Garfinkel Immigration Group
Featured In Issue: CLT.biz Insights – Spring 2017
The more things change – well the more things change – but the end results may be the same, at least where U.S. immigration policy and the Trump Administration are concerned. In President Trump’s first hundred days in office, the Oval Office has seen a…Read More »
With immigration serving as one of the centerpieces of Donald Trump’s campaign, anticipation is mounting as to what he will…Read More »
You wrote a great email… …but WHAT IF NO ONE READS IT?? Just write a compelling subject line that gets…Read More »
Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm
Developing and retaining an international workforce is essential to be competitive in the global marketplace. With this in mind, employers…Read More »
Sales Coaching Tactic to Unlock Better Team Performance (and That Most Managers Overlook) When you look at your sales results…Read More »
Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP
Franchising allows a business owner to expand into new geographic markets by allowing others to use an owner’s established systems…Read More »
- Do you have the right to say where, when and how the worker is to work, and can you require compliance with your instructions?
- Do you pay the worker’s business and travel expenses, or provide the worker with the tools, materials, and equipment to do his job?
- Do you have the right to discharge the worker without liability?
- Can the worker hire his own employees, or delegate his work as he deems necessary?
- Continuous residence in the U.S. for at least 5 years and physical presence in the U.S. on June 15, 2012;
- Current student, high school graduate, GED recipient, or honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- No conviction for a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or threat to national security or public safety.
- Estate tax exemption decreases from $5 million to $1 million and the top rate increases to 55 from 35 percent
- Elimination of state and local sales tax deduction
- Maximum capital gains rate will increase from 15 to 20 percent
- Qualified dividends maximum rate will increase from 15 percent to the taxpayer’s ordinary income tax rate (up to 39.6 percent)
- Maximum child tax credit will decrease from $1,000 per child to $500
- Expiration of marriage penalty provisions
- Reinstatement of phase-outs for itemized deductions and personal exemptions for high-income taxpayers
- Reductions in tuition expenses/credits and student loan interest deductibility
- Reductions in the dependent care tax credit
- Existing CRM investment. Over the past three decades, a large number of enterprises embarked on highly complex, multiphase CRM deployments. For these organizations, the very idea of abandoning such an investment can be disheartening. What is often overlooked is an inquiry into whether an organization has already effectively realized a return on such investments—or is even capable of doing so.
- Incurred technical debt. Technical debt refers to the gap created by the misalignment of needs, processes, and technology throughout the solution’s lifetime. This represents all the work that needs to be done to minimize misalignment rooted in the past in order to be effective in the present and future.
- Business reactivity. Most organizations (as well as individuals) are highly emotionally reactive in the way they make decisions. They make changes only when they can no longer maintain the status quo, and the pain is intolerable. Solution and process handicaps are not given proper attention until the escalation chain arises.
- Lack of sponsorship. Financial systems have the support of a CFO. Supply chain and logistics are sponsored by a COO. HR systems have PeopleCare. CRM processes run across many functions throughout the customer life cycle, from marketing to service. Who advocates for and sponsors the customer?
- Understand the problems. Initiate your inquiry by looking at the challenges and problems the business faces. Ask yourself: Do we know who our customers are across all service lines? Are we able to effectively drive cross-sell and upsell revenues? Are any of the problems the organization is experiencing further handicapped by the existing CRM solution set or absence of it? Understand metrics around the problems. What is the cost of acquiring or losing a customer? Where does my revenue come from?
- Evaluate opportunity costs. Previously, I mentioned that reactivity is one of the major obstructions in effective decision making. Assess what the risk and cost to your business would be if the status quo were to be maintained. Monetizing this will help justify financial decisions needed to address the problems at hand.
- Identify solutions. As you research solutions, do not limit your assessment to the technology only. The success of the technology as the enabler of business success is intertwined with the process effectiveness and ability to properly define and consistently track key metrics that measure organizational effectiveness.
