50,000 a month, then find someone who’s making $100,000 a month.

This relationship can be a paid relationship, a friendship or a mastermind group relationship. Whatever you need to do, just make sure you have someone in your life who’s where you want to be financially. This will have a magnetic effect on your finances. You’ll slowly but surely start making more money.

The bottom line is: WHO you spend time with has a great deal of influence on your success. So make sure you’re networking properly — that you’re spending your time with the right people.

Feel very free forward this article to a Waukesha County business associate or client you know who could benefit from our assistance — or simply send them our way? While these particular articles usually relate to business strategy, as you know, we specialize in tax preparation and planning for Waukesha County families and business owners. And we always make room for referrals from trusted sources like you.

Warmly (and until next week),

Dale Hammernik
(414) 545-1890

Hammernik & Associates

Dale Hammernik’s 5 Marketing Rules for 2015

Have you noticed that traditional styles of advertising are getting more and more stale?

That’s because the internet has torn down so many different barriers that we don’t realize how much has changed, until we take a look at the real numbers. And across many different businesses that friends of mine own, in many different industries, we’re seeing “traditional” ads become increasingly obsolete (i.e., those featuring the name of the business, and a basic listing of the services provided).

So look — I’m not a marketing guru. I come alongside families to prepare them for painful trials, down the road. That said, I’ve learned that there sure are plenty of other accountants out there who would love to take my clients from me.

So I’ve had to learn to stand out a little bit — and the best way, today, is by writing to connect deeply with prospects.

So, I’ve cobbled together some great advice on effective marketing writing, no matter the industry. It’s a difficult subject to attack broadly, but these principles can serve as a useful checklist for you when you sit down to put together your advertisements.

Let me know what you think — and do let me know if there is any way that my staff and I could assist you before year-end.

Dale Hammernik’s 5 Marketing Rules for 2015
“It doesn’t really matter who you used to be, what matters is who you’ve become.” – Robert Tew

There’s a big difference between the stale advertisements of earlier days — and the kind which is working today, in the age of social media and the boundary-free internet. The difference comes down to writing your marketing in such a way as to build a real connection with your clients and prospects. Those of my business owner friends who work to build that real connection do see the difference in their results.

So how do you advertise and write in such a way that actually draws people in and builds connections? Here’s how.

1) Share Yourself
Chances are, you’re not the only person selling what you’re selling, right? But people will listen to what you’re saying, not only because of your content or products, but because they enjoy hearing you share your actual experience.

If you’ve had a specific experience that relates to what you’re talking about, share it. Believe it or not, this can actually have a big impact on people feeling like they can trust you. They’ll feel as though they know you more. The internet has torn down the false wall of impersonality. The pathway to profit lies behind it.

2) “What’s In It For Me?”
The old “WIIFM” question is one you should answer as quickly as you possibly can, in any kind of marketing piece. Marketing content which rambles on and on without being crystal-clear about what the reader is getting does not get read (or acted upon), period.

Not only should your WIIFM be totally clear, but you should put it as early in your content as possible. That way, people will know why they should keep reading as soon as they start reading.

3) Be Conversational
Write like you talk. Don’t use corporate fluff-speak. You’re having a person-to-person conversation — just over the internet, or through a piece of mail.

Use slang. Start your sentences with “and” or “because” if it sounds natural to you. And, most importantly, put your passion and spirit behind your words.

4) Let It Sit
Before you publish or send out your content, let it sit for a day or two. Then, come back and review it one more time before you publish it. Often, the second time around, you’ll pick up on things you didn’t the first time. These could be grammatical mistakes (though these aren’t always a killer), or it could just be more information you can put in that will make your content even better.

5) Show Your Credibility
There are so many people on the internet giving different advice, it’s hard to know who to listen to. Have you helped over 1,000 people solve this specific problem? Make sure they know that. Have you been featured on Fox and CNN? Make sure that’s plastered all over your website. Have you done exactly what you’re teaching, in spades? Make sure they know that.

In short, the questions of “why should I listen to you?” and “why should I trust you?” should be answered before you ask your readers to take your word on something.

Here’s the bottom line: If you write in a way that really connects with your readers, you’ll build more internet traffic, more responses, more loyalty, more referrals and more sales.

Write to connect with your prospects.

Feel very free forward this article to a Waukesha County business associate or client you know who could benefit from our assistance — or simply send them our way? While these particular articles usually relate to business strategy, as you know, we specialize in tax preparation and planning for Waukesha County families and business owners. And we always make room for referrals from trusted sources like you.

Warmly (and until next week),

Dale Hammernik
(414) 545-1890

Hammernik & Associates

Dale Hammernik’s Last 2 Keys to Chopping Costs Correctly

Since I make it my practice to put together this missive on Monday mornings, I don’t yet have any commentary about this week’s midterm elections. Once everything settles out, I’m sure I’ll have something to say.

Because there are so many “hidden costs” with all of our everyday decisions (in business AND life) … and I simply can’t turn that part of myself “off” when I look at the decisions made by politicians (nationally AND here locally), and by other businesses.

And of course, there are the very real, not-so-hidden costs which we started talking about last week.

So I’ve put this together, to help you as you consider these decisions — but also as a friendly reminder that I’d love to figure out a way that my firm could come alongside you and your business, and help you eliminate the “hidden costs” of poor planning.

Dale Hammernik’s Last 2 Keys to Chopping Costs Correctly
“If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work.” – Thomas J. Watson

Last week, you and I discussed how to reduce overhead expenses, as another way to help your business thrive in this economy.

We talked about how one of the most expensive overhead items for almost any business is payroll. So, in this week’s post, I’ll share with you two more ways to reduce the cost of payroll. Here they are:

3) Hire slow, fire fast.
This is a somewhat “tried and true” adage…and it’s that way for the simple reason of its eternal truth.

Please…don’t hold on to people that aren’t contributing to the success of your organization. Firing someone is tough work for any small business owner, but if it’s got to be done, you’ve just got to do it. And do it NOW!

A quick tip: identify some clear benchmarks for a struggling employee to meet. If they continue to NOT meet these guidelines, you’ve got a safe standard to point to, if the firing ever gets dicey.

Now you can avoid poor hiring decisions by simply spending more time in the hiring process. This can be difficult, if you’re feeling the need for more help — but it really does pay off.

Develop an interviewing and screening “system” (i.e.–don’t go with your “gut”) to use when searching for new candidates, and have a few people in your company interview the candidate. Avoid “open-ended” questions, and ask your candidate to specifically identify successes and failures from their past.

4) Start by establishing clear deliverables and deadlines with every employee.
Then, set aside time on your calendar to “inspect what you expect”. As I’ve mentioned before, don’t just “assume” that because you assigned a project to an employee, it will get done satisfactorily! (You know what happens when you “assume”.)

Take time to inspect the results and to give constructive feedback to your employee. It’ll be a great way for both of you to make sure that your business is running on all cylinders.

Feel very free forward this article to a Waukesha County business associate or client you know who could benefit from our assistance — or simply send them our way? While these particular articles usually relate to business strategy, as you know, we specialize in tax preparation and planning for Waukesha County families and business owners. And we always make room for referrals from trusted sources like you.

Warmly (and until next week),

Dale Hammernik
(414) 545-1890

Hammernik & Associates