#RestaurantLife: Lessons Learned That Taught Me How to Become a Successful Entrepreneur (Part 3)

By: Tina Marie Summers

Part 2: Customer Service

I use to hate the customer service training sessions we would have. It was so cheesy and it just felt like another thing to slow us down. I’d have to say, though, it was the best thing I could have ever learned. Although you will get those certain people that will just never be happy, or will treat you like you are nothing or expect you to cater to their every move, customer service skills are integral to building raving fans and loyalty.

The Customer is always right…well not always…

In the restaurant industry, when you get a complaint, you fix it, point blank. Oftentimes, you are buying the item as well. The saying went, “We do everything and anything in our power to make them happy before they leave.” Well, in those rare, rare moments, you’ll get a guest/customer/client that is NEVER happy.

One of my old bosses was the king of customer service. It didn’t matter if it was the restaurant’s error or not, we apologized and got them whatever they wanted, and paid oftentimes again, paid for it. However, one evening, my boss did the most surprising thing I’ve ever seen (actually the whole staff was floored).

Story goes like this:

We had these regulars that came in all the time. They liked to name drop (yeah, you we all know someone like that), and came in at least twice a week. They always had something wrong with their order. A manager always had to stop by apologize and fix it. Again, paid for the item. It got to a point where the staff just knew what kind of night it was going to be when they walked in (unfortunate).

Until, one night, the GM flat out told the guest, “I’m sorry, you’ve had a problem every time you’ve come in here for the past three months. I fear that we may not be up to your standards and that we’re just not the right restaurant for you.”

I paraphrased much of the conversation because it was so long ago, but I’ll never forget the line, “…we’re just not the right restaurant for you.”

I learned that day that, it is okay to know you’re worth and cut your losses. As much as you can do to turn an unhappy customer around and may eventually turn them into loyal brand ambassadors, there are people out there that just aren’t a right fit, affect your bottom line negatively and ultimately cause more stress than necessary. AND it’s okay to say no to them.

This isn’t meant for the one-off complaints or customers that are legitimately experiencing consistent issues. If there is always an issue, take a look at your system and make sure execution is smooth and the customer experience is smooth as well.

Be sure to lay out specific expectations and boundaries that are clear to your target customer. Anything outside of that is at your discretion on how to handle it, but ultimately, when you’re your own boss, you can pick who you work with. Isn’t that fun?

Under Promise, Over Deliver

I still make this mistake at times, because I just want to give people EVERYTHING, including my time (that I don’t always have a lot of), but I’ve found that sometimes it is just the little things that matter, that help you get raving fans.

  • setting up a table with flowers for an anniversary
  • saying happy birthday
  • just doing things that aren’t in your job description

For example, I live in a college town and one night I was serving a family that was about to put up their freshman away to school. Throughout the dinner experience, they talked to me about what they were doing for orientation and what troubles they were having. They mentioned they were on a waitlist for housing and that they needed to find something in town.

I had stayed at college apartments and gave them a listing of college apartments that even undergraduate students lived at, so their child will still be around people their age. But I didn’t just stop there, I went to my boss and asked if I could use the computer. We happened to not be too busy at the time and I looked up addresses and phone numbers for them (this was before iPhones and smartphones were everywhere). They were so appreciative.

The point of that was, I didn’t have to do that for them, but it made their visit into a town they didn’t know much less stressful and hopefully helpful. You don’t always have to give away your stuff for free to over deliver. Sometimes, you just need to pay attention to the details and help solve a problem. Show them you’re listening and care.

Address the Problem Immediately

Oh there is nothing worse than a hungry customer who’s meal was wrong. You learn very quickly to figure out what the problem is, acknowledge the guest and fix it asap!

Put yourself in your customers shoes. What was the worst customer service experience you ever had? I bet every one of them, you felt your concerns go unacknowledged. That’s where you lose customers.

I get it, sometimes emails get overwhelming and playing catch up is hard. Be sure to have the right systems in place for you to manage this in a timely manner. Have a dedicated email address for inquiries and customer care. Be sure to check it daily. Have your assistant or family member help (when you’re doing it alone and may not have the funds to outsource yet).

Respond to everyone immediately, whether you have a solution or not, and just let them know you’ll look into it and will get back to them as soon as possible. Then, GET BACK TO THEM AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! <— That right there is really where customer service breaks down, the follow up.  Create a customer service workflow that works for you and allows you to get back to your raving fans quicker!