- Think big, start small. Too often we delay our decision process for fear of the potential size of the task. No one wants to open a can of worms. Truth be told, we can take small steps in the right direction, keeping our eyes on the larger vision all the while. On the technology front, there are many choices available that do not include hastily discarding your legacy solutions. You can easily introduce smaller pieces of the solution and technology within the fabric of CRM while still allowing it to play well within the overall existing architecture. Once this is accomplished, the answer to the question of whether to completely replace or augment the CRM innovation will be clear.
- Monitor progress. Create a consistent feedback loop, monitoring key process indicators around your CRM and related processes. Continuous feedback will help modulate your approach throughout the life cycle of your efforts and maximize the returns.
- The tax liability (taxes, penalties and interest) must be paid in full within 72 months or prior to the expiration of the collection statute (10 years from date of assessment), whichever is earlier
- Taxpayer must be in compliance with all tax return filings and payment requirements
- The installment agreement can apply to any type of tax (i.e. Form 1040- Individual Income Tax, Form 941-Trust Fund (employment taxes), etc.)
- The tax liability (taxes, penalties and interest) must be paid in full within 72 months or prior to the expiration of the collection statute (10 years from date of assessment), whichever is earlier
- Taxpayer must be in compliance with all tax return filings and payment requirements
- If an individual, the installment agreement can apply to any type of tax (i.e. Form 1040- Individual Income Tax, Form 941-Trust Fund (employment taxes), etc.)
- The streamlined installment agreement is also available to defunct sole proprietors who owe any type of employment tax
- Payment must be made by Direct Debit drafting of taxpayer’s bank account
- A limited amount of financial information may be required for application
- Get the best management and key employees in place and make it very hard for them to leave the company. This is possible through incentive compensation and “stay bonuses” as well as restrictive covenants. Without an “offer they can’t refuse” to keep employees around after a sale, you could be held hostage at closing by your best employees who want a piece of the price in exchange for staying or agreeing to that “covenant not to compete” the buyer is requiring them to sign.
- Get that proven track record of profitability in order to convince a buyer that the earnings of the company will continue for the buyer after you leave. Recurring revenue is much more valuable that project-based revenue. Sell once and collect often instead of selling often and collecting once!
- Be certain all legal and organizational documents are in place and properly filed (properly incorporated, qualified to do business, good standing, annual reports, merger documents, stock books, etc.) so that you have a company that can be sold. You don’t want to find out later you don’t really own the business or some of its key assets or that you get to pay twice as much tax as you should have.
- Correctly file all tax returns (independent contractor versus employee issues, overtime, sales tax, etc.). Don’t give your buyer reasons to lower the price, and don’t give the IRS or state department of revenue reasons to audit you!
- Have reliable internal financial reports and have reviewed or audited annual financial statements. Make certain your financial reports are timely. You cannot operate your business if your monthly financial reports take six months to finish.
- Have financial information that shows the true profitability of the company. Don’t have the company paying for expenses that the owner should really be paying. Think about what you would pay someone to do your job and what benefits would you give that person.
- Protect your intellectual property and confidential information!!
- Live by your strategic plan and update it continuously. Have a goal, and make decisions that get you closer to that goal.
- Understand what taxes you have to pay on a sale or transfer and what you can do now to lower them.
- Don’t think you can do all of this by yourself!! You need people with experience in accounting, management, operations, legal, marketing, sales and every other type of matter affecting your business. Learn from other people’s mistakes, not just your own.
A common issue faced by business owners is whether an individual should be considered an employee or an independent contractor. As an owner paying for services for the benefit of your business, you may make payments to individuals who are not considered your employees.
A good litmus test and some key factors to determine whether independent contractor status is valid are listed below. But ultimately the question comes back to whether you have the right to direct and control the worker. If the right to direct and control is there, then more than likely you have an employee. The IRS has put forth 20 factor s important to consider in determining employment status. Each of the factors can impact your decision, but the most significant ones are:
If you answered no to the above questions, you may have an independent contractor relationship.
If you answered yes to the above questions, you may have an independent contractor relationship.
Another consideration is how you pay the individual. If you pay the individual by the job, again when considered in conjunction with the other relevant factors, this may indicate an independent contractor relationship.
