Running a business can feel like a whirlwind of responsibilities! Time is a precious resource for entrepreneurs, and taking shortcuts can be tempting. However, there’s one shortcut we really recommend against: sharing sensitive documents like bank statements, financial reports, tax forms, and more over email.
When safeguarding your valuable information (and that of your customers!), prioritizing security is essential. With cyber threats constantly evolving, email is an increasingly vulnerable method for transmitting confidential data. How should you be sharing your sensitive documents instead? By embracing secure document-sharing portals.
Document-sharing portals like SmartVault employ state-of-the-art encryption techniques to prevent bad actors from accessing your information. They can streamline your workflows, save time, and reduce errors. Most have user-friendly, intuitive interfaces, too, making it easy for you and your team to implement the new tech successfully.
Portals don’t just benefit you and your business, however! They can benefit your customer relationships, too. Adopting a portal can demonstrate a commitment to protecting your customers’ data, safeguard your reputation, and help you comply with data protection regulations.
While attaching a file to an email may feel more convenient in the moment, the tradeoff could be catastrophic. Instead, by taking an extra step to secure your documents, you’re investing in the long-term success of your business. We, as accountants, cannot overstate the importance of robust data security, and we encourage you to embrace the convenience and peace of mind that secure document-sharing portals provide!
We’re just a few days away from the first day of summer and a few weeks from the year’s midpoint. So now is a great time to evaluate the effectiveness of your business strategy for the first half of 2023, plan something enjoyable, and think about what you want to accomplish in the remainder of the year.
Here are five business strategies to help you regroup, reassess, and rejuvenate your business for the second half of 2023.
1. Celebrate Your Accomplishments
Take a moment to acknowledge your accomplishments and congratulate your team on the goals you’ve reached together. The extent of your progress may surprise you! Maybe a recent hire has made your team the largest it’s ever been, you’ve reached record revenue goals, or you solved a complex supply chain problem. Celebrating your wins is one of the best parts of running a business, and it also affords you the opportunity to hop off the hamster wheel and enjoy life.
2. Take a Vacation
Any rest is beneficial, and stepping away from your business, whether for a day or an entire month, gives your mind space to unwind and recalibrate. So plan to take time off when your business is the least busy–or when your customers are the quietest.
Anxious about being away from your business? You’re not alone. Take the time that seems feasible for you. It could be half a day every Friday for the month of August; it could be a remote-work vacation in a location with a better climate. Remember: there is life beyond your business, and you will be a better business owner when you take regular breaks away.
3. Schedule a Mid-Year Review
How has your business fared for the first half of 2023 compared to your goals at the beginning of the year? Are you on track to reach them? Or should you design a course correction? Where do you need to go next?
Set aside time to dive into these questions and think deeply about your answers. You can make this process as formal or informal as you want. For example, some businesses hold retreats, or you may decide you simply need some quiet time on a weekend.
4. Be Selective About the Projects You Start
Are you busy with the things that will take your business to the next level? Or the same old stuff? What are you afraid to say “yes” to? If you’re putting off a project that you know will pay back handsomely, consider how to shelve some other projects and focus your energy on the efforts that will reap the most rewards.
Taking the time to regroup and refresh your business greatly enhances your chances of success in the second part of the year. Use these five tips to create a summer worth dreaming about and use its momentum to reach your business goals.
We’re six days away from the first day of summer, and a few weeks away from the midpoint of the year. It’s the perfect time for taking a strategy check in your business to see how you’re doing for the first half of 2023 as well as to plan something fun and productive for summertime.
Here are five business strategies to help you regroup, reassess, and rejuvenate your business halfway through 2023.
- Celebrate Your Accomplishments
Take time to pat yourself on the back and congratulate the people around you for the goals you’ve reached and the efforts your team has made on your behalf. You might be shocked when you think about how far you’ve come. Maybe you’ve hired another team member and your team is the largest it’s ever been; perhaps you’ve reached record revenue goals; possibly you’ve solved a complex supply chain problem.
We all could use more praise and more celebrations in our lives. Perhaps you can organize a party, or if you are not the partying type, a quiet word individually with your team can go a long way, maybe more than you know.
- Take a Vacation
If you’re feeling quite burned out, the best thing you can do is stop and take a breather. There’s nothing better to rekindle your creative juices than to get away from the business for a while. Summertime is when most people take a vacation, so if your business is not having its busy season, this might be a good time to go away, even if for a little while.
If you’re anxious about being away from your business, you’re not alone. In your annual planning process, plan for and block out your vacation way ahead of time. Book the reservations with no refunds several months in advance so that you won’t chicken out at the last minute. There is life beyond your business, and you will be a better business owner when you take regular breaks away.
- Schedule a Mid-Year Review
How has your business fared for the first half of 2023 compared to the goals you set at the beginning of the year? Are you on track to reach your goals? Should you design a course correction or are you on track? Maybe you’re even ahead of plan!
You can make this process as informal or formal as you want. Some businesses hold retreats; you may simply need some quiet time on a weekend when all your family is busy doing something else.
- Be Selective About the Projects You Start
Is your plate too full? Entrepreneurs that wear many hats would probably say “yes” to that question, so the next question is do you have to do it all at once? Ask yourself what you can afford to stop doing that doesn’t make sense. Is there a project or two that can wait? If so, decide to stop stressing about not getting it done and give yourself permission to put it on the back burner for now.
- Play Big
Maybe you’re not playing big enough. You might be busy, but are you busy with the things that will take your business to the next level? Do the thing you’re afraid to say “yes” to; the thing that you know will transform your business and get you closer to your dreams.