What are some customer service tips you’ve learned through your career? Please, add them in the comments, because we’d love to hear from you.

 


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Pre-Order the full book today! Release date June 17th, 2017. Get expanded commentary on each in this series and plus 7 new lessons learned.

 

 

 

#RestaurantLife: Lessons Learned That Taught Me How to Become a Successful Entrepreneur (Series)

Part 2: Sales

I’m an introvert and can be very quiet at times. However, I am great at what I do, but I always put my mind to being the best and learning the most. I blame (really thank) my father for that one. I will never forget the day I asked my boss to become a server, I had just turned 19 and it was the minimum age in our state in which you could serve alcohol.

I saw the look in my boss’s eyes and heard the hesitation in his voice. It didn’t deter me. It took me a couple of weeks to convince him to give me a try. Heck, I needed to make money and I was sure I could nail it.

Now, I understood his hesitation because of my quiet, introverted nature I was going to suck at sales…and I did. I hated small talk (what I considered bullshitting, which was frankly a waste of my time) and I just wanted to do my job (which was take your order, make sure you’re well taken care of and create an environment where you could just come in and relax). Well, to my frustration I made money but I didn’t make it to the top of the sales competitions (which irked me, because if you ever met me in person, I am one of the most competitive people in the world) and I was making average tips.

It was a rude awakening that in business, sales is an integral part of your job, regardless of what position you hold. Sales keeps the business roof over your head.

I decided to learn how to be a better salesperson and use my introvert superpowers to help me:

the power of observation and reading people.

These are the lessons I’ve learned that turned my game around within 3-6 months as a new server, that I’ve been using ever since.

KNOW YOUR PRODUCTS & COMPANY INSIDE & OUT

Whenever there were mini-trainings on our products or news from the company I paid attention. I learned and memorized not only what ingredients were in each menu item, but how they were prepared and what the benefits were of that item (<—that’s a key one there), regardless if I tried that item before or not.

Now as an entrepreneur, you should know your products (you created them, right?) but I often come across some people who aren’t sure about what to offer and if what they are offering is beneficial. You need to have clarity on your products so much so, that you could train someone to go out there confidently and sell your products for you.

Knowing your stuff will only build confidence and help you execute the 3 E’s for excellent customer service. Which, I’ll be elaborating on in the next blog in this series.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

I learned by trial and error and asking for help that it was more difficult to sell certain items to guests coming into the door. I learned to read my guests, by their demeanor, what they said, to the size of the group to offer the best possible products for them.

I would suggest smaller appetizers for couples or single people. If it was a group of girls I’d suggest several different types of appetizers to share, if it were larger groups, I’d suggest our bigger appetizer platters. Be careful not to stereotype. It took me observing many people coming into my environment and asking them why came in today. The simple question of asking them, “So, why did you contact me today?” or “What interests you so much about x, y and z?” Will help you better understand what to offer. If you offer something that seems tailored to them, you’ll more likely get the sale.

Pay attention to your target market. What are their pain points and what do they need. Sometimes, they don’t know what they need and you have exactly what they didn’t know they were looking for. Albeit, your knowledge, physical product or more.

JUST ASK

I’ve been there, and sometimes still suffer from it. You forget to ask for the sale. In my experience, more oftentimes than not, I found by simply asking, I got more yeses than I ever imagined. I got yeses from people that I thought for sure would say no. I’ve been asked several times by management, from fellow employees, what’s your secret? I simply said, I just ask. If they seem uninterested, I leave it at that. If they hesitate on the no, I tell them the benefits of the product and (I make the assumption) tell them that, they should keep it in mind for the next time they came in. Majority of them would sign up then and there (if it was an rewards program) or buy the menu item because they intrigued them.

This is why knowing your products inside and out AND their benefits are going to help you sell. If you get a no, so what. Tell yourself that it wasn’t for them and it isn’t you, because at the end of the day you don’t know what that person is going through or what their thinking. They could be thinking, “That sounds great but I’m not ready for it.” or “Hmm, I don’t have the money for it now, but I am definitely getting it next time.” to “That wouldn’t really help me right now, so I’ll pass.”

Stop taking it personal. No’s aren’t rejections, they are just redirections. Move on to the next person and just give them the best service you can give.

 

Now, I hope you understood sales a little better and feel a little better. If an introvert like me can rock it, then you can to. The key is building your confidence by knowing your stuff, making it a habit to just ask and really reading and listening to your target market.

