Our company has traditionally worked closely with our client base to ensure that they fully utilize their content management system (Joomla) in order to maximize their website results and their visitors experience on the website. We have done this primarily by teaching classes (both formal classes and onsite training) as well as providing a “how to” support role to ensure that the client not only has a great looking and functioning website but the content is easily updated with fresh, up to date and relevant information. This is not only great for website visitors and but also great for Google. Your content on your website determines your search engine and keyword positioning and this determines how many prospects you are reaching (Google is all about the prospect!).
Various industry based bloggers invited by the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce to blog on their website.
This morning I was thinking about Christmas shopping and what I have left to do. Well, the answer to that is nothing! I’m one of the lucky ones that has an amazing wife that loves to shop. Therefore, I put in a very limited amount of effort this time of year when it comes to gift shopping. Since I have failed miserably at trying to pick out gifts for her, she has made it easy on me and sends me a detailed list of things that she wants. And with the wonders of technology, I can typically order those items off the internet without leaving my desk. So, not only do I not have to go out and fight hordes of people searching for just the right gift for all of their family and friends, all of the guess work is taken care of for me as well.
Man, I am lucky…..but that’s not the point of this story! I know that many of you are still putting the finishing touches on your Christmas shopping. I’d be confident in stating that many of you haven’t even started shopping yet. For you folks, I have some great advice. Please consider spending your Christmas shopping dollars at one of the stores that sees the benefits of being a Member of our Chamber of Commerce. I’ve made it easy for you and have included the link below.
Membership Directory – Use Drop Down by Category!
David W Hayes, EA, CFP®
IRS Advisory Committees
Most taxpayers, including many professional advisors, are not aware of how many advisory committees there are which work with the Internal Revenue Service on their behalf. It is easy for an organization as large and as complex as the IRS to loose contact with its client base. We see it in how our suppliers in business and stores where we shop may seem not relate to us. If that happens in commerce, the company may go out of business. When it happens in government, our lives get more complex and our frustration level rises.
The primary contact point for a taxpayer who needs help relating to the IRS in administrative manners is the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel. When taxpayers have problems relating to the correct reporting of data or calculation of tax payable, there are separate avenues where help is available.
Typical situations where TAP can be helpful include requests for information or other correspondence from the IRS are difficult to understand; where tax forms, instructions, and publications are either confusing or incomplete; or where letters and notices sent to taxpayers are confusing. The problem may well be with the IRS, not the taxpayer.
There should be at least one member of TAP for each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Tennessee has two members, myself here in Mount Juliet, and another in East Tennessee. We are not restricted by geography and can assist anyone with any issue. If you ever need help, I hope you will let me help you.
In addition to TAP, there are six additional groups including those which deal with issues involving electronic reporting, reporting for tax exempt and government entities, and art appraisals.
Come by the Chamber office this Friday, November 8, and pay me a visit – or contact me anytime.
If you are like me, in the last 24 months or so you most likely have started using your mobile phone more and more for browsing the Internet. Larger mobile screens, voice recognition software, and better wi-fi access are just a few of the advances that have made this possible.
Over the last few months, Bear Web Design has been working on a new responsive designed website to launch for the 2013 Wilson County Fair. A responsive website is a website that is mobile, tablet, laptop and desktop friendly and provides an optimum user experience based on the device with which the website is being used.
This week I presented Google+ to a lunch and learn session for the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce. Google+ (pronounced and sometimes written as Google Plus or G+) is Google’s social media network. I spent quite a bit of time preparing for the presentation as I have only been using Google + for the last 3 months or so and I was curious about what level of interest there was going to be. Based on the lively group with many questions, comments, and feedback from my presentation, it is apparent that people are definitely starting to focus on Google’s social media network.
What is Responsive Website Design?
2013 has been declared the year of Responsive Design in many web circles. If you haven’t heard of Responsive Design yet, you will soon. The reason it was created (and is snowballing in popularity) is because of the need to optimize websites on different devices -- mobile, tablet, laptop & desktop -- with the growth of the mobile and tablet markets being the driving force for Responsive Design.
Mending a line
In my mind, there are few things as peaceful as fly fishing. It is a chance to get away from the daily grind, enjoy nature and think. I don’t often take off of work for self indulgences, but the close proximity of the Caney Fork River from my office near the Nashville Airport during a particularly troublesome week seemed appealing as I wrestled with some business problems at 2:00 o’clock in the morning. Before heading to work, I threw my 5 weight fly rod and my Robertson fly box into the back of my car along with a pair of waders, inflatable PFD and a warm jacket.
