– Sezer Sherif, MCSI, CEO & Founder
Business winter blues
As the Christmas period fast approaches, many hardworking entrepreneurs and SMEs are preparing to celebrate the end of a turbulent 2019. For some the festivities will provide some respite from the commercial world, and for others, usually those involved in retail, it will be the most stressful but lucrative time of the year. Despite the rampant commercialisation of Christmas, it is still considered a time of peace and reflection. While this is fine in principle, for many entrepreneurs that cannot switch off from work, inactivity can be stressful.
Financial freedom and to be your own boss are two of the main reasons people start their own business. In the race to realise these goals, there is a danger that too much hard work, with no outlet to let off steam, can be detrimental to your social life and in turn, personal wellbeing. A recent Small Business Barometer undertaken by Enterprise Nation and supported by Experian and ICAEW, found 50% of entrepreneurs admitted to feeling lonely some of the time and another third (29%) said they felt lonely often. Just under half (49%) of those running a business full-time felt stressed often.
Good others, good for you.
Fortunately there is a solution that can boost your sense of wellbeing and give your creative entrepreneurial mind some stimulus. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a voluntary action businesses take to benefit the world around them, whether that be social, economic or environmental. When it first became popular in the 1990s, CSR was typically seen as a tick box exercise for large corporates to justify their bottom lines and be perceived as trendy and “in-touch”. Nowadays CSR is widely accepted, managed and assessed like any other business function, and has been proven to have many bottom-line business benefits such as staff recruitment and retention and driving innovation and productivity.
CSR benefits all businesses, but I would argue that that SME business owners have the most to gain from the practice in terms of their personal wellbeing. I have worked in financial markets from the age of 19 as a young derivatives broker before starting my first business in 2007. I have been exposed to all manner of stresses, disappointments and financial pains. As a driven, slightly egotistical young man I dealt with these situations by burying my head even further into my work, and counting on my resolve to see me through to the other side. Unfortunately, I found that cutting myself off from others to achieve success was detrimental to my long-term business performance and sense of self. Fortunately, a strong family support network helped me understand that the creative energies I used to be a successful entrepreneur could also be channelled to help others, and in the process, myself. My story is anecdotal but the advice I received based in fact. The NHS recommends that helping others through volunteering or mentoring has a positive impact on the giver as well as the receiver, and this has been supported by numerous charities and medical studies.
How can I help?
Time is a luxury that many entrepreneurs do not have but there are a number of ways you can harness your entrepreneurial drive and knowledge to help others. Whether mentoring young people into work, supporting a charity, or doing your best to make life better for your employees, a little thought and effort can be good for your mental health, your network and business.
In my case homelessness has been an issue close to my heart, having experienced it twice in my life as a young man growing up on a less than affluent London borough. Consequently, I have worked with charities such as Glass Door and Crisis to raise awareness of the issues around rough sleeping. Whether that be teaching boxing throughout the year to homeless men and women, or using my entrepreneurial skills to run a number of soup kitchens in London every Christmas.
On a personal level my life has been enriched having made a number of new friends from all walks of life. I have also learnt to be more emphatic, understanding of people’s problems and willing to challenge simplified explanations offered by mass media and friends for the causes of homelessness. In a business sense this translates as having expanded my network, gained a better ability to problem solve, developed a greater eye for details and have more confidence and assertiveness.
CSR isn’t just for Christmas…
The business world has woken up to the fact that being a good corporate citizen and paying attention to public perceptions and social consequences of their products or services makes sense. In December last year, multinational professional services company Accenture found that more than half of customers in the UK wanted companies to take a stand on issues they care about such as sustainability, transparency and fair employment practices. If they didn’t, 37 percent would walk away from the brand in frustration and a quarter would not return. Therefore, as an entrepreneur looking to grow your business it is important to build it upon strong ethical foundations. In doing so you profit financially but also reap the personal benefits that are necessary for your wellbeing, as do your employees. Christmas and New Year are perfect catalysts for change but in truth you can start being a social responsible entrepreneur immediately. Afterall the world needs a more sustainable form of capitalism if we’re going to build a more inclusive, prosperous society.
3 KEY DIGITAL MARKETING TRENDS FOR 2021
Digital marketing is an industry where the trends are changing on a daily basis, meaning those in the sector really need to stay on top of what’s new and what’s going on.
More and more companies are investing in digital marketing; a service that becomes more and more popular every year. However, this year, especially, brands and businesses have needed digital marketing more than ever, with many shops and businesses being forced to close in person, and being forced to offer their services and products online.
Here are three of the fastest rising digital marketing trends that we expect to go in 2021:
- Specialised Marketing Agencies
Due to the current situation, many businesses will have sadly made members of their team redundant. During the 2008 recession, sadly a lot of those that had job cuts were in the marketing department and these were one of the first teams to be cut, as businesses decided that marketing just wasn’t important.
If that is anything to compare this situation to, then there will be less in-house markers, and therefore more businesses will want to be using their budgets to outsource to specialists instead.
Rather than going to big digital marketing agencies, they will perhaps want more agencies that are specialist in their industry, such as beauty, sport or food so that they can be guaranteed the knowledge and expertise in their niche.