I still hate small talk and try my best not to engage in it (some people love it). I like to ask questions that’ll peak and engage us both on a fun topic that we can relate. Use this to help build relationships and help your marketing.

 

Do you have any tips you’d like to add or did you have any “aha” moments? Comment below, I’d love to hear from you.


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Pre-Order the full book today! Release date June 17th, 2017. Get expanded commentary on each in this series and plus 7 new lessons learned.

 

Building Your Dream Team

Behind every successful person, is a dream team that helped them get there. Remember the Chicago Bulls of the 90’s? Sure Jordan was the star, but Jordan and the Bulls wouldn’t have been as much of a force to be reckoned with if it wasn’t for all the unsung heroes of the early 90’s team that complimented the team culture and skill set of Jordan and Coach Phil Jackson.

So who’s the dream team for an entrepreneur?It doesn’t matter if you’re going at this all by yourself with no employees or running a small-medium sized business. Let’s take a dive into to ideal members of your team and see what you need.

The Mentor

Not necessarily a member of the team, but nonetheless, an integral part of your success. You may be the leader of your team, but there is always room for growth.

A mentor should be one that challenges you, listens and pushes you to be greater. A person that has done it before but understands your unique strengths and weaknesses to help you make the right decisions, or even to make the tough decisions easier to manage.

The C.F.O. (Chief Financial Officer)

Yes, solopreneurs, freelancers and mom & pops, you need a C.F.O. figure on your team. This could be a trusty bookkeeper, but mostly your accountant. You don’t just need someone who is going to plug and chug the numbers. You want someone that’s going to help you reach your financial goals, help you find solutions to stay on budget and make profits.

If numbers scare you or just not for you (trust me, I LOVE numbers, some call me a Total Numbers Goddess, but I know this is not everyone’s strength), get someone that is experienced and finds joy in problem-solving and understanding numbers.

Accounting is essential to business success as much as sales & marketing, so do yourself a favor and invest in a trusted advisor.

Sales & Marketing Manager

Marketing can be all encompassing and overwhelming. Whether this is your strength or not, I’d find someone that can help you organize your content and make sure it is cohesive. The role of the marketing manager is to execute your vision, mission and keep you consistent.

Ideally, this person should be helping you manage your sales, handle customer service, and have an understanding of your target market to maximize your advertising and bring in clientele.

Don’t get this confused with a salesperson. A Sales & Marketing Manager is there only to help support the structure for sales and handle the small daily tasks and details, so you can focus on your strengths and do what you do best.

Did you learn something new? Be sure to tweet me your revelations and use #PPletsgetfiscal

The Tech Guru

This person is your go to for everything tech. Making sure you’re in compliance with law on security and privacy issues, depending on your industry. For most start-ups this will be an IT consultant.

If you live the laptop entrepreneur life, this person is a great person to consult on having the best anti-virus software, which cloud-based products are for you, will give you recommendations on the best laptops you’ll need for your needs.

They can check your website and in some cases help you manage it when it comes to security. If you’re in a brick and mortar, they can help set up and maintain your network and servers.

This is not my strong suit, so I definitely employ someone to help me with all things tech.

Your Right Hand

As the title suggests, this person literally helps you keep it together business wise and in many cases personal too. Call them your personal assistant, a virtual assistant, office manager, COO or whatever floats your boat.

You better be able to trust this person and they must be highly detail oriented and communicate clearly. This person is literally scheduling meetings for you, doing follow-ups, communicating with others on your team and helping you manage your time by only putting the important stuff in front of you.

The Counselor

This is your legal counselor. Making sure your intellectual property and brand are protected. Keeping you out of hot water by providing you the right advice for your industry. Nothing is worse than getting caught with your pants down. Especially your business pants. Reduce your risk of closing the doors and building a solid foundation to run your business legally and protect yourself.

Yes, lawyers can be costly, but it is a small investment to pay to protect yourself. Many of them create small packages or provide inexpensive services for entrepreneurs.

 

So, what do you think? Are you ready to build your team? Did I miss anything?

Comment below and let me know of any suggestions you think need to be added.

 

#RestaurantLife: Lessons Learned That Taught Me How to Become a Successful Entrepreneur (Part 1)

#RestaurantLife: Lessons Learned That Taught Me How to Become a Successful Entrepreneur (Series)

Part 1: Branding

I remember one of my very first jobs was working at a restaurant. It was an Outback Steakhouse and I was 17 years old in my senior year of high school. I was so excited to just have a job (funnily it was one of two jobs I had senior year at the same time.) I started off as a hostess working maybe 15 hours a week. Never thinking that I would be involved in restaurants for the rest of my working career.

