Why Strategic Planning Is Important for Small Businesses Too

Whether you’re just starting out or looking ahead to how you’ll scale your growth over the next few years, having and managing a strategy for the future of your small business is important. Too often, small businesses can conceptualize the value of strategic planning but ultimately back away, thinking that the scope of that type of strategy is better intended for larger operations.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Strategic planning is a business solution that can benefit operations of all sizes – from a small “mom and pop” local business to the largest corporation. We know that 70% of businesses that use a formal process for managing their strategy outperform those that don’t.

That last thing you want for your small business is to be on the wrong side of those numbers. Here is why strategic planning for small businesses is so important today.

Why Does Any Business Need Strategic Planning?

No business opens its doors with a plan to fail. Every business has their sights set on the future, and in order to make that future a reality, a plan that outlines goals and a strategy for achieving them is crucial. Without a plan, you’re just stumbling around in the dark, holding your breath and hoping you make it over the next hurdle. Strategic small business planning puts a system of procedures in place that will guide your business to meeting each of its goals and achieving measurable growth.

This type of planning looks different for each business. Some will strategize a rigid approach to short term goals, while another might plan for growth over a five-year period with room for flexibility to adjust to shifting business trends. Either way, strategic planning keeps businesses focused on the future, and prevents them from taking a hit from unexpected challenges along the way.

Key Points of Small Business Planning

Perhaps the biggest benefit from strategic planning for small business is that it provides a path of action to follow. Markets aren’t as predictable for smaller operations, and it’s easy to stray off course. An effective, comprehensive plan will include at least five basic elements.

  • Mission or Objective: What does your business do, what purpose does it serve and how will it enhance the lives of consumers now and into the future?
  • Business Goals: Where do you see your business in 2, 5 or 10 years? Small businesses are best served by focusing on the goals that will grow their operation in the next 2-5 years.
  • Strategy: A detailed strategy for meeting each of the outlined goals.
  • Implementation: Execution is where many small businesses fall short. Strategic planning includes an action plan that outlines strategy implementation step by step.
  • Monitoring: Things change. Consistent monitoring helps recognize strong and weak points, as well as identify when you need to adapt to market shifts.

Keeping It Simple

The idea of planning for the future can be overwhelming. There’s no reason to make the process more complicated than it needs to be. A simple, actionable plan is better than no plan at all. It’s also important to remember you don’t have to take on this challenge all on your own.

We offer solutions designed specifically for small, growing businesses just like yours. If you would like to know more about identifying and implementing a strategic, actionable plan for your future growth, contact Steiner Business Solutions today.

Steiner Business Solutions Voted RTD The Best, Local Accounting Firm 2018

Richmond, you have voted for the fourth year in a row, and the winners are in. After 312,310 votes, you have selected your favorites in 109 categories, from The Best Brunch to The Best Furniture Store to The Best Auto Repair.

The votes are in – Best Local Accounting Firm in Richmond goes to Steiner Business Solutions!

Our staff is thrilled to win this award from the RTD. We share this honor with all our clients, friends, family and business partners. We love all of you! We’re keeping our foot on the gas and making a difference in the small business community. #RTDTheBest

3 Important Tips for Hiring the Right Fractional CFO for Your Small Business

As your small business matures, so does its needs. While in the beginning you may have been able to handle all the functions of your business operations with a smaller, unspecialized staff, you’re quickly coming to the conclusion that what you’re currently working with is no longer meeting the needs of your growth driven operation.

One of the most important positions in your small business is that of a CFO. At the end of the day, it’s the CFO who makes sure you’re using financial strategies for growth and profitability. Running a small business without a CFO is doable, but it can be difficult. The responsibilities handled by a CFO are not ones that you want to overlook or delegate to the wrong person.

You might be thinking about bringing in a dedicated CFO, but the sticker shock of their salary is causing some hesitation, or maybe you’re wondering if you need someone in the position full time when your business is still relatively small. Hiring a fractional CFO is a solution to both these concerns, but choosing the right one is an important decision. Here are three things to consider before you decide.