These factors are not an absolute determinate of the relationship, but by considering whether you can direct and control the worker, you should be able to determine whether your position is reasonable.
When an independent contractor relationship does exist, and you pay that person $600 or more during the year, you must provide that person with Form 1099-MISC by January 31 following the end of the year, and send a duplicate copy to the IRS by February 28.
In general, you would not provide benefits to a non-employee, and you would not be required to withhold taxes from your payment for services, or pay an employer portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes. The independent contractor would be responsible for the employee and employer portion of social security and Medicare taxes.
That sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it? Then why wouldn’t you treat all your service providers as non-employees and save the costs of benefits and payroll taxes?
First, there are business considerations. Service providers who are not receiving company benefits will generally not be as loyal to your company; those service providers have the flexibility to provide services to other companies that could use their expertise. Additionally, since you do not have the ability to set their daily schedules, you will lose a degree of control over how and when the services you need can and will be provided.
Second, whether a service provider is an employee is a matter of law, based on the facts and circumstances surrounding the relationship—not simply what you call it. The IRS may challenge your determination and you may end up settling with the IRS or defending your position in tax court. The success of your defense will depend on whether the facts indicate an employee or independent contractor relationship.
Third, unless there is a reasonable basis for treating employees as independent contractors, failing to withhold income and employment taxes from their wages can result in severe penalties and interest, in addition to back taxes (federal, state, Social Security, Medicare) owed. Of course, penalties for intentional worker misclassifications are harsher than they are for inadvertent mistakes.
Your benefit plan may also be in jeopardy if any eligible employees have been misclassified as independent contractors since these employees have been excluded from plan participation. The consequences could be that your retirement plan may lose its tax-favored status.
Still confused? You are not alone. This is admittedly a tricky area, and is often an area that is scrutinized by the IRS upon further examination. If you have trouble making a determination or believe you have made the wrong determination, it may be beneficial for you to have a discussion with your attorney or CPA to see what you can do before the IRS comes knocking.
The L-1B (Intracompany Transfer) Visa allows employees who possess “specialized knowledge” to transfer from a company abroad to a properly relatedU.S. business. The L-1B has been the “go-to visa” for multinational businesses seeking to relocate talent to the U.S. and maintain a globally competitive workforce.
To qualify for an L-1B visa, an employee must be transferring from a foreign parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch to a properly related U.S. company. The individual must have served in a “specialized knowledge” capacity with the overseas company for at least one year within the preceding three years and must be transferring to the U.S.entity to serve in a similar capacity.
Specialized knowledge has been defined as particular knowledge possessed by an individual of the organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures. Specialized knowledge is not widely known, even within the company.
Recently, however, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicators have been interpreting specialized knowledge extremely narrowly. In doing so, the agency is creating a barrier to employers seeking to transfer key employees to the U.S. By issuing Requests for Evidence (“RFE’s”) in approximately seventy percent of L-1B cases filed, the USCIS is requiring international companies to spend additional time, effort and expense to bring specialized workers to their U.S. locations. Further, adjudications are often inconsistent, with the same company receiving one approval and one denial for workers with identical experience, training and knowledge to perform the same job.
This lack of predictability makes it difficult for multinational companies to plan. As a result of ever-increasing denial rates, companies are reconsidering whether to expand U.S. operations or send work overseas, a trend that will lead to a decline in U.S. job creation and which will undoubtedly harm the U.S.economy. Until the USCIS ameliorates its restrictive interpretation, multinational employers must continue to expect challenges in obtaining L-1B status for key employees.
Good news for “DREAMers”—Bad news for Employers?
The term “Dreamer” comes from the “DREAM Act” (short for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), legislation which has been introduced repeatedly in Congress since 2001. The legislation would provide permanent residency to aliens brought to the U.S. as minors who meet certain requirements.
On June 15, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will issue guidance within 60 days to implement the Obama Administration’s policy to grant “deferred action” to “Dreamers.” Deferred action is an administrative policy, as opposed to a law. The policy announced will grant a status for a period of two years, subject to renewal.
