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Monthly Archives: August 2015

8 Tips for Small Business Growth for Waukesha County Business Owners

It’s easy to make excuses when you run a business…

“The economy stinks.” (And yes, the Chinese markets have dived 9 percent, and the dollar is taking a tumble too. It does affect you … but wait for what I have to say.)

“Funding dried up.”

“The big chains are killing me.”

“My employees are messing up.”

Etc., etc., ad nauseum. Well, I don’t want to see you falling prey to shifting blame or responsibility in your business. After all, it really does stop with YOU, the business owner, to be the primary driver of revenue and growth which lasts.

You have to be the one to create the surges for your business. It’s tempting to think that sales growth will just … come … on the wings of a strong service or product and “getting your name out.” But that’s an elusive proposition.

We want to be more than just a number-cruncher for you. We want to help you think about ways that you can actually grow. Like these, perhaps…

8 Tips for Small Business Growth for Waukesha County Business Owners
“In actual life every great enterprise begins with and takes its first forward step in faith.” – Friedrich Schlegel

No matter what happens in your business, you can’t be reliant on the “business environment” to improve (indeed, some of my clients are seeing their businesses skyrocket during these “tough times”).

Sometimes you have to make it happen. So, based on what I’ve seen some of my smarter clients pull off, I’ve compiled some ideas for small business growth for the final quarter of 2015.

1. Cut the fat. Yes, now’s the time to review your company finances in a calm and collected manner. Be sure to look at what is being paid on time. Then look for waste and how you can save — there are certain to be a few places where this is possible. Eliminate expenses that aren’t essential to your core business. NOTE: resist the temptation to cut down your marketing!

*Let us know if we can help you analyze your books for cost-saving adjustments. (414) 545-1890 or send me an email by clicking the button at the top of this page.

2. Get to know your clients. Spend time with your customers and find out more about their needs so you can deliver what they want — when they want it. Also, consider sending out a customer satisfaction survey to gain additional insights. Continue offering great service and going above and beyond so that every customer feels as if they are getting the VIP treatment.

3. Stay ahead of the competition. Researching your competition is invaluable for making sure you’re competitive with their quality and service. Also remember that during harder times, some of the people who are laid off may start their own businesses. Monitor the market for newcomers, but remember that you have a head start.

4. Enhance your offers. Cutting prices is one way to make your product or service more attractive, but it’s NOT the only way — in fact, it can be a curse. You see, once you lower your prices, it can be hard to raise them again. So, think about adding other incentives like reduced delivery times or added bonuses instead.

5. Adapt to the market. If you notice that sales are declining in one sector, focus your efforts on areas that are seeing more sales. Don’t waste your time on sectors that are in freefall. If your business is focused on a single product, consider repackaging it, or a different positioning and be ready to cater to people’s changing needs.

6. Invest in yourself. Now is the perfect time to build on your knowledge, skills, and talents by attending conferences, taking a professional development course, or investing in a business coach. It will help position you as an expert in your field and give you a competitive edge. It can seem “expensive”, but often we need to get away from the day-to-day in order to think more clearly.

7. Make more noise. Continue advertising if you can afford it, but look for other inexpensive ways to get the word out. Perhaps start a blog, join social media groups in your field (especially on Facebook), or write a column for a trade publication or local newspaper.

Lastly…

8. Prepare for the good times! Remember that hard times are periodic, and they don’t last forever (especially if you are getting active, like I’m suggesting). Resist the urge to run for cover. Instead, keep doing business … and don’t get caught by shoddy operations or preparations when the surge comes.

Remember … the good times will come again — this is your chance to make sure you’re a part of them.

Feel very free to share this article with 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 SMART Rules to Setting Business Goals

When I get together with my business owner clients, we try to look at EVERY aspect of their business (not just their books) … but also what’s *behind* the books (marketing, sales, management, etc.).

The good news for my business owner clients is that when we put in place clear metrics and financial reports, they shed clear light on strategic decisions.

But the problem I’ve often found, is that OUTSIDE of the financial reports we’re able to create for our clients, there are very few additional metrics in place to evaluate that they’re headed in the right direction — from a strategic, tactical and growth-oriented perspective.

Sure, financial numbers are great — but what are your GOALS? And, I don’t just mean sales goals. What do you want your business to look like two years from now? Five years from now?

Too often, business owners are so busy working “in” their business, that they don’t have the time to work ON these sorts of things properly.

So, I’ve got some words for you this week on the subject: setting business goals right.

Dale Hammernik’s 5 SMART Rules to Setting Business Goals
“Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal.” – Elbert Hubbard

Sometimes as a business owner, you become so overwhelmed, the only thing you can do is take it one step at a time. And, although this may get you through the week, it’s not going to help grow your business. Real growth comes from writing out the goals you plan to achieve — and then putting those goals into action.

Here are five important rules to follow that we’ve found useful with clients in creating metrics and other goals:

1. Specific- Know exactly what your goal is.
2. Measurable- Know whether you achieved the goal.
3. Achievable- Speaks for itself.
4. Relevant- Relates to the big picture.
5. Time Bound- When will you reach the goal?

Did you know … only 3% of the population has written goals?

And, guess what?

They earn far more than the rest.

If you truly want to see improvement and growth in your company, take the time to create SMART goals. Then, be sure to make yourself and your employees accountable for those goals. Otherwise, you will always be taking it a day at a time.

Feel very free to share this article with 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 Fresh Small Business Strategies For You

Don’t you just love Congressional tricks?

One of my personal “favorites” is when they cram a bunch of unrelated business into their bills.

Which is what just recently happened, and it could affect you…

H.R. 3236, popularly known as “The Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015” (yes, that’s how these things are named) brought some tax-law-related changes.