Understand What an Outsourced CFO Does

The first thing to do is make sure you understand what a fractional, or outsourced, CFO does and what their role in your business will be. A fractional CFO is someone who performs financial officer responsibilities for your business, on a part time basis, commonly from a remote location with occasional onsite visits. They’re there to work with you and your management team, point you in the direction of financial success and take care of the practicalities that your current team doesn’t have the time or professional skill set to handle. Cash management, capital needs assessment, margin analysis, pricing, and forecasting are just a few areas of interest CFOs can help with.

Know What You’re Looking For

Don’t assume that because an outsourced CFO isn’t working in the office next to yours that chemistry isn’t important. You’re putting your financial future into this person’s hands and having a level of respect and trust in them is non-negotiable.

Don’t hesitate to ask any potential fractional CFO about their practices, and how they’ll approach the unique financial aspects of your business. You shouldn’t settle for a one-size-fits-all approach, but instead look for someone who can pinpoint how your business is different and be able to come to you with solutions that fit.

Know Where to Go

The financial health and future of your business is far too important to trust in the hands of just anyone. While some CFOs will work independently, you will often find the most experienced, highly-qualified candidates working alongside other professionals in a company that provide a range of business services. Your fractional CFO should also specialize in working with small business clients.

We’re dedicated to providing you with the expert CFO services your small business needs. The integrity of our team affects our reputation and yours, and there’s nothing that we’ll let tarnish that. Contact Steiner Business Solutions today to learn more about our expert CFO consulting services.

4 Crucially Important Things to Know Before Acquiring a New Company

For many businesses, the absolute fastest path to growth is to branch out and acquire another company. The process that takes place during an acquisition, whether it’s the company’s first or their tenth, is extremely influential in the long term, overall success of the agreement.

While an acquisition might cost more upfront than other growth strategies, the payoff is worth the risk – as long as you’re thoughtful during the acquisition process. Many businesses that are approaching the acquisition process for the first time understandably have questions. The process to acquire a company is complex, however, we can start by talking about the four most important things to know before you begin.

The Connection Between Acquisition and Brand Image

It’s easy to look at a potential acquisition and see dollar signs, but it’s more important to step back and assess how well the company you’re looking at is aligned with your brand image and core values. This is important for several reasons.

First, there is always an adjustment period with a new acquisition – always. This period can be extremely difficult to navigate if you’re devoting all your resources to aligning your core values and processes. Choosing a company that’s already aligned with your basic mission, values and operations will provide for an easier transition.

Secondly, merging or acquiring a business that’s a complete disconnect from your core brand gives the image that you’re off playing in left field with no real idea of what your business focus really is.

Due Diligence

Due diligence is a necessary part of the M&A process. While you’ll likely have help with the legal aspects of due diligence, you need to start doing your homework before you even consider contacting the appropriate players about an acquisition.

You should start by researching every bit of information about the company that’s available publicly, including seemingly benign elements such as blog posts and social media action. These are all pieces of the puzzle that will help you assess the brand’s validity.

Secondly, once you connect with them it’s important that you leave no stone unturned in researching their financial information, quality of their staff and their corporate culture.

Know the Costs

The main number that gets looked at when considering an acquisition is the negotiated upon price. However, it’s important to look well past that number and determine how the operating costs of the newly acquired company will impact your overall cash-flow.

For example, you need to have a solid understanding of their monthly operating expenses, payroll, overhead, and the anticipated costs associated with any training that may be required with the acquisition.

Assemble Your Team

One of the most important assets you have in the acquisition process is the team that will make your dream of growth a successful reality. You need professionals who are skilled in all aspects of the M&A process – including due diligence, business valuation, deal negotiation and much more. Make sure you have this team in place before you begin the process.

If you’d like to know more about how to acquire a company and set your own business on a successful growth trajectory, we’d like to speak with you. Contact Steiner Business Solutions today to learn more.

 

NOW Is the Best Time for Business Tax Planning to Save On Taxes

Alleviate anxiety and panic later on in the year and help your business’ bottom line by prepping for tax season early. The best way to save money on your taxes is to get started on them well ahead of time.

Plan Your Approach

Timely tax planning is the secret to success come April 15th. When it comes time to file your taxes, the first thing you need to do is get your records in order. This can be a herculean task if you haven’t organized paperwork since the last time you filed your taxes! The best thing to do is to establish a system that you can adhere to with a modest amount of effort the whole year through. It’s also important to know in advance some of the deductions you’ll be planning on taking.