Foundation Agency is an example of an agency launched in the middle of the pandemic. They formed after Google data in May 2020 showed a huge shift in online user behaviour , with trends showing a surge in beauty and skincare, and 70% of consumers now saying they buy beauty products online more than before.
- Less PR Campaigns
The past few months have proven that an event or a situation can take up every newspaper front page, every online article and every single social media mention, and there can be some days (or months in this case) where every day is quite a news heavy day. In this case, journalists won’t be looking for as many campaigns from PR professionals as they’ll already have a list of stories they’d want to cover.
Spending too much time and money on a campaign might backfire, and PR professionals and marketing professionals may use their time to find more reactive opportunities.
Kyle Sowden, Digital PR Executive at Liberty Marketing, says:
“I’ve been keeping a close eye on the amount of surveys that have been getting picked up in the media over the last two or three months and noticed that they’re hugely decreasing. Surveys can cost a few grand, depending on the niche of the respondents you want, what results you want and how many questions you want too. If you don’t get the results that you hoped for, then this could be a huge loss in terms of money and time.
PR professionals are better off spending their money on services like Response Source and HARO, as well as emailing journalists that they know will be writing about topics that they, or their clients, are able to supply comment to rather than producing one big content campaign. Maybe not forever, but certainly for the time being while the world is a bit weird.”
- More Social Media Advertising
Most of us have more time to spend, meaning more time to sit around on our phones or laptops. There have been a lot of furloughs and redundancies this year, as well as more slackers that are working from home, spending time scrolling through social media platforms.
Social media is one of the best places to advertise and market your brand or product, especially as we know many people have switched to online shopping now rather than going into the local town centres.
Ryan Walton, Founder of Aura Ads, says:
“With more time spare to scroll through social media and online shop, brands are well aware that one of the best ways that they can spend their marketing budgets is on social media marketing, specifically video as they know that’s what gets the highest engagement rates.”
Of course, these trends aren’t certain, but they’ve definitely been on the rise towards the end of the year, and we expect them to keep peaking. It’s important to check sites such as Search Engine Journal for your everyday marketing news, to see what sort of changes are going on in the digital marketing industry.
A GUIDE TO LLC TAXES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
By Tricia Joyce
Starting a small business can be an exciting, if sometimes stressful, journey. While finally being able to be your own boss is definitely a perk, running your own business isn’t always easy.
One of the greatest hurdles that entrepreneurs are often underequipped to deal with is taxation. How much should you be paying per year, and what are the forms and processes? In our previous post ‘Corporation Tax – A Guide for Small Businesses’, we discussed the ins and outs of corporation taxes and other basic information. Today, we’re going to look at the specifics of paying tax as a Limited Liability Company (LLC).
Benefits of an LLC
Why choose to register as an LLC? Well, most entrepreneurs might think that registering as a sole proprietorship might be enough, but there are certain advantages to LLCs. Generally, LLCs offer more flexibility and liability protections, without the complicated procedures and extra costs of other business models.
Another main draw of forming an LLC is that they’re taxed differently from S corporations. The two models are fairly similar in that they protect the owners from double taxation. However, LLCs offer more flexibility, and have less complicated procedures. S corporations are also required to file business tax returns, which are not required for single-owner LLCs.
How Are LLCs Taxed?
As a “pass-through entity,” LLCs have a tax system that sets them apart from corporations. Like sole proprietorships, the profits and losses of an LLC are coursed through business owners or members. These business owners report this information on their personal tax returns, rather than filing for a separate corporation and personal tax.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, single-member LLCs are considered “disregarded entities.” This means the LLC’s activities must be filed as part of the owner’s federal tax return.
Single-member LLCs must use the Social Security Number (SSN) or Employer Identification Number (EIN) of the owner for reporting income tax. Generally, these activities will be reported through Form 1040 or 1040-SR.
If the LLC is owned by a married couple in a community property state, and the couple continue to treat the entity as a disregarded entity for federal tax purposes, or as a partnership for federal tax purposes, then the LLC remains as reported. However, in non-community property states, the LLC must file as a partnership. It is important that you make sure to research what kind of rules for joint ownership of an LLC exist in your state.
If the LLC is owned by multiple members, such as a married couple as given in the example above, income tax is generally paid as a partnership. This means that individual partners will pay tax based on their lawful share of ownership in the LLC. This is called a distributive share, and is usually found in proportion to a member’s ownership percentage of the business.
The Balance has a small guide on paying taxes as an LLC. In brief, the partnership will file an information return on Form 1065. Each partner will then receive a Schedule K-1 showing the share of profits or losses in the LLC.
The Schedule K-1 information must then be transferred to Schedule E – Supplemental income. Each type of income, as broken down on your Schedule K-1, will be inputted in specific sections on the Schedule E. You can then include the income as reported in your Schedule E in the relevant sections of your Form 1040 or 1040-SR.
Is an LLC Right for You?
LLCs are favored for their adaptability and relatively simple procedures. However, if your multi-member LLC needs to retain a certain amount of profits, you may find it more beneficial to register as a corporation. In general, however, LLCs are great options for small business owners. Make sure to do extensive research on the tax laws in your state to ensure you’re choosing the right model for your business plan.
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