July 2006  
All of your business needs. One easy solution.
07/06/2006           Vol 3 Issue 7   www.offassist.com
Lazy Days of Summer

When was the last time you looked (no, really looked) at your financial statements?

A lot of businesses start to slow down at this time of year. While that makes this is the perfect time to get away for a vacation or to take the time to revamp your marketing strategies, don't forget to spend some extra time on your business' financial health. Take a look and make sure that your statements make sense. We bookkeepers have been known to make a mistake now and then--something gets coded wrong or you are missing an asset on your balance sheet. Make sure to go over your financials while you have some time to really look at it and don't forget to ask questions! That's what we are here for!

In this issue... Until next time...


Your Best Marketing Tool

- By Candace Beauchamp

New VAs and business owners ask all the time where the best place to spend their marketing dollars is. We all do mail-outs and other advertising, but don't forget about the absolute best advertising of all--your current business associates, clients, and vendors.

The vast majority of my clients now come from referrals. A friend or colleague of a current client of mine will mention they really need a good bookkeeper and my client will respond with, "Oh, you should call Candy, she's great!" This is the best advertising--the potential client has gotten a direct recommendation from someone they trust and they are most likely in the same field as your current client so you already have experience with their type of business--most of the time it's a done deal before they ever really talk to you. They call you, you send them a proposal, and 2 days later you're working with them. These are the type of clients to we all strive for. If you're good at what you do you will get referral clients, no doubt about it. Referrals can come from clients, vendors, friends, family members--the list really is endless.

How you respond to the person that made the referral can make all the difference in the world to your business. Last October, I attended the IVAA VA Summit and was lucky enough to attend a break-out session with Donnette Cowgill from Pros & Commas. At the time, I was struggling with how to deal with referrals. I didn't want to be pushy with clients and directly ask for referrals, and I wanted to make sure to thank them well enough that they would want to continue sending potential business my way. I had a lot of ideas swirling around in my head but hadn't settled on any particular method for handling referrals. Donnette, who has been in business for almost 30 years and is one of the most amazing people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, shared how she handles her own referrals. I was already leaning towards something similar to her way of doing things, and this session really gave me the confidence to go with it.

A lot of businesses give a gift certificate or send thank you flowers to the referring person. This is always a good idea, but keep in mind that deductible gifts are limited to $25 per person on your tax return. Some people offer discounts on their services to the current clients who send them referrals. This is another good idea, because it saves the client money and gives them incentive to keep working with you. Personally, I think that sending a check, something tangible--no, PayPal doesn't count--really makes a difference.

When a current client sends me a referral I send them a thank you gift, usually brownies or cookies. If that referral becomes a client, I send the referring party a check for 20% of the new client's billing for the first three months. I don't advertise this policy, and I don't push it, I just send the check with a note that we pay for the first 3 months and thank them again for the referral. I put it all in a thank you card with an extra business card and the response has been really great.

Referrals were recently discussed on an email group that Donnette and I belong to. It was interesting to see the different strategies people use. Equally interesting to me was seeing that almost all of the people who have been in business for a long time just seemed to automatically know that a tangible check for referrals is their absolute best marketing tool.

As Donnette says, "There's few things more rewarding than having a colleague, client, or even vendor call and say how pleasantly surprised they were to get a check from me. Most are not aware of my practice of sending referral fees. I've also found that colleagues like to refer to someone they trust. If they get a referral fee in exchange it sure helps them remember you next time."
Quickie QuickBooks Q & A
FB from Arkansas asks:

Q: I just upgraded from QuickBooks 2005 to 2006. There used to be a "print checks" button. Where did it go?

A: You now have to go to File/Print Forms/Checks. You can also go to the write a check screen and click on "print batch". Anything outstanding "to print" will come up.
 
"Three Wishes"
An IRS employee sits in his office and, out of boredom, decides to see what's in his old filing cabinet. He pokes through the contents and comes across an old brass lamp. "This will look nice on my mantelpiece," he decides, and takes it home with him. While polishing the lamp, a genie appears and grants him three wishes.

"I wish for an ice cold diet Pepsi right now!"

POOF! He gets his Pepsi and drinks it.

Now that he can think more clearly, he states his second wish.

"I wish to be on an island where beautiful women reside."

POOF! Suddenly he is on an island surrounded by gorgeous females. He tells the genie his third and last wish:

"I wish I'd never have to work ever again."

POOF! He's back in his IRS office.
 
Important Tax Deadlines
July 17 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for June

July 17 - Partnership Returns due for 2005

July 31 - Quarterly IRS 941 forms are due for Q2

July 31 - Quarterly 941 payments are due for Q2

August 15 - Personal tax returns due (for those that filed an extension)

August 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for June

Texas Business Tax News Flash!

The Texas Comptroller has created an online tool to aid businesses in determining their new tax information based on recent tax law changes. You can read the full article here.

The tax calculator tool can be found on the Comptroller's website at: www.window.state.tx.us.

Spotlight On...
Austin, Texas-based service firm Texas Houseworks lights up the stage as this month's spotlight subject.

Robin Boozer, the owner-operator of Texas Houseworks, loves what she does for a living. As an outdoor enthusiast she was less than thrilled with her corporate job and when the opportunity presented itself to go out her own, she leapt on it.

When she initially launched her service business a few years ago and was asked what she did she replied, "We do the things you don't have time for!" and a slogan was born. The name for her enterprise took longer and, after struggling with it for a while, Robin eventually decided to go with one suggested by one of her clients, Texas Houseworks.

Over time "the things you don't have time for" has turned out to be a variety of personal services, including house cleaning, pet-sitting, home improvement, and lawn and garden service.

When asked about her choice to run a service firm, Robin says, "I have a true love of the outdoors. I would rather work outside and get my hands dirty than work inside any day! I have always had a lawn service, from my college days until today... Some people would be surprised to know I graduated from St. Edward's University, enrolled in the University of Tulsa Law School, and now own a home services company."

For more information about Texas Houseworks' service offerings as well as photos of some home and garden projects they've completed, visit Robin and her team on the web at www.txhouseworks.com.

Tech Talk with Tom...
Copy pictures from your camera phone using Bluetooth.

One of the most common questions I'm asked is, "How do I get the pictures off of my Bluetooth phone?"

Unfortunately there's no single method for doing this since there doesn't seem to be a set specification that the phone vendors are using. The following steps will work with most phones and should not require you to purchase any additional software.
  1. If your computer does not support Bluetooth, add a USB Bluetooth adapter. If necessary, upgrade your computer to Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2, which is required if you want to use Bluetooth.
  2. Follow the instructions included with your phone to initiate a Bluetooth connection to your computer. Your computer will prompt you to allow the phone to connect and to enter a security code. Enter the same security code on both your phone and your computer.
  3. On your computer, click Start, and then click My Computer. Double-click My Bluetooth Places.
  4. In My Bluetooth Places, under Bluetooth Tasks, click View devices in range.
  5. Double-click the icon for your phone.
  6. Double-click the icon for transferring files. If you are prompted to enter a security code, refer to your camera phone user manual for the code required.
  7. If you can copy photos directly to and from your phone, you will see a folder for pictures (the exact folder name may vary). Double-click this folder.
  8. Drag your pictures from your camera phone to a folder on your computer. Once you've copied the pictures, you can delete them from your camera phone to save space.
And there you have it! You should now be able to copy, e-mail, or post to the web any pictures you take with your Bluetooth phone! If the above steps do not work for you, you may need to visit your phone vendorís website and see if they have any specific tools available.

Tom Beauchamp is the marketing and tech expert behind OffAssist. He can be reached at tom@offassist.com.



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