I have known for some time that I have been working too hard in my business and I needed to start working “on” my business. I had read a book by Michael Geber called the E-Myth that made a lot of sense to me. It was clearly time for me to change the way I run my business if it was to flourish. It seems the faster my business went the more I got behind.
On this warm winter morning, I started for the office planning on heading for the river later in the day. As I approached the entrance ramp for I-40, I decided to go eastbound toward the Caney Fork River instead of my normal westbound trek to the office. Forty-five minutes later, I was pulling into the parking area at Betty’s Island, a popular fishing spot. I was the only car there this Thursday morning. As I sandwiched myself between the front passenger door and the rear passenger door to change from my business attire into by fishing garb, I started to worry about all of the things I needed to do this morning. I had a sense of guilt wash over me, but I was here so I went fishing.
As I walked down the concrete ramp toward the river, there was a fog rising above the water. The still morning air was about 55° already, but the water was icy cold causing the morning fog. The river was lazy. There was some current, but it was moving slowly from my left to the right. I knew that would change with the scheduled release of water from the Center Hill Dam nine miles upstream.
After wading to my first fishing spot, I tied on a tiny blue wing olive fly and made my first cast. I watched as the fly floated downstream toward an area where I had caught fish before. For those of you that are not fly fisherpersons, it is important that the fly float freely and naturally in the current. If there is any drag on the fly line from the current, it pulls on the fly and you will not be able to fool a trout. On this morning, floating the fly naturally was easy, the current was very slow and even. But that was about to change. Like business, the Caney Fork changes and changes quickly. Sometimes the river is lazy, sometimes it is fierce and impossible to deal with.
I know that it takes about two and half hours for the wave of water to travel from Center Hill Dam to Betty’s Island once they open the generating gates at the dam. As I fished, I noticed the current was increasing in velocity as the water level was rising. The current near the bank was much slower than the current in the middle of the river. I had to pay closer attention to make the fly float naturally through the strike zone. I had to “mend the line” more often as the velocity of the current increased. Mending a line is almost a fly fishing art form. The faster the current, the more effect it has on the fly line, that in turn tugs on the fly making it look unnatural. By picking the floating fly line up and flipping it upstream as required by the velocity of the current, you increase your chances of success.
As I fished that morning, the level of the river continued to rise and the velocity of the current increased. I realized that the same thing was happening in my business. As the velocity of business activity increases, I am starting to get dragged down stream. I need to pay closer attention to my business and mend the line. Meaning, I have to work “on” my business to get things to float naturally and increase my chances for success. I also noticed that as the water began to rise there were eddys forming behind the rocks. Trout instinctively know that they can find refuge and take a break from the fast currents behind the rocks. That is what I was indeed doing myself when I went Eastbound on I-40 to go fishing; I was getting out of the current.
That morning was a morning well spent. I like traveling Eastbound on I-40 to go to work “on” my business. I am going to go to work in that direction more often!
I hope this doesn’t surprise you, but until January 1, 2012, there was a state limit to how much you could give to anyone, other than a spouse, who is also a US citizen without paying a tax. (This is also true for federal tax reporting. See below.) The amount was only $13,000, which may sound like a lot until you consider buying your child a car or paying for their education. The only exceptions available to most taxpayers were payments made directly to an institution of higher learning or a medical services provider for the benefit of the other person, or contributions to a section 529 educational plan. All that changed on January 1, 2012, but only for gifts made after that date. If you made gifts before then without reporting them, you need to go back and do so. Federal tax law is somewhat different. The limit is the same, but you have a lifetime exemption of over $5 million of gifts and estate taxes, an amount large enough to cover most taxpayers. One thing, though, even if you don’t owe federal taxes on your gifts, you must report them when you file your tax return.
At the same time, the state replaced its old system of taxing estates with a new one which matches the federal tax code. The main reason the state legislature voted to repeal the state gift tax and modify its estate tax (which until then had been on all amounts over $1 million) was to keep money in the state. Before its repeal, assets were being transferred to other states and the gifts made and wills probated there.
This leads us into our main topic: this may be the time to review your estate planning documents, especially trusts. While the legislature was changing the state’s gift and estate tax laws, it also passed new trust laws which greatly liberalized the language that can be used and permits modifying existing trusts in a way that before the new legislation was not permitted. I strongly urge you to meet with legal counsel to make sure your documents are current. You may also want to have your financial advisor review the components of your plan not only to make sure they are in the best possible form but so that you will have a plan for what to do when Congress starts writing tax law, something it must do a lot of this year.
