Good small business reads #24: Saving on taxes, hiring wisely, and maintaining your focus

Time for another edition of good small business readers, a compendium of articles that caught my attention recently because they hit on hot buttons for many small business owners. This being September, when another installment of quarterly estimated taxes is due mid-month, “10 Simple Ways to Save Lots of Money on Small Business Taxes,” by Dominique Molina, president of CertifiedTaxCoach.org, seems to be particularly timely.

I know many small business owners have problems with her first piece of advice:  Get organized. If you’re included in this group, get yourself over to your nearest office supply store and buy some simple files that will help you store receipts and other key information in a systematic way. Each January, I buy an expandable file with lots of sections; all receipts, paid client invoices, etc. go into that by category as they come in. When January rolls around, I don’t have to go searching for the information I need to hand to my tax guy; it’s all in one place and already organized. It’s simple and works far better than the proverbial shoebox.

(As a side story, the only self-employed friend I have who ever got audited by the IRS had literally been using a shoebox for his expense receipts. Alas, many receipts never made it into the shoebox and he was nailed with huge penalties and additional years of audits as a result. It was a nightmare. Don’t let that happen to you.)

The next article, “Trust But Verify,” hits on a critical topic: doing due diligence before hiring. It tells the tale of one poor small business owner who was bilked out of $60,000 by a bookkeeper on whom he had failed to do a thorough vetting of when hiring her the year before. The article includes advice on three critical steps you should take when hiring, especially when the person you are hiring is going to have access to your business income.

In “Two Lists You Should Look at Every Morning,” from the Harvard Business Review’s blog, Peter Bregman, who advises companies on leadership and strategy, proposes a simple way to maintain your focus in today’s hectic business environment. The Internet and 24/7 connectivity have, it seems, shortened everyone’s attention span. At the same time, it has never been more important to stay focused on what really matters because the pace of business means things can quickly spiral out of control if you don’t. I won’t take away Bergman’s thunder by revealing the two simple lists he says you should check every morning before starting your day to help with this problem, but his advice makes plenty of sense to me, so I hope you’ll check it out.

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