Customer Surveys Are No Substitute for Actually Talking to Customers

HBR.org

A dozen interviews can be more useful than thousands of responses to a questionnaire.

Being a lifelong learner is essential.

McKinsey Insights & Publications
To aid APM (re)design and support providers and payers in their value-based contracting strategy, this paper highlights seven characteristics that distinguish well-performing APMs from poorly performing models.
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Business.com
Business Technology Terms You Need to Know

Reading about cutting-edge tech like autonomous cars and smart homes is fun, but when you're a business owner tasked with purchasing software and hardware for your company, having a glossary of frequently used terms is helpful. Keep this around while you're looking for tech solutions, and before you know it, this once-incomprehensible jargon will be second nature to you.

API – An application programming interface is sometimes listed as a feature in a bundled software subscription. In the simplest terms, an API acts as a sort of bridge between different applications. When you see that a software product can integrate with other software products, for example, it's typically an API doing the heavy lifting. Some software products allow users to create their own APIs as well. 

BI – Business intelligence is essentially data analysis specific to technology and business. That aside, BI is much like other data analysis in that it focuses on identifying trends and predicting future outcomes. A lot of software incorporates analytics and BI into its tool set.

Click-to-call – This describes a feature within business software wherein the user may literally click on contact information stored in the system and make a call directly from that system. This feature is generally most valuable for employees who work in sales or customer service.

CMS – This stands for content management system, a system that helps organize, manage and publish digital content. WordPress is perhaps the best-known CMS, but many types of business software have a CMS component.

CRM – Customer relationship management software, also referred to as a CRM, helps companies manage client information and streamline the sales process. Some software is marketed as CRM software exclusively, while other business software products include CRM features as part of their broader tool sets.

Dashboard – You'll see this term a lot in descriptions of business software. You can think of a dashboard as a sort of homepage for the system you're using. Dashboards usually give you an overview of whatever information is available from the system, and in a good dashboard, that information is updated automatically (this is sometimes called a live dashboard).

POS – Standing for point of sale but also sometimes written as "POS system," this refers to a system (sometimes just software, and sometimes hardware with preloaded POS software) that can process payment transactions and track inventory. 

SaaS – This stands for software as a service, which is any software that is offered through a subscription and remotely hosted and managed. Today, most SMB software is SaaS.

SDK – A software development kit is often offered as a feature or add-on for high-end business software products. SDKs do just what they say: enable users to create software applications for specific platforms. If you aren't sure you'll use an add-on SDK in your business, ask your IT or software dev employees.  

SEO – Search engine optimization is a hot topic right now, and many SMB service providers offer SEO services. SEO is an umbrella term for the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making sure your website or content ranks well on a Google search, showing up on the first page of results. Improving your search ranking makes it easier for new clients to find your business.

VPN – A virtual private network is something businesses and other organizations use to ensure a high level of security. A VPN creates password-protected entry to a private network within a public network. This allows remote employees and onsite employees to connect to both the internet and internally used applications and systems, with the same level of security as if they were all onsite and using company machines.

White label – This term is used a lot by software companies that offer app creation and website-building tools. All it means is that the product you customize (i.e., the app or website) can be branded with your company's name, color scheme and logos, rather than the name of the company that sells the creation tools.

Important Tax-Saving Tips for Small Business Owners

Each year brings a new wave of tax laws. As such, the best tip is to always follow best practices so you're prepared for the year ahead.

Tax law changes are often unpredictable and can significantly impact your deductions and return. A new year could bring positive changes due to a particularly business-friendly policy environment, or it could mean inflated costs and pressure to change how you manage your books.

It's important to speak with an accounting professional to make sure you understand specific tax issues and changes that are relevant to your business. However, following these eight tips can set you up for success this year.

1. Take advantage of accountable plans.

Accountable plans, which are covered under the U.S. Internal Revenue Service's Topic No. 514 for Employee Business Expenses, allow employees to deduct certain business-related expenses. Logging these expenses so your employees can deduct them come tax time, serves as a nice perk for your workers. It may also lower your total tax costs.

2. Stay on top of adjusted gross income.

One of the most important tips is to pay attention to your adjusted gross income. Your adjusted gross income can directly impact the deductions and credits your business is eligible for. While the particulars of how to calculate this figure vary depending on specific tax laws, being aware of it is vital in planning for tax season. Check with your accountant or third-party tax partner for specific guidance.

3. Track receipts.

Maximizing your deductions requires awareness of how you spent your money throughout the year (which is also helpful for understanding cash flow). Properly organizing and tracking receipts makes it easier to not only log deductions accurately (and submit an accurate return), but in the event your business is audited, providing those receipts and proof of your expenses validates that costs were reported properly.

4. Avoid penalties from late payments.

This may be a simple concept, but it's still a key issue and one of the most important business tax-savings tips. Late payments can be avoided in a variety of ways. Getting your documentation together early in the year can prevent last-minute filing and unforeseen expenses. Short-term working capital and business tax debt loans can help you cover tax payments and avoid late fees.

5. Consider restructuring.

When formally launching a business, you must decide what form of business entity to establish. And the type of entity you choose has its own taxation policies and deductions (not to mention which income tax form you use to file your taxes. It's a good idea to revisit your business structure every few years to see if reclassifying it makes sense based on your goals and financial bottom line.

6. Use tax preparation and filing software.

Most tax preparation and filing software automatically accounts for tax laws and rules. This can simplify filing for you, reducing the likelihood of errors and making it easier for you take full advantage of the opportunities at your disposal. What's more, for some business owners, it can be one of the simplest and most cost-efficient ways of filing a return to the IRS.

Editor's note: Looking for accounting software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

 
7. Use Section 179 opportunities.

The Section 179 deduction allows businesses to deduct the full purchase price of qualifying assets financed during the tax year. The use of Section 179 is great for those businesses in need of new equipment. The deductions from your gross income help maximize the value of business equipment purchases and similar investments by lowering your overall tax cost basis. Like any tax law, there are rules and limitations to be aware of. You can find more information from the IRS.

8. Don't ignore benefit plans for employees.

You can take a tax deduction on your business tax return for the cost of providing benefits to employees. You can learn more about the types of benefits you can deduct and the restriction or limitations on those benefits from the IRS. It's vital to understand how different benefits impact your business come tax time.

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