Archive for the ‘Finance’ Category

The Corona Virus for Small Businesses

Corona Virus

How should small business owners manage the corona virus, aka COVID-19? It’s a question on the minds of many entrepreneurs, as Fortune 500 companies announce new protocols for travel, meetings and even use of coffee cups. At Consultant Journal, we know many entrepreneurs, small business owners and consultants wonder about the business impact.

Refer to the CDC, WHO, your local health authority or another reliable, science-based source for health information. Their recommendations should inform your decisions. Keep in mind that recommendations may change. In the meantime, based on current information, you can take the following steps:

Managing Employees

  • If you have employees, you’ll want to review the steps you take to make sure they are safe from illness.
  • Wipe down and clean surfaces frequently
  • Encourage workers to stay home or leave work if they have symptoms noted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Instruct workers to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues, elbows or shoulders, not their hands
  • Encourage frequently soap and water handwashing for 20 seconds or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Make sure staff have access to well-stocked washing facilities
  • Encourage waving or nodding for greetings
  • Consider whether racism or profiling may be affecting your employees and review HR protocols to help provide emotional and work support

Client Engagement

If your business meets with clients in person, you may want to look at your policies and processes to help keep clients and yourself healthy. Think about what’s actually needed for your sales and marketing:

  • Wave or nod instead of shaking hands
  • Keep washrooms well-stocked with paper towels and soap
  • Bring along hand-sanitizing hand wipes or cleanser, if access to washing facilities is difficult
  • Consider which appointments must be made in person, whether trips are necessary and how you can make better use of teleconferencing and web meetings
  • Offer flexibility for cancellations related to health, review your fees and pricing around cancellations for illness and suggest tech tools for managing communication as needed
  • As with employees, check that racism and profiling are not affecting your work and look for opportunities to improve engagement, diversity and human rights
  • Update your website, social or client communication to let people know how you’re managing health and what options you are offering
  • Make sure you have two-way communication options for clients.

Business Process Review

From a business point of view, you may also need to take precautions:

  • Look through your HR policies, including paid time-off, sick leave, caregiver, short-term disability benefits and policies. Look for opportunities to offer work from home, make-up shifts, sick days, leave or other flexible conditions that promote health and wellness
  • Review internal and external communication policies and protocols. If there is a shut down, how will you inform staff and stakeholders, for example?
  • Do trial runs and document practices for using telemeetings, including teleconferences and web meetings. You may be already doing these, but sometimes employees, contractors and clients may be new to the experience.

Business continuity

  • Prepare your company for the possibility of a shut-down. Review what you would need to do to maintain inventory, reserves and contract fulfillment.
  • Take some time to review your childcare and family caregiver situation; encourage employees to look into options too, including working from home
  • Take a look at your cash flow and what a change to sales or staffing could do. Consider arranging financing ahead of time, as part of business continuity preparations
  • If you haven’t already, you may want to look into business continuity plans and insurance
  • Look for opportunities to automate business processes to minimize disruptions and make sure any credit cards, lines of credit and other investment tools are up to date. Some tools you may find helpful include Zoom, Slack, Google Docs, Trello
  • As with employees and clients, review whether racism and profiling may affect your business or those around you. Look for ways to address issues, provide better support and be a better member of the business community
  • You’ll also want to stay up to date on news around the virus. Be reasonable and make sure you’re using reliable news sources. The CDC and your local health authority are likely good options.

While COVID-19 may impact your business or your personal life, this situation also presents a good opportunity to modernize and automate your business and determine where you can create the most success with personal contact. You may actually find some of the steps improve your workflow, customer engagement, employee retention and other important performance indicators.

Related to Business Management:

Tax time, anytime

Tax time doesn’t have to be stress-filled. Are you one of those people who shove receipts and invoices wherever is convenient, then panic when you can’t find them? Do you have to sort through a mountain of paperwork when tax time rolls around? Why don’t you be kind to yourself and promise to do tax time, anytime, from here on in?

Why tax time, anytime?