One of the most illuminating examples is that of business-related expenses for your vehicle. If your personal vehicle doubles as your work vehicle, you can deduct business-related travel expenses. There are two ways you can file for this deduction.

Each year, the IRS puts out standard mileage rates—what it considers to be the cost of operating an automobile for business. In 2018, that rate is 54.5 cents for every mile of business travel driven. However, you have the option of calculating the actual cost of using your vehicle. Keeping careful track year-round will allow you to choose the method that results in the larger write-off.

Keep Careful Records

Income, expenses, receipts—it all has to be kept and sorted appropriately. This is the information you’ll need to reference when you file for deductions on your tax return. Without having everything in order, you’ll end up missing out on valuable savings on your tax return. It’s important to maximize your deductions no matter what, but in the early days of a small business, this methodical approach to small business accounting can be the difference between keeping the lights on and closing up shop. The travel example above is only one of many ways that a little record keeping can result in real savings for your business.

Get Timely Advice

Tax law is constantly changing. It’s a job in and of itself just to keep up. As a small business owner, there are already a lot of hats you’ve got to wear. Most small business owners don’t have the time to add another. For this reason, businesses often fail to avail themselves of beneficial tax provisions. And we’re not talking about little-known loopholes. There are tax provisions designed for the express purpose of aiding the growth and prosperity of small businesses. Learning about these after it’s too late to take advantage of them can certainly sting.

Seeking outside aid for business tax preparation may seem like an unnecessary expense, but if you do your research and enlist the aid of a company you can trust, it’s one of the best investments you can make. Here in Richmond, VA, Steiner Business Solutions is ready to help you get started now on planning your taxes. Give us a call today at 804.525.4259 and reap the rewards come tax time.

How Business Consultants Can Help You Scale and Grow Your Small Business

Every small business shares a desire to grow. However, keeping the lights on can often seem like an incredible challenge in and of itself. So how do you place your small business on a solid foundation, and chart a path to the next level? That’s where small business consulting comes into play. The right business consultants provide two key things: experience and perspective.

Bridging the Knowledge Gap

Where you are and where you want to be is often a matter of bridging the gap between what you know now and what you need to know. It can be costly to bring on employees with that knowledge and time-consuming to gain that knowledge on your own. But business consultants provide a cost-effective means of tapping into the knowledge you need.

True knowledge is gained through experience. When you hire a business consultant, you’re looking for someone who’s helped businesses like yours navigate the trials and challenges that lie ahead. This experience means they can help you avoid pitfalls and get where you’re going faster.

Seeing Things Differently

The right business consultant will tap into their experience to provide you with a new way of looking at things. When running a small business and managing all of the responsibility and stress involved, it can be hard to see the bigger picture. Fear, doubt, pressure, and ambition cause many small business owners to batter away at challenges over and over again, often taking the same approach each time. A business consultant can bring in new methods you haven’t tried yet, allowing you to deploy your resources in novel ways that have proven effective for others.

The Three Pillars of Small Business Consulting

Knowledge, experience, perspective—a qualified business consultant can bring all of these to your organization. But what exactly will they do for you?

Identify Problems

As a small business owner, you may be at the mercy of a problem you can’t identify. Let’s say, for example, that your sales have plateaued, or even decreased. Before you can strengthen your sales, you need to figure out what’s stalled them or hurt them in the first place. Is there a problem with the quality of what you’re selling? Has a new competitor entered the field? Perhaps you’ve made the effort to offer promotions or discounts, but with nothing to show for it. In this example, weaknesses in your marketing efforts are to blame. But by failing to identify these weaknesses, you mistakenly spent money on advertising a promotion that didn’t reach your potential customers.

Craft Solutions

You know the problem that’s plaguing your small business. You may have required the insight of a business consultant to get here, or you may have found your way here on your own. Regardless, now you know what you need to fix, but you’re unsure how to fix it. Let’s continue with our previous example, where the problem you’re facing is weak marketing. Trial and error can help you identify the root of the issue, but that process also takes time and money you may not have. In this case, an experienced business consultant could help to identify and analyze metrics you didn’t know to look at, and then provide a solution tailored to boost those metrics.