Regular tax returns are still due on April 15th — and a six month extension period is still available. But …

* Partnership tax returns are due March 15, NOT April 15 as in the past. If your partnership isn’t on a calendar year, the return is due on the 15th day of the third month following the close of your tax year.

* C corporation tax returns are due April 15, NOT March 15. For non-calendar years, it is due on the 15th day of the fourth month following the close of the tax year.

* S corporation tax returns remain unchanged–they are still due March 15, or the third month following the close of the taxable year.

On TOP of that, another doozy: audits can get you for six years now, instead of three. Without going into all of the details, essentially if you withhold reporting of 25% or more of your income, the IRS has six years to figure it out. They’ve always had unlimited time for fraud or criminality … but there was some wiggle room for underreporting in the past. No longer.

All this (and MORE!) in one measly highway bill.

So, it pays even more to work with a pro, yes?

These sort of issues are what we specialize in worrying all about — so you don’t have to. Because YOU have to keep your head in a bigger picture. Some thoughts for that below…

Dale Hammernik’s 5 Fresh Small Business Strategies For You
“Remember the two benefits of failure. First, if you do fail, you learn what doesn’t work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.” – Roger Von Oech

Waukesha County Entrepreneurs (like you) know that hard work and a great idea don’t guarantee success. Fortunately, most of them also know that failure isn’t final — almost every successful business owner client of mine has crashed and burned at least once in his or her career.

One of the best ways to pick yourself or your business back up off the ground is to take a fresh look at things that you “thought” were set in stone. Here are some small business strategies I compiled for you to possibly give your business a fresh lease on life, come fall, or into 2016…

1. Re-target your market. In the heat of start-up passion, entrepreneurs frequently try to interest too broad a market: “Everyone will want to buy this!” The result: getting lost in the crowd. The more closely you define your market, the more success you will experience.

2. Re-examine your price. Price is obviously supremely important. See how you can lower your overhead or cut production costs. Perhaps there’s a new way to package your products, so that your average transaction value can go up?

3. Identify and push your best product. Focus on what works. If your hot product is coffee cups, look for ways to highlight and expand that niche instead of veering into new territory. How about different colors and holders for those cups?

4. Make your marketing materials more memorable. Emphasize the benefits — SPECIFICALLY how features of your product or service will improve business or the quality of life for your customer. And scrutinize your advertising. Using big media is not always the answer, especially when you have narrowed your market. Don’t overlook narrowly-targeted marketing efforts, or joint promotions.

5. Keep promoting! Make sure your message sinks in. Find affordable ways to reach your target market, and use these avenues as often as you can. Try social advertising!

These ideas are to get you started. There may be longer conversations to be had. And that’s what I’m here for.

Feel very free to share this article with 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 on Service Culture and the Deadly “Oversell”

I believe that one of the underreported stories in the business world over the last decade or so has been the creation of a thriving culture of service in the private marketplace.

This is an extremely good thing — it means a more pleasant marketplace, and it can actually be a competitive advantage for certain businesses (Zappos is one famous example, and there are others like it popping up everywhere).

But do you think, like I do, that it can be taken too far?

Now, please realize that what I’m talking about is actually not the “after-the-sale” aspect of serving your clients. I’d like to think it’s obvious that I believe it’s extremely important to make sure you can overperform on expectations and provide awesome service.

No, what has become problematic for many small business owners and sales professionals is that this service culture is leading them to create horrible positioning BEFORE a sale is actually made.

And that’s what I’d like to help you think about today, if you’ll let me.

Dale Hammernik on Service Culture and the Deadly “Oversell”
Vision is the art of seeing things invisible to others. – Jonathan Swift

Some say that you must ‘prove to your client that you’re willing to work harder, drive more miles, and bend over further than everyone else to earn his business.’

And, at first glance it seems like foolishness to say that anything less than fantastic customer service is going to cut it in today’s marketplace.

But here’s the problem: Most businesses try to communicate this way too soon, in the process of being way too eager to win the client’s business.

So you end up chasing the prospect, saying ‘Call me any time, day or night, text me, in fact here’s my home phone number. Shoot, I’ll jump out of bed and come and see you in the middle of the night, because man, lemme tell ya, I’m eager to win your business!’

Of course, prospects know that after the contract has been agreed upon, they still likely end up dealing with a bunch of apathetic drones in client service, and their work will STILL probably be late anyway — regardless of how eager the presentation.

That’s why your enthusiasm doesn’t help you.

So here are some tips to fix this problem:

1) Stop acting so eager.

Your client service people ARE busy, and they don’t have time to hold the hands of problem customers. Don’t be afraid to tell your prospects that they have to *qualify* to do business with you.

It’s counter-intuitive, but especially in certain kinds of industries, when the client finds out that you’re not drooling all over yourself to get his business, he’s going to respect you more.

2) *Guarantee* results to the client – with teeth.

Guarantee on-time delivery, specific levels of performance, with negative consequences for YOUR business if it doesn’t deliver the level of accuracy or quality you promised. But you do not have to promise people the moon! You just have to keep the promises you DO make.

This requires support from YOU, the business owner and on down. And most businesses don’t like to guarantee anything. (But when push comes to shove, you still have to deliver results anyway, right? Giving a guarantee often just means clearly stating what’s already true.)

If you aren’t willing to guarantee anything, then may I ask: “Why not?” Why should your clients take all the risk, after they’ve heard a bunch of empty promises which aren’t backed by an actual guarantee?

Even a modest guarantee can enormously empower your sales message. Define what you can and can’t deliver, go to the mat to keep your promises, and draw the line right there. Clients will be far more responsive and you won’t appear desperate.

People are cynical, and they’ll only believe what you can prove. Put something on the line … and they’ll trust you MORE.

Feel very free to share this article with 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