Since then, I have opened restaurants, been a manager (with over five years of experience) and have worked just about every position (whether I held the title or not). I have bussed tables, washed dishes, bookkeeping, administrative, served, bartended to hiring & training. In this series, I will tell you all the lessons that I’ve learned along the way that has helped shaped my business mindset and my foundation for success.

These lessons are applicable to any industry and to any business owner.

Know Your Audience & Know Your Brand

I was always told as a server that I was really selling myself. I was to create a meaningful visit and create raving fans. Ultimately, I learned that creating relationships created repeat customers, not just for the restaurant but for me. You are every much of your brand whether you are the face of it and that includes your employees, vendor partnerships and more. Every person that does business with you is essentially a salesperson for you. Treat them right, and they’ll take care of you.

Branding doesn’t stop at just your customers.  Outback Steakhouse lived and breathed their theme and values. From the moment of orientation, training, to the quality of food & service, they lived and breathed their brand. It may have been cheesy at times, but it created an air of fun and it left nothing to interpretation.

From the people you work with, people who work for you and your customers, EVERYONE that comes in contact with your brand needs to know where you stand, your values and what you do best. This is so incredibly important to make clear and help your brand become recognizable.

The people that work with you and for you are also a living representation of your brand, so be sure to vet them and make sure they align well with your brand and you.

Consistency

If your brand messaging is clear and specific, then consistency shouldn’t be an issue. The devil is in the details, they say, and it’s true. Don’t stray away in the hopes of attracting a new demographic or increasing sales, you’ll only hurt your brand in the long run. You wouldn’t expect to get chips & salsa at Olive Garden would you? Be a bit confusing, right? So know your vision and mission statement and make sure all your products and services match it.

It is one thing your brand is growing with the times and your target market has grown into something differently organically. However, don’t let fear dictate your decisions. Don’t worry about what your competitors is doing well. Keep doing you, create loyal fans and live and breathe your brand.

Have a Signature Item

I cannot tell you how many people came in for our signature appetizer, the Bloomin’ Onion.  Almost everyone that came through the doors bought it, asked about it, or came because they heard about it. That my friend is what you want, BRAND RECOGNITION.

You need a signature item that brings in new clients, have complimentary products, but have that main product or service you are known for. If you are just starting out, focus on marketing just this product/service. Gain testimonials, loyal fans and then you can build other products that compliment it and build on it.


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Pre-Order the full book today! Release date June 17th, 2017. Get expanded commentary on each in this series and plus 7 new lessons learned.

 

When Poor Customer Service Can Cost You Money

Do you remember your worst customer service experience? The manager or vendor just didn’t care? Or worse, they don’t even acknowledge you or your grievance at all? I recently had this experience with a couple of different companies in the past two weeks. Usually, it doesn’t bother me but I grew up in the restaurant industry, where hospitality and customer service reign. So as a business owner myself and in the service of others that are building their businesses, I thought, how many of us are truly prepared to handle when things go wrong?

I’ve done a lot of personal development and professional development. It’s what you do as a business owner, right? Very few people are talking about how to retain customers/clients, just how to attract them? I keep hearing “Provide value, provide value and they will come.” What are you going to do to keep them coming? Coming back for another coach session, for another t-shirt, for another course?

Here are three major tips on creating a customer service strategy that will make you stand out from the rest:

Create a Source of Contact

Whether it be an email address (customerservice@yourcompany.com or info@yourcompany.com), DM’ing you on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook or a phone number they can reach you. Be sure to keep this separate from any other correspondence (i.e. your direct phone line or email address), that way things don’t get lost or forgotten! The key is to set up a system where you can respond right away and be able to solve the problem right away.

Respond Right Away!

It doesn’t matter if you can solve the problem right away, just acknowledging your customer’s concerns right away will make them feel you are on top of things and that you care. Start by using these statements, “I’m/We are so sorry that (name the direct complaint/grievance). I/We completely understand your frustration. We will work on this right away and get back to you as soon as possible. A.) apologize (it doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong) B.) Acknowledge how they may be feeling in that situation C.) Let them know what you plan to do and a time frame.