The policy, announced by the President the same day, allows Foreign Nationals without legal status in the U.S. to apply for work authorization and avoid deportation.
In order to qualify, applicants must prove they were under the age of 30 on June 15 and must meet the following conditions:
An employer may be approached by one or more employees seeking assistance in applying for deferred action (i.e. requesting confirmation of employment to satisfy proof of continuous residence or physical presence). If previously thought to be “work authorized,” requests by such employees can be problematic. Careful thought should be made and legal counsel should be considered in determining whether potential liability exists in connection with I-9 compliance and issues resulting from continuing to employ such a worker before proper authorization is obtained.
If you haven’t heard this word yet, you soon will. The term was coined by congressional aides and is their own, and others’, bleak prophecy of what could transpire on January 1, 2013. Think of it as a perfect storm that will abruptly and sharply raise taxes while also cutting government spending.
Certain aspects to this scenario might draw applause from either political party and could reduce our deficit, but in combination, their degree could result in another recession. Obviously, neither party desires this result, but the key variable making such a situation feasible is that the events will be automatically triggered, barring legislative compromise and action.
The tax repercussions in such a scenario are significant.
There are several groups of legislative tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the 2012 calendar year: the Bush-era tax cuts, a group of various provisions that are routinely renewed called “extenders,” and some of the remaining 2009 stimulus provisions. These events will affect both corporate and individual taxpayers.
Corporations alone will see nearly 30 credits and deductions revised unfavorably. The most notable is the elimination of the research and experimentation credit and the decrease in favorable depreciation rules. The research and experimentation credit allows a 20 percent credit for certain research expenses and is part of the extenders package that may not be renewed.
Additionally, the favorable depreciation rules that have been in effect for several years are scheduled to expire on December 31, 2012. Included in this are the elimination of the 50 percent bonus depreciation allowance on new equipment and the reduction of the current section 179 expensing limits on new and used equipment from $139,000 in 2012 to $25,000 in 2013.
Although corporations will clearly be affected, the majority of the tax hikes hit individuals. In terms of revenue, the most significant of the potential changes comes through the expiration of the payroll tax cut, non-renewal of the AMT patch, and increase in individual marginal tax rates, respectively.
The payroll tax cut affects the payroll taxes of employees and self-employed individuals by reducing their portion of payroll taxes withheld or paid by 2 percent on compensation or self-employment net income up to $110,100. The next two items require a little more explanation.
The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) sets a minimum tax rate on businesses and individuals who fall within certain income ranges. It was a response to wealthier taxpayers’ taking advantage of too many loopholes. Essentially, the AMT works by eliminating some of taxpayers otherwise deductible expenses (i.e. state income taxes, property taxes, etc.), allowing a uniform exemption amount and taxing the resulting amount by a flat 26 percent or 28 percent rate.
The exemption is what keeps the AMT tax from affecting the unintended target of the middleclass. However, the exemption is not adjusted for inflation and requires legislative action to be raised, hence the name the AMT patch. If there is no patch, the exemption will be reduced from $74,450 to $45,000 and is estimated to affect 28.5 million households, up from 4 million. The non-patched AMT will especially affect taxpayers in states with high income and property tax rates.
The third largest tax hike in the Taxmageddon scenario is the increase in individual marginal tax rates. If no changes are made starting in 2013, the 10 percent bracket would be eliminated and the highest tax bracket would increase from 36 to 39.6 percent.
Other notable changes adding to Taxmageddon:
Although nobody wants Taxmaggedon, the current political climate does not guarantee its resolution and time is running short. The fact that these mechanisms trigger automatically is the scary part to this perfect storm.
Although the consensus is that most parts will be extended for another year, as some of them routinely are, most also agree that Taxmaggedon is possible. Given the uncertainty of the situation, now would be an opportune time to contact your accountant or tax advisor to understand the effect that these expiring provisions could have on you and your business.