Growing a business in challenging economics times can be very confusing and downright frustrating. Can you imagine having a great opportunity to grow your business and not be able to take advantage of it because you lack the money to do so? There is the adage; it takes money to make money! But, what if you don’t have enough money to make a difference?
In the good old days, we could walk into the bank and walk out with a line of credit or business loan. Those days are gone, and I don’t think they will be back anytime soon. We all know the banking industry has undergone some hefty structural changes. It looks like there are more to come. Here are some tips for your next visit to see your banker.
I have a list of 4 things a bank looks at these days to determine if you are worthy of a loan. The first one is Capacity. Do you have the ingenuity, the drive and the perseverance to manage and coordinate everything required to repay the loan? Are you operating within the confines of your abilities and experience? Do you have the cash flow to cover your existing debt plus your new debt? If your cash flow isn’t at least 1.25 times your existing debt load plus the proposed loan, you probably won’t be approved for the new loan in our “new economy”.
TAX INFORMATION YOU NEED TO KNOW – Automatic Adjustments Effective January 1, 2013 (Source: IRS Bulletin RP-2021-41 dtd October 18, 2012.)
The news media are chocked full of information – mostly political – about what will happen on January 1. Try to ignore that for a moment and instead focus on what is scheduled to change just because it’s 2013. Here is a summary list of what will change with a few comments. These are by no means all of them. If you’d like to know the particulars, feel free to contact me.
- 1.“Kiddie Tax,” the amount used to reduce tax on unearned income for minors will adjust. This is important where your children have been given investments with income so that the taxes will be lower.
- 2.Income from US Savings Bonds used to pay for qualified education expenses is subject to a phase-out based on income.
- 3.The amount of annual premium deductible for long-term care insurance changes as do the tests to comply with high deductible requirements in Medical Savings Accounts.
- 4.The annual exclusion for gifts increases. This is important because people often violate gift tax rules unintentionally; for example, buying someone other than your spouse a car. The State of Tennessee’s rules are harsher than the IRS and if you are caught violating them, there are stiff fines.
- 5.There is a tax on the sale of any shaft used in the production of certain types of arrows. I doubt very many people care about this. It just gives me a chance to set up a joke about getting the shaft.
- 6.The maximum hourly rate for legal services where the attorney’s fees were awarded by the court is adjusted.
- 7.The income and contribution limits for all retirement plans adjust. Instead of automatically continuing what you’re doing, ask your investment advisor what else is available. Make sure you consider non-qualified plans as well as the traditional 401(k) and IRA-based programs.
Along these same lines but not included in the list of automatic adjustments are the potential changes to the health care insurance landscape coming online in 2013 and 2014. Don’t get caught waiting until the last minute. Meet with your insurance advisor now and look down the road together. You may be paying too much for personal and/or employer-based coverage and can start saving already. Make sure you understand what expenditures are deductible. People are missing a lot of deductions by assuming they understand the law.
Owners of family businesses, including farms, are at a disadvantage when it comes to tax planning. Many of the deductions available for current income do not apply to smaller businesses, which lack the liquidity for larger, long-range investments. Their focus is on day-to-day operations and more short-range planning, often at the expense of critical planning components like who will own and run the business next. Business owners need to know that nothing happens automatically except confusion and cost. Here’s a summary of the current situation.
Current federal tax law provides each individual with a $5,000,000 lifetime exemption from their taxable estate. It also provides that a married couple can intentionally combine their amounts through a “portability” feature. There are many reasons to be cautious about depending on the portability feature, which needs to be reviewed on an individual basis; but there are two reasons to be nervous about depending on the $5,000,000 exemption at all. First, your business assets are combined with other personal assets to arrive at the total estate value (with some adjustments) that increase it. It is surprisingly easy to be above the $5,000,000 threshold. Second, and most important, is that the whole thing changes at the end of this year unless Congress acts to extend it, going back to a $1,000,00 exemption. Best wisdom is that even if Congress extends the current level, estate tax laws will be completely rewritten during the next Congress.
Recent Tax Court rulings have upheld specific planning strategies, which can lock in the current exemption amount. Although it is good to know the IRS will work with you to keep your business intact, you will need to implement them before the current law changes.