This is an essential component of effective business consulting: providing a process or method that your business can follow, something tangible that will help you get over the hurdle in front of you and on your way to bigger and better things.

Optimize Operations

Sometimes it’s not a matter of doing things differently, just doing them better. Maybe your ads are effective, but you’re spreading them too thin. You’re paying for radio ads, TV ads, and web advertising, when only web advertising is bringing in new customers. By focusing your efforts, a knowledgeable business consultant can help you do more with less.

Strategic Planning and Partnership

Investing in strategic planning for small business has helped countless businesses survive and thrive. Contact Steiner Business Solutions here in Richmond, VA to learn more about how to grow a small business.

 

 

7 Benefits of Joining A CEO Peer Group

Anyone who has read Napoleon Hill’s often cited business classic, Think and Grow Rich will be familiar with the business use of something called a Mastermind Group. Hill’s book recounts how many successful business people rely on a small, tight-knit group of advisors to help them build their businesses.

At Steiner Business Solutions, we’ve long been an advocate of assembling a group of peers to help you grow your business. As an entrepreneur or CEO, you often lack both the filter and the sounding board you need to see things bigger ways.

The right CEO Peer Group can provide these benefits:

#1. Accountability – Simply stating your goals and objectives to a group that intends to hold you accountable for your stated result can have the kind of pull that keeps you focused on meeting your goals

#2. Growth – Many CEO peer group members form strategic business relationships that bring additional revenue streams and growth opportunities

#3. Specific knowledge – A group comprised of people from different backgrounds and industries can help you fill gaps in your own knowledge and provide very specific help

#4. Resources – Your group members may very well end up loaning and providing the kinds of resources and introductions that can help you get to the next level in your business

#5. New perspectives – Sometimes having someone from outside your industry question your long-held beliefs, or suggest innovations from a new point of view, can prove very helpful

#6. Support – As a group forms a very close common bond, this can be a great place to go for support when you have a troubling business issue

#7. Energy – Simply having a team that understands your objectives and helps you celebrate your wins can be very energizing

There are any number of organizations formed specifically for the purpose of helping people join CEO peer groups such as ConveneVistage, and The Executive Round Table to name a few.

Whether you are running a small business or you’re the Founder/CEO of a company, it can often feel lonely at the top. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Steiner Business Solutions offers a CEO peer group to help Richmond, VA small business owners and entrepreneurs by providing them with support, guidance and advice.

Our Favorite QuickBooks Features for Small Businesses

QuickBooks for small business is your small business’ secret weapon. No matter what industry you’re in, bookkeeping is part and parcel of keeping the lights on, satisfying customers, and ensuring paychecks get where they’re going—including to you. But proper bookkeeping is about more than just taking care of the basics. It means thinking long-term too, from budgeting for taxes, to contingency planning for unexpected ups and downs, to laying the foundation for future growth and expansion. These tasks can seem overwhelming, but with the proper QuickBooks training, you have everything you need to handle your bookkeeping right at your fingertips.

Here at Steiner Business Solutions, we train small businesses on how to get the most out of QuickBooks, from the basics of setting up to the more intricate ins and outs of what the program can do. But we don’t just train other businesses on how to use QuickBooks, we also use it ourselves. Steiner Business Solutions has been here in Richmond, VA since 2006 helping small business owners tackle the financial aspects of their business. And throughout that time, we’ve used QuickBooks to take care of our own finances. As we’ve helped other businesses find their footing and grow, QuickBooks has been an integral part of our own growth and success.

Our experience with QuickBooks is why we’re so passionate about helping other business owners add this powerful tool to their toolbox. Here are some of our favorite QuickBooks features for small businesses.

Connect Banking and Credit Accounts to QuickBooks

To manage your small business effectively, it’s imperative that you keep track of money going in and money going out. You also need to know what’s what so you can gain insight into the how and why behind your bottom line. To do that, it’s helpful to classify transactions, splitting them into categories like “Supplies,” “Transportation,” “Marketing,” and more. Looking through bank and credit card statements is time-consuming, and manual entry leaves the door wide open for errors. To skip the hassle and headache, you can connect QuickBooks to both your bank and credit card accounts. When a transaction is processed, it will show up in QuickBooks. You can even set up rules that allow QuickBooks to classify transactions appropriately. Less time, less error, and more insight are a few clicks away.