Customer relationship technologies took root in the early 1980s, with the introduction of personal computers. The launch of ACT! in 1986 was one of the first big milestones in the era of CRM. Not long after, Siebel, Goldmine, and other firms launched their flagship products, thus announcing the birth of enterprise CRM. If you look back 30 years, you will see how CRM technology has transformed to match our understanding of the customer.
Today CRM is a mainstream concept across organizations large and small. A recent Gartner report noted that CEOs see CRM as their number one technology-enabled investment in 2012. As the foundational understanding of customer needs is changing in favor of a rich, multichannel experience, companies face the challenge of determining whether their existing technologies and processes can effectively compete. While the market pushes companies to re-invent approaches for managing customer-centric processes, large organizations are often reluctant to change. Such hesitation is largely driven by four factors:
Working under the combined weight of the aforementioned factors is like trying to move a mountain. Organizations are sandwiched between these internal obstacles and the external marketing pressures that demand customer centricity.
However, it is possible to move away from the old modes of managing customer interactions and adapt new ones. Following are the key steps to navigating this process:
CRM evolution is imperative in the modern marketplace. We need to start embracing the new paradigm, or the new paradigm is going to embrace us. Such innovations within an organization can be done in an elegant fashion, gradually bringing everyone along. By understanding the problems and opportunity costs and by developing solutions in an agile, step-by-step way, businesses will be able to successfully re-invent their relationship with the consumer and reap the returns of their innovation by utilizing a strategic, methodical approach to change.
Fresh Start Installment Agreement
An installment agreement provides taxpayers who are unable to pay their entire tax liability immediately the ability to pay a set monthly payment (equal amounts), as determined by the IRS under their guidelines, over a period of time. However, penalties (rate reduced) and interest continue to accrue on the outstanding tax liability and, therefore, the taxpayer will end up paying more than the original tax liability owed.
Generally, an installment agreement will suspend enforcement collection actions such as levy/garnishment while the IRS considers an installment agreement, for 30 days after the rejection of an installment agreement request, during the time period the IRS considers an appeal of a rejected or terminated agreement, or while an agreement is in effect and the taxpayer is in compliance.
Note that the collection statute (10 years from the date of assessment) is suspended upon the submittal of the installment agreement, 30 days after the rejection of the installment agreement, and during the time period the IRS considers an appeal of the rejection of the installment agreement.
The IRS doubled the threshold amount from $25,000 to $50,000 for qualifying under a streamlined installment agreement without providing the IRS with financial information, i.e. Form 433-A, Collection Information Statement. Additionally, the IRS increased the maximum payment term for such streamlined installment agreements to 72 months, up from 60 months.
„For balances of $25,000 or less, the following criteria must be met:
„For balances between $25,001and $50,000, the following criteria must be met:
Fresh Start Offer in Compromise
An Offer in Compromise (OIC) is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s tax liabilities, including penalties and interest, for less than the amount owed. An OIC is generally not accepted if the IRS believes the liability can be fully paid as a lump sum or through an installment payment agreement. However, the IRS is likely to approve the OIC if they believe it is the most they can collect within a reasonable period of time.
In determining the taxpayer’s reasonable collection potential, the IRS will analyze, based on Form 656 (OIC) and as applicable Form 433-A (Individual) or Form 433-B (Business), the taxpayer’s equity in assets and income less allowable expenses. While the offer is being evaluated, the IRS will suspend all other enforcement collection efforts.
If the taxpayer is applying for a lump sum offer, the taxpayer must submit 20 percent of the offer with the application. If the taxpayer is applying for a short-term offer (spread over 24 months), only the first payment must be submitted with the application. A filing fee of $150 is required for both lump sum and short-term offers. A taxpayer is not required to make any payments on existing installment agreements during the evaluation phase. Additionally, the collection statute (10 years from date of assessment) is suspended during the IRS’s evaluation of an OIC.
The IRS has created more flexible guidelines in determining the taxpayer’s collection potential. For lump sum offers that can be spread out over five or fewer months, the IRS will now analyze 12 months of future income, whereas previously the IRS analyzed 48 months of future income. For short-term offers (non-lump sum) to be paid over six to 24 months, the IRS will now analyze only 24 months of future income rather than 60 months of future income.
