Sunday, June 21, 2009

Couldn't wait to share this one...

Happy Father's Day.

I found this article at a site called Open Forum. The site appears to be maintained by American Express, and they provide a lot of good material. I'll be going back there.


Your Staff is the Key to Referral Success

John Jantsch April 21st, 2009 - 07:36 PM

Here’s something your customers won’t ever tell you, but you better understand - Your employees are probably treating your customers about the same way you are treating your employees. Soak that in a minute and process the impact that might have on your organization’s ability to generate referrals.
Organizations that easily generate a high number of referrals hire for referral factors and treat their people as the prime target customer. It makes sense of course, happy employees are much more likely to represent the brand in a positive manner.
In all but the most technical positions, much of what employees do on a day to day basis can be taught. It’s much harder, however, to teach someone to be trustworthy, to give or to serve, yet, as stated above, these are key traits of organizations that generate referrals. A habit of referral for any organization that has more than two or three employees then is entrusted to the actions of the entire staff.
Mike McDerment, founder of FreshBooks, an online time tracking and invoicing service located in Toronto Canada shared these thoughts on how he addresses the customer, employee relationship, “First, we try to find people for fit, shared values and a passion for excellence. That doesn’t mean we have some preconceived idea of what they look like. It’s more that they match our brand in some way. We’re not in the billing business, we’re in the service business and we like to have fun. It really makes things easy if we surround our customers with employees that like to serve and like to have fun.”
The final element of the employee as customer habit lies in the word empowerment. While the word empowerment shows up in almost every book ever written about management, it’s a term that is easy to say but not so easy to put into action.
In the 1999 book, First, Break All The Rules: What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman published findings from research conducted by the Gallup Organization involving 80,000 managers across different industries.
The primary thesis of the work was that if a company could not satisfy an employee’s basic needs first, it could never expect the employee to give stellar performance.
The research found that a productive employee’s basic needs are: knowing what is expected at work, having the equipment and support to do the work right, and answering basic questions of self-worth and self-esteem by receiving praise for good work and development as a person.
Highly referred companies place so much focus on delighting customers that employees grow to understand that the primary thing that is expected, and even measured, is attaining referrals from every customer.
When this expectation is then reinforced with tools that allow the focus to be on the outcome as much as the process, they often learn to do whatever it takes to get a positive result.
This can be one of the hardest adjustments a small business owner can be forced to make as their business grows.
Larry Ryan founded Ryan Lawn and Tree in the Kansas City area over twenty years ago. He started out on the back seat of a tractor and steadily grew the business by taking care of his customers and employees.
Today, he is the CEO of one of the largest lawn services in the Midwest with over 150 employees and he still admits, “The hardest job I have is getting out of the way and letting my people do what they need to do.”
Although Ryan may claim that empowering employees is still hard for him he has always run his business with the philosophy that every customer will be thrilled and almost no matter how illogical the demand he would try to make it right in the eyes of the customer. He will tell you that this philosophy has caused him to scratch his head in disbelief at times, but he can also recount hundreds of instances when thrilled customers have voluntarily written him notes expressing how incredible it was that their turf manager came back on their own accord to redo a patch of grass that just didn’t work out right.
He hires for personal fit and talent, his employees are 100% certain what is expected of them, and given the tools, permission, and encouragement to take matters into their own hands to achieve the ultimate objective.
As a result his business, generated primarily through referral, has grown steadily year in and year out.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Another good article from AccountantsWorld

As you may know, the founder of our company, Jose Martinez is a native of Mexico, and our firm serves a substantial Hispanic clientelle. We feel Hispanic small businessmen have considerable growth opportunities as they serve consumer markets within and outside their own communities.

