July 2008  
All of your business needs. One easy solution.
Volume 5 Issue 7   www.offassist.com
High Temps Mean It's High Time...

...to review how we do things here at OffAssist!

It's July, and here in Central Texas it's HOT! Temperatures tend to sit around 100 F around here through July and August.

The heat makes me want to crawl into a cave and hide any time we're not on vacation, but that's okay. The heat also reminds me that it is time to pour myself a big glass of iced tea, find a nice cool spot in my office, grab a steno pad and pen, and think about the past year.

What did we do that worked? What didn't work as well as I hoped it would? What processes can I put in place to make it easier for my team and me to work with our clients and each other?

The trick to this is to be brutally honest with yourself and then ACT on what you learn. Revising your business plan, which is ultimately what this annual review is all about, does no good if you don't do anything with the new plan.

I can tell you that I now have several new ideas I intend to implement here at OffAssist in the next few months. Most of them are good, and fun, some, well, not so much, but all are necessary! :)

Take the time this summer, a slow season for me and many of my clients, to review your plan and plan to act on the results of your review. You'll be glad you did.

In this issue...
  • Article: Your Business Plan is Your Roadmap to Success
  • June & July Tax Deadlines tax deadlines and Updated Mileage Rates!
  • Check Out Linux Journal in the Spotlight.
  • Clean Up Your Unpaid Receivables in the Quickbooks Tip.
  • Tech Talk: Hidden Security Pitfalls After a Windows Reinstall

Business Plans - A Path to Success
by Cindy Hartman

Creating a business plan for a small business is like laying a path to success, building it brick by brick. Starting from nothing but a planned destination is the hardest part. But once started, each brick, strategically placed, takes you one step further with great thought and determination.

This is the most important tool for the small business owner. It is your guide, or roadmap, to success because it should scrutinize every aspect of your business. The main areas this document should contain are Management and Operations Plans, Market Analysis, Services and Pricing, Sales Strategy and Financial Analysis.

The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make is placing the business plan on a shelf and never reviewing it again (that is, if they write one to begin with!). The business plan provides guidelines, projections and suppositions. It does not provide certainty or absolutes. Therefore, it must continue to be tweaked and revised. This document is a living, breathing document that helps you see what works, what doesn't, what has changed and what needs to change.

Three key components that should be analyzed closely are the Sales and Service, Market Analysis and Pricing. When starting a business, research on your projected market can only provide a best guess. As your business grows, you'll most likely find variations that should be incorporated into the business plan.

When reviewing your client base, you might discover a need to adjust your assumptions. Were the demographics correct? Was the geographic area first determined really where you're finding your customers? Are the channel markets who you expected them to be? Scrutinize your findings and make changes to your business plan accordingly.

The Sales Strategy might also change. For example, your plan might have called for print advertising and direct mail, but you discovered that networking and referrals turned out to be the best way to secure sales. Your advertising budget will adjust positively with this scenario, but you might need an additional part-time employee to cover the time you're attending networking meetings. The adjustments are a continuous project!

If your demographics prove to be different than anticipated, there might also be a need to adjust your pricing and services. Let's consider a cleaning service, established to do weekly cleaning to the Boomer market. The advertising was directed at the Boomers, and you find that you are reaching exactly who you are targeting! But you find that most are calling to hire a cleaning service for their parents. The aging seniors would most likely need less frequency (monthly or quarterly), which could create a cash flow issue. Therefore, there might be a need for a different pricing structure. More refining to your plan will make it a better path to success.

A business plan will help you see where you are and where you can go. It will help you determine if you are staying on track or if you need to refocus. Just like a brick path that needs constant care, the same is true for a business plan. You must secure loose ones, replace broken ones, pull weeds, and often widen and lengthen the entire path to handle additional traffic (customers, products, services).

This vital document will make your journey more enjoyable and more successful, but only if it is visited and revised often rather than sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

Cindy Hartman is Vice President of Hartman Inventory Systems, LLC, a complete business startup package for entrepreneurs wanting to start a home-based business. She is President of Hartman Inventory, where she and her husband provide the business and home inventory service. Learn more at her website at www.hartmaninventory.com. Let the Hartman's help you start and grow your own personal property inventory service.

Article courtesy of www.articlebiz.com

QuickBooks Tip
Logging the One That Got Away (without paying!)

Q: I have a customer that is never going to pay his bill. I'm tired of looking at the past due balance on the collection report, and use Cash Basis accounting for my business. How can I clear off this outstanding debt?

A: Unfortunately, you can't just expense it as a bad debt, since it was never claimed as income.

The easiest way to close out a bad debt like this is to issue a credit memo that exactly matches the past due amount. Date the credit memo for the year you want the invoice removed from your books. In other words, if you are closing your books for 2007 and you want this invoice gone when you start your 2008 accounting, date the credit memo 12/31/2007. Make sure you fill in the description so you know what the credit memo is for; in this case, uncollected debt.

Once you've created the credit memo, go to "Receive Payments" and enter the date you want the transaction recorded (ex: 12/31/07). Highlight the original invoice(s) you want closed and check it/them. Click on "Set Credits" at the bottom of the screen. Apply the credit memo you just created to the invoice(s) and hit "Done".