Please, don’t just say these things and not follow up! If you can’t get a solution in a timely manner, send out a follow up email about the status within 3 days and send them something free in the meantime. Which leads me to tip numero 3!

Go Above and Beyond

Whether the issue was big or small, fixed quickly or not, any gesture that is extra will go a long way. Your customer’s should be thinking, “Oh you didn’t need to do that! Thank you!” Make them feel special and that you appreciate them. It could be digital product you usually sell that you could give them for free, free shipping on their next purchase, a coupon, or refunding their purchase all together. Think on the return on investment. You may or may not lose that customer regardless of you going above and beyond. However, they will leave with a good impression of you. Remember, it takes 30 seconds to ruin a reputation and social media just increases that exponentially. What does refunding a sale or discounting a future really cost versus losing a customer forever that could be a repeat customer?

 

You’re never going to please everyone, your products/services won’t be for everyone, but when you take the time to actually show people you care, that right there is priceless.

Need help and an action plan? Book your strategy session today!

Recordkeeping Can Keep You Out of Hot Water

Oh you know, we all hate it! How many times have you kept a receipt knowing you should so you can track your expenses and then all you have left is a pocket or a purse full of crumbled up receipts?! Or wallet stuffed with receipts. We’ve all been there (I’m guilty too). Then you sit down after working a long day (or week) and all you can think about is, “I have to record these??!! Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

It’s been proven that when you track your personal financial transactions you’re better off keeping to a budget and understanding where you are overspending and where you can trim. The same goes for business and much more. One step further, the IRS expects you to keep accurate and complete records!

I know what you are thinking, what do I need to keep, for how long, and all the who what when where and whys. I got you covered. Below are some tips that the IRS wants you to know that I have summarized for you.

Why You Need to Keep Records

Like I’ve been saying in my scopes (if you’re not following me on Periscope, be sure to I scope every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, giving nuggets of gold on your business finances), recordkeeping is essential to keeping your business alive. It shows you how well your business is doing, where you are overspending, where you can improve and guess what? It helps you file tax returns quicker and easier! Major thing I want you to take away from this is:

Monitoring the Health of your Business: By using your financial statements [Statement of Cash Flows, Balance Sheet and your Income Statement (a.k.a. your Profit & Loss Statement)] you can see where your income is coming in (your biggest selling products or services), where your expenses are going (especially the tax deductible ones, because we love those) AND if you’re keeping all this data in financial software (which I hope you are) then it makes tracking those tax deductions easier and makes doing taxes easier.

What Kind of Records Should You Keep?

According to the IRS, below are the items you need to keep records on.

1.       Gross Receipts – Gross receipts is simply just your sales reports. Be sure to print out copies (or if you keep them digitally). Also, anything that shows how you made money. Some examples are invoices you sent to customers, deposit slips to the bank, or if you keep a receipt book. Save them all.

2.       Purchases – The IRS explains that purchases are items that you purchased to resell to customers. In the accounting world, we call this COGS (cost of goods sold or cost of sale). Don’t worry, the easiest way to remember this is, would you have purchased the item(s) if you made a sale or not? If your answer is you would have only bought it for a sale, then it is most likely a purchase. Some examples are, a guitar maker would consider wood and any items related to making a guitar a purchase, restaurants would consider food and beverages a purchase, a clothing retailer that makes shirts would consider the shirts and printing ink to be purchases because they are directly related to the product/service.

3.       Expenses – These are things that you would have purchased regardless if you made a sale. The cost of doing business. Such things are payroll, utilities, rent, and office supplies are just to name a few. Make sure to keep any invoices or statements for these items.

4.       Travel, Transportation, Gift and Entertainment – the IRS wants you to keeps records on anything related to these categories if you plan on using them as tax deductions. Be sure to get with your trusted tax advisor to find out what is allowable as a deduction and how much.

5.       Assets – Currently, the IRS is allowing small business owners to deduct anything that costs under $2,500 immediately as a tax-deductible expense (it use to be $500). That means you can expense that new laptop or software that was less than $2,500 to reduce your tax liability. If you bought any equipment or items that were over $2,500, you have to record them as an asset and depreciate them (let your bookkeeper or accountant handle this, if you’re not sure)

6.       Employment Tax Records – This has to do with any and all payroll taxes that you have incurred. According to the IRS website, you should keep at least four years’ worth of records on hand.

How Long Should I Keep Records

To make this easy, this is a direct excerpt from the IRS website:

Note: Keep copies of your filed tax returns. They help in preparing future tax returns and making computations if you file an amended return.