If you’re putting off a project that you know will pay back handsomely, then shelve everything you’re working on and start on the one that will reap the most rewards. It could be a new product or service line, a new ad campaign, a new hire, a new joint venture, new financing, or even a new partner, which is very big indeed. You likely know what it is you need to do; your gut has been telling you for a while now. Just get it started, and it will then become easier.
Summertime is a great time to regroup, re-energize, and refresh your business. Try one of these five tips to spice up your summer as well as your business success.
Since ChatGPT burst onto the scene at the end of 2022, the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) has permeated everything from business conferences to news articles to conversations with friends and colleagues. GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer. It’s a program that can write like a human and interact conversationally. In just a few short months, it’s already transformed how people plan vacations, draft contracts, and write social media content. Essentially, you can type in a nuanced, complicated question, and ChatGPT will give you an amazingly lifelike, frequently correct answer.
ChatGPT was launched in November 2022 and developed by OpenAI, an AI research lab tasked with developing a friendly AI. OpenAI has both a non-profit and for-profit component in its organizational structure. ChatGPT is free as of this writing, but you must open an account and verify your email address and phone number to access it. Once you do, the prompt is simple; just ask it a question. You can get access here: https://chat.openai.com/chat
While it’s a powerful advancement that will continue to change how the world does business, the tech comes with its limitations. There is a disclaimer in place, as ChatGPT will occasionally generate wrong answers. It did generate a misleading response when asked a complex tax question about the Employee Retention Credit and greater than 50 percent owner wage eligibility; Samsung suffered a breach of sensitive data after discovering staff uploaded sensitive code; users have noticed a bias against women; and legal professionals have noted that it will reference completely bogus cases in great detail when crafting an argument.
With that in mind, how can you use ChatGPT in business safely and to your benefit? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Read OpenAI’s FAQ page about ChatGPT here.
- Verify any answers it offers you.
- Remember that it has limited knowledge of the world and events after 2021.
- Don’t share sensitive information in your queries.
- Be as specific as possible with your instructions, and give ChatGPT any relevant parameters and context (Whose POV should it be written from? What will the copy be used for? How long should the text be? What specific points should it address?)
- Ask it for bites of copy instead of lengthy text. For example, you’ll get better results asking for a closing paragraph than asking for an entire blog post.
- Instruct it to write something 3-5 different ways.
- Ask it to rewrite something for clarity.
ChatGPT can be a valuable tool for many workplaces. Its ability to assist in automating copywriting and provide quick answers to common questions can save time and improve your team’s productivity. However, exercising caution and staying abreast of developments and news around this emerging technology is essential. And as with any tech, proper training and implementation are vital to maximizing its benefits while mitigating potential risks.
It’s no secret that these first few years of the 2020s have brought forth seismic change in business; however, there’s one change you might not be aware of yet: the rapidly growing shortage of accounting professionals. In December 2022, the Wall Street Journal summarized the situation: “More than 300,000 U.S. accountants and auditors have left their jobs in the past two years, a 17% decline, and the dwindling number of college students coming into the field can’t fill the gap.”
Such a shortage could create burdensome circumstances for business owners. So, exploring ways to build a more synergistic relationship with your accountant now can make for a better future for both of you.
Tip 1: Reduce your accountant’s administrative time.
One of the easiest ways to improve your working relationship with your accountant is to reduce the amount of administrative work required to manage your account! Here are a couple of tips to get you started:
- When gathering paper information for your accountant, scan and convert it to PDF. Then upload it to their secure portal.
- Many accountants use software that includes optical character recognition (OCR) technology, which helps automate the categorization of transactions. PDF files are typically easier for this technology to read than image files, so save your files accordingly.
- For multi-page documents, combine all pages into one PDF file. Conversely, avoid consolidating separate documents into one PDF.
- Use your customer portal instead of email if one has been provided to upload documents.
Tip 2: Be mindful in communications.
Good communication is an essential part of the accountant-customer relationship. A great customer will take the time to read any emails or correspondence and answer all the questions in the email (not just the first one!). They’ll also keep their accountant informed as they prepare to make financial decisions, like hiring a new employee, making a capital investment, or moving their money to a new bank. Proactive communication can help your accountant provide timely information so you can make intelligent business decisions. It can also help both of you avoid messy (and costly) cleanups.
Both you and your accountant may have preferred ways of communicating, among the choices of text, voice, and email. Keep in mind your accountant has a higher duty to protect your private information. Text and unencrypted email can be problematic for them, particularly when sensitive information is being conveyed.
You can make your communication more efficient by saving non-urgent questions for your next meeting together. As a result, you’ll be able to cover much more ground in your sessions, and your accountant will appreciate fewer emails in their inbox.
Tip 3: Vet any advice you hear first before contacting your accountant.
Be wary of unsolicited advice and tips you might see on social media. They can be uneducated at best and downright fraudulent at worst. One of the most prominent examples we’ve seen involves ERC mills. These companies have sprung up to “help” small businesses claim the Employee Retention Credit from 2020 and 2021. Unfortunately, most of these companies are not following IRS guidelines and do not have the credentials to evaluate the tax law properly. And if you’ve been working with an accountant the entire time, chances are high that they’ve already helped you acquire any ERC funds your organization is eligible for.
Lastly, social media sources can be chock full of unreliable information. For example, TikTok and Instagram have some outrageous financial claims going around. If it sounds too good to be true, or you suspect the video was created by someone who is not a qualified or licensed accounting professional, take the information with a large grain of salt and speak with YOUR accounting or tax professional before acting on any advice you hear.
Improving the way you work with your accountant ultimately benefits everyone involved. By reducing your accountant’s need for administrative work, being mindful in your communication, and vetting advice you hear first, you can create a mutually beneficial relationship with your accountant that ensures a lasting, productive relationship. Remember, as your accounting professionals, we want to support your business goals and help you succeed!