Don't forget to change the Customer Status to reflect the change in your relationship. A few status examples are COD, Inactive, PBW - Payment Before Work Begins, or NNW - Never, Never Work For Them Again.

Using a credit memo cleans up the balance in your accounts receivable and has no impact on your P&L. Expenses incurred for this job are unaffected since you paid those costs and when the product or service was provided to the non-paying client, and are still legitimate expenses.

Have an article you'd like to write for our monthly newsletter or want to be spotlighted? Have a QuickBooks question or something you'd like to see in the Tech Tip?

Email candy@offassist.com.

The OffAssist newsletter is made possible by the copywriting/editing skills of Ink Think VA, and the coding talents of VA Lab Designs.

Tax Deadlines
July 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for June issued payroll

July 20 - Texas Sales & Use Tax Return due for monthly and quarterly filers

July 31 - Deposit FUTA owed through June if more than $500.00

July 31 - Employer's Quarterly Payroll Tax Report(s) Form 941

July 31 - Employer's Quarterly TWC (Texas Workforce Commission)

August 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits for July issued payroll

August 20 - Texas Sales & Use Tax Return for monthly filers

Due to extreme weather around the country in the last couple of months, state and federal tax deadlines have been extended in some storm-affected areas. Check with your local tax office and at www.irs.gov to find out if you are among those affected by these localized deadline changes.

Good News! New Mileage Rates!
The IRS announced last month that effective July 1, 2008, business, medical, and moving mileage rates will go up eight cents per mile. Find more detail on the IRS website. In the meantime, here's the important stuff:

Mileage Rate Changes
Purpose Rates
1/1 - 6/30/08
7/1 - 12/31/08
Business 50.5 58.5
Medical/Moving 19 27
Charitable 14 14

Tech Talk With Tom...
Overcoming Old Security After a Windows Reinstall

Sometimes you just have to reinstall Windows. Lots of us have had to do it at one time or another. Reinstalling Windows is often the cheapest, easiest, and fastest way to fix many common Windows errors (Blue Screen of Death, anyone?)

You backed up all of your files and reinstalled Windows, and now you're ready to start recovering your data. It's all going so well, then, suddenly, you see it:

"You are not authorized to access this folder."

Did you know that when you reinstall Windows some of your folders will retain their security information from the previous install? While this may sound like an, "End of Life as You Know It," scenario, don't worry, it's not. There is an easy way to regain access to your files and data.
  1. Login to Windows with an account that has administrator rights.
  2. Right-Click the folder or file that is giving you the error.
  3. Click "Properties", then "Security", and select "Advanced".
  4. Click on the "Owner" tab
  5. You will see a list of available names. Select your regular login name.
  6. Click "Replace owner on subcontainers and objects", then "OK" and "Yes."
Your regular login account is now the proud "Owner" of that folder. Logout and login with your usual name and you can set up whatever account access you would like for any of the affected folders.

Now get to work! Reinstalling Windows is just the first part on the road to a full system recovery. Restoring all of your e-mail, "My Documents", and web favorites, not to mention the programs you use, is going to take a while.

Thank goodness Minesweeper comes installed by default!

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

If you've known us for any length of time, then you know most of us here at OffAssist are fans of open source. The people at Linux Journal are the reason why.

They started out as clients, and now they are so much more. We were familiar with the idea of open source software and programming, but not the specifics. A few months of working with LJ took care of that!

Linux Journal has been talking open source for aficionados at all levels, from novice experimenter to advanced code writers, since 1994. The magazine features regular columns covering leading edge Linux application developments, hands-on info for using general Linux applications, in-depth technical features, information about security concerns specific to the open source community, and much more.

LJ was also one of the first print magazines to offer a fully digital subscription. Check them out on the web at www.linuxjournal.com.

Want to get to know the people behind Linux Journal a little better? You can download LJ staffer Miis to your Wii - Sure, their columnists talk big, but can they beat you at Wii Sports? Check out this link for more info on bringing the Linux Journal staffers into your game room.
Have you nursed a secret longing to be in the spotlight, center-stage, all eyes on you?

If you would like to be featured in the OffAssist spotlight column, and have not been featured in the past twelve months, contact Candy@OffAssist.com and we'll see if we can put you in the limelight.

Walking Economy
A man is trying to explain the current economy to his son, who simply looks more and more confused. The man's wife walks in, listens for a moment, and interrupts.

"Son, your Dad is a perfect example of a walking economy."

Dad, surprised, says, "How so?"

"Well, honey, your hair line is in recession, your stomach is a victim of inflation, and both of these together are putting us into a deep depression!"

Marrying Well Makes All the Difference
A young man asked an old, rich man how he made his money.

The old gentleman said, "Well, son, the first thing I did was marry a good woman. Then in 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, when I was down to my last nickel, she encouraged me to invest that nickel in an apple. We spent the entire day polishing that apple and, at the end of the day, I sold it for ten cents."

"The next day, my wife again encouraged me to invest in apples and I bought two. We spent the whole day polishing them and sold them in the evening for 20 cents. Thanks to my wife's encouragement, I continued this system for a week, by the end of which I'd accumulated the, for those days, small fortune, of $6.40."

The young man interrupted, "She helped you build an empire, encouraging you to double your pocket change each day?"

"Good night, no!" the man replied. "My wife's father died at the end of that week and she inherited $2 million!"