Period of Limitations that apply to income tax returns

  1. Keep records for 3 years if situations (4), (5), and (6) below do not apply to you.

  2. Keep records for 3 years from the date you filed your original return or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later, if you file a claim for credit or refund after you file your return.

  3. Keep records for 7 years if you file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction.

  4. Keep records for 6 years if you do not report income that you should report, and it is more than 25% of the gross income shown on your return.

  5. Keep records indefinitely if you do not file a return.

  6. Keep records indefinitely if you file a fraudulent return.

  7. Keep employment tax records for at least 4 years after the date that the tax becomes due or is paid, whichever is later.

The following questions should be applied to each record as you decide whether to keep a document or throw it away.

Now, some of the above items make me nervous. Do me a favor, keep records for at least 5-7 years, and ALWAYS file your taxes on time. It just makes things simple, easy and less stressful for you. I’ve met with too many owners who are stressed and nervous because they didn’t file tax returns and didn’t keep accurate records.

 

3 Bank Accounts Every Small Business Owner Needs

By: Tina Marie Summers

There are many different types of financial accounts out there. Paypal, Square, checking accounts, business accounts, etc. How do you figure out which ones are right for your business? Managing your business finances is hard enough. There are three different bank accounts that every small business owner should have.

The Operating Account

This is usually your basic business checking account. In this account, all your expenses and your income will be in this account. Your operating account is just that, an account in which your operating activities go in and out of. Just got paid for services? They go in this account. Had to buy supplies? Comes out of this account. Need to pay the staff? Comes out of this account. Only in some cases, is having a payroll account separate from your account is highly advisable, I’ll talk about that in a future post.

The Tax Account

I’ve seen one too many business owners have a savings account and not know what to do with it. They just know they need it.  Regardless of what type of entity you are or how you opted to be taxed, having a tax account separate from everything else helps you manage your cash flow and finances better. If you have payroll taxes but only pay them monthly or quarterly, moving money in this account pre-planned for payment will keep you out of hot water and wondering how to pay. If you are a freelancer, sole proprietor or a partnership, you’ll be taxed at the IRS self-employment tax rate of 15.3%. If you plan ahead, and move that money into the tax account, filing your estimated quarterly taxes will be less stressful. This can be either a checking account or savings account.

The Cash in Reserves Account

I hear it a lot. “But, I’m a startup Tina. I don’t have extra cash to put away.” I get it, I’ve been there. But, I’ve also seen the other foot. Not planning ahead for big projects, travel, certifications or expansion can leave you with little to no options other than crowdsourcing, business loans or investors. There will be times when you’ll still need that.

Here’s why having a Cash in Reserves account is critical for success. Putting away a set amount of profits away for the big things will help you a.) Manage your current expenses better b.) Leave you optimistic about funding for growth. If cash flow is tight, start small maybe 5-10% of your revenue goes into this account. For a freelancer  this could mean having the money to buy a new equipment or software.  Or going to a conference that came up unexpectedly.

This account could be a checking, savings or money market account. Talk to your banker or financial advisor about your goals and what is the right fit for you. My recommendation is getting an account that earns dividends or interest. There’s nothing better than money working to make more money for you.

Bookkeeper vs. Accountant. Which one do you need?

By: Tina Marie Summers

There have been a lot of questions about what is a bookkeeper versus an accountant. Although they can be interchangeable terms at times, there are significant differences between the two roles.

Bookkeeper

The bookkeeper creates financial data and financial reports based on daily financial transactions the business incurs. Such duties include but are not limited to entering customer invoices, sales receipts, payments collected, supplier invoices and payments made to suppliers. They reconcile accounts to make certain the accuracy of the financial data.

Depending on professional and the size of your company, a bookkeeper can be outsourced or be an employee. Bookkeepers can pay bills and/or debts on your behalf. Depending on their expertise and experience, some bookkeepers can calculate financial analysis.

There are no real regulations on bookkeepers, however a professional bookkeeper can designate themselves with the title CB if they have passed the certification for AIPB (American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers) or NACPB (National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers). Although, a bookkeeper may not have this designation, that does not mean they aren’t qualified. Ask your CPA or local CPA firm about great bookkeepers in your area. They often found through word of mouth and the best ones are quite busy.