Email Client Invoices Directly from QuickBooks

As is the case with banking and credit card transactions, it’s important to have your invoices easily accessible in one place. Emailing invoices to clients directly from QuickBooks keeps those invoices with the rest of your small business’ financial information in QuickBooks.

Remember and Automate Recurring Transactions

There are regular transactions that come up for your business on a known, repeatable basis, such as monthly service fees charged to your customers. QuickBooks can memorize these in order to help streamline your operations. Whether you set up reminders to make sure you don’t forget about these transactions, or simply have QuickBooks create them automatically based off of a saved template, this is a great feature to have at your disposal. You can even set up QuickBooks to send out recurring invoices automatically.

Customize QuickBooks Reports

Pre-created reports are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the reporting capabilities of QuickBooks. You can customize these reports to see exactly what you want to see, exactly how you want to see it. Once you’ve saved a report, you can check into it whenever you want to see up-to-the-minute data, or even set up a recurring date to compile and email the report, such as the first of each month. If you need to work with the data in Microsoft Excel, simply export the data from the report straight into an Excel file.

Those are some of our favorite QuickBooks features here at Steiner Business Solutions. If you’d like to learn more about them, or discover a few of your own favorites, give us a call at 804.525.4259.

 

5 Reasons Why You Should Outsource Your Small Business Accounting

Another tax season has come and gone, and as always, it feels like—despite all odds—a mountain has been moved. Maybe you had the nice surprise of a hefty refund, or maybe you had to write some checks you weren’t planning on writing. No matter which way your return ended up, there’s a good chance that the process of putting your taxes together exposed all the cracks and holes in your small business accounting practices. One way to shore up those holes before next tax season comes around is to outsource your small business accounting. And the benefits go beyond a less stressful tax filing.

1. Save Money

Whether you hire an internal accountant or accounting team, or you outsource the accounting for your small business, there’s a price tag attached. For a small business, bringing on a new

employee is no small decision. Their salary, benefits, and other monetary concerns have a serious impact on the bottom line. That cost typically overshadows what you would pay to an outside accounting firm.

This is especially true if you’re one of the many small businesses that finds itself in that undefined space where accounting takes too much of your time to handle on your own, but there’s not quite enough to do to keep a full-time employee busy. Hiring someone to sit idly by for a good chunk of the work week is an investment that simply doesn’t deliver.

2. Save Time

When you outsource your small business accounting, you’re contracting a firm to apply their expertise. That means you can get back to applying your expertise—running your business. And when your accounting is running smoothly, the rest of your business operations follow suit. Accurate, up-to-date financials allow you to assess scenarios and make decisions quickly.

3. Reduce Risk

Unfortunately, internal fraud is a reality for many small businesses. The consequences of falling victim to internal theft can cut the legs out from under your business and stop you in your tracks. And implementing overzealous safeguards can erode employee trust and morale. An independent accountant provides an impartial system of checks and balances that you can rely on.

4. Adapt on the Fly

Nothing provides flexibility quite like an outsourced accounting team. If you have seasonal highs and lows, they can increase or decrease resources on their end to help you roll with the punches. And if your accounting needs surge, they’re ready and waiting to provide the assistance you need. If you keep your accounting in-house, a sudden increase in need can necessitate a new hire, but even at its most efficient, the process of interviewing, waiting out a new hire’s two-week notice, and getting them up to speed takes time you may not have.

5. Learn from the Best

Your outsourced accounting firm provides your small business with an incredible resource of knowledge and experience. Rather than searching all over for the right accounting software, you can take confidence in the fact that they’ve done their homework and have the best tools available at their fingertips. Plus, they know how to take full advantage of those tools for your business.

The benefits go beyond using the right software. An experienced accounting team can provide you with proven best practices to streamline operations, benchmark financial performance, and position your business for growth and success. And come next year’s tax season, not only can you take confidence in the fact that you’ve met all regulatory requirements, you can also reap the rewards of an experienced team that knows how to maximize deductions and returns for your business.

If outsourcing your accounting seems like it might be the right choice for your small business, call Steiner Business Solutions here in Richmond, VA at 804.525.4259 to learn more about our accounting services.