Summer is almost here and one great way to get some help for your business is using summer interns. With the job market still weak, many college and high school students are seeking internships for school credit or work experience. Even though most large company internships are already filled, there is still an opportunity for small businesses to find interns because many motivated students are still unemployed for the summer due to a lack of available jobs.
When the internship position is structured well, both the business and the intern can gain great value. Internships work best when the position description is well thought out and holds some interest for the intern. An engaged intern will give you more value than one who is relegated to seemingly menial and meaningless tasks, so explaining how their work supports the business helps — and a little mentoring can go a long way.
Intern programs are great feeders for hiring staff later, so it’s also a cost-effective recruitment tool for small businesses. One caveat: interns in businesses are actually employees so follow the appropriate labor laws. Just because someone is an intern, it doesn’t mean they can be used as unpaid staff. State and federal wage and labor rules apply so check out both before hiring an intern. College credit and the value of “educational experience” can be an offset in some circumstances, but do your due diligence so that you don’t unintentionally flout the labor laws.
The answer is probably yes – particularly if you don’t have any knowledge of accounting or how to deal with more challenging topics such as payroll taxes. Bookkeeping software can make it deceptively easy to think you are keeping good quality accounting records, but accuracy involves much more than the ability to enter checks and deposits. Cleaning up a badly organized or incorrectly set up file later can be both costly and time consuming; much better to get it off to the right start when you set it up.
Spending the money to hire or outsource quality bookkeeping services is some of the best money you can spend. Not properly accounting for your revenue, expenses and capital expenditures can cost you money in any number of ways, including:
missing expenses you can deduct for tax purposes, effectively raising your tax bill
not sending invoices and statements out on a timely basis means it will take longer to be paid and negatively impact your cash flow
falling behind on the bookkeeping will result in you not having an accurate snapshot of the financial state of your business
spending so much time on the details may blind you to the strategic issues for your business – the old “can’t see the forest for the trees” analogy definitely applies here
errors with mishandled payroll or sales taxes can result in significant fines and penalties
using your time to do bookkeeping probably isn’t the most productive use of your time from a business growth standpoint
Use a good quality bookkeeping software program such as QuickBooks and hire or outsource the task of using it to someone qualified to do so and who understands how to use the program to its best advantage for you. QuickBooks also offers you the opportunity to backup your data online so that you are protected in the event your business suffers a disaster. If you can’t find someone locally, consider the options available on a “virtual” basis from services like Elance. You don’t have to lose control of your data, just provide access to the file for the person providing the service.
And using a bookkeeper will also provide you with someone who can keep all your financial records in good order so that you don’t have to and make it easier to prepare for your taxes at the end of the year. If your books aren’t accurate, you can’t effectively manage your business, so don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish about this.
Most entrepreneurs have a do-it-yourself streak…after all, if we weren’t confident in our own ability we probably wouldn’t have the chutzpah start our own businesses in the first place. This go-it-alone tendency, plus the tight budget constraints that start-ups usually have, means that we often try to do too many things ourselves.
This can be a poor business strategy for a variety of reasons. It tends to delay things…and time is money. The longer a product takes to create & sell, the longer you go before you have a revenue stream. Also, it can give a competitor a jump on you if they are faster to bring their product or idea to market, thus enabling them to garner market share.
We can’t all be good at everything. Using an expert can save you time & money because it is done right the first time and you don’t waste time with a learning curve. Focusing on the things you are really good at and putting the bulk of your time into those pursuits is the surest way to build your business.
Outsourcing specific tasks or projects can make you much more efficient at what you truly should be doing and will keep you from squandering your time in areas you aren’t knowledgeable about. It is extremely flexible: you can hire for a specific project, such as, designing your website. Or, you can find a virtual assistant to give you support with a variety of tasks on an as-needed basis.
There is a financial concept known as “opportunity cost.” In this context it means that you are losing money because you are missing the opportunity to build your business by wasting your time on things that other people should be doing for you. While you are spending time doing an administrative or other task that you could hire someone else to do, you could be out selling or promoting your business. So you’ve lost an opportunity to make a sale and build your business. And if you’re doing the bookkeeping or administrative tasks at midnight, you’re losing sleep which is another type of lost opportunity.
Outsourcing is easy to do these days, especially using services such as Elance. It is an easy way to get global access to expertise in a wide range of fields – from virtual assistants to programmers to engineers. And they will be competitively bidding on providing services for you, so it’s a cost-effective and easy way to find assistance with everything from bookkeeping to programming.
Work smart: be realistic about how much you can effectively do, concentrate on what you do well and always look at the potential cost to the business of doing it yourself rather than hiring someone with the needed skill to do it for you. Don’t just look at the cost to outsource, consider the return on that investment for your business. Outsourcing can help you to build your business faster by providing a cost-effective way to get the assistance you need.