Accountant

Accountants are more about the “big picture”. They take the day to day financial data and do risk assessment, help to improve efficiency in maximizing profits. They can aid in preparing budgets, business plans, financial forecasting and help you develop processes and procedures to keep your financial data managed correctly.

Just like bookkeepers, dependent on the size and need of your company, an accountant can be an employee or outsourced.

Accountants don’t have the designation of C.P.A. (Certified Public Accountant) but they usually have a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting or Finance. Those that aren’t designated with C.P.A. either within their first years of in the field and are working towards their certification, in which case they are working under a mentor.

Things to Know…

Some job functions for bookkeepers and accountants can overlap. These things are payroll administration, tax compliance, paying taxes on your behalf. Some accountants can do the role of bookkeeper and accountant. Be sure to thoroughly vet your accountant and bookkeeper.

Bookkeepers are often a great gateway or “bridge” between the business owner and accountant. Since they enter the day to day transactions, they can see trends and answer to questions that the business owner may not know.

If you feel you can handle the day to day transactions and analyze the information for yourself, then hiring an accountant could be cost efficient. However, finding a great bookkeeper can save you lots of money and time. 

Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Tax Professional

By: Tina Marie Summers

Can’t figure out how to find the right tax professional for you? In my post, “How to Find the Right Tax Professional”, I mentioned interviewing anyone that you may consider working with. Below are my top questions that I recommend you ask.

1. What is your tax background?

This is a great question to ask to see if they have ever handled taxes similar to your situation. This is a great way also to indicate their level of experience and credentials. If they are fairly new to doing taxes, find out if they have a mentor or boss that will also be involved to help. Don’t be afraid to ask.

2. Have you ever prepared tax returns for ….?

Fill in the blank for your situation. If you are a network marketer, find out if they have done several returns for others in your industry or your situation. If the person you are interviewing mainly does returns for medium to large scale companies, you may not want to work with them. Granted, your return may be simpler, but finding someone that has handled several returns pertaining to your situation may be able to provide more information on tax deductions that are particular to your industry.

3. How are your fees determined?

Some tax preparers charge based on the level of complexity of return or others may have a set fee. Whatever way they do charge, be sure they are clear on what they will be doing for you and that there are no “hidden fees”.

4. How and When will I receive a copy of my return?

Regardless of when you give the necessary information to your tax professional, you should rightfully expect them to give you an approximate timeline of when they’ll have a copy of your return and how it will be delivered. If they can’t give you a timeline or a copy of your return, that is a huge red flag.

5. What is the best way to reach you after tax season, if I happen to have any questions?

This is a biggie! Be sure you are able to reach your tax preparer after tax season, should any questions or concerns may arise. There is nothing worse than getting a letter from the IRS and not being able to reach your tax professional that may be able to provide some answers or even speak on your behalf.

These are just a few major questions I would start thinking about asking. For more tips, check out this article on the IRS website.

How to Find the Right Tax Professional

By: Tina Marie Summers

It’s so difficult to figure out the right person to do the job and find someone you trust. I get this question all the time and I see the fear and anxiety of those people. Below are the things I tell them.

Perform a Background Check

No you don’t need a special service or pay for an intense background. Just do your due diligence and check their credentials and find testimonials. The best way is to ask! Verify with their website or ask for some current client references. If they have a Facebook page or are on Yelp, check their ratings there.

I always like to check the BBB (Better Business Bureau) if they have had any complaints. If they are accredited, such as a C.P.A. or an Enrolled Agent (E.A.), there are such departments that can tell you if there has been any disciplinary actions or where their license status is at. Check the Board of Accountancy for C.P.A. and the IRS office of Professional Responsibility for E.A.

Be Prepared to Interview Them

When looking for a tax professional, always come prepared with questions. They want your service, just as much as you need them. However, by interviewing them, you’ll get a feel of their character and whether or not they can meet your needs.

For examples of questions to ask, check out my next post on Monday.

Understand the Different Types of Tax Professionals

There was a time and place where just about anyone could put up a sign and do taxes. The IRS is trying to regulate some of that. Be sure, regardless of the type of tax professional you pick, they have a PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number). It is required by the IRS.

There are several types of tax professionals out there. Understanding the different types and which one would be better suited for you will help you narrow down your search and save you money.

Trust Your Gut

This may be simple and not “scientific”, but I never work with anyone that I don’t get a good feel for or if I don’t feel 100% about. Remember, you’re entrusting someone with your financials and business financials, so be sure it is someone you feel you can trust and are comfortable with.

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