Pending legislation with the working title, Family Farm and Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2012 (H.R.6271), would provide substantial relief to farm and business owners. If enacted, it would improve on the old Qualified Family-Owned Business Interest (QFOBI) exemption, which was repealed effective in 2004–2012. Under the proposed legislation, qualifying farms and businesses would not have their values included in estate tax calculations provided certain conditions were met. This late in a congressional year and during an election period, this bill is probably politically motivated but does give owners and their advisors some insight into how Congress may rewrite the tax laws in the coming year.
State tax laws like those in Tennessee can make a big difference, which is too often not considered. Tennessee is phasing out its inheritance tax laws, but until then, the state amounts are considerably below the federal level. The current exemption amount is $1,000,000, increasing to $1,250,000 in 2013, and incrementally thereafter until disappearing altogether in 2016.
Seek planning with your business succession strategy. Farm and small business owners, more than any other group, need to be proactive and intentional in their planning if they want to pass their business on to the next generation or sell it at a good price.
David W. Hayes is a Certified Financial Planner™ and IRS Enrolled Agent. This article is not a solicitation for business and is not intended to replace advice provided by Certified Public Accountants, Attorneys at Law, or other professionals. IRS Circular 230 requires that you be informed that any statements contained herein are not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by you or any other taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding any penalties that may be imposed by federal tax law.
For the last few years my wife and I have tried to do as much business in Mt. Juliet as we can. It has actually become a habit. We are regular shoppers at Ace Hardware, frequent Courtney’s for Sunday breakfast, and I get my hair cut (yes, all of them) at Larry’s. I buy a growler or two at the Mount Juliet Beer Company, meat at Houston’s, and grass seed and lawn fertilizers at Garr’s. I am disappointed that Pop’s (DQ) closed, but if there is a bright side - I’m not saying there is - it is probably best for my waistline. We get our glasses and eye exams at Franklin-Altman Eye Care, I am fascinated by the stuff in Superior Music and we absolutely love the produce stand on the edge of town on Lebanon Road. Did I mention my father-in-law lives in Rutland Place? These are just a few of the local places we patronize. There are more…my insurance agent and CPA are Mt. Juliet business people too.
The awareness for me to shop Mount Juliet was created by Mark Hinesley. Mark is a great cheerleader for Mt. Juliet business owners whether they are in the Chamber or not. I have found the Chamber to be a good resource for buying locally. A great tool that we use is the on Chamber website. The business search function really comes in handy. Here is an example of what happened a month or so ago.
We were planning a party at our house for about 35 guests. We went to the Chamber website and searched for a caterer. One in particular, which we never heard of, came up. Rhyno’s Grille? They are on Lebanon Road, so off we went for dinner one night. We were very impressed! Ryan Bussey is the owner of Rhyno’s and is an excellent chef. After several conversations, we put Ryan in the hot seat. We are rarely disappointed in doing business in Mount Juliet, but this was a big event for us. I have to tell you that Rhyno’s did an outstanding job! Ryan listened to what we wanted, prepared what we asked for, and delivered beyond our expectations. It was fun to hear the guests talking about the food. It wasn’t one particular food item, it was all of them. I want to thank Ryan for making our event an overwhelming success. Just as important though, I want to thank Mark for encouraging us to shop Mt. Juliet and the Chamber staff for giving us the tools to support our community. Thank you for making it easier to do business in Mt. Juliet.
1. Make hay while the sun shines
Timing is critical. If you pick your fruit too soon, you get a stomachache. If you pick it too late, you have garbage. Know what part of a cycle you are in and act accordingly.
2. You never know where the seed will fall
Exhibit your leadership qualities at all times. Those who can be groomed will notice and emulate. Those who can't will reveal their true nature to you sooner this way.
3. Snails in May, gophers in June, drought in July ... if it's not one thing, it's another
There will always be problems. It is what you do about them that matters.
4. Some plants make it, some don't
If someone fails to prosper under your leadership, don't take it personally. Be like the sun and shine equally on all. Some make it. Some don't.
5. "Amended soil" still smells like cow manure
Don't get bogged down in euphemisms or politically correct thinking. Give directions clearly. Stick to the point. Know when to shut up.
6. It's not called a nursery for nothing
Everything is delicate at the beginning. With new staff, new projects, and new acquisitions, take care!
7. Every garden has a snake or two in it
Every business has a snake or two in it.
8. A vine is really a glorified weed
Some of the most surprising things take off! Be open to everything and everybody.