Thriving on Mexican-American Market

MEXICO'S economy has suffered a series of blows in recent months -- drug violence, swine flu and the worldwide economic downturn. Yet some companies on each side of the border with the United States are prospering because they serve the expanding Mexican-American market in the United States.
A new economy is emerging that builds on the economic relationship between the countries. Exports and imports between Mexico and the United States have grown rapidly in the last decade, to close to $400 billion annually. And now trade is taking on new complexity, with operations in Southern California sometimes serving as Mexico's link to the global economy.
Viz Cattle Corporation, for example, the American division of Mexico's SuKarne Global, handles exports of Mexican beef to Japan and South Korea, through contracts made in Compton, Calif. The beef originates in SuKarne's home base in Culiacan, Sinaloa, in northwest Mexico. ''Japanese and Korean executives buy here, and they go to inspect the ranches in Mexico, too,'' said Jesus Tarriba, manager of Viz Cattle's warehouse operation in Compton, in southeast Los Angeles County. ''Last year we sold $40 million of beef to Japan and Korea and $80 million here in the U.S.''
Viz Cattle has grown rapidly, from less than $10 million in revenue five years ago to $120 million in 2008. And it is doing well this year despite the downturn, Mr. Tarriba said. Its main business is importing beef from Mexico for American restaurants and retailers. ''We specialize in smaller cuts of rib-eye and strip steaks because Mexican ranches slaughter livestock at younger ages than American ranches,'' Mr. Tarriba said. ''Restaurants like those cuts.''
Viz Cattle and other food companies on the border have also capitalized on the expanding Latino population across the United States and the changing tastes of the public.
''Chipotle was unknown here five years ago,'' Marcelo Sada, president of Source Logistics Center Corporation, said of the smoked jalapeno pepper in many Mexican foods and sauces. Mr. Sada's company, based in Montebello, Calif., imports bakery and soft drink products from Mexico.
Martinez Brands/Tequila Holdings Inc., from Pasadena, Calif., has also been a beneficiary of the growing American taste for Mexican products. ''Tequila is the fastest growing liquor variety in the United States for the last seven years,'' said Javier Martinez, president of Martinez Brands. ''And why? Because young Americans vacation in Mexico and associate tequila with fun, freedom and friendship.''
Business is good as well, for Inter-Con Security Systems, a company also based in Pasadena, that protects State Department installations in the United States and abroad as well as private businesses, hospitals and sports arenas, said Carlo Gobelli, who leads Mexican operations. ''Security is in very great demand, to guard executives and company operations and also shipments of goods,'' Mr. Gobelli said..
Inter-Con employs 6,500 people in Mexico; the company has 30,000 employees over all. ''A new concern here,'' Mr. Gobelli said, ''is that we are getting demands to protect pharmaceutical laboratories against theft of key ingredients that drug gangs can use.''
Still, some companies are seeing a more mixed picture. ICS Group Inc. of Rolling Hills Estates, in southwest Los Angeles County, represents Carlisle Companies' roofing and building products in Mexico and Latin America, said, ''Right now, American companies are holding back from investing in Mexico and are not sending their personnel because of dangers from the drug wars,'' said Mark Aston, the president of ICS.
But he credited business in the Caribbean with helping the company's annual revenues grow to an estimated $15 million this year from $300,000 in 2004. ''Mexican business people and investors are confident that when this recession ends, Mexico will do well again,'' he said.
Mr. Gobelli and other Mexican executives generally agreed that the economy's overall outlook was positive. ''The businessmen say, 'This crisis did not start here in Mexico' as have so many crises in the past. It started in the U.S. and the world,'' Mr. Gobelli said. ''Therefore, they say, when the U.S. and the world recover, Mexico will too.''
Meanwhile, the slow American economy and moves to control illegal immigration with increased border patrols and raids on domestic job sites have reduced migration from Mexico. So remittances to families in Mexico from people working in the United States have declined sharply in the last year. But the Latino population in the United States has grown as a result of children born to immigrants in recent decades. That Latino population is 45 million, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
This has led to more online commerce with Mexico and other shifts in the marketplace, said Hector Orci, co-founder of La Agencia de Orci, an advertising agency in Los Angeles. ''For example, Liverpool department stores in Mexico sell online to people here and the goods can be delivered to their mother living in Mexico,'' Mr. Orci said.
Spanish-language media is also shifting to more use of English language commercials and programs, he said. So Mr. Orci is building a new division of his agency, called One Plus Two, for the population that speaks English but enjoys Spanish language programming like telenovelas from Mexico.
''Online use is very high among Latinos, maybe 20 million people using broadband Internet,'' said Michele Ruiz, a former television anchorwoman who started the Saber Hacer (to know, to do) Web site in 2007. The site offers advice to Latinos on such subjects as parenting, personal finance, health and medicine and college preparation.
Ms. Ruiz said she had raised $700,000 to start the Web site and investors have now put in ''several million more.'' The site has close to 200,000 visitors, Ms. Ruiz said, and she is looking to private equity funds and other investors to raise an additional $5 million.
She wants to expand the Web site's reach and content, which includes presentations in English or Spanish on the importance of annual mammograms, on how to write resumes and apply for positions and how to talk to your doctor or your children about sex. ''We understand the culture and how people think,'' she said.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tips and the IRS

Of particular interest may be the italicized section, the second half of the article below:

