Lessons In Building a Business: Tax Time

taxtimesFollowing my first year of self-employment and consulting, filing my 2014 taxes introduced a new set of challenges (and work) that I hadn’t anticipated. Perhaps it was silly of me not to have educated myself beforehand, but hey, this is a learning process, right?

In an effort to help others who journey into the world of entrepreneurship or self-employment, I’d like to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned (and mistakes I’ve made):

  • Make quarterly estimated tax payments. This might be obvious for most, but after being ill-advised by an accountant, I opted to make one big payment at tax time. Although I had been putting away an ample percentage of my earnings, I faced a penalty for not paying throughout the year. That mistake won’t happen again.
  • Keep records. It might seem brutal and at times exhausting, but it’s crucial for a small business owner to track expenses throughout the year (and save receipts).
  • Open a business credit card. To make record-keeping easier, there’s no better way to track business expenses and write offs than with a dedicated credit card. Credit card providers like American Express break down your expenses by category (transportation, entertainment, etc.) and help alleviate the stress of managing your costs.
  • Work with a smart CPA. This probably goes without saying, but find a CPA who can help guide you at tax time and ensure you’re making the best decisions for your business.

For more fun tax reading, here are some handy links for tips on write offs:

PR for Startups – Is it Really any Different?

Next week I’m presenting a PR101 session at Paypal’s Start Tank and innovation space to help educate Boston’s upcoming entrepreneurs and equip them with the PR basics.  When putting together my presentation, it really hit home that when approaching a PR or communications strategy, the process has to be the same whether its a startup or an enterprise.

I’ve spent the majority of my career supporting big name brands–some household names, some international powerhouses. Toshiba, RIM, Kaspersky Lab, Orbitz, no need to explain who they are.  Some may think it’s a breeze supporting these types of corporations and organizations–the media knows them, there’s no breaking down walls to get attention.  But what happens when that’s not the case?

After a decade of working with big industry players, I switched gears to support a number of startups–services just coming to market, products first hitting retail, and companies with all of two employees. What have I found?  It’s really all the same.  At the of the day, it’s abStartup Stock Photosout reaching an audience, raising awareness and driving some sort of desired result.  

Here’s a quick look at the first steps of building a PR strategy regardless of business size:

  • Establish your goals and objectives: What do you want to achieve from PR?  Do you want to drive app downloads? Increase web traffic? Make your CEO a recognized industry name? No matter what your goals are for PR, put them on paper, and then you can create a strategy to get you where you want to be.
  • Identify your audience: Who do you want to reach? Is it customers, partners, distributors, investors? Before you can determine how to reach them, you need to know and understand who they are.
  • Know your key messages: Although your messages should be customized for each audience, a brand at any size needs to create the core messages that will be consistent across all communications (press releases, interviews, pitches, social media posts). What are those key takeaways you want your audience to walk away with?
  • Check out the competition: Familiarizing yourself with the competitive landscape will help with creating your messages, differentiating yourself, and identifying what media outlets/channels you want to be included in. The competition can often help inspire your direction (whether it’s following their lead or avoiding their mistakes!).