9. Tall plants in the back; short plants in the front
Use your resources wisely. Know your people. Don't ask from someone something they can't give.
10. Plants need sunshine and rain
Don't sweat the small cycles. Keep your eye on the goal!
Yesterday I once again, literally, took a leap outside of my comfort zone. For those of you who know me, you wouldn’t be surprised. I am known for doing crazy things like flying airplanes upside down, white water rafting the raging Gauley River after a storm or canoeing for a week in the Isle Royal National Park in frigid Lake Superior waters. For my whole life, as far back as I can remember, I have been pushing my comfort zone envelope. Whether in business or personal life, it is that curiosity DNA gene I have that makes life excitingly fun!
I was updating our support ticket system tonight and I noticed we had 4 clients who were migrating from their old e-mail accounts to Google Business Apps. This seems to have become a common occurrence for many of our clients in 2012. We also took the plunge to use Google Business Apps in early 2012 and like many of our clients we are very happy with the move.
Once again I have been hooked by the Olympics. The Olympics remind me that victory is often by a hundredth of a second, or a single point, or a few centimeters. The slogan “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” still rings true after all of these years.
Have you ever heard the axiom, "no matter where you go, there you are?" The same is true for the life we have created. We are where we are, based on the decisions we have made, the people we have chosen to associate with, and the sum total of our five closest friends. Interesting formula isn't it? Is it time to make some new friends? In the wise words of Ricky Ricardo, "you got some splainin' to do Lucy!" It's time to stop the blamin' and complainin' and accept the fact that the buck stops here, right now, with you. It's not what happens to you that matters, it's what you do about it. Stuff will happen. Work on building your character and your resolve and stop looking for reasons to justify your particular situation.
It was Henry Ford who said, "Whether you think you can or can't, either way you're right." Success in business is about accountability, responsibility, and ownership. If you don't have a mentor or coach, find one, preferably someone you admire and respect, who has owned a business, and who has faced and conquered the same challenges. When I am faced with a challenge or a difficult situation I like to ask, "What would my mentor do or how would they handle this?” It's time to start thinking like a "glass half full" person rather than a "glass half empty" one. Misery has enough company and it doesn't need to live in yours.
So what's this got to do with your vision? I'm glad you asked. I have had clients say they struggle with their vision and the future of their business. They say business is complicated, attracting clients is difficult, marketing is confusing, keeping customers is happy is a mystery, and making a good profit is doubtful. In general, they are not having any fun. If any of this resonates for you, it's a good time to stop, grab a pen, and answer a few questions.
At the top of your list, answer this:
Why did I get into business in the first place? In other words, what void in the marketplace did I hope to fill with my product or service? How was I going to do it better, faster, or more reliably than anyone else? What pain was I going to alleviate from my customers life that would have them choose me? What pleasure was I going to provide better than anyone else? What don't people like about buying in my industry in general and how could I demonstrate that I am different from the rest?
You see, your business status right now is the vision you hold. The skills you possess, the level of knowledge you have, the competencies you have developed, all are part of the picture called our vision. Unless you learn new skills, acquire more knowledge and practice, and learn to become more competent, your business will look very much the same in the future. Business does not remain static, why should you?
Take some time right now and describe your business five years from now. Write as if it is in the present and you have accomplished your goals and dreams. Think outside the box, bigger than you think is possible right now. Be idealistic, positive and inspiring, even challenging. Now take stock of what you know and what you don't know or understand. What skills, knowledge and competencies do you have to master to fulfill this vision you have now written about? Sometimes when a client does this exercise it seems overwhelming or appears to be the size of an elephant. And we say, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time"! Write down now an action step you will take within the next 24 hours to move you closer to your vision.
When I look at a new client, I don't see a struggling business owner. I see a brilliant, capable, intelligent human being that cares and wants to make a difference in this world and leave an enduring legacy. How do you see yourself? Here's one of my favorite quotes, "Aspire to Inspire before you Expire."
Have a great week!
If you are reading this in the Chamber Blog, congratulations! You have made it through the most turbulent economy since the Great Depression. Unfortunately, now is not the time to relax. As business leaders, we need to become more resilient at handling the extremely high demands of our jobs and the ever-changing business landscape. The following seven principles will help you sharpen your leadership skills so that you’ll be better equipped to handle any challenge that comes your way.
Have you ever fallen victim to Groupthink?
Groupthink occurs when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of the alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict to reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking.