You Have to Measure to Win

You have to measure if you want to grow. The results you have now will tell you what’s working, and the results you don’t have will make obvious what is absent. But you’re a small-business owner, and you’re already overwhelmed; measuring can’t be your full-time job. It doesn’t have to be. A system I recommend is called the “Thumbprint.” It’s just three groups of numbers:

  • Sales — We usually talk about monthly sales and compare them to last year
  • ACT – The amount of an average customer transaction
  • TGM – Total Gross Margin

ACT and TGM should both be measured historically over 12 months or as many months as you’ve been in business. There are only two ways to grow sales: either get more customers or convince your existing customers to spend more. To calculate ACT, divide sales by transactions. Both ways to grow sales are accounted for in that one simple number. There are also only two ways to grow margin: raise prices or lower costs. TGM is the money you have after you subtract any costs that are directly related to making a sale, so both sides of that equation are represented in that number as well. This is an accurate way for franchisees across the system to compare how they’re the same, how they’re different, who is having success and who needs a hand. This quick Thumbprint allows two small-business owners from completely different businesses and regions to relate to and learn from each other. In turn, this multiplies opportunities to learn from each other.



Program for businesses in distressed areas plagued by red tape

Completing HUBZone paperwork can be a daunting task for many businesses.  However it may pay off in the long run as illustrated by this company in Delaware.

Source: delawareonline, Article written by Jeff Mordock, published July 17, 2015

After losing out on a potentially lucrative federal contract, Frank and Donna Masley took steps to ensure it would never happen again.

The owners of Wilmington-based glove manufacturer Masley Enterprises Inc. qualified to become part of the federal HUBZone program, which assists small businesses in urban and rural communities to get preferential access to government contracts.  MORE…

Read the full story at

Completing this certification was very beneficial for several businesses and now more need to be encouraged in Delaware to apply.  Find your nearest PTAC for no cost assistance with the HUBZone application process at

A New Executive Order Pertaining to Sick Leave signed by the President

Obama’s Latest Executive Order Requires Sick Leave for Contractors

A new executive order by the President will provide sick leave for some 300,000 workers.

 Source: Government Executive, Article written by Charles S. Clark, published September 8, 2015

 In another in his stream of executive moves that don’t require congressional approval, President Obama used Labor Day and the ongoing presidential campaign to highlight his signing of an executive order requiring federal contractors to provide up to seven days sick leave for employees.

“We’ve seen that many companies, including small businesses, support these policies, because they understand it’s helpful with recruitment and retention,” Obama told a union crowd in Boston on Monday. Back in January’s State of the Union address, he had stated that, “We are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home.”  MORE….


Read the full story at

Several executive orders have been issued by the President.  Contact your nearest PTAC with questions about these executive orders.

9 Small Business Accounting Tips

By Tim Parker

Your business’s accounting is probably the last thing you enjoy spending time on, so why not take a few steps to make it easier? These nine small business accounting tips can help.

It’s an easy area to overlook. As a business owner, you might look at making your website more effective, improving your management skills, company morale, conserving electricity, and getting the best prices on your raw materials but there’s one place that you might not think twice about.

Your accounting department probably isn’t an area you scrutinize. One or two people sit at a desk all day, shuffle paper, type a lot, and at the end of the day, if bill collectors weren’t calling you, you’re happy.

Or maybe your accounting department is you. You might not be an accountant by trade so you’re always looking for a way to make the act of money shuffling more efficient is welcome. We’re here to help.

  1. Consider Lockbox Processing

If you receive a large amount of customer payments, you’re a prime candidate for lockbox processing. Instead of having payments sent to your business address, they go to a PO box where the bank processes the payments and deposits them directly into your account. The bank sends you electronic records of the transactions that are automatically entered into your accounting software.

If it seems a little complicated, it will be at first but the amount of time saved by not manually processing payments makes the investment of time and money worth the hassle.

  1. Improve Credit Screening

A sale is only a positive for your business if you actually get paid. A customer who doesn’t pay becomes a bad debt and that costs your business money. If you’re shipping product on credit, do a credit check first. Invest in software that will automatically screen customers and put a hold on shipments if their credit looks questionable.

Ask for a deposit or ship COD to avoid the accounting nightmare of chasing down bad debt. Even if you recover the debt, you probably lost money anyway.

  1. Rethink how you reimburse employees

The process is often cumbersome. Employees who amass travel and entertainment expenses fill out a form, include a stack of receipts, and submit for reimbursement.