Accuracy – if you’ve sorted, tallied, and filed your invoices and receipts on a regular basis, you’re less likely to make stress-induced errors when you complete your tax return.
Accessibility – you’ll know just where to look for that needed receipt; no more frantic searching through every drawer and closet in the house when working through your tax write-off list.
Assurance – no more tax time stress; you’ll have it all covered!
Make it easy
The best approach to tax time, anytime, is to have a designated location for tax-related documents. Files are easily stored in a small cabinet or file-holder. You can also store receipts and other tax-related documents in envelopes, and keep them in a desk drawer or box. Label each envelope clearly as to its contents. What’s important is that you sort your paperwork into its respective categories. Common tax categories include: income, expenses (phone, utilities, vehicle), and insurance, just to name a few. For more details check out this tax write-off list.
Add them up!
Keep a running tally of your invoices and receipts, and attach the total with a paperclip. Better yet, keep a running total in a journal or in a spreadsheet. When tax time arrives, it will be a cinch to enter your income and expenses into your tax return.
Keep on top of it all
Paperwork has a sneaky way of piling up. File your receipts on a regular basis. Choose a schedule that will work best for you, and stick to it. It doesn’t have to be every day; the point is to be as organized as you can. Not sure where to start? Try sorting through your receipts one month at a time – try sorting last month’s receipts at the beginning of each month.
It’s that simple
Sort, tally and file on a regular basis. Tax time, anytime is that simple. Start now, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised come tax time.

Sample business plan for consulting

Planning aheadUsing a sample business plan for consulting –  Is it okay to use a sample business plan for consulting, as opposed to creating one from scratch? Of course it is! In fact, starting with a template is wisest since it will save you time and give you a springboard to start from.

Compare apples to apples

There are many free business plan templates on the internet; the trick is to find one that most closely fits what you have in mind for your business.

Don’t just choose the first plan you see; make sure that you choose a sample business plan template from a similar industry. Why? Because a plan that applies to starting a retail business, for example, will not be easily applicable to starting a consulting business.

Choose a sample business plan template that best fits your needs and goals. Be sure to choose a sample business plan for consulting; it will provide you with the framework to create your own plan.

You’ve found a sample business plan for consulting. What next?

Once you find a plan that you want to work with, study it closely. How much of it applies to you and your business? You will probably discover some great ideas and approaches that you can utilize in your own plan. Make notes of what you would like to incorporate in your plan and what might be missing.

Whatever you do, don’t copy the template word for word because odds are your business isn’t a cookie cutter business! Customize the sample business plan for consulting to make it reflect who you are, what you are offering, the vision you have created, and how you are going to achieve your goals.

Compare your sample business plan for consulting with this sample outline. Does your chosen template cover all the bases?

If you’re not sure how to get started, consider taking small business training. If you’d like a better understanding of consulting fees and how they’re calculated, take a look at our guide on consulting fees.

Remember … It’s beneficial to use a sample business plan for consulting rather than reinventing the wheel. However, customization is key. By finding a sample business plan that you like, and by changing it to suit your future consulting business, you are taking the first steps towards becoming a successful consultant.

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Business plans for consultants

Business plans for consultants – Are you considering starting your own consulting practice or repositioning your current consulting business? Have you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and started outlining your consulting practice in a business plan? If not, this article will help you structure your consultant business plan.

What will a business plan do for you?

Business plans for consultants should do the following:

1. Provide an estimate of costs before you start. Determine how much money you will need for start-up costs and for day-to-day operations. (Generally, I recommend keeping an emergency fund of 6-9 months at all times.)

2. Help you obtain financing. If you require any financing your lender will require a solid business plan before lending you money or establishing a business line of credit.

3. Clarify your business needs. What kind of advertising will you do? How much money do you think you’ll make in the first and second years? Business plans for consultants will provide you with the answers you need to start planning your consultancy.

4. Provide a framework for developing your business. Consultant business plans are roadmaps for you to follow.

5. Increase your chance of success. The time that you put into developing your business plan will pay off in the end. By fully researching your future consultancy business, you will be better prepared for any eventuality.

What’s in a business plan?

Are business plans for consultants different from other business plans? Yes and no.

The general format of business plans for consultants follow a normal business plan outline. Here’s a simple business plan template to get the ball rolling.

However, business plans for consultants also require some specialized sections. Are you putting together a business plan for consultants? To fast-track the completion of your business plan and to ensure you use accurate numbers, check out our guides, workbooks and courses in the Consultant Journal store, including the invaluable guide on consulting fees: Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants. You may also want to consider taking small business training to ensure that all your bases are covered.

Business plans for consultants provide a detailed map of future business, reducing your risk of losing track of your goals. By following this map, you greatly increase your chances of success. As long as you’ve done your research, and taken the time to really plot your course, your business plan will be one of the best time investments that you can make.

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Consulting fees

Consulting fees and how to set them can be a challenge to new consultants. You might be wondering how much to charge or be unsure of your own value. Many new consultants start by undercharging. However, setting your consulting fees in the right range is easier than you think. There are several approaches to setting consulting fees that you can take. In this article, hourly, daily, fixed, and competitive rates will be examined.

