Here are seven more New Year's resolutions for business owners.
Find Three New Sources of Salable Product. If your business is selling stuff online, one of your biggest challenges is finding high-quality stuff to sell at a profit. If you're not currently taking consignments, you're out of your mind. Take out an ad in your local newspaper that says "I Take Consignments!" and has a toll-free telephone number. Trust me; you will get calls. Let local senior citizens know you are available to help them clean out their houses and apartments when they move into an assisted living facility. Finally, make 2019 the year you cut out the middle people in your life — go to the Worldwide Brands and Global Sources websites and find out where you can buy the stuff you're currently selling directly from the manufacturers in Asia and drop shippers in the United States.
Get Your Taxes Right. If you have been selling things on eBay or Amazon and you haven't been paying taxes, now is the time to get into compliance with the tax laws. The IRS and state tax authorities are losing patience with people who don't know they are in business when they're selling online, and it's only a matter of time before you will be required to pay income and sales taxes in every state where your business has a legal nexus. Get a copy of my book "The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book," and read it cover to cover — it's the best 20 bucks you will ever spend.
Also, heads-up that starting in 2019, you will have to start collecting sales tax in states where you do a significant amount of business (usually over $20,000 per year), even if you don't have a physical presence there. For more information about which states and how to comply, check out https://blog.taxjar.com/.
Renew Your Web Address. If your business is dependent on the internet, check with your website hosting service at least once each year to make sure your web address hasn't expired. The service does send renewal notices, but often these get picked up as spam by anti-spam software, so businesses never see them, and their web address expires and gets grabbed by someone else. Pick a date that's easy to remember — like your birthday — and renew each of your important web addresses on that day.
Don't know where your website is hosted? Go to the Network Solutions website. Click on "WHOIS search" at the bottom of the homepage. Type in your website URL, and when the results pop up, look for "registrar WHOIS server." That's where your website lives.
Update Your Software Twice a Year. Just about every software program gets updated at least once or twice a year, but not every software developer sends you an email announcing the latest updates. Make it a point to visit the website homepage of each software company whose products you license, and look for a button that says "check for updates" or something like that. It just may save your computer.
Sheath Your Smartphone. Make 2019 the year you stop being a smartphone slave. Make some rules about when you will use your smartphone and when you won't, and stick to them. Rule No. 1: Do not use your smartphone while driving a motor vehicle. Period.
Get Control of Your Bookkeeping. If your bookkeeping system consists of a shoebox, you have absolutely no idea what's going on in your business. Sign up for a local community college evening class on QuickBooks Pro, and learn to do it the right way.
If you use bookkeepers, meet with them at least twice every year to review your chart of accounts and other operating statements, and to get their opinion on things you are doing right and things you need to improve. Because they look at your business from 5,000 feet up, they may see risks, problems and threats that you can't.
Start Escrowing for Estimated Taxes. If you pay estimated taxes to the federal and state governments four times a year and find yourself occasionally without enough cash on hand to make the tax payments, you need to start escrowing for these taxes. Take your gross sales each month. Withdraw 40 percent of that amount from your business checking account, and deposit it in an interest-bearing savings account. Do this every month, and learn to operate your business on the remaining 60 percent of revenue. This way you will be sure to have enough cash on hand to make your tax payments when they come due.
And a 13th resolution:
Get Involved in Government. Not happy with last year's midterm election results? Well, what did you do to influence them? Do you even know who your state and federal representatives are? (To find them, go to https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials/.) When was the last time you wrote to these people and told them what they're not doing right? Or showed up at a candidate's town hall meeting? Or joined your local business lobby?
As we used to say back in the 1960s, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." Speak up now, or forever hold your peace.
Wishing a happy, prosperous and successful new year to all of my readers.
Cliff Ennico ([email protected]) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our webpage at www.creators.com.