The problem, however, is the errors. Mislabeled codes, addition errors and missing information mean more work for the people processing the payment.

Instead, use an electronic entry system that prepopulates information and allows the employee to scan receipts. All or most of the process becomes automated.

  1. Use a purchase card

One employee spends $5 and needs reimbursed. Another spends $10 and yet another spends $7. How about the $29 invoice that arrived today? All of these small charges take far too much time for such a small amount of money.

Instead, give key employees and/or departments purchase cards. When they make a purchase, they submit the receipt or invoice and accounts payable matches the receipt to the statement. Instead of multiple checks, they cut only one for the month.

  1. Use a standard chart of accounts

Instead of allowing people to code invoices as they would like, make everybody use the same account numbers. When processes are consistent across all employees and departments, the accounts people can process paperwork more rapidly.

  1. Make new employees complete all paper work before starting

Allowing important employee documents trickle in makes it more difficult for HR and accounts payable. Send the employee all paperwork prior to their first day and tell them that it has to be submitted before they start working.

  1. Collect or apply taxes immediately

Waiting to do something later invites accounting errors. When employees are paid, account for payroll taxes right away. Same with sales taxes. And pay estimated taxes regularly and on time.

  1. Set up separate coding for ongoing projects

If you’re constructing a building, creating new technology or other project that is ongoing, set up separate line items. This allows you to pay bills as needed but gives the project manager clean, easy to generate reports of how costs compare to the budget. Entering costs of the project into the general ledger at a later date means processing the same invoices twice. There’s no need for that.

  1. Download bank records daily

If you’re using software like QuickBooks or another higher-end package, downloading transactions from the bank daily is easy and automatic. Not only does this allow you to check for fraudulent activity but it makes generating monthly reports faster. Higher-level managers don’t want to wait until the middle of the month for financial statements from the previous month. Easily solve this problem by doing the work throughout the month while transactions are fresh.

Bottom Line

Becoming more efficient often means investing in technology and training. An accounts department running off of manual processes is wasting a lot of time and inviting errors. As an owner, you’re paying them more money to do tasks that could be automated.

Don’t see technology spending as a cost. It’s an investment that will pay you back rapidly.


hand1Business Checks:

A negotiable instrument (document) that instructs and authorizes the financial institution upon which it is drawn to pay a specific amount from the “drawer” (the signer or payor –the party making the payment) to the payee (the party receiving the check).


Checks are a widely accepted payment method. The check writer does not need to know the payee’s bank routing number and account information.


Costs are high, including postage, purchase price of check stock, toner, and labor of signing, stuffing and mailing. Many people handle and see checks, so account numbers can be stolen/compromised, mail can be stolen and/or copies taken, creating the opportunity of fraud against the check writer’s account.

Wire Transfer:

The electronic transmittal of funds intra-day from one financial institution to another involving an unconditional order to pay a certain amount to a beneficiary upon receipt, or on a day stated in the order. Funds are irrevocable. Each wire transfer is a single message sent individually.


A highly-secure, near-real time mechanism that ensures domestic or international delivery and final



Fees are charged to both the sender and recipient; fees for international wire transfers can be high. The payor must know the payee’s bank routing number and account information

Credit/Debit Cards:

Credit cards allow cardholders to make purchases or obtain cash advances using a line of credit granted by the issuer of the card. Credit cards allow cardholders to have a continuing balance of debt, subject to interest being charged. Debit cards allow cardholders to make purchases or withdraw available cash from their own checking accounts.


Accepting these payment types might boost sales; cards are easy to use and widely accepted; funds are

secured/guaranteed from the cardholder. The payor does not need to know the payee’s bank routing

number and account information.


Potentially high cost of acceptance (monthly, equipment and interchange fees), usually most expensive

with credit. Chargeback amounts and fees are incurred when a customer requests a reversal  of a charge for reasons such as claiming fraud, dissatisfaction, or non-receipt of service/product.

Internet Bill Pay:

Electronic payment service that facilitates both one-time and recurring bill payments. Provided by either a financial institution or a non-bank provider.  Provider sends an ACH payment or check on behalf of bill payor.  Electronic bill payment is commonly offered through a bank’s online banking service, allowing

a depositor to send money from his checking account to a creditor or vendor (such as a public utility)

to be credited against a specific account. Non-bank providers offer bill pay services for businesses. electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) can be a very useful tool for the accounts payable department. It centralizes all transactional documents in one location on a web server so they can be easily found and processed. E-invoicing allows vendors to submit invoices over the internet and have those invoices automatically routed for processing.