from Restaurant Report

Accountant's Corner

Take Advantage of Tip Credit
By Ronald L. Noll, MS, CPA

If you employ tipped employees, you are entitled to a credit against income taxes. The credit is figured using FICA taxes paid on reported tips and wages that exceed the minimum wage requirement. For example, if you pay your wait staff $2.13 per hour, figure an additional $2.12 per hour of tips to bring the wage up to the standard minimum wage ($4.25). All additional tips are then eligible for the tip credit of 7.65%.
Beware, however, that the tip credit amount is added to profits, thus increasing your income tax liability. Credit the IRS and Congress for this bad idea.
The IRS is still conducting lots of tip audits. Be sure to complete Form 8027 correctly (due Feb. 28th). The form is designed to determine the percentage of tips on credit card sales compared to the tips on other sales. You are expected to report cash tips within 2% of the charged tips. More audits are generated because of improperly completed forms than all other causes. It has been reported that up to 75% of the restaurants covered by tip reporting rules don't file their 8027 Report. Be one of those who report!
Not all restauranteurs are required to file the 8027 report. You are required to file the 8027 with the IRS if you serve food and beverages for on-premises consumption; if tipping is customary in your establishment and you employ 10 or more full-time employees on a typical business day. A separate 8027 must be filed for each food or beverage establishment that meets these criteria.
A business is required to keep employee tip information for 4 years after the due date of the company tax return. Tipped employees are required to keep daily records of tips received. These records must include names and addresses, company name, tips received, tips shared with others and names of those individuals.
The Philadelphia District IRS is participating in a national tip study agreement. This is a program designed to pressure restaurant owners and at least 75% of their tipped employees to sign an agreement requiring 100% tip reporting. The local and national restaurant associations are violently opposed to this program because it holds restaurant owners for their employees' honesty. The National Restaurant Association is working very hard to change this. If the IRS does audit and finds tips under reported, the owner is liable for matching FICA accumulated during the past three years.
IRS Targets Restaurants The IRS is targeting cash businesses for audits. Restaurants are on the hit list. When the IRS audits a restaurant, the owners seem to be the ones under scrutiny. I have seen more audits investigating owners' personal bank accounts than business accounts. You are expected to explain the source of every deposit to your personal bank account, even though it is a business audit. The IRS is particularly keen on investigating currency deposits into your personal account.
The IRS is very strict concerning skimming cash. For example, if you deduct a vacation as a business expense, the IRS will simply recalculate your taxes, add a penalty and interest and usually forget it. On the other hand if you under-report sales, the IRS will consider criminal charges. Furthermore, if you have under reported more than $10,000 in each of the last three years, the IRS will try to send you to jail.
I know of a restaurant owner charged criminally for skimming and spent $45,000 in legal fees - about double the taxes he saved, not to mention the three years of worry and stress he endured. Obviously, there are better ways of making money than cheating the IRS.
If you are audited, get professional help A competent accountant, CPA or enrolled agent will make your audit much easier. Hiring an attorney usually makes the auditor suspicious. The auditor usually wants a face-to-face meeting with the taxpayer. Your accountant should help you prepare for questions likely to be asked. Never volunteer information. Answer all questions directly, but as brief as possible.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

An amusing analogy

Perceiving a lot of unresolved problems burdening our economy, I currently tend to take a negative view of most investment opportunities. While not dissuaded from my doubts, I found this article entertaining. Please don't take this post as a suggestion that you load up in the equity markets. Rather, please be reminded that maintaining sound perspective requires being open to hearing opinions contrary to your own.

When you think of it, stocks are a lot like tuna fish.

By: Frank Armstrong, CFP®, AIFA®

When you think of it, stocks are a lot like tuna fish. You buy them today to use sometime in the future. You don't expect to eat it in the store, or even when you get it home that day.

Let's pretend that you, your family, and your cat eat a fair amount of tuna fish. As you know, tuna fish comes in cans and has a long shelf life. We are used to buying it in large cans for $1.50. Now one day we go to the market and see that it is on sale for $1.00 a can.

What do we do?

Do we see ourselves as impoverished because we have some cans back home on the shelf?
Do we run home, grab all our unused tuna fish and then run back to the store to sell it back?
Do we feel bad because we have lost money on our cans at home?
Do we run home and throw them all out?
Do we vow never to buy tuna fish again?
Do we organize a protest march?
Do we start a campaign in the newspaper, on our Facebook page or on Twitter?
Of course not! We buy lots of tuna fish to take advantage of the low price. We know that we will need tuna fish for a long time and that the sale offers us a great opportunity to stock up for future needs. We have made the mental jump that LOW PRICE = GOOD.

Stocks have a long shelf life too and we buy them in order to use them a long time in the future. If you are a 401(k) participant, the stocks you buy now will be there when you need them in retirement. But the average investor seems to operate on the assumption that LOW PRICE = BAD! Rather than seeing temporary low price as an opportunity to buy something he will need in the future, he wants to dump what he has.

Especially if you have a few years to go before retirement, you should be dancing in the streets. This is your chance to scoop up bargains at very attractive prices. The world markets are on sale. Buy them while they're hot!

Note: I am indebted to Nick Murray, the Advisor's Advisor, a financial professional and nationally recognized public speaker for the inspiration for this piece which I have adopted from one of his articles published many years ago. Thanks Nick for your work throughout the years.

Frank Armstrong, CFP, is the founder and president of Investor Solutions, Inc., and the author of The Informed Investor (Amacom 2002). Contact him at Frank@InvestorSolutions.com

Investor Solutions, Inc. is a fee-only SEC Registered Investment Advisor based in Coconut Grove, FL with discretionary authority over assets in excess of $400 million. The firm provides investment management services for high net worth clients, pension plans, government agencies, trusts and foundations worldwide. Their web site is located at www.InvestorSolutions.com
.