A great way to start 2021 is to take a fresh look at your business finances. Many things changed in 2020, and if you are in the habit of spending on the same items year after year, it’s the perfect time to decide what is essential and what can go.

There are only a few ways to increase profits when you think about it in black and white terms. You can either raise revenues or cut costs. Let’s take a look at where we can potentially cut costs.

Publications

These expenses tend to be monthly or yearly, and we tend to just let them automatically renew time after time. But do we really need them? Take a look in your Dues and Subscriptions account to evaluate what you really need to stay informed, and cancel the rest.

Memberships

If you are a member of an organization or two, what benefits are you getting from your investment? Does it raise revenue for you? Do you use everything the membership offers? If not, it might need to go on the chopping block.

Memberships are especially tricky if the organization provides a local meeting component as a benefit and your state or county has been shut down. There’s a tradeoff right now between supporting the organization so that it’s still there when we can freely meet again and being responsible about your own business costs.

Office/Store Rent

With many employees working from home, the question has come up in many businesses about how much space they really need. As leases expire, consider how much space you really need. Some employees may love to work from home permanently, which frees up space.

Retail stores that have moved their business online may be able to cut back on customer-facing space but might need more inventory storage space. A restaurant that has successfully transitioned to pickup and delivery orders might be able to get by with a smaller seating area.

Software Apps

Are you paying for any technology applications that you are simply not using?  This is a good place to look for cuts.

Some applications charge by number of contacts.  Keeping your lists clean inside these apps will avoid increases and cut costs in some cases.

Office Supplies

Do you really still need things like staplers and scissors on everyone’s desk? If your business is going paperless, you can save a lot on office supplies.

Printing

Do you need to spend money on printing, or can the printed item be delivered electronically?

Shipping/Postage

While information can be delivered electronically, physical goods still need to be shipped.  Make sure you have the best deal with your shipping vendors based on your volume.  You may also need to consider building your shipping costs into the price of the product or add a shipping fee to the bill if you don’t already.

Marketing

A great way to increase profits is to become more intentional about your marketing costs. Are you able to measure what’s working and what isn’t? Or are you doing the same thing year after year?

Marketing has changed so much, even in the last few years. It might be time to implement digital marketing methods, which can be more cost-effective than older, outdated methods.

Labor

Make sure employees manage their time effectively by providing the right training and supervision. This should help to reduce labor expenses.

Telephone/Internet

Has your business changed?  Do you need all those extra features you are paying for?  Could you do without those extra lines?  Would another phone plan save you money on long distance or international calls? Many telecommunication companies will often bargain with you or offer you a new deal just for checking in with them.

This gives you ten places to look to cut costs and correspondingly increase profits for 2021. If you need help reviewing your income statement, please reach out.

A cashless business is one that processes all cash transactions electronically. There is no paper or coin money taken or handled. While no one society has become 100 percent cashless yet, most organizations are moving in that direction.

A business can become cash-free by providing multiple electronic alternatives to payment.  Credit cards are the most common electronic payment implementation. This option most likely includes MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and American Express.  Some businesses also have a PayPal account and offer that method for payments. Venmo, owned by PayPal, is an efficient mobile alternative, but it is mostly used for consumer-to-consumer transactions. And there is also cryptocurrency.

Cashless businesses are more efficient, help to reduce crime, and have a better audit trail of transactions. Going cash-free also saves money and time spent counting the money, storing the money, safeguarding the money, protecting employees at risk of becoming theft victims, and physically going to the bank.

On the negative side, credit card companies charge fees to merchants, although these can now be passed to the customer in most states. Electronic transactions also require a higher level of technology, and privacy is reduced. And while security is an issue, all merchants that take credit cards must comply with PCI (Payment Card Industry) security standards and sign a document each year stating so.

If your clientele does not keep their money in a bank or if they are not able (or have chosen not) to have a credit card, you may need to rethink going cashless. About 20 percent of U.S. households are challenged when it comes to having access to checking and savings accounts. This has led to several state and local laws being passed in the U.S. prohibiting a business from going cashless. Nothing has been passed at the national level as of this writing, however the Payment Choice Act was introduced in both chambers in mid-2020.

The pandemic has accelerated the move to cashless with the desire for contactless transactions. Several countries are leading the way to becoming cash-free as an entire country, including Sweden, Finland, Norway, China, and South Korea. Sweden’s government has been the most aggressive, claiming they will become a 100 percent cashless society by 2023.

Is going cashless right for you? Meeting your clients’ needs is a prime consideration. At the very least, you can move to increase the percentage of electronic transactions and decrease the percentage of cash transactions when feasible.  This measure will save time and money in and of itself.

Year-end is the perfect time to reflect on accomplishments achieved since January. It’s also an important time to put things into perspective as we turn the page and start a new year.

What We Learned

With so much change in 2020, the opportunities to learn have been abundant. Take a moment and contemplate the following:

  • What new skills did you learn this year that you have put to work in your business?
  • What topics did you become wiser about?
  • What situations have you learned to master?