Saves time associated with paying bills. Can produce substantial cost savings compared to the traditional approach of printing and mailing bills and payment remittances. An added benefit is a significant reduction in the use of paper. With e-invoicing, invoice arrival and presentation is almost immediate.


If payment is made via check, checks mailed may take 5+ days to reach their destination. A check may save the payor’s account number on the check, which can enable fraud. Depending on the bill pay service provider, checks for bill payments initiated may be outstanding until paid, so payors need to be

aware of their true account balance. The payor must know how to identify the payee to the bill pay system being used so the payment can be accurately delivered

Automated Clearing House (ACH)

Electronic payment network that can be used to push (credit) or pull (debit) funds. Transactions are processed in batches (instead of as single items as in the case of a wire transfer or a check) with a one-or two-day settlement timeframe. Used for Direct Deposit of payroll, direct debit of recurring bills, and various other use cases. An ACH credit is an ACH entry originated to make a payment to another account; for example, for a buyer to pay a supplier for a purchase. The buyer’s account is debited by the buyer’s bank and the buyer’s bank sends the payment to the ACH network. The supplier’s bank picks up the payment from the ACH network and posts the credit to the supplier’s bank account.An ACH debit is an ACH entry that pulls a payment from another account; for example, used by a supplier to pull (debit) funds from the buyer’s account for a purchase.


ACH typically has lower fees per transaction than other types of payments described here. Transactions are typically seen by fewer people than check transactions (e.g., only the payroll or accounts receivable clerk might see an ACH transaction), reducing chance for fraud. In major disasters (e.g., Hurricane Katrina), ACH may process without delay, while paper checks may be more difficult to deliver and/or more easily lost. Employees and companies may receive payments faster when using ACH to send



Unlike wire transfers, which are irrevocable, ACH credit entries received are not final until settlement between banks takes place.  Recurring ACH payments are not guaranteed –the accounts on which they are drawn must have good funds in them. The party originating the transaction must have the receiver’s bank routing number, account

number, and authorization.

*Excerpt from The Small Business Owner’s Toolkit. Remittance Coalition, Volume 1, 2015

To Succeed With Your Small Business Avoid These 5 Mistakes

By: Chuck Pistor

At one time or another, virtually everyone thinks about starting a business. The allure of being your own boss can be strong, but it’s important to remember that launching a new business is risky: According to a recent SBA report, [PDF link] about 50% of all small businesses will fail within just five years.

Managing a startup can be a minefield, especially when the pull of entrepreneurship clouds your decision-making – and when you go it alone with no business experience. But if you do decide to start your own business, it’s a great idea to learn from other’s mistakes and set yourself up for success. Here are five mistakes to avoid:

1. Inaccurately gauging demand for your product or service.

Remember – just because you like jalapeño-flavored pickled okra, that doesn’t mean everyone likes it. Too many small businesses fail because the owner overestimates demand. Before launching your venture, find out how strong the demand is for your product or service. Is it a product or service that most people need or want? Does it fit with current trends? For instance, a DVD rental store is probably not a good investment now due to the popularity of streaming services. Before settling on a business venture, ask yourself if the benefits to the customer are compelling and easy to understand. Test demand for your product or service by vetting it with a wide range of friends and family who will be brutally honest with you.

2. Entering a crowded market without a distinct competitive advantage.

You may cook an incomparably delicious hamburger or make a mean pizza, but before you try to build a business around that talent, think about how you are going to distinguish your business from every other hamburger or pizza restaurant. It’s important to consider factors like price, taste, décor, service speed, advertising and other choices and define how you can set your business apart.

Without a well-defined competitive advantage, it’s tough to compete in a marketplace like the restaurant business, where it typically takes a lot of time and money to build a viable brand. Make sure you have a competitive advantage that stands out.

3. Forgetting to count the costs.

Like any other large-scale project, such as building a house, successfully launching a business requires a thorough, upfront accounting of costs, both financial and personal. Under capitalization is one of the top reasons for business failure, so before you launch, make sure you have a detailed budget that includes not only startup costs but the living expenses you’ll have to take on before your business can start paying you. It’s best to assume it will cost more and take longer than you initially think it will. And it’s also important to include the personal and family costs since startups can be an all-consuming enterprise. It’s better to overestimate the costs and be pleasantly surprised than to project an overly rosy scenario and end up bankrupt.


4. Failing to delegate and ignoring critical functions.

No one person is great at every facet of running a business, so make sure you identify each critical function and delegate tasks to the best person to get the job done. Use your strengths to the company’s best advantage and offload functions that others can do better.