The above discussed IRS collection policies offer a window of opportunity for the taxpayer to resolve collection tax problems during these difficult economic times.
Everybody’s talking about “cloud computing” these days, and most of the conversation is so high in the sky that it’s hard to understand and even harder to believe. It’s true that the cloud is transforming business—in fact, it’s quickly becoming the new business utility, in the same way that email and Internet went from cutting-edge innovation to a basic necessity for keeping up.
But talking about the cloud doesn’t have to feel like a flight into the unknown. In reality, the cloud is a pretty down-to-earth concept.
In short, cloud computing refers to an off-site data center that you access through the Internet, paying as you go for as much as you use. Applications in the cloud include those as simple as data backup, and as complex as customer relationship management.
Examples of commonly used cloud applications include SalesForce, Dropbox and Google Apps. You know you’re using a cloud solution if you pay for it monthly, get your updates automatically, and can access your data from any device, anywhere you have an Internet connection.
But don’t let cloud’s simplicity fool you. Failing to understand its power can leave your company struggling to keep up with cloud-savvy competitors. Here’s why:
• Cloud provides revolutionary security. Switching to the cloud is one of the most important things a business can do to secure data from both theft and disaster. On-site data is highly vulnerable to localized disasters such as power surges, fire and flooding. It’s also relatively easy for a disgruntled employee or disreputable competitor to steal. Storing data in the cloud enables instantaneous backups and top-of-the-line security features to prevent theft and get a business up and running right away after disaster. Private cloud services can further increase security.
• Cloud is radically accessible. Imagine using your data and software any time, from any device, anywhere you have an Internet connection. Now imagine you can grant and control access to your employees. Give some of them read-only access to certain sections. Limit access or deny access entirely to others. Prevent any of them from downloading and stealing sensitive company information. That is the reality of cloud.
• Cloud can be surprisingly affordable. Old-fashioned servers, hardware and software add up to substantial investment. Count in the cost of maintenance, updates, upgrades, and the space and cooling power necessary to store it all, and you could easily run into tens of thousands of dollars a year for a very small office. Cloud-based solutions allow you to control your costs with a reliable monthly fee that includes upgrades, maintenance and service.
• Cloud is amazingly flexible. Scalability is “baked in.” You pay for the amount of service, the number of users, and the exact products you need and want. As your needs change, so can your plan.
Whatever your size or industry, chances are there’s a cloud solution that can revolutionize your business. Most companies don’t realize how much capability they’re missing out on, and for how little money they can significantly enhance their business.
Consider the example of a commercial fire prevention and security products company whose traditional hardware and software systems were messy, complicated and increasingly unmanageable. An established business, they had long faced the challenge of coordinating people inside and outside the office, developing quotes and proposals, and dealing with security and sales issues throughout multiple territories.
A cloud-based solution simplified everything for them. A cloud file storage system gives their employees instantaneous, on-the-go access to exactly the information they need. The system shows up on each employee’s device as a simple drive, so it’s intuitive to access.
Company leadership can control each employee’s level and type of access, ensuring the security of their data and software at all times. Additionally, because the data is redundantly backed up to locations on both sides of the continent, even a major disaster won’t prevent them from continuing business as usual.
Every company is different, but no company can afford to ignore the potential of cloud-based solutions. To learn more, find a reputable provider to help you design the cloud solution that will plant your business on solid ground.
In January of 2008, an article in The Wall Street Journal indicated that seven of 10 mid-size companies would be sold or transferred to new owners over the next 10 years, and that 90 percent would be “ill prepared” to maximize value upon sale or transfer.
In February of 2011, an article in The New York Timesnoted that nine million of America’s 15 million business owners were born in or before 1964, and one business owner turns 65 every 57 seconds.