Goals Met

If you set goals for 2020, which ones did you achieve?  Because it was a volatile year, you may have achieved a lot of things that were not planned.  Or you may have simply maintained status quo, which is an amazing accomplishment in its own right in 2020. Give yourself credit for all of that as well.

As we transition to 2021, set new goals to be achieved in your business and record the list so you can look back periodically to monitor your progress.

Gaining Perspective

The circumstances of the pandemic present a constant challenge to keep things in perspective.  Our emotions are exacerbated when we feel threatened, whether it’s about our health or our freedom. This creates the polarization we’ve seen in the news and current events.

Gain perspective by asking yourself these questions:

  • What kind of business person do I want to be in 2021?
  • How do I see my business in five years?
  • What can my business contribute to its customers, employees, and other stakeholders?

Reflect, plan, and gain perspective as we usher in 2021. And have a Happy New Year!

Now, more than ever before, the act of listening is important. Not only is it important to listen to someone, but to effectively listen to them. Sure, we all know that in order to understand individuals, to connect with them and understand their wants and needs, we need to be alert, focused, and mindful. After all, the power of listening—effective listening—will help you get more information from clients, increase their trust and commitment in you, and reduce conflict and misunderstanding.

Below, we’ve included more information on the power of listening, and tips on how to be a better listener.

What It Means To Listen

We don’t need to give you a textbook definition of listening; you already know what it means. However, it is necessary to point out that the act of listening and actually comprehending what a person is saying can lead to strong, healthy, and thriving relationships—all very important qualities in any type of relationships, specifically a business one.

If you don’t believe us, think about the last time you were having a conversation with someone and felt as if you weren’t being heard. How did that make you feel? How did that affect the relationship? Did it make you feel valued?

According to Dr. Carl Rogers, a psychologist, active listening is a specific communication skill. Giving free and undivided attention to a speaker through active listening is the most effective way to achieve individual change and group development.

Isn’t that the ultimate goal? Whether the relationship is professional or personal, don’t you want to establish a solid, mutual ground of respect? It’s the only way for both parties to succeed.

If your listening skills are in need of a little tune up, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered! We’ve put together a list of different ways to help you become a better listener.

Tips On Becoming A Better Listener

If you truly want to become a better listener, then consider implementing these tips into your daily life.

Understand The Benefits

First, it’s imperative to understand that listening to someone is beneficial to both the person doing the talking and you. Nothing bad or negative comes from listening to another person speak, but the complete opposite. Remember, if you thoroughly listen to an individual, it’s more likely that same individual will listen to you when it becomes your turn to speak. The partnership the two of you are hoping to grow can only be successful with mutual listening.

Make Eye Contact

Next, when someone is speaking to you, always make eye contact. This tactic not only shows respect, but it will also help you focus on the other person’s words, what he or she is saying and how they feel.

No Distractions

When sharing a conversation with someone, make sure there are no distractions. Obviously, this means you need to put down your phone and give the speaker your full attention. Don’t worry about what’s going on around you; don’t think about your next meeting or what you plan to have for lunch. Listen, engage, and show the person talking that you care.

Ask Questions

One of the best ways to show the speaker that you are really listening to them, is to ask them questions. Make sure you fully understand what they’re saying by verifying their wants, needs, and/or concerns with specific questions.

Remember, nothing bad comes from listening—only good. The next time someone is speaking, consider opening up your eyes, ears, and mind just a little bit more. In doing so, you will gain the full benefits of the power of listening.

How happy are you with your financial situation right now?  In other words, do you feel personal financial pleasure or pain when it comes to your financial standing?

That is what the Personal Financial Satisfaction Index strives to measure for the typical American.

The PFSi is a quarterly economic indicator created by the American Institute of CPAs. This specific economic indicator weighs a variety of economic factors to calculate the financial standing of a typical American. These financial standings are only computed at a high level.

The main agenda of the PFSi is to calculate the difference between two component subindexes: the Personal Financial Pleasure Index and the Personal Financial Pain Index.  These two subindexes are each created of four, equally weighted proprietary and public factors, which ultimately measure the growth of assets and opportunities in the case of the Pleasure Index, as well as the erosion of assets and opportunities in the case of the Pain Index.

In other words, positive scores of the PFSi indicate that Americans are feeling personal financial pleasure. Negative scores, obviously, indicate that Americans are feeling personal financial pain. It might sound like a subjective emotional measure, but it’s not at all; it’s based on government statistics as well as proprietary AICPA data.

The PFSi has been mostly increasing from the third quarter of 2011 to the fourth quarter of 2019. Since then it has dropped dramatically. With the current pandemic still in place, unemployment and other economic factors have contributed to the drop in the index.  You can use the score as a measure against your own financial security and for planning purposes.

Read more about the index here: https://www.aicpa.org/interestareas/personalfinancialplanning/community/pfsi.html

Or reach out to us and we’ll be happy to answer any questions.