Also, make sure you never just ignore the things you don’t like to do. You can go bankrupt just as fast for failing to pay federal payroll taxes as you can if you don’t generate sales. There are many critical functions involved in running a successful business. Get the right people on your team and be sure each one is in the right position.

5. Not planning for profitability.

One of the first things you should do when making a business plan is to define the business model. Running a non-profit or charity can be satisfying, and it definitely takes business skills, but before you can succeed in any type of business, you’ll need to know your profit model inside and out.

What is your gross margin on sales? Your net margin? How many sales do you need to break even each day or week? What is the worst case scenario, and how would you overcome it? Establish the key performance indicators (KPIs) for your business that will let you know how your company is performing. Numbers don’t lie, they’re not emotional and they don’t make excuses. If the numbers show you are in a steep decline, take action and make changes before you crash. But you can only do that if you define and measure your numbers

So how can you increase your chances of being among the 50 percent of businesses that make it for at least five years? Luck and timing definitely play a role, but you can improve your odds with careful planning and a detailed strategy. Another way to mitigate the risk of business failure is to choose a franchise business. The top franchises already provide solutions and support to help new business owners overcome potential problems.

Successful franchise companies have proven products and processes, and they have historical data and financials to work with, which are valuable resources at the planning and operations stages. Most importantly, franchise companies can provide support when you need it to make good decisions and avoid the minefield of mistakes that doom half of all small business startups. But whether you choose an established franchise or decide to go it alone, remember to avoid these five common business mistakes, and set yourself up to succeed.

Six Mobile Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

How-to-change-customers-mindsMobile phones are essential to shopping these days, and a majority of cell phone owners say they’re willing to share personal data with merchants in exchange for such things as coupons and discounts.

But navigating mobile marketing can be confusing for small business owners, who must avoid bombarding people with unwanted texts while they’re slogging through crowds of holiday shoppers. So how can local merchants use mobile marketing effectively? Here are six tips.

Focus on customers. Consider how consumers already interact with their mobile devices and take advantage of that behavior. Eliminate anything that makes buying more difficult, such as a website that doesn’t load correctly on a mobile device or hard-to-find contact information. Optimize your customers’ mobile Web experiences by adding “click to call” and “click for directions” features, suggests Jeff Fagel, chief marketing officer at G/O Digital. Make sure all your marketing messages look great on the small screens where people are increasingly opening them, says Jessica Stephens, chief marketing officer at marketing technology company SmartFocus. She says 30 percent of mobile shoppers abandon transactions that aren’t optimized for mobile and 57 percent abandon sites that take more than three seconds to load.

Don’t get too pushy. Most Internet shopping activity involves consumers actively searching out information on services or products. But mobile marketing is what’s called “push” technology, which involves sending unsolicited messages to would-be customers. “It’s all done with the idea of engaging customers and getting them to spread your offers on social media,” says Betsy Page Sigman, who teaches operations and information management at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “If people buy something every time you send a discount, keep sending them. But pay attention to when they stop, because that data tells you a lot, too.”

Respect privacy. The discovery of a series of ad beacons used to track phones in New York City recently caused a ruckus over privacy concerns. You won’t catch people by surprise if you direct your marketing messages to customers who have agreed to receive texted discounts or coupons or who have downloaded an app such as Shopkick. The application, and others like it, allows merchants to send messages to users’ devices when their location service is turned on, showing they are nearby.

Give something away. Most people don’t mind that their supermarket tracks their purchases—as long as they get discounts when they swipe their reward cards. The same idea applies to mobile marketing: You need to sweeten the deal, not just text annoying ads. Send customers special offers, reminders about sales, and discount coupons. Imagine the response to a “free coffee with purchase” offer you send to shoppers a block away from your bakery at 4 p.m., for instance.

Integrate. Mobile marketing should be part of your overall marketing plan, along with e-mail, direct mail, and other advertising, says John McGee, chief executive of OptifiNow, a Los Angeles sales and marketing company. “Track the results you get from each channel and see which one is working. There’s no silver bullet—you need to do a little bit of everything. And remember, it doesn’t matter what you want to do—it’s what your customers like,” he says.

Be concise. Unlike e-mail, text messages have a high open rate. But you have to get your point across in few words, which is easier to do the better you know your customers. “Text messages work better for local marketing, which lends itself to small business,” McGee says. “If a local restaurant is having a slow night and sends text to people nearby to get them in for a special, that’s more effective than a retail chain sending out messages to people 20 miles down the freeway.”