In May of 2012, the Four Rivers Business Journal reported the vast majority of boomer business owners want to sell their businesses and retire in the next 15 years, resulting in more businesses for sale than buyers to buy them. Consequently, they forecast that 75 percent of boomer business exits will result in the closure of millions of businesses, resulting in trillions of dollars in losses—all due to the failure to plan.
According to a March 2012 survey by Deloitte LLP of mid-market companies, approximately 42 percent thought they would be buying other businesses in 2012 (compared with 35 percent in 2011); and approximately 19 percent thought they would be selling in 2012 (compared with 14 percent in 2011).
What does this information mean for a business owner today?
For Bob Businessman, this information means that if you intend to or have to exit your business in the next five to 10 years through a sale, you need to be ready for a lot of competition. It also means that most of this competition won’t be ready to sell.
Keep in mind that these “sales” referred to above include sales to third parties; or sales to “insiders” (employees or family members) involving cash obtained from another source (like a bank or private equity group).
There are different strategies Bob Businessman should consider depending on whether he has one, two, five or 10 years to plan his exit. The less time, the more focus on the major things that will yield value; there’s not time to waste or make mistakes on things that don’t really matter. The more time, the more focus more on details and ability to recover from any mistakes made.
At a minimum, every business owner should consider the following to maximize value and enable “exit” no matter what type of exit occurs:
Most mid-sized and larger companies have a person in charge of marketing. I’m solely responsible for our marketing. I have help, of course, but I’m the person that makes the marketing happen. I used to get stressed about taking vacations because, without me, our marketing would come to a dead halt.
It’s critical for us to be consistent in our marketing efforts because when we stop marketing, sales will soon slow. The result is unpredictable sales, cash flow challenges and a lot of stress, or, as Ian Farmer of Ian Farmer Associates calls it, “eating your sales pipeline”.
As a Web agency, most of our marketing is done online. If you’ve done any online marketing at all, you know how much work it can be. While blog posts and social media are core tools for our marketing efforts, we’re also creating downloadable content offers, email campaigns and writing articles for various publications.
As I write this, I’m preparing for a two week trip to Italy. During this trip, I have no intention of being online or working. While I’m gone, marketing our small business will continue. How, you ask? This is possible using an editorial calendar, scheduling the publications and automating the releases.
To create consistency, I create a 3-month plan for content. By planning the content, scheduling time to write and preparing content in advance, consistent marketing is a lot easier and less time-consuming. This frees up my time, giving me the ability to write about timely topics as they arise and work on sales as needed. This is how we avoid “eating our pipeline” when we get busy with client work and sales. Vacations or downtime no longer cause marketing efforts to come to a stop.
An editorial calendar isn’t a new idea. You may recognize the concept from traditional print publishing. The calendar can be as simple or complex as needed and is simply a list of releases mapped to dates on a calendar. By laying out the topics and publishing dates on a calendar, our content is consistent and follows a general theme. The calendar isn’t set in stone. For example, it has changed over the last few weeks while I’ve been building content.
Scheduled Publishing and Automation
We use a combination of tools to manage our online marketing, most of which offer scheduled publishing. For blog posts, I’ve scheduled the publish date to match the editorial calendar using WordPress. For social media releases, I’ve used Hootsuite to draft and schedule the posts across multiple social media networks.
Preparing all the content takes discipline on my part. The key is to stay ahead of schedule, preferably by a few weeks. Approaching our marketing like this makes our marketing less consuming, consistent and easier to manage.
Here’s how you can do this too.
Create a list of topics you’d like to write about. Make sure to record the ‘hook,’ the type of release and where you plan to distribute the topic. I tend to keep this general. For example, ‘blog post’ or ‘social.’
Create outlines for the topics. Make sure to cover the main points that you want to hit.
Start writing or, if you have a writer, delegate the writing. If you’re delegating the writing, personas and a description of the desired voice will help you get better results by creating clarity for the writer.
Add photography to any blog posts to make the posts more interesting to read and test all the website links in the content. Draft releases in software that lets you schedule the releases.
Diona Kidd is a Managing Partner at Knowmad, a Web strategy, design and Internet marketing company located in Charlotte.