Setting your consulting fees:

Hourly consulting fees
What would you make per hour if you were working for someone else? Take that number and double or even triple it. Using an hourly rate may be appropriate when you don’t work full days, or if you work erratic hours.

Daily consulting fees
The daily rate works well if you normally work an 8-hour day, and if you have a good sense of how many days a project will take.

Fixed consulting fees
Fixed consulting fees are a common method. For example, you might charge $3000 for wedding planning services from start to finish. With this method, you must have a good idea of your skills and the time it will take to complete the job or else you’ll risk running over-time and over-budget. One of the benefits of this method is that the client has some certainty regarding how much to budget for your services.

Competitive consulting fees
The competitive method of setting consulting fees takes into account what other consultants are charging. However, setting your rates based on your competitors’ rates is not necessarily in your best interest.

Other factors to consider

In general, when setting your consulting fees, don’t forget to factor in business expenses and costs. Electricity, telephone, office supplies, vehicle expenses all must be taken into consideration. If need be, charge extra for expenses like mileage and materials.  

Don’t undercharge your services. Remember you are providing the expertise that your client needs and is willing to pay for so don’t undersell yourself. Establish fair consulting fees, follow through with exemplary service, and you should have no problem attracting and keeping your clients.

Are you having difficulty setting your consulting fees? Find out everything you need to know regarding how to set your consulting fees in my guide, Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants.

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Consulting company business plan

Consulting company business plans – Are you looking for a business plan template or a boiler-plate that will help you put together a consulting company business plan? There are a variety of resources here at Consultant Journal that will help you in writing your consulting company business plan.

Putting together a consulting company business plan:

1. Templates for consulting company business plans:

Check out these resources for your consulting company business plan:

Consulting business plan template – An outline of the main sections that you should have in your consulting company business plan.

Sample consulting business plan – An outline of some of the key pieces that should be in your plan, including an executive summary, business overview, risks, financial plan, and other key sections for your consulting company business plan.

Write Your Business Plan Now – Our complete, all-in-one kit that draws from the actual materials I use to help clients with their own business plans.

2. Marketing resources:

If you want to hit the ground running after you’ve completed your consulting company business plan, it’ll be helpful to have a framework of your marketing strategy already in place within your business plan. 

Here are some of the top marketing issues that you should be aware of when writing your consulting company business plan:

3. Resources for becoming a  consultant:

After you’ve written your consulting company business plan, you’ll want to start taking action on starting your consulting firm. And you’ll also want to know the answers to some key questions, like how long it takes to become a consultant so that you can plan accordingly and know what to expect.

Are you putting together a consulting company business plan? In order to help fast-track the completion of your consulting company business plan and to ensure you use accurate numbers, check out our guides, workbooks and courses in the Consultant Journal store, including the invaluable guide on consulting fees: Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants.

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Typical consulting fees

What is a typical consulting fee? Good question. Unfortunately, the answer is that there are no typical consulting fees! Consulting is made up of so many variables and factors that there really is no easy answer. As you can imagine, typical consulting fees for skin care consultants are vastly different from typical consulting fees for jury consultants.

Typical consulting fees are all about value. How much value do your services offer your client? By doing a little research and bearing value in mind, you will be able to set a rate that is appropriate to your area of expertise and is competitive within the industry.

What does typical mean, anyway?

Typical means what other consultants are charging for the same or similar service. Typical means ‘the going rate.’ It would be a simple matter if a typical consulting fee was set in stone, but it isn’t. And, besides, you don’t want to be competing based on price, anyway. So, just how do you figure out a typical consulting fee?

Factors to consider:

When determining typical consulting fees, compare your consulting service to its equivalent, whether it’s direct local competition or rates you’ve researched online. For example, you cannot charge the same fee for a personal fitness consultation as you would charge for a tax consultation.

You will likely be able to charge higher fees in a large city than in a small community. 

The competition
What do your competitors offer that is different from you? Do they offer additional value-added services? Do their services provide extensive follow-up and support? Typical consulting fees are adjusted according to what is offered.

Level of expertise
What are your credentials? If you have little practical experience under your belt or are fresh out of college, you cannot charge as much as a competitor who possesses 20+ years experience and expertise in the same field. That being said, there are excellent ways to jumpstart your expert status and leverage your expertise even if you are a new consultant.

Need help setting your typical consulting fees?

As you can see, there is no typical consulting fee. Would you like to understand your unique position and set your consulting fees for maximum gain? Order "Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants" and charge a great hourly rate.

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Consulting rate

Consulting rate – Are you wondering how to set your rates as a new consultant? It’s extremely important to set an appropriate rate for your consulting services. Why? Because not only does your rate reflect your qualifications and expertise, but it’s also your bread and butter! Use a strategy when setting your consulting rate so that you are confident in your pricing structure. Rates should also take into consideration competitors’ rates, physical location (think urban cities versus small towns) and the exclusivity of your services.

Don’t under-value your consulting services

If you set your consulting rates too low, you are underselling yourself, and clients will think so, too. They will wonder why your services are so inexpensive, and they may even question your ability to deliver based on your consulting rate!

Another drawback to setting your fees too low is that it will be difficult to raise your rate later for existing clients. If you undersell yourself from the beginning, you may find yourself working for less than you deserve for some of your initial clients.

An obvious but nevertheless crucial drawback for setting a too-low rate is that you won’t make enough money! You’ll find that you are working long hours for minimum profit, and this is not how you want to run your consulting business.

Do your homework when it comes to setting your consulting rate

In order to get it right you need to take the time to research setting your consulting rate. Some factors to consider are:
What are your competitors charging?
• Are you offering a unique service that will bear a higher rate?
• Are you highly qualified and experienced or are you just starting out in your career?
• Do you live in a large city or a small town?

It’s worth it

You might be tempted just to name a price and get on with becoming a consultant. However, setting the correct consulting rate is key to the success of your consultancy. Setting the wrong consulting rate can negatively impact the number of potential clients, decrease your revenues, reduce the profit you make and may not be easy to undo.

Take the time to set the correct consulting rate for yourself.

So how do you set a consulting rate? 

Coming up with your consulting fee for the first time may seem daunting. However, once you’ve found a strategy in which you really believe, you’ll be good to go. You may want to revisit your decision from time to time, taking into account your experience, client feedback and even your competitor/rs’ activities.

Like this article? Get practical tips and 124 pages on making money as a consultant! Check out my Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants.

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4 things you never knew about consulting fees

I’ve done a lot of work on consulting fees, including writing Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants and helping numerous new consultants set their consulting fees. When discussing consulting fees with clients and new consultants, I’ve noticed common misconceptions about consulting fees.

I’ve compiled these common misconceptions into this article to help set the record straight when it comes to consulting fees.

4 things you never knew about consulting fees:

1. Consulting fees are not necessarily correlated with the amount of time it takes to accomplish a project. 

The time it takes to perform a service is sometimes irrelevant to the cost of the fees. Remember, the focus of your services should be about the value the client is receiving in exchange for your services. For a concrete example of how this works, check out the story in Section 3 of this article.

2. What other consultants are charging for "similar work" can be irrelevant.

Don’t set your consulting fees based on others’ rates, and don’t cave if a client balks at your rate and suggests that another consultant offers a much lower rate for "similar services." Keep your focus on value and the services that you offer. You can get a website designed and developed for $200 or for $20,000(+) depending on the consultant or firm. As you can imagine, services and results will differ. The key is to match the clients needs with a service that will fulfill those needs at the appropriate level. 

3. Consultants charge far more than regular employees in the same industry.

Did you know that consultants’ fees are much higher than the wages of salaried workers doing similar work? Find out why.

4.Your consulting fees can vary and that’s okay.

One of the beatiful things about being a consultant is that you can use your own judgment when it comes to setting your fees.

  • Getting a bad feeling about the pickiness of a potential client? Set your rate higher than normal.
  • Or want to help a non-profit with your services and get personal satisfaction in return? Offer a discounted rate because you want the work (but be sure to display the full price and the discounted rate in your quote).

Allowing yourself some flexibility with your pricing structure is one of the many reasons not to post your rates on your website or in your marketing material (unless you’re offering a package of services for a set price).

How many of these four items did you already know about setting consulting rates? What secrets do you have to share about consulting fees? 

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But it’s just your time!

"Could you spare 20 minutes to talk to me on the phone?"

"I’d be happy to work with you to develop a proposal that will meet your needs."

"But it’s just 20 minutes. In 20 minutes, you could give me such important strategy that would otherwise take me months to develop. You could really help me."

"Yes, I think you could benefit from my consulting services. I’m not available as a volunteer. But I’m happy to put together a proposal for my services."

"But it’s just your time! It’s not like I’m asking you to donate money."

"Yes. It’s just my time. Exactly. It’s the most precious thing I have."

 Do people ever try to twist your arm to get free consulting services? Do you ever struggle with figuring out how to set and get your consulting rate? What do you do